Rich Rod Speaks: QBs, Frosh RBs, & More

Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez met with the media in betweeen practices today to discuss his team's progress thus far. He gave updates on the play of the freshmen tailbacks, as well as the quarterback race. He also shed light on his walk-on program, injuries, and more.

Question:  Couple days of pads -- now that there is physical hitting, have noticed a change, have you seen anything dramatic in the pads from anyone?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Uhhh, no.  I think that the intensity has been pretty good.  The effort has been pretty good.  I think as the camp goes along you start to see who will fight through the soreness and fight through the mental fatigue.  There is as much mental fatigue as physical fatigue, which is by design.  In fact, we do a lot of stuff at the end of every practice, at a faster pace to as much test them mentally.  We talked about that this morning as a matter of fact.  When things are going fast and you are a little bit tired, who can maintain there focus and that is going to be a big part of every practice."

Question:  Are you confident that you have quarterbacks that you can win with?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I am confident that we are getting closer.  I think they have gotten better.  I have to keep reminding myself; myself, Coach Magee and Coach Smith that this is their first year in the system, so in a sense they are all rookies, and they are young guys to begin with anyways.  Again, we got to work on their fundamentals, but as far as being able to install as much as we have, it is probably more than we probably could have envisioned.  Now, we are probably going to have to slow quite a bit, because execution is more important than plays, but those guys are pretty sharp; I can tell you guys that mentally."

Question:  Talk about guys playing through the soreness and stuff, how much of that is what makes this first camp different; that you sort of don't know these guys, you don't know who is going to show up every day with the same intensity?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Right.  You get answers every day from the staff of what you are looking for in the players and then obviously until you play a game you are still going to have a lot of questions about things.  We try to put them in pressure situations in practice so we won't be surprised in game.  We still may be surprised, but we probably do as much as anybody in the country as far as trying to do a situation in practice where we can calm our fears sort of speak, and we have explained that to them."

Question:  Normally you are only trying to learn how the freshmen react, new guys react?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Right.  Yeah and every coach will tell you that first year is the toughest because of that and many other things -- just learning terminology and how we practice and we respond.  These guys have gone through tough practices before.  This is not their first time, the upper classman, but there is some anxiety because it is the first time with this new staff and everybody is trying to prove themselves – I hope.  And we continue to challenge them.  My talk to them last night was the fact that even if you have proven yourself, you want to do it every day.  The best athletes do it every day, every play and that is what we are trying to stress in camp."

Question:  Any guys that have missed significant time because of physical?

Coach Rodriguez:  "No.  The only thing is Mark Moundros has an ankle sprain that he tried to practice through it.  He will be out for a few days.  Corey Zirbel has some problem with his knee, and he will be out maybe a week or so.  The rest of the guys, we had some guys in green shirts with some sore muscles and all that that has happened across the country, but nothing significant."

Question:  Who is working in Corey's spot?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Corey didn't have a spot.  Do you mean that position?  I mean everybody has got a position.  David Moosman is playing both center and guard.  Mark Huyge is playing center and guard.  Who else was over there...Perry Dorrestein is playing guard and tackle.  What we would like to have is at least eight linemen, five starters and a backup at each position that we can count on.  That is still a work in progress."

Question:  In terms of special teams, except for I guess one day it has been pretty good, you have been able to get outside…?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Oh, yeah, we have been outside.  Even if it rains, we will wait to the rain stops, we are going to be outside.  But we have gotten a lot of work in.  I am sure that everyone is stretching it, but it is a big focal point, meetings and walkthroughs and practice, still figuring out who the best guys are in each special team.  It is very, very competitive.  The thing I have been pleased, I think a lot of guys obviously want to be on special teams.  I am talking about guys that are starters that still want to be on special teams.  The best 11 for each special team will be the one that starts on."

Question:  Have you always had starters on special team?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Oh yeah.  We try to find the best guys.  If you have guys that aren't a starter but they are great special team players, then you get the best of both worlds; your starters don't play as many plays.  Right now it is right open everywhere."

Question:  Who has stood out and the special teams, you said some of the starters are interested in stuff; who are some of the guys?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Well you look at guys like Morgan Trent that is a starter that is wanting to be on a lot of special teams and continue to improve.  The guys that we really need to count are obviously the specialists, the kickers and punters.  I think KC (Lopata) kicked the ball really well this morning.  Zoltan (Mesko) has been punting the ball well.  Sean Griffin has been snapping well.  Some of the schemes we are doing are different, so there has been a learning process there, but for us and everybody knows this, for us to have a chance to compete for any championship whatsoever, we have got to be really good on special teams.  We got to make things happen.  We can't just be okay.  We got to make things happen."

