QUESTION: Brandon, obviously he didn't play very much. Is there any chance he's going to improve in a week?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Don't know. It's concerning. It's his shoulder now. Talking to the trainers this morning, it's day to day. So, you know, I guess you can't predict how much the next 48 hours or so will do for his improvement.
QUESTION: He played a little bit.
RICH RODRIGUEZ: He played a little bit. I'm not sure of this. I think when he got in, he got nicked again on it. I think that was the issue. He felt good in warmups. He was running around fine on his ankle. Then his shoulder was bothering him. I think he got hit again. Being a senior, playing against Ohio State, all of our seniors, particularly if they can go, they're going to want to go. He's got to make sure he can protect himself first and foremost. If he's medically ready, Brandon is a tough guy, he'll go if he can.
QUESTION: Carlos didn't play a whole lot either. Knee still bothering him?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, it was. Looked like it was bothering him a little bit. Watched him running around. Hopefully this week he'll be closer to a hundred percent. I thought Vincent Smith played well. Mike Shaw did some good things. We'll get those other guys ready in case they're not.
QUESTION: Any better feel for this rivalry than maybe a year ago?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: I think I had a good feel for it last year. I mean, we didn't win, didn't play well. I don't think it takes long to understand the rivalry when you're a coach at Michigan or Ohio State. You don't even have to coach here or play here to understand the intensity of it if you play college football. Certainly if you coach or play here, you feel it immediately and every day.
QUESTION: I don't know if these comments were in jest, Big Ten media day you talked about the old ladies saluting the bus as you go in.
RICH RODRIGUEZ: You expect that. You expect the intensity of the rivalry to show on the road and at home. So I mentioned that. It wasn't anything that surprised me because you expect the intensity to be at an all...time high. I think that's what makes it so special. I think, you know, players remember these games for a long, long time. I think part of the our message to our team or the players will be, you know, legends are made a lot of time in the Michigan/Ohio State game. Certainly guys that have played in the past for us, guys that have played for them, have made their mark, made their name, so to speak, in the Michigan/Ohio State game.
QUESTION: It's also Senior Day. What do you think of that class?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, you know, that's a very emotional time. I'm sure all programs have something special for their seniors' last home game. We will as well. But I've always felt that it should be the best week of our seniors' careers. I've said this many times. I think the greatest accomplishment you can have as a college football player is completing through your senior year and graduating. Even more so than making All...American, All...Big Ten, you've devoted four or five years of your life to the university, to the program, to your teammates. You want it to be a special week that they remember.
Obviously, if you play well in a game and you win the game, it makes the memory even more so. But we'll have a special week planned for our seniors. It's a small group. I've only been with them a couple years, didn't recruit 'em. But I have a lot of fond memories of them. But it's a very, very special group to me. They're great young men. They're all on track to already graduate or will graduate. They've given an awful lot to this program. It will be very emotional for us during the week, particularly Friday night when we have our kind of last team meeting, and certainly Saturday when they get introduced.
QUESTION: Pryor's development has been a little up and down. So many people say he was better suited to play here. How do you feel about that?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: I think he's done extremely well. He started and played games as a true freshman, was very productive. Had some big games this year. He's a very, very talented athlete. They've won a lot of games with him this year. I think Terrelle, he's not a guy you like to play against because he is so talented, he can make a lot of plays. I think he's doing quite well where he's at.
QUESTION: Can you talk about what Jordan has meant on the defense as a walk...on.
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, we mentioned earlier, it was a really neat story to go where he's been to not only being on the team but being a starter, playing on special teams as well. He's a tough guy. He loves football. Very, very intelligent. Really proud. Again, this is his first year playing. I think he's going to keep getting better and better. We're a little young and thin at spots. That gives some guys some opportunities. He made the most of it.
QUESTION: Your tops in the Big Ten in scoring. You're getting your point across offensively. Defense on the other end...
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, you know, we can play a whole lot better offensively, and we need to. Our execution has been there sometimes, sometimes it hasn't. We can get better in that.
There's no question defensively, you know, particularly the last several ballgames, we've not played well and given up some big plays. That's been disappointing. But it's not been a lack of effort. There's a lot of reasons that go into that. We've been okay on special teams, solid. I'd like to think we can get better. We've been okay on offense. I think we can get better. Defense I think we can make a lot of improvement. We've got another big game in front of us. Hopefully our defense will rise to the challenge. It's going to take a total team effort anyway to have a chance at this one.
