Rich Rod Speaks: Mealer, the QBs, & More

Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez met with the media in betweeen practices yesterday discuss his team's progress thus far. He gave updates on the play of the defensive line, linebackers, as well as the quarterback race, and more. He also shed light on the "Bowling for Brock" event that the team is participating in to help support Elliott Mealer and his family.

Coach Rodriguez:  "I appreciate everyone mentioning this event we are going to have, the Bowling for Brock that we are going to participate in and try to help support the family.  Many of you know the story about Elliot Mealer, freshman offensive lineman, the tragedy that his family endured back on Christmas Eve. Having a chance to get to know the family obviously and Brock and his fight to be able to walk again and how the whole Mealer family has responded, this has been an inspiration to not only me but our entire football team.  Elliot has been around here doing rehab.  Obviously, he hurt his shoulder, had surgery on it and more than likely is going to be a redshirt this year.  He is working very hard.  He is a great young man.  I asked him to tell the story to the team again the other day, which I think you already knew it.  He doesn't want to be treated any different than any of the other guys.  He said, coach if I mess up when I start practicing, I want you to yell me too; I said no problem, we can do that.  It is a great family.  His mother Shelly has been terrific.  We had to wait until per NCAA rules until Elliot was a student athlete here before we could help the family.  Now obviously that he is, we can assist in helping out the family.  Because the medical bills that they have, in particular with Brock's rehab are just enormous and they will remain enormous for a long, long time.  So this is a small way to have a little fun and certainly help out one of our own.  So thank you for that."

Question:  You had some kind of scrimmage yesterday? How did that go?

Coach Rodriguez:  "It really wasn't.  We have just been doing some situations, some live situations.  Really only about 15-20 minutes every day are live.  Other parts of practice is very physical but as far as true tackling, taking guys to the ground and being live, we have gone about 15-20 minutes in different situations.  Yesterday, we did some 2-minute drill, end of the game things and then some situations where it was the last play of the game; I believe defense…we try to have a winner and loser every practice.  Defense won yesterday's practice.  Two days before that with all the things we accumulated during practice, the offense had a better day.  It has been pretty competitive, as I would expect the defense will win more of the days than the offense does."

Question:  What do you know about this team that maybe you didn't, before you said it would be a few games before you really know?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah.  We are finding out, maybe a little answer every day to certain positions and players.  It is still way too early.  On Saturday, we will have a real scrimmage Saturday, that will probably answer a lot.  Try to put them in a game situation.  Again, I really like our freshmen class as far as giving guys a chance to give us some depth, maybe some of them may even start.  I think all the players realize now that they have to earn their job every day that nothing is giving to them.  That has been the good part to see.  There has been a lot of guys mixed in there.  So if you go out there and watch practice and you think that this guy is running with the first group; we don't really have a first group.  We are trying to get two groups and I said this many times, don't be misled by this guy runs out here first with that group saying that they are going to be the starter, because it is wide open."

Question:   A lot of guys with green jerseys on offense… is that disruptive in any way?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Other than looking at the color?  No.  The green and red jerseys, nobody wants to be in them and nobody wants to look at them, but that it to signify to us what their status is for practice and I think every coach in America would probably tell you that they got way too many guys on injury but that is going to happen in this kind of game, particularly when you are going through a camp.  Fortunately for us, we don't think there is anybody that is in red or green that will be out a significant amount of time.  Everybody should be back within a few days, no more than a week.  I could go through the list; there are a bunch of them…there will be more until probably mid next week when it starts to slow down a little bit.  The encouraging part, we have been fortunate that there is nothing significant."

Question:  How are Steven (Threet) and Nick (Sheridan) handling the quarterback competition?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I hadn't asked them.  I think from the standpoint…the outcome, is I don't want them to compete against each other; I just want them to compete against themselves to get better.  Again, I have said that a bunch of time.  I think they have done that.  They encourage each other; they communicate.  They understand for us to be a better football team, we got to be productive at that position, be smart with the ball and they have made steps every day but it is still a work in progress.  Again, I got to remind myself, as does Coach Smith that these guys haven't played.  They are really freshman or redshirt freshman.  We got to be patient in some regards but then again we got to get ready for a game in two weeks."

