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December 15, 2004

Carr Talks Rose Bowl, Other Issues

Lloyd Carr met the media Wednesday to discuss the Rose Bowl and other issues, including the status of a number of players who were questionable to make the trip to Pasadena. It's wait-and-see on some, like left tackle Adam Stenavich, and much more definitive on a few others heading into the January 1 showdown with Texas.

Here's the lengthy transcript …

On the Rose Bowl schedule:

"The Rose Bowl, it doesn't get any better than that … we are ready to practice here in a little bit. We've got four practices in and we'll practice this afternoon. Today is an off day; there are no classes. We'll practice Friday evening, come back Saturday morning with a light practice, then we'll be done. We'll have an opportunity to reconvene on the 22nd in Los Angeles, we'll practice once on the 23rd and once on the 24th. We'll have Christmas dinner, then we'll be off on Christmas Day then we'll practice again starting the 26th in getting ready for the game."

On Texas:

"They are very talented and very well coached. They are 10-1, and they only lost to Oklahoma. They are a big, strong, physical offensive football team and I think [Cedric] Benson is a great tailback. He's a guy that's got great vision, outstanding power and excellent quickness. He's a gut that can hit the home run, and he's done that a number of times.

"Of course at quarterback there's a guy that is a great athlete, a guy that makes a lot of throws after things break down. He's made a lot of big plays when things go wrong in the pocket. [They also] have a lot of plays designed for him to run the football. So we're dealing with a spread offense, and we've got to find a way to stop an outstanding running attack and a passing game that can hurt you because you are spread out. They make you defend the run. If you don't stop the run, you're going to have a hard time beating Texas.

"Defensively they have great quickness, very physical up front, a team that runs to the football. Of course, the best linebacker [Derrick Johnson] … when you've got a guy that wins the Butkus and Nagurski Awards, you're talking about one of the best football players defensively in awhile. So he's their leader, makes plays from sideline to sideline and makes a lot of big plays.

"Their special teams are very good. I don't see any weaknesses there. We're just faced with the best football team we've played this fall and we've got to play our best game."

On whether U-M might scheme Texas' running quarterback attack differently:

"Obviously, that offense and the problem that it creates is an extra guy as a running back. I don't know that anybody has the answer to it. I think what you have to do is start out defensively and prevent big plays; that's where you have to start. Then you have to do a good job against the running game.

"If you can get them into third-and-long you've got an excellent chance to get them off the field. But unless you can get them to third-and-long, you've got a problem. Of course, in our last game we had some drives in there where we didn't get them off the field. Nobody has a real answer because you are spread out, and technically they've always got the answer because they've got the football. The quarterback can look out, he can throw if you've got too many people up there; if you don't, then they're going to run.

"That offense is designed to always have the chalk last, in coaching talk."

On positives and negatives of assigning a defensive "spy" to the quarterback:

"Any time you do that you slow his pass rush down, you slow his pursuit down; you've got to think as opposed to react. It becomes, in many ways, an option type defensive scheme where you have to assign certain guys on certain blocks. They are now playing assignment football. That's the challenge.

"I think defensively, across this country in high school and college, this offense creates problems because you always have some other standard offenses during the season. When you get to those offenses, they're a little bit different and certainly they create more problems. Offensively, if you can keep the quarterback healthy, it's a good scheme."

On whether he'd prefer to play a standard offense versus a spread:

"I don't think it matters what I would prefer. I think we're in an era where you're going to get those challenges, and as coaches and as players, I don't want to hear all that baloney about I would prefer this. Just line up and be ready to play, and play hard."

On the challenges of simulating a running quarterback in practice:

"Any time you are preparing for an offense that is different than your own, you have problems. Certainly, we don't have a guy who has the athletic ability of Young and who knows that offense. We have, down through the years when we played [Indiana's Antwaan] Randle El and some of those, we would take a wide receiver who was a great athlete and we could do that. It is very difficult because we don't run that offense. Everything about it, not just from the quarterback standpoint but the tailback standpoint; it's all different teaching them.

"Hopefully, because we do have extra time to prepare because of the bowl preparation, we could get better simulation than we would if we only had a week to prepare."

