Q. On Injuries…
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Greg Banks has a foot sprain which will inhibit him for a couple days. Don't know about Saturday yet. That will be day-to-day. The other guys that were out, Martavious Odoms, Brandon Minor, really day-to-day. We're hoping they responded well to treatment. We'll find out tomorrow how they practiced and what their status will be for Saturday.
Q. Why was Brandon in late in the game?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: We were using him for just a couple plays trying to get in the end zone. He's our biggest, most physical runner, and then a couple times in pass blocking, we thought without the stress of playing 20 to 30 plays, he could handle that. It's just unfortunate because Brandon really tried, and it's just been an ongoing thing and probably will be for the remainder of the season.
Q. Is that because he tries to practice early in the week?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, we've really limited him. I mean, he's been as limited in practice as he can be, having a little bit so he stays sharp, but we're on the edge of him taking any reps to be ready for Saturday. Had he been a freshman or a first year player, I wouldn't think he'd play anything. But being a guy that's at least a veteran and been in there, although he's been limited during the week, he's still been able to do something on Saturday. I'd like to get him back to where we can use him in the Iowa game. It's really just a week-to-week thing, you know. Hopefully he gets a couple days of just ... he literally could be just running and doing drills. It's a frustrating thing for everybody, but I'm proud of the way he's hanging in there.
Q. On if Tate Forcier has recovered from his injury
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, it's a different injury than what Brandon has got. That kind of upper foot and ankle sprain is just ... he's there every day for treatment, he's doing all he can, but this is something that's got to be healed. I think Tate's is pretty much healed.
Q. On Brandon Minor's practice load…
COACH RODRIGUEZ: He did a little bit Monday, a little bit Tuesday. We limit the heavy hitting stuff on Tuesday, but he does more on Mondays and Thursdays than he does normally.
Q. On Purdue…
COACH RODRIGUEZ: They lost really a couple close ones early in games they probably should have won with turnovers and things that cost them the game. They're a very talented team playing at a high level, and if you watch the game against Ohio State, Oregon very easily could have won that ballgame. Our guys will see that on film. It's a team that's got a lot of players, and their record has not indicated how they've really played so far this year.
Q. Are you more concerned with the offense or the defense when you look at the film?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Really everything. In the last game, second half I was concerned with everything. But you'd like to think it's just a half that things started going downhill and guys lost confidence, and then it was just more doom and gloom as the game went on, and we've got to learn to fight through that. Coaches will talk to them quite a bit about it today, and then we'll move on. I don't want our guys to hang their heads all week. You know the old saying, you don't want that game to beat you twice. Bad game, bad half, particularly the second half. We've got to learn from it and move on and press forward, and I think we'll do that.Our guys have been very, very conscientious, almost to a fault. I say that because we're so clear about every little thing that happened, sometimes it's harder for them to move on. We've got to move on and press forward and come out and play better.
Q. The second half collapse, especially defensively, two weeks in a row, what is going on?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I think it's a combination of their execution and our lack of. Sometimes they may have the wrong call and they execute better and they've got the right call and they execute better, not much you can do. And other times we miss a tackle or another guy misses an assignment. Particularly defensively, an offensive missed assignment might be second down; a defensive, one guy misses an assignment, it could be a touchdown. That's been the case the past couple weeks in a couple of big plays. It's just been one guy, it's usually a different guy, that either tried to overcompensate or just was making mistakes, and it cost you a touchdown.
Q. Illinois had 400 yards. Is there a talent issue or a schematic issue with your defense?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: You can always look at schemes, and that's what coaches do first. We look at what can we do better to get in position to make plays. It's always a combination of things. Sometimes you get a little frustrated like geez, we're right there to make the play but we don't make it. Guys are trying hard, and the effort is there. But we're not ... again, I've said this earlier in the season, we were winning games and I'll say it now when we lost the last couple, but we are not good enough to play poorly and win. We're not at that point experience-wise and talent-wise. That's the facts. And as coaches we've got to try to do all we can to help with that, and we're trying, but sometimes it's not working right.
Q. On his disappointment regarding not being able to punch it in after four tries from the one yard line
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Oh, yeah, no question. It was even more disappointing after watching the film. There are plays that we should have got in. Well, one snap in particular we got pushed back, but in the other ones it was just ... one of them was a missed assignment on one guy and another one was a missed assignment an another guy. It just takes one. With that many shots to get in there, you ought to be able to score, and if you don't score, you ought to be able to keep them down there.
