Opening Statement: It's been a while hasn't it? We've had a few practices since we last met so I'll just give you an update on injuries. The only serious injury, unfortunately for us, is Will Heinenger tore his ACL in practice last week, and he will have surgery and his availability this coming season will depend on his rehab. He may be able to come back in late September or October. He was having a really good spring, so that's unfortunate. So we've had a few guys starting to come back to practice. Tae Odoms has been out, Junior Hemingway has been out. Junior's been out almost all of spring. They'll do a little bit more today and be full go by the end of the week. Je'Ron Stokes has been out, but he'll be back by the end of the week and he'll do a little bit more today. Vladimir Emilien, Quinton Washington and Jared Van Slyke are still out. We're hoping that maybe we can get some work out of them next week. Outside of that, the injuries we had coming into spring, those guys are progressing well. Dave Molk, Brandon Herron, Mike Martin, Vincent Smith, all those guys are right on schedule with their rehab so we feel good about that.
This week's schedule, we're practicing four times this week, today obviously, and then on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We have our annual coach's clinic which starts Thursday afternoon and one of those two days we'll be in shorts. Saturday will be a big full scale scrimmage, which is one of the most important scrimmages we have. We have three in the spring, including the spring game. This one, though, will be more important to the coaches even more than the spring game will. Hopefully we'll have a good effort. Our guys have gotten better I think. There were some areas of concern going into the spring, and we still have some areas of concern. But I think our guys are playing pretty fast, and some of the position moves we made are working out pretty well. We still have a few more practices to experiment guys in different places. Overall I've been pretty pleased with it. The effort has been great and the attitude has been outstanding. I think that's where it all starts. Also, as a coach, you're looking at how the chemistry will develop and where the leadership will come from in our 15 practices, and again with a small senior class of just 12 guys. That's been an outstanding group. We've also seen a few first or second year players that have some of those leadership qualities which will help us.
Question: You're feelings on the quarterback situation and kind of how that's…?
Answer: Yeah, that's an ongoing battle. Tate and Denard have gotten better and Devin has gotten better and he's a true freshman learning for the first time. I think that that race is going to continue throughout spring and through August as well. They all bring a little something to the table, but we're having them all do all the things in the offense. We're not just having Denard do one set of things and Tate do another. Right now is a good time for us to do it, to do all the things in the offense, and I think we've progressed now. Coach Smith and I sometimes expect an awful lot from them, so sometimes we're kind of hard on them when they don't perform exactly how we feel the position should perform. But they have gotten better and it's going to be critical for them the next five or six practices to really get the grasp of not only what we do but why we do it.
QUESTION: I don't want to project too far into next season, but do you want a guy to win the job outright?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: I've been asked that before in the past, and it's a fair question, because some people believe you want to have one guy run the team and clearly if you have guy that's a whole lot above the others, then that's ok, but it's also nice to have two or three guys that we can win with. I would like for us to have at least two quarterbacks that we feel we can with and put them in there. We're not necessarily running one guy to step or clearly establish them as much as we want to improve them, constant improvement from each of those guys.
QUESTION: Where has Denard improved?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: I think more than anything understanding the offense. Particularly things in the passing game and where we should look for the ball and reading defenses and I think he understands our concepts pretty well, but again this is his first spring practice and when you get there in August for the first time, you're just trying to get ready for a game plan, once the game starts and you lose some of the fundamental stuff. So we've really worked hard on his fundamentals to get him up there, and he still has a ways to go, but he's a talented, talented guy and he loves to play. He's one of those guys that are very, very explosive and so you got to have an opportunity for him to touch the ball, and obviously you're touching it every snap as a quarterback. We're going to continue with him at that position and as we go forward, as he learns the quarterback spot, he'll be able to play the rest of the skill positions offensively.
QUESTION: Have you seen Devin grow the past few weeks?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, Devin is a very conscientious guy and he loves football. He's fun to be around and he has a certain energy level all the time he goes out there. He's learned very quickly and I think we've had 8 practices and in those 8 practices I've seen him progress and I think there is still, you know the expectations, for us especially for true freshman have to be careful that you don't expect too much too soon. As it is, guys his age are still in high school right now. But there's no question that he has shown us the ability to learn and the eagerness to learn that he's going to compete for a job. He's behind the other two who have had some experience in the system, but he's working hard to catch up.
