Ortmann Dishes the Real Deal

Michigan 5th year Sr. OT Mark Ortmann chatted with the media at the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon last week and shared his thoughts on his individual improvement, the improvement of the offensive line, the parting shots levied by some of his former teammates, the family values in Ann Arbor, and much much more.

Question:  In terms of your injury last year, how hard was that to play with.

Mark Ortmann: "For me personally, I didn't know the severity behind it as well.  Basically I was playing with one arm. That's what it came down to. After I injured it I couldn't do a pushup, couldn't lift a 20 pound dumbbell.  It was difficult."

Question:  On his impressions of the defense…

Mark Ortmann: "Yeah.  I think the entire defense is hungry.  Steve Brown said yesterday and I agree with it that the entire defense was embarrassed by they performed, as the entire team was.  You can definitely see…you mentioned how we were blowing by the D-lineman in sprints and stuff; they are holding their own, don't let them fool you.  They've all slimmed down, a lot quicker, more agile."

Question:  On Mark Huyge…

Mark Ortmann: "Yeah he was just one of those quiet guys who already worked hard and was always in the background consistently getting better each day and now I think he has got his time.  We'll see if he can continue on and continue to improve."

Question:  You like (Steve) Schilling as guard?

Mark Ortmann: "It was a joke.  We always saw him as a guard and he always saw himself as a guard.  He was always comfortable at tackle.  He played tackle in high school.  I think it is a good move.  I think he is more comfortable now.  There was a transition at first.  We almost messed around with it during the season and let him play guard instead of tackle.  He's excited and I think he is in his comfort zone now."

Question:  Talk about the competition?  You got more bodies now… more talented bodies.  How much does that matter?

Mark Ortmann: "Yeah we got seven guys coming back now this year who all started a game.  That is important.  Schilling started 12 games, I started two at McAvoy only started one.  So we didn't have that much experience across the line.  This year we do and if we choose to rotate guys in, which they are talking about doing, I think that could help out and keep the momentum going throughout the game and keep everyone fresh."

Question:  Everyone talks about the attrition and all that with Kurt Wermers.  Does it bother you when you see comments on the way out?

Mark Ortmann: "It's hurtful in the fact that he is not telling the truth.  Kurt (Wermers) was a great guy, but for him to come out and question and go along with (Justin) Boren.  Wermers didn't even play for Coach Carr, so for him to say anything that it wasn't anything like Coach Carr's program, it is not fair, he doesn't what it was.  Like I said, I like Kurt a lot….for him to come out and make accusations that are not true, it is not fair to the team or the coaching staff."

Question:  So family values are alive and well?

Mark Ortmann: "Yeah very much so."

Question:  Talk about adjusting to Coach Frey.  He is obviously an intense guy and what is your relationship with him?

Mark Ortmann: "He's an intense guy, but his goal in practice is literally to say nothing.  He wants us to get to that point where we are not making any mistakes across the board and he can just sit back there and almost have us run drills.  He's a great coach, he knows what he's talking about.  I'm anxious to see what he can do down along the line as well."

Question:  Who are some of the young guys that are kind of standing out to you and what are your impressions of the young guys that just got in.

Mark Ortmann: "There is a lot of hype around Patrick Omameh and Ricky Barnum, which is rightfully so, they've worked hard.  Rocko Khoury and Elliot Mealer, they are all working hard in the weight room showing signs. The biggest transition is from freshman to sophomore year, so we'll see how well they can do.  Freshman wise yeah they've been here for a month, Quinton (Washington) Taylor Lewan, (Michael) Schofield and then a handful of walk-ons as well.  All are looking very capable of one day of playing here at Michigan."

Question:  Do you like their personalities?

Mark Ortmann: "Yeah.  They're all good fits.  They are really going to fit this offense."

Question:  Quinton (Washington) is a big kid, quiet kid; you know his mother's background is he kind of meshing in with you guys?