Q. On the turnover margin…
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Turnovers, yeah. We had three turnovers in that game, and we have not gotten a turnover in three weeks on defense I don't believe. I don't know if I've ever gone three games in a row without having created a turnover, either special teams or defense. So that's a concern. Again, taking care of the ball. If you look at the turnover margin, it's both offense and defense. Not getting them and then putting it on the ground and throwing interceptions or what have you, they're not good enough to overcome that.
Q. Is there any type of excuse for that?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: You know, when you get later in the year, you're not as young as you were in the beginning of the year, yet these guys are still the same age. Again, the strength issues, our guys lift during the season, and they're getting a little stronger, I think, even though they're not lifting as much as they were in the off-season. They're not going to be as strong as they'll be next year, and sometimes strength is it an issue hanging onto the ball, sometimes it's technique and concentration. But we're emphasizing it. See, in some games it's not an issue at all, and in the last game it was.
Q. What is it that makes you believe you will get there?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Well, you know, when you start a program, you start with players and their development, and coaching is involved in that, as well. You've got to recruit the right guys and you've got to develop them. I've said this a hundred times. The formula for winning here is no different than anywhere in the country; it's recruiting the right student athletes and develop them once you get them. We're the same as any other college at any level. We've got to recruit the right players. We've got some players, but we've got a lot of guys that need developed, as well. There's a process to take there to get them at the championship level. It's not the first time that this staff or myself have been involved in this type of situation, recruiting the guys, get them in the program and develop them. There's not a magic formula for that, just hard work, identifying the right guys and getting them to play at a high level.
Q. On how much playing on the road has factored into his players' mental state…
COACH RODRIGUEZ: You know, I don't think there's much ... the focus for the team has been pretty good on the road. I have not sensed any ... no sense of panic or intimidation on the road or lack of focus or anything like that. So I think it's just a matter of executing and playing. There have been a couple of road games ... we have not played well on the road this year but we've played well in spots. But the same thing is true at home. We've played well at home at times and we have not played well at home. I wish we were more consistent, and I'd like to sit here and tell you that inconsistency is due to youth or inexperience, and maybe that is some of it. There's no question you're going to sit there and say if I had 12 or 13 or 14 fifth-year seniors playing, you're playing with 22-year-old men, not 18 and 19 year old kids. If you don't think there's a difference between the two, then ... there is. There's a huge difference between them. We can look back at where our roster is and how many fifth-year seniors, and in some cases ... we've got a sixth-year guy. It's a difference between a 22-, 23-year-old man and an 18 year old man. We've got to coach them up.
we played well and got a few plays when we needed to. And then on the road we'd make a play or two at the end of two of the games and won those, and people were saying, hey, you guys played pretty well. Maybe we didn't, we just got lucky at the end. I said it earlier, we're going to be in a lot of tight games probably, and hopefully we can make a play at the end to win it. This last ballgame we didn't give ourselves a chance at the end because we played so poorly in the second half. Had we played decent in the second half it would have probably come down to the end again.
Q. It's a process to develop a program. At the same time are you at all surprised that it hasn't come? Did you think it would come quicker than it has?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Not after I got here.
Q. When you got here, you saw some issues?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Mm-hmm. I mean, it's nothing ... how about we do this: How about after the season, I'll sit down with all of you guys that cover us every week and talk about the things that are issues or problems that we've identified that we've got to work on to get Michigan playing at a championship level. It's pointless to ... what we have to do right now, okay, what can we fix right now, what can we do right now as coaches. It comes back to us as coaches. What can we do right now as coaches to help us have success right now. I'm here to tell you that we're trying that, because why wouldn't you? Every coach is going to sit there and try it. We're not going back in the office and saying woe is me or something like that. We're trying as hard as we can to do as well as we can right now, and so are the players. That's where it starts. Those players are doing all they can to help. But some of the things, I've said it ... some of our issues did not occur overnight and will not be solved overnight. Sometimes it takes a little longer than I would like or any of you like. I am less patient than any of you or any fans that we have. And we have great fans. I promise you, I'm less patient than any of them as far as having success. Progress is being made, and to what degree ... how fast and to what degree, I wish it was faster. It's not going as fast as I would like, trust me.
Q. Is there something you can do to improve that defense right now, or is that more a recruiting issue?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I think that's a good point. We sit there and talk about it all the time, you know, are we moving, do we have the guys in the right spots. We talk about that every day. Schematically are we putting them where they can have success. And again, it goes back to if ask this guy to do this, maybe he's not capable of doing that. So we've gone through all those issues. My defensive staff and my offensive staff, they have a lot of experience in dealing with this, and they've been in similar situations. So they're all coming together and thinking about it and doing the best we can with it.
