Coach Rodriguez: "Okay thanks for coming fire away."
Question: At running back, what's the status, obviously you have a lot of hole, Vincent (Smith), but what are you looking at in terms of depth chart; who are the guys competing there?
Coach Rodriguez: "Obviously we lost two good ones in Carlos (Brown) and Brandon (Minor) and Vincent Smith is out with a knee. His rehab is going well and I'll touch on the injured guys in a minute. Some of the young guys, Mike Shaw has been in the program for two years now. Mike Cox has had a great winter and I think he's ready to compete. Fitzgerald Toussaint was a true freshman last year and got hurt and was redshirted. He's ready to go. Then the two young guys, Stephen Hopkins and Austin White that enrolled early. Those five guys and we may still put some of the slot receivers at running back as the spring goes along as well."
"On the injured guys, I'm glad you asked that. The four knee guys, David Molk and Vincent Smith had ACLs and their rehabs is going great. They both will be held out of spring and will be able to do some limited things in spring practice. Junior Hemingway and Brandon Herron had minor procedures done and those are going well. We hope to have at least Junior back through the lateral part of spring. The two shoulder guys, Zach Johnson and Mike Martin, their surgeries went well and the rehabs are going very well. They'll be out in the spring. They'll be limited. They won't do any contact, but they will be able to do some things at spring practice."
Question: Brandon Herron and Hemingway were both knees?
Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah both of those are knees, minor procedures and we're hoping that Junior will be back towards the end of spring. I'm not sure whether Brandon will make it back or not."
Question: How are you going to split up the reps with the quarterbacks and what do you expect?
Coach Rodriguez: "Tate (Forcier) and Denard (Robinson) will take probably the majority of reps with the first group and second group simply because Devin (Gardner) has got to learn. This will be the first practice for him today and I'm sure his head will be spinning the first couple of weeks, but he's a very, very competitive guy, very intelligent and we'll throw all three of them in the mix. Denard and Tate both got valuable experience last year. We expect them to be able to pick up a few concepts starting with today's practice and we'll do some different things with Denard. I think he's too explosive when he's not playing quarterback to stand on the side next to me. But he's going to learn quarterback. That is where he will be the majority of the time. As I've said before if you learn quarterback in our offense, you really know every position on offense. We should be able to move him around and play other positions, but he's going to primarily be a quarterback this spring."
Question: Just in general, not specifically about quarterback, but how important is spring practice in terms of wining a starting job?
Coach Rodriguez: "We kind of give our players five different goals and two of them in particular deal directly with spring practice and one is getting fundamentally better at your position and learn your position. The other goal regarding spring practice is to prove that we can win with you. Prove it to the coaches and prove it to their teammates. I think that's important that we try as coaches and as our players understand that in spring practice. At the end of the 15 days that our guys have gotten better fundamentally and have learned their position and they've proven to us. Not that can't prove it to us again in August or they won't have to prove it to us again in August, but there are some guys in our program that this is a very critical spring for them to prove to us that hey they are going to be a guy that we can count on in our two deep offense-defense or maybe play special teams."
Question: You talked about Denard being a quarterback, but you are going to move him around on the field; could running back be one of those places?
Coach Rodriguez: "It could be, but it seems that we have pretty good depth at running back. I think where we are thinner at is wide receiver and with his kind of speed and his ball skills, I think we can move him around a little bit. Again, we expect for him to compete for the quarterback job and with he and Tate and with Devin coming in, it should be some pretty good competition this spring."
Question: Nick Sheridan will not be competing for the quarterback job?
Coach Rodriguez: "No Nick is retired from football and is going to go into the coaching profession. I think Nick will be an outstanding coach just like his dad (Bill Sheridan). He is not allowed to work with us now because he is still a student graduating, but we think an awful lot of Nick."
Question: Bryan Wright did not take his fifth year?
Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah Bryan Wright, he fought through a lot of back pain in kicking, I do not know if you all are aware of that. He did a great job of fighting through that, but I think it just got to the point where it was a little bit too much for him. He still has a year of eligibility to do that, but I think from his standpoint, I think he is ready to graduate and move on."
Question: Coach you mentioned to the players, prove to me that we can win with you; do you feel like you have something to prove as well to them or fan base or?
Coach Rodriguez: "I think we always have something to prove certainly. I do not know if it is so much to our players. I think as a coach, I think if you get to the point that you do not have nothing to prove I do not think you'll get better and the same thing is true as a player. That's one of the worst thing that you hear athletes say. I do not have anything to prove and I think the same thing is true as a coach. I think you always have something to prove and if you achieve some mild stones or achieve some measure of success somewhere, there is still a next level or another thing that you want to prove at. There is no question that I hope everybody in our program, myself and all my coaches and the players feel that they have something to prove and even if we had better success the last two years, I would still tell you the same thing."
Question: Your kickers and punters are gone and the recruits are not here yet; how do you see that forming?
Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah that's going to be one of the reasons I'm talking to you earlier because I want to get out with these kickers here in a few minutes and there is going to be a lot of evaluating going on with those guys. We have a few walk-ons in the program. Brendan Gibbons is a scholarship guy that redshirted last year. This is going to be a big spring for him. We have a lot of question marks there. Obviously we have Will Hagerup coming in the fall and he's going to be a true freshman that's going to come in and prove himself. There is some concern because we haven't had anybody that's really done it in a game and this is going to be a big spring, but we have some talent there. We have some talent coming in the fall. I'm anxious to see how that shakes out this spring. I think there are several guys that can do the job."
Question: Where do you see Hagerup, a kicker or punter?
Coach Rodriguez: "A punter."
Question: We see on the roster that was just released that a guy like Quinton Washington has dropped 18 pounds and some young guys gained up a whole lot; who are the ones you like the most in terms of what they over the winter?
Coach Rodriguez: "I guess the easiest position to notice gains or advances are the offensive lineman. We have three young guys in Quinton Washington, Michael Schofield and Taylor Lewan all were redshirted last year and all three have made significant strides in the spring and they're going to be in the mix. They will still learn. So mentally they'll be behind some other guys, but all three are very impressive in the weight program in the last six or seven weeks. Quinton has lost some weight. He's a very, very strong young man. Taylor and Michael have both gained some weight, but maintained there speed, so those three guys in particular. I was maybe just as impressed with some of our older guys, some of our third, fourth and even fifth year seniors how they've made advancement and improvements in the last seven or eight weeks. Their s no question that they've made a tremendous commitment. I think Mike Barwis and his staff have done a great job to get them to this point. I think we're a stronger team. We needed to get bigger. I probably mentioned to you all at the end of last season. We need to be a bigger football team, so I think we've gotten bigger. We're still a little concerned on several positions and we're probably going to have a handful of true freshman that are in the two deep, which makes you a little nervous, more than a little nervous. It's going to be a lot more competitive across the board than it has been the last couple of years."
Question: Is outside receiver one of those positions that where a freshman could have a good opportunity?
Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah the guys who enrolled early, there is going to be an awful lot of reps. Probably after today's practice, they'll tell you that they wish we had five or six more wideouts with as much as they do in practice. We had the three guys that enrolled early and we lost a couple of veteran guys there but that is a position that we're going to be a little bit inexperienced especially with Junior out. He's a veteran guy that we know what he can do. He's going to be out most of the spring. There is going to be a lot of true freshman that are going to be running out like crazy there to start the day."
Question: How to you address the void that Brandon Graham leaves behind?
Coach Rodriguez: "I think any coach would tell you that you do not replace a guy that's been as good not just what he does on the field but how he leads the football team like Brandon Graham. He's one of the best football players that I've ever coached. Every time we watched last year's tape/film, we see him making a whole lot of plays. Making big, big plays in a lot of moments in key times of the game. I think we have got to have a bunch of guys take over that kind of leadership role and try to make those plays. We have a very, very small senior class. We only had 12 seniors, but I think it is going to be a great group. They've all done a tremendous job in the last seven or eight weeks. They're all going to be great leaders for us. I think collectively they need to take the role that BG had last year."
Question: Who are you looking at his spot?
Coach Rodriguez: "Ryan Van Bergen will play some there. Greg Banks will play some there. Adam Patterson is in great shape. He'll play some there and we may even have Craig Roh there playing as well. He was 230 last year as a true freshman and now he is upwards of 250. The young guys are growing up a little bit."
Question: Is there going to be anything different this spring defensively that maybe you did not get out of last year's spring?
Coach Rodriguez: "I think we'll be able to do a little bit more as spring goes on because a lot of guys this will the second year with Coach Robinson's system. I also think that the defensive staff and Coach Robinson want to tweak a few things just as we will offensively. We have to look at what our guys can execute, which they've done over the last several months. Then as we go through spring, they'll tweak a few things here and there and we'll do the same thing offensively. We got to try and make sure that we get our best players on the field. One of the things we weren't able to do last year and maybe tough to do this year, but we have to is play more people, particularly on defense. We're going to have maybe some true freshman that have a chance to play. So we got make sure that our system is simple enough that our true freshman coming in can learn it, but our current players can pick up where they left off."
Question: Going into your third year, do you feel like the recruits that you've signed wanted to play for you and be here at Michigan and the guys that are upper classman that choose to stay here; do you feel like guys are more and more buying in and you are pulling in the same direction?
Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah. I really thought they all bought in last year. I thought the team gave great effort. We did not execute well, particularly down the stretch and certainly did not play well enough to put the program where we want it, but we made progress I think because the players had bought in and they bought in completely last year. I thought the senior class was outstanding and the same thing is true now. I do not think it is a question of effort of buying in, I think it is more a question of execution and doing the right things at the right time and we've got to help them coaches to do that and I think the players understand that they got to play better and they will play better. Our guys will make the effort. We've got a very, very conscience group of young men that have a little chip on their shoulder and want to prove themselves, as I said earlier."
Question: How anxious are you to see a guy, I do not know how much you've actually seen him on the football field not in a high school uniform, but Devin Gardner; how excited are you to see him out there? I know he's got a lot of hype from a lot of fans.
