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UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN MEDIA CONFERENCE
December 15, 2004
COACH CARR: Texas, they are very talented, 10-1; they only lost to Oklahoma. I think they are a big, strong physical offensive football team. And I think Vincent is a great tailback, a guy that's got great vision, outstanding power, and excellent quickness. He's a guy that he can hit the home run and he's done that a number of times. And then, of course, at quarterback, a guy that is a great athlete, a guy that makes a lot of throws after things break down, he's made a lot of big plays when things go wrong in the pocket; as well as they have a number of plays designed for him to run the football. So we are dealing with spread offense and we've got to find a way to stop an outstanding running attack and a passing game that can hurt you because you are spread out and you have -- they make you defend the run. If you don't stop the run, you're going to have a problem beating Texas. Defensively, great quickness, very physical, up-front team that runs to the football. And of course, the best linebacker and of course when you add a guy that's won the Butkus and the Nagurski Award, you're talking about one of the best football players defensively in a while. So he's their leader. He makes plays sideline to sideline and makes a lot of big plays. Their special teams are very good, and I don't see any weaknesses there. We are just faced with the best football team we've played this fall, and we've got to play our best game.
Q. You talked at one of your previous press conferences about running quarterbacks and their mobility at quarterback, have you looked at scheming anything differently for this specific game?
COACH CARR: Well, we wouldn't do that. You know, obviously that offense, the problem it creates is an extra guy, as a running back. I don't know that anybody has the answer to it. I think what you have to do is you start out defensively if you can prevent big plays. That's where you have to start, and then you have to do a good job against the running game. If you can get them into third-and-long, then you've got an excellent chance to get them off the field. But unless you can get them to third-and-long, then you've got a problem, and of course, in our last game, we had some drives in there where we didn't get them off the field. So, you know, there's no -- there's nobody has a real answer because you are spread out, and technically, they have always got the answer, because they've got the football, and the quarterback can look out and he can throw if you've got too many people up there; and if you don't, then they are going to run it. So, you know, that offense is designed to always have the chalk last, in coaching talk.
Q. What are the positives and negatives of signing a guy like that to quarterback and his responsibility?
COACH CARR: Well, any time you do that, you slow his pass rush down, you slow his pursuit down. He's got to think, as opposed to react, and it becomes in many ways an option-type defensive scheme where you have to assign certain guys on certain blocks. They now are playing assignment football. You know, that's the challenge. And I think defensively, across this country in high school and college, this offense creates problems because you always have some other standard offenses during the season, and when you get to those offenses, they are a little bit different and certainly they create more problems. And offensively, if you can keep the quarterback healthy, you know, it's a good scheme.
Q. Would you rather play something like that straight-up or would you rather assign a guy?
COACH CARR: I don't think it matters what I would prefer. I think we're in an era where you're going to get those challenges. And as coaches and as players, I don't want to hear all that bologna about "I'd prefer this". Just line up and be ready to play and play hard.
Q. What are the challenges of simulating a quarterback like that?
COACH CARR: Well, if you run -- any time you are preparing for an offense that is different than your own, you have problems. You know, certainly we don't have a guy that has the athletic ability of Young and who knows that offense. We have down through the years when we played Randall El and some of those guys, we would take a wide receiver who was a great athlete and we could do that. But it is very difficult because, you know, we don't run that offense. And so everything about it, from the -- not just from the quarterback standpoint, the tailback standpoint, it's all different. And so teaching them, hopefully because we do have extra time to prepare as a result of the Bowl preparation, we can get better simulation than we would if we were playing them with only a week to prepare.
Q. Several of your players said that they thought last year, a lot of guys were not happy and this year it was more of a business trip; do you sense something different?
COACH CARR: Well, I don't think it matters from the standpoint that, you know, you have one opportunity of 13 to play in a bowl game. And when you have an opportunity to play in a Rose Bowl and you don't play well, you can make all of the excuses you want, and I don't know that that's necessarily fair to the guys that left. Certainly, they are the guys that have -- they can't do anything about their memories. But, you know, you have an opportunity. I've always believed and I've always approached Bowl games, it's a one-game season. You've got one opportunity. And so the team that comes out successful will have much better memories than the ones that don't.
Q. Can you talk about how you guys have been in practice and how focused you've been?
COACH CARR: Well, I think the proof is in the pudding, you know what I mean? You know, the truth is, it doesn't do any good to answer that question right now. How are we going to play New Year's Day; I think that's really the ultimate test. I can say that our practices have been intense, because I think our team understands that we have a lot of things that we need to get corrected. And we certainly have to go into this game with an attitude that defensively, you've got to get to the football, and we've got to do a lot of things better. And as a football team, we understand that we're going to have to play our best game.