QUESTION: Can you talk about the running backs and how that battle is going?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, the guys that have a little more experience have done pretty well I believe. Mike Cox, it's a big spring for him and he's been solid. Mike Shaw has had a couple really good days and a couple days where we expected more out of him, but he's worked extremely hard. Those two have, particularly Shaw, have had enough experience that we can expect a lot out of him. Mike Cox has been a very physical, very talented guy and this has been, and will be a critical spring for him, and he's shown that so far. Stephen Hopkins is a big guy and we needed a big back with Minor and Grady graduating, and even as a true freshman, him coming in early is going to help his chances to play some in that role. Austin White has been a little banged up, but I think he's got enough talent to help us there in the future, once he learns what's going on. We've also moved some of our slots at times to play some running back. Kelvin Grady and Terrance Robinson, those two in particular have played running back in certain sets and I think we're going to have plenty of guys there.
QUESTION: How about Toussaint?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, Fitz Toussaint, I'm sorry I missed Fitz because he's had a really productive spring. I think he's gotten bigger and stronger, and his grasp of the offense gets a little better each practice. I should have mentioned Fitz with Cox and Shaw because he's right there with them.
QUESTION: With the quarterback battle, how surprised would you be if Denard won the starting job?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: They're in a battle, there's no question that they're in a battle for it. I think our guys understand that it's, and all coaches try to set up their program, that you have competition at every position and it's going to raise the level. Tate knows that, and Denard knows that, and they've probably split about equal reps with the first group. Not that we have a first team, but with the first group out there and we'll continue to do that throughout the spring and see if someone separate's themselves or if they both continue to get better.
QUESTION: How has Tate handling that?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: I haven't asked him really.
QUESTION: Well he's already got a spring under his belt, so I'm wondering if he thinks he should be that much (indiscernible)?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: We talked a little bit about how we're going to challenge him, but not just football wise but how we're going to challenge him academically and how our expectations are for him as a student-athlete here at the University of Michigan, just like we do with everyone on our team. I've had a couple conversations with Tate particularly because he plays that high profile quarterback position and how we expect him, even though we had some success early as freshman, how we expect him to continue to progress and get better each and every year. Tate's a very, very competitive guy and I think he's a guy that likes challenges. The last couple practices he's responded with that. But we're going to keep the pressure on him because we have to get better at that position and Tate and Denard and Devin all have the talent to do it, they just got to continue to understand what we expect out of that position all the way around.
QUESTION: It might be too early to say, but are you seeing the quarterback position holding onto the ball better?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, and you know, it's a good thing you brought that up, because normally at this stage in the spring, you're top couple quarterbacks, you put them in a different colored jersey and have them hands off. We have not done that yet. I've been ready, I brought the shirts out to practice, but I have not put them on them yet because we want to make sure the ball security was clearly understood, as you mentioned Angelique, because it was a major issue for us last year, all year, particularly at that position. And I told them I watched them, and I don't want them to get beat up in practice, but we have to have them know how to take care of the ball in traffic and they can have the proper ball security, and the only way to do that is to get tackled. In a game, you're worried whether they really, truly grasp that. I told them as they get better, and they have gotten better in practice and done a lot better job of ball security, we'll start to ease off on the few hits. And our guys aren't taking free shots at the quarterback or anything like that. But when we're running down the field in our live situations, we have to allow them to be tackled. We'll continue to do that the next couple days so they fully understand it.
QUESTION: Has Devin's ball security gotten better?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Well he carries the ball out there like he's on the sandlot. I know he wasn't coached to do that, I know his high school coach very well and I know he would get on him a little bit too. But sometimes when you're a young guy and you're in the open field, you think you have the freedom to carry the ball out there and when you get to this level, the guys chase you a little bit faster. Somebody may creep up on you and you may not know it. Most fumbles are created from a hit that's not seen. He's done a good job in practice with it, but he has to learn about ball security as all of our guys do. You can't beat yourselves, I said it plenty of times last year, and I think we'll have a better team this year but we can't beat ourselves with turnovers and negative yard plays. That's been a huge emphasis for us this spring offensively, is eliminating the turnovers and as many negative yard plays as possible.