QUESTION: The changes in the defense...
RICH RODRIGUEZ: We're still constantly evaluating. We made some changes. The guys played pretty well. You know, we're still searching for that right combination. Some of it has got to do with the scheme we're playing against, the scheme we want to use, trying to get more guys in there to see if we can get a little bit of a spark or a play or two made.
QUESTION: Can this be another total revamp on the defense?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I don't know. We just changed one or two guys. It isn't like we changed a whole group en masse. It's been one or two guys. Some of it's been because of the scheme we're playing against personnel...wise.
Again, a lot of guys playing for the first time. You know, as the season goes along, you want them to get better. But sometimes that other team has something to do with that.
QUESTION: Would it be fair to say the defense has moved slower than you had thought it might?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Well, last year we had a lot more experienced players defensively. Again, I'm not a revisionist, so I don't go back and look at the past too much other than to learn. You go back to last year, we had a few more starters, at least guys that had played, a little more experience defensively. This year coming in we knew we were going to be inexperienced defensively. So I had a concern. We just hoped they would grow up fast or be ready to handle things quicker. At times they have, but at other times we haven't. You know, after the season, if there's some moves we need to make from an offensive guy to put him on defense to get us some personnel help over there, we'll do that. Certainly, you know, most importantly for us in the next couple Februarys is signing guys that can help on both sides of the ball, but particularly defensively. We've got to make our mark in the next couple signing classes. This past year's signing class I think helped a little bit. The next couple are critical for us, particularly addressing our defensive needs.
QUESTION: Brandon Graham, a player that is so good, on a defense that has struggled so much.
RICH RODRIGUEZ: What was the question?
QUESTION: He's a guy that is standing out, maybe the best player.
RICH RODRIGUEZ: He's done really well.
QUESTION: Have you seen anything like that before?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Well, you know, Brandon is such a great team player, he's doing all he can. But he knows, too, I think he's surrounded by inexperience. He's doing all he can. The thing about Brandon, he's still being a team guy and playing with the framework of the defense. We try to do some things scheme...wise to free him up, to use his ability. We've been able to do that at times. He's had a great senior year. The thing about it, we've been really fortunate, he's played a lot of plays. We subbed him out a few times when he gets tired. But he's played on some special teams, too, blocking some punts. I'm just really proud of him, more than anything, the type of person he is. He seems very focused on getting his degree. You know he's going to play in some All...Star games, hopefully play for a long time on Sundays in the future.
QUESTION: Who would simulate Terrelle on your scout team?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: You find a guy 6'6" that runs a 4.3, you know. If I had him, he probably wouldn't be on the scout team (laughter). We'll probably use a combination of guys. I mean, we'll probably have Denard run some things because they'll run some speed option with Terrelle and do some things on the perimeter. But they'll drop...back pass, too. Make no question about it, I think they don't mind dropping back and throwing some routes, throwing some deep balls with him.
We'll have to have a mixture of guys do that role.
QUESTION: You stepped into this rivalry when it's kind of going downhill for you. It's so cyclical, it seems. What will it take to stop the bleeding?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Well, having a better team. You know, we'll win more of these games and other games when we have a better team than the team we're playing.
QUESTION: With that said, obviously you have to execute. How far can emotion or passion take you, particularly in your own building in a game of this magnitude?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, you hope and expect it will carry you a little bit. I think particularly when you're playing an experienced team or a team that's used to playing in big games, they'll be able to stem the tide of emotion. But for your own team, we hope the combination of being at home, being in obviously the Ohio State game, the seniors' last home game, I hope it helps in our preparation. As a coach you think that more than anything should help our guys in their preparation, focus all week. Then the emotions in the game, I think they always enjoy playing in front of their own people. That will carry a little bit. At the end of the day, it's 11...on...11 and you got to make plays and all that. Certainly I know the crowd will be into it. We just need to make a few plays early, good plays early, to keep the crowd into it and keep that emotion going.
