Q. You said after the Northwestern game Saturday that you focus on getting ready for the game rather than any of the exterior things. What is the toughest environment you ever brought a team into?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Well, gosh, there's been a few. I mean, it was, I think way back when games. I mean, playing down in Blacksburg at night was a I guess, Virginia Tech was a tough environment. Even the Sugar Bowl. It was in Georgia against Georgia with a predominant Georgia crowd.
But a lot of times those I mean, it's tough when you go on the road, communicating and all that kind of stuff. But that atmosphere sometimes will lift your team up a little. They sense the importance of it, I guess I should say. You know, they understand what they're up against.
Lot of times for young guys when they get put into tougher situations, it makes them respond in a positive way. At least that's what we're hoping.
Q. What is your appreciation for the rivalry, and are some of the players helping you?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: They don't need to help me. I'm trying to I told them last night, I don't think I have to explain to them the importance of the game and the intensity of the rivalry. I think if you follow college football at all you understand that.
But I want them to enjoy it, but also understand that they won't play in a bigger game every year than the MichiganOhio State game. So I know upper classmen understand that, but we're trying to get that message across to our freshmen who are playing in this game for the first time.
Q. Ohio State, is there anything you can do to convince them of the importance of this rivalry?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I say at least I shouldn't have to worry about it. That's the message we send to the team. I would think anybody that has an opportunity to play in this game would play as hard as they can.
And I've told the team. I said not a lot of people are going to expect you to do well and win the game, but we expect them to do well. It's a challenge, but we are capable of playing pretty good football. We just have not done it consistently.
I know that sounds like coach speak. But if we can play consistently like we have at times this year, and you know get a few breaks in there, anything can happen.
We know we're going to get their best effort as well. It's a huge game for them as it is for us. I do believe our guys need to get the confidence early, you train them to the point where they're not thinking about anything but the next play, you have a shot.
I think that's what our focus has to be on. Just whatever that next play is. Not worry about the scoreboard, not worry about the environment, not even worry about the rivalry. When you start playing the game as what am I going to do in this next play and go from there.
Q. They were talking about playing well early and putting the pressure on them?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Not a whole lot. Again, I don't want to go into a situation of ever looking at the scoreboard or worrying about what just happened. And that's not just because of this game, but in every game, particularly the younger team and the younger guys playing.
I think you can be too thoughtful, so to speak on what's going on and what the situation is. Just okay, the next play is I'm supposed to be on this play of offense or defense and special teams. If it doesn't go my way, I move on.
That single mindedness is something we're constantly working on. I don't think we've grasped that yet totally as a team. But that's part of our job to try to teach that.
Q. Would a win would it erase some of the bad of the season?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I think it's not going to obviously salvage the season, but it at least will make you feel good for a few days, anyway, and give you some confidence.
We talk about the team and the frustrations we've had or any disappointments we've had. A win would at least help a little bit, but it's not going to erase everything, and it shouldn't erase everything.
You know, it's going to take a lot more time to get all of that salvaged, so to speak. But I want our guys to feel good, and I want our seniors we talked about last week, making a lasting impression. This is truly their last impression as a Michigan football player, so hopefully it will play well.
Q. What is it about Ohio State that you've seen on film?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: They're a very talented team. You don't see them out of place. They play hard. Again, they've got some of the best talent in the country, and some of the guys are playing at a high level for them. And, again, I know that they've got a lot at stake. But I like to think that we do, too.
But that being said, for us some of our guys have played against them. Have had moderate success, not a lot of success as far as winning the games. I mean, we watched last year's games and struggled offensively. I think less than 100 yards of total offense against them last year. So we know they're pretty stout.
We're going to have to really execute. I don't want to say we have to play perfect to win, because if you say that, who can play perfect? But we're going to have to execute well. We'll have to take care of the football. Who knows. We've got a couple of guys that can make plays. If they can make a few plays here and there and get some confidence, then who knows what will happen.
Q. Can you talk about the preparation on game day?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Well, I would hope at least in particularly with rivalry games and MichiganOhio State, that it's easiest for them to focus on the preparation. You'd like for them to take that mindset in every week because every game is so important. That's why everybody wants to play college football.
But right now the regular season games have so much importance on every game that you hope they take that championship preparation into every week.
