Sept. 8, 2009
COACH WEIS: An impressive opening day victory, and anytime Coach Rodriguez gets into the second year of his system, usually there is significant progress, and that was certainly the case, especially offensively.
Before I get going with the defense, let’s start with offense, and Coach Magee, associate head coach from West Virginia. Last week they ran the ball very well and very often, ran for 242 yards, 4.8 per carry, threw for another 200, 440 yards offense, didn’t give up any sacks, and the time of possession was over 34 minutes.
As promised, and Coach Rodriguez said he was going to play three quarterbacks, and that he did. He started Forcier, who we understand is starting again, and played Denard Robinson a whole bunch, and they’re both freshman, and I’ll talk about them in a minute.
And in the third quarter was the first time I saw Sheridan show up in the game. Forcier had an impressive opener, showed a lot of poise for a freshman, 13 for 20 for 179 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions, good athlete, not only a strong arm but more than that, he showed a lot of poise for his first game.
Robinson, they play him not just at quarterback but as a slot receiver as well, and he’s fast and athletic and he’s capable of making a big play every time he gets the ball in his hands. Last week he was the leading rusher for 74 yards and a touchdown, averaging 6.7 per carry.
So between the two of those guys you’ve got your hands full, and it’s not like Robinson can’t throw it. Although he’s dynamic as a runner, he’s capable of throwing the ball as well, and Sheridan didn’t get into the game. He’s a veteran, he provides the experience, but he didn’t get into the game until the third quarter.
Brandon Minor didn’t play last week. I’m sure he will try to go this week. He’s questionable for the game but I’m sure he’ll try to go. He’s a tough, physical runner, and if he can’t go, Brown, who got the start last week. Would start again.
They’re both good north/south runners with good patience and toughness and speed. Brown was the second leading rusher last week with 54 yards at 5.4 a carry, and Shaw got some action in there as well with 7 carries for 34 yards.
At fullback they have two different types of fullbacks; the bruiser, Moundros, who started last week at fullback but after the first few series you didn’t see him anymore. Then they put Grady in, and he’s more of a threat as a runner from the position and as a back out of the backfield.
He’s not as big as Moundros, but you could see they’re complementary players, not necessarily the type same type of players. The tight end, Webb shows up a lot, and then we get to the wide receivers, Matthews and Odoms are starters, and Hemingway showed up last week as a starter.
He’s been playing well since camp and one of the more interesting prospects that they have, 19, Grady, a University of Michigan basketball player, who is another guy we will end up seeing in the slot.
Matthews is the punt returner and a returning wide receiver. Hemingway is their “Z”. He’s hobbled with an ankle but they expect him to play. He led the team in receiving for five catches, two touchdowns, and if he can’t go we’ll see No. 82, Savoy or Stonum in there. And in the slot, Martavious Odoms is who is a small, fast, quick guy, has home run ability, and he’s one of the kickoff returners they’ll show in the slot, and Grady, as I previously mentioned, the former basketball player, he will show up in the slot as well.
Offensive line returns four starters, their left tackle, Ortmann, played 25 games in his career, Schilling, who was the right tackle against us, has moved into left guard. Molk is their center, Moosman is their right guard, and Huyge is their right tackle. He’s the only guy who is not a returning starter but he’s a big muchaco and his play allowed them to move Schilling in from right tackle to left guard.
Defense, Coach Robinson is in his first season at Michigan after spending the last four years as head coach at Syracuse. They played very well on defense last week, 38 net yards rushing, 1.6 yards per carry, 5 of 14 on third down.
Western Michigan got in the red zone once, didn’t score, had a couple of sacks and there are a couple of key players. Their defense was solid all day but there are a couple of key guys. Starts with Brandon Graham. He plays their strong side defensive end, he is the leader of the defensive linemen, good pressure all week last week, and on the weak side they started Craig Roh as a quick end or weak defensive end, who is a true freshman.
Split time with Brandon Herron, who was supposed to be their starter but they both showed up. Mike Martin was the nose and Van Bergen is the defensive tackle. Just like I said with the defensive line, that starts with Graham.
