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Posted on Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 12:11 p.m.

Live updates from Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez's Monday press conference

By Jeff Arnold


Michigan State defensive end Jonathan Strayhorn, left, pounces on Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson during second quarter action of the Spartans' 34-17 win over Michigan at Michigan Stadium.

Lon Horwedel |

A week ago, Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez said his team's off week came at a perfect time.

Quarterback Denard Robinson needed time to heal. The Wolverines' youngsters needed time to learn. Now, after two failed attempts to secure the season's sixth win, Michigan travels to Penn State Saturday (8 p.m./ESPN) trying to snap a two-game losing streak.

On Monday, Rodriguez sat down for his weekly press conference, talking about what the Wolverines accomplished in the off-week and what they'll need to do this weekend against the Nittany Lions.

Rodriguez said Robinson is fine "running-wise" and was limited in how much he threw over the three days Michigan practiced last week. Michigan's other injured players -- David Molk, Michael Shaw and Mike Martin -- also benefitted from the days off and should be fine for this weekend.

Will Campbell spent three days on Michigan's offensive line last week and "took to it fine." Rodriguez said Campbell will also spend time on the line this week and coaches will evaluate whether the move is permanent.

"When we recruited him, I thought this is a big guy that can move pretty well," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez, who thought Campbell would make a good guard, approached the coaches about making the move to offense. He said the off week was a perfect time to try Campbell out at the new spot.

Talking about the Nittany Lions
Rodriguez said he thinks Penn State has grown up a lot since the start of the season. He believes the offense is better than it was. Quarterback Rob Bolden is a player Rodriguez said Michigan recruited. He was injured in last week's 33-21 win over Minnesota.

He believes with back-up Kevin Newsome in there, the Nittany Lions could run more, but he doesn't think who plays quarterback changes what Penn State does offensively.

Penn State's defense has shown only a shell of what its capable of doing. Rodriguez said he expects the Nittany Lions to be more healthy on that side of the ball, giving Penn State a full contingent of defenders.

Finally ready
Rodriguez said that running back Fitz Toussaint should be ready to go this week after dealing with a nagging shoulder injury. He said whether Toussaint plays Saturday will depend on what other backs show this week.

Fundamentally speaking

Rodriguez said "it certainly was our intent" to improve fundamentally but that he still didn't devote a lot of time to work on tackling. He said working on tackling during the season leaves the potential for injuries to sneak in. But, overall, he doesn't believe tackling is the biggest issue with Michigan's defense.

"Our tackling hasn't been great, but it hasn't been that bad," Rodriguez said. "I think we've had trouble getting off blocks - using our hands, getting off blocks - I know we worked quite a bit at last week."

Killing time

Rodriguez said he has a strategy for keeping his players busy Saturday while they wait for the 8 p.m. kickoff. While part of the day will be spent watching other games, Rodriguez said he wants his players to focus on their own game and will blend the day by keeping them engaged, but also allowing them to walk around and relax.

When asked if players would walk around State College, Rodriguez said they won't be out in public, but he'll find a place to keep them active.

"It's not like we're going down there and tailgating," Rodriguez said.

Sense of urgency
Rodriguez was mildly amused by a question about whether he considered Saturday's game as critical, considering the results of the past two weeks. He reiterated that his players play and coaches coach as hard as they can regardless of who the opponent is.

"They're all critical. Every one of them is critical. One thing we want to make sure is that we have consistency in our approach. You work on things you need to get better, but as far as the approach goes, it stays the same," he said. "I'm amused when people ask me if we're going to try harder.

"C'mon, we're going to try as hard as we can and we're going to coach as hard as we can. It's like we say, 'OK, boy, this is an important game.' They're keeping score and we're playing someone else. We're going to try as hard as we can irregardless of who we play or where we play."

QB Talk

Despite the fact that he didn't play in the second half of Michigan's loss to Iowa, Denard Robinson remains the starting quarterback. Rodriguez said Tate Forcier has played well at times, but that Robinson remains the best choice.

Although he struggled at times against Michigan State and Iowa, Rodriguez said Robinson needs to get better at decision-making rather than forcing the issue like he did at times in the past two weeks.

"Sometimes you feel pressure to make a big play rather than just letting the game come to you," Rodriguez said. "There were some moments when he could have taken care of the ball better. They make mistakes - he's going to make more mistakes going forward. What you want to do is minimizing the major mistakes."

Rodriguez said that freshman Devin Gardner continues to work hard in practice, but is still a true freshman. He said he wants to keep three quarterbacks available so that he has viable options at the position if injuries suddenly become an issue.