But one thing about a rivalry game, in particular this game, you would think their intensity and preparation is at an alltime high. So the coaches shouldn't have to worry about it. I can tell you better after we practice a couple of days. But yesterday was pretty good. I think our guys will be extremely focused as they should be.
Q. What is your general philosophy of the rivalry?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I think you probably spend a little more time in the offseason in the summer or spring than normal. I think that most coaches will tell you that. We don't designate like we did in spring practice with Ohio State. But there are things that we would maybe work on in a practice or two that could be relevant to this game.
Obviously, over the summer when you do your summer breakdown like for us, we do a little bit of off teams, but we do more for the rivalry teams as far as breaking them down. But you have to do it over again in the fall because teams have changed and they may do different things, particularly Ohio State. They've got a new quarterback, and they'll do some different things with Terrell than maybe they were doing before. So you have to adjust a little bit.
But most coaches probably spend a little more time on that rivalry game than in your summer months.
Q. Do you generally yourself get more play from the rivalry?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I've always well, I think you get I don't know if you can get anymore intense. It's so important anyways. It's not like I'm going to catch grief if we lose any game. But I do think the rivalry games are a little more intense for everybody involved in the program. They certainly are for the fans.
I've heard the fans I haven't been in a game in Columbus. Last time I was there was for a JV game my freshman year of college. So things are a little different now.
But I hear it's going to be a very intense atmosphere. The fans are intense and into it. That's what you expect from this type of ballgame.
Q. When you watched Terrell Pryor prepare this week, how much is in your mind?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: It's in the past. Once he got signed and he goes to another school, my focus is on the guy that's play for us. And you have to do that. I don't think you can hypotheticals and say whatifs. I think you have to say this is what reality is, and this is what we do.
We do what ifs, hypotheticals while we're recruiting for the next class. We project guys. Say this guy could be really good in our system. This guy could be good in this position. Once the signing date is over, we move ahead.
Q. Is it more of a challenge with him? Just looking ahead, he's a guy we almost had?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Well, it's a challenge because we're playing against him, and the things that he does well. He's obviously a terrific athlete. And the things he does, well, we have to have an answer for and try to stop him. Sometimes they make plays when the plays aren't even there. He may have good coverage, he may have defended well. He makes somebody miss or outruns somebody.
So the challenge is focusing on trying to stop him and keep him from making big plays.
Q. Did you first think no matter where Terrell Pryor went that he would have an immediate impact?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Sure, we thought that. Coaches and everybody has to trust their own judgment. But when we were recruiting the guy, we thought he'd have success no matter where he's at. That's the kind of guy you want to recruit.
Sometimes you find a guy that not a lot of people are recruiting and maybe he's under the radar so to speak. You judge him as a better player than other people do. But Terrell, everybody wanted him.
Q. What's your opinion of Terrell?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I have not watched. I've been watching more of the defense. I just watched a couple of games of their offense. But every quarterback as you play more and get more experience, you're going to get more comfortable and you rely more on your playbook.
Not having broken down what they're doing offensively from the first game until now. Our defensive coach could tell you more. But he's probably doing more with the offense. They're doing more things with him schemewise than they were in the beginning of the year.
With a young quarterback, you're going to shrink your playbook early, and expand it as his knowledge and experience expands.
Q. Did you know Jim Tressel at all?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I've known Jim for a while. I think I met him at Youngstown. But we had been for several years spent some time with an apparel company. Took a trip and got to know him a little bit. He and I are both on the AFCA, we spend a little time with that.
Some of his coaches came to visit us a few years back when I was at West Virginia. But I need offense and defense. If I knew I was going to be here, that trip wouldn't have happened. So I've known several of their coaches for quite a few years now.
Q. How long ago was that?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: How long ago was that? I want to say two or three years. It wasn't a long time ago. It wasn't this spring, but it was either it might have been one or two years in a row. I think it was a couple of years ago.
Q. Did they adapt some of the West Virginia Spread?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: They did some of it, I think. There was some when Troy was a quarterback. Troy Smith. Because he'd visit us, and they did some spread things then. So they came and talked to us and our coaches.
Usually when we had all those people visiting it was like a mutual exchange of ideas. Honestly, we always do coaches are always doing that, because we've got to try to get smarter. I'm sure a lot of our fans want me to do a lot of things to get smarter now.
But I think every year it's our responsibility to try to learn things, a few things. But we never would do that with anybody we think we were going to be playing. That's the obvious.