Their linebackers start with their middle linebacker, Ezeh; he’s the leader of the defense. He’s a guy looking for action. Mouton is the weak sideline backer, returning starter, very athletic. They look this year to give him versatility, and that will force them to substitute less.
They brought Stevie Brown to their secondary, to a spinner position, and it’s similar to Harrison Smith last year, plays a similar position, except they don’t take him off the field. Secondary, Warren plays their boundary corner, returning starter, good athlete, good feet.
Ciccoko is the field corner. He injured a shoulder last week and came out and came back in. If he can’t go, No. 12 will end up playing for him, with Woolfolk and Williams at the strong safety. They bring him down a lot and add him to the mix.
Last but not least, although they don’t as the special teams coordinator there are things that stand out about their special teams. They only gave up 3 yards per punt return last week. Their punter is one of the better ones in Mesko, a three year starter, good directional punter.
Olesnavage is their kickoff guy, Wright their kickoff guy, Pomarico is the long snapper, whose dad played here in ’73 ’74. And kick off returners, Odoms and Stonum, and they’re both dynamic, but Odoms, especially with his speed, and Matthews they play as their punt returner, very quick.
Q. What is the status of James Aldridge?
COACH WEIS: He will be out this week. They tell me a week to two weeks, so he’ll be out this week and he’ll be somewhere between questionable to doubtful next week, but he won’t play this week.
Q. Obviously with (defensive coordinator Greg) Robinson, you played against him last year. How much do you how much are you able to pull from that tape versus what he’s doing now?
COACH WEIS: I think Greg and I did a lot of the similar things. We looked at the game last year, we looked at the 2005 game as well, when we played ’em. Even though he’s got different athletes now, he’s got a good group of athletes to play his system, with but in addition to that he’ll have watched the last bunch of games from last year to see what we what hurt us, what didn’t hurt us. And he will apply them accordingly. He’s a very good week to week game plan coach, so that’s his MO and he’s good at it.
He’s not afraid to make changes from one week to the next week, put his team in the best position to win the game.
Q. Are you able to pull a lot from that tape because of that?
COACH WEIS: I’m doing the same thing he’s doing, going back and watching those same couple of games, and I’m watching their games from last year, then I’m watching the Michigan games to study the Michigan talent. The one advantage he has is the fact that I have to watch both Michigan tape from last year and Syracuse tape from last year, where he’s just watching us.
Q. How has Corwin Brown’s role evolved from the spring?
COACH WEIS: It’s made my job easier and allowed me to change and tweak my own job, where I can spend so much more time with the offense than I have in previous years. We meet fairly regularly, and there is a lot of things that we cover, big picturewise, and some things I ask him to handle that I used to have to do myself. He’s been a big, big plus and taken a lot of burden from me.
Q. And you mentioned the multi quarterback system that Rich is using. How do you prepare for that? Obviously Robinson and Forcier have much different levels of speed.
COACH WEIS: That’s true, Robinson, although he’s faster, Tate comes out and goes 13 for 20, so you can say you don’t have to worry about him running; that’s not true, because he’s athletic.
And Robinson is the leading rusher in the game, so you think you don’t have to worry about him passing, well that’s also not true. The problem is with both of them, although Tate would be more like a passer and Robinson would look more like the runner, I think in both their cases they’re both good enough to do both things.
Q. And with Floyd, how much has he progressed more than he thought you thought he might be able to?
COACH WEIS: I think that the hour is pointing up with Michael and will continue going that way. I think that not only is he a better player but he has much better communication, nuances, of things not only with the coaching staff but specifically with the quarterback.
He’s spent a lot of time and we’ve spent a lot of time, and he’s well on his way to being a darn good player.
Q. Talk about Plan B in the backfield this week without Aldridge.
COACH WEIS: Well, in the backfield we’re going to plug (Robert) Hughes into that position. Obviously Robert couldn’t play last week for the first half of the game, and by the time he was able to play in the game last week, the game was pretty well in hand.
