Full Transcript: Rich Rod Assesses the Spring

After Saturday's spring game Michigan headman Rich Rodriguez broke down the development of his quarterbacks and offensive linemen, the progress of his defense, gave the latest on injuries, and more.

Question:  Can you assess the quarterbacks?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah.  Today, I would probably call it an uneven performance.  I thought we had practiced better at quarterback, some of the earlier practices.  I did not think today we were particularly sharp.  It is a spring practice so there are a lot of teachable moments that we could take from here, but I did not think we really were as sharp quarterback wise.  They made a few plays, but they've played better and will play better."

Question:  Denard (Robinson) really seemed to have some decent moments out there; is the biggest thing for him making sure that he has got a full grasp on the offense?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah, a grasp of the offense and the other part is probably the recognition of the defense.  A little bit today is that today was the only day of spring practice that the quarterbacks weren't live.  You would that this would just be the opposite.  You let them be live here.  They got banged around a little bit and did a nice job.  That limits us a little bit, because is the defense slowing down when they're chasing him or is the quarterback slowing down.  Our biggest thing with quarterback, I think particularly with Tate (Forcier) and Denard is getting a pretty good grasp of what we're doing but understanding the defenses and how the defense is playing on certain plays; we've still got a little ways to go with that, but they've gotten better."

Question:  Why did you go with order of the rotation that you did?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Really no particular order.  I'm not just giving you coach speak that truly is wide open, but it is.  The competition at quarterback is wide open.  Tate and Denard are a little bit ahead of Devin (Gardner), as they got a little bit more experience than him.  Denard overall this spring probably has had a few better practices than Tate has.  So we thought he deserved the first reps because he has probably been a little bit more consistent this spring. The competition will go and I'm hoping that we'll have it and I expect to have it at more positions as well in the fall and that was one of our goals was to create some competition at each position."

Question:  Whoever your starting quarterback is, what are those one or two traits that you want at quarterback?

Coach Rodriguez:  "You want a guy to be able to make plays, make good decisions and be able to execute the offense.  I know that sounds simplistic, but if you have the ability as a quarterback to extend the play…if the initial part of the play doesn't work and it breaks down and you can extend the play like those guys can that is a bonus.  Initially, you just want to be able to execute the offense whether it is a run play or pass play or what have you and be smart with the ball.  One of our emphasis this spring has been eliminating the turnovers and negative yardage plays.  We had way too many turnovers and negative yardage plays.  One disappointing part of today is that we had a couple fumblers, and we've done a really job of that all spring but today wasn't good."

Question:  Would you say coming out of spring that you are still pretty wide open in terms of running backs?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah the running back position, just about all of them…again, because we had a number of guys out this spring with injuries, which you hate to see that but at the same time it makes you feel good when everybody is healthy.  In August, we'll have more guys competing.  We'll have a deeper football team I believe starting in August than we did sitting there today."

Question:  How important was the day overall?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I've probably said before that the three scrimmages you have in spring is probably of equal importance and this one, the last scrimmage we had would be just as important as this one.  This one with a nice crowd and really the players being out on the field without any coaches around telling them what to do, it is critical to see how much they can retain and go without us telling them every move.  We'll learn a little bit like that.  I'm sure some of the younger guys that played for the first time may have had a few nerves and what have you.  It's an important one but it is not the only evaluator for us during the spring."

Question:  Is it fair to say that it is more just for the fan base?

Coach Rodriguez:  "We'll have this continue to grow.  I thought it was a terrific crowd with a little bit of a cool day and raised a lot of money for a great cause.  Hopefully if in the future if we have good weather and our fans stay excited, we'll get a big crowd to come out.  I was really tickled to death with the turnout and the attentiveness of the crowd to the scrimmage and I know our players really appreciate it as well."

Question:  Did you hear the roar of the crowd when Devin came out on the field?

Coach Rodriguez:  "No I had the double headsets on for a good reason, I do not hear much of anything.  I know I get a lot of advice as well (laughter), that's probably a good thing, but with those double headsets usually the only guys I'm hearing is the coaches, Calvin Magee, those guys."

Question:  Do you think it was just nerves with him (Devin) starting off that fumble that first….?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I hope that's what it was (laughter).  It probably was.  I think he was a little nervous and some of the other early enrollees.  We got five or six guys that are normally in high school at this time playing in the Big House were probably a little nervous but it was good to get that out of the way."

Question:  Jeremy Gallon made a couple of days; was this a good day for him or this something that he might be able to lean on?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah.  He's had a really productive spring.  He was redshirted last year and he had times to work in the weight room and get his body ready but right now he is our leading candidate to be our punt returner and to return kicks.  He's learning that slot position pretty well.  He's a talented guy.  We can move him around a little bit and there is no question that he'll be in the rotation."

