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UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 4, 2004
COACH CARR: Well, the thing that we've got to do as a football team is address our turnover issues on offense. We're just turning the football over too often. We need to do some things in practice. We need to take it to the game, stop turning the football over. I think defensively, if you look at the national statistics, which I normally do about this time of the year, I don't put a lot of stock into them, because I think a lot of it has to do with who you played before you get into the conference. I think the conference statistics are much more revealing, but by the same token I think our defense, in terms of turnovers caused and rushing defense, has accumulated some outstanding statistics. By the same token, going into the game a year ago up in Minneapolis, we had done the same thing. We didn't come out of that game feeling like we had a great defense, so I think the truth is, as well as our defense has played, we begin here now a stretch of teams that are really going to test us, and we'll find out what kind of defense we have. And your defense is always, to some degree, dependent upon offense and special teams and some of those things. So it's a team game. Our special teams, we had 29 plays - 26 of them were very positive plays. Of course, we had the fake punt, which I give Indiana all the credit. It was a well-designed play. We missed a field goal. Then, of course, we let the one kickoff, their kickoff return out of there. But we did come up with the two I think biggest plays of the game in the return game. On the return game, I mentioned after the game, Braylon Edwards had a great block. He had two great blocks on that play. I want to give him credit. I think Darnell Hood has done a great job in really helping improve our punt coverage. Adam Finley is I think 10th in the nation in punting. If you look at the net punting, then you've got a different story there. But certain Adam Finley is having a great year punting the football for us. We're not as consistent as we need to be in place kicking. But I do think that with Leon and Grant Mason on Saturday, two guys stepped up and replaced somebody that was injured. That's what you need to do if you're going to stay in the race. So this should be a great football game, the oldest rivalry in college football. Some of you remember when it began back in 1903. The teams involved, regardless of the record, that jug is quite a trophy. When we have it, which is all the time - we hope - and we're going to do everything we can to keep it, but because it is the oldest trophy in college football, it does have meaning to the tradition of those two schools. So even people who don't know anything about this game, they have heard about the little brown jug. We have the great fortunate to be able to play for it. Questions.
Q. Do you remember what the reaction was when you realized the jug was left behind?
COACH CARR: That's a loaded question (laughter). I mean, I remember Coach Yoast, he didn't trust those people up in Minneapolis because he was afraid they would poison the water - with good reason, I might add. So he sent Tommy out there to get that jug, five gallons. Yeah, I remember a little bit about it.
Q. Braylon said he snuck on the field for those special team plays.
COACH CARR: That's not true (laughter). He asked Mike to go in. That's at least what Mike told me. You know, that to me is leadership. Leadership is a lot of things. It's what you do. It's the way you handle things, your behavior. But certainly there's a lot of guys that come into college football, I think, you know, it's very typical of a freshman, of a young player, that he only wants to play, if he's a skilled player, when he gets the ball. You know, if he's a tailback, he just wants to run the football. If he's a wide receiver, he just wants to catch the football. If he's a quarterback, he just wants to throw it. Well, the truth is, there's so many things you can do without the football that can impact the game. And I think Braylon's performance, not only on that play, I knew he made a great play when he took the ball away from the receiver. That was an interception. Chad did not make a good read there, shouldn't have gone to him. But, you know, he displayed great strength by just taking a sure interception away from another player. So I do think the fact that, you know, sometimes a -- the ball is not thrown right to a guy, he's not interested in catching it. Well, he made a great play there that goes unnoticed unless you really are looking for the things that can change a game around.
Q. Can you talk about true freshmen, why you put them in there on special teams?
COACH CARR: The first thing they have to do is make the travel team because you don't want to be using a guy at home that you're not going to be able to travel because that means you've got to retrain somebody else on the road. And you want some consistency, some continuity in our lineup. So you have to be a guy that shows the promise and puts himself in a position in most cases where he is a backup on your offensive or defensive teams. Because with the exception of kickers and holders and snappers, you really, in terms of a travel team, want to take guys that are going to factor in in your depth offensively and defensively. So that's where it begins. I think the thing you're always looking for are the guys that can run, guys that are aggressive, guys that have maybe displayed in their high school the ability to be a special teams player. And in training camp, you're trying to have things where you find out if they can handle those assignments because it is not as simple as it may appear to be out there. But we've had a number of guys. Max Martin is working into our special teams. But Chris Graham has done just a great job. Tim Jamison did a great job before he was injured. Adrian Arrington was in on the kickoff return there that Grant brought back for a touchdown. There's some others that I'm sure I'm not mentioning.