But we’ve had him practicing half back and run back sets, so we’ll also have a fullback and two back sets.
Q. Has he had any experience?
COACH WEIS: Uh huh.
Q. He has? How do you prepare for that and what’s the biggest carryover?
COACH WEIS: I think the biggest carryover will be our defense from week one to week two. You spread the field against the veer, and running the veer is unique and I think that a lot of the problems that we saw on tape, that we saw on tape that somebody got exposed, and somebody didn’t get exposed with, just came from not getting to the right spot.
Like I said on Sunday, we’ve now gotten an opportunity to see that at full speed, and I think that we can expect to correct a lot of those problems. Of course we’re going against good players but I think we’ll correct a lot of those problems.
Q. You’ve been to Michigan stadium twice and tasted the high and lows going into that stadium. What stands out about those trips?
COACH WEIS: First time we went there, we got on top of ’em early and had a big enough lead to hold on and the defense played great that day. They got one layup at the end of the game, but I think the defense handled them that day and we got on top of them.
Last time we want there it went from bad to worse in a hurry. It was one of those situations where you go in there not knowing how things are going to go for us, or for them, because they were struggling a little bit at the time when we went up there, and going in there and the fans are ready to turn on them, and they had a big party that day at our expense. And I didn’t enjoy it very much.
Q. You talked about Toryan Smith having been around and having knowledge, the kind of guy that’s better suited maybe to play against these specialized offenses, but where is (Manti) Te’o in terms of we obviously saw his ability to strike Saturday but where is he in terms of being able to grasp the big picture?
COACH WEIS: He’s one week closer to being on the field on a more regular basis, but I think he will play more this week than he played last week. Just that those two guys playing ahead of him played pretty good. So I think that he will be much more ready to play this week, and I think just like everyone else, playing your first freshman game, getting some of the butterflies out is a good thing.
I think that I don’t want to sit there and talk about everyone, but Manti is another guy the sky is the limit on.
Q. Following up on plan B, how about with the kick off returners? Who is back there now?
COACH WEIS: We’ll use the way we practice is it will start off with Barry Gallup back there with Theo, and we have a number of guys that are involved in the mix. As I told you last week I’m not comfortable about putting two freshman back there, you know.
We’ve worked Shaq (Shaquelle Evans) back there, Goodie (John Goodman) back there, Robert Hughes back there, so there is a number of guys we’ve worked back there, but I think that having somebody kinda take charge back there is important to me because most of the time we’re going to end up with the ball in Theo’s hands, by our design, regardless of what they end up doing.
Q. When you were recruiting Jonas (Gray) you had three established running backs, Robert (Hughes), James (Aldridge), and Armando (Allen). Talk about his attitude of being able to come in and compete and how he’s been able to move up.
COACH WEIS: Well, that’s the best part about Jonas is he didn’t care. One thing about recruiting, sometimes in recruiting players look at depth charts. And when they look at depth charts and see how quick can I play but then there is the players who don’t care about the depth charts because they figure they’re going to come in here and play well enough they’re going to move by people, and that was his attitude.
Jonas didn’t care who was here. We could have had Jerome Bettis and he still wouldn’t have cared; in fact, he might have already thought he was better than him. But Jonas has an attitude and he’ll be fired up this week because anytime you’re going back to your home state to play we have to make sure he stays on the even keel, because he’s getting to come back home.
Q. You mentioned some of the ups and downs you’ve had at Ann Arbor. Do you talk about that at all with your team?
COACH WEIS: No, we’re just going to talk about this week. We’re in a time frame mind set right now and we’re not going to spend any time talking about last week let alone the last time we were there.
We’re just moving forward. 31 7, really wasn’t that close. The Western Michigan game really wasn’t that close, and that’s where we’re going to spend all our time and energy.
Q. In terms of the play calling, big picture and also the actual mechanics, how does play calling in college differ from play calling in the NFL? The mechanics of it and in the big picture philosophy of it?
COACH WEIS: Neither and none. It’s absolutely no different. The mechanics are the same and the philosophy is no different, none. I’m not saying that to be evasive, Al, you do it the same way. You prepare the same way the big difference for me is my preparation from five years ago.
