Big Ten Media Day: Rodriguez Goes In-Depth

Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez stepped away from the dais to speak more in depth with the local media about some of the issues facing his 2010 squad. Among the topics covered were the challenges facing Tate Forcier, the physical progress of Vincent Smith, academic eligibilty rumors surrounding one of his players, the upcoming meeting with the NCAA, and more.

Question:  What did you mean when you said you were the coach who was the most anxious to coach this year?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I think probably the best times as a coach are when you get on the practice field, maybe even more so than a game.  Because that is when it is just you, the coaches, and the players and you get to teach and watch them progress and learn.  When you get on the field, there is none of the other stuff.  I'm probably as excited as I've been in a long time to just get to practice."

Question:  You had talked in the spring that a lot of comments about Tate (Forcier) were about academics, about maturity and stuff; what is your feeling on that at this point?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I don't know.  We will find out here in a week.  I'm hoping that everybody…they grow and mature, not just on the field but off the field as well. Until we are around them and can do things with them, you really don't know.  I'm anxious to see how Tate responds to that.  He's getting a challenge and I talked to him in the spring about this.  You're getting a challenge from Denard (Robinson) and you're getting a challenge from Devin (Gardner) and if you are a true competitior we'll see how you respond.  That challenge will continue in August."

Question:  You said that you had the seniors over.  What did they say about him and his maturity?

Coach Rodriguez:  "We really didn't talk about individual players.  When they came over, some of the guys would say hey this guy looks great or this guy looks great.  They more or less, they talked about themselves and some of the things that they wanted to do and some things they want to do in camp.  They gave some great ideas and I think we've always met.  I've always met with the seniors a few times a year, but I started earlier and I'm going to meet again a couple of times probably once every two to three days in camp just to get their input and I'm really excited about the way I think they will leave."

Question:  You said last year at this thing that if you guys didn't get to a bowl that you would be ticked.  Where are you at this year do you feel, is that pressure more maybe?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah.  Again, this sounds like coach-speak, but I don't know if you can put more pressure than you do on yourself anyways.  You go into every ballgame, every season with a certain amount of pressure to win every game.  Is there heightened pressure because we've done poorly the last two years?  Externally you may think so, but internally it cannot be any more than we've already done.  It is not like, okay, the first year we've got excuses, the second year, we got…naw we fully expect our guys to complete.  We always set a goal to compete for a Big Ten Championship.  I don't know if we are good enough yet or we are going to deserve to win it, but I would think that that would be our goal and expectation every year."

Question:  You said the team has gotten closer from the adversity; how have you seen this and is it a surprise to you that it has been that way?

Coach Rodriguez:  "No it is not a surprise.  I think young folks are that way.  I think any time adversity strikes and it can strike in various forms, it usually will band a young group together, more often than it tears them apart.  I see our guys closer, just talking to our senior class.  I'll be able to judge through camp.  They'll face adversity in camp, all teams do.  It is hot.  They are tired or whatever and they have got to push through a practice and I think this team will be able to battle through that because of what they've been through before."

Question:  Any concerns about any guys that will not be able to start fall camp either through injuries or anything?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I do not know.  I think we are pretty good health wise, talking to the trainers.  I think Will Heininger is the only one that had an injury in the spring that won't be able to perform in camp.  I don't have any concerns health wise."

Question:  There are a least a couple of theories about whether Michigan and Ohio State should be in the same division; your thoughts on how that should break out?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Isn't that interesting.  I think you guys probably know as much as I do about how all this is going to shake out.  Is it geographically, is it competitively, is it history and tradition.  I think we have a lot of smart people in our league and they'll be able to figure out how to balance it out fairly and competitively, yet still be able to keep your traditional rivalries.  It may be whwew an institution can pick their two rivalry games that they want to play every year, whether in your division or the other division, who knows.  I have not put one thought into that, because right now I don't care.  I care that we play Ohio State every year and I think fans care that we play Michigan State every year and that is probably going to happen, but I'm just worried about getting a first down against UCONN right now."

Question:  The question is the possibility of playing them twice a year, would that be okay with you?  How do you think the fans would be?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah, I'm sure that our fans would be pretty excited.  If you won the first time, you might think I don't want to play it the second time, but I think Michigan loves to compete against Ohio State and Ohio State loves to compete against Michigan."

Question:  That would not diminish the rivalry in your eyes?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I don't think so."

Question:  How about playing on back-to-back weekends; would that be a tough sell for people?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I think it will sell it out if you play three times a week in Ann Arbor, Columbus or Chicago.  I don't think there would be able problem with selling out."

Question:  How important to you that they play it the last game?  It has always been the tradition of the last game.

Coach Rodriguez:  "Again, I am just giving my opinion, but I think the last game traditionally has been terrific.  I think that you prefer that but if you did not and let's say you had to play them earlier or something, as long as you are playing them, but I would prefer, again this is just myself, I would prefer to play them at the end – just from a tradition standpoint."