Q. Have there been scenarios where you've played true freshmen just on special teams, not their position?
COACH CARR: I think you look at it from the standpoint of what kind of contribution. If a guy can play on three or four special teams, for example, I just mentioned there's 29 plays in that game. If a guy can play 20 plays a game as a special teams players, that's a great contribution over the course of a season. So you're looking at where he can contribute because inevitably, as he gains experience on special teams, and he does a good job, then he adds to your confidence as a coach that he can compete at his other positions. So all those things factor in, I think. And some of it depends on what you told him during recruiting, and what he wants to do.
Q. You talk about your rush being No. 1.
COACH CARR: I didn't talk about being No. 1. I just said it was very good.
Q. Everybody else can talk about how effective they were last year on the ground. How do you contain (inaudible)?
COACH CARR: I think, you know, first of all, they are two -- there's no better pair of backs in the country. I don't know that there's ever been two better. I mean, these guys are great football players. That's where it begins. By the same token, the thing that really makes them a special team is the fact that they have a great offensive line. I think the center is maybe as fine a center as I've seen. (One minute line disconnection).
COACH CARR: Well, we've tried to work on that throughout the spring. You try to work on it throughout the fall. We cannot simulate what they do every day. We can't simulate that. But we can have drills where we're teaching guys. The most important fundamental that you have to be able to execute is when somebody comes to block you low, you've got to look at the blocker and play him and then get off and try to make the tackle. The instinctive thing to do is to look up because you know there's a guy back there with the ball. When you look up, now you're vulnerable and he gets to your legs. Once he gets to your legs, you're on the ground and you're done.
Q. I think it was last year you talked about Minnesota being a zone blocking team. What does that mean for us that are not so football savvy?
COACH CARR: Well, it means that they're all going to block an area, who shows up. So if, for example, you're the offensive tight end, the right end, okay, and the play is going outside to the right, and there's a guy lined up head up on you, right over you, you're going to take a step. If he disappears, if he goes inside, now the tackle's going to block him and you're going to block the next guy, which in most cases there would be a linebacker who is scraping, if they're bringing an outside backer inside. It's the same thing with the guard and the tackle, the guard and the center. That's opposed to, you know, gap schemes where everybody blocks down and you pull the backside guard and use the fullback as a lead blocker. Those are the two major schemes used.
Q. Is that a rare scheme these days?
COACH CARR: No, no. The zone blocking, we do that. The difference is, for example, if we're going to run that play, and you're that outside backer, and you stay outside, our tight end is going to block you high. We're going to try to get into you, sustain, stay on the block. If you can sustain and keep you running, you're blocked. But the difference in their philosophy is they're going to come out and chop your legs. If you get on the ground, I mean, now there's a crease, there's space in there to run.
Q. How unusual is that? Not a lot of people do that?
COACH CARR: No. Not in our league. The Denver Broncos have made that scheme famous in the NFL. They do a great job of it. And, you know, the question is a great question. The difficulty, even if you use that scheme, is how do you teach it without getting a lot of guys hurt. Because if you're practicing, you know, a lot of credit goes to their coaching staff. They've done a great job of being able to get that system taught and implemented. Obviously, the drills and the things that they're doing to teach it, because nobody has enough players that you could go out Tuesday, Wednesday, and do those blocks live, you know, where everybody's on the ground, I don't think.
Q. Hard on your defensive guys?
COACH CARR: Hard on your offense. If you have a guy 300 pounds, he goes to the ground 50 times a day, something's going to give, you know.
Q. Speaking of blocking, the moves that you made on your offensive line after a couple of games together, how would you assess they're doing?