My prep. As we mentioned Corwin before, that’s helped me because some of the stuff as a head coach, some of the stuff that I don’t have time to do, Corwin helps me out with, but most importantly there is no difference.
Q. And how smooth was the conversation with Rob Ianello? Did it take a while to work out? Was it smooth right away?
COACH WEIS: There was no problem when we had the ball as far as communication goes. I think the only problems that we have to iron out is when we don’t have the ball and I want to talk to people that are on the other we have a switcher, so, like, that means that Frank (Verducci) could go to another line and talk about the front and stunts they are running, and if I start a conversation with him, assuming he’s on the line but he’s on the other line, then somebody has to get him and say, switch over to the other line, Coach Weis wants to talk to you.
So as far as during the game it went smoothly. The only thing we’re going to have to iron out is when I want to have a conversation with somebody, after we’ve studied what they’re going to do and after I’m seeing the problems or decide what we’re going to do the next drive and just making sure we’re all on the same line at the same time so we’re all on the same page.
Q. This week you’re going from the most experienced quarterback you will have played, last week, to the least experienced quarterback. How different is the preparation?
COACH WEIS: It’s definitely significant, but good thing for (Tate) Forcier, first of all, is that he came at the semester, so he had spring ball under his belt. So it’s not like somebody showing up for the first time in August. I think that it will be interesting with some of the stuff that the defensive staff will throw at him. It won’t be the same as it was last week, that’s all I can tell ya.
Q. If I’m not mistaken, did Tate (Forcier) camp with you guys during the summer a couple of years ago?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, he’s been here, we visited with him, we know him and his whole family, we know the whole ball of wax. It was interesting I haven’t thought about him for a while, but it was interesting he went to four high schools in four years, I think. I’d have to go back and look at that, but I think it’s four high schools in four year,s so it was tough to keep track of him a little bit, to tell you the truth.
Q. Did you get much of a sense of his skill set, what he’s about?
COACH WEIS: I thought he was athletic what I’m seeing is what we’re getting, I just didn’t think for us, for what we do there is a perfect fit for everyone, and it wasn’t a perfect fit for us.
Q. As you’re following Michigan and everything with them off the field, when you’re preparing for a team that’s gone through scrutiny, adversity, does that factor into how you prepare or what you expect from them when they come out?
COACH WEIS: No, because they’ve sent their message as to how they’re going to handle it. It isn’t like they haven’t played a game yet, so they’ve pulled themselves together and gone ahead and beat somebody rather thoroughly. So they’ve sent their message at how they were going to handle it and I think they handled it very well.
Q. With Toryan, he’s a smart guy; I’m sure he knew that Manti was coming in here and everyone was asking him about Manti. How much of a motivational factor do you think it was for him to prove his game and prove that he should be playing?
COACH WEIS: That was a factor, but to be honest with you, one of the guys who has helped Manti the most is Toryan. I would say there are three guys that have gone out of their way, Scott Smith, Toryan Smith and Brian Smith, and throw Harrison in there and we can have the whole contingent.
But those three guys, Toryan, Brian and Scott Smith have gone out of their way to do everything they can to get Manti ready to play.
Q. You talked about Tate (Forcier) coming in the spring; you had the same thing with Jimmy. Anything that you learned coaching a freshman quarterback that might help you in this game?
COACH WEIS: I think the situation is apples to oranges, other than the fact that they both came in mid year, to be honest with you. It would have been great if I didn’t have to play him. It would be great if he didn’t have to play, but the fact that he did play, because he’s in year three, he’s more prepared than he ever would have been if he didn’t play that year.
Q. Easier to start a freshman than somebody you had to ease into the season?
COACH WEIS: You would like to think that would be the case, a quarterback with minimal experience playing in front of 100,000 people, 100,000 plus would get kind of anxious, but he gave very little evidence of that in week 1 that that was going to rattle him very much.