Question:  What is your running back situation?  Is Vincent Smith back?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah I believe Vincent…again talking to our training staff, I believe he should be 100% for camp and healthy, which is key for us.  Mike Cox had a really good spring.  He's a guy that we're really looking forward to progress and Fitz Toussaint had a really good spring, who was injured last year.  Those three in particular, we thought that should be guys that will be able to lead the charge for us."

Question:  What is Michael Shaw's eligibility status?

Coach Rodriguez:  "We'll we are still waiting on summer school.  We do not comment on our guys academically.  They still have two weeks of summer school left for some of our players, so we'll keep in touch with that."

Question:  Are you surprised with Vincent being able to come back maybe as quickly as he has?  Because sometimes those things take a year with the ACL.

Coach Rodriguez:  "Not with the medical technology that is available these days and the science part of it.  Before ACL would be 10-12 months, now again, you have to do that rehab, but now they can come back quicker."

Question:  As far as your quarterbacks, I know it is early, can you see yourself shuffling them in and out, in and out during a game?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Not so much Angelique shuffling them in and out, because you do want them to…because if they are on a roll and in a rhythm you don't want to take a guy out and get him cold sort of speak.  So if he is hot, you let him stay hot.  Certainly, I'm not opposed to playing two.  Last year, we started with maybe three in the thought process but I wouldn't be opposed to playing two.  Our biggest key is that they play better and more consistently.  The biggest thing for us is just taking care of the ball.  Taking care of the ball and executing the offense and if they can extend the play or make a play within the framework then do it."

Question:  You said up there that there were things that you regretted from last season.  Is there one that really standout?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Oh there are a number of things.  I think you can go back after every game and certain calls.  I think it was a fair question.  I never really thought about it going for two…if I know the end results of would be what it was, you'd do it all over again.  There are plays that you would like to take back.  After reviewing the film and all that…I mean after every game, coach is like, gosh I could have called this or maybe called that.  You can play that what if game all you want, but I don't it does you any good other than learning and we always learn.  We always think that we have to do that."

Question:  Is there one big thing that you learned maybe this summer going through the tape? 

Coach Rodriguez:  "No not one big thing, but I could tell you this and I told the seniors this one.  The first year with the team is a little bit tougher just because as coaches you don't know your players as well.  Even though you watch them on film and all that, you don't know what their strength or weaknesses as well as you would the second year and the same thing is true the third year.  The more you are around your guys, you know more about what makes them tick, what motivates them and what their strength and weaknesses are.  You try to find that out in the 15 practices in the spring and the 29 in August, but that is not always the case."

Question:  Hypothetically let's say Denard wins the starting job; can you move Tate to another area on the field or is he a backup quarterback?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Tate is a quarterback.  Now Denard could play other positions and we have fully prepared him.  ‘Hey listen, if you are not the starting quarterback, I don't want you standing next to me 70% of the time on the sidelines.  If you are not the quarterback, you will learn the other skill positions.'  He's battling for the starting quarterback job.  He has not played anything else and I don't think he will play anything else in camp because he is trying to be #1 and he is right there."

Question:  Is he (Denard) ready for that?  Not having played too much quarterback in a game, can that be simulated enough between spring and the fall?

Coach Rodriguez:  "The one thing that is hard to simulate is when you go live.  The spring, they were live the whole time except the spring game and I thought that was one reason our spring game wasn't as good as I would like, because we had them just getting tagged.  I think it is better for the learning purposes when they are live.  Now, I don't want to go Live in August because you do not want to beat your quarterback up in camp.  We've got to find that balance in August…I don't know if we are going to make them go live, but I think we saw enough from spring of them being live, in what eight practices or so, I think really helped their progress."

Question:  Do you know when you are going to meet with the NCAA and is that something that is going to interrupt your camp?

Coach Rodriguez:  "No it is on the 13th (August) in Seattle is when we will appear in front of the committee.  That normally would be our first day of two a days, but we have adjusted our schedule so I won't miss any practices.  We'll still have two a days, but it will just be the next day.  I've been fortunate not to have…we'll keep it from being a distraction.  I'll have to go and do it and it is something that we all at the University have to go and look forward to meeting with them and furthering the process along."

Question:  Can you talk about the outside receiver position.  It looks like you're stacked at the slot position, but there really hasn't been a homerun threat on the outside.  Junior Hemingway has been hurt and Darryl Stonum has been hurt; who do you see as being that big homerun threat on the outside this year for Michigan?

Coach Rodriguez:  "You're right that is one thing that we have been looking for.  Particular in this offense, I think there is a misconception about the outside receiver's role.  They can have a huge role in this offense.  We hope to have and Darryl Stonum and Junior Hemingway are the two guys that I hope lead that charge.  We have some young guys, some freshmen enrolled early that maybe can help, but it starts with Daryl and it starts with Junior.  Both of those guys have been in the program. Darryl has got great speed and if they can give us that big threat on the outside, we'll be a whole lot better offensively."

Question:  Will Daryl face any extra discipline from you because of the off the field issues?

Coach Rodriguez:  "No I think he faced that discipline and he informed us of when it was happening."

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