Full Transcript: Coach Rodriguez at the Mic

Coach Rod talks about Brock Mealer, and answers all the questions about the offense and defense.

Question: It sounds like there is some encouraging news on Brock Mealer have you heard anything about that?

Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah. It is kind of neat. After the scrimmage on Saturday, Brock had been working with some of the strength and conditioning guys, and he has been working quite extensively for the past few months, on Saturday he walked out about…from the inside of the indoor building out to midfield about 50 yards. It was pretty emotional, having gotten close to he, and his family, and the players knowing the story. And the young man being told there is a 99% chance that he would never walk again to see him out there walking just basically with the aide of a couple of crutches was pretty emotional and we've kind of set a goal that I think it is a little less than a 140 days until the first fall game, but he is going to help lead us out of the tunnel in The Big House in our opening game – great story."

Question: Rich this morning on the call conference you had mentioned that there were a couple of guys in the defense backfield that really stood out and solidified things in your mind; can you elaborate on that point a little bit on who those guys are?

Coach Rodriguez: "Probably the same guys we've mentioned before. Cam Gordon has been really consistent all spring, and again he has not played yet in the game, but we're really getting some confidence with him. An area of concern with us with Donovan Warren declaring early was corner. Troy Woolfolk and JT Floyd, I think have really had good springs, which gives us some confidence there. Justin Turner has gotten better. James Rogers has gotten better. It was nice to have Vladimir Emilien come back. He was a guy that practiced a little bit and then he has been out most of the spring. He's back in the action there. We're finding a little a bit depth there and then probably be deeper once some of the freshman come in this fall. There is a lot of situations last year where we probably wanted to play a nickel or a dime situation. We just weren't confident yet in having that number of DBs ready, and I think this fall we'll have more guys ready."

Question: Talking about Justin Turner, is he going to stay at cornerback?

Coach Rodriguez: "For right now, I think we want to make sure that he is 100% solid on all the corner assignments and techniques. As it progresses further and he gets comfortable in that position, he's a guy that could probably play some safety. Right now, we're just keeping him at one position."

Question: On Vlad Emilien and the other injured players….

Coach Rodriguez: "Vlad, yeah he's doing everything. He's back full go. I got the injury report. I think there were a couple guys that were banged up last week; Kevin Koger just had some slight shoulder pain and missed a couple of practices and he'll be back; at least limited action today. Other guys that came back, Quinton Washington actually scrimmaged a little bit Saturday. It's good to have Quinton back as well. We may actually get Junior Hemingway for a few snaps today. He's going to be limited somewhat. He won't be live, but we'll see how he does today. Maybe we'll get him the next two practices after this and Je'Ron Stokes the same way. He's been out basically all spring and we're hoping…I do not know how it is going to progress today, but hopefully get a little action out of him today and this week."

Question: Will people be held out Saturday because of contact?

Coach Rodriguez: "The obvious ones, the ones that can't go. The ones that are healthy, we're going to play the…I guess for lack of a better term, the ‘proven guys', some of the proven guys won't play a lot of series. They'll play a few series. We want to put everybody in a kind of game like environment. We do not have enough guys, although I would like to eventually be able to spot up and have a true game. We still have to go offense and defense just simply because we do not have enough guys. There are a lot of guys that are going to be moving in out from the first group to the second group and so forth."

Question: How many quarterbacks at this point do you think you can win with, and is there any order to them?

Coach Rodriguez: "I do not know. I think we have two for sure in Denard (Robinson) and Tate (Forcier); that have proven it and I think have gotten better. Devin (Gardner) is showing more and more of that each time he practices. Saturday was the best all three of those have looked collectively as a group, and the best Devin has had. He is slowly getting there. But again, he has not played in a game and the spring game and that kind of environment is important for all them but especially for a guy like Devin. To answer your question, I do not think we'll have a definitive order until towards the end of camp and maybe not even then. If we can get all three ready and feel comfortable that we can play all three that would be a great situation for us."

Question: What do you hope to gain on Saturday?

Coach Rodriguez: "It's important because it is a scrimmage type situation and hopefully they'll be a nice crowd and there will be a little bit of nerves for the young guys that haven't played. We'll just see how they react without us coaches standing right behind, kind of reminding what to do or telling them what to do. From the aspect it is important, but I think the last couple of scrimmages have been just as important if not more so for some of our guys. I think just being in an environment and having a few nerves, being in a situation where they've got to basically make the corrections on their own during the series. Obviously when the series are switching, the coaches can get a little coaching on the sideline. We're going to have coaches in the booth and using headsets and trying to get all that communication things worked out as well."