Q. You mentioned when we met the last time that there was a chance that things could have gone either way. Is this the type of game that is even more important because you can use things to your advantage?
COACH WEIS: I think more than anything else when you go on the road, especially to a place like the “Big House” if you can get on top of ’em early and quiet the crowd, it makes it easier to play.
The better they’re doing the louder it gets and communication becomes more and more a problem, but the communication really only becomes a problem in a road game for the offense anyway.
It’s not a problem for the defense because they’re not making noise when their offense is on the field. I think it would be definitely advantageous for us to get off to a good start.
Q. Would that be especially true for teams coming off a 3 9 season? You went through that last year, I assume a team like that, one game doesn’t is solve all the problems, if you can get them on the ropes early, is that something you will take advantage of?
COACH WEIS: There is some truth to that, but I think right now they’re probably taking a similar approach to us as far as shortsightedness, and they’re coming off a 31 7 win and I don’t think they’re worrying too much about what happened last year.
I think Coach Rodriguez today I would be talking to my guys, that was a good start, but last week’s game doesn’t mean anything. Now we have to go ahead ready to play the Fighting Irish, and we’re taking the same exact approach.
Q. Can you talk about the rivalry at all? Do you talk about that with your guys?
COACH WEIS: I have Corwin here, so I have a guy who literally knows both sides of the story. That’s one advantage of having a proud Michigan alum as your associate head coach at Notre Dame.
Q. Can you talk about how a second year team this year looks different than they did last year?
COACH WEIS: You just start with their offense. The defense, first of all, is now changed. The defensive staff has changed, and the philosophy has changed, what they’re doing is different. They’re more Greg’s defense. This isn’t Michigan’s old defense, this is Greg’s defense.
Offensively which is where Rich hangs his hat, you can see the progress made from last year to this year right off the bat. That performance they put out last week was better than anything you saw last year, except for the first half of the Penn State game. With the exception of the first half of the Penn State game, that’s as good as they’ve played.
Q. About Jimmy, how much more equipped is he, better equipped is he coming up here this time around than the first time?
COACH WEIS: Oh, Jimmy is more equipped in all aspects. That’s the best part. It’s not just how much more experience he has, but he’s physically better, he’s emotionally better, he’s the leader of the offense now. Therefore there are so many different aspects that are different than the last time he showed up here. Now he has better players around him, and that helps.
Q. You talked about throwing a lot at Forcier, does his running ability and Robinson’s ability
COACH WEIS: I never said anything about throwing a lot at Forcier.
Q. You talked about seeing something different than last week.
COACH WEIS: Yes, I do think he’ll see something different.
Q. Does their running ability affect how you’re going to press them?
COACH WEIS: I think if you’re overly aggressive you could leave yourself vulnerable to what they do.
Q. You’ve had good success on the road. Have you done things differently in terms of getting the team together and distractions? Any reason why that’s been the case?
COACH WEIS: Our team on the road is not one of those teams that are treating it like it’s a vacation. I would like to sit there and take the credit for it, Pete, but it’s not that way. I think the fact that they look at it more let’s not make it into the pros, but more like a business trip. We’re coming to go to work.
I think that allows you when you go on the road to put all your attention and detail into one and one thing only, and that’s playing the game.
Now, it’s not like my parents are in and do I have I need a ticket, so and so just called me and now you’re scrambling to get that done. It happens a lot of times like that on the game day. I think the fact that they get settled down and they’re on the road and whether their parents are there, there is a small lobby area that they can go sit down and talk to ’em, but other than that all the focus and the energy and everything you do is just on that one game. So I think that, you know, that’s kind of a rallying cry.
Q. In the past it’s been documented how you and Tom Brady on Michigan week having back and forth. Therefore is there anything at stake this week?
COACH WEIS: No, but we have traded texts, that’s all I’ll say. I got in trouble once before answering that question. We have traded texts.
Q. Coach, obviously the last few years there was so much pressure on the program, and one of the ways that’s evidenced is when you go on the road in terms of turnover ratio. Last year you were plus-12 at home and minus-15 on the road. Is that a sign of maturity?