Props to Jo Pa

Rodriguez said he's always had great respect for Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who he has known for several years. The two coaches have crossed paths on trips and on the recruiting trail.

Rodriguez said he's amazed that Paterno is still active at his age and that he continues to do big things for his program. Paterno brings a career record of 398-132-3 into Saturday's game.
But there will come a time on Saturday when Rodriguez knows Paterno is the coach he's trying to beat.

"Joe Paterno has brought and continues to bring Penn State football into the limelight," he said. "But when we kick it off, it's our guys against their guys and we'll do our best to try and win the game."

Now at the podium...
Linebacker Craig Roh said he feels refreshed after the off week, adding, "It's nice to get out of the pressure cooker for a little while." He said the Wolverines made the most of the off week -- not only to heal up from bumps and bruises but to improve on fundamentals.

Although the improvements Roh and Michigan's coaches have seen haven't translated to a really solid defensive performance, he thinks it's coming. He said his teammates -- especially the inexperienced ones -- have taken steps in making better reads and breaking on the ball faster.

"We've been making steps. we've been improving. It's just how quickly does it show up on the field in a big way," Roh said. "You can see things that we're doing differently than we were doing at the beginning of the year. So it's getting better. We have a lot of guys that want to be really good."

Small steps
Running back Vincent Smith said while the off week provided the Wolverines a chance to rest up, he said it was also critical in offensive players work on technique and other aspects of taking care of the ball better. The Wolverines turned the ball over five times in losses to Michigan State and Iowa and Smith said eliminating those mistakes was a big part of the Wolverines' three days of practice during the off-week.

"The bye week helped us look at all the mistakes we had, to correct them and make sure we don't let them happen again," he said.

All smiles
Quarterback Denard Robinson brought his mega-watt smile to Monday's press conference and said he is fine health-wise. Robinson said he used the off week to relax, hang out and "sleep a lot." Robinson wouldn't use his injured shoulder as an excuse for the interceptions he has thrown in the past two games and said the injury didn't impact how hard he was able to throw.

He said he underwent treatment on his bruised shoulder almost every day and that he feels "100 percent" and is "ready to rock."

Robinson gave a passionate post-game speech to his teammates after the Michigan State game, but said he doesn't expect him being a vocal part of the locker room to become a regular part of his role. He said he spoke up because he doesn't want to see this year become a rerun of last season when the Wolverines finished 1-7 in Big Ten play.

"I don't like talking at all - I would rather lead by example," Robinson said. "I would rather show them -- and I don't want anybody to put their head down in the locker room and so that's why I said something."


Jay Allen

Wed, Oct 27, 2010 : 10:05 a.m.

1. Tate is NOT playing because he is not better or worse. He is NOT playing because he is in the doghouse since the spring game. 2. If Denard does not want the slot, play RB or WR, then he only has 2 more years left. There is zero future in him at the next level unless he plays "Arena" or CFL. Vick is the closest thing to Denard and Denard is not even close to Vick.


Tue, Oct 26, 2010 : 9:19 p.m.

A bit harsh, PU. My comments are not negative, just objective. If my prediction appears to be negative, it's just a prediction. And, it could be as wrong as any other prediction. A lot could happen.


Tue, Oct 26, 2010 : 7:20 a.m.

Jaxon, Your comments are the most negative on this site. It probably stems from your hatred of RR or maybe you are a State fan trying to stir the pot. Camp Randell is by far the hardest place to travel and play a night game. No question. Happy valley is a walk in the park comparativly. Michigan is simply a better team than PSU. Their offense is incapable of keeping up with Michigan.


Tue, Oct 26, 2010 : 4:52 a.m.

I sure hope you guys are wrong and Michigan beats Penn State decisively as I'm all for our team and coach and I'm looking forward to a win after those two tough losses. That's what I'm hoping for. Denard has an excellent arm and here's to him getting his confidence back. As far as how Coach Rod talks, you MSU guys are just too much and I'll say I used to be fairly nuetral on the Spartans and rooted for them (unless they played us of course) as I've lived out of state for 28 years now and since discovering this blog a couple months ago, I can now say with conviction that I truly hate the MSU Spartans - especially those cheezy white pajamas they wear on the road. Practice uniforms- no respect. Now on Saturdays I have a team to root against. My new found hate is going to be fun, as I'm not exactly hating a Texas, Oklahoma or a Florida here. They'll fall hard soon enough. It's going to be really fun next season when your 14 starting seniors are gone. And to think after all these years it came from reading a Michigan wolverines blog; The green paint vandalism and obscenities as a student seemed just expected and collegiate, but relentlessly badgering the team on every aspect and pretending to be fans while demanding the coach be fired to the point of even creating false and damaging personal rumors is worse than the paint. Michigan fans, hold off on on the scorched earth hate of RR until after next season as the worst nightmares of the M haters will come true, and if not, at least we gave it a fair effort and backed the team as they deserve.