Question:  All of last year you were talking about Denard's ability to throw and it seems like today we really saw it for the first time.

Coach Rodriguez:  "I think he's going to keep getting better.  He's always had the ability to throw it, but some of his fundamentals and techniques – Coach Smith has done a good job with him because sometimes he'll be throwing it over that way, but his hips are pointed that way.  He has been able to get by with it, but now with everybody and every thing moving a little faster, he had to get his form and his technique a little bit more centered.  He has done a good job with that.  He's still learning the offense and we've got to remember that he's just a first year player, and he and Tate got to play some as true freshman, which does not happen very often and got some experience.  I think that he'll continue to grow and be better in the fall."

Question:  How do you feel about your placekicking coming out of spring?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I guess I'll use that word uneven again.  Some days it was good.  I tried to help their confidence by going with the wind…early, and we made a few kicks.  It is still a situation that is completely wide open.  I think Brendan Gibbons kicked the ball better today.  Our punting situation, we did not have too many that landed in between the white lines, which is concerning, but we've got a guy that we signed coming in (Will Hagerup).  We've done some work on it this spring and did a lot of work on field goals and extra points but that is an area of concern and hopefully we'll get better at that in August."

Question:  Brendan Gibbons punted a little bit today, is that a guy that is going to go back and forth between each job?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Probably not.  We did not really have other than one walk-on punter and Seth Broekhuizen has really done a nice job all spring.  He did not punt today like he is capable, but he has really had a pretty good spring.  But Brendan has got a strong leg and so we tried a little bit.  With Will Hagerup coming in, I would suspect that Brendan will stay just a kicker."

Question:   Did you ever think of letting Tate punt?

Coach Rodriguez:  "He did today."

Question:   It seems like every time he does he is fairly successful.

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah he kicked a good one today.  We've used that before.  Normally I wouldn't show something a little different in the spring, but because we've done that before.  He is a pretty talented punter.  He's pretty good at it.  It's just a little different.  Those other guys got about 18 or 20 periods of practice to work on it, and I rather Tate worked on some other things right now."

Question:  Are you pleased with where your quarterback situation is coming out of the spring and where is it?  

Coach Rodriguez:  "I'm pleased that it's gotten better.  Nobody has kind of taken the position and grabbed it, but I was hoping that more than one guy would anyway.  I think Denard has certainly made some big leaps this spring.  I think Tate has gotten better even though he has got some work to do, as does Denard.  Devin for being here 15 practices has really learned pretty well.  They've all have a little ways to go, but it is a very, very competitive situation and I do not know if it will be solved as far as who is the number one guy by the first game.  It may or may not, we'll see in August practice.  Again, I hope there is more than one that we feel that we can win with and I think there will be."

Question:  Is there a number one right now?

Coach Rodriguez:  "If there was I wouldn't tell you (laughter)."

Question:  Has Taylor Lewan solidified the left tackle spot?  It seems like he played all…?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Taylor has played pretty well.  He and Michael Schofield are two young freshman tackles that have both played pretty well.  Perry Dorrestein has been out with the back.  Perry hopefully will be healthy.  What we've got now with Taylor and Michael progressing is that we've got two more guys that can be in tha rotation.  Again not only at the position but several others.  We've got to play more people with our type of schedule and I think we'll be able to."

Question:  What do you feel about your defense coming out of the spring?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I think we've gotten better fundamentally even though; I'd have to watch the film.  I did not think we tackled and was as physical today, as we were at other practices and I do not know what the cause of that was.  Maybe it was because we weren't tackling the quarterbacks, I do not know.  We had tackled better.  One of the things that we wanted to get better defensively was getting to the ball, getting off blocks and tackling better.  I do not know if we did a particularly good job of that today, but I think throughout the spring we have gotten better.  We were really simple today scheme wise and I think our guys are grasping what we want to do that way, but we've got to get better fundamentally in August."

Question:  Even though there is still obviously competition, do you feel like you have more pieces on this offense by far than you've had before?

Coach Rodriguez:  "That would be a correct assessment.  More guys that are ready to play, whether they are in the slot position, running back or quarterback.  At least at quarterback you've got guys that have played a little football, played on the big stage and have got some experience.  As they've gotten more experience, our expectations go higher.  So maybe we're a little hard on them sometimes but it is because, as I tell them when I sit and visit with them is because they've played and the more they play, the more we expect out of them."

Question:  Why did Troy Woolfolk not play today and when Mike Martin comes back where is he going to play on the line?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Woolfolk's injury, he broke a finger in the last practice trying to break up a pass.  It was one of those that kind of protruded through the skin or something.  He had a really good spring, but he'll be fine.  Mike Martin when he is healthy, which he'll be in August will start off at the nose guard position, but he'll play some of those…tackle and others as well."

