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May 16, 2010

Rich Rodriguez talks Big Ten expansion, more

It was a beautiful Sunday morning for golf in Ann Arbor, and several Michigan football alums - as well as head coach Rich Rodriguez and others in the athletic department - were on hand for the Brian Griese/Steve Hutchinson/Charles Woodson charity event to benefit Mott Children's hospital. Rodriguez took a few minutes with the media to discuss a number of topics …

One - Big Ten expansion possibilities - is expected to be a hot one among conference coaches when they meet next week.

"That will probably be the hottest topic, but as coaches I don't think we're going to have a lot of say in that," said Rodriguez. "They'll probably keep us informed and see where we're at - then we'll talk about new legislation, scheduling, things like that. It's an interesting time, for sure. I'm anxious to see myself where we stand with expansion.

"We had AFCA meetings last week in Arizona, and we talked about a few things. There aren't a lot of new issues out there. There are some things that concern some coaches, but I think for the most part everything is going to be the same. The biggest issue for us as coaches is we want to see where we're at with the expansion, and again, I don't think that the answer will come next week or so. But I think we'll have a better idea of how far down the road it's going to happen."

There have been several possibilities thrown about recently, with schools like Nebraska, Notre Dame, Missouri, Pitt - even Texas - having been mentioned. Rodriguez admitted following it all closely.


"I think it's interesting," he said. "I think it's also pretty exciting, because from a league standpoint we're dealing from a position of strength. We're in a great situation right now, and it's going to get even better.

"I think [a championship game possibility] is pretty exciting. One thing as coaches we've been talking about quite a bit is you'll get to play in December and be in the public consciousness, so to speak, so I think it's pretty exciting to have a championship game if that's the direction we go. If we don't go that way and stay where we're at, I'd be pretty happy there, too."

Rodriguez pleased with spring

Late spring/early summer is a time to evaluate some of the spring football film -Rodriguez likes what he's seen so far.

"I was really pleased," said Rodriguez. "I really liked the attitude of the team. We were missing a few guys due to injuries, but all those guys seem to be doing pretty well. I think our guys have a great attitude talking to them right before spring practice ended, and I think they are ready to go. It's going to be an important summer for the guys and an important camp for us, but I think we're going to have great leadership out of that group of 12 seniors."

Now's the time they have to provide it, and so far they've answered the call.

"We always give them summers off," Rodriguez noted with a smile. "It's really the same schedule … the summer has always been voluntary time, but I think what's happened more than anything else, I can see the players as they grow and get older take more ownership of the program.

"The seniors especially have really taken more ownership of the program, taken charge of the guys themselves. I've probably had nine of them come up to me and say, 'Coach, we want everybody's phone number - we want to get a hold of everybody.' It's not just from a football standpoint but talking about them going to class, doing the right thing. I'm really pleased with that.

"The leadership we're looking for is in the summer, in the evenings, around campus. I think that's the part where I challenge the seniors to do everything they can."

Injury report

Defensive end Will Heininger, in the two-deep during the spring before he got hurt, had successful knee surgery for a torn ACL suffered in practice and is ahead of schedule in his rehab. Rodriguez is still hopeful to get him back by midseason.

"Surgery went really well. It's still a little swollen, but he's able to walk on it already," said Rodriguez. "He's a guy that's very conscientious. He'll put the work in."

Center David Molk also continues to improve following a limited spring spent recovering from his own knee injury.

"I don't know where he's at running wise, anything like that, but I saw him the other day walk by the office and he looks great," said Rodriguez. "He was anxious to do more in the spring, but obviously for precautionary reasons we held him out. I think he'll certainly be 100 percent for the August camp."


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