Coach Rod Roundtable Part 5

Part five of Rich Rodriguez's sit down with the media at the annual Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon: Coach Rod on the your quarterbacks, on Donovan Warren, on Brandon Herron, on Mike Martin, on Kelvin Grady, and much more.

Question: Is there extra pressure in that way like Michigan State has got the role in basketball this year; they said we are going to help…?

Coach Rodriguez: "No. I think what is neat is that if we can have some success and brings a little enjoyment and fun to the people in our state are going through a tough time that's an added bonus. That's a great thing. I think our players known that. I've talked to them about it. You know there are a lot of folks going through some tough times, so don't sit around feeling sorry for yourself and they don't. Our guys, you don't know them all, you've met a couple of them. Our guys have a pretty good perspective of what they're doing, what it is all about."

Question: Was last year in any way a case of things needing to be broken down to be built back up again or was it a case of just needing to the new players in?

Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah to use that analogy before, as far as scrape things to the bottom, sanding it down and rebuilding it. In some respects it was there. I don't want to say different philosophies but different methods on how we strength and condition. How we do some things in practice. Each system is a little bit different. We have too much tradition and things to say, aw we are going to start all over. We're not going to start all over at Michigan. We're going to use the Michigan name; are you kidding me. The some of the methods and some of the way we do things is like starting over, but why not, they were all young guys anyways, they didn't play. That is where I get a big kick. Say, aw why don't you run a different system until they get experience. Well, they haven't experience in any system; they aint every played. So you might as well teach them the one you know so you don't have to teach them again the next year and that's what we did. I don't take a job and say okay were here to build a team. Take a job and say, we are here to build a championship program. At Michigan, your here to build upon the tradition that they already, but you still trying to build a championship program. That doesn't happen over night."

Question: How surprised are you if at all being able to now use the Michigan name to recruit to open doors as opposed to…?

Coach Rodriguez: "I knew that when I took the job."

Question: Was there any surprise to you at how much it easier it has been for you if any?

Coach Rodriguez: "No not really. It's helped us in a few doors, but you still got to get relationships and you still got to sign them. It doesn't seal the deal. What I thought the Michigan name would bring to recruiting is more than what I thought. What is exciting is cranking it up and having success winning is even better. You still have to battle. If you are three and nine, you got to battle negativity in recruiting whether you're at Michigan, West Virginia anywhere else. That part hasn't helped. You can see when you got it cranked up. I've said this several times. People say it is harder to stay at the top than to get to the top, aint never been to the bottom. I've been both places and it is harder to get there and if you do it right you can stay there."

Question: How good are these young quarterbacks?

Coach Rodriguez: "Well I hope really good. Having seen Tate Forcier for several months and he has a little something special. I think he is going to be an outstanding player. He's already gained 15 pounds and he will be okay. I haven't see Denard yet in person with us. I liked everything that we seen in recruiting, talking to our strength coaches with the way he's working out in the summer and all that, it's all what we thought it was going to be. It is going to be fun to watch those guys compete."

Question: Was your experience with how you handled Pat (White) in West Virginia; how much can you take from that and use now?

Coach Rodriguez: "We red shirted Pat. At the time when Pat was a freshman, we had a kid named Rasheed Marshall who was player of the year in the Big East conference. So Pat wasn't rushed, okay lets get him ready right now because we had Rasheed. It is a little bit different with Denard (Robinson) and Tate. Even though we got Nick coming back, we want those two to battle Nick for the job. So the sense of urgency to getting those ready is a little bit different. So there is some parallels with that. Pat probably could have played some as a true freshman, but he didn't have to and it really helped. These guys, it may be a little different scenario."

Question: What percentage of the offense were you able to throw on the young quarterbacks?

Coach Rodriguez: "We'd like to do more because the other guys can handle more, all the other positions. If the quarterbacks can handle 75% of it, but we execute that 75% really well that is what we'll do. Whatever we can execute well that's all 11 guys that is how much we will put in."

Question: With the reps that Tate got in the spring, does he almost come in as a redshirt freshman in that respect?

Coach Rodriguez: "Well it certainly has helped. Not only with the reps he's taken, but when Nick got hurt, now all of a sudden Tate's taking reps with the first group. So I think that probably expedited the learning curve, but he's still a freshman. I got to remind myself of that when we start in August."