QUESTION: Especially after what's happened the second half of the year, what would a win over Ohio State mean for you?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: I think more than anything for our seniors, it gives them a chance ...... again, I'm not going to go back, what happened in the past is in the past. They haven't beaten Ohio State yet. They want to finish out with an opportunity to go to a Bowl and to feel good about themselves. This senior class, again, I've only been with them for two years, but it's a special group of guys. Every one of them, I wish we had them back. I think, more than anything, for them to feel good. For our team, too. Our team has overcome a little adversity, has been tough at times this year. But, you know, I can tell you it's still a joy to come over here to work with them every day. I hope the players would say the same thing. They still like coming, working with each other, working to get better each and every day. I've said that since August, and I still believe that.
QUESTION: A year ago Justin left your program to go to Ohio State, or two years ago. Did not have nice things to say. What is your side of the story of what happened?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: I don't know if it does much good to go back in the past. I've said several times before that we pride ourselves on the closeness that we have as a family, both coaches to coaches and coaches to players and players to players. Again, I think if you asked our players, I think the large majority if not all of them would tell you they feel that sense of closeness amongst each other, amongst the staff. They sense that atmosphere, a family atmosphere, that permeates throughout the program. I've always prided myself on that, as I think the entire staff has. And I think our players, if anybody's been around Schembechler Hall, been around us when we work, practice, will sense the same thing.
QUESTION: Did you ever have an opportunity to talk to him after he left?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: No, no.
QUESTION: With the odds, the numbers stacked against you this week, what do you lean on with your players to let them know they have a chance?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I think you try to accentuate the positives, things they've done positively this year, talk to them. It's an easy game as far as getting them excited to play because it's Michigan/Ohio State. There's so much at stake. We'll talk about it. I mean, our guys know it's a tough challenge. They see film, know that he have outstanding players, are playing good football right now. But you always have a chance. I would think you would have some confidence. You look at the things you do positive, all of our guys, at different moments against some pretty good football teams. If we just play well, play within ourselves, not make the major mistakes, huge mistakes here and there, you know, it's going to be a ballgame. But we've got to play really well. Who knows, maybe they'll make a few mistakes, too.
QUESTION: You seem like an emotional guy, takes losing hard. How much has this eaten you up?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: I think all coaches and players, if you're competitive at all, which I would think all of our guys are, any coach or player that plays is competitive, it eats at your soul because, you know, I said this many times, I don't coach football, I live it, my family lives it, every one of our staff's family lives it as well. I mean, I've said this before, everybody thinks it's a glamorous life as a coach. We're fortunate to be in this position. I get paid great money. Who would have thought we'd be able to coach at this kind of thing when you first get into it. But, you know, I go home, see the wife and kids, and I go to the office. Only time I leave is to go to the away game or go recruiting. But I love what we're doing. If you love it that much and you put so much into it, you don't have success, it certainly eats at you. I've lost before. I've said this before, you know, I'm not used to this. My staff is not used to it. So it just gnaws you to the bone. But you just get up the next day, say, Okay, we got another opportunity. That's the one thing about it, you know, we have another game this week. The hard part about the last game is it's the one you probably remember until you play another one for so long.
QUESTION: Has this been the most emotionally taxing year for you in all your years of coaching?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: This year and last year (smiling). It's pretty close.
QUESTION: Most emotionally taxing two years that you've had?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Well, probably. Again, because I don't go back, don't like to reflect too much on the past, other than learning from the past, I think it has for a lot of reasons. For a lot of reasons it has been more challenging and more taxing.
You got to stay true to yourself and who you are. My family has been there. My coaches, some of them have been with me, but even the coaches that haven't been with me, you know, we've all fought through this thing together. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes it's hard when you're losing to see that. But we can see it. Again, you all are not privy to this all the time, but if you could see our young guys, the team, the way they work, when they lift weights, when they practice, you know, we're gonna be back there where I want us to be and everybody else wants us to be. It's just a longer process that we're going through now than we wanted it to be.
QUESTION: A lot of people wonder how far is the light at the end of the tunnel. Do you have a sense of how much closer you are?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Not as quickly as I'd like. But we'll be there. We had one full recruiting class, which are now our true freshmen. Those guys are 18, they're 19. When those guys are 20 or 21, they'll be more like men.
QUESTION: Doubts start to creep in at all?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: I think anytime I've ever lost a game, I've always had doubts, what I could have done differently. Every time. Even where we had seasons where I lost one game or two games, what I could have done in those one or two games. But you go back to believing in what you're doing, have confidence in what you're doing. And we do. I'm not too egotistical to say, What do we have to do to fix this? If there's a problem, I like winning too much not to evaluate what we're doing. I do that constantly, after every game, after every practice, certainly after every season. I'll evaluate everything as thoroughly as we can. If there's adjustments we need to make, whether it's program in nature, scheme in nature, we'll do it. Again, some of the problems and issues we have are gonna take longer to fix, and that's life in college football. That's something that I'm committed to doing and I believe the university's committed to doing, as well.
