Rich Rod's Day One Recap

Rich Rodriguez met with the media after the opening practice of fall camp to discuss his initial impressions of his team, the differences between the team now and last year at this time, the recruitment and dismissal of Justin Feagin, and much much more. ***The entire transcript.***

Question:  Nice shirt.

Coach Rodriguez:  "I wanted to show this.  As most of you know that cover us, this is our theme this year, ‘All in for Michigan', which involves the team, the support staff, our coaches, the fans, the cheerleaders, our band, our entire student body, every Michigan fan throughout the country.  Hopefully, it is something that will take off.  Obviously, we are trying to promote it quite a bit.  We want everybody to be all in.  We have I think a tremendous amount of support.  We also have this towel I wanted to mention, a lot of the proceeds will go to Mott Children's Hospital that we are going to sell all year beginning with Fan Day and that is an ‘All In' towel and hopefully we'll have 110,000 thousand.  Maybe our opponents may have a couple of 1000s.  They can still buy them and wave them if they want.  Hopefully we'll sell a lot of those too.  We are pretty excited about those things."

"Today was a good first day, typical first day.  We had some mistakes but nothing I saw that we couldn't correct.  The attitude was good.  The effort was good and it looks like they had a great summer.  They seem to be in excellent shape for the first day of camp.  We are not in game shape, but again I don't think any team in the country is.  I think it was a start and as I told the team, if we can even improve tomorrow above today, then I know we are on our way."

Question:  Rich just how much further ahead from last year; I mean now guys even know where to line up…?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Offensively it is light years.  Simply from the standpoint that most of the guys have played.  So when you have guys that have played and have some experience, whether it is the same system or another system, they are going to be more confident and move a little bit quicker.  That was the case today.  Even defensively, I was pleased because it is a new system.  We had probably more in defensively than I could have even imagined.  I will have to talk to Coach Robinson and see what our installation was, but I thought they handled it pretty well.  Particularly going against our offense, which can be difficult with some of the things we do on offense.  Overall, I think I made a little side bets with the coaches on offense, how many MAs (missed assignments) that we would have today.  I wanted to lose the bet, because I was on the pessimistic side and they were on the optimistic side, but I will wait and grade the film tonight and see what happens."

Question:  First impressions of the freshman quarterbacks?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I thought they handled things pretty well.  Tate (Forcier) is farther ahead mentally, which he should be because he was here all spring.  Denard (Robinson) went in there and made a couple nice plays.  He is a quick learner, very conscientious.  That group of quarterbacks I think is….mentally obviously they are going to be further along than we were a year ago, but we want the execution part to be along with that and at times today it was really good and at other times it wasn't.  That's a position that takes a lot of skills in a lot of different area and they'll get better."

Question:   You played two quarterbacks last year do you, is that…?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Our kind of rule is that if you're good enough to win with, we'll play you.  Whether there are two or three of you at one position.  Now quarterback is the hardest position.  Ideally, a coach may tell you that he wants one guy to separate and be so good that he is the clear starter and somebody else that is good enough to win with, he's the backup.  I don't know if that is going to happen before September 5th, but I don't have to make that decision until then.  It may be after the first couple.  We might not figure out who is ‘the guy' if there is going to be ‘the guy' until some point during the season.  They are all going to have a chance; we will coach them up and see what happens."

Question:  During the practice that we were able to watch, Forcier and (Nick) Sheridan were kind of ripping off reps back and forth; is that a sign of how much spring ball helped him that he can do that?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah I think.  Nick got hurt early in spring and so what it did is for Tate to take a lot of reps with the first group and I think it probably expedited the learning process a little bit and that has helped him.  Denard is a little bit behind because he wasn't here in the spring, but he's pretty sharp.  As we get more into our offense in a couple of weeks, we'll see how it shakes out.  Those three will alternate, go in and out and see what happens."

Question:  Update on the freshman that weren't out there?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah, we're still waiting on (Aidan) Witty and (JT) Turner with some NCAA clearinghouse issues.  It could be a couple of days.  It could be a couple of weeks.  We are leaving those spots open in the 105.  We can bring 105 in and so we are leaving a couple of those spots open for those guys to wait and see what happens."

Question:  And for (Jason) Forcier too?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yes.  We are still waiting on details on Jason Forcier."

Question:  Rich did you have anybody that couldn't practice today because of injuries starting out?

Coach Rodriguez:  "No.  We were all good.  The only thing after seeing at the end of practice, we had a number of guys with some cramps, which means they obviously lost a lot of fluids.  This was a pretty warm, humid day.  The guys that were cramping up, were some of our guys that are in really, really good shape.  So they must have worked pretty hard and maybe didn't put enough fluids in before practice.  They'll get through it.  That's one of the advantages of having the one-a-days.  You have enough time to recover before our next practice."

