Rodriguez Pleased with Spring Progress

Michigan headman Rich Rodriguez met with the media yesterday to discuss the first week of practice, Tate Forcier's progress, Steve Schilling's move to guard, and more.

Question:  What did you learn about your team from being in pads and what are you looking for out of today?

Coach Rodriguez:  "The other day was our first day in pads and it wasn't bad.  I thought the effort was pretty good, but we have a lot of work to do fundamentally.  So we'll do some scrimmaging today, but a lot of the work today is the focus on the fundamentals."

Question:  Do you have any injury updates?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah we got a couple of guys banged up.  I'm not sure, because we didn't practice yesterday and some of those guys got treatment, who will be out.  I know (Tim) McAvoy sprained his ankle a little bit and he may be out for a week or two, but outside that I'm not sure how many other guys got injured from the first day.  That's going to happen in spring.  You got to hit.  You got eight days where you can really go full out and this is one of them, so hopefully we can get through it all without any more guys getting hurt."

Question:  When would you like to have your first scrimmage?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Next Saturday will probably be our first full scale scrimmage where we the majority of the practice time is devoted to that.   Right now there is so much teaching we have to do, installing some new defensive stuff.  A lot of guys, freshmen are playing for the first time.  There still swimming and that's slowing down our installation a little bit, but that's okay, because again, our primary focus is just got to get better fundamentally." 

Question:  A few of the activities before the spring game that we read about it later this week, can you just elaborate on a few of those?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah I think we have a full day slated of a lot of athletic events, a lot of activities, exciting to have some things surrounding the spring game, bringing some of the former players back and having a flag football game.  I'm hoping that the weather will cooperate, if we can have a nice day and have a big crowd, it'll help.  It's not as important from a coaching standpoint of what we do, but it is important from an atmosphere standpoint, in particular for some of these young guys to play in front of a crowd and get some of those nerves out of the way and get the feel for what the Big House may be like in the fall."

Question: Will anybody on the staff be playing in the flag football game?

Coach Rodriguez:  "No, I don't think so (laughing).  We've been trying to train because we get out of shape in recruiting going around eating all those meals, but we've been training hard, but we're not nearly as well ready to play a flag football game."

Question: What have you seen from Tate (Forcier) so far?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I know he's eager to learn.  He's gotten better.  The first day in pads, the speed of the game and the adjustments and all that caught all those young guys, but I think he's a quick learner and I'm anxious to see how much he improves each and every day.  I know it is important to him, as it is all our guys.  As long as we keep that attitude, we'll be okay."

Question:  You had Brandon Hawthorne last Saturday working with the defensive backs… is he going to be playing there or is that just…?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Naw, he's really playing outside linebacker and again because of all the spread schemes, in particularly going against our offense, our linebackers are playing almost like a nickel back sometimes and he's athletic enough to do it.  I was pretty impressed.  He made some plays.  Again, all those young guys, you got to remember this is the first time they are in this environment with this much learning to do and I've been pleased with it so far."

Question:  How did the kicking tryout go after the first practice?

Coach Rodriguez:  "We didn't have it.  The guys weren't able to make it, so we may be able to reschedule that again and try to get a couple of guys.  We have some solid kickers.  We got a couple coming in, but we're always looking for some more.  So anybody on the student body that can kick some field goals consistently, we want them to try out." 

Question:  It has only been a couple of days, but have there been a couple of guys that have stood out to you so far?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Some of the usual veterans, Brandon Minor is off to a good start.  He knows the plays and is in great shape.  Brandon Graham as usual.  I think he is playing as good a football as he has.  Again, it has only been a couple of days, but some of the veterans I think are really hungry and that's what we need.  The freshmen, it is really too early to tell but I do think that we are going to have quite a bit of help from this incoming class."

Question:  Are their defensive guys working out at more than one position?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Not right now but there will probably as the spring goes along.  We may have some corners play some safety and some defensive ends may play some defensive tackle.  Right now, we are trying to keep them at least in the same position for the first couple of weeks."

Question:  How do you think Steve Watson has looked so far on the defensive line?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Pretty well.  He's a very aggressive guy.  Again, a very coachable guy, a tough guy and I think he's going to be a guy that can help us.  If not, we know we can move him back over because he can help us at tight end, but Martell Webb has had a couple of pretty good practices and he and Kevin Koger are pretty solid there.  I think Steve Watson is going to play a lot on defense."

Question:  Any impressions of Will Campbell now that you got him in pads?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah.  He did some good things.  Again, he has got to get in our type of shape and learn a lot of techniques and fundamentals that are relevant to our defense.  I think being here early certainly helps him.  Being here through the spring and if he has a great summer, particularly because we're thin there, he's going to be able to help us."

Question:  How much has Steve Schilling practiced at guard and what's his attitude like towards that?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I think he wanted to move there.  Again, all of our guys up front, we try to get them to learn multiple positions.  He's going to stay at guard for now but before spring is over, we'll probably play some tackle too.  I think he's comfortable in there, but again there is some different footwork and different techniques that he's got to learn and our focus on getting him better at that right now."

Question:  What do you like about him at guard?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Well the same thing that I like about him at tackle. He's an aggressive guy.  He is pretty strong.  He's done a great job in the weight room and he loves to play the game.  We need some leadership and Steve's a guy that has got to provide it whether he is a guard or tackle.  I like the way he looks there.  Again, it is too early to tell.  Really after the first scrimmage, we'll have a better idea if we got the guys in the right spots."

Question:  Did he have any lingering effects from that knee injury that he did the end of last year?

Coach Rodriguez:  "No.  No, he's 100% and ready to go."

Question:  Coach, it was pretty spirited Thursday, the first day of hitting.  Are you pleased with how…last year you weren't so happy sometimes with how the kids…?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah.  We are kind of hard to please sometimes.  I mean I was pleased with part of practice and some practice I wasn't.  I wasn't pleased with the turnovers offensively but on the flip side, I was pleased that the defense got them.  Some of them were unforced errors, just bad decisions or just being careless with the ball when we're running with it. We got to stop that.  So if we can have a spirited and intense practice without laying the ball on the ground or throwing interceptions then I'll be a little happier."


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