* On whether the team is over the Michigan loss -- "I think it's really an individual thing. Collectively, with all that's going on with final exams, at practice we're missing a guy or somebody is at an awards show or someone has a thumb surgery. I would hope next week we will get into a rhythm practice-wise and we'll really start honing in. Today was our first day in pads. The young kids got a chance to scrimmage at the end, which we will do every day. I've got to think that you never get over some things, but you move on. You keep learning from it. For the coaches, we come back and recruit. That‘s what we‘ve been doing."
* How bowl practice is important for the young guys and where the QB battle for 2004 stands -- "The last 20 minutes of every day we will scrimmage. You have different guys who are young. Last year at this time, Justin (Zwick) and Troy (Smith) were redshirting and we did the same thing. I think if we had a game tomorrow -- the next guy in after Scott (McMullen) -- would be Justin. But a lot of those things are based on what are you going to do. I don't think any of them have had enough reps to say one of them is ahead of the other."
* On where things stand with Maurice Clarett and his chance to return in 2004 -- "The little bit I have had a chance to talk to Maurice, he certainly talks as if he is going to work hard to do that. I'm sure his group is working hard to take this next step (to the NFL). I would say the NFL does have a terrific minor league, if you want to call it that. We do a good job of preparing the guys to go to the NFL. To me, it's a simple discussion of individual rights as to when they can choose to be allowed to do something. I don't think we have much to do with it.
"We usually say that February begins our new year. This year, part of this year's recruiting and playing will be in January. We usually say in February, `Here are the things we need to work on as a group.' On the field, together, spring football is obviously huge. It might be our decision, too. We would have to ask for reinstatement as well."
* On whether Clarett regretted missing the 2003 season -- "I haven't had a chance to talk with him that much to reflect. I know he would have liked to have been out there. You can feel that in his voice. I think I know him well enough to know he would have liked to help."
* On how Clarett finished the autumn quarter -- "I can't talk any about (his) academic situation."
* On how the defense has responded from the Michigan game -- "I have not sat with our defensive guys and watched that film. But as I listen to them, like most guys, when they go and don't play as they feel they were capable, that's very disappointing. But there's nothing we can do about that now other than the next time we play make sure we do play like were capable. As I listen to Mark Dantonio and the defensive coaches, that's what disappoints them the most. They were capable of playing much better than that."
* On the chance Dantonio or one of his other assistants may be tapped for a head job elsewhere -- "I would hope, what's going on right now, people are looking for talented young people to move up in coaching opportunities, that people would be interested in our guys. Then, our guys would have to decide whether they are interested in those positions and if they can earn them. Do I expect our staff to stay intact? Gosh, I don't know. If guys get opportunities, I certainly want them to have them."
* On E.J. Underwood returning to practice -- "He's practicing now. Dec. 5 was when the doctors said he could start working and he did."
* On Louis Irizarry's status -- "He's been practicing all along. His status for the game? We're not sure yet. He just finished the institutional discussions. I haven't had a chance to digest that and see what, departmentally, what the policy is."
* On whether this was a great season or not -- "I think our guys attacked things well. I think it was an excellent year in terms of how we approached it. I don't know if I could go as far as saying it was an excellent year or a great year in terms of results because we thought we were capable of better. When you don't do what you think you're capable of, I don't think you can feel great or excellent. But I am certainly proud of the way everyone approached it and went after it. I'm sure they will do the same thing when it comes to a very difficult challenge.
"This may the eighth in the top 25 we have faced at the time we've played them. This will be the ninth bowl team we play, so we've had our challenge."
* On Chris Gamble's decision to stay or leave a year early for the NFL -- "I sent him over to get his forms filled out. You can get that intelligence and find out what the NFL thinks. I would say if he is among the top 20 people, he would probably have to go. If not, maybe he should stay here. Will Smith was probably a second-round guy last year. He stayed and now I think he has a chance to be way up there.
"He doesn't know where he stands in the NFL's eyes. We just filed that paperwork. Chris doesn't give you much indication of anything. I don't know if you guys have been around him that much. If he tells you something, let me know."