Question: How prevalent was that negative recruiting and what did you do to overcome it?
Coach Rodriguez: "The coaches can probably attest to this. There is more and more negative recruiting all across the board than there has ever been. I think there has always been some. I've been this 26 or 27 years, so there has always been some. But to the level which they go to now is probably heightened and I think it is because of the coach's feeling, I don't want to say desperation, but coaches feeling they have to do that to get a young man. I don't think you have to and I will tell our coaches, you talk about the good things that we have to offer. You don't need to negative recruit to get a guy. If you have to negative recruit to get him, then we are probably recruiting the wrong guy. I think most head coaches say that. I don't think too many head coaches go out there and say go bash that program or go bash that coach or make things up to try to do that. But inevitably sometimes you get assistant coaches or young assistant coaches that go to those kinds of methods. I don't want our guys to do that. If you have a tough year like we did on the field, you are going to expect that there is going to be some of that out there. We've kind of been there done that. I dealt with the same thing eight years ago. At least we had a track record that we could go back to and say, hey everything is going to be okay and plus we have a great university that we can sell. So we were able to overcome a lot of that and I don't think negative recruiting had a factor. In fact, it probably had a negative effect on a handful of recruits in their regards. Yeah they shouldn't do it. It's going to wind up going against you. Most people, like I said, if you guys a good enough school, a good enough program to sell why would you have to bash someone elses. If you don't have a good enough program then maybe you do something else, but I don't think that you ever have to do that. We certainly don't have to do that here."
Question: Rich academically is everybody through clearinghouse and good to go and things like that?
Coach Rodriguez: "Everybody is registered with the clearinghouse or they couldn't visit, but there are still a couple of them; I want to say there are two or three that still have to have good semesters but every one of them that was on the list that we signed have a plan. In other words, they are taking the right classes. Their doing the right things to prepare for the test and all that to be eligible. There are just a couple of them but that's going to be the case every year with just about every program. You are going to have two or three guys that their senior year they better make sure they do the right thing and follow the plan. Every one of these have a plan from their high school guidance counselor or their coaches or families to make sure that they are set and ready to go. Our plan is to have all these guys that are not already here to be here by summer school so we can get them enrolled early and they can get up here and get oriented to Ann Arbor and to our football program."
Question: You talked about addressing needs on the offensive line; how did you feel that you did on the defensive line in terms of meeting future needs there?
Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah the defensive line, we got obviously Will Campbell that we got here now. Craig Roh, I think those are the two, is there more than that. Anthony (LaLota) is already here too. So Anthony and Will Campbell are two guys that are going to get a great start because their lined up now in spring ball and Anthony is a guy that plays end and maybe even grow to play inside a little bit. We are obviously going to start him at end and William Campbell can play either inside position on the D-line and Craig Roh, as I mentioned because of knowing Craig the way I know him, he'll do all that it takes between now and the first game to get ready. I think Craig Roh has got a chance to compete. So those three will come in, which is kind of rare for a freshman to compete, but all three of those will have a chance to compete early in their careers and that is a position of need for us. You always think that maybe you would like to have one or two more, but we have a few guys that are coming back to that have kind of been in the shadows a little bit and they are going to have a chance to compete for us next fall."
Question: You mentioned the decommitments, were there any of those guys who were publically decommitments but with the coaching staff, we're not going to count on this guy because we know he is not really sure and you don't look at it as a decommitment?
Coach Rodriguez: "It depends on the guy who decommitted. If all you do is talking about a decommitment you are talking about something negative and let's talk about something – this should be a positive day not a negative day. Sometimes a decommitment and do you a favor. Sometimes you don't want them to. I think inevitably it probably balances out but normally you expect it to come. In other words, if a guy is committed to you and he's still visiting other schools, he's not really committed – he's just really interested. If a guy is committed to you….yeah that's what I'm saying. I think probably if you follow close enough, say that's guys committed to that school but he's taking all these other trips, well he's not a real firm commit. That's why they call it a soft verbal. What are you kidding me; what's the difference between a soft verbal and a solid? A verbal is a verbal. That's all it is a verbal. If a guy is verbally committed to you and he doesn't go anywhere else to visit and don't talk about going to other schools, then chances are pretty good that you'll sign him. If not, if he is committed to you and he is still recruited, then you got to recruit him like he aint recruited to you. I think that, most coaches see that. There are always a few surprises on signing day, but generally there are not too many shockers I should say."
"One stat that I should point out, which is kind of interesting. I didn't put all of this together, Dave Ablauf did. When you look on there with big Michael Schofield – I found this pretty interesting. He did not allow a sack as a senior, which is pretty good but the most amazing stat, Coach Frey, the entire offense line was not flagged for a holding penalty all season. Is there any chance that we can get that crew for our games (laughing). That's pretty amazing."