Mark Ortmann: "Yeah.  You just got to let them adjust to you and welcome you instead of you welcoming him.  Once you get to know him, he's a real nice kid.  He's real quiet like you said, but he's got his head on his shoulders."

Question:  Do you look at your position group has the potential to be the most improved on the team; heard a lot of that from guys this summer?

Mark Ortmann: "Yeah.  We've worked hard and last year like I said, three of us had only started some games.  Last year as rough as it was, it was a building year and I definitely see that as helping us.  You can see it in the spring game and throughout spring, just the experience that we gained, really helpful.  I can see as the most improved position group."

Question:  You playing more positions on the line, how much does that A) help you and B) and help the line know what both a guard and tackle are supposed to do.

Mark Ortmann: "Yeah it's not only me too.  I know (David) Moosman can jump into center if we need him too.  I feel like all of us are capable of playing each position.  It just helps with depth, if someone gets hurts.  Say a couple of people are hurt, I can rotate into guard.  It's nice to have, but I don't know if people would like to jump around positions.  It may be a position on the line, but it is still a different position."

Question:  Is it more of a comfort zone thing?

Mark Ortmann: "Yeah.  That is what we were talking about Steve Schilling.  He is now becoming a little more comfortable at guard.  At first, I wouldn't say he was against it, but he wasn't as comfortable.  Now he is starting to come into his own at guard."

Question:  When you are not playing football, what do you like to do; what hobbies stuff like that?

Mark Ortmann: "We just hang out with the team, most of the offensive line.  We go bowling and stuff like that.  Try to let our bodies heal from a week of hard work."

Question:  So in the off season you don't do anything…I assume you're not football all the time.

Mark Ortmann: "We kind of are actually (laughter).  You get a couple hours at night."

Question:  I'm not talking about during the year, like when you go home for the summer or like when your going down to Texas; what do you generally do?

Mark Ortmann: "I've been home once in the past six months.  I'm taking spring and summer term classes.  When I'm home, I go to the lake and basically that's it – just relax by the water."

Question:  So you go boating, water skiing?

Mark Ortmann: "Boating, fishing, kayaking, stuff like that."

Question:  What's the biggest fish you caught?

Mark Ortmann: "Eight pound bass."

Question:  That's pretty good.  Is it on the wall?

Mark Ortmann: "No."

Question:  Did you eat it?

Mark Ortmann: "No."

Question:  Did you throw it back?

Mark Ortmann: "Yeah."

Question:  Have you ever caught a fish and ate the fish you caught?

Mark Ortmann: "Yeah.  I've been to a couple of salmon tournaments in Lake Michigan and we have smoked those."

Question:  How did you do in the tournament?

Mark Ortmann: "Last."

Question:  Last?

Mark Ortmann: "Salmon population is down a little bit (laughter)."

Question:  The overall season was frustrating for everybody last year.  You guys seemed to take a lot heat, people seemed to put the pressure and blame on you guys a couple of times.

Mark Ortmann: "It was tough.  I think one thing people don't see is that as bad as it was, we were improving each game, as an offensive line and as a team.  A few more plays, we could have won more games.  That's the sad thing about it.  It was embarrassing, everyone knows it – alumni, current players (etc).  It was rough and as I mentioned earlier, it was a learning experience, just looking forward to proving everyone wrong that has written us off again this year."

Question:  How will it be different this year?

Mark Ortmann: "Just experience.  In the weight room and the football field, we know how to execute what the coaches want and the strength staff.  They see that and we see that and I think that is going to be our biggest improvement."

Question:  What do you say to the people who say geez all these offensive linemen are getting frustrated and leaving?

Mark Ortmann: "Their leaving for all the wrong reasons.  It's hard to say without getting too into it.  They are making false accusations.  All great guys, I got along with all of them, even Boren, Kurt.  I don't understand where they are coming from.  They're all great guys and the family values at Michigan are there.  That is not a question in anyone's mind.  So for them to come out and make those accusations it is not fair to anyone."