But we've got some guys that can play, and frankly we challenge them to play at the highest level each and every day. Sometimes, again, I think we're almost over-conscientious that they worry about everything and they get tight and don't let it loose. I've probably said that a bunch in the past month or so. You know what you're doing, you have the ability to make plays, just let it loose. Don't be so tight and nervous about every little mistake. Again, when you're inexperienced and you've not played a whole lot, that happens to you. Brandon Graham lets loose. He makes mistake but he plays at a high level all the time, and he makes a lot of plays because he's an experienced guy and he's been there, and he lets it loose. Very simple.
Q. Last year you said you were going to try to take a little more active role in defense and get involved. Is that something that is the plan again this year?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: No. I mean, I'm a little involved in every aspect of the program. I think most head coaches are. Some of them call it micromanaging. I'm not calling defensive plays or anything likes that, but I at least have an idea what we're doing and who we're doing it with. So I watch the film every Sunday with the defense, and they tell me who did this or who did that and what should have happened here and what should have happened there. Then we talk a little bit throughout the week, particularly if the opponent is running some plays similar to what we know about or have seen or have in our offense. Our staff is pretty close. We talk quite a bit.
Q. On safety Vladimir Emilien…
COACH RODRIGUEZ: You know, Vladimir was we thought progressing pretty well in the spring and thought we had a chance but then he had more freshman moments. He's not really in the mix right now. But I think he still has a chance.
Q. On the cameras you can be very animated with players…
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Really? (Laughter)
Q. When you mention tightness, I wonder if that adds to it.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: We're coaching. I mean, I tell the coaches, you've got to coach to your personality. Some of our coaches are more vocal than others. Sometimes I yell, sometimes I don't. I only yell when I'm mad. Sometimes I yell when I'm happy, but most of the times I yell when I'm mad.
I think that's what's kind of amusing. If we had a quarterback that threw to a wrong guy and the guy picked it off and ran 100-some yards for a touchdown and all of that, and he came over to the sideline and people are expecting me to put my arm around him, whether he's a freshman or senior, and say, that's okay, don't worry about it, misreading him and all that kind of stuff, well, let's talk about it in the future and we'll sit down on the couch and have some tea and crumpets, the kids would look at me and say, okay, something is happening here; this guy went nuts on me. We coach them the way we coach them, and nobody is the worse for it. But I don't think our kids play tight because we coach. Our kids are loose and all that. I just think they want to do so well. So there's nothing wrong with that. I want them to take that attitude, yet just play. A lot of times it takes experience to do that.
Q. More on his team's loss of confidence after Illinois' goal line stand…
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I played that back. I shouldn't play that back because you're only supposed to think about it 24 hours. It changes momentum, and football is a huge momentum type of atmosphere, particularly a young team. But still, even if you don't score, somebody goes 99 and a half yards beginning of the third quarter, so who knows what would have happened. I think you can replay that scenario. It's just, like I said, you just want to be good enough that bad moments don't cost you ballgames. Those were some bad moments right there.
Q. Do you feel like Denard is maybe regressing a little bit?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: No, I think he's had freshman moments, for lack of a better term. Earlier in the year he had freshman moments, too, they just weren't featured as much because we won. When you lose, those freshman moments are featured more. He's conscientious, but he's got to learn to take care of the ball better. Coach Smith has been working hard with him on that, and again, just continue to progress as a quarterback. We don't have a lot of time with these guys, as much as we'd like, like what you'd think.
Q. Are there ways to get him other touches without compromising his ability to (progress at QB)
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I think everybody can say, move this guy over here, move this guy over there. I mean, he's a true freshman, a true freshman. The more you move him over here, you're going to confuse him in that position, as well. Everybody, we talk about different positions on the O-line and this and that, and you weaken two spots by moving one spot. You want your guys ... if they play less hesitantly, they don't have to think. If they have to think quite a bit, then you don't play as fast as you're capable of doing. That's a given. With Denard, we're trying to get him to play fast at one position, and slowly he'll learn the whole offense and we can put him in a lot of different spots, but he's still a quarterback first and foremost, and we're trying to teach him everything we can with that.
Q. On the possibility of playing another true freshman quarterback next year.?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: That depends on the individual. We don't guarantee anybody when we're recruiting that they'll start. We guarantee when we're recruiting them that they'll have the ability to play or we wouldn't be recruiting them. So that opportunity to go out there, realistically, to play as a true freshman on this level doesn't play very often. We're probably playing ... we played too many last year, probably we're playing too many now, probably we'll play too many next year.