Question: What do you know about recruiting to Michigan that you could have known a year or 13 months ago?
Coach Rodriguez: "Probably more than anything is what I got on the team. What your needs are. A sense of urgency on certain positions. Obviously a year ago, I would have known that by who graduated who was coming back, but after you go through a spring practice and a fall session with your guys, you know exactly what you have on your team and what exactly your needs are. I think that's the biggest difference between recruiting now and recruiting. Obviously this year coming up, I think we're already off to a good start in recruiting for the 2010 class, but we will be able to even further be able to identify are needs for next year based on what we have, who are the young guys that we project to be able to help us and what we need for the future."
Question: Did you think it would be more difficult to recruit coming off a 3-9 season? Are you surprised?
Coach Rodriguez: "Oh yeah. Are you kidding me? I said this before, anybody says that it is harder to stay at the top than to get to the top has never been to the bottom. I've been both places, it is a heck of a lot easier to recruit when you're way up here. Again, you have to be persistent…if we had three and nine at a different school, it would have even been more difficult, but because we are at a great place and because we have some things in place. Again, I think when they came and their families came, they saw the vision that we had for the program, saw the reasons why we struggled the way we struggled and knew that they could be a part of helping us fix it. People say well, again, I repeat this before, there were things that were done Sunday through Friday that didn't show up on Saturday that is going to allow us to have success over the past 12 months. Hopefully sooner rather than later, those things will come to fruition, but to say that all of our problems are solved by what happened today in signing class. Football is a little different animal. You don't just get one or two players and automatically you're winning championships, it takes a little bit longer than that. This is the start and you have to start with recruiting and it has got to be the lifeblood of your program and then the guys you recruit have to be the type of guys that when you bring them in, will do all the things that you ask them to do. They'll compete, work hard and they'll give you the type of players that you want to build a championship team."
Question: With the two quarterbacks that you signed, how confident are you out of this mix that you are going to have a really good starting quarterback?
Coach Rodriguez: "I know we'll have really good competition. That's the key for us. When we're at where we need to be at, we'll have two to three guys at every position that we feel that we can win with. Regardless of the system, well people say you're recruiting guys to your system or whatever. Our quarterbacks didn't play in any system last year and neither did our offensive lineman except for one guy and neither did our receivers. It wasn't like they were used to playing in any system. So for us to say, well your problems are solved because your recruiting guys to your system, we're recruiting guys that we think can compete and can play at the highest level. Then our guys on our team now are working to do the same thing. So that's the thing. When you have two or three guys at each position that you feel that you can win with then you really got it going on. We are not going to be there right now. We aren't going to be there where we have two at every position, let alone three at every position, but we are getting closer to that with each class we sign – we think. Check back with me in a couple of years."
Question: Last year you came in and attacked the class of 2008 recruiting really hard and then you had to prepare a new team for a system that they've never seen and yet you are still able to put together a class that has generally been ranked top 10 nationally, so it doesn't look like the late start to recruiting hurt you, but what about instate? Do you feel that getting a late jump there in 2009 hurt you and do you expect that to change?
Coach Rodriguez: "No not really. Inevitably you want to start identifying guys as early as their sophomore year or maybe even sooner but generally you do that particularly in state, you can identify them earlier. For the people who said we don't recruit the State of Michigan are completely way off base. I think I've got five coaches in different areas in the State of Michigan and got the whole state covered. Again, you got to find the right fit. The guys that you have at a particular position, the guys you feel fit your system and all that. Obviously recruiting this state is always going to be a priority for us. It is the first place we look at each and every year. It is the first list of guys that I want from our staffs. Say who are the best players in the State of Michigan and there are some that develop late and some aren't at a position that we need, but for anybody to say that we don't recruit Michigan, doesn't have any idea of how we go about our recruiting. We are going to recruit the state hard, the guys we feel that we need and the guys that fit what we want in the State of Michigan, we'll go after them. If they go somewhere else, then we go somewhere else. We feel like we've done pretty well feeling that need and there are some really good players in the State of Michigan this year coming up. There are some outstanding coaches…I mean I'm impressed. Our whole staff went to a clinic in Battle Creek a couple of weeks ago and the number of coaches that go there and how sincere they are about coaching in this state is impressive. We send the same message there. If you got the guy that we feel is the type of player that we want in our program then we are going to recruit them as hard as anybody in the country. I don't know if I answered it, but I think at least now it is easier because we are able to see those kids grow from their freshman and sophomore years all the way through, as opposed to coming in here and they are going to be a senior."
Question: Can you describe the skill sets of the two quarterbacks individually?