COACH CARR: Well, you know, you always go back I think in offensive line, and you look at yards gained. That's a measure of your team. You can't just say that's a measure of your line, because it may be more than that. It may be the fact that they're playing defenses where they just outnumber you. You better have a system, when they're playing that way, that you can get out of a play, check into a pass play, or do something that takes advantage of what they're giving you. So some of it has to do with who you're playing and how they're playing you. Some of it has to do, a lot of it, with, you know, the performance of your offensive line, and certainly your backs, and some of the play calling. You've got to be able to throw the ball on third down and short because if every time you get third and short you're running the football, sooner or later you develop some tendencies that good teams are going to take advantage of. So I think it's too soon to evaluate because I think the changes, we're going to know how effective they are here in the weeks ahead of us. But I can say that Leo Henige played very well in there at left guard on Saturday. I think David Baas, I think center is a very, very good move for our team. But, you know, we do have some new guys in there at new positions. We've got to get better. We've got to run the football better. We got beat twice, we had two sacks. For the most part, on some of the blitzes, Chad did a great job standing in there and not allowing the pressure to bother him. He kept his eyes down the field. I think the play to germane, he made a very good play, one of the plays to Braylon. But we did give up two sacks there. They just had one especially on the fumble. You got to give their guy credit. He made a great play, knocked the ball loose.
Q. You mentioned the blocks, the injuries that are involved on both sides of the ball. Do you or any other coaches that you know of have any philosophical problems with that?
COACH CARR: No, no. No, no. Not at all. You know, the other answer to that question, in working against Minnesota, our linemen, our people, they block high in almost every case. There are certain times where they will chop a linebacker. But they are just so much better at it. No, they're absolutely -- no. I mean, what they do is within the -- everything they do is within the rules. I'm not saying that. I'm just saying, to stop it, you've got to be able to stay on your feet, and that's a tough order. That's not an easy thing to do because they're so good at it.
Q. What do you think in your defense could pose problems for them?
COACH CARR: I think we're getting a lot of people hustling and pursuing the football. That's where it begins. But I think we're going -- regardless of what we've done well thus far, I think the issue is we're going to know a lot more after this game.
Q. As far as the sacks go, how much of that is with the offensive line and Chad learning when to get rid of the ball, basically throwing it away rather than holding it the half a second too long to create the sack?
COACH CARR: I think there's one play in there, one sack in there, where we would like for him to get rid of the ball. That's all part of it. He stepped up, but he probably stepped -- probably should have felt the rush, even though you're looking down. That's all part of it. Then you've got some guys at new positions. You know, every week you're playing against some talented people who make good plays. You've got to give the other guy some credit. That's something we don't like to do enough. So that's all part of it.
Q. A bit of an old-fashioned football game. They want to run the ball on you, daring you to stop them. Do you enjoy that?
COACH CARR: I think the greatest thing about college football as opposed to professional football is that you see so many different philosophies. You know, in college football, you get a lot of teams that still run enough option that it creates problems for you. You get the no huddle, the spread offense. Then this week we're getting a team that is old-fashioned. I mean, they're leading the nation in all the top categories of offensive categories and two great runningbacks. We've always prided ourselves here, this program was built to play great defense because that's the way you win. Not that we have not always aspired to have great offensive teams and special teams and the whole thing, but you think we've got enough of a tradition here, a history here, that we take great pride in the way we play defense. So when you get an opportunity to play a team this talented, this good, I think it is exciting. I think this is a fun game, no question.
Q. Is there a timetable when Jeremy might be able to help you out? Can you talk about his ability to come back?
COACH CARR: Well, he's made a remarkable recovery. I think depending on how he does this week, he practiced last week, and he's good to go. We just have to see, you know -- the question would be the conditioning, all the things that he's missed. But in terms of the knee, it's fine. He's been given clearance to play. We have to see how he handles practice and if there's anything that comes up during practice. But I think you could see him this week.
Q. What about (inaudible)?
COACH CARR: Breaston, we always have a short practice Sunday evening, non-padded practice. He was out there ready to go. I said to him, I said, "Steve (snapping fingers), what's your last name?" But believe me, this kid, he loves to play. He's fun to be around. He wants to play. You know, we just have to see, because I can remember when Ty Streets, 1997, had two fingers, one on each hand, that was dislocated. So everybody is saying, "Well, he can't play." I said to him, I said, because the doctors, we're never going to play somebody here that's not healthy, but I can remember saying to Ty Streets, "You can play if you can stand the discomfort." I think it's essentially the same for Steve. He's going to have some discomfort handling the football. But it is on his left hand, so he's going to secure the ball in his right hand in most cases. The question will be can he catch the football without dropping it? If he's going to drop it, that's no good. So we'll just have to see in practice and see how he handles it.