Question:  What is the one position group that you think is the strongest on the team currently?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Geez, I don't know.  The secondary is probably for the most part has played pretty consistently, but there is times that they haven't.  We don't have one.  We don't have a position that I would say, hey I don't worry about that one.  I worry about them all."

Question:  Outside of Obi (Ezeh) in the middle, who do you think the outside guys that you think have done well or caught your eye here in camp?

Coach Rodriguez:  "The same guys we have been playing coming out of spring; Austin Panter has played pretty well; Marell Evans has played pretty well; John Thompson has gone both in and out, inside and outside.  We have a walk on in Kevin Leach that is going to play some this year, probably at linebacker and on special teams.  JB Fitzgerald is probably the one linebacker as a freshman that will not get redshirted and will have the opportunity to play.  Again, like a lot of positions, we need to get deeper there, especially with all the teams that are running spread offenses, these guys got to make plays in space.  They are going to be tested right now against our offense in the open field."

Question:  What about a tour of the stadium; have you been through there?  What have you noticed?

Coach Rodriguez:  "The only time I have been through there; there has been selected times when we have had recruits on campus and taken them through there.  It has probably been a couple of months for me.  So ya'll tell me what it is like."

Question:  (What will it be like to) play in a stadium that is under construction?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Awww, the seats will still be there.  I mean they will still have them headsets working and our locker room will be functional.  I think it is exciting.  We have to raise our voices a little bit at practice now because we got construction going on right beside with the new indoor facility but that is not a bad thing.  That is kind of exciting to see that going on every day.  Our players are seeing them laying block and to see the cranes moving at the big house, you would like to fast forward the clock two years when everything is done and how fabulous it is going to be, but we are fortunate to be here with the process."

Question: Are you at the point in camp yet where sometimes tempers flare a little with the guys?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah, I hope so. I want them to get a little cranky; I am.  Thing I have tried to preach to them is about flipping the switch.  You cross the white line they compete, not do anything stupid and get 15 yard penalties.  I had to explain to them the difference to them that yesterday, as a matter of fact; to play a little bit on edge.  I think the best football players play a little angry sometimes, at least controlled anger, particularly at several positions, maybe up front and everybody on defense.  We want our defense guys to run and hit somebody in a bad mood and a lot of them can do that.  Sometimes when you get through camp, it gets a little tired and sore; it is like pulling teeth."

Question:  How do players earn or lose points for the Wolverine teams?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Oh, there is a wide variety of things.   A lot of that stuff we kind of keep in house, but it is your typical stuff; if they get picked as the player of the day, if they do something positive in the community, if they get an A or B in their class or test; if they break a record in the weight room, all those things are positive points.  On the flip side they get negative points; if they get a poor grade in a class; if they are late for a meeting or they do something that they are not supposed to do, then you take points away.  It is a competitive thing.  In the spring we split it up, had a little draft and do it, then in the fall we do it by positions, so it is competitive by position right now."

Question:  Who are some of the skilled players on offense that have made an early impression positively for you?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Well, it takes me too long to answer that isn't it.  Both quarterbacks have made some pretty good play.  Again, our freshmen tailbacks have done a nice job, made some big plays.  Greg Mathews has been a little bit nicked up, but he and Daryl Stonum and LaTerryal Savoy both have had some moments there.  Our tight ends have been pretty solid.  Our slot receivers is a position that we were really unsure of and now Tony Clemons, Martavious Odoms and Terrence Robinson are three guys that we think can play that position for us and they have made some bid plays in camp.  We haven't had a full scrimmage yet.  Tomorrow will give us some more answers, err, Saturday."

Question:  Coach you were talking about being team leaders before camp ever started.  Is that an ongoing thing through camp?  Do you get to keep that?

Coach Rodriguez:  "A little bit.  I won't meet with them as much now.  I have said this several times; I don't need as much as leadership during practice, because that is what coaches are for.  I need leadership in the locker room and when we are not around, in particular when school starts and the players are all around campus and we only get them for a couple of hours a day that is when I really need the leadership, during practice and all that; we can do it.  Now during the games we can't be on the field, so we need leadership then, but I will meet with them again probably next week and again during game week.  I will meet with all the seniors.  The senior leadership is something that is very critical; every coach will tell you that.  We need all our seniors to have their best years and I think they are ready to do that."