Question:  Coach is kind of the first day, I know you don't like to talk about last year, that you just throw last year out of the water…?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah I think.  We talked about that last night to kind of put it in the past and we've tried to move on for months now, but until you actually have your practices and your games come up in the season, people still talk about it and that's natural.  We've moved on.  It is a different team.  It is a different team every year.  Whether you won last year or lost last year.  It is a different team every year.  Our guys are ready to move on.  I think they are pretty hungry."

Question:  How are the guys who couldn't practice during the spring? I'm thinking particularly of Jonas Mouton.

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah Jonas, he looked 100% today.  There were no issues was that.  A couple of the other guys that we held out at the end of spring have had good summers.  I don't think we have any issues health wise.  Again in shorts, I would hope that we wouldn't get anybody hurt in shorts.  We got to have that fine line.  We don't have a lot of depth at a lot of positions, particularly defensively.  So we got to get guys ready to play.  Once we get comfortable with a few of the guys that are ready to play, we will probably limit their reps later in camp and try to get them ready for Western Michigan."

Question:  I got to ask you about Justin Feagin and some of the reports; when did you become aware of some of the characteristics?

Coach Rodriguez:  "As soon as we found out what he did, we dismissed him that instant."

Question:  I mean in the recruiting process…?

Coach Rodriguez:  "As soon as we find out anything that he did to violate team rules.  The first time I find out what he did, I dismissed him, and that was the first time I found out."

Question:  When he told the papers and reports saying what he's done in the past; was that all news to you too?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yes."

Question:  What is your policy in general on taking chances with players, obviously at West Virginia…?

Coach Rodriguez:  "You research your players and you want to take good guys.  Sometimes in recruiting you research and you don't find out anything negative and it winds up later that it was a mistake.  Trust me, no coach in America is going to want to take guys that have baggage or they think is a bad guy.  We certainly don't.  But everything in the recruiting process that we had heard was all positive.  In our dealings here, there was no negatives until that recent thing and once we heard that, it was immediate dismissal."

Question:  You did take some chances on guys at West Virginia; you said no coach in America wants to take (bad guys); how do you determine…?

Coach Rodriguez:  "You're talking about the past.  I don't know exactly who you are referring to, clear it up?"

Question:  Sure Pacman (Adam Jones)?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Adam Jones had no issues in high school."

Question:  He didn't get into a bar fight?

Coach Rodriguez:  "In high school?  When we signed Adam Jones, there were no issues.  He was a good student."

Question:  The kid from Maryland that got arrested for robbery?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Who's that."

Question:  Pat Lazear.

Coach Rodriguez:  "Pat Lazear, yeah that was a situation that was cleared up before he left high school."

Question:  He pled guilty?  I guess I'm just getting at that you do take chances on guys that…?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Well we got to research and then I'm going to move on.  We have a nice positive press conference here.  I understand the interest in individuals in the program.  I'm proud of the guys that have played for me in the past in 16 or 17 years as a head coach.  I'm proud of the guys that we recruited but again sometimes in recruiting you make a mistake.  There are some guys that you recruited and they never would give any hint of getting into trouble or being poor academically and all of a sudden they go to college and they make mistakes and you have to adjust accordingly.  I think you need to do his research and find out, is he a good guy.  In the case we've had in the past, we done enough research and we thought guys were good guys and they turned out to be pretty good for the most times.  We've had some guys who left the program, went into the NFL and went kind of crazy.  That was unfortunate.  You got to do and our coaches will remind them, not just here at Michigan but certainly here.  We want to bring the right people, in our community, in our university and we try hard to do that."

Question:  Coach I noticed on a couple of bags out there, you had the Ohio State decal, is that new or is that old?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I don't know how that got on there.  Did somebody from Columbus put that on there?  I don't know where that came from.  I think we've had some stickers on there.  I think if you go down to Columbus they got a lot of Michigan stuff in their hall of fame deal and kind of promote them a little bit.  That's a pretty big game for us too.  So we've got reminders, we got reminders of them.  We got reminders of Michigan State, Notre Dame and everybody else on our schedule."

Question:  Coach can you talk about the progress of Kevin Koger and the role of the tight ends?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah.  We're really excited.  He's had a great summer.  Playing as a true freshman at any position is tough.  He played a lot at tight end last year, which is a difficult position and he looks great.  He is a very hard worker and a very conscience guy.  I would expect a big year.  He and Martell Webb both give us two, I think two pretty solid guys at tight end. We're pretty happy.  I'd like to have two or three and I think in those two anyway that we got two guys we can count on."

Question:  Your take on Elliot Mealer and what you've seen with him?