Q. You've talked about it all season long, how will you remember this team?
COACH CARR: Well, I'll remember them after the Rose Bowl. I mean, right now, you know, I think we can't afford to spend time; and that's really the tough thing about a season, you know, until it's over, until it's finished, as a coach, I don't spend time, you know, padding people on the back. That's not the answer. And certainly, when you have a lull like we do between the end of the season and the Bowl season, there's a lot of great things that have happened to our players. We're excited for that. We're happy for them. But as a football team, you know, it's the old story, nobody cares what you did yesterday. You'd better be riding that horse today.
Q. What do you think about what Braylon talking about being the best receiver in Michigan history?
COACH CARR: Well, I think certainly the career he had gives him the right to answer a question as he sees it. And contrary to the consensus around here, I don't tell players what to say. That's the beautiful thing about a Michigan education, you know, and being an American. You have the right, freedom of speech, just like we have freedom of the press, the greatest two rights we have. So, you know, Braylon certainly has had a great career, and I'm extremely proud of what he's done this season and the leadership that he's given our team and the example that he's set on the field. So he's certainly one of the great football players we've had at Michigan, I don't think there's any doubt about that.
Q. Would you say he has developed more as a person or a player in his four years here?
COACH CARR: We're all human, and we all understand if we reflect honestly, that we all have our faults and we all have areas that we can improve in. As an athlete, it's the same. You either get better or you get worse. I mean, that's the deal, every day, you get a little bit better as a football team, you get a little bit better as a player, and that's the goal; or you don't stay the same. And if you're staying the same, you're regressing; you're getting worse. The deal is to pay attention every day so that you can continue to improve and be better. And when this season is over, when our season at Michigan is over, those guys are leaving, they are going to understand that. When they move on, nobody cares what they did here. It's going to be about what they are doing in their new challenges.
Q. How did you react at the Ohio State loss, after seeing it on film?
COACH CARR: Well, I think they understand that we did not play like we wanted to. There's disappointment any time you don't play up to your expectations. And certainly, there's disappointment any time you lose. So, that's what I say. The desire to compete and to get better, and to end any season on a good note. I think that's where our focus is.
Q. Are you puzzled by what happened to your defense down the stretch, and is it fixable, or what do you think it is?
COACH CARR: Well, I think when you really look at it, we played in the game here in the third from the last game, the Michigan State game, we played against -- in that game and in the Ohio State game, the two best quarterbacks that we faced this year, two great athletes. So I think that you have to start there. And in that offense, you've got some problems. Certainly, when you look at it, in the last game, we did not play well. You have to be able to tackle. You have to be able to get off blocks. You have to play together. You can't give up big plays. And we did all of those things. Some of it, we would have liked to have been in better defenses. Any time you're not doing things like you want to do them, everybody accepts responsibility. I think the key to getting better is understanding that rather than finding fault; it's taking responsibility individually. I think down through the years, our players, our coaches, have done that. Don't look at the other guy. Don't make excuses. And we had a couple excuses after the Ohio State game, and I don't like that. There are no excuses. You either play well and you play hard and you play aggressively, or you don't. And we didn't do that. And so we all have to take responsibility for that.
Q. What sort of caught your anger there --
COACH CARR: It doesn't matter. I've dealt with those.
Q. As a guy who enjoys history, is there a special meaning to you, Michigan and Texas, these two great programs meeting for the first time ever?
COACH CARR: Well, I think for me, this is about the Rose Bowl. And the opportunity to go into that stadium on that day is I think for most kids who grow up watching football, wanting to play football, people who love the game, they are sitting in front of that TV across this country, across the world probably, watching that game. And you have the opportunity to run on to that field and look up and see those mountains and the colors and know that you have an opportunity that doesn't come very often, and you're lucky to be a part of it. To me that's what this thing is all about. Doesn't matter who you play; it's the opportunity to play in that game and represent this conference and this university.
Q. The time between the Ohio State game and the Rose Bowl, does that time allow to you have some guys back that you wouldn't have had if you had to play the next week?
COACH CARR: Well, Jeremy Van Alstyne will miss this game. He injured his foot in the Ohio State game. He had surgery, and he'll be back in the fall. But we'll miss him. We'll miss his toughness, and I think he was getting better every day and certainly from where he was when we started practice, he came a long way. But he won't play.
