Rodriguez Outlines Offseason Plan (Part 2)

(Part 2 of 2) In part two of the transcript Michigan headman Rich Rodriguez's final meeting of the season with the media he goes in depth into recruiting, Sam McGuffie's future, the gap between Michigan and the top teams in the Big Ten, and more.

To view part one, click: Rodriguez Outlines Offseason Plan (Part 1)

Question:  Have you had a point in the last 10 months that you've gotten to slow down for a little while or has it been…?

Coach Rodriguez:  "No, but I'll slow down when I'm retired (laughter), but I'll retire sooner than JoePa or Bobby (Bowden), I'm not going to go until I'm 81 and all that kind of stuff.  Are you kidding me…45, if I can go to 60 that'll be good."

Question:  What are the characteristics of the best defenses that you've been around and when this is more of a finished product on that side of that ball, what will it look like?

Coach Rodriguez:  "It's really a finished product on all three phases is guys, fast guys playing fast and executing.  You're going to make mistakes.  You make mistakes as coaches, maybe a call doesn't go, maybe you don't call the right play or defense or maybe a guy misses a ball or misses a tackle, you (make) mistakes, but you play and you execute quickly and playing extremely fast.  The first year you're going to play a little slower because there is some thinking involved.  Again, our defense has new terminology, our offense has got new terminology, special teams.  So I think you would play faster in all regards, but you got to get fast guys playing fast and as coaches you got to coach them to execute quickly.  That's coach speak, but that's the truth."

Question:  When are you hitting the road for recruiting?

Coach Rodriguez:  "This is an evaluation period so the seven assistants are on the road this week.  Next week is a contact period, so I'll get out starting next Monday for three weeks."

Question:  It seems like Sam (McGuffie) and maybe I'm wrong on this, but it seemed like he took a lot of big hits this year for the number of times he carried the ball; do you see it that way and if so what…?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Well Paul Schmidt and I have talked a little bit about it.  He's had a couple of concussions which concerns us, when you have more than one in a year.  Whether we have got to have a doctor look at him or what the issue is, but it is a concern.  Because in the last game, it was just his first play in the kickoff and it was a pretty good hit.  But still when you have more than one in one year, it does raise a concern and health is always the most important thing of your players.  We talked about that last night as a matter of fact and I'm going to talk to Sam about that and see if there is anything we need to do further medical tests what have you."

Question:  So a concussion is what he suffered on that hit on the kickoff?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah."

Question:  You expect him back, Sam?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yes."

Question:  Could a position change to the slot receiver help with some of those hits?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Well it could.  All of our tailbacks in our offense have to learn the slot position anyway.  Carlos Brown did a little bit and even Minor did some.  Mike Shaw did some, but eventually as they will go, they will have to be able to play both, the slot position and tailback.  It's hard the first year but I would think…to answer your question, I think that is a definitely thing that all of those guys will do this spring."

Question:  When does spring practice start and do you know if you're going to have an actual spring game yet?

Coach Rodriguez:  "It starts in mid March; I don't know the exact date.  I got it set.  I don't have the calendar with me.  As far as having a true spring game, I don't know the availability of the stadium yet.  I'd like to have one.  If the stadium is available, we'll have one.  If it isn't, we'll have one somewhere.  I think it's pretty neat for the kids."

Question:  It's above your station, more Bill Martin territory, but in terms of the two games that have to be filled for next year, what's your role in that and have you had any discussion with Bill about that?

Coach Rodriguez:  "We just need one game.  We got Western Michigan, Notre Dame, and Eastern Michigan and then we need one more game and we're working on that."

Question:  Do you have a philosophy on what you'd like on how the balance of schedule?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Naw, a home game.  Somebody that will come here for a guarantee."

Question:  Whomever?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah.  It has to be the right fit and the date and all that.  The problem with us is that it is a mid October open date and so most teams are in their conference schedules.  So we're searching, but we got to find somebody that can come in that time for a home game for us."

Question:  Glenville (W.VA)?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Naw.  It'll be a little higher level than that."

Question:  Have you been able to get a handle or grasp on how much attrition that you might have off of your roster?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I don't think it'll be…if I said that, I mean I hope it's not a lot, but I'm not worried about it, because the ones who stay will be fully committed, but I don't think it'll be a lot.  It may be a handful.  Some of it may be some guys that go ahead and graduate and are fourth year players, which is the most important thing for them to do is get their Michigan degree and a couple of them are guys that maybe aren't playing as much and may transfer to another level and get more playing time.  I don't know.  I don't have any predictions.  I wouldn't be surprised if it's a couple, but it won't be a lot I would think."