Question: How much will you let him go alive against the defense or will you let him get a little bit in the fall?

Coach Rodriguez: "Well I have to a little bit. I don't want to do it a lot. Hopefully, he is not getting hit too much. He got hit a little bit in the first week or two in the spring, but not after that. In camp, we got to. We got to see if he can secure the ball and help and all that. We will do a little bit in camp until I'm convinced that he has got all the fundamentals down and then we'll ease off of that."

Question: Is Donovan (Warren) healthy now?

Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah."

Question:: Is there anybody else and is he (Donovan) healed up the way you hoped?

Coach Rodriguez: "We did the MRIs. We checked it out and there is no structural damage, so he'll be fine. I would expect a 100% of the guys to be 100% when camp starts maybe with the exception of Fitzgerald Toussaint who had hernia surgery, but he should be cleared by camp. Other than that, everybody should be good."

Question: Yesterday Jim Delaney was talking about the coach's poll and how you like the idea of having transparency there, are you voting on that?

Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah I am voting again."

Question: Just your thought on having some transparency?

Coach Rodriguez: "I don't…releasing at the end. Most coaches would tell you, I would rather not be out there, because you'd rather not deal with the drama. The questions of why did you do this and why did you do that. To release it at the end, I don't care, whatever. By that time you had played everybody. Somebody has an opinion it, who cares. If you vote what you think is right not have your own agenda, you aint got nothing to worry about. If you have an agenda when you vote, then you're probably nervous. That's probably the least of my worries. I'm worried about all the other stuff. Release it, release it, you don't want to release don't release it. I don't think you should transparent during the season, only from the standpoint that I don't want to deal the questions of why did you vote this way, why did you vote that way. It really don't matter. To me, they shouldn't have a poll until October anyways. What the hell is a preseason poll going to tell you."

Question: How many games do you watch during the week?

Coach Rodriguez: "I'm like everybody else, I got one of my staff members that researches the games on the weekends, writes it all down, puts down about 35 things that is circled and then he sits down with me and he says okay. This is what happened in this game and this game, what do you think about this and think about that. We've been doing it for about six or seven years, so we got down a system. I make any corrections, changes and say okay this is the way it is. The last one, not because it is public, but because it is most important one, we will take quite a bit of time and sometimes talk to other coaches and say what do you think, have you seen this team on film or that team on film. When we're not playing, I like to watch college football anyways. So I get a chance on that, but we also get to see some of them on film in the teams that we play and we can judge them on that too. It's important. I think what's more important for us coaches, particularly that last poll; we had better take it seriously. If we want to be involved in the process, you got to take that vote seriously. You had better pay attention at least the last poll."

Question: When you say the last one, do you mean the one after the national championship?

Coach Rodriguez: "The one that picks the top two. That's the most important one."

Question: How much do you spend on Western Michigan already or when do you really start breaking it down?

Coach Rodriguez: "We watched it on film in the spring and had a little bit of a practice in the spring, do some stuff against what they did. Then we had an extensive summer scouting report. There aint going to be nobody look past that one. I've seen several places where they've been predicted to win the MAC conference and beat us. We get out guys attention on that."

Question: He said about four or five weeks ago the position players started their own player organized meetings.

Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah they've gotten together quite a bit. I know some of the coaches have had them over the house for an occasional meal or something. That's good. It's like leadership. You try to do some things to teach it, but you'd rather not force leadership on them. You'd rather it develops naturally and you do your little ways to help it develop naturally. If you have the right guys it will. Again, until we start practicing in August, I won't know for sure. You can just sense the unity coming together. Not that last year's team wasn't close, but I sense these guys being closer and enjoy coming to work. Even though they may not like the running or stuff they do in the summer, I think they know the benefits of it, so they are less resistant on some of the things that you want done in your program."

Question: Coach can you talk about the transition to the spread especially how it is going after a year, especially with the offensive line?

Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah for the offensive it wasn't a transition to the spread, it was the transition from being a backup to starter. That's the biggest transition in college player takes. Sitting on the sideline to playing a game and now all those guys have played. So I think when you've played, even if you played and we haven't had much success, you still get more confidence, because you've been there. You've got the battle scar sort of speak and that the standpoint of having a year in the weight room. I was talking to Coach Barwis, he thinks our guys have made significant gains in all areas of strength and conditioning and that's what you expect. How much gains they've made, Mike thinks it is substantial. Normally there are smaller gains. Four or five years from now, if our guys are doing the right things, they'll make smaller gains every year. This year, Mike thinks it is substantial, which is important."