QUESTION: Will coaching changes be a part of that?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Our issue now is, I feel very good about our staff. Got great people on our staff. Great family men, good recruiters. They love working here. I think what I have to do is evaluate what we're doing scheme...wise. Does it fit? Again, I'm more knowledgeable with what we're doing offensively, where the adjustments need to be made, because I've been doing that for 20 years. Defensively, we're evolving. If you look at defensively what we struggled at this year, you also got to look at where we were at personnel...wise. It's a tough deal when you look at what we're doing personnel...wise defensively, no matter what scheme you're running.
QUESTION: When you're in tough times football...wise, are there people you lean on or vent to?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Normally I talk to more of my colleagues in the profession. I don't want to name them. But there's four or five head coaches. We all kind of communicate. Some of us have been friends for a long time. And then, again, my assistant coaches, particularly ones that have been with me for a long time. We've kind of been there, done that, seen it at all levels, seen just about every issue. Now, there's always a couple issues that come up in the last couple years that aren't in Coaching 101. I don't know if you get advice or know what to do in that regard. So we just try to do the best you can and be honest.
QUESTION: Do you have to put on an act in front of your team so they don't see?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Well, I think they know, particularly as coaches, how competitive we are. You know, we don't hide our emotions too much when we're upset. But I don't want our team to be hanging their heads. As long as they're giving effort, trying to do the best they can, that's all as a coach you can ask. For now, I want them to give the best they can and play well. Just giving the best you can sometimes isn't good enough. But from a positive standpoint as a coach, it's not hard to stay positive when your guys are focused and trying hard. Now, what you want to do is to get them to try hard and play well. But, again, it's been a good group to coach. This team, I said it, it's been through a little bit. They keep fighting. They come to work every day. And they know, I think our players know, what we're going through a little bit. They're all committed to getting it right.
QUESTION: Last year heading into this game, probably figured you were overmatched. How much better do you feel going into this game?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Even though we have some youth at quarterback, maybe at runningback, too, you know, at least I think our players have a better grasp how we're going to attack offensively. But it's still going to be a challenge because, again, they're an outstanding football team that's playing very well right now. You know, we're not going to go there and just show up and hope it's close. We're going there to compete and win and see what we can do. It's going to be a tremendous challenge. But it's been a tremendous challenge for anybody that's played Ohio State in the last several years. Our guys know that.
QUESTION: What do you think of the progress that Kevin Koger has showed throughout the year?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: It's been okay. He played last year. We were hoping he'd take the next step. Some games he has. Some games, frankly, he hasn't. We're going to continue to push him, because Kevin is an intelligent guy, talented guy. He'll get better. There have been some moments where we haven't played as well, maybe Kevin hasn't played as well as we know we can be. So he's a pretty competitive guy. This will be a big game for him.
QUESTION: When you have two seasons like this, people are going to say, Do you and does this system fit here at Michigan? Have you ever thought about that yourself?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: No.
QUESTION: Are there adjustments you would make?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: What would be the difference about fitting in Michigan as opposed to fitting at West Virginia or somewhere else?
QUESTION: Different style of football in the Big Ten.
RICH RODRIGUEZ: No. I mean, I understand why people would say that. I think that's probably misinformed as far as comparing leagues to leagues. The weather is pretty nice this past week. The weather's not an issue. The style of teams in the league are varied, in this league, in the Big East, SEC. I coached in the ACC. There's not much difference. Some teams are power teams. Some teams are spread teams. There's not much difference there. I don't think it's a systematic issue at all.
QUESTION: Did you think at any point, I inherited a group that's more suited towards a different system, I'll coach that way until I get my guys in?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: That argument came up last year about having a system or adjusting your system to fit what you have. I said that last year. I mean, our guys on offense, there's 10 of them that never started. They didn't play in any system. They didn't play in the old system or the new system. So no matter what system you ran, they hadn't played in it. A majority of our guys on defense this year didn't play in any system. They hadn't played. So I don't know how you could say, Well, they were recruited for this style, all that. The issue certainly starts with recruiting, getting guys that are good enough to play at the highest level. I think more than anything is having experienced players that have had success. If you have experienced players that have had success with three or four years in a particular system, you look at it and say, This tailback is used to an I formation downhill, this offensive lineman played in a power system. But, you know, most of our offensive linemen hadn't played before last year. When they were playing, it was a zone scheme and spreading out quite a bit more than people think.