Question:  We are about a week in, who has used this week well, who has caught your eye?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Probably the same guys who played well at the end of spring.  I thought the corners have played pretty well.  Will Johnson has been as consistent as we have had.  Brandon Graham is in great shape.  Tim Jamison is playing well.  Terrance Taylor is in better shape.  So the D-line has been pretty solid.  Several of the freshmen have caught our eye, but they make freshmen mistakes.  (Sam) McGuffie and (Michael) Shaw are two guys that will not be redshirted, they will play.  Martavious Odoms is going to have a chance to play.  He had a really good day yesterday and today, this morning, he was more like a freshman.  I think you are going to get some inconsistency, but hopefully in 20 days, whenever that is, we will get that worked out."

Question:  Is Sheridan on scholarship yet?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah Nick, I guess we probably could have told you.  I don't know when it was, last week some time, we told Nick.  He and Steve (Threet) are still battling back and forth for the first job, but my focus and I hope their focus is just to get better and get them both good enough to win with, and I would be comfortable with that."

Question:  You are pretty focused on your camp, but there has been a lot of big time injuries around the country to big players, stuff like that?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Oh, every coach is.  You worry.  You have to practice football and you have to be physical in order to teach it.  It is not like a sport where you can go and play tag and then all of a sudden play a game. At the end of every physical practice, hopefully you get through without anybody hurt.  A good practice is not just executing and doing the right techniques, but it is also getting everybody out there healthy.  So it is a balance that you have to play with.  We don't hit nearly as much now, I don't think any coach does, as they used to in the old days, but yet kids still get hurt.  Why?  Are the kids stronger more explosive, probably so.  Because the equipment is outstanding.  We are not playing on that old hard Astroturf.  We got a great surface.  You still, when you get those big guys running around as fast and as strong as they are, bad things will happen sometimes.  You got to balance it out that is what I have told the players.  We are not going to go two hours just banging the heck of each other, but those times that we are live, they have got to be intense, so we got a comfort level that we will be physical when the games come up."

Question:  It sounds like McGuffie and Shaw have made the decision a no-brainer, can you talk about each of them individually?

Coach Rodriguez:  "They haven't started.  I have anointed anybody a starter, but they have done enough to convince us that they can contribute as freshmen and I think as much mentally as physically.  Normally, the biggest drawback from a freshman coming in, is can they mentally handle the schemes, the pace and all the things that go on with it.  Those two have shown that they can so far.  Again, there is still a ways to go, but they have shown that they can handle that so far and they are both fast, explosive players that I think are good with the spread system, so we are excited about.  As much as anything, I like the way they practice.  Normally a freshman will come in, sometimes you will have to teach them the intensity of practice.  These guys were obviously well coached in high school; they were prepared well when they got here.  I think coming here in the summer months really helped, because they got a taste of Coach Barwis and the conditioning program this summer, so I think they are practicing like they have been her longer than a couple of weeks, week and a half."

Question:  Anybody on the defense side of the ball?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah, Boubacar (Cissoko); Boubacar, Mike, Martin, Brandon Smith and even maybe J.T. Floyd all have a chance.  J.B. Fitzgerald maybe even at linebacker.  I thought coming in that there would be upwards of nine or 10 true freshmen that have an opportunity to play and that is probably going to be the case."

Question:  On if he knows who will be returning punts and kicks.

Coach Rodriguez:  "No and we haven't done anything live yet.  Again, I have talked about the freshmen a good bit, but they are all going to contribute but if we are going to have success, we still are going to rely on the veterans and the guys that have been in the battles.  If we are going to have a successful year, the senior class has to have their best year and then the guys that we are counting on to have big years coming out of the spring, they have to continue to do that.  We have not done anything live yet with our returns.  Probably, Saturday we will do some live special teams and see if somebody catches our eye."

Question:  During a scrimmage?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah we will scrimmage a little bit probably tomorrow."

Question:  How do you break that down in terms of…?

Coach Rodriguez:  "We will break it down.  We will go with the first group out there against the first group of defense, then the second group against the second and then we will intermix a little bit.  There is really no set way.  Our scrimmages will be mostly situational as far as putting the ball on the 30, or putting the ball on the 25 going in or putting the ball on the one yard line coming out and doing some different situations.  Probably Saturday, we will have more of a free wheeling game type situation, but we won't combine a kickoff and all special teams with that.  We will do some live special teams Saturday."

Question:  The scrimmage we saw in April, Steve (Threet) was out there as the first quarterback, will he be with the first group first tomorrow?

