Monday Presser (Week 10) Complete Transcript

(TRANSCRIPT) Rich Rodriguez met with the media Monday to review his team's 29-6 victory over Minnesota and look ahead to Northwestern. He gave his thoughts on Nick Sheridan's performance, the play of defense, the morale of his team, injuries, and more.

On Brandon Minor's injury status

"He's got sore ribs, a sore shoulder and a sore wrist. He won't practice tomorrow, questionable for this weekend. Again, probably the first 48 hours after the game is the most critical as far as recovery. He's obviously banged up in several areas, so we'll see and know a little bit more by Wednesday."

On Steven Threet's injury status

"Still questionable. Obviously, he's better. He took a good shot and is still questionable for this weekend. We'll see if he can practice tomorrow."

On what practice was like Sunday coming off of a win

"It's a lot more enjoyable on Sunday when you can give out your team awards and have a smile on your face at dinner and during your meetings, you know. Still, our approach is still the same and all that. It's been a long time since we've ever felt good on a Sunday. That was good, and hopefully it will give us a little bit of confidence going into this weekend."

On if Minor has had a x-ray or MRI

"Yeah, they're doing all that, all the medical stuff. I don't know to the extent of whether it's truly separated or not, but he's not in a cast or a sling. Obviously, he couldn't have gone back in the game, I don't think, at the time, and he's certainly not ready right now. We'll see in the next few days."

On David Molk's injury status

"He's fine."

On if there are any other that might keep players out for Northwestern

"No, not right now. Just (Steven) Threet still and (Brandon) Minor."

On Carlos Brown's injury status

"He's getting better. We'll see if he can go through a whole practice without limping."

On if Steven Threet is still having headaches from the concussion

"I think a little bit. I think he's still having a few headaches. Those concussions are a strange thing. The recovery time of them, I think, is on an individual basis."

On what the running back situation might look like on Saturday

"Mike (Shaw) and Sam (McGuffie), both, the two guys active. You still have Mark Moundros and Kevin Grady, and we can put, depending on what's going with Carlos, we can put Avery Horn there. We've got a lot of guys, but Mike and Sam are the guys. Both played pretty well. Mike has speed and pretty physical guy. He's going to be key. Sam, both, in the winter program, will add a little bit of weight and strength to help him get a little size to him. But they both run pretty hard. I thought Mike, for a guy that's not real big, is a pretty physical runner as well."

On if Justin Feagin will remain at quarterback

"Yeah, and we'll keep Justin at quarterback this week. He may do both (quarterback and slot receiver). I think he knows the slot receiver positions. He may do both. He'll take most of his reps at quarterback this week if Steve can't go."

On changing the personnel on special teams

"We're just trying to find 11 guys that we think could be productive, and there's a lot of guys that want to be on it. The guys that have the most passion and the ability to do it are the ones that are finding their way on the starting units. That's kind of -- I don't want to say it's been a revolving door, but it seems like there's been one or two guys in each unit that we're continually searching for, and injuries have caused some of that shuffling as well in the return game, in the coverage units and all that. I thought our kickoff coverage unit was pretty good, and we let one of them get out of there, but for the most part, they did a pretty good job."

On the play of the offensive line

"The left guard position has been the one that's been the most, but (John) Ferrara and (Tim) McAvoy kind of shared time and probably continue to do that. That's an ongoing battle there. Perry Dorrestein is the first tackle, and he continues to progress. Mark Ortmann and Steve Schilling have been solid. It helps to have continuity, but at the same time, if we have eight that are ready to play... backup center, backup guards and a backup tackle... that's the ideal thing. They're all first-year guys, starters, except for Schilling, so our depth will continue to get better we think in the future."

On if the players were giddy after Saturday's victory

"I wouldn't describe it as giddy. It's nice to win, but it's just one win. Obviously some of the issues or problems that we have to (fix) to get to where we want to be are still going to be there. One win doesn't solve that, but it's good from a coaching standpoint to have the players feel good about themselves. Some points whether it's offense, defense or special teams, some of the execution things that are there, it verifies that, hey, guy, if you do it this way and use your ability, it can work for you. That's why it's always better to teach off a win or particularly when some of the units play well. On defense, we had some... I thought we played a little more aggressive and a little more sense of urgency, and it was some of the same defense that we had in earlier games didn't make the plays and this game they did. It was good to teach off of those things. Then offensively the same thing. Some of the plays that we executed well were the same plays we didn't execute well earlier. It was just guys maybe a little bit better fundamentally or just trying to do what we asked them to do, so there were some good points there."

