“We starting with questions or…am I breaking into a speech here?”
MGoQuestion: You’re a few practices in now. Are you liking Mason Cole better at tackle or center?
“You really haven’t, uh…just playing hard, seeing who goes where as we go as an offense. As we get through the summer we’ll figure out—the first play of the Florida game, we’ll know who the starters are.”
So is the offensive line kind of a long-term project, long-term development then?
“What do you mean?”
When you say you want to take the summer to evaluate this.
“What’s beautiful about Coach Harbaugh is ever position is being challenged and every position is open and we’ll find out when we get to gametime who the guys are.”
How important is versatility on this offensive line?
“I think it’s important anytime you have players. When you’ve got guys that can do multiple things it helps. It helps alleviate stress. It helps when you can bring players along. You want guys to do a lot of things. As a player you want the versatility going forward when you’re trying to chase that NFL career.”
Have you met and talked to Grant Newsome yet? Obviously he’s got a road that he’s been on to try and get back.
“Yeah, I have met with Grant Newsome, and he’s a wonderful, great person. As far as him as a player, I don’t handle those questions.”
[Hit THE JUMP for an interesting bit about the schemes Frey has coached]
You say you’re going to give it the summer, give it fall camp and up to that first game, but at some point do guys need to work together or are you not a believe in that; [do you believe] that they can shuffle consistently before you have to cut it off or narrow it down?
“As far as what?”
On the line.
“You mean as far as playing the same position?”
“Well, you know, the thing about athletics and the thing about playing is adversity’s going to hit, and it’s a physical game. Injuries are gonna happen and so you’ve got to be ready. You’re never gonna start with five guys on the offensive line and one tight end as six and play the whole year. A thousand snaps in the Big Ten is hard.
“Your guys gotta be ready and multiple guys have got to be ready, and so what you’re trying to do in spring ball is lay the foundation: the fundamentals, the toughness, the competitiveness. You’re seeing how the winter workouts helped them quicker, stronger, faster, and then you re-evaluate after spring and start a summer plan. Then you re-evaluate after two-a-days and start a season plan.
“And so you’re always planning how you’re building that group, how you’re building the five O-linemen, the 11 offensive players, the 22 defense and 33 special teams players together, and so it’s a constant, evolving plan, and that’s what you’re looking for.”
Do you have a general philosophy about throwing true freshmen on the offensive line? I know some coaches don’t like to do that.
“My vote is the best players play. So, whoever’s gonna help us win, I’m all for putting them on the field.”
Speaking of true freshmen, what have you seen out of Cesar Ruiz and JaRaymond Hall?
“They’re wonderful people. They’re playing hard, doing well. So we’ll see. We’ll see. Gotta see today’s film.”
In terms of tight ends, in your background you hadn’t done too much with that position specifically. What have you done to be able to handle those guys?
“Well, when you’re talking tight ends and you’re talking about our offense, part of the run game—let me answer it this way: run game isn’t very far off tackles/tight ends as far as what you do. When you get to the pass game, being an athlete is being an athlete. So the ability to make somebody, a defender, uncomfortable, whether it’s releasing on a route, blocking, doing those things, is a key environment. And that doesn’t matter what position you play, whether you’re playing running back, tight end, wide receiver, offensive tackle. Your ability to close on somebody, make them feel uncomfortable, get them flat-footed and go about it, those are the things we’re focusing on.
“If you’re talking schematics, I’ve been twenty-some-odd years in football; a slant route’s a slant route, a go route’s a go route, a seam’s a seam. As we go I’ve been working with Pep, and Coach Harbaugh’s been amazing, quite honestly. Sometimes I’m just sitting in there in awe hearing them talk pass game. And Coach Drevno and Jay Harbaugh—it’s an unbelievable staff, so it’s very easy to get into sync with what the Michigan offense does.”
How do you and Tim split things? Are you helping in the middle too or is it a clear delineation with the outside guys and the inside guys?
“No. We’re a staff and staffs work together, so whatever I need to do to help Michigan win I’m willing to do. Whatever Coach Harbaugh asks me to do, whatever Coach Drevno asks me to do, I’m gonna do.”
How was the getting-to-know process with Tim Drevno? Did you know him before?
“We actually met on the road recruiting and it’s been wonderful. I mean, it’s been an absolute—he’s an outstanding person and even better coach. We’ve had a lot of great discussions on how to block things, on how to handle things, picking up twists and stunts and bringing two really good styles of offensive-line play and coaching together in that world has been outstanding.”
How are your styles different from each other?
“Well, my history had been a shotgun spread no-huddle, which I know Coach Drevno was at Southern Cal but here they’re a little bit more of a huddle. And so when you’re talking about bringing together ideas and what you do, in my past it had been a two-back, no tight end and 11 personnel. Then coming in here it was three tight ends and two tight ends and heavy, power game. We’ve got a couple former quarterbacks in Coach Harbaugh and Coach Hamilton and they love tight ends. So it’s the big bodies and seeing how to use them, learning how to do those things—it’s been outstanding.”
When you say you met Tim on the recruiting trail did you mean this past winter or in the past?
“Yeah, I’d met him before. I mean, we don’t keep in touch. We don’t live together but just we’d met and known each other.”