Question:  Does that mean Will Campbell will be back….?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I do not know who the starter is going to be.  We moved Adam Patterson in there a well.  So Adam Patterson is going to play nose and tackle.  Will Campbell played nose and tackle.  Mike Martin will play nose and tackle.  Hopefully we'll have a rotation involved there."

Question:  Do you feel like you got quite a few answers out of this spring?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Overall yes.  Probably not as many answers as I would like to have but probably as many as you could normally except with 15 practices."

Question:  Did you get positive or negative answers?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Mostly the positives, a few concerns, but every coach in America would probably tell you that at the end of spring that they had a few concerns.  I have a few, but I feel a lot more positive generally, and I really like the attitude and the chemistry of the team is really good right now.  I hope when we start back up in August it will continue down that path.  I think we've found a few more guys that can help us in different areas, and I think our team is getting closer and closer each day that they work together.  Overall it was a really good spring."

Question:  What was the biggest surprise do you think this spring; what surprised you the most?

Coach Rodriguez:  "There are no real big negative surprises, but I guess a few positives were some of the position moves.  I mentioned earlier Cam Gordon and Mark Moundros defensively.  The play of our corners throughout the spring has been a pleasant surprise, but we thought they had the capability of doing that.  Some of the young guys, some of the earlier enrollees, you know Jerald Robinson and Stephen Hopkins were two guys that enrolled early.  Both of them, as I sit her today look like they are going to play some for us this fall."

Question:  Do you feel like you know who your running back is going to be; I know you'll have more than one?

Coach Rodriguez:  "We're going to have more than one.  Mike Shaw has got some experience.  Mike Cox has had some good moments this spring but still has a ways to go.  I mentioned Stephen Hopkins and Fitz Toussaint.  Fitz is a redshirt freshman, and he's had a really good spring.  He'll be in the rotation as well."

Question:  When do the coaches get on the road now?

Coach Rodriguez:  "The coaches, we have one week and then a week from Monday the assistant coaches will be on the road for junior evaluations."

Question:  One question on Forcier, do you feel like his improvisational ability is he owning that a little bit, is that a little erratic sometimes when he's trying to create something?

Coach Rodriguez:  "They probably run around more today than they did at the other practices.  I'm not sure, I'll have to watch the film and see if they had to do that.  Again, we do not mind them extending the play if the original play is not there.  But if they are running around and they had original play there and they misread it or something then that is something that we've got to get corrected.  Until I watch the film, it is kind of hard to evaluate.  You do not want to take their ability away to make a play but at the same time if the initial play is there, the offensive execution is there and it is a little bit better.  We hope that there discipline within the framework of the offense continues to grow and it should."

Question:  With these guys and how close they are, are you comfortable making multiple quarterbacks this season?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah.  If we have two guys that we feel that we can win with, we'll play two guys.  I've done it in the past.  We did it some last year.  Our biggest hope is that they just continue to improve and having competition sometimes will continue to elevate those guys.  We've talked way too much about the quarterbacks, and I know everybody is interested in that.  Listen, I know it is different than other positions because that is the focal point of everybody's offense, but our key is getting our team better.  If the quarterbacks get better than certainly we will get better.  That competition will be ongoing.  That's why I do not want anybody and I will certainly tell the quarterbacks for lack of a better word, stir it up; who's starting today and who's starting tomorrow.  I just want them to worry about getting better each and every day.  I do not know them worrying about who's taking reps with the first group or second group – just keep getting better.  As it gets closer to UCONN game week, it'll be sorted out."

Question:  Why not make them available (the quarterbacks)?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Why? because I'm more experienced in talking about the situation (laughter)."

Question:  What was Pat White like after his second spring?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Pat was probably, thinking back a few years now, because he redshirted his first year, he would have been about where Denard is.  Pat, probably shows how smart I was, his redshirt year, he did not become the starter; he was alternating until about mid season when we had an injury.  Then he took the job and just took off with it.  He progressed and got better each week.  That's what I except Tate, Denard and Devin all to do."

Question:   The guys you have more experience than he did at this point.

Coach Rodriguez:  "Certainly because they played as freshman.  Even though it was not all positive experience, I think you can learn from some of the tough times too and I think our guys are doing that."

Question:  How much of Pat do you see in Denard?

Coach Rodriguez:  "You see some similarities.  Pat was a lefty, so we geared some of the other things towards him being a lefty.  They have a lot of the same qualities; certainly guys that can run and throw and bring a certain dynamic, explosion to that position.  So they do bring a lot of similarities.  Pat was really good.  To compare him anyway, Pay may have been the best college quarterback in the country for a couple of years there.  He finished his career as one of the best other, so tough to compare with that.  Our guys still got a ways to go to reach that level."

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