Coach Rodriguez: "Devin, as I mentioned is very, very competitive; he's a smart guy. We are awful glad that he got in early. He did a tremendous job of doing that and we appreciate everybody's effort at school to allow him to do that. Now he missed the first few weeks of workouts because he had to get caught up academically, but he did that and he's a big strong guy. Let's not put too much out there for a true freshman. I mean Tate and Denard played last year as true freshman and I thought they did an admirable job, but those young guys, Tate and Denard are not going to back up. They're going to get better and Devin has got a job to do to beat them out. As our players will tell you, every position is wide open all the time. They have to come play and compete every day and Devin is a young man that I know will do that."
Question: Do you go over some of the position changes, you had talked about a month or so ago?
Coach Rodriguez: "We do not have a lot. One that I mentioned early Cam Gordon, it was a battle between the coaches offense and defense, a friendly battle, but I think Coach Dews wanted to keep him at wide receiver but knowing our need at safety we moved him to safety for defensive and I'm excited to see what he can do. Teric Jones, we had moved to defense last year because of our lack of numbers in the secondary. We were going to move him back, but we're keeping him in the secondary for the spring and moved him to safety. So Cam and Teric are safeties on defense. Van Bergen will play both end and tackle on defense and so will Banks. Troy (Woolfolk) will play corner. He probably as we go through knowing the system, being a veteran guy, he'll probably be able to play some safety as well. Justin Turner who is a redshirt this past year, we got him at corner, but he's another guy that could potential know safety, but we got to make sure they know their first positions very, very well."
Question: Troy theoretically being a corner next year….?
Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah Troy will be a corner."
Question: You mentioned the five goals that you guys have; you mentioned two of them; what are the other three?
Coach Rodriguez: "Well the first one is that we challenge each player to achieve their highest GPA this semester academically. We mentioned about improving fundamentally on and off the field and in particular learn their position well. Prove that we can win with them. The other goal was for our players to be a great teammate. We talk a lot about being a great teammate on and off the field. A lot of times and it will take place in the spring, it could be a veteran teammate helping a younger teammate learn the scheme and teaching them and give them a tip on the field or telling a freshman where to line up or something like that. Being off the field of giving a guy a ride to a class or picking somebody up when they need picked up or something like that. Our last goal is to have fun in spring practice. Our guys have been cooped up for a few months and the weather is cooperating and we get to go outside and so I think they'll have a lot of fun today."
Question: Who do you see competing at center and are those guys holding the spot for David Molk's return?
Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah David, we think could be one of the best centers in the Big Ten. He was playing as such until he got hurt last year. He'll be back. David is a tremendous football player and he'll be the leader for our guys up front. While he's not there Rocko Khoury and Elliot Mealer and the young guy, Christian Pace, who enrolled early will all get a lot of reps this spring. We're hoping to get another guy, because we like to have at least four guys snap the ball. There is no question that David Molk is we think when he's healthy and he should be healthy certainly in the fall could be one of the best in the Big Ten."
Question: You had a fastest man race on Saturday; how fun was that to watch?
Coach Rodriguez: "It was a very close race. We had the fastest big man, guy over 270 and Adam Patterson eked out a few a few of those guys by just a nose. Our open fastest race, we had probably nine or ten guys in it and there was six or seven all within a yard. Tay Odoms got a great jump and beat Shoelace by I think about that much."
Question: How long was the race?
Coach Rodriguez: "It was just 40 yards. So a lot of it was on the start. There is no question that we've gotten faster as a team I think over the last seven or eight weeks and we've got a lot of time until we play a game so they'll continue to improve."
Question: Martavious holding that over his head that he's the fastest?
Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah Tay is not one to brag a whole lot, but he's got bragging rights until next time."
Question: Have you lost any sleep and I'm being funny about that about the secondary, going into the spring would you call that your biggest…?
Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah. The secondary and the outside receivers are probably the position that we lost some guys or have some concerns, but we have some talent. The thing is that there is a lot of unknowns there. So as a coach you worry about it. I'm hoping the spring after spring practice I'll feel a little bit more comfortable with it, because we have some young talent there. And frankly as I said, there may be some young guys come in and challenge them starting in August."
Full Transcript: Coach Rodriguez at the Mic
The Michigan Insider Top Stories
Peoples-Jones' Electrifying Touchdown GrabWatch Donovan Peoples-Jones blow by his defender for the 55-yard touchdown grab to give Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech an early 7-0 lead over Detroit King in the PSL championship game.
The Michigan Insider5:48 PM
Preview: Michigan vs. IllinoisPreviewing Michigan's upcoming game against Illinois.
The Michigan Insider7:23 AM
Tory Carter says Harbaugh “a Great Coach”Leesburg (Ga.) Lee County fullback prospect Tory Carter may be committed to LSU, but Jim Harbaugh and Michigan are working hard to change that.
The Michigan InsiderYesterday at 4:35 PM
Michigan Still #1 with Otis ReeseThe Michigan Insider made it to the Peach State last Friday where we saw Leesburg (Ga.) Lee County and 2018 Wolverine commit Otis Reese suffer their first loss of the season.…
The Michigan InsiderYesterday at 3:40 PM