Question: Who are some specific guys who have been really had strong off seasons?

Coach Rodriguez: "All the guys up front, (Mark) Ortmann is probably one of them. He had a bad elbow. He could hardly even lift. You got all those guys. Like the power clean, doing 300 pounds on the power clean that is a football related lift, a tough one. We had maybe two or three guys that could do that, we probably got 30 some guys doing that now. There is a huge difference. You expect that out of the younger guys that no matter how good their high school program is, coming to a college program where you have all the resources we do."

Question: Do you see a little bit of a Pat White in a Denard Robinson or a Tate Forcier?

Coach Rodriguez: "I hope. You see it a little bit of that on film. With Tate, I can judge him more on that because we had him in practice. He has a certain feel for it, which is neat. Denard, it is yet to be seen. Certainly on the high school film we see the skills that related. A lot of times you really don't know either until you get them. Not only are they going to get practice but in the game. Pat was the one who was good in practice but in games he's even better. He played faster in bigger moments and bigger stages and all that. Until you put him in the game, you don't really know. We hope. If we get anything close to that we'll be alright."

Question: I know you said we kind of put too much into schemes, but can you talk about switching to a 3-4 defense and how that is really going…?

Coach Rodriguez: "Did we switch? Who let the secret out there? Yeah we are going to do a little bit more of a 3-4 front, but we're going to do some 4-3 stuff. That's really Greg Robinson and what he is comfortable doing and a little bit of what we talked about when I hired him. Greg knew, this is what we see. This is kind of the styles of offense and the kind of versatility that we need. What Greg did a lot this spring, was okay, this is what I have on defense. This is the strengths and weakness. Now let's put package together that these guys can fit in well. I think we are going to do that, but in this day in age of defense, if you don't have a variety of coverage packages and fronts to go to, to face all the different offenses, you're going to be in trouble."

Question: Has Brandon Herron almost been a pleasant surprise for you?

Coach Rodriguez: "Not really. He was a guy that was caught in between positions. He was a defensive end in high school, they tried to make him a linebacker, now he is kind of at the hybrid position, which is probably a perfect fit for him. One thing about Brandon, it is so important to him. He takes everything to heart. He is going to try and fit what we want on that position. I knew that coming in but I think you see him kind of get excited because he sees his opportunity. I hope he makes the most of it."

Question: With the new technology around the recruits these days and restrictions on calls and the text messaging you can use; how have you used Twitter to stay in touch with recruits and fans?

Coach Rodriguez: "They start me doing Twitter and then I didn't do nothing for two to three months, so I don't know if I was still twittering. I'm probably a little bit better than JoePa. He's at one end of the scale and some of my other colleagues do a lot more than I do. I don't think it is much of a recruiting as it is a fun way to get a message out there. I don't think it's a big deal. It is probably a little fun for people that are interested in the program and to keep it out there in the conscience or whatever it is. I do tell them that if I am not doing a Twitter myself or one of my staff members, at least let me know what I'm saying so I'm aware of it. I do a little bit of it. Now Facebook has helped some in recruiting. Because that's a way of communicating. Now I don't do that a lot, but I have done it some. I think that has been beneficial. Now we can't text message, but we do email. So I have learned to email. If one of you all smart people will invite a way to video email. So now you will be talking to somebody five states over and you'll actually see them. Like the George Jetson era, that's happened, it's coming. Somebody is going to invent that and we are going to be using it."

Question: Did you find that Twitter gets almost annoying a little bit to use?

Coach Rodriguez: "No I didn't because I didn't feed the beast. If this is annoying to somebody don't read. It is a free country, don't turn it on."

Question: I saw your Twitter last week that you were going to crush Ohio State.

Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah that's would have been an imposter Twitter. Before I actually started a Facebook, there was some imposter Facebooks out there, several of them. Because my daughter told me about it, my 13-year-old. She would know."

Question: Did she show it to you?

Coach Rodriguez: "No she heard about from a friend. Then they pulled it off and then it was a year later I started my own. I think some of the recruits have enjoyed it. For young people and probably too much so, they are in to that. If you want to stay with them you have got to do it."

Question: Because everybody is so much more advanced being in the system for a year, more comfortable, will you plan fall camp differently than you did last year?