I know you guys did a lot of zone at Indiana but you did a little gap stuff, too. How versatile was that offense and the blocking schemes at Indiana and will it be a similar situation here when you guys get together and--
“Yeah, you know, what I think as you go forward—anytime you’re in coaching, you see what your personnel can do. That’s what you want. And so that ‘s part of what these practices are is evaluating, hey, how good are we gonna be at power or counter or whatever it may be, zone. And so as you’re playing you teach them the fundamentals, you’re getting back in the swing, you’re getting them in shape, you’re getting all those things and then you’re evaluating, okay, what’s the best to help us win? So really those conversations as far as that goes down, we’ll see.
“There’s such a wide array of just outstanding football minds sitting in that offensive meeting room. I think we’ve probably all coached and run, for me, from playing in the wishbone to our NFL guys who can think every offense you can do. There’s a lot of experience, a lot of just great minds.”
This is your second go-around here at Michigan. What’s the biggest difference between the first time you were here with the RichRod staff and now, besides the personnel and the coaches?
“I’m married. Yeah, brought a wife with me this time.”
Does she like Ann Arbor?
“Oh, she loves it. Absolutely, absolutely.”
But what else besides that? Even just looking around the building it’s obviously very different here. What else?
“You know, it’s one of those things where you’re coming in and really as far as Michigan goes, Michigan is just an outstanding place. Obviously that’s why you come back when you get an opportunity. Working for Coach Harbaugh’s unbelievable, and so that’s really—I think I said that when I first came here, it took me about 18 seconds to say yes. You know, it took my wife longer to say yes to me than it did for us to say yes to him.
“You’re coming in here with just an outstanding person with great vision and really I love how we attack life outside the box. Going to Rome—I mean, I’ve been in college football in some way, shape, or form since I was 15 and I never would have thought of that. So to be around the person whose mind really wants to put the “college” back in college football and the “student” back in student-athlete, it’s been outstanding to be there. Not that the other guys weren’t, but being around him and seeing him, how he thinks about it, has been phenomenal.”
Greg, you mentioned matching up personnel. Was that something that was a concentrated effort when they talked to you about coming here or was that determined once you got here?
“Oh yeah, no, as far as me coming, that was really just more Coach Harbaugh and the opportunity, Coach Drevno, and just really talk about, hey, what’s the future, what’re we trying to get to, what’re we trying to do and it was more about that than anything.
“Personnel-wise, like I said, from when I played in high school it was the wishbone. When I signed at Florida State we were an I-formation team. Moved to the shotgun spread with Charlie Ward. South Florida, when I first started coaching we were west coast and then moved to more of what today’s no-huddle spread, 11 or 12 personnel. Going to Indiana, a lot of two-tights, three-tights, 11 personnel. It’s really just been a wide array. As far as that goes, football is football. There’s only 11 guys that can play on the field and there’s five O-linemen, so you learn all those different personnel groups as you go.”
So it wasn’t like a clear, defined roll, it was more just ‘Okay, he has football experience, he’ll fit in somewhere’?
“I think in this world, as you’re talking clarifying roles, we’ve got Coach Harbaugh and we all work for him. Then in that is our hierarchy as far as Coach Drevno’s the offensive coordinator, but all of us are here together just trying to help the players get better. I think that’s something that’s outstanding about this staff: they care a bunch about the players and about the player welfare and about development and about those things. I think anybody on the staff would coach whatever anybody asked them to coach, and I think they’d happily do it.”
You mentioned all those minds in the offensive meeting rooms. You’ve been on some creative staffs before, but have you ever been around anything like this? Guys are seemingly open to doing just about anything.
“No, no. Just sitting there talking, from Jay Harbaugh to Tim Drevno all the way to Coach Harbaugh, Pep Hamilton, go down the list. The guys, some of the off-the-field guys, Jack Harbaugh. I mean, you’re talking about just a collective group of great football minds, and that’s just been outstanding. Anything from how you’re coaching a point to John Harbaugh and bringing--just being around ideas, being around that thought process, the think tank, per se, of football, has been outstanding. I’ve been on a lot of great staffs; this is special.”
What are some specific things you’ve noticed about Ben Bredeson’s development so far?
“Yeah, it’s so early that we’ll see. As far as those things, you’ve got to let it play out. Guys have good days, guys have bad days; you’ve got to see a collective work for any of our players.”
You’ve been in a spot where you’ve had to replace a couple all-conference, All-American-type guys on the offensive line. When you’ve got three guys leaving and a bunch of spots to fill, what’s the most important priority to try and figure out?
“Anytime you’re replacing players you’re going to get better at certain things and you’ll be a little worse at other things, and really what the spring and summer is about is figuring out what that is. What are we gonna be better at? Maybe we’re more athletic, maybe we’re a little less experienced, maybe we’re stronger, maybe we’re quicker, maybe we’re not. I don’t know. So that’s really what this is about is figuring out what are our talents, what are our guys, how are they straining, how are they developing, how are they attacking it, and how do we help them do that. And that’s really what this is about. Looking back, the guys that left, I see them at Pro Day, that’s awesome. I didn’t coach ‘em but just the opportunity to be around them, although I was here when Braden, when we started recruiting him. But one of the things that as you go you have to figure out, okay, what do we need to be successful for this team, and each team has its own unique group of people, its own unique development. That’s the fun of coaching. You can’t just say, okay, we’re gonna plug him in, plug him in, everything’s the same. It’s developing a guy and his talents, and seeing guys do that has been really one of the most satisfying parts of coaching is watching a kid develop and reach a goal.”
How did you sell your wife on Ann Arbor?
“What do you mean? As far as…”
You said it took her a little longer to be--
“No, I said it took her a little longer to say yes to me! It took 18 seconds for us to come here!”