[Isaiah Hole/247 Sports]
I wasn’t there but I figured this would make for a good workday read since it took place during a workday. Have at it, you transcription junkie.
“Good afternoon. Wonderful to be here. Gotta come from behind the curtain. Can’t enter from in front of the curtain, apparently. I can take questions.”
Your team took a trip to Rome in April where they practiced and had many unique experiences mixed in. You said about the trip that it was the best thing you’ve been a part of on a football team and that not all learning is done in the classroom and not all learning is done on the football field. After this season you plan on taking a team trip to Paris, Normandy, and London. My question is can you expound on why the Rome trip was valuable and why trips in the future will be valuable to your football team?
“Yes. It’s just incredible to connect with somebody from a different country, to see something that you’ve never seen before, taste food that you’ve never tasted or hear a language that you’ve never heard and then experience it as a team, like eighth grade classes that go to Washington D.C. for a field trip or a twelfth grade Class the goes to Rome, much like that.
“To be able to experience it as a group makes it so much better, 900x better, because you’re getting not only your own experience but everyone in the group’s and it’s a chance to put the ‘college’ back in ‘college Football.’ It’s a chance to have the whole world be your classroom. Not all learning is done in a classroom or on a football field. It’s out there living, out there seeing and doing. I would recommend it because it has bee the best thing that I’ve ever done personally as a part of a football team.”
Could you talk about Rashan Gary? I can’t recall any D-lineman at Michigan having this much preseason hype since LaMarr Woodley. Talk about how Rashan has handled that and how high the ceiling is for this young man.
“Thank you, yes. Very interesting to see how Rashan has handled it. To me, I’ve watched it—was one of the top recruits, maybe the top recruit coming out of high school. He’s had a lot of hype. He’s had a lot of adulation. You know, there’s some people that that’s what they live for. They live for that approval of others and to be recognized as a hyped-up player and then there’s other people that they see that hype or that adulation and they go by it like it’s a cone, an orange cone, on the side of the road.
“There’s some people that are just aspiring to greater things than just the adulation of somebody, and I think Rashan is that type of guy. You really like him. He really doesn’t care too much about that. He’s gone by it like it’s a cone, an orange cone, on the side of the road. He just works, and I really think competing is his favorite thing to do. And he has the license and ability to be great, to be really good. I don’t know what more to say about that.”
[After THE JUMP: thoughts on every class, dropping two-a-days, how long it takes to find a starting QB, and tapping a losing streak for motivation]
How has Maurice Hurst handled the extra attention, the national attention? He seems like more of a quiet guy.
“I think Mo’s handled it good. It’s been overdue and maybe Mo feels that way but I think he’s enjoying that. I think he’s enjoying that people are appreciating what he does as a football player and what he brings to the football team. Even on our own team, our appreciation for him has probably bee the first and I think he likes that. I think that drives him to be even better.
“I think he’s got a chance to be really good. Again, he’s got the license and ability to be really great and we appreciate the heck out of him and I hope he does like that and I hope he keeps going because he’s got a chance to be really good.”
I think you lost the most number of starters of any team in the country. How confident are you that you can flourish even without those guys? How good do you feel about what you have coming back?
“Well, I feel good. Feel good about the team. Start with our second-newest guys, which is our freshmen that came at the midyear. Have 10 that really have flourished and did exceedingly good in spring practice, which makes me think that the newest guys that arrived one campus, 19 true incoming freshmen, because the 10 did so well I think these 19 are going to do just as well because they were the same type of good players in high school that the 10 were.
“Then the third-newest are our freshmen that are going to be sophomores this year. I’m very excited for them. Already talked about Rashan but also Chris Evans in that group, Mike Onwenu, Lavert Hill, Devin Bush Jr., Sean McKeon. Some very, very talented players that played in that class—Nate Schoenle. All those youngsters in that class, very excited about them because everything they’re doing now they’ve already done, they’re doing a second time, and the amount of growth that you can have from doing something the first time to doing it the next time or the second time could be the biggest leap they’ll have their entire college career.
“Also excited for the junior class. It’s hard to believe: got hired at Michigan December 30, 2014 and then signed a class a month later, that those guys are now juniors. Tyrone Wheatley Jr., Jon Runyan Jr., Grant Perry, Reuben Jones, guys in that class—Keith Washington—there weren’t many of them. There was only like 10 or 11, 12 in that class, but now those guys are juniors.
“And then the senior class and the fifth-year class, very excited for them as well. They-many of them like Chase and Mo Hurst and Wilton Speight and Mike McCray and Bryan Mone and Mason Cole, those guys in particular that were in games last year, they were there when we won nine straight games and everybody’s high-fiving in the locker room after the game and they were also there when we lost three out of our last four games, two by one point and another by three points in overtime. They know what it feels like and they like the feeling of the high-fiving better than the other.
“I feel like, Okay, good. They’ve seen that. Maybe that’s going to motivate them even more this year. Give them more reason to put all their talent and pour their whole heart into everything we’re doing, so excited for all the guys on our team, really.”
