Barry Alvarez Verbatim

Here is what Coach Barry Alvarez had to say in his weekly press conference, including potential reasons for the team's recent losing slump, talk about the last two games against Michigan, an update on Brooks Bollinger, Anthony Davis, Jeff Mack and Bob Docherty's injuries and more.

Has Brooks Bollinger been cleared to play?

Alvarez: We'll know for sure tomorrow. He's going to practice today. Today's a light practice, installation of the game plan, but he'll take his final test tomorrow.

How about Anthony Davis?

Alvarez: As far as I know, he has been cleared. Physically, he could have played last week.

Will those two give you a boost?

Alvarez: Well it's always nice to have your starters.

Was Davis held out for other reasons?

Alvarez: I'm not going to get into that guys. I'd prefer not to.

Is there a concern from your medial staff that there is a cumulative effect from all of those concussions that Brooks has suffered?

Alvarez: I think they're always concerned with that, any injury. Our medical staff certainly wouldn't even consider putting him back on the field unless they felt very comfortable where he was.

Is it fair to say it isn't your preference to have your two safeties lead the team in tackles?

Alvarez: No, it's not safe to say. No, I wouldn't assume that. If you take a look around the league, the way defenses are designed anymore, that's who makes the tackles. I haven't looked through a tackle list throughout the league or anything, but that's how defenses are made up. If you look at our free safety, he's going to end up there with a linebacker. So your assumption is not right.

The reason I asked is because you've only had one season since you've been here that your tackle leader has been somebody other than a linebacker.

Alvarez: Who was the other safety? I don't remember.

Reggie Holt.

Alvarez: Reggie Holt. I like when the linebackers do. I'd like to have a noseguard lead it.

Where do you need a boost right now to defend against teams throwing the ball?

Alvarez: They need to make a play on the ball. Last week is a good example. We had inside/outside coverage with two people on the receiver. You've got to make a play on the ball. You've got to get the ball out, get your hands on the ball, strip the receiver…somehow you have to get the ball out, make a play on it.

Can you compare some of the skill guys Michigan has now compared to some of the other guys they've had there?

Alvarez: I look at John Navarre, I think he's improved this year. He looks to be able to move around a little bit better when he has time to throw. It appears he's much more accurate than I remember him. The one thing that I do see with the receivers as a group, they're much faster. I mean every one of them has speed. Not like some of the teams we've played, you might see one burner. Solid guys, but all of them can really fly and their tight end is really excellent. He's turned into a go-to guy for them. A guy that they'll look to, to get open, get the ball to him. They'll use him like Iowa uses their guy.

When you look at Jim Leonhard's eight interceptions, how much of that is instinct, preparation, athletic ability, etc.?

Alvarez: I think it's a combination. A lot of them…I think all of them, Ron Cooper mentioned yesterday, (came) when he was in the sky position where he's a flat cover and then reacting to routes. But you still have to have the instinct to make a play on the ball, play the ball in the air and then be a good enough athlete to make a catch. So he's made some just outstanding (interceptions). Then on a tip ball like the one that he had the big return (on) the other day. That's just athletic ability. The ball's in the air, you're playing the defender, the ball is tipped. Just being quick enough to be able to react, get your hands on it, catch it and get it going the other way.

Michigan has been somewhat overlooked this year with what Ohio State and Iowa have done. Is this a typical Michigan team?

Alvarez: I think it's very similar. Defensively they're strong. They give you a lot of different looks, very athletic, physical. One of the more physical secondaries you'll see. On offense, game-to-game they will do different things. In the Iowa game, they abandoned the run. They conceded they weren't going to run the ball and they just threw the ball. Some other games they've really come out…I think the other day at Minnesota they wanted to run the football, and they just kept pounding the ball. So they are capable of doing both. A lot apparently is, I'm sure, is what the matchup they have. But I think it's a very typical Michigan team.

Do they appear to have a preference to do one or the other?

Alvarez: Again, I think it all depends on the matchup. I don't think it makes any difference. They're going to try to move the ball.

Are you going to spend more time this week than you normally would on protecting R.J. Morse in the punting game based on what happened last year? Michigan got another block this past weekend.

Alvarez: We've changed our scheme. Just by the change of our scheme, the block they used that they had success with a year ago put all the pressure on the long-snapper. We've taken the pressure off him by changing our scheme. But we spend a lot of time to spend on that week-to-week. We don't have any more time that we can spend on it. We'll spend plenty.

Early on your losses in the Big Ten were very close margins, but the last two weeks have not been very close. What do you think has happened there?

Alvarez: That's hard to say. A loss is a loss. If you lose by three or you lose by 10…I'm more concerned with how you play. We didn't play very well. That's what concerns me last week. Defensively against Iowa, we played well. That's more of a concern to me.

Why haven't you played well?