Question:  If there is a guy that is on the fence, is there a situation where you try to convince somebody?

Coach Rodriguez:  "It depends on what he's on the fence about it.  If he's on a fence as far as his commitment to the University of Michigan first and foremost, they either get in or get out.  If he's on the fence about whether he can play here or not, we'll give him an honest evaluation.  That's one thing that I told the guy, if we think that you can definitely play here, we'll tell you.  If we think you'll have a hard time playing here because of ability or what have you, we'll tell you that too.  If there are certain things that we think you need to work on to be able to play at a higher level or to play here to have success here, we'll tell them that too.  I think you're better off being honest with the guys then giving them a bunch of BS.  If guys come to us and ask, we'll be honest with them with that.  As far as on the fence whether their bought in or committed, they'll either be in or out."

Question:  Was Sam every considered waffling on his commitment?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Not that I know of.  I talked to Sam last week because he had a family issue.  Sam's got some tough issues and he's a long way from home with him trying to take care of his family.  Here is a young man that is trying to take care of his 16-year-old brother, a long way from home.  Those things there you work with a guy about.  Hopefully, Sam, he's had a pretty good freshman year.  He got banged up a little bit here at the end but hopefully things will work out."

Question:  Are there one or two areas that you really need to target in recruiting?

Coach Rodriguez:  "One or two or six or 10, yeah lot of areas.  Like I said, we need competition at every position.  Offensive skill position wise, defensively, we got to get some faster athletes that can play in space.  In the areas that we naturally are losing (and we are) recruiting, D-linemen.  We need more DBs.  We're low on DBs.  All those areas, obviously creating competition at quarterback is going to be huge.  We're addressing those."

Question:  Out of the position groups, which we one did you think played the best overall?

Coach Rodriguez:  "It's the same thing I've always said.  You got two kids, I got a daughter and  a son, which one do you love the most, which one do you get the maddest at the most, both the same.  We made progress in just about every position.  There were some positions that maybe didn't play as well at times.  You look at the O-line, the only guy that played up front was Steve Schilling and the other guys, some of them were given up for dead.  They weren't even in on the two deep.  They were third team guys and they came in and battled.  David Molk came in as a first year starter and I thought as the season went along, you could see him start to emerge and take control a little bit.  We can play and need to play a whole lot better and get a whole lot stronger up front, but for a lot of guys that never played before, I think they battled pretty good.  I thought Brandon Minor gave us a lift at running back at the end.  The D-line I think was pretty consistent, which you would think having all those veterans coming back.  I thought they were pretty consistent all year.  They were times…Zoltan (Mesko) had a good year; he didn't have his best game against Ohio State.  There were times where each unit played pretty well and there was times where each unit could have played better.  That inconsistency was one of the most frustrating things that we had."

Question:  You played the two Big Ten co-champions almost to a standstill at half; how big is the gap between you and those two right now?

Coach Rodriguez:  "There is a gap.  Again, the score at halftime was really insignificant, but I think there is a gap, but I'm also encouraged that if we recruit a couple of solid years together, continue to develop like we have and fix the problems that we have, we can close the gap quicker rather than later.  I remember my first year at West Virginia and we played Miami back when Miami was winning National Championships and we got killed my first year.  I thought geez this is going to take four years to close this gap.  In two years it was closed.  We got a couple of right guys in the right spots and it just kind of clicked.  So it happened quicker than we anticipated.  I don't think we have that much of a gap as I had back then, plus I'm at a great place.  So we can recruiting wise and all that, I think we can close the gap sooner, but a lot of it depends on how quickly our guys develop, our younger players develop.  That is kind of the X factor, but I do think…I'm not over saying ‘geez, it may take half a century to get where there at.'  We'll get there."

Question:  Can you give us a brief scouting report of the two quarterbacks that you got coming in, maybe like what they do well?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Can't talk about them.  You're kind of hardheaded, isn't he (laughing), no that's true.  We cannot."

Question:  Yes I am.

Coach Rodriguez:  "I'll talk to you after signing day but you know what, a lot of the recruiting rankings and all that I think give the fans a little bit of a false perception on exactly who a player is and who isn't.  Sometimes a guy is a two star that could be a great player overlooked and some guy that is a four or five star that is not the best player.  A lot of times those things are wrong, but a lot their not.  I think you just got to trust your own judgment, your own evaluations and who's the right fit and who's the type of person that you think that you think you can win with.  The guys that we're recruiting are the people that we think are the right fit for the University, right fit for our system and guys that we think we can have success with.  I was really excited about last year's class, even though some of them were already committed when we got here.  We hung on to most of them. We added a few at the end like Tay Odoms who turned out to be a really good player as a true freshman.  This is our first full year recruiting and we're very excited about this year's recruiting class.  We think some could have success right away and some are going to have…we think all are going to have great careers eventually.  That's the encouraging part as far as recruiting.  We're excited that this is our first full year recruiting and it's going well."