Q. Can you talk about Matt's rehab?
COACH CARR: I will have conversations when we get back from the Rose Bowl with Clayton. Matt, you know, he's rehabbing and working hard, making good progress. But he will not be participating in spring practice.
Q. Who is expected to pick up the slack with Adam suspended?
COACH CARR: Well, we are working on that. We'll see how that goes.
Q. How does that change things for you?
COACH CARR: Well, I really don't want to get into that.
Q. Are there any other injuries, players that are hurt in practice do you thank you don't expect to play or do you expect a full complement otherwise?
COACH CARR: I don't think there's any -- we've got a couple of guys that have missed practice the last couple of days, but I don't think there's anybody that's going to miss that game at this point because of injury.
Q. What is the status on Jason?
COACH CARR: Jason, they scoped his knee and they should be fine.
Q. Obviously they had help around them, but what about Henne and Hart allowed them to come in as freshman to contribute and start?
COACH CARR: I think you have to start with those two kids as individuals. You don't do what they did in a place where the expectations are this guy, unless they have some essential qualities, some toughness, a lot of intelligence, and competitiveness. I think you know, their will to compete I think is really special. I think the fact that the truly great players that I've coached are guys that -- the one thing they all have in common is that nothing intimidates them. And I don't think either one of these guys was ever intimidated by Michigan or by Big-10 football or by, you know, stadiums that were filled with people cheering them for them to lose. I think they weren't intimidated by anything, and I think that, you know, is an essential quality if you're going to be able to achieve without a lot of experience. You know, I've always said, experience is difficult to get. It's a great thing, but it's difficult to get without pain and suffering. And relatively speaking, I think both of those kids did not suffer as much as some people do. Of course they are not done. They are just starting, and they have got a long way away. There's a lot of guys that are successful for one year. The deal is, to keep doing it, and that will be their challenge, better or worse.
Q. Player by player came in today and referenced the businesslike approach versus last year. Is that something you are instilling, a more businesslike approach to this Rose Bowl?
COACH CARR: Not really. I think the Rose Bowl is a reward for a championship season, and one of the things that makes this the greatest experience is there's a lot of fun things to do. There's a lot of great traditions that are part of the Rose Bowl. Certainly there is a memory that we all have. We lost to a great football team last year, and you know, we would like to change the outcome, and we're going to play another great football team this year. So, you know, I think the great teams that find a way, have found a way here to win those games. We'll see how we add up here.
Q. Does it mean anything by having a number of those guys back who went through that last year?
COACH CARR: Well, I think certainly that should be an advantage. Whether it is will be determined by how they lead and how they approach this trip.
Q. Did you learn anything specifically from the Rose Bowl game last year that carried over or can carry over to this year?
COACH CARR: Well, I think the guys that are going back obviously, there's a lot of things that you learn. But you know it is a different team and it's a different season. So, you know, there's things that you learn on any game and hopefully it becomes part who you are and the lessons you've learned. But you know, I don't think we're going to spend a lot of time looking at that game, if that's what you mean.
Q. With all of the obligations and extra activities, are you as a coach able to say, well, this is getting a little bit much?
COACH CARR: The agreement is contractual and there's certain obligations that we have, and then there are some events that you have a choice in.
Q. Is moving the hotel away from the heart of Beverly Hills one thing that you can change that you have changed, like a lesson learned from last year?
COACH CARR: No. You want to stay in a nice hotel and that's first and foremost. A year ago, I mean, you know, you've only got a certain number of hotels that can handle the number of people that we have in that party. And still, we need meeting rooms, we need dining rooms, we need rooms where we can have treatment and taping. So the first thing is to have a place where everybody can be comfortable and rest well and all those things.
Q. Do you expect Adam to be playing?
COACH CARR: Adam Stenavich has not practiced in the last few practices because I suspended him pending finding out exactly what happened there. I'm hoping that in the next day or two I have all the information, and at that point I'll make a decision on whether or not he accompanies the team to Los Angeles.
Q. Is there something about this season that's going to help you have that fire at this point?
COACH CARR: You know, I have a passion for the game. I have a passion for competition. And I like to win. So, if that's what he's talking about, you know, I think I've always had that.
Q. Do you think it's the same for the team as other games this season, passion?
COACH CARR: I would hope so.
Q. For the freshmen that have been your key ingredients -- and now you're going to ask them to make their first Bowl trip to one of the biggest of them all and separate all of the outside stuff from the football game itself?