Coach Rodriguez:  "This afternoon, I don't know.  Like I said, I am not telling you that, not coach speak, I don't know.  Heck today, one guy will come out and I will say next time you go out with first group.  However foggy I feel we will put them out there.  No, depending on how they play, and I want to be fair to both those guys, they both need to take reps with the first group.  The second group has a lot of young guys.  We got some freshmen up on the O-line and all that.  They will get their chance.  Again, the key for us is to get them both ready."

Question:  On (Justin) Feagin's progress.

Coach Rodriguez:  "Justin has been okay.  He was a little hampered the last couple days with a sore shoulder.  This morning he looked a little bit better, but he has got a long way to go, more mentally than anything else, because there is so much for him to learn."

Question:  Is he playing anywhere else or just quarterback?

Coach Rodriguez:  "No, just quarterback."

Question: Nick and Steve how close are they?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I think they got a great relationship.  I just tell them to (laughter).  I am just messing with you.  They are very close, I really do think Angelique.  I hope it is a situation that we have confidence in both of them and whoever is starting against Utah, that we won't hesitate to put the guy in at times.  I have not been a guy that has a set thing, okay, this guy comes in on the third series, whatever.  Put a guy in the game and he is supposed to perform and execute, you play by ear."

Question:  If you use both quarterbacks, when it is purely situational it wouldn't be scripted first quarterback?

Coach Rodriguez:  "No and I have never done that.  Even when I had two guys, which I have had several times in the past that were good enough to win with, I never did certain series or time in the game, it is just a feel thing."

Question:  (If you were going into game one tomorrow) would you expect to play two quarterbacks?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah right now.  I want to get one ready to win with."

Question:  Would you like to have a better one?

Coach Rodriguez:  "No, I don't.  It is too far away.  We are talking 18 days.  There is a whole lot of practices beforehand."

Question:  You want to do whatever it takes to win, but would your preference be one guy?

Coach Rodriguez:  "My preference would be that we had three that we could win with.  If I was a coach and I had just one quarterback that I could win with, I would be really nervous.  I have had that case in the past and have had some guys hurt.  I always like to have two, preferably three; now that would be my preference."

Question:  Tight end wise besides Mike (Massey) and Carson (Butler), anybody you…?

Coach Rodriguez:  "That position is wide open.  I mean, I aint got a starter at tight end.  I want to have multiple starters but it is wide open, whether it is Massey or Butler, or Webb or Kevin Koger.  He is another freshman that may have a chance to play this year, Kevin Koger.  It is wide open.  Just like a lot of positions are.  There are a lot of positions, eventually you will get some separation maybe, but if not then it will be pretty competitive all year round."

Question:  What has Koger been able to do so far?

Coach Rodriguez:  "He has learned a little bit.  He is an athletic guy.  I think he is a tough guy, good feet.  So it is a situation where he is out; any of the freshmen are going to be behind because they weren't here for spring ball.  It is too early to tell.  We have had what two practices, three practices in full pads that is it.  Aint figured it all out yet."

Question:  Who has caught your eye on the offensive line, anybody?

Coach Rodriguez:  "We will be okay.  At times, the O-line is like a pillow fight. You know sometimes they look pretty good.  Steve Schilling has done a good job.  He has been pretty consistent.  David Molk is obviously a lot healthier now than he was in the spring, so he is playing better than he has.  So that has been a good thing, because that gives us some flexibility with Moose, move him around a little bit.  (Mark) Ortmann has been pretty solid at the other tackle.  (Tim) McAvoy has been okay.  The right guard has been a situation with Corey being hurt and trying to find the right fit.  So that is an area where you have got to have really good chemistry and you would like to be able to settle on a group of guys as quick as you can.  Right now we are not ready yet."

Question:  On which true freshmen offensive linemen have a chance to play.

Coach Rodriguez:  "True freshmen on the O-line.  Ricky Barnum probably has the best chance at guard, because we need a little more help at depth of guard.  So we have thrown him in there.  Rocko Khoury was getting some reps today, and he will get some reps this afternoon with Corey being out.  So we are hoping that one of those guys will step; we will see."

Question:  Can Molk move along the line?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah, he can move too; he could probably guard as well.  I think Coach Frey is, the centers can play guards, some of the guards can play center and tackle, most of them can kick down."

Question:  Does he or Mooseman project better to guard, or it about the same?

Coach Rodriguez:  "About the same.  Moose is probably more of a natural guard, but it is too early to tell."

Question:  How have the (QB/Center) exchanges been, you been pretty satisfied?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah.  We aint had one (mishap) yet.  Of course, we have been in shotgun a lot of times.  We have been under center a little bit and haven't had any issues even with the freshman in there.  The shotgun snaps have been good.  We have had one or two that have been a little stray.  We have been pretty good with that.  Those guys most have done a good job over summer."