Alvarez: I would say last week, there's a reason why there's a No. 1 and a No. 2. I'm not putting blame on anybody, but that will give you a place to start. You know, two starters aren't in there. When the guys touch the ball the most, that might have a little something to do with it. I'm sure not going to use distractions…I wouldn't use that as an excuse. It may have been. I don't know. All we can try to do is re-load, try to correct things and re-focus and play better.

Do you consider your team a young team?

Alvarez: We have a lot of freshmen. It is a young squad. We lose two guys defensively. On offense, it is a veteran offensive line. Those guys have all played other than (Donovan) Raiola who played considerably the last two games. Our skilled guys are young.

Is that part of it?

Alvarez: Yeah, you'd like for them to come in there…you'd like to have some more veterans at that positions. Even Anthony. Anthony is a sophomore. We think he's a wily veteran. He's a sophomore, backed up by a freshman. I think that's a good combination. He's played, he knows what the league is about. You'd like to have a little more maturity. I think the teams that you see, the veteran teams, are the ones that are mature teams.

Do you see any signs that the long season is taking its toll?

Alvarez: I think we've stayed relatively fresh. I wouldn't use the length of the season…I haven't seen any of that, any tolls because of that. I don't think so. I think we've had a good plan and I think we've stayed fresh. I wish we would have…now as I look back, if I had my druthers, I would rather go without having that open date. We had a nice rhythm. It would have been nice to just continue and play.

R.J. Morse hasn't hit many balls cleanly lately. He didn't hit one ball cleanly on Saturday. Is he struggling with technique or upstairs mentally?

Alvarez: I don't know, but he isn't hitting them cleanly. Where he's struggling? Probably both.

What are your thoughts on how close you've been to knocking off Michigan the last couple of years?

Alvarez: I think (our players) know the game came down to making plays at the end. I went back and watched last year's film today. Our guys really played well. Three plays in the kicking game. But that's part of the game. The year before, (Drew) Henson throws a ball across his body, probably an ill-advised throw, should have been picked off, scores the winning touchdowns. But they made the plays. You know, Lee (Evans) slips and touches out-of-bounds on one that he's going to run for a touchdown, Michael Bennett has nothing but green in front of him, slips and falls. We didn't make the plays. Our guys felt they were good football games, either team could have won. They're smart enough to understand they didn't make plays and Michigan did.

Do those losses stick with you any longer?

Alvarez: I'm worried about this game. I'm not worried about those games, last year's game or the year before. I'm worried about this week.

Will you wear longer cleats this week?

Alvarez: It will be interesting to see what that field is like. I know there was a lot of complaining early on. I thought there was an apology sent. That Penn State game was really bad. I haven't heard anything since. In watching the Iowa game, it looked a little soft, but you really can't tell. The Michigan State game didn't look bad.

How important is becoming bowl eligible to the future of this program?

Alvarez: I think it's important. Bowls are always rewards. It gives the seniors something to remember. It's a great experience for your young players, and I always like to use it to get extra practices. So I think it's very important.

Has Tony Paciotti passed Bob Docherty as the No. 1 tight end?

Alvarez: Doc is still not 100 percent. He's just been slowed by that (injury).

Do you expect to have Jeff Mack back at any point?

Alvarez: It's a nerve and you just don't know. It's a week-to-week thing, and they come back very slowly, so you just don't know.

Since you do have a number of young guys, what do you do this week when you try to get them in the right mind frame?

Alvarez: What you try to do is always go over the last game. My general impressions, the good, the bad, what we need to look forward to this week, and we put the game to rest, correct off the game film. Then we start with Michigan. We start by putting last week away, the good and the bad.

Is that any different now than at any other point during the season?

Alvarez: No. We have a routine that we stick by.

When you looked at the game film, were you disappointed by your players' effort and how they competed?

Alvarez: I wasn't disappointed in the effort that we had at all. Our guys never quit. Our guys fought. Didn't execute, didn't throw and catch it very well. I think we only had five runs in the second half. We ran the football, but offensively we never got into a routine. We never could get into a rhythm where we could do what we wanted to do. I think we averaged five and a half yards a carry, had 20-something carries in the first half and in the second half, we only had five carries because we were just out of kilter. The field position was a little different. But I never thought…defensively, we had guys, we broke…our outside linebacker busted on the fullback slipping out in a flat, but for the most part we were on who we were supposed to be on. Guys didn't make plays on the ball, but effort was never a question.

Are your older players struggling to keep their heads in the game, since this is situation they're not used to being in?

Alvarez: I don't see that at all.

At one point, you had created five turnovers but were still down 24-20. Is that something that surprised you, and how do you avoid that?

Alvarez: Yeah, that's hard to put a finger on. We obviously didn't take advantage of the turnovers or the field position that we got. That means offensively, we're not doing what we have to do, and we gave up some big plays on defense. Yeah, that is a surprise, you're plus-five in the turnover ratio and you're behind…(you have to) take advantage of them.

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