COACH CARR: You know, as far as the game itself, I don't worry about Chad Henne or Michael Hart because they have been in places that are as difficult as it can be to play. I do think that your first Bowl trip, you know, there's a part of you that is excited because you're seeing things that you've only dreamt about. You're seeing things that, you know, are exciting to be a part of. So you have to be able to know when to shut it down and when to begin concentrating on New Year's day, and that is always on a daily basis a challenge. When you go into a meeting to watch the practice film from the previous day, or film of your opponent, you've got to be there. You've got to be seen and knowing what you're seeing is something that you need to understand as you go into that game. So if you can do that and do the same thing at practice, then you still can enjoy the other things. But when you go into that meeting, and you're tired because you've stayed out too late, if you have not rested as much as you need, when you get to that day, the 1st of January, then you're going to find that you won't play as well. You won't be better; you'll be worse.
Q. Will you have a curfew?
COACH CARR: We won't have any curfews.
Q. Can you talk about your secondary?
COACH CARR: I'm just kidding. We have a curfew. (Laughter)
Q. Curfews are on Eastern time?
COACH CARR: Yeah. It will be nine o'clock Eastern standard time. (Laughter). You. Know, the thing about -- I will say this about curfews. I always tell them, I don't want to have to explain to your mother why something really bad happened to you because I allowed you to stay out without a curfew. So, yeah, we'll have curfews and that curfew will be moved up as we get closer to the game. But, you know, we only practice once a day, and there's a lot of time to see things without staying out all night.
Q. Can you talk about your secondary and two first-team All-Americans, what kind of years they have had?
COACH CARR: Well, I think there's been enough written about them and said about them. They are All-Americans. The truth is, that when you reach a goal, you'd better be setting new goals, and hopefully, every single guy, his goal will be on January 1 to play the best game that he's played this year. And he'll understand what that means in terms of preparing, in terms of his concentration. And that's a challenge, because when somebody tells you that you're an All-American, the first thought that goes through your mind is, hey, you know, I'm pretty good. I'm satisfied. And when you're satisfied, you begin that slippery slide down that slope. So you've got to maintain a will to prepare and a will to get ready to play your best game against an opponent that's going to be giving you their best.
COACH CARR: Well, you know, I wouldn't say that.
Q. Could you comment about making Larry making the trip to California?
COACH CARR: I do want to comment on that situation from the standpoint that we are all very, very concerned about Larry. This is not about football. Football is the least important thing in his life right now. We're talking about his life, we're talking about him getting everything he needs to get in order to deal with whatever issues there are, and that's our concern. Our prayers are with them, and we care about him. And we hope that this thing can -- the things that he has to do, he can do to continue on and be a successful person. But no, he will not.
Q. Can you talk about Jake Long's contribution?
COACH CARR: You know, we really began offensively to be a powerful football team offensively when Jake moved into the starting lineup and David moved to center. Jake has got a great future if he continues to have a great work ethic and an attitude that he wants to be the best. He is talented physically and he's a smart guy and he's tough. So he's got all of the things that you look at and now as a red shirt freshman, the experience of starting all of those games during the season. And the truth is, he played at a very high level considering his lack of experience. So, you know, he's one of those guys that I think has a great future.
Q. Would you say he's the best back?
COACH CARR: Yeah, I would say he's the best back. I don't think there's any question about that. He's a guy that, you know, he runs with power. He can break the big play.
COACH CARR: Mike Kolodziej has moved into that position, and Kolodziej will start the Rose Bowl game.
Q. How excited is he to be playing?
COACH CARR: Well, I'll tell you after New Year's day. Hopefully I would imagine that he's excited about the opportunity that has presented itself.
Q. Does the fact that you are not practicing December 31st, is that the way it's always been for your Bowl game or is that something different this year?
COACH CARR: Yeah, that's always been the -- yeah.
Q. Because there's so much pressure to win the Bowl game, do you find it harder and harder to get the younger guys -- I know you use Bowl practices to work in younger guys, but do you find it harder to do that, looking at center, for instance?
COACH CARR: No. I think part of the experience of playing in a Bowl game, I mean, one of the great things about it from a program standpoint is the fact that you do have 15 or 16 additional practices. And so you have an opportunity to make some decisions, and our decision as always is that we are going to spend time in each practice coaching our guys that will be back that did not play this year. All of those kids who were red-shirted will have some opportunities, repetitions in practice, that will help them as they go into spring practice.