On whether the players began to question what they were being told because of the losing

"I didn't notice that. I've not seen that at all since we've been here. Again, they're young guys and a lot of times confidence plays a factor in that. Even a veteran, a guy that's a junior, senior, that's played that had some success, can lose confidence if he's not playing well or the team's not doing well. Confidence is a fragile thing. We've tried to get them over that point where you can play well when you don't, maybe the last play didn't go well. You've got to move on and play the next play with confidence and that's a hard thing to do. I've probably spent as much time talking about that, playing with confidence, regardless of the situation or how well you've been playing. The next play is a chance for you to play well. I don't know if they just took it to heart or just relaxed and had some success early, which helped them, particularly defensively. We had a few guys, some veterans, that played their best football of the year and played with the type of confidence that we had hoped they would have played with all year."

On whether the four-man front will be used again against Northwestern

"Maybe. We'll do it all. We did a three-man front in the last game, four-man front and nickel packages early in the game. We'll probably do some things -- Northwestern is a spread team. Both quarterbacks are right as C.J. (Bauchér) is back. They might not run as much as with Mike (Kafka). The first half of Ohio State, half their offense was quarterback runs. We have to be prepared for a variety of packages from Northwestern."

On whether Feagin's arm strength has limited how he's used

"I don't have a problem. He's a true freshman and in the passing game he's had some struggles, but he can still throw the ball pretty well. The other guys -- Nick (Sheridan) and Steve (Threet) -- throw it better, and Justin is a pretty good runner. He can run. He can't run all the offense, but he can run enough of it. He just hasn't been taking a lot of reps there."

On if Feagin will be put on a program to strengthen his arm

"They're all on a strength program, and Justin will probably be playing slot receiver once Steve (Threet) is healthy."

On if Feagin is like West Virginia QB Pat White

"Not as fast as Pat. As a freshman he wasn't as fast as Pat. Pat's fast, fast, but Justin can run. The thing about Justin, he loves to play. He's a strong guy. You notice he's a strong runner, and that's why we think he'd be really good in the slot position and be a real good special teams' guy. He can have a role there, too, but the quarterback situation, there's no question that any coach that tells you it's not the most important position in football is lying to you. It is. It's the most important position in the game of football. It's a team game, but your offense always centers around your quarterback first and foremost. Our guys are getting better with it. Obviously, we can recruit guys to that position, which we are, and we'll be in a lot better situation at quarterback in the years to come, both the depth as far as guys understanding and grasping the system than we are right now. Justin is going to be a valuable player for us in a lot of regards. Not just because he can play some quarterback, but I think because he can play other positions, and I think play them pretty well."

On the Ohio State-Northwestern game

"Ohio State, first offensively they got some big plays. They got some big plays when maybe the play wasn't there. In other words, it was (Ohio State quarterback Terrelle) Pryor scrambling around and making a big play, throwing a pass down field. They got a couple of big runs in particular with Beanie Wells. They had him stopped behind the line of scrimmage and somehow he bounced through there and for some runs. What I saw, particularly the first half or first three quarters, was Northwestern played pretty good defense. Ohio State, athletically, made a few big plays, whether it was Pryor or Wells, and got some points on them."

On if Feagin could have thrown the ball instead of run on some of his plays Saturday

There were a few. I don't remember how many. I think he had six or seven runs. There were some pass options. He can throw the ball okay. It's not that he can't throw. He didn't throw the ball as well as Nick (Sheridan) or Steve (Threet) right now. He has and he can throw the football. He's a quarterback that has played quarterback and can still do some of that stuff. Again, when you're at another position, you go a month or five weeks without doing the passing game and all that. That's a long time off."

On if his team is looking past Northwestern

"Looking past anything? No, I think our guys are excited about playing this game. Our big thing this week, other than playing the Northwestern team that was ranked -- I think they got seven wins already -- our biggest thing is it's the senior's last home game. I told them yesterday and I would be surprised if it's not the case, the 16 seniors that will be playing for the last time in the Big House (need to) remember this game as much as any in their careers. At least all the guys that coached or that played college football or whatever will probably bring that up to them. You remember your last home game. You remember every detail. You remember your last bus ride to the stadium, the last time you dress in the locker room, and the last time running out of the tunnel, no matter where you're at, but especially in a place like here where you have such great fan support and all that. They'll remember this weekend, and you want them to remember it fondly. I would be very disappointed if we didn't have great effort, if for no other case than for those 16 seniors."