On whether this year's Rose Bowl is more of a "business trip" for the Wolverines than last year:

"I don't think it matters from a standpoint that you have one opportunity per team to play in a bowl game. When you have an opportunity to play in the Rose Bowl and you don't play well, you can make all the excuses you want. I don't know that that's necessarily fair to the guys that left. Certainly they're the guys that can't do anything about their memories. But I've always believed and approached bowl games as a one-game season. You've got one opportunity. The team that comes out successful will have much better opportunities than the ones that don't."

On how practices have been going, and what they will tell him about his team's preparation:

"I think the proof is in the pudding. The truth is it doesn't do any good to answer that question right now. How are we going to play New Year's Day -- I think that's the ultimate test. I can't say that our practices have not been intense because I think our team understands that we have a lot of things we need to get corrected and we certainly have to go into this game with an attitude defensively that we have to get to the football. We have to do a lot of things better. And as a football team we understand we're going to have to do a lot of things better."

On the playing Texas in the Rose Bowl:

"For me, this is about the Rose Bowl, and the opportunity to go into that stadium, on that day, is for most kids who grew up watching football, wanting to play football, people who love the game - they're sitting in front of that TV across this country watching that game. You, have the opportunity to run onto that field and look up and see those mountains and the colors and know you have an opportunity that doesn't come very often and you're lucky to be a part of it. To me that's what this thing is all about. It doesn't matter who you play - it's the opportunity to play in that game and represent this conference, and this university."

On getting players back full strength:

"Jeremy VanAlstyne will miss this game. He injured his foot in the Ohio State game. He had surgery and will be back in the fall. But we'll miss him. We'll miss his toughness and I think he was getting better every day and certainly from where he was when we started practice he came a long way."

On Clayton Richard and Matt Gutierrez:

"I will have a conversation when we get back from the Rose Bowl with Clayton. Matt is rehabbing and working hard and making good progress, but he will not be participating in spring practice."

On who will pick up the slack on the defensive line after Harrison's suspension:

"We're working on that. We'll see how that goes."

On how it changes things defensively:

"I really don't want to get into that."

On other injuries:

"We've got a couple of guys that have missed practice the last couple of days, but I don't think there is anybody that is going to miss this game, at this point, because of injuries. Jason [Avant] - they scoped his knee and he should be fine [in time for practices in California].".

On Chad Henne and Mike Hart's ability to impact as freshman:

"I think you have to start with those two kids as individuals. You don't do what they did in a place where the expectations are this high unless they have some essential qualities of toughness, a lot of intelligence, and competitiveness. I think their will to compete is really special.

"The truly great players that I've coached, the one thing they all had in common is that nothing intimidates them and I don't think either one of these guys was ever intimidated by Michigan, or by Big Ten football, or by stadiums that were filled with people cheering for them to lose. I think they weren't intimidated by anything and that's an essential quality if you're going to be able to achieve without a lot of experience.

"I've always said experience is difficult to get. It's a great thing, but it's difficult to get without pain and suffering, and relatively speaking I think both of those kids did not suffer as much as some people do. Of course they're not done. They're just starting. They have a long way to go. There are a lot of guys who are successful for one year. The deal is to keep doing it and that will be their challenge. Better or worse."

On players' comments the team is taking a business-like approach to the game, and whether he senses that:

"Not really. I think the Rose Bowl is a reward for a championship season and one of the things that makes this the greatest experience is there is a lot of fun things to do, there are a lot of great traditions that are a part of the Rose Bowl, but certainly there is memory that we all have. We lost to a great football team last year and we would like to change the outcome. And we're going to play another great football team this year. So, the great teams find a way, have found a way to win those games, so we'll see how we add up here."

On having guys that experienced the Rose Bowl hoopla last year, and if that is an advantage:

"Certainly that should be an advantage. Whether it is will be determined by how they lead, and how they approach this trip."

On learning anything from the actual game last year that can carry over:

"I think the guys that are going back, obviously there are a lot of things that you learn. It is a different team and a different season. There are things that you learn from any game, and hopefully it becomes part of who you are and the lessons you've learned. I don't think we're going to spend a lot of time looking at that one game."