Coach Rodriguez: "I sense there is a lot of interest in the quarterback position. Both Tate and Denard are guys that can run and throw. They're not the tallest guys, but I think they're guys that also again can make players when there and sometimes make plays when there not there. Again, they got to learn. I didn't promise Tate that he is going to be the starting quarterback and didn't promise Denard that. We promised them the opportunity to compete right away, just as we did all those other guys. The nice thing about it is that I think our quarterbacks will have teach each other. I think when they get here, Tate's already here, Nick and Steve and those guys will help teach them and David Cone will help teach those guys the system and create some quality competition. They both can throw and run and they can both make plays and sometimes as a defensive coaches will tell you that when a quarterback makes something happen on his own and when it's not there it can be the most frustrating thing for a defense and both of those guys have shown that ability to do that."
Question: Concerns about players coming from warm weather states playing in colder games, is there anything you can do?
Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah, it seemed like every weekend we had here in January, it was either the record coldest January or the biggest snowfall on record. A couple of them I told them, can you believe it snowed here in Ann Arbor; it's the first time in five years in January. I don't think they believed me. You just have to tell them the deal. I think it was probably used against us so much that when they come out here and they realize, hey their not going to have frostbite walking around campus that they'll be okay that it actually turns into a positive for a us. In fact one of them, I believe when Denard, Adrian and some of the other guys from Florida were up and we had that big snowstorm and we run out to the stadium to show them the stadium and there is about that much snow on it and we said, this is a great opportunity to show the benefits. So we all got on there and made some snow angels on the turf and we got a few snowballs and had a snowball fight. I think some of them maybe even tried to take some snow home with them (laughter) that didn't work out. We had a recruit in the past that did that. He was shocked, not Denard or Adrian, but he was shocked when it turned to water on the plane. We actually turned it into a positive when we had that big snowstorm, because they had a good time with it and they hadn't seen snow before. It's not that bad. I tell the guys, when we play the weather is beautiful and if we do what were supposed to do, in the month of December we're somewhere warm in the bowl game. I don't think it is a big issue."
Question: What about during games in November? Will it be a hindrance or do you see it as a nonfactor?
Coach Rodriguez: "It can be a little cold no matter where you're at, at most of the schools in the country in the month of November. When we had one or two games that were cold at the end, but I don't think that it is that big an issue. The way the Big Ten is that we are finishing our games by Thanksgiving weekend. So what's nice on the flipside is that when your training in the summer, when it is 100 and some degree and high humidity and all that down south, right here it is pretty comfortable. The workouts are still hard but at least the weather and humidity is pretty comfortable here in the summer in August and September months."
Question: I don't know how many times you said last year that this team needs to get faster. Do you feel like that has happened?
Coach Rodriguez: "You're right. My team needs to get faster and what I meant not only from a recruiting standpoint, which I think we addressed that with the all the guys here. Every one of these guys whether they play on the D-line or O-line or whatever position, they are all young men that we think can run. Also our current players had to get faster and stronger and I think they're doing that as well. I see their confidence growing. We got to continue…you just don't sign a group of guys or you just don't work guys out of a year and say you're automatically faster. You have to develop that each and every year. These guys all can run pretty well. They're going to be faster a year from now and two years from now even faster than this. That's what got us the most excited about all these guys."
Question: Is the returning roster of the guys returning still intact? Any other changes?
Coach Rodriguez: "Gosh, I don't know the last time we met. Again, they are all working pretty hard. They're lifting three days a week. They got speed and skill development two days a week. I was proud of them last night in their performance in the ‘Mock Rock'. A year ago the ‘Mock Rock' was embarrassing from a football standpoint. They could dance, but they had no organization or structure and last night they actually had quite a few people clapping for them. They looked good and they put on a nice performance. It was a great turnout by all the athletic teams. If you never been to it, you got to go to ‘Mock Rock' just to watch all these athletes perform. I was proud of the football guys. They went out there and they did a little dance move and the coach's wives help put something together and Brandon Graham and Kenny Demens did back flips and stuff – it was pretty impressive. So the guys are working hard. Coach Barwis comes to see me every day excited about a guy breaking a personal record in the weight room doing a power clean record or a squat record or something like that so I think that they're getting better."
Question: Is there any difference between these guys that came to campus early right now, getting them acclimated to campus as opposed to the people that come in the fall?
Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah. Obviously the guys that are here early in January get a head start on some of their classmates because they get to go through a spring practice and through an eight or nine week lifting cycle. Because the guys can enroll early in late June, they're still going to get eight or nine weeks before we start practicing in August. So their teammates that were not able to come in early, will be able to make up that time. They'll obviously miss those practice times, but it will still be pretty competitive. I think the guys in the spring; the biggest thing is that they get oriented not just to the football program but to the university as well, to the campus, to where the classrooms are at. If they are away from home, which several of these guys are, they kind of get that home sickness out of the way a little bit. So by the time the fall is here that is over and done with. So to have seven in here is again, I don't know if they've ever had that many here, but we were happy to have that. We maybe could've had one more but seven was our goal and we got seven in and those guys are all working pretty hard."