Sean T.

Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 8:57 p.m.

I hope you're right, Jaxon.


Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 6:56 p.m.

At night, this may be the toughest stadium to visit in the Big 10. It's the road game with the longest distance and travel time for most teams. It's extremely loud. If it's a white-out, which this one apparently isn't, it is intimidating. Penn State should have a one touchdown advantage with home field advantage alone. The PSU defense is looking better and may be more healthy this week. The PSU offense has more versatility now with the 2nd and 3rd quarterbacks gaining experience last week. Big 10 teams coming off their "open" week on the schedule lose twice as often as they win. It all adds up to a Penn State victory. PSU 35, Mich 21.

Sean T.

Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 5:55 p.m.

Longtime, But that's simply the point. He has a QB that can run and pass but he made him a third-stringer since the spring. What makes it worse is that same QB was considered a good scrambler last year and needed time with a good O-line to produce. Everyone understands the eleven on eleven football that RR supposedly is trying to employ but RR doesn't understand defense, so how is it that he can make his offense successful without understanding both sides of the ball. His brand of garbage football will not stand the test of time in the Big Ten.

longtime AA

Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 5:20 p.m.

To all those who are playing fantasy football with the idea of Denard going to the slot and Tate being the starter at QB: (1) if Denard wanted to be a slot instead of a QB, he would have gone to Florida and been Percy Harvin's successor, and (2) the success of RichRod's spread offense over the years has been based on the running yards of the QB, not the passing yds. If Richrod really wanted a passing QB, he would have tried to get Mallett to stay, or would have developed Steven Threet, who is a better passer than Tate or Denard. RichRod wants the QB running because it gives the offense an additional blocker to allow them to outnumber the defense.


Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 5:01 p.m.

"We're going to try as hard as we can irregardless of who we play or where we play." OUCH! Michigan might consider hiring an English coach for Coach Rodriguez, or at the least, pointing out to him that "regardless" is standard English and "irregardless" is nonstandard. An embarrassing faux pas for an esteemed university.


Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 4:47 p.m.

a2: what do you expect RRo to say? He does not coach defense. It's amazing that after 2.5 years in the B10, he still does not recognize a good tackling defense if it hit him in the face.


Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 4:39 p.m.

"Our tackling hasn't been great, but it hasn't been that bad," Rodriguez said. Really, coach? Come on! Our tackling is terrible and is the reason our "bend, don't break" defense is more likely to break. Iowa's late FG which put the game out of reach for us was made possible by Robinson's 26-yard run from the 40 (out of FG range) to the 14. There were at least 2 missed tackles on that run. Make those, we have a chance. But we didn't. Game over. IMO, it is understandable that we have injuries and lots of young guys playing who are maybe struggling with being in position, angles, schemes, or even just being outrun at times. But regardless of any of that, if you don't at a minimum teach them to TACKLE, then what good is if they pursued at the right angle or were in perfection position?

Sean T.

Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 4:24 p.m.

I've called for Tate to start all year because he can flat out play. He can run the offense, has good speed, a live arm and had 2 springs and a season under his belt. Denard has speed and that's pretty much it. You have to have more than a high school level arm and competency to be a collegiate QB. Despite his heroic runs he is very limited as far as being a QB, that is why he came to Michigan. Out of all of the spread oriented teams in the state of Florida, not one recruited him as a QB. Maybe DB, WR or even RB but not QB. He's still a great kid but I doubt that he will develop into a quality QB. We need to move the ball in the air so we can get production out of our run game. As far as Campbell switching to the o-line; I guess that where he'll be under RR. I just don't understand it, why is a perfect 2-gap DT not playing? Campbell is made for a 4 man front so he can draw double teams and create havoc for the offense. He is a 5-star DT but only a 3 star O-lineman.

Lorain Steelmen

Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 3:17 p.m.

michboy40. I have a slightly different take. I'm thinking next year DRob is the starter, with Garner at number two. Forcier signals in the plays.


Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 3:12 p.m.

Our best chance to win is with Tate at QB and D ROB rotating between slot and RB. That is a deadly combo, but it won't happen because we have nobody ready behind Tate if he goes down. Eventually it will be Devin at QB with D Rob in a slot or RB spot. That will be crazy, but it's two years away...can't wait that long!