Coach Rodriguez:  "As many of you know, Elliot's story.  Last year he got redshirted because he was coming off the surgery.  He's got all of his strength back and then some.  He is in outstanding shape.  If you ask him, he is probably in the best shape of his life.  He feels strong.  He's got a chance.  He's a tough guy and somebody we have a lot of respect for.  I'm anxious to see if he can crack the two deep."

Question:  You've talked about the quarterbacks maybe being more comfortable this year because the guys around them are more experienced; can you talk about the offensive lineman in that vein, just more experience.

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah that's a position where there are so many things that can be thrown at them.  Like today, there were blitzes and things that they didn't even know was coming, particularly for a first day, sometimes they didn't handle it and sometimes they did, but when they didn't they knew the mistake right away.  I think that's that difference in an experienced player.  An inexperienced player something will happen to them and they'll go ‘uh oh what happened?'  An experienced guy may screw up but at least he knows what happened.  I saw a little bit of that today.  They are a pretty sharp group.  I like the way they work.  I think they are going to be very close knit and I think they'll communicate well.  I think as they play more and more games most coaches will tell you, you, communication is key everywhere but especially up front.  When you got some consistency with guys coming back, you are going to be better at that."

Question:  You saw Denard live today... does he have a different level of speed than the other guys?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Well, he's fast, fast, but we've got some other guys that can run with him too.  As a quarterback, he is probably a different level of speed than normal quarterbacks would have.  He can throw the ball too.  Again, there is so much to learn.  You get spoiled and think, well you got other quarterbacks.  Pat White was a terrific quarterback and probably could have played as a freshman, but we were able to redshirt him because we had another kid named Rasheed Marshall, who was the player of the year in the Big East and so Pat could sit back and learn.  Denard is not in that situation.  We are going to let him compete and see what happens."

Question:  Coach, can you talk about how guys are feeling into the new hybrid position on defense?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah I think pretty well.  I think Coach Robinson has gone a good job on our defensive staff of trying to find what our guys do well, what is the best position for them and try to put them in those spots.  I think we've got that identified.  I don't expect a lot of position moves in camp.  There may be one or two if injury or something occurs.  I think they've adjusted pretty well. Whether we put them down on that defensive end/outside linebacker position or Stevie Brown coming down to that nickel back, linebacker type.  I think those position moves have worked out pretty good."

Question:  What's it like to stand in this building?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah isn't it beautiful.  The young gentleman behind me, Mr. Al Glick is largely responsible for it and been a true friend to the program.  I think our athletic department, our school, Scott Draper on my staff did a terrific job of helping to organize in getting this building done.  I've been to quite a few places visiting in coaching and I've not seen one that compares to an indoor football facility like this.  From the ones that I've seen, it is the best in the country.  For our student athletes in football and these other sports that do it, it's the best of the best.  We are fortunate to have it, very fortunate.  So I appreciate everybody's effort.  We could be doing this interview outside in the sun, instead we are inside.  It is a little bit humid, but we don't have the sun beating down on us, so it is good."

Question:  When Witty and Turner show up, let's say it is two weeks from now, can they be viable contributors?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah that's the point.  If they get here too late; how much time do they need to get ready.  Because we haven't worked with them, we don't know how quickly they are going to be able to learn.  I think anything less than two weeks to get ready for the first game, they wouldn't be ready for the first game, but you get them ready by the second or third, you are okay.  If you get three weeks for sure you can get ready, less than two weeks it gets a little shaky, depending on how quickly they learn.  Maybe they could do some special teams.  That's probably true of any freshman.  We're hoping it gets resolved, if it doesn't, we got enough guys that we'll be okay."

Question:  You are counting on Turner a little bit even for depth?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Well he and Witty both, because both of them play a position that we don't have a lot of bodies at DB.  So both of those guys, I don't want to say that they were at the top of the depth chart but guys that we wanted to look at early to see if they could contribute.  Until they are here, we won't be able to react to that."

Question:  Is it kind of frustrating considering in Turner's case, everything was pretty good with the exception of that one thing?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah and I'm optimistic with him.  I'm pretty optimistic and hopefully his will be quicker.  Wait and see."

Question:  They have lockers in the new locker room that we saw, is that indication that you guys are hopeful?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yes.  Everybody we sign every year are guys that we expect and imagine will be eligible.  Sometimes there is a class issue that comes up or a test issue and you just got to resolve it or move on."

Question:  Coach speaking of the locker room, this facility and the Big House itself, the changes that are going on here…

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah it is a pretty exciting time.  As we attempt to build a championship program and build all the great traditions that we have.  I'm surrounded by a lot of positive facilities.  Just look at our entire athletic campus from the baseball field, softball field, what we've done over with the soccer and tennis, gymnastics, the Big House and this.  It is a pretty neat time to be a student athlete and be a coach or staff member here in the athletic department.  It's fun to go.  We always preach that hopefully that Michigan is perceived as some of the biggest and the best.  You've got to earn that distinction and certainly we continually stride to do that.  Certainly our facility upgrade and update in the last couple of years have helped in that regard."