QUESTION: In the growing process, what do you hope that Tate has learned over the last few weeks?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: I hope he's learned that at this level particularly, which all freshmen learn, you got to come to compete every week. You got to continue to get better. Every week's going to be a challenge. He'll see different schemes, a little bit different than high school. You'll see so many different schemes and looks defensively that you have to prepare for each and every week, you have to really stay on top of it. A lot of time, again, we have very limited time with them. They have to do a lot on their own learning football. I think as you go along, every session you have, fall to spring, fall to spring, it's invaluable. It's like having that math or English class over and over and over again. Eventually it gets like this.
Tate has done a really nice job, he and Denard, for being true freshmen. But they'll be so much better when we have more sessions with them.
QUESTION: Do you like his attitude that he's going to get these seniors to a Bowl game if it takes 10 hours in the film room or something to that effect?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: You know, who said that?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Well, yeah, I mean, I hope they all are committed to helping the seniors get to a Bowl game and do what it takes. I hope it's not just this game... I hope it's all our games. Again, these guys, they showed up to work. They've showed up to work since August. I know they had a great summer, had a good spring. You know, just second half of the season obviously has been very disappointing. But we got a big one coming up, so we'll focus on that one.
QUESTION: It's kind of early, but have any of the past Michigan coaches or assistant coaches tried to get in touch with you to talk about the rivalry?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: No. But everybody is concerned about talking to me about the rivalry. I've said this a hundred times. The first day I got the job, somebody gave me a 'Beat Ohio State' button. I still have it on my desk. I hadn't had my first press conference yet. If you follow college football, you understand the rivalry. Just because I did not coach here before, I did not play here, I'm not from the state of Michigan, doesn't mean I don't understand the rivalry. I understand it as well as any coach can understand it. I've only played in it in one game. Trust me, I understand the importance of the rivalry. Y'all get that I understand that. I understand it from before I took the job, I understand it after I took the job. The players understand the importance of it. You coach as hard as can. I'm going to give you a news flash here. I'm going to coach as hard as I can in every game I play, whether I'm playing Delaware State or Ohio State. Ohio State is a whole lot more important to a lot more folks and I understand that. Trust me, I understand the importance of each game.
QUESTION: Who gave that you button?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: I can't remember that. You know, but, I mean, literally I think I was walking in this door, you all might have been sitting right there, and somebody I think slipped it in my coat pocket. Beat Ohio State. Okay, good.
I understand. I still have it.
QUESTION: What did you think when that's the very first thing you probably got?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: I hope I didn't pinch myself with it. No, I mean, again, you know, to me, isn't that's what's fun about college football? Again, you have rivalries in basketball, you have some in pro football, all that. But in college football, the intensity of the rivalry games I think are unmatched. I don't know if there's anyone ... I'm biased again ... anyone that matches the intensity of Michigan/Ohio State. It's great to be a part of it. I know our players feel the same thing.
QUESTION: Before you arrived at Michigan, what Michigan/Ohio State game stood out to you?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Before I arrived, the '69 game probably. I knew about it before I got here and got introduced to that by all the '69 team because I remember the story. I had followed Bo Schembechler, his career a little bit. New coach coming in, to me that was remarkable. In fact, I believe we are honoring the '69 team this year, which is appropriate. Those guys will be our honorary captains for the game. Until recently I didn't have a chance to see it. They replay it quite a bit. That was the one that probably stood out the most.
QUESTION: Whether here or West Virginia, do you go about a rivalry week any differently in practice? Do you have any traditions or superstitions?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: A couple things different this week, it's senior week. We'll do a few things with that. The practice won't be much different other than there will be probably more, I guess, in our team meetings, more talk about it, more moments mentioned, more things that probably don't have to, but I'm going to anyway, because it's such a big game.
QUESTION: Voting for team captains this week?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: They'll vote for them today. Our permanent captains will be the ones Saturday for the game.
Full Transcript: Coach Rod
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