But if we do the right job recruiting and developing, three or four years from now we won't have as many true freshmen coming in as playing, particularly in key roles. That's the bottom line. You can have a great recruiting class and be a top one, top two recruiting class. Still, if you've been there for a while and developed a program through the right guys, you're not going to have 9, 10, 11 true freshmen suiting up and playing. That's just a difference in age. That's not an excuse, that's just kind of where we're at. As coaches we've got to figure out, okay, how do we make sure that this issue and that issue is not an issue two, three years from now.
Q. More on the series of plays from the one yard line…
COACH RODRIGUEZ: It was three different plays, it wasn't the same play. If I had run the same play three times in a row, I'd think, geez, golly, but it was really three different plays and three different schemes. That was part of it.
That's the only thing, but I don't think it's healthy to look back, but I think as coaches you have to. You have to look at okay on this play we could have called this play on defense or we could have called this defense, and maybe that would have helped. That's the thing we eat ourselves up about. But at the end of the day you have to move on.
Q. On if he was unhappy with the running back personnel on that series…
COACH RODRIGUEZ: No, that not too much. I was glad we gave Brandon a shot, but other than that, that's just personnel-wise.
Q. On which defensive players besides Brandon Graham are playing loose…
COACH RODRIGUEZ: There's been others that have been pretty consistent. Stevie Brown for the most part has been really consistent all year. The guys up front, the D-line, Ryan Van Bergen. For a freshman Craig Roh has, he's let loose pretty well; Mike Martin. The O-line has been consistent at times, but other times, in this last ballgame we weren't. We did not play well up front. Go figure.
Q. On Patrick Omameh's recent insertion into the lineup…
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Well, we're going to continue repping him at right tackle and at right guard this week. He rushed pretty well. The game was kind of new to him. He was kind of a late developer coming out of high school, and obviously last year he registered and has gotten bigger and stronger. I'm really excited about the future with Patrick. He was about 260 when he got here, he's 280 now, and I think he'll be up to 290 or something, 295, and be ready physically as well as mentally.
Q. On Mark Ortmann's alleged punch
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I watched all the angles he had and didn't see anything on the football copy, and then I watched the internet thing. I met with Mark this morning. He was upset that a lot of folks were telling him that it was a cheap shot or what have you, and then he explained to me, Coach, I had an open hand, he was leaning up against me, their players were even telling him to get off me, and he just kind of shoved him away real quick.Mark is a great young man. I'm sure when the guy was leaning on him or something, he just wanted him to get off him at the time. That shouldn't be an issue there.
Q. On how big the Purdue is for him and his team…
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Oh, it's not about me, it's about the team. I think our team wants to win so we can get that sixth game and get that good feeling back. It's not life-or-death. It's a ballgame and it's an important ballgame, and as important as it is to everybody out there, I promise you, it's more important to the program and the guys in the program than anybody. It's still just a game. I think things come to life when you have this press conference about the child ID kits or we get the news yesterday that we lost a dear friend, Rob Koonce. I don't know if many of you know him. Those that follow recruiting, 45 years old, passed away yesterday with a heart attack. He worked in our academic support thing. He works at our business school. Wonderful family man. Rob and I first got to know each other a little over ten years ago when we were at Tulane together. He was our academic counselor for football. I worked at Tulane with Tommy Bowden, Rob was just the best. Our kids called him Crazy Joe off that movie (Lean on Me) and they just loved him. I wasn't even aware he was here until I first got here and we had our first recruiting weekend, and there he showed up to help us recruit student athletes and talk about the business school. He was my age, a little younger, and tragic for his family. Certainly all the guys on our team, a lot of them knew him. Our staff all knew Rob, and our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. But that put things in light. We're playing a game.
Q. Mary Sue Coleman talked about patience and that it's a process. Has she communicated her thoughts to you?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Mary Sue has been very supportive. Every week she'll ... not every week, but just about every week she'll send a note. We talked a couple weeks ago very briefly. Everybody has been supportive. I mean, I want everybody to have patience. I don't have much of it, but I wish our players would have patience. To build a championship-level, championship Division I-A football team, there are a lot of parts to it, a lot of things that have to get together and go right. It takes a little bit longer sometimes than anybody would want. Progress is being made, not as quickly as some people would like, but we're going to press forward and get it done eventually. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
Q. Was the team caught up in their early success?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Not really. I mean, you don't see it in practice. We had great practice last week. Kids weren't ... I'm sure a lot of people early in the year were patting them on the back and all that, and that's okay. We're keeping them humble and they weren't caught up too much.But there's this freshman quarterback, Tate, there's a lot of things I've talked to him about. Everything went so fast for him so early, and yet maybe even in those times, still fundamentally he still had a lot of work to do, it's just people didn't see it because we won.