Question:  If and when Jason Forcier gets here, what will his role be?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I don't believe I can comment until we get everything resolved with that.  We are just actively working on that.  It can be a little frustrating because we think it is something that could be done quicker.  This is not an easy time of the year because there are a lot of people who aren't on campus.  Hopefully we can get that resolved, I would hope in the next couple of days."

Question:  So this is more of an administrative thing?

Coach Rodriguez:  "It's just a matter of, there is paperwork that has to get over here and the right people have to review it.  Whether he has to be involved in an interview process or not, all of that is ongoing.  We're ready, he's ready and we will see what happens."

Question:  Do you remember this date last year versus today?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I know it wasn't in here (laughter).'

Question:  I mean the feeling of this.

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah all of you that have covered us know that the very simplest way to describe is not being more comfortable with my surroundings but me being more understanding of what I have…what we have I should say.  What are strengths and weaknesses of our team are.  That doesn't mean that we are automatically better, but I know what we have.  I know at this position or that position, this strength or that strength, until you put guys in the game, you really don't know.  I'm a little more cautious with our freshman than maybe our fans are because they haven't played in a game yet.   I would hope that we could get them ready and hope their skills will do that but really until they play a game you really don't know for sure.  Some guys when the big lights come on and the game comes on, they are even better.  Some guys aren't quite as good.  I know more about the returners, I guess we do and then know what we need to do and hopefully it'll be enough to get this thing going."

Question:  Speak of returns, what are you looking at in terms of the return games; is there a group of six guys that you are looking at to return kicks and punts?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah, gosh it's got to be better than last year, right.  It was really frustrating.  As coaches and players, we talked about it and know that if we just get that part better, it's going to lead to better production offensively for sure.  We've got some of the guys that did it last year, we got a few freshman, but the guys that we have got returning, I think will be more confident because they've done it now a little bit in games and just taking care of the football generally, offensively and in the kicking game makes us a better team."

Question:  Punts, who was it today?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Still the same guys, Greg Mathews, Tay Odoms, Terrence Robinson, I think Donovan Warren was back there as well.  I don't know if any of the freshman, maybe Je'Ron Stokes.  We are going to try out a bunch of them.  We'll have five or six doing that and we'll have five or six or even seven returning kicks as well."

Question:  You talk about more about the guys that you got coming back, what do you know about Brandon now?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Which one?"

Question:  Brandon Minor.  (Mark) Ortmann was talking about how had to come out of Mike Hart's shadow and then deal with…?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah and its Brandon's time.  I think he knew that a little bit last year.  What's frustrating with Brandon Minor is that he would have played more earlier in the year, but he was banged up.  He got banged up during camp or he would have been ready to play then.  So we had to go with some young guys, they tried hard and did pretty well.  Brandon had a good spring.  He is very, very competitive.  He is in great shape.  So for both he and Carlos (Brown) in particular, we expect big years out of those guys.  Those are guys that I want to say have had bad luck, but they've had some tough luck, not really been healthy, now they are, so if they can get ready to play in the next few weeks and maintain there help, let us ease some of those young guys into the fray sort of speak."

Question:  What do you feel about the freshman that until they are under lights, you don't know how they'll react; with the quarterbacks, how much do you see them get hit to see how they do?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah that's the tough part.  You got to get them banged up a little bit, because how do you get them ready.  They got to face the live rushes the guys coming after them a little bit.  Our guys, I think will be smart.  When they go at an unmolested hit, they maybe will pull up a little bit.  We got to let them get hit a little bit.  Then in about a week and a half to two weeks, then once the guys have separated or identified if they are ready to play, then we'll have to limit them getting banged around somewhat.  We have got to try and put pressure on all those freshmen, in particular the quarterbacks to see if they can react to that.  As much pressure as we can put on them in practice and then if they react well to that, then we think that they will be ready for the game."

Question:  If Nick hadn't been hurt in the spring would Tate have gotten hit some more?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yes, he would have.  That's a good point.  If Nick hadn't gotten hurt, Tate would have been live the whole spring."

Question:  Will it be live in practice when the pads get on for the quarterbacks?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah all the quarterbacks will be live for a portion.  I say live, if Brandon Graham coming unblocked for some reason, gosh I hope that doesn't happen, but if some reason he does, I'll probably blow a quick whistle and say hold up.  It may not be enough to stop him, but hopefully we went have too many of them vicious hits going on."

Question:  Does Sheridan seem to be fully recovered?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah Nick is in really good shape.  He ran well today."

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