Question:  You've spent all these years having people come to you learn your offense and learn things; are there things that you want to go out and talk to other people about?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah there are.  Every spring, this past spring we didn't go anywhere, because obviously we were all here for the first year and just getting our things.  We had some people (that) visited, like Oklahoma.  Our buddies at Oklahoma, they're averaging 50 points a game, a little bit better than we are.  So we might make the return trip down there to go down there and see those guys.  They took the no huddle and did a lot better than we did with it.  We meet with them every year.  Kevin Wilson is their offensive coordinator and he's been visiting with us just about every year.  So we'll probably talk to them and maybe and a few other teams that run some similar styles offensively.  Defensively it is still up in the air.  Even in on special teams, what I'll do is, I study who has the best kick off or kick off return and see if we can get film on them and study and see if there is something that we can use."

Question:  Recruiting wise will you look at JUCO kids?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Not much.  Traditionally I don't think there has been a lot of junior college kids here because a lot of the course won't transfer and you got to have courses that transfer from your junior college degree into majors here and I don't think there is a lot traditionally that have.  I don't think there is any in mind; there is one or two that were looking at, but mostly it's the high school guys.  We would, if it was the right guy and they took the right course and they're a couple out there that we believe are and in that case we could take them."

Question:  Did this season's offense struggle put any doubts in your mind at all that this offense could work in the Big Ten or was it just …?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Naw.  There are seven or eight other teams using it and it seems like they're doing pretty good.  I don't have no worries, questions whatsoever about this offense.  Whether you run it in the Big Ten, SEC, Big 12, Big East, NFL; I would run this offense no matter what level or what league it was in.  I just would hope that we could run it better, as coaches and players."

Question:  Do you really think it could work in the NFL?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yep, but I aint coaching in the NFL.  I don't know that league as well as college.  There is a misconception of the offense.  This people outrunning quarterback or whatever, I mean it could be more pass than run.  There are a lot of spread principles in college now and in the pros, nobody just talks about it because it is not easily defined.  Like I said, every spread has got its own little variation."

Question:  The wildcat formation that's the new rage in the NFL.

Coach Rodriguez:  "That wildcat is a wrinkle off the spread.  I mean it's a running back, back there doing running back stuff.  It's not a true offense; it's just a wrinkle off of it.  Like everybody has got a short yardage package, they put in their two tight ends and fullback, like we have some of that.  Wildcat is like a small package of it.  An offensive system is something that you go into every game with and you have adjustments and formations and a variety of things that are all built around the same principles.  The spread principles are a little bit different than West Coast principles, but everybody nowadays a little bit of everything it seems like and same way defensively.  A lot of people get hung up on an odd front/even front.  90% of the teams in college run both.  You run four man fronts, you run three man fronts, you run five man fronts and you do them all and you almost have to because of the multitude offenses that you see.  You can say that we base out of the four man front, but everybody is going to run odd fronts and even fronts both."

Question:  How involved are you in what happens on defense?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Not as much.  I like to know what were doing generally scheme wise and all that, I have an idea, concepts. As far as calling defenses and being involved in the strategy of it, I don't get involved in it.  Personnel wise somewhat, try to make a few suggestions here and there, but not in the strategy."

Question:  Penn State and Ohio State tied for the league championship, you played them both, which team did you think was better this season?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Boy they both played well against us.  I think Penn State probably had the better year, they were more dominating at times from what I seen on film.  Ohio State was awful good at the end of the year.  Playing right now, Ohio State is probably playing their best football, I think right now.  Not that Penn State not.  It seemed like they played pretty good this weekend. They clearly I think were the two best teams in our league this year."

Question:  Do you anticipate making any changes in your staff; what is evaluating?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Evaluating is just that Angelique.  It's just everything that we're doing.  But again, I don't want to make it, don't overdramatize this, because I do it every year.  As a coach, okay here's what were doing, how were doing it and who we're doing it with. Let me take as step back and see if there is ways to improve it and make my own judgments on that, because that's what I have to do and I just started that process.  Again, when you're in the season it's easy to do some evaluations and we do it game by game, but you're so worried about the next game, you make a quick game evaluation, you move on the next one.  How you try to compete in the next game.  I got a little more time now, particularly this week to sort that out and figure out what we need to do to get better."

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