On events at the Rose Bowl, and whether he has much say to accept or decline invitations:

"The agreement is contractual and there are certain obligations we have and then there are some events that you have a choice in."

On moving the hotel away from Beverly Hills, and whether that was a lesson learned from last year:

"No. You want to stay at a nice hotel and that's first and foremost. You've only got a certain number of hotels that can accommodate the number of people we have in our party, and still we need meeting rooms, we need dining rooms. We need rooms we can have treatments and tapings. The first thing is to have a place where everybody can be comfortable and all those things."

On whether Adam Stenavich will play:

"Adam has not practice in the last few practices because I suspended him pending finding out exactly what happened there. I'm hoping in the next day or two I have all the information and at that point I will make a decision whether or not he accompanies the team to Los Angeles."

"On the fire and passion his players say he has displayed in recent weeks:

"I have a passion for the game. I have a passion for competition and I like to win. If that's what Marlin [Jackson] is talking about I think I've always had that."

On his concern of taking two key freshmen to one of the biggest bowl games of them all and on whether they separate all of the distractions:

"As far as the game itself, I don't worry about Chad Henne or Michael Hart because they have played in places that are about as difficult as it can be to play. I do think your first bowl trip, there is a part of you that is excited because you're seeing things that you have only dreamt about. You're seeing things that are exciting to be a part of, so you have to be able to know when to shut it down, when to begin concentrating on New Year's Day. And that is always a daily challenge.

"When you're going into a meeting to watch practice film from the previous day, or film of the opponent you have to be there. You have to be seen, and knowing that what you're seeing is something you need to understand going into that game, so if you can do that and do the same thing in practice you can still enjoy the other things. But when you go into that meeting, if you're tired because you stayed up late, if you have not rested as much as you need, when you get to that day - the first of January - you're going to find that you won't play as well. You won't be better, you'll be worse."

On whether the team will have a curfew:

"We don't have any curfews…..I'm just kidding. We do. I will say this about curfews. I don't want to have to explain to your mother why something bad happened to you because I allowed you to stay out without a curfew. So yeah, we'll have curfews and that curfew will move up as we get closer to the game. But we only practice once a day and there is a lot of time to see things without staying out all night."

On Marlin Jackson and Ernest Shazor's play this year:

"I think there's been enough written about them, enough said about them; they're All-Americans. The truth is that when you reach a goal, you'd better be setting new goals. Hopefully, every single guy, his goal will be on January 1 to play the best game he's played this year. He'll understand what that means in terms of preparing, in terms of his concentration. That's a challenge, because when somebody tells you that you're an All-American, the first thought that goes through your mind is, 'hey - I'm pretty good.' And you're satisfied.

"When you're satisfied you being that slippery slide down that slope, so you've got to maintain a will to prepare and a will to get ready to play your best game against an opponent that's going to be giving you their best."

On whether team's threw away from Jackson this year:

"Well, I wouldn't say that."

On whether Larry Harrison is definitely not making the trip to Pasadena:

"I do want to comment on that situation from the standpoint that we're all very, very concerned about Larry. This is not about football. Football is the least important thing in his life right now. We're talking about his life, about him getting everything he needs to get in order to deal with whatever issues there are. That's our concern.

"Our prayers are with him. We care about him, and we hope that the things he has to do, he can do to continue on and be a successful person. But no, he will not [make the trip]."

On Jake Long's play this year:

"We really began offensively to be a powerful football team when Jake moved into the starting lineup and David [Baas] moved to center. Jake has got a great future if he continues to have a great work ethic and an attitude that he wants to be the best. He is talented physically, he's a smart guy and he's tough. He's got all the things you look at, and now as a redshirt freshman the experience of starting in all those games during the season … the truth is, he played at a very high level considering his lack of experience.

"He's one of those guys that I think has a great future."

On whether Cedric Benson is the best back U-M will have faced this year:

"I would say he's the best. I don't think there's any question about that. He's a guy that can run with power and can break the big play."

On who has taken over at left tackle for Stenavich:

"Mike Kolodziej has taken over at the position, and he'll start the Rose Bowl."