On why Nick Sheridan played his best game of the season against Minnesota

"I think he played within himself and didn't. He played under control. He made a few plays that maybe weren't there but didn't make the big mistake and didn't force the issue. A lot of times you hear coaches say he managed the game. That's really what he did. He managed the game well. He made some sound decisions and didn't play perfect, but he played solid and he didn't have the big mistake. We didn't have any turnovers on offense other than the one fumble. Nick had one or two passes that he would have liked to have had back, but he made some sound decisions, managed the game and played within himself. He didn't try to do something that wasn't there, and I think that was the biggest difference. When Steve (Threet) has played well, he did the same thing. He took that same kind of approach."

On which defenders played well against Minnesota

"I thought our secondary, our experienced guys in the secondary, played more aggressively and I thought played pretty soundly. I thought Mo(rgan) Trent played an outstanding game. I thought Brandon Harrison -- we put him in a nickel-back position -- he did some nice things. Donovan Warren played a solid game. Charles Stewart and Stevie Brown made some plays, and I thought our secondary as a whole, who maybe have not played as well in some earlier games. It wasn't all them, but I thought in this game they probably played collectively their best game of the season."

On Zoltan Mesko

"He actually didn't probably have his best game punting, which is disappointing, because all the punters and kickers love going indoors. I watched in pre-game, and he was absolutely killing it. Zoltan is a really good athlete, probably not as fast as he thinks he is on that one. Hhe looked like he was running in slow motion. He wasn't, but he got the first down. Zoltan is a guy who has really bought into doing something different than he'd ever done before on the roll punts and kicking it on the run. Exceptional talent. The thing I like about him is he's sincere and good about it. As good as he's gotten in the first few months, I'm excited what he can do in the future because he's going to keep getting better and better. He's obviously got a strong leg, but he's also a very, very good athlete. He's a good athlete. He keeps wanting me to put him back at quarterback and throwing it back there, and for all the other fakes we haven't shown. He's done an outstanding job and I think he's one of the best in the country, really do."

On if Mesko could have punted the ball on the fake

"Yes. In fact, I wasn't sure he shouldn't have (ran), but he got the edge. We didn't block it particularly as well as we can, but he got the edge there and got a big first. I don't think we scored on him, but he got a big first down. But he could have kicked it, yes."

On Northwestern

"They execute really well. Like you said, they gave up a few big plays against Ohio State and some of that were just athletes making plays. It wasn't like they were out of position. You don't see them out of position. You can tell they're a smart group that play extremely hard. Sometimes people underestimate their talent and speed, too. They've got some talented guys and guys up front on defense that are impressive, but you don't catch them giving up a lot of key stuff. You'll have to earn everything you get. Offensively, they've hurt some teams with tempo. They're a spread similar to us. They've got a fast tempo and they've hurt some teams with it. We practice against it and all that, but we've got to be prepared for them to do some of the spread, the no-back (sets), the quick games and no huddle stuff."

On the absence of Northwestern RB Tyrell Sutton

"They're still doing stuff. They've got other backs. (Omar) Conteh is going to be playing. He's a senior. They've split some time anyway. If C.J. (Bauchér) is back, they've got a veteran group, and (Eric) Peterman is one of the best in the league. They've got their skilled guys. I think they can do what they want."

On if seniors he will play more senior since Saturday is senior day

"That's a good question. We want to play the seniors again, but our job first and foremost is to do what we can to win the game. The guys that can give us the best opportunity to win the game will play the most. We have other seniors that are right there that maybe have played a little bit splitting some time, and if things are close or there are situations where we can play them more, we will. But we're going to go with all intentions, let's play the best guys that give us a chance to win the game. There's a lot of seniors, particularly defense, that are in that mix. Offensively the only senior is Mike Massey. Mike played a little bit more last weekend and he'll probably play a little more this weekend as well."

On if more seniors will start

"No, I don't think so. We haven't talked about that. I understand why you do that. If there's an opportunity, we may do that, but I've never really done that much in the past. You can put them on special teams. Again, you've got to do what you can to win the game. If there's a thing like Mike Massey, Mike may get a start because he and Kevin (Koger) are pretty close. Kevin has been playing a little bit better, but Mike's come on the last couple of weeks. (Mike) may be a guy that we put in there, for instance, to get the first few snaps and get him going a little bit, but if things are close, we will. We haven't made that decision yet."