Q. Did he say anything about (inaudible)?
COACH CARR: No. I can tell you this. I know this. He's extremely competitive, but he's also a great team player. I think he's very happy that our guys did a great job in blocking for those two returns. But I think he's itching to get back in there.
Q. Will that be more of a discomfort on the hands, though?
COACH CARR: You know, the truth is, in fielding kicks, you can use your body. We just have to see.
Q. You're not definite that he'll be in?
COACH CARR: We're definite that he's going to practice, then we have to see how he feels. He may say, "Coach, I can't deal with this. It's too painful." But we have to see.
Q. (Inaudible) starting corner?
COACH CARR: I think Leon's done a great job. I think Markus has done a great job this week. I think he's still not a hundred percent. You know, I think it's a very competitive situation. We just have to watch him. But, you know, Leon, he got an opportunity there. He's done a lot with it. The truth is, we need them both. To have him take advantage of an opportunity, you know, that's something you really like to see. By the same token, Markus is a senior, and he's worked hard. We just have to do the best we can from a team standpoint and a coaching situation, what is a very, very good position to be in.
Q. Their defense compared to last year? Better?
COACH CARR: Well, I really like their front. They've got five guys up there that have all started games. I think Montgomery and Reid, is it Losli, how do they pronounce the big defensive tackle, he played a year ago, too. He's a big, strong, powerful guy. Very athletic defensive ends. Two of the three linebackers are back. The starting corners are both back. So I look at it has a very experienced defensive team that's very talented up front, very talented.
Q. Big game for both teams. Because of the Big-10 race, because of maybe who Minnesota doesn't play, is it maybe more critical for you than it is for them?
COACH CARR: Well, I think if you're going to win the championship, every game's critical. And certainly a year ago we lost early and still were able to come back and win the championship outright simply because I think it is so competitive in this league week in and week out. When you go on the road, you know it's going to be hard to win, even if you're playing a team that's considered down. They're going to play hard. That's exactly what we ran into last week. I think obviously you've got to win at home. And I think Minnesota, from a schedule standpoint, I think it's pretty obvious if you don't play Purdue and Ohio State, two outstanding teams, it's helpful. But they still have some very good teams to play. They still have to play Wisconsin. They still got to play Iowa. I don't know who else because I don't look at all that too much. But obviously this is the third game of the Big-10 season. You got eight games to play. It's a big one.
Q. Talking about how the defense has to prove something, giving up so many yards last year. Knowing they have to prove something, do you feel the game becomes more dangerous for Minnesota, feeling a little bit like that?
COACH CARR: We're not concerned with how Minnesota feels. We're not consider concerned about last year. The thing we've got to do is be concerned about how Minnesota plays. And on film, what we see and what we know is that they're an outstanding football team. You're not 5-0 for no other reason than they're an outstanding team. That's the concern. You can get distracted by all that other stuff. I understand it's a great story. But by the same token, what's going to help you win? I mean, that's what we got to deal with.
COACH CARR: Well, Leon, I mentioned this several times, Leon Hall played as a freshman last year, and he had some real discomfort in his shoulder, and he could play, but it was not a lot of fun at times. And yet he never begged off, he wanted to play. So we learned a lot a year ago. He started some games a year ago. We learned a lot about his toughness, about his competitiveness. He's a guy that has unbelievable presence, poise and confidence. He had that from the first day he got in here. He missed some of our fall practice, and I can't remember exactly what the circumstances were. Oh, he had hurt his hand in the summertime, so he couldn't practice for like a week or so. Missed part of the training camp. But he came back in after they cleared him to play and it was like he didn't miss a day. Most guys that are freshmen, if they miss a week of practice, it's over. They've missed too much. And you can't go back and make up all that time. And so he's a wonderful guy, just a great story. He has not had the easiest family circumstances, but he is one smart, tough, competitive guy. And he's made a great contribution to this program, and he represents this program just the way you would want somebody to represent it.
Q. (Inaudible) first pass, first touchdown down to him? What has he done for this team as a receiver lately?
COACH CARR: I've said this for quite some time. He's practiced very, very well. At some point I think we were all confident that he was going to take his practice performance to the game. You know, when Steve was not able to travel, that certainly created an opportunity for Jermaine, and he made the most of it. And I think as we go forward here, I really believe he'll make some more plays.