COACH CARR: Well, I think they are an outstanding group, and the thing that you get when you utilize two tight ends off the play-action pass, you know, you have to be designed to stop the run. And when they fake the ball to Benson and your linebackers are going that way, and now the quarterback fakes him the ball and then bootlegs back to the opposite side, the flow of the play is a run. And so you get your flow, you get defensively going to the run. And now as the quarterback comes back to the other side, you've got another issue, and that is, first of all, on the back side of the play, did you stay home and contain him, because if you didn't, he will run for a lot of yards. So the back side of the defense must stay home, and when they stay home, they are taken out of the pursuit of the defense, which is something that you can do against more conventional defenses, and your linebackers now have to react quickly back and cover the tight end. So, you know, that's part of the preparation that we have to be able to defend both the run and the play-action pass that comes off the run.
Q. Did that fuel the fire coming to Michigan --
COACH CARR: Any time you're coming off a loss, I mean -- I should rephrase that. Any time I've been part of a loss, I'm not a lot of fun to be around, period. But I don't think the intensity is any different. I mean, when you get to this point, and you've been as in as many Rose Bowls as I've been in, you want to win. You want to win. Because now, there's nothing like being there, regardless of whether you win or lose, it's a great experience. But it's a hell of a lot better when you win, trust me.
Q. Do you think the voting should be made public?
COACH CARR: It's nobody's business. No, I'm just kidding. I'm just kidding. But we're among friends, aren't we? Well , it's this simple, okay, and I think it may change and I think there may be a lot of coaches change their mind, and I think there will be some coaches who say, I don't want to vote. Because there's enough scrutiny of coaches without, for example, voting for teams in your own conference that you're going to play or maybe a team that you're going to play in a Bowl game, and you incur the wrath of those people because you voted their team No. 2 instead of No. 1. Well, who needs that aggravation? And then when you add it to the fact that somebody, you know, in 1997, somebody voted us down, when, in fact, we were one of only two undefeated teams in this country. Well, that's true of you. There are people in the media who have done the same thing those coaches did to us in 1997, and evidently, there were some coaches who voted California down this year. So we don't have a perfect system. And we never did and we never will. So people's biases become part of their vote, and as a coach, you know, I've thought about that, and you know, I vote and I've tried to vote what I think is the fair thing. But, to make that vote public would satisfy the writers because their vote is public. But they don't have to, you know, go out there every Saturday and you know they are going to still get criticism. But you're a much bigger target as a coach I think, and that's a dilemma we have. What the answer is, I don't know. I don't know.
Q. Would you agree that's probably --
COACH CARR: We all have biases, even you.
Q. Don't you want to know who voted you down?
COACH CARR: Oh, I'd love to. But the truth is, I think I know anyway. (Laughter). But, but, you know, the truth is, what good would it do me? Hey, they gave me the opportunity to vote. They gave you an opportunity to vote for the Heisman. They give you an opportunity to vote for those things. So hopefully, the right thing will be done by the most people. But if it isn't, it is the system. That's what we have.
COACH CARR: Yeah, I think there would be more pressure to make sure that that type of thing didn't happen. But what if, what if that person who voted them 8th really believed that? What if the person who voted us 4 really believed that? I mean, it's hard in that particular case for me to believe that because there's only two undefeated teams. But, you know, it's a complex system, and we've always had things like that happen. We just know with the technology available and the Freedom of Information Act, there are people who are adamant about finding out. And so I don't know what we do.
Q. Do you think there will be more of a push for a change?
COACH CARR: You know, I haven't given it any thought, and I think -- I'm sure at the convention the coaches will discuss that, and I think there will be some people who will really want that change made, and I may be one of them, but I know this. It's not going to be any fun for the guys that vote. I mean, when those votes come out -- I mean, you know, if you get -- well, there's just a lot of problems with it.
Q. Would you consider dropping out of the -- inaudible?
COACH CARR: Yes, I will.
Q. You would drop out?
COACH CARR: No, I didn't say that, your question was would you consider, so then I said yes, and then you say you would drop out? (Laughter).
Q. Do you think at some point the replay will be unilaterally reformed?
COACH CARR: You know, speaking for myself, we've had a conference call amongst the coaches, and I'm not in a position to comment on that, but I do think that it's been very successful based on its objectives. I do think it's something that's coming, and I might be wrong, but I think it's going to happen. At least I would see that the rules committee will give permission to other conferences that want to explore it. But I think anybody who has studied the Big-10 model believes that it's been successful. Happy New Year.
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