On how Kolodziej has fared so far in practice:

"I'll tell you after New Year's Day. I would imagine he is excited about the opportunity that's presented itself."

On whether it's hard to work younger guys in practice given there's so much at stake in the game:

"I think part of the experience of playing in a bowl game, one of the great things about it from a program standpoint is the fact that you do have 15 or 16 additional practices. You have an opportunity to make some decisions, and our decision always is that we're going to spend time in each practice coaching our guys that will be back that did not play this year.

"All those kids that redshirted will have some opportunities, repetitions in practice that will help them as they go into spring practice."

On the Texas tight ends:

"I think they are an outstanding group. The thing you get when you utilize two tight ends off the play action pass … you have to be designed to stop the run. When they fake the ball to Benson and your linebackers are going that way, and now the quarterback fakes him the ball and bootlegs back to the opposite side, the flow of the play is a run. So you get your flow, you get defensively going to the run, and now when the quarterback comes back to the other side, you've got another issue. That is first of all, did you on the backside of the play stay home and contain him - 'cause if you didn't, he will run for a lot of yards.

"So the back side of the defense must stay home, and when they stay home, they're taken out of the pursuit of the defense, which is something you can do against more conventional defenses. Your linebackers, now, have to react quickly back and cover the tight end. That's part of the preparation we have, to be able to defend both the run and the play action pass that comes off the run."

On whether the unfounded rumors about his retirement have fired him up that much more:

"I can say this; any time I've been part of a loss, I'm not a lot of fun to be around. Period. But I don't think the intensity is any different. When you get to this point and you've been to as many Rose Bowls as I've been, you want to win. You want to win.

"There's nothing like being there. Regardless of whether you win or lose, it's a great experience. But it's a hell of a lot better when you win."

On the biggest reason coaches don't want their votes in the polls revealed to the public:

"It's nobody's business [laughs]. No - I'm just kidding. It's this simple - and I think it may change, where there are some coaches that say, 'I don't want to vote.' There's enough scrutiny of our coaches without, for example, voting for teams in your own conference you're going to play, or maybe a team you're going to play in a bowl game. You incur the wrath of those people because you voted their team No. 2 instead of No. 1. Well, who need's that aggravation?

"Then when you add to the fact that somebody, in 1997, voted us down, when in fact we were one of only two undefeated teams in this country. Well, that's true of you. There are people in the media who have done the same thing those coaches did to us in 1997. Evidently there were some coaches who voted California down this year.

"So we don't have a perfect system. And we never did, and we never will. Peoples' biases become part of their vote. I've thought about that, and I vote, and I try to vote what I think is the fair thing. But to make that vote public would satisfy the writers because their votes are public. They don't have to go out there every Saturday … they're going to still get criticism. But you're a much bigger target as a coach, I think.

"That's a dilemma we have. What the answer is … I don't know. We all have biases - even you."

On if he wants to know who voted his team lower in 1997:

"Oh, I'd love to. But the truth is, I think I know anyway. The truth is, what good would it do? They gave me the opportunity to vote, they give you the opportunity to vote for the Heisman, those things. Hopefully the right thing will be done by the most people, but if it isn't, it is the system. That's what we have.

"I think there would be more pressure to make sure that type of thing didn't happen. But what if that person who voted them eighth really believed that? What if the person who voted us four really believed that? It's hard in that particular case for me to believe that because there are only two undefeated teams.

"It's a complex system, and we've always had things like that happen. Now, with the technology available and Freedom of Information Act, there are people who are adamant about finding out. I don't know what we do."

On whether it's acceptable if the final poll results are released:

"I haven't given it any thought … I'm sure at the coaches convention there will be people who want the change made, and I may be one of them. But I know this … it's not going to be any fun for the guys that vote. When those votes come out … there are a lot of problems there."

On whether he believes replay will be used for all college football games:

"I do think it's been very successful based on its objectives. I do think it's something that's coming. I might be wrong, but I think it's going to happen. At least I think the rules committee will give permission to other conferences that want to explore it. I think anybody who studies the Big Ten model believes it has been successful."

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