Q. What did the officials tell you about the overturning?
COACH CARR: Well, this he reviewed three plays, and two of them were correctly done. The play down on the goal line, they handled that well from the standpoint of the decision they made. The call that they reviewed when Indiana punted us the football, my issue at the time was that that play should not have been reviewed. I was very concerned that we were going to go down a road where we'd begin to review plays that shouldn't be reviewed, now you've got some real issues, even though there was a penalty flag thrown. Dave Perry, this issue is something that you have -- you're going to learn some things as you go. But he indicated to me today that that play should not have been reviewed, which I feel very good about because if you're going to start reviewing plays that shouldn't be reviewed, then that's an issue, that's a problem. So I'm very happy with the response I got. I think all coaches will be. But I think on the most part, they got a right.
Q. Could you talk about the two freshmen, Henne and Hart?
COACH CARR: Henne and Hart? Well, we'll see how they do in practice this week, how they play.
Q. How are you determining who how are you dividing snaps and the backup?
COACH CARR: I don't mean to be smart there. I think Chad Henne and Michael Hart are two kids that just came here, to come in a program like this, have just done an absolutely wonderful job. They've got a lot to learn. They've had great work ethic, great attitude. Both of them were here in the summer. And if they continue, I think they're going to have a lot of success, and I think there's going to be a lot of exciting days in that stadium and in that Michigan uniform for people who follow Michigan football. That's a good question. You know, we're working as we speak. It's a very competitive situation, and we've got to go on practice performance. Max Martin has played extremely well the last three or four weeks in practice. He's shown us some things that we really like. So he got an opportunity in there. Pierre Rembert I think will play an important role as we go forward, and so will Jerome Jackson. I think, you know, we just have to see how it goes on a week-to-week basis because the truth is they're competing and we're trying to make decisions based on what we see and how they perform. It's the only way I know how to handle it.
Q. You didn't mention Underwood.
COACH CARR: David got in there.
COACH CARR: I should have. There's other people in there, too. We've got a number of guys. The real key is, one question is, how much repetition can you get them, how well do they practice, and then what role can you have because I think, based on the last three games, it's pretty clear that. Michael Hart has earned the right to start. Now we got to see how the rest of these roles, how they develop.
Q. He's been averaging about 20 carries the last three games. Is that the max you want for him? You said he's durable.
COACH CARR: Well, right now he's shown a very, very - to me - surprising durability because if you had asked me back in the spring if he could come in here and carry the ball 20 times a game as a true freshman, I would have said no. I've changed my mind on what he has done. Now, at some point here, if he gets nicked up, then that becomes problematic. But I do think that he has really shown a durability. You know, he's an excellent pass protector, very quick, very tough, and a very, very good pass receiver. He does a lot of things in there. And he's not a one-dimensional guy. So the next thing we have to do, obviously, is find somebody that can carry the football another eight to ten times a game, and then maybe another guy that can maybe carry it four or five. If we can do that, if we're running the football 35, 40 times a game, that's kind of when we'd like to do.
Q. Keeping the ball away from Minnesota, are you able to practice sustaining the drive, eating up minutes, or do those fall into place if you're executing?
COACH CARR: Well, this is kind of an interesting area. I've always been a guy, because I was a defensive coach, and I understand, I think, the importance of time of possession. But I think what we're seeing here, the most important thing offensively is to score. So what we did Saturday, we scored awfully quickly. We scored very quickly. Well, so on Sunday, we always talk about there's five or six categories that we're going to stress that are very important in terms of playing football the way we want to play it at Michigan. Time of possession is always one because of what it does for your defense and the impact it has on the other team's defense. But if you can score quickly, you also now put the other team offensively in a position where they have to play from behind. So now, if that happens, time of possession, which we lost on Saturday, normally it's an extremely important component of what we want to do. Well, it loses its importance if you can score quickly. So the truth is, however, against very good defenses, the one thing, we were talking this morning that I've said, and if I were defending our team, if I was playing against Michigan, hey, the number one thing I'm going to do is I'm not giving up big plays. I mean, there's going to be somebody back there. Now, if a guy just makes a play, which Braylon has done, that may happen, but it's not going to be because we don't have people back there. I think that's what we're going to see here. You're just not going to give up big plays and win. I mean, you better stop the big plays. That's what we're trying to do defensively, which we've gotten better at it.
COACH CARR: You'll have to ask him. He's practicing, yeah. He'll be fine. He's tough.
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