Question: With (Will) Heininger's injury kind of limiting the depth on the D-line, is there a chance that some of those nose tackles could be (moved from other positions) down the line?

Coach Rodriguez: "I'm glad you mentioned that. Adam Patterson is a fifth year senior that was playing pretty well at end, but we decided to try him at nose, which I think is a good move. He's probably one of our most explosive big guys. I think he won the race when they raced a few weeks ago for all the big guys. So we put him in at nose a little bit, and he'll play probably inside out and outside. (Renaldo) Sagesse has been banged up, so he's missed the last couple of weeks. I think (Greg) Banks is a veteran enough guy that we're okay there. Will Heininger was really come along. I do not know when he will be able to come back, but we're hoping that he'll be able to come back by mid season."

Question: Rich about an hour ago there was a report…

UM Personnel: We're going to have to pass on that.

Question: It's about West Virginia.

UM Personnel: We're moving on to the next question.

Question: Is that an official no comment?

Question: Coach can you talk about the middle linebacker competition that you guys have with Kenny Demens and how he has looked this spring?

Coach Rodriguez: "Yeah Kenny has been dinged up the last couple of days at practice but been pleased with his play when he was healthy. He's really is having a good spring. I think Obi Ezeh has had a good spring. We challenged Obi a little bit, and I think he's responded so far. I do not say it is a surprise, but a guy that has shown us that he is going to be able to help us over there is Mark Moundros. When Mark, he requested, as I mentioned before to try some linebacker and we've really been pleased. He'll still play a little bit of offense, but our focus for all spring for Mark has been on defense to learn that new position. He's got a lot of intensity. He's a strong guy, very passionate. I've really liked what I've seen out of Mark playing out there. I think it is a move that is probably going to stick and at the same time, help play some fullback. In that regard, John McColgan, who is a fullback that has had a really good spring as well. So that's kind of eased Mark's move over there from our standpoint."

Question: What about running backs? Has anybody stepped up and stood out?

Coach Rodriguez: "It's been back and forth a little bit. Fitz Toussaint has really come on the last couple of practices and is giving some competition. Mike Shaw has had a pretty solid spring, but he and Mike Cox are guys that we expect a lot out of. They've been in the program for a couple of years. The freshman Stephen Hopkins has continued to impress and looks like a guy that probably will not redshirt. He is a bigger back and there are times when you need a big back and so far this spring he has shown that we may be able to play him some this year."

Question: It seems like a lot of those guys that you are pointing out as having good springs are in their second year; whether they played last year as redshirts, is that normal for guys who are in their first spring?

Coach Rodriguez: "I would hope so. The biggest expectations from a coaching standpoint are guys improving is usually between their first and second year. They've had a year in your program and had a chance to be in the offseason program. You would expect the guys to make a big jump from their first time here whether it is in the fall or summer through the spring. We're seeing that out of guys that have redshirted. Then we're seeing guys that have been in the program a couple of years, like Rocko Khoury, Elliot Mealer, Patrick Omameh, Ricky Barnum, all those offensive lineman that have been with us for a couple of years now. Just seeing a level of strength and confidence come as they are growing in the program and those are some things that you wanted to see and we've seen it so far this spring."

Question: You've spoken before the spring practice about getting eight guys in the offensive line that you have confidence in; have you gotten there yet?

Coach Rodriguez: "We're getting closer to that end. The guys that I just mentioned and then the three freshman, (Michael) Schofield, (Taylor) Lewan and Washington all have a chance to help us and probably will be on the two deep somewhere. Perry Dorrestein has been a little nicked up recently, but he was having a solid spring and then we have Steve Schilling who is a veteran and of course Mark Huyge and David Molk. So I think we will have more offensive lineman prepared to play at this level than certainly the last two years."

Question: Do you know when Molk will be cleared completely to do everything?

Coach Rodriguez: "He's running now. He is taking part of some of the drills, no contact of course. But talking to the trainers, he is ahead of schedule with his rehab. So I'm sure in the summer workouts and everything he'll be fully released."

Question: What have you been hearing about the seniors? Have you been getting calls?