Question:  What do Threet and Sheridan do well and what does each need to work on?

Coach Rodriguez:  "They are both smart guys.  I think they understand as far as our concepts go.  They both need to work on making quicker decisions and not forcing things.  I think sometimes the big play may be there, but it is a little bit of a gray area and they should probably go ahead and take the safe thing.  We are working on some typical things that you would have with a young quarterback.  Just be patient, take what they give you; you don't have to make all the big plays all the time."

Question: Is there skill set similar?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah.  I don't know what their 40 times are.  They run about the same.  Steve is a little taller; Nick seems like he is a little thicker.  I don't know; they are hands off.  I have always done that with quarterbacks in camp, but I have threatened to take the no hands off jerseys and put the regular white ones on them and let them get beat up if they don't get rid of it quick.  They have been pretty sharp.  I have been pleased with their intelligence and they are picking up the concept so far.  Again until you play, who knows."

Question:  Do you prefer that their skills are similar or would you rather have one guy capable of doing…?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I would rather have both guys capable of doing everything.  That is just what it is.  I would rather have guys that run a 4.4 forty, can throw it 80 yards, make quick decisions, understands concepts and who wouldn't want them.  You want a little bit of everything, but the quarterback in our offense, as I said, it has to be a like a point guard that can shoot the three.  If he can't shoot the three then he has to be a great distributor.  Kind of an analogist way."

Question:  The defensive line has a lot of experience coming back.  How have they looked in camp so far?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Doing okay.  I think the D-line has had a pretty solid camp.  I think Bruce Tall is doing a terrific job with them.  We got more experience there.  We got some guys who played a lot of football, but at the same time they have to play better than they have in the past and I think they are committed to doing it.  I really like their attitude; Brandon Graham, Will Johnson, Terrance Taylor and Tim Jamison, four veterans, I think are probably in the best shape in their careers, at least I think so.  So far, they have played pretty well in camp."

Question:  Outside of those four guys, are their other younger guys that have….?

Coach Rodriguez:  "(Renaldo) Sagesse, Mike Martin as a true freshman will play some; John Ferrara will play some; Andre Criswell banged his shoulder a little bit, but he was in the mix as well; Ryan VanBergen is a redshirt freshman; he can play multiple positions up front.  We got, I may be leaving somebody out, but we got a lot of depth there, I think and we are probably going to need it."

Question:  Do you anticipate seeing any A11 type plays against you this year, on kicking game?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Who is that?"

Question:  A11 plays, spread plays out of Piedmont, Texas.

Coach Rodriguez:  "Oh, yeah, I saw that.  That is kind of a new wave thing.  Some people have said our offense is a little unconventional.  I think you are going to see…I have said the proliferation of the spread offense has started a few years ago.  It didn't just start this year and everybody has got to be prepared for it.  You got to have defensive players that can play in space and that is why the emphasis on speed is everywhere in the country, not just here."

Question:  Back to the quarterbacks and Sheridan; Sheridan is a guy who two years ago who thought that he was not going to every play until some garbage time his senior year.  What has he shown you that makes him a potential leader in this offense?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah.  Maybe, I don't know if he would have thought that.  Maybe somebody else told him that, but Nick is pretty competitive.  If you had asked him, he came here with the intent purpose of competing for a job.  He is a very competitive guy.  I like his toughness.  I like his competitiveness.  You can tell he is a coach's son and that he understands the game a good bit.  Sometimes he can think too much.  That is part of the process particularly your first year, but I think players, one thing about it, when they truly know that everything is wide open, they become hungry and they become passionate on getting better each day and that is our goal."

Question:  Is it difficult to stay hands off those guys and yet put the pressure on them that they need with what they are going to face?

Coach Rodriguez:  "As far as tackling.  Well if you were here in the spring, they got sacked pretty…enough times to understand and again, I have been doing this for quite some time and if I thought they were a little gun-shy or something like that, I would, but these guys are pretty tough kids and they understand the timing of it.  So if we have to, you can do that, but they usually learn in spring ball."


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