Question: I'm not sure how much you're able to observe the early enrollees at this point, but from what you're hearing from Coach Barwis or from what you have seen, does anybody jump out or standout, done anything impressive?
Coach Rodriguez: "I think just talking to Mike (Barwis), they've all got great attitudes. They're all learning. Obviously there pace at which they're getting thrown in is a little bit different. Their not quite accustomed as the upper classman are. Mike doesn't have them do all the same things initially but now being here a couple of weeks, there caught up and he tells me that they are right in the middle of the mix of at least being able to do the workouts, which for some of these guys this is the first time that they've ever gone through this extensive of an offseason program. He seems to be excited about all their athleticism. Again as coaches, in a few weeks, we will get to see ourselves."
Question: Spring practice starts I think in about a month, who is going to take the first rep with the first team at quarterback?
Coach Rodriguez: "When is that March 14th? I'll tell you on the 14th. I'm just telling you the truth. Who takes the first rep the first day may not take the first rep the second day. All those guys on the team and I think we have, correct me if I'm wrong, 99 or 100 guys on the team. All 100 guys if healthy will take reps this spring. That's the nice thing about the spring, you're not preparing for a game. Obviously defensively, they got to learn some new things because of some new schemes that we're looking at defensively, but other than that, they are all going to get a lot of reps. So I just want to make it clear…these recruits understand this too that there is nothing handed to them. They got to earn and if they start on Monday, they might not start on Tuesday. Our goal is to have the type of competition that elevates everybody's play. I expect that at the quarterback position, but I expect that at every position."
Question: On the team, any off season surgeries or anything?
Coach Rodriguez: "Let me think, I don't think there is anything pressing right now. There are no surgeries scheduled and there is a guy or two that we're looking at, which is kind of rare because normally you have three or four guys, but right now there are no surgeries scheduled. All the guys are going through the workouts, but we'll keep our fingers crossed with that."
Question: What are you doing on defense?
Coach Rodriguez: "We are going to run a 1-10-1, naw that is 12 guys. We're going to do very similar as far as multiple fronts. We'll rush four people, we'll have four men down. We may get in the odd front sometimes. We will do a few different concepts in the secondary wise, but Coach Robinson and the defense staff just got back and started meeting on Monday, because everybody has been on the road. So they have not had the chance to get all the minds together and come up with a definite package for the spring. With the experience that we have with Coach Robinson and the rest of the coaches on defense we'll come up with a pretty look. The only thing I did was give them a little bit of a list 20 item things that I would like to see defensively in general, which all things defensive coaches will do anyway and by the time March 14th gets here, we will have a base defense and a few adjustments that our guys will be able to handle."
Question: Do you find yourself getting anxious to get into that practice facility as it goes up?
Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah I get to see it every day, because my office looks right into it. It is very exciting. When you look at what we're doing with that and obviously with the additions we made in the weight room and then getting a new locker room as well, I mean we are very blessed. I can't thank the people enough that have supported us and still particularly in this tough economic times, it is hard to, but we started these projects a while back and we are committed to seeing them through and the people who support our program and our athletic department has been tremendous, because it is needed. One thing that has helped us in recruiting is that we've been able to sell that vision. I think it is easier to recruit when it's done, but now we can recruit and say look what's going to be happening here and they can look over here and see what's happening with the stadium. We're not at the stadium every day but it is still impressive when you go over and see what it is going to look like here in a year and a half. That's helped and we've tried to do some other things recruiting as far as the ability for me to get out and our assistant coaches get out with some air travel, nowadays there are a lot less flights and for us to recruit in different places like we want to, we got to get there. Recruiting on private travel is going to be important for us to be able to get to see the number kids that we want to see. With these tough times, it is more difficult than ever, but we are still going to press forward with it."
Question: You talk about using the building and stadium as recruiting points… you now have a full year at Michigan, was it easier using the Michigan tradition as a recruiting point or anything like that now that you are more familiar with it?
Coach Rodriguez: "No. Before I went on the road last year, I can read, I did my research, I asked questions, I knew what the Michigan tradition was. I think the biggest difference again is kind of having gone through the season; I can clearly define more exactly what is going on with our team, what's going on with our program and what our needs were more than anything else. I think Michigan tradition itself is always going to be able to sell it. I said it last year and I'll say it again, our name helps us get into a few more doors than a lot of other schools. There is no question that the Michigan name helps us get in there, but you still got to recruit them and develop the relationship to sign them. They are not going to sign with you just because of the name, but it certainly helps you get in that door. If you do your job when you get in that door and develop those relationships and sell your program the right way and all that, then hopefully you can sign them."