Question:  If Tate Forcier where to be your quarterback, can you contend for a championship?

Mark Ortmann: "No doubt.  No doubt.  One thing that has surprised me the most about Tate since he's been here is his confidence and his leadership.  It's amazing that a quarterback who came in early has that ability.  There is no doubt in my mind that if he is the starter for Michigan that we will gain some momentum that game, the next couple of games; there is no doubt in my mind that he could do it."

Question:  On the team chomping at the bit to write a new chapter after the 3-9 season…

Mark Ortmann: "Everyone is just anxious to prove the critics wrong and just everyone else too, ourselves included.  We know we are better than what we showed last year.  I think it is 40 days away.  Everyone is just anxious to get out there and show them that we are Michigan, we were Michigan and always will be Michigan."

Question:  There is still a lot of talent on this team.  Is that the coach's message to you that you have got the talent to contend with everybody else?

Mark Ortmann: "Yeah.  It is not necessarily all about big plays but that has a lot do with it.  Last year, going back and watching film, we could have had a much, much better record.  It's just a couple of big plays here, one person here, one person there.  I think now that everyone is on the same page, knowing how to execute the offense, I think we'll have a lot more big plays and a lot more touchdowns."

Question:  There is usually a lot made about identity, team's identity; how has that identity developed?  How hard was it to develop through a frustrating season and then there was a lot of defections in there; in terms of getting a solid unit and a personality; how difficult has that been and where is that process now?

Mark Ortmann: "Last year it was difficult but we all grew as a team and as individuals.  I think that was the most important thing and that carried over to spring ball. Winter workouts, spring ball and summer workouts, people now know what it takes to be a competitor in the Big Ten, because we were lacking experience last year.  Now that people have a taste and know what it takes, I see them working harder and I think that is the biggest improvement as well."

Question:  In terms of what you saw from the internal, has that personality developed yet; is it still a work in progress or was there a game when you guys felt, okay we are coming together?

Mark Ortmann: "Yeah.  I would definitely say the first half of the Penn State last year.  Everyone saw what the offense could do when it was clicking.  Unfortunately, we just stalled the second half.  I think from that point on everyone saw what we were capable of doing and how explosive the offense could be.  From that point on, I definitely saw a change in a lot of people's attitudes."

Question:  When you look back at trying to grasp the offense, what you thought you maybe had to learn last summer versus what you have learned in a year; how overwhelming is it, to pick up the intricacies of this offense when you look back?

Mark Ortmann: "I think it was overwhelming for everyone in that sense that learning it is one thing but executing is another.  Lacking experience in any offense, if you don't have experience in the game it doesn't matter what offense you're running it is not going to be effective.  Now that we all have experience running the offense in a game situation, it definitely helped the teams."

Question:  In terms of the offensive line in this offense, it takes a different kind of player than what Michigan was used to; how difficult for you was it in terms of the adjustment and what asked from you?

Mark Ortmann: "Not so much.  A lot of us were still more athletic offensive lineman.  It wasn't that difficult for a lot of us.  I think just the speed that they were looking for was a change.  I think other than that, not too different."

Question:  I covered Notre Dame when they went three and nine a couple of years ago, which was like the sky is falling, the end of the world is near; those guys had talked about how tough it was to walk around campus and deal with people; how was it for you guys, this is so not normal for a Michigan team?

Mark Ortmann: "You try to ignore the fair weather fans, I guess you'd call them.  The true Michigan fan will always be there and always support you.  Our fan base student wise from my understanding, no one got too hard of a time.  Everyone understands it was a transition, but no one expected us to go three and nine.  I don't think that anyone go too hard of a time."

Question:  Was that pleasantly surprising almost; do you feel like you are going to walk around getting bullets?