On Threet will be named starter if the concussion symtoms subside by Tuesday

"It's a fair question. I don't want to make a determination until we see how they practice. You know, really that's -- I think you've all been around us long enough. The way we do things here, you may start on Tuesday but not on Wednesday. You might start on a Wednesday but not on Thursday. The guys have to earn their stripes every day. You start on Saturday, it doesn't mean you're starting on Sunday. So that kind of competitiveness and the way we do our depth chart is an ongoing thing, and it will be from now until whenever. We want our guys to earn their stripes every day. That way, you get their full attention in practice. Obviously for us to create that environment, we've got to have more depth. We've got to have two or three guys at each position that we feel good enough to win with, and then those guys compete to see who gets a starting job. We're not at that point now, but we will be in the future."

On if he is tempted to name Sheridan the starter to see if he can build off of the Minnesota game

"In (his) last game, I thought Steve (Threet) played pretty well against Purdue, so he didn't get a chance to build off of that. You have to go back and really see how well they're performing in practice and all that. Steve's last game that he played, he played pretty solidly, and Nick's last game, he played his best game. To me, that's encouraging that both of those are improving. It's a good situation to have if both of them are ready to play this weekend, which Nick will be. We'll find out about Steve later."

On if Sheridan and Threet will split snaps

"It will depend on if Steve is healthy. If Steve is healthy, they'll be splitting. We split reps with our first and second group a little bit different. They take the same amount of reps. Our second group gets as many reps as the first group. Who you're taking the reps with sometimes makes a difference, but a lot of times it doesn't because you're going to get the same fronts and same script the whole practice."

On what they'll do to remedy the dropped passes

"Well, get out and catch a few balls. There were a few drops that hurt us at times. Fortunately, we were able to overcome them. Our guys have good hands. A lot of times, you can look at them, see it was fundamental thing with his hands positioned right and with his eyes off the ball and sometimes it's just a concentration issue. I think that was more of a concentration issue both on the dropped kick and a couple of the deep balls. It was just more of a concentration issue. I was also pleased that we made a couple of tough catches. The first one that Greg Mathews made, his right hand was getting held back a little bit. He made that catch with one hand, phenomenal catch."

On why Michigan had to settle for so many field goals

"Some they did and some lack of execution. There were a few plays out there we wish we had back was the case. I don't want to have to kick five field goals, but we were at least ending with scores. We were able to control the clock. Our defense only played 24 snaps in the first half. Some of it was because the defense and some was because the offense controlled the ball. I think the last touchdown drive was seven minutes. We ate up the whole clock on the last touchdown drive. Those are things we've got to do right now. If we had a fast strike explosive offensive team, it wouldn't be as much of an issue, but we're not that right now so we've got to be able to control the clock a little bit."

On the the nickelback

"Just about everybody has to play a nickelback. Some teams will play it the whole game depending on who you're playing. The emphasis on recruiting DBs is greater than it's ever been. Certainly, we're trying to address that in our recruiting. We've got to sign more DBs. You have got to have more athletic linebacker types that can play in space because you're going to play, in our league alone, seven or eight teams that use predominantly the spread. Even those teams that don't do it predominantly will do it on long yardage situations. Every game you're going into, there will be situations where you need five, maybe six DBs or at least five DBs and a couple of athletic linebackers. We've tried to address that in recruiting and that's part of the process we're going through right now to fill up our roster."

On Brandon Harrison's performance at nickel

"He did well. That was the first time he played a true nickelback in a first-down situation on Saturday. I think it helped. He played pretty well. I thought he played one of his better games. He's been a little bit banged up with a sore leg, but he's getting a little bit healthier and I think it showed Saturday."

On whether the use of more four-man front had more to do with the comfort level of his defense or Minnesota's offense

"Both. We're running the odd stuff every game, too. The 3-3 and the 3-4 stuff is always part of our package. It's been more of our long-yardage package, but the four-man front with a nickel DB was another thing we've been doing but not predominantly on first down. The last game, we did it predominantly on first and early downs. It seemed to help get a little bit more speed and athleticism on the field, which again is something that everybody in the country is seeing you have to go to."

On what his team will do in place of bowl practices

"Recruit. Study for finals. Lift a little bit. There's not going to be anybody lying around. Unfortunately not going to a bowl this year, but having been in one the last six years before, the only thing negative to bowl practice is sometimes it takes a little bit of time away from full-scale recruiting like you like to. Obviously, for us that's such a major need. We'll be full-scale recruiting, but our players obviously will be studying for finals. We'll do some workouts and try to keep them in shape a little bit. It's going to be a painful time, but we've got to fix that in the future."

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