Coach Rodriguez: "We've gotten a few. Normally when they are down there working and watch the film and talk to them at the combine or during the Senior Bowl. There is a special teams coordinator from the league that was here today that was working out Zoltan (Melsko) and hear a lot of great things about him. Brandon Graham has had an outstanding sessions in getting prepared for him. All the guys that I thought worked out seemed to be doing pretty well. I do not think you can predict as a coach where they are going to go. It really depends on needs. It is easy for us to talk about our guys, there are so many positive stories that we can tell about our senior class and Donovan that are going out. I would be surprised if a couple do not get drafted and certainly there will be a handful that will be in NFL camps come next summer."

Question: Have you seen (Brandon) Minor and what is his health status?

Coach Rodriguez: "Since Brandon has not worked out here; he's training somewhere else, I've only seen him a few times. He's been very limited because of the shoulder surgery. I do not know where he is at right now in his rehab. I know he has not been able to do as much as he would like in his workouts."

Question: Just in general how do you focus on football not distractions?

Coach Rodriguez: "It is just been that day. Just focusing on what we've come to do. I think our players and our staff have really done a good job of staying focused on the things that we needed to take this program where we want to take it. If I ask that of our staff and I ask that of the players, I certainly got do that myself."

Question: Can you talk a little bit about Tate; you've mentioned off the field a lot to mature is that where you've kind of focused on with him?

Coach Rodriguez: "Sure. Not just Tate but several of the young players. That's a natural process for our younger guys. We expect him to grow not only athletically but certainly academically and socially as well during their time there. It takes some guys longer to do that than others. We've had a lot of talks with Tate about the expectations of what we have for him and the same that his family has for him and I'm sure he has for himself. Sometimes it is a painful process that young people have to go throw and a painful process for coaches because you want it all right now, same as a parent would. You get disappointed sometimes as parents do and your children do not do all the things that you want them to do. I got a lot of kids…I do not want to say kids…I've got a lot of good young men on our team and sometimes they make mistakes. It does not mean that we do not love them but there is some tough love involved and we're hoping to get them where they can reach all their goals."

Question: We saw just some clips from the scrimmage on MGOBLUE and the one at the end where Denard kind of improvised on the play with the fake pass; is that the kind of thing that he can bring that maybe is somewhat unique to him, improvisation or were you kind of like, it worked but…?

Coach Rodriguez: "When they do their little pump fake and they get the guy out. Normally that does not work for often, but I think it might have been a freshman that he was doing it on, so it worked. They've had a lot of fun. We've talked quite a bit in the open field that sometimes you do not want to restrain a guys ability in the open field to make plays, but there are a lot of times when young guys especially have to realize that the people who are chasing them are pretty fast. So we're trying to get them to run north and south more. If we've tried to coach one thing more than any other, beside ball security, it has been our guys to trust their speed and get more vertical and running north and south. Denard has been one of them. He's so fast that sometimes I do not think he realizes how fast he is and we're trying to get him to go this way instead of that way. It has been a point of emphasis for him. You also want to let them have the ability to make somebody miss too."

Question: How has he come along in terms of learning and running the offense?

Coach Rodriguez: "For the first spring, I think just as we had thought. I think last year he was just kind of just learning what we were doing and hopefully get that play right. I think now he is getting to the point where he understands why we're running a certain play and how people are going to defend it. He's still a ways away from being really, really comfortable with everything we're doing. That's to be expected. This is his first spring. We've got three more practices and then 29 (practices) in August to get him more in tune with again not what we're doing but how teams are defending this and what are answers are going to be to that."

Question: Rich how much more comfortable are you going into this spring than the last spring or your first spring here in terms of you being here and your guys knowing your offense and the defense having the same defensive coordinator for a second year?

Coach Rodriguez: "I think every spring as we go along with our guys, we should be more comfortable in knowing what we have and knowing what their strength and weaknesses are. I think that was probably something that I made a point of last spring that the biggest difference between year one and year two is you know what your guys strengths and weaknesses are and where you need to adjust accordingly. I think that is true again. This being our third spring, we're really, really comfortable with that, with the guys in our program and knowing the strengths and weaknesses and where we have to go. You still got to do the fundamentals of teach to block and tackle and not assume that maybe if they got taught last year that they are doing the level that we want them to do it at. I feel good. Our staff knows what we have and our players know what we expect each and every practices. So practices have been pretty crisp. They were certainly a lot crisper last spring then they were the first spring and even more so this spring. That's helped us. We can get more done this spring than previous springs."

The Michigan Insider Top Stories