Q. Even on Saturday, BCS aside, bowl games aside, they said this is different. This is the most important game. You really haven't done that and made this the ultimate priority for this program. Why is that?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Well, I don't know, maybe I have and you all don't know it. I don't think everything that I'm thinking or telling the team is made public. But I didn't make any public statements or declarations or anything like that, because there are a whole lot of things that we're trying to do.
I'll never diminish the importance of a MichiganOhio State game ever. Never have, never would. Wouldn't be smart to do that. I wouldn't do it anyway. First day I got on the job, somebody sent me a Ohio State button, and it's sitting next to my phone. I see it every day.
Just because I don't say something about that on my first day on the job, doesn't mean I don't understand the importance of the game. It's just we're in a process now of trying to build a championship program, and there are a whole lot of things on our plate.
For right now, the most important thing is Ohio State. But there's a lot of work we've got to do to get this program where I want it to be and where our fans want it to be.
But as important it is to Jim and his program and his staff, it's just as important to us.
Q. Can you compare the backs?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Maybe the biggest difference between Beanie and some of the other backs we've faced and we've faced good ones, is just his size. He's got the speed, but he's such a big, physical player. Lot of times he just stiff arms guys and breaks out of tackles and he can outrun you. So that is probably the base of it. He's a big, big physical guy that can really run.
You can't just go up and wrap your arms around him. You've got to actually tackle him. You can't just grab him, you have to tackle him, there is a little difference there.
Q. How tough is it defensively when you're playing a team that can spread it out and can lineup?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, that's part of the issue. You have to prepare for both. I mean, they're going to spread you out in space a little bit. That's where I do some speed options and some of those pro game and run game with it, the zone reads.
And they'll run it, we know that. They'll probably keep running it until we stop it. So you have to be able to have a plan defensively to do that. Whether you change personnel, or whether you have a scheme for both, but I'm sure our defensive staff is working on that.
They're playing better now, obviously, because I think of the experience that Terrell's gotten and all of that. They're probably playing their best football right now.
Q. How did you feel about Pitt?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Same thing here. When I played West Virginia we had the two big rivalries with Pitt and Penn State. And Pitt was a backyard brawl and a big rivalry. So I understood the intensity of it. And the difference was that game wasn't always the last game of the year. It could have been moved around. So it's still an intense rivalry.
The big difference, I don't know if there's any one that's more intense than MichiganOhio State. And there is more of y'all here. Some of you are probably from Columbus that are here. So there's more people here for this deal than there normally is.
I think when you look around and ask around in college football just name the greatest rivalries. This one will always be in the conversation. It's either thee best or right there with it, and that's independent people saying that. So I think that's the biggest difference. On a national scope this gets more attention.
Q. Is it hard do you think it's harder for people around here to come to terms with how the season's gone, given everybody's familiar with how successful Bo was his first year here?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I can't answer what people think. That was 40 years ago? There's a lot of things that are different now. It's not the same thing. It's not the same thing as ten years ago, five years ago. Certainly the not the same as 40 years ago.
So if people want to make comparisons between then and now. I mean, fans are fans and that's fine. But it's a whole different deal nowadays.
Q. What do you think about Michigan coaches having pretty good success in their first game against Ohio State?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: That's in the past. You ever see the movie "Lion King"? That monkey hits the lion over the head, and the monkey says what did you do that for? Doesn't matter, it's in the past. It's in the past.
I don't think there's anything I've said this to our team, there was a time back probably when Jimmy Brandt sat back there and played. There was a time when he put that winged hat, and you come out of the big house, and that was probably worth 10 to 14 points right there. They built the program.
Coach Schembechler, and Coach Carr built the program to the point where playing at home in that big house, and coming out there with that certain feeling that, boy, it's going to be a tough game. That was worth 10 or 14 points right there. That ain't the case anymore.
Now I'd like to build it up to that point, and that's part of our challenge and our goal. But we're not there anymore. We're just putting on the wing helmet. We've got to deserve that.
Everybody wants to know when we're going to win more games? When we deserve to win more games, we'll win more games. Simple as that. When we deserve to win more games, we'll win more games.
Now it's our challenge as coaches and in our program and our players to get to that point. And I think we'll get there. It's taken longer than I want, but we'll get there.