Q. (On the team's focus in light of Stevie Brown's comment a fe weeks ago about trying to earn a bid to the Rose Bowl)…
COACH RODRIGUEZ: You think we have not played well because Stevie Brown made that statement? I don't think so. I mean, we have ways of keeping them humble at practice. What they do outside ... I didn't sense that outside the building. I mean, if a kid gets too full of himself you can easily sense it at practice. The demeanor hasn't changed. Once you lose one game, you get humble pretty quick, and we lost the first game a month ago.
Q. On the play of walk-on LB Kevin Leach
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, he played ... actually Kevin graded out the highest of any player we had on defense. He played pretty well. But Obi is still in the mix. Really it's a schematic thing and who we're going up against.
Q. How important is a Bowl game to this team?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I think a Bowl game is a reward for the fans and for the players, a reward game. A Bowl game for the coaches affords us extra practices. I mean, you get 15 or 16 or so, it's almost like an extra spring practice and you get a chance to develop those young guys.
Q. On whether Leach's replacement of Ezeh sends the message that there might be other changes…
COACH RODRIGUEZ: We don't replace guys to send a message, we replace guys to try to win, to try to figure out what's the best for that week and scheme-wise. I don't know (if there will be changes this week). It depends on how this week goes in practice. There are some spots that guys are still battling. We're trying to get more depth defensively. That's been the big issue. We have not played nearly as many guys as we've liked to, but again, sometimes that's because the guys behind the guys that are starting aren't quite ready yet. That's something that we've tried to develop, but they're just not there yet.
Q. On if he's had a chance to look at Purdue…
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, they're very active, very athletic, and they've hurt themselves at times like we have. So I think we're playing with a great deal of confidence. I think they were playing with confidence before beating Ohio State, and after beating Ohio State you could see, this last game notwithstanding, they feel very good about what they're doing. Last I checked they had 12 or 13 seniors starting. A lot of those are fifth-year guys. We're not playing against a bunch of kids.
Q. On whether Jordan Kovacs will get Boubacar Cissoko's scholarship…
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I mentioned earlier that our scholarships, our walk-ons were given out ... all available scholarships were given out to walk-ons earlier. This is where Jordan kind of found his life, so to speak. Normally we give it to upper classmen. There's a pecking order, seniors and juniors and what have you, and Jordan was a young guy. And then all of a sudden he's kind of come on without one available. We can't replace one. The question is because ... maybe we can get that changed. Can you lobby to the NCAA for me? I think if one guy is gone, you should be able to replace him with another, but you can't for a whole calendar year, next fall. It's kind of silly, but I think they have their reasons.
Q. How do you build your team's confidence up?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Go out and play. I mean, after today, I'm sure we'll move on because we didn't meet yesterday. But if you dwell on one game, how long are you going to dwell on it? If they've lost it, then they themselves have got to get it back just by knowing what they're doing. If you know what you're doing and you're capable of doing it athletically, you'll have confidence. It's the coaches that teach them to know what they're doing, and the players know that they wouldn't be here if they didn't have the ability to play. Just show them what they did before and go out and do it again. No magic formula; go out and play. Don't worry about everything. Don't worry about all the drama that everybody tries to create.
Q. Do you know how your team will react to all this?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Do I know? I don't know if I know. Do I expect them to react positively? Sure, I expect this group, because of the way we work, I expect them to react positively if everybody will just let them play.
Q. On Ricky Barnum
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Ricky Barnum is going to get a lot of reps this week, too. Perry Dorrestein has got a little bit of back pain, but hopefully he'll be okay. Ricky has kind of progressed the last couple of weeks, so we're looking at him.
Q. On whether Wisconsin's blow-out victory over Purdue was the result of Wisconsin having a good day or Purdue having a bad day.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Wisconsin had a great week. Purdue had a bad day, too. They were probably ... I don't know, I counted five or six dropped balls, and every one of them would have been either touchdowns or 1st downs, and they haven't dropped balls like that all year. I'm talking about guys that can play. So I'm sure it was one of those days that, geez, we dropped a ball here, dropped a ball there, and it kind of snowballed for them. But Wisconsin had a great day, too.
Full Transcript: Coach Rod's Presser
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