COACH WEIS: Well, first of all that’s a telling stat to start off with. One that Tom would be proud of, by the way. That being said, I think that it’s very, very important not to press when you’re on the road. Sometimes you make mistakes that are it’s one thing when you make an error, it’s another thing when you make an unforced error. If you make a throw that the ball gets deflected and they intercept it, okay.
It’s another thing when you throw the ball where you shouldn’t be throwing or force the ball into coverage or are careless with the ball. Those are the types of things that if we want to be good that we have to minimize.
Q. Is that what you thought last year at times (No microphone.)
COACH WEIS: Just the fact that we threw so many interceptions alone, and I’m not placing all of those on the quarterback, mind you, but the volume was way too high to play winning football. I think it’s important to minimize that, and it’s happened with Brady before Jimmy. One game we played against Michigan at home we threw four interceptions.
You throw four interceptions, you’re going to lose, the odds are very, very high.
Q. Your first two years here you had a running back in Darius who you could count on 110 yards a game, five catches and he became an exceptional runner. How close is Armando to reaching that triple threat
COACH WEIS: I think Armando could do that now if you gave him every rep, but the difference is the drop off from the first guy to the second guy when I first got here was significant. The drop off in the first running back to the second running back led to you want to go keep the first running back on the field all the time.
Now we got extra guys. When you see the next guy come in, Armando goes out and Jonas goes in, you don’t see a big drop off in performance, and that’s the difference. If you have one guy and you keep on feeding him, you better get production out of him or else you’re going to have a long, hard day.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH WEIS: Armando is very good in blitz pick up, but fortunately he’s not the only one that we have that is good in blitz pick up, which allows you as a coach to have enough confidence to put the next guy in there and not worry about it.
Q. Now that you’ve gotten a look at the paper, can you evaluate the defensive ends’ play last week? Does Ryan figure in more this coming week?
COACH WEIS: John Ryan made some good plays. As I said on Sunday, one of the biggest issues we had in the game, especially with line stunts, was not getting across somebody’s face, like a defensive end not getting into the “B” gap from the outside gap to the inside gap on a run. When that ends up happening, you leave yourself very vulnerable to a hole being wider than it should be.
When that happens, John, and you’re pitching a shut out with those mistakes, everyone goes in there on Sunday and sees those things and makes sure that doesn’t happen again. Because there are components of similarities with this team’s offense this week, I think that fundamentally we’ll play even better than we played last week. I don’t know how that translates into points but fundamentally I expect us to play better.
Q. Granted that your opening competition 2007 was a locality different than Michigan’s last week, but is the dual quarterback situation that they were able to employ last week, was that something that you were hoping to evolve two years ago?
COACH WEIS: No. I wasn’t looking to have a dual quarterback situation, no. I did things out of necessity not out of something I was trying to do.
Q. Assuming your players are as big of fans as we are, did they watch a game like last night, and do you use that as a teaching tool, the way Florida State clock managed in the last minute? Can you point that out to them, and do you do that as a staff on a regular basis?
COACH WEIS: We do address clock management. Hopefully they went to sleep, that’s what I’m hoping they did. I know I watched a little of the game, but 24 23 is as far as I saw. I heard about the rest of it, about 20 minutes after four on the way in. Hopefully not everyone was watching it, but there are definite things you learn from watching the game.
Beside watching guys usually the players watch guys; they watch players rather than watching schemes. But I think that there were some things that stood out, and we always talk about situational football and the handling of situational football.
Q. College games are built on rivalries, like the one this week. I know you try to treat everything the same, but being the nature of what it is, do you sense something more of this week?
COACH WEIS: I think because both teams were somewhat question marks going into the opening week and both had sound, convincing wins, it’s increased the interest of everyone else as it relates to the game. The trickle down affect is that it permeates to the players.
That being said, as a coaching staff we’re going to treat that game the same way we’re going to treat Michigan State the following week. Michigan is next, and we have a lot of respect for Michigan and we’re going on the road to the “Big House” and we’re going to try to win on the road.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, everyone.
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