Q. Is there part of you that would like to be going into the first Ohio State team with the gun a little bit more loaded?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Oh, sure. I'd like to go in there and have, you know four or five veteran receivers running 44, and the 23 tailbacks and experienced quarterbacks and a bunch of defensive guys to be first round picks and all of that.
But, you know, we got guys that can compete with. Do I get nervous when I watch the film? Sure I do. I watched last year's game. We got five NFL players on offense. We get less than 100 yards against them.
So now we're going to go there with guys that are not here. We've got to go in and compete. It's a daunting challenge. But if you're not a competitor as a coach or player and don't appreciate, hell, I've got guys that can play. These guys can go in this environment and compete their tails off. Who knows what happens? We're not going to go down there and forfeit. We're going to go down there and play as hard as we can.
Q. What is the preparation like?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Well, it is a little different. For me it's the first time in a long time. For our players as well. So I hope in a way the fine nationality of it gives our guys a little bit of extra, hey, this is it. Let's do all we can. What are we saving it for, right? It's not like you're saving it for the spring game, you know.
So what are we saving it for? Let's do all we can. Not just some Saturday which should be an easy time to get them up, but during our preparation.
That was part of what we talked about last night. Hey, just whatever you have, let's have your best week of preparation to it. So I would think we'd have that. I would be disappointed if we didn't.
Q. Can you talk about the tradition between Michigan and Ohio State?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, there's probably too much made out of that. I think it's trying to run a football program and a successful football program. I have to find out what it is with Michigan as far as the university and traditions and all of that. And I think also the university and our fans have to understand what we're trying to do with our program.
You don't change tradition. You know, the Championships you've had here, the things that you the things that are truly tradition in nature that are positive for your program, you wouldn't change.
Now culture, I don't know what the definition of culture is. My definition of culture is certain mentality you play with. I told them if the culture of Michigan is to get a bunch of guys to do as well as they can on and off the field and play with great passion on every snap.
They give all they can for Michigan first before themselves, then that's the culture I want. Is that the culture I'm at right now? I don't know. But that's the culture that I want. If that's the culture that our fans want, then we're on the same page.
You know, as disappointed as I've been. Again, I'm going off here. But as disappointed as I've been with some of the games, I know what we've got to do for the most part to have this program show up in wins and losses the way our fans want.
That's not going to be as easily done as maybe everybody wants, but we do have a plan to get it done. It's going to take more time than I want. But if everybody will be patient, give us a little time, we'll be fine.
Q. Will you bring in speak I don't think there's anybody on your team that's beaten Ohio State?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: It's been a few years. No, I don't think so. I've got guys that come around. I've got, you know, I've got some former I've got coaches and staff. I've got former players that's helping us. I've got guys that are around all the time. Our players understand it.
Again, I don't want to diminish it. But if our players understand the importance of MichiganOhio State when they sign to come here, they knew what the deal was. But again, we're talking about it all the time. Unless you play, all that stuff goes out the window. It will be a matter of us against them.
Q. On defense, are there player that's jump out at you?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Obviously their linebackers. They're very active, they're big up front. All of their down guys can rush the passer. Jenkins is a great player in the secondary.
Their defense has been very consistent all year, and have been for a couple. They do a great job. They've got some outstanding players.
I think obviously they have some explosiveness on offense, too. Watching their defense and seeing how consistent they've been, there's not been a lot of people that have been able to move the football on a consistent level against him. So that's a great challenge for us. We'll try to put a plan together and see if we can execute it come Saturday.
Full Transcript: Coach Rod on "The Game"
The Michigan Insider Top Stories
Jabrill Peppers named Heisman finalistMichigan's versatile linebacker Jabrill Peppers was named a Heisman finalist on Monday.
The Michigan Insider4:03 PM
JKP on U-M commitment, message to ThomasDetroit (Mich.) Cass Tech's Jaylen Kelly-Powell reflects on Michigan commitment, his message to Ambry Thomas and more.
The Michigan Insider9:30 AM
Speight: Orange Bowl has magnitudeDespite not achieving the goals set forth at the beginning of the season, Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight sees the opportunity the Orange Bowl presents his team later this…
The Michigan InsiderYesterday at 4:29 PM
U-M loses CFP 'Opportunity,' focused on FSUMichigan players admit lost College Football Playoff "opportunity," look forward to FSU.
The Michigan InsiderYesterday at 4:21 PM