Question:  You are needing to use all these freshmen -- is that an unusual experience for you or is that pretty typical?

Coach Rodriguez:  "It is probably typical in a transition year, a transition situation, but not usually typical.  I hope we recruit well enough that every year we got guys coming in to compete.  If you do that, you have done a good job of recruiting.  Probably in the next year or two years or so, they will have a better opportunity just simply because of the transition of schemes.  Three to four years from now who knows."

Question:  When do you think you are going to have a depth chart, a first and second string. In your mind, you don't have to reveal it to use, but when do you think you're going to have one?

Coach Rodriguez:  "End of, probably not the end of this week, little bit mid next week for sure, next Wednesday; we will have an idea okay who is the 70 guys on the travel squad and then we will meet.  We discuss this every day as coaches, personal.  If you are going to move somebody you want to move them pretty quick and all that.  So every day we talk about it a little bit."

Question:  Have you decided to move anybody yet?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Major moves no, maybe corners playing some safeties, maybe O-line mix and match but no offense or defense switches as of today; check back with me on that one (laughter)."

Question:  Do you think the rugby punt situation, is that something you see Zoltan doing or would you use (Bryan) Wright?

Coach Rodriguez:  "On the roll punts?  In our punt scheme we do both.  We traditional, well I say traditional; we do a normal pocket punt, whatever you want to call it and a roll punt."

Question:  Will Zoltan do both?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Uh huh, if he wants to punt (laughter)….he will do both.  He worked on it all spring and then hopefully he worked on it this summer.  He is pretty good at it.  He is a pretty good athlete. Bryan Wright who is a guy that was always a kicker, who continues to kick, but he is also our backup punter.  Bryan is pretty good at that too.  I think he is a natural.  He has got such a strong leg.  I think Bryan has done some very impressive things at punter.  That was a concern, do we have another punter and Bryan I think has answered that, hey, we got another guy and Bryan Wright can punt too."

Question:  How is Junior Hemingway coming along?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Okay.  He has been mostly in a green shirt, limited, but he is still taking reps, and Junior, he is fighting through it.  So he is doing a lot.  Not everything, but most of practice, which is good to see, because Junior has got some athletic ability and some skills.  He can really help us."

Question:  Any walk-ons have a chance to play?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah.  I am trying to think on the roster, who we got.  Sean Griffin was a walk on, but he is on scholarship now and so KC, of course, Lopata.  Tim North is going to play, he is a walk on.  He is going to play on some special teams.  Jimmy Potempa; he is a walk on; he will have a chance to play, maybe on some special teams.  I like Kevin Leach; he is a redshirt freshman, a walk on linebacker.  He will get a chance to play a lot of special teams and maybe even some on defense.  He has got a chance to do that.  Jordan Riley is another redshirt freshman, defensive back walk on that has got a chance to play some too.  Zack Johnson, another walk on who is a redshirt freshman that will play on some special teams.  Our goal is to build our walk on program to be the best in the country.  Our coaches are actively looking into that and hopefully we will get the word to across the country that you got a great university to come to and you get an opportunity and as a former walk on myself, I can talk to them in great detail in what it entails and what it is all about and how we want them embracing this part of our program."

Question:  Have you always done that?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah, probably, I think I looked at the numbers, in the last five years, put 25 walk-ons on scholarship that not counting the guys here that Coach Carr and his staff had put on.  It has been a big part.  From guys that have been three to four year starters to guys like Owen Schmitt, who is a walk on and is now playing in the NFL.  I think it helps you, one, obviously with your depth, but I also think it creates a level of competitiveness and openness in your players mindset as far as the best guys play.  I have told them that a bunch of times.  I like winning to much not to play the best guys.  We all do."

Question:  Is it like a Nebraska deal where you just got 150 guys?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I don't know if we can get that many because obviously you have got to be accepted and be able to afford it and all that, but I would like to have a roster of 125-130 guys.  Whatever our title IX number is, it is right around there.  I would like to have a roster of that.  We won't be there this year, but I would hope in the years to come that we would be at that roster.  We have 105 now in camp and we can have 20 more when school starts, we don't have that many coming in yet.  Next year, I am hoping that we can get that up there.  A lot of guys just want a chance.  Whether they are instate guy and they grew up a Michigan fan or they just want an opportunity to play at a big time program, get a big time education.  Speaking from experience, you just want an opportunity.  Just give me a chance, treat me like everybody else and if I am good enough, I am good enough.  Our background and our history shows that we will give them that chance."


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