Mark Ortmann: "It's nice to know that you have the support of the school – it was nice.  I was definitely expecting to get a lot more.  It was pleasant."

Question:  In terms of personal gains in the weight room from last year, what are your biggest strides?  

Mark Ortmann: "Including O-line and myself included, I would say the weight room is the biggest improvement, along with grasping the offense, which came through last year season and spring ball.  Just strides in speed and agility in the weight room, I think has helped everyone.  I think that is going to carry over into the season just confidence wise.  When you are throwing around 500 pounds, it is going to boost your (effectiveness) a little bit on the field.  I think that will help out a lot too."

Question:  In terms of specific exercises, what were improvements were you most impressed with?

Mark Ortmann: "I would say agility wise.  It is cool to see lineman doing the same drills as defensive backs.  Granted not doing them as fast but just as smooth, I guess you would say.  That's been pretty exciting."

Question:  Barwis having you guys standing on balls and throwing balls back and forth; are you starting to do some of that stuff?

Mark Ortmann: "Standing on the balls, yes.  Were not to the point where we are throwing 20 pound balls at each other.  I don't know if I'll be here for that.  I don't know if I want to be there for that either."

Question:  Is it true that he addressed you and said that you guys were one of the best conditioned groups he's ever had?

Mark Ortmann: "Yeah and he said that in the past 18 years was his exact quote.  It is an honor for him to say that, but we have worked hard.  I feel like a statement like that is earned.  He made a similar comment last summer and everyone was kind of skeptical when he said that, but when he said it this year, everyone bought into it and believed him."

Question:  Other than the offense in general, what do you know now about college football that you didn't know a year ago at this time; what did you learn last year?

Mark Ortmann: "Time commitment is always one thing, but when you're losing, I think time commitment increases.  You're trying to figure out what is going on.  How you can improve this week and just breaking down film I felt doubled, if not tripled.  Just trying to find a solution of what was going on."

Question:  Was it like you were trying to plug a dyke... you plugged this hole and another hole comes up?

Mark Ortmann: "Yeah sometimes.  Like I mentioned, we were so close, we were one person away from each play from a big play that could have changed the outcome of the season.  Now that I think everyone understands what they are supposed to do on each play, it will definitely end out and hopefully it will lead to more big plays and more scoring."

Question:  Was that glaring this year than other years because there was more losses or just because those plays were that close?

Mark Ortmann: "I would say a combination of all three.  Like you said, we were thrown a new offense, told to learn it and execute it.  Not everyone knew how to execute it in the manner that the coaches wanted and in a manner to score and execute it well. I think everyone knows how to execute the offense in the manner that the coaches want and how to do it effectively to win games.  I think everyone is on the same page."

Question:  You know people will be skeptical of the fact, especially on offense where all the personnel is the same instead of different, is just maturation enough?

Mark Ortmann: "Everyone is coming back.  The thing last year was, three of us on the offensive line had started a total of 17 games with Schilling starting to 12 of them.  So along the offense line and it was pretty difficulty to throw people into situation that A) they've never started and B) they may not have played that much, maybe just clean up crew.  To throw them in that situation and other positions as well, freshman starting and sort of throw them into a situation that maybe they weren't comfortable with, that was a lot to ask.   Last year, each game as hard as it may be to believe, we did improve each game.  Experience will definitely help out that we are returning the majority of people."

Question:  We meaning the line, the offense or the team, you say improved every game?

Mark Ortmann: "Offensively definitely.  Everyone was expecting the defense to be the rock last year.  They got thrown a new system as well.  It is a lot of pressure on both ends."

Question:  Do you kick yourself over little plays when you're watching film or do you say well it is a learning experience?

Mark Ortmann: "You can only use that excuse so much.  I definitely find myself as well as everyone else putting a little more added pressure on to each individual.  It is rightfully so.  It is Michigan.  We have a reputation to uphold.  I think that is one thing that everyone is looking forward to doing this year."


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