Lorain Steelmen

Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 3:12 p.m.

clarklaker.....Washington to Dline?! Hmm, I had not heard that yet. Maybe he has the intensity to make some noise there. Let's hope so. I never was a big Campbell fan, so his move to OG didn't surprise me.

Lorain Steelmen

Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 3:09 p.m.

heartbreak.....I was curious as well, why we have not seen Cox by now. FT was supposedly hurt, so I got that one. I also thought that it would be critical for RR to play Forcier earlier, and more frequently, in the first 4 or 5 games, assuming that eventually DRob would get knicked up. They don't need to be on the field at the same time, with all the other speed we have, but both should be getting PT. It's a team game. As far as Gardner, I would have redshirted him until absoultely needed.


Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 3:08 p.m.

quinton washington switched from offensive line to defense fyi


Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 3:06 p.m.

P U, I understand. I'm just trying to think how both players would be on the field at the same time. I would see Tate under center because I don't feel he has the explosiveness as DR, so you can't put him at receiver. DR would be out at the receiver position. This makes him a threat as a receiver, passing the ball, reverse hand off, etc. The problem then becomes DR doesn't have the ball in his hands every play, which is a huge deal. Also is he big enough to block down field as a wide receiver? Not saying I'm right, but I'm not sure that having them both on the field together solves a lot. I see that some big time wide receivers, better running backs, and maybe a tight end are needed. Just my thoughts.


Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 2:06 p.m.

Any word on Shaw? We need running backs. I hope FT is healthy. He looked like a quick guy. And any word on Cox? He has always looked good, but never gets in.


Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 1:58 p.m.

Yel, I don't think there is a controversy. I would rather wee Denard as our starter. However, if both of them were on the field at the same time I think it could open a lot of things up.


Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 1:57 p.m.

It never ceases to amaze me that RR won't put his two most potent offensive weapons on the field at the same time.


Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 1:32 p.m.

GoblueinPA, I'm aware. Your posts have been objective throughout the year. There are a few that told me I was completely wrong... and I'm poking them a little bit. I like DR. He's fun too watch, but from the get go... all I could think was that he was carrying too much of a load for a smaller player, that is quite young. He needs help.


Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 1:26 p.m.

@Yel I know you know that not everyone thought that. There is a sizable group of folks that were predicting this would happen to DRob way back at the start of the season.


Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 1:24 p.m.

Go Blue! Nice read... thanks!


Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 1:23 p.m.

Campbell's switch to O-Line is temporary. Once we switch back a 4-3 next year, Campbell will be starting at one of the D tackles spots.


Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 1:03 p.m.

Wait a minute now... wasn't DR the second coming of Christ? Remember, he was too quick and smooth to get injured. Already had won the Heisman by game 4. Now people want Tate in the game with him? Isn't that a QB controversy waiting to happen?

Lorain Steelmen

Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 1 p.m.

81wolverine. I also noted the 'switch to OG', for Campbell. I think we are seeing a 5 star recruit that simply doesn't have the drive, nor the speed, to play D1 MG. Hey, if it was easy, anyone could do it! I agree, we need to shore up the Dline, but am more concerned at DB's and LB's right now. Meanwhile, we need to get some of the guys already in camp, to take that next a hurry. I am OK with Coach Rod, but question whether Coach Robinson has the intensity to bring this defense together.


Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 12:59 p.m.

Yes I think a series of plays with Tate and DR both on the field would offer a lot of options. People would lean toward expecting plays ending up with the ball in DR's hands, but don't forget Tate is a pretty darn good runner and quick enough to go the distance if the D is drawn towards DR.


Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 12:34 p.m.

"It's not like we're going down there and tailgating." Now that's pretty funny! In retrospect, I'm actually glad Newsome didn't come here. I think the 3 guys we have are great and we don't need him. Campbell's switch to offense is certainly better than him transferring. But we don't need nearly as much help at guard as we do Defensive line. Unless an offensive lineman switches over to defense, that leaves us weaker in depth even more on the d-line. The coaches better be pouring it on to recruit good defensive players for the rest of this recruiting season is all I can say. I'm not overly impressed with the guys who have committed so far.


Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 12:26 p.m.

I'm surprised RR is still active at any age!


Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 12:16 p.m.

"irregardless" ugh...


Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 12:12 p.m.

I'd like to see a combination of DR and Tate. Maybe on the field at the same time.


Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 11:47 a.m.

Hmmmm, DR maybe still shoulder tenderness or injury affecting his zip or distance. Tate, stay thirsty my friend.