QUESTION: Has the basketball affected Kelvin Grady at all?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: No, I think he is an athlete and I think he missed a few weeks of maybe a few workouts in the weight room, so he probably didn't progress strength wise but he can make that up. He wanted to try to help out and we have a great relationship with the other sports programs here so, I think he enjoyed it, and he's clearly enjoying the spring too, especially the last season at the slot position and the tailback position. I think his true love is the tailback position, and so we're doing a little bit of both.
QUESTION: Are you ok with kids playing basketball or other sports?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: My philosophy on guys playing other sports has been as long as they can handle it academically first off, and two if they're contributing. If they're the furthest out there on another team and they're at the end of the bench, and not scoring, you know, not contributing in a meet or a game or something like that, then they ought to focus on the sport that they're contributing in. That's just a personal philosophy, but if they're contributing and playing and helping and scoring points, whether it's in track or basketball or what have you, then that's all fine.
QUESTION: You just mentioned that you think you guys will have a good team…?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: I think we'll have a better team. I would expect us to have a good team, yes.
QUESTION: Do you see a lot of differences between the two previous springs and this spring?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: I certainly do from two springs ago. I think it's easy to compare your first spring, because your first spring, guys are still getting accustomed to how practices run and going from drill to drill and what's expected out of each drill and out of certain techniques and things like that. There are a lot of similarities to practice last spring, where we were able to practice faster. The difference is there are some younger players who are practicing for their first time in spring practice. I think it's comparable to last spring in terms of how practices are moving but yeah, I think it's certainly night and day from two years ago.
QUESTION: Can you talk about the competition at safety?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: It's ongoing. Cam Gordon has had a really good spring. I think that move has, there's no question that move is one of the better moves we've probably made personnel wise and I think he's going to be a natural there. He has had an outstanding spring. With Vladdy Emilien being hurt and Kovacs was a guy we could play at any position, we can finish strong and be solid there, but we have concerns about the safety position. Some of them are injured and some of them may still be here coming in the fall. It's not a position, I can tell you right now, that we feel solid with at the two deep. Hopefully the next six practices will answer some of that.
QUESTION: Can you assess your kicking?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Assess it? I'm going to leave you all in about one minute and run down to the field and try to assess it myself. So that kind of tells you where we're at. Some days we've kicked really well and some days we have not kicked very well. There's some talent there, but it's certainly not a comfortable situation where we're at punting or placekicking right now. Our guys have worked hard, and we have Will Hagerup coming in as a punter with Seth Broekhuizen, a walk on, for that job. The kicking game is a concern simply because we've been inconsistent at practice. I couldn't tell you who are starting kicker is because it changes, and it may change here in 15 minutes. I don't know if that's going to be resolved, certainly until the fall. Brendan Gibbons has got a strong leg, but he's been back and forth. Our other special teams, our snapping, our coverage units, we've got some athletes we can do all that. But the kicking itself and the punting itself has not been to the point where we feel real comfortable, but we'll keep working on it.
QUESTION: When did you really think the 3-3-5 would be the way to go and I was also wondering if you could comment on Dorsey looking into the JUCO route?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Anything with the signees, if anything changes with any of our signees, I'll let you know if anything happens with that. On the defense, I don't know what's been written because I haven't been out there, but I think probably more has been said about the changes than is actually happening. I think spring is a time for us to look at several things, from what we were doing to a 3-4 or some 3-3 stuff last year, to say we're going to do exactly what we did in the past at West Virginia, that's not true. Coach Robinson has a wealth of experience and he looks at everything, as our defensive staff does and tries to fit it to our personnel. I think right now in the spring he's looking at a wide variety of fronts and coverage's, things that are simple enough for our guys to understand but gives us the multiplicity we felt we needed last year.
Coach Rod Presser: Full Transcript
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