Following up on the earlier question about the Rome trip, what were some of your favorite historical sites that you visited and cultural experiences that you had and of what you learned over there visiting these sites, do you see a lot of stuff that can apply to football and if so, how?
“Yeah, I guess we applied some things to football. We had three really good practices over there. It was interesting to watch our team do six hours of sightseeing one day where we’re walking through old Rome and then in the afternoon we’re at the Coliseum and at the Forum and you learn so many things along the way. Coliseum’s been around for 600 years. It was active for 600 years. Around here, 30 or 40 years for a stadium and they tear it down. Amazing, really. And the Forum, just to see how much Washington D.C., our own Washington D.C., was designed around Rome and even our own political system, much patterned after Rome.
“But then to flip the switch and be back into football and go out and practice and understand that it doesn’t matter where we are; we’re in Ann Arbor, we’re in Rome, we’re in some other place, that now it’s time to do what we do in football. And to do it as a team, as I said. Probably the best thing was doing it as a group because we pushed ourselves. We pushed ourselves to not take any breaks, to see as much as we could see, to connect with as many people as we could possibly connect with. I could keep going. It was outstanding.”
What are your thoughts on doing away totally with two-a-day practices in the preseason and how have you guys adjusted to that? What’ll be your approach?
“Well, it just makes all the sense in the world. There’s really nobody having three-a-days anymore or two-a-days anymore. Residents in hospitals don’t do sleep deprivation anymore. Pilots have to sleep 10 hours, I think, before each flight. Just everybody’s doing it that way. Even the military doesn’t have sleep deprivation and three days, et cetera. I’m all for it. They get a day a week of rest. I think everybody deserves that, especially people that are playing a sport like football or training at a high intensity type of sport. I think the body does need a day of rest and recovery.
“Easy to adjust to it. There are no more two-a-days. Two-a-days are gone. There are no more two-a-days so schedule all one-a-days. It’s been rather simple.
“Even the other time-demand rules, 21 extra days off for the football players within the semesters, already planed for them. Easily implemented. Those are done. So schedule’s made. We’re starting next Monday. [It] will be our first day of practice and very much looking forward to it.”
I don’t know how often you came across PJ Fleck when he was at Western Michigan and you’ve been in Ann Arbor the last few years but did you form any impressions of the job that he did there and do you have any impressions of what it’ll be like to have him in the same conference as well as the same region now?
“Yeah, I had the chance to go to a couple of clinics and watch, see PJ clinic at those. Mainly just watched him win games. What a phenomenal job he did there coaching at Western Michigan and now anticipating playing his Minnesota Gophers. Yeah, think he’s a fine coach and a great competitor.”
How much has the way last season finished with those three losses driven this team in the offseason?
“Yeah, I hope a lot. I know it has a lot of us, myself included. Lost three out of our last four games. Okay, good. Maybe that’ll motivate us to put more into it: coach better, play better, train harder, put more of our heart into each and every one of those ballgames.”
What is your stance on Wilton Speight as you enter the season? You said earlier in the year that he is your guy but there is a meritocracy.
“Yes, so Wilton’s in a good spot. He comes in really tied for first with John O’Korn and Brandon Peters. Legitimately through competition, throughout all the spring we went through 15 practices and it was a dead heat. But the good news is they all did some things. Brandon really shot up. John O’Korn really played consistently good and Wilton really had some impressive moments as well.
“We’ll go through training camp starting on Monday. Just throw the balls out there and let the fellas compete. There’s a lot that a quarterback can do over the summer to get better at playing quarterback. It’s one of those positions like a kicker; a quarterback can just go out there and throw balls into a net, can work on their drops. There’s a lot of ways they can—they don’t even need other players to be out there to improve some part of their skill game, much like a kicker. You want to see what’s transpired over the summer and see who’s gotten better, and then who gives our team the best chance to move the ball, score touchdowns, put points on the board, [and] not turn the ball over.
“It’ll probably take anywhere from eight to 15 practices to figure that out. Historically, that’s what it usually takes. We’re looking forward to it. Wilton’s in a good spot.”
What kind of a boost does it give you in training camp to have such a tough game week one, Florida?
“What does it what?”
Boost. What kind of a mental boost does it give you guys?
“Oh, boost. Uh, you know, that’s probably a good factor. Probably a good factor in giving us motivation to get ready because we know just how good they are. College football’s always been unique. It’s the only sport I can think of that doesn’t have a preseason or exhibition season. No spring training, no preseason games, so you go right into your first game and that counts. That starts the season. We’re like the only—we’re unique in a lot of ways, college football.”
Ohio State has said that they will draw maybe some motivation from being shutout in that playoff game against Clemson. Will you draw some motivation from the end of your season or even that not favorable outcome in the Horseshoe?
“Yes. We lost three out of our last four games. We just talked about it at length a couple minutes ago but we will, yes.”