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August 4, 2010

Rodriguez acknowledges areas of concern

Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez discussed several topics at Monday/Tuesday Media Days in Chicago, including positions that "keep him up worrying at night." Rodriguez is still seeking depth at a few positions - especially on defense - in addition to a kicker.

He admitted the latter was the biggest area of concern.

"Probably the kicking game, particularly field goals," he said when asked. "And there are areas of depth defensively, whether it's d-line or secondary, especially. We have to have a lot of our depth by young guys or guys who haven't played. That makes you a little nervous because an injury here or there could thrust a guy into a starting or significant role, and he hasn't played before.

The coaches are "very comfortable" with J.T. Floyd opposite Troy Woolfolk at cornerback, he reiterated, and will have more bodies with the freshmen coming in. "But playing freshmen at any position, let alone corner, makes you nervous, so this is going to be a very important camp for Coach [Greg] Robinson and Coach [Tony]Gibson to develop some guys at safety and corner we can get ready to play with," he said.

Woolfolk singled out Courtney Avery as one of the young corners making an impression in informal seven-on-sevens - Rodriguez also mentioned Avery, as well as Cullen Christian.

"We signed them with the thought and expectation that they can play, but how soon you don't know. Until they practice, you really don't know," he said. "Three of the safeties, Ray Vinopal, Carvin Johnson and Marvin Robinson are all really good football players, smart guys that have a chance to contribute. But until we practice in pads a few times, put them live in scrimmages, you really don't know."

Other notes:

• Jeremy Gallon might get a few carries at running back eventually, but not until he proves he's got the slot receiver position down.

"He's a young guy still learning. As he learns, maybe he has a chance to play in the backfield some, as do Terrence Robinson and Kelvin Grady," said Rodriguez. "All three of those guys took a few reps in the spring. Depending on how they pick things up in August during camp, all three will maybe get some reps at tailback, too.

"I know Kelvin gets real excited about it going back to his high school days thinking about it. He's got a chance, because he's got some skills."

Woolfolk praised Robinson as one of the better receivers he'd gone up against in seven-on-sevens.

• Rodriguez is pleased with the numbers in the secondary despite frosh Demar Dorsey's absence … just not the youth.

"It's young," he said. "You don't want to have as many young guys in that position, but this year's class is so small senior wise we needed the scholarship anyway. With a couple of young guys not qualifying, we'll use that in this year's class and we'll sign a couple secondary guys for this year's class. Our numbers next year will be better than this year's as far as balance and all that, and by the time we get to the fifth year, it will be pretty close to the mark."

• Rodriguez said they'd do some "good on good" scrimmaging this fall in preparation for the opener with UConn in which the offense runs more of the UConn offense at times. The coaches started scouting UConn in the spring and got into it more extensively in the summer.

• Running back is one of the more interesting battles heading into the fall, Rodriguez noted.

"I saw Mike Cox the other day … he looks good. We need him and Fitzgerald Toussaint to step up at the running back position, and Vince Smith we think is going to be recovered from his knee injury," he said. "We're going to have some pretty interesting competition … I always say all positions are open, but there's going to be more competition at all positions than there has the last three years for us."

• Defensive line depth could be bolstered if Adam Patterson can turn it up a notch. He'll play both defensive end and nose tackle. Mike Martin is "an ox," while Will Campbell will be asked to push him and others on the line.

Rodriguez made it sound again like he wasn't convinced Campbell was in the best shape.

"He got a lot of reps in the spring with Mike Martin [out], and I think he got better … he's still got some things to work on," he said. "But he's a big, strong guy. Depending on what kind of shape he's in when we start will determine how quickly he can battle for that job.

"If he's in great shape when we come in, he can battle to start. If he's not, he'll struggle until he gets in shape."

Martin is 100 percent and ready to go.

"He's probably as critical to our success defensively as anyone on that side of the ball," said Rodriguez. "He's probably the most explosive, powerful big man in our program … got a great first step, uses his hands well. We're a completely different team when he's in there and fresh, 100 percent healthy … a completely different defense.

"His shoulder was probably bothering him more than he let on last year, so we told him he might as well get it fixed and have you better for the fall."


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