Coach Rodriguez: "No not really. What we will plan differently is maybe some of the installation as far as what we have installed."

Question: You will install you mean?

Coach Rodriguez: "We hope, but again I hesitate that because of youth at quarterback and maybe some other positions. You can only go as fast as all 11 guys will go. Whoever you are out there with the first and second group. Again, I think you can do too much as coaches. You say man these guys got it and they are ready for the next step. Unless everybody is ready, don't take the next step."

Question: Terrence Robinson seemed a little apprehensive maybe coming off of his injury, do you sense him being back to 100% with the confident…?

Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah it should be. It is 100%. Sometimes when you come off that injury and I've seen it with a bunch of players, they are apprehensive until they just all of a sudden let it loose and see that I'm going to be okay. I think Terrence and a couple other guys were like that. He's just got to let it loose and see that it is going to be okay. Once he does that, he'll get that confidence back that he has had."

Question: How much does he help you and based on what you saw when he was healthy…?

Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah when he was healthy, he was going to play. He was going to be in the mix. Now he is in a challenge with some of other guys in slot. But Terrence can help us if he can get over that and just let it loose a little bit and I think he will."

Question: How unusual is it for a guy like Mike Martin to produce the numbers he did as a true freshman?

Coach Rodriguez: "I was trying to remember how many true freshmen have played at the position. Now Terrance (Taylor) did and had quite great success. Mike, he was phenomenal. He was playing at a high level. He's even stronger now. I think he's…you'd like to have a bunch of him. He could be a dominate player that's for sure."

Question: What's the adjustment to being the every day, every snap player?

Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah there is a little bit more of a sense of responsibility when you're a starter as opposed to when you were coming in as a freshman and just contributing whatever. From that standpoint, if you have success early as a freshman, sometimes everybody is telling you how good you are and patting you on the back and all this kind of stuff and you got to keep yourself humble. We make sure we do that with the young guys. Not that Mike would go that way, but we have to make sure that, hey, you've had a lot of success early, now stay grounded."

Question: It seems that Mike made big opportunities that her earlier in the year and did you guys increase his playing time because you saw what he could do?

Coach Rodriguez: "Yes. And he was learning more. He got more comfortable learning the techniques and some of the other things. He was just playing the same position as another good player in Terrance. There is no question at the end of the year he was playing at a pretty high level. Plus he's one of those guys that he is absolutely critical that we help those guys stay healthy. Because we are not nearly as deep as we should be. He and Brandon Graham and (Ryan) Van Bergen, and the guys up front are playing a tough position and we hope they can stay healthy."

Question: Kevin Grady is he fully reinstated?

Coach Rodriguez: "Yes, he will be ready to go in camp. I say that, but he has got a little more than two more weeks of classes. He takes care of what he is supposed to do academically and he'll be fully reinstated."

Question: With the slots and Kelvin (Grady) in there and everything, are you going to try to rotate those guys through; do you want to see a couple of those guys take the bulk of the work?

Coach Rodriguez: "We're going to try to get as many as we can ready. Tay Odoms played too much last year. There was some games he played 80 some snaps and he wasn't ready for that. As much as we try to condition them for that, there shouldn't be any skilled players that play that many plays in one game and we should be playing more people. That is one of our goals. You've all heard me say it, we've got to play more people. We can only play them if they're ready."

Question: How many do you think that you have?

Coach Rodriguez: "Ideally in slot, you'd play about four or five of them – Robinson, Grady, Odoms, Roy Roundtree."

Question: You may have four or five ready.

Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah there may even be a true freshman who sneaks into that rotation as well."

Question: Who would that be?

Coach Rodriguez: "Teric Jones, Jeremy Gallon. At least we know this year the pool for us to draw from is going to be a lot bigger than it was last year."

Question: You haven't seen Kelvin yet, but from what you're hearing; do you think he will get an opportunity?

Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah. I haven't seen him other than just playing basketball and his high school films. Talking to the strength coaches, he's jumped right in there. He's got to get a lot stronger. He has been doing a different lifting model, but talking to the players, they're really excited about him. They said he's got a great attitude, he works hard and he can run like crazy. He's very athletic. He's still going to be a first year player, so you don't want to get too excited. I will be excited to watch him in practice as the rest of those freshman. It is going to be fun to see what he can do."

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