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September 5, 2005

Carr: Defense a disappointment

Lloyd Carr wasn't pleased with his defense after waching film, and for good reason. However, he did vow changes would be made on that side of the ball for the Notre Dame game, which -- after Saturday -- is starting to look like a potential dogfight ...

Here are Carr's thoughts from Monday's presser:

On the Northern Illinois win:

"Obviously, turnovers were the key to that football game. Any time you force five turnovers, and win the turnover margin 5-1, you should win.

"Our offense, as a result of those turnovers, had some great field position, which certainly helped us. I thought we did some very good things offensively, but we need to run the football better. We missed two big plays that should have been touchdowns.

"One, we get the ball out of bounds down there to [Steve] Breaston, then Steve should have made the play on the deep pass early in the first quarter. We've got some things there."

On Michigan's special teams:

"Ross Ryan made a wonderful debut here. He's a weapon because he's got a great leg. He made a great play down there. So now, he is a scholarship football player at Michigan. He's earned that.

"Yet even on special teams, we had an extra point blocked. We had another one where we didn't get good timing on the operation of the play. We missed a field goal."

On the defense:

"Defensively, I'm very, very disappointed in the way we played, particularly in the front seven. I don't think we played well at all up there, with one exception. Chris Graham, for a young guy up there getting a first start, really played hard. He made a lot of plays.

"We're just not where we need to be. We need to play harder. We need to play more physical. That is our intent. So there are going to be some changes in the lineup, because we're not going to sit and watch that type of effort. We need to play harder, and we need to play tougher."

On Notre Dame:

"Notre Dame had an outstanding debut against Pitt. They're a very talented football team. I think they're very physical up front on both sides of the football. The skilled athletes on offense are excellent, at tight end, at running back, at the wide receiver positions. Of course, they have an experienced quarterback.

"Defensively, I like their linebackers. They're very athletic - they get to the football well.

"We're looking forward to one of the great rivalries we have here at Michigan."

On his post-game comments versus his post-film comments:

"I've learned one thing - you can make a lot of statements after a game as a coach and be inaccurate, because there are a lot of things going on out there. It's in the film. The eye in the sky doesn't lie. It's there. That's what you deal with."

On his comments regarding the defense:

"I said we need to be a more physical football team. If you choose to use the word 'tough,' that's your prerogative - freedom of the press."

On the changes:

"You'll see what those changes are on Saturday."

On how different Notre Dame's offense is from last year's:

"Well, they're very different. They're very different offensively. They spread the ball. When you look at the statistics, you'll see great balance in the people that got the football. The tight ends got the ball, the wide receivers got the ball, the backs got the ball in the passing game.

"They ran the football very effectively. When you rush for 275 yards, that's a good day's work."

On Ryan earning a scholarship:

"On any football team, you have guys who come with the idea that they want to participate in Michigan football. We thoroughly talk to their high school coaches and, depending upon what we think and what we hear and what we know, we invite guys to come out and play.

"Some of those people, down through the years, have made great contributions to football, from guys who didn't win scholarships. There is a great deal that goes into the preparation for any game that is very important.

"As a coaching staff, I take recommendations and then we discuss it throughout the spring and training camp. What you are trying to do is be fair to those people who are deserving. Sometimes you have more opportunities to give scholarships than others. When you do, it's always a great thing for those who are the beneficiaries of their hard work."

On the competition at punter:

"You're always competing. Certainly, he punted the ball extremely well. It was very, very good competition during the fall. Mark Spencer did a wonderful job. Zoltan Mesko is going to be an outstanding punter. But Ross Ryan just won that battle, based on what he did in practice.

"Certainly, his first punt in that game had wonderful hang time. Darnell Hood made what I think was one of the most important plays in that game, stripping the football. Turner Booth, our longsnapper, got down and jumped on the guy that was going to recover the football. The ball came loose, and we had a lot of guys going after it.

"Ross Ryan, if you watch the film … there aren't a lot of punters that are going to make that play. He made an outstanding play."

On Michigan's secondary:

"Let me say this - you saw a great back in Garrett Wolfe. He's a great back. He's going to play in the NFL. Northern Illinois is an outstanding offensive football team, with a very, very good, strong, physical offensive line.

"If you take the one play out, then you're going to come out of there with a 70-some yards effort, which is good against an outstanding back. But certainly on the play that happened, on every play, somebody has a responsibility.

"On that particular play, the ball was designed to be forced outside. We had a guy that didn't get out there. He filled inside. Now you get a guy that can run outside of the defense, and then on the backside of the play, we had a guy that took a bad angle and took himself out of the play. That's a young player.

"We had a lot of guys that played hard."

On the challenges defenses face:

"We saw one offense on Saturday. We're going to see a completely different one this week. We're going to see an entirely different offense the third week.

"On offense, you can run the same plays. You may have to block them a little bit different, but … it's challenging. It's a game played by people. We're all going to make mistakes. We make mistakes as coaches, we make mistakes as players, but there are certain parts of your system that you've got to hang your hat on.

"One of those is to leverage the football, keep it inside. Had we done that, that play would have gained two yards. The teams that make improvement week to week, they have a chance to be good football teams."

On whether Mesko might redshirt:

"We'll have to see. Some of that depends upon how Ross does. But obviously, you do not want to use a guy's year of eligibility unless he is going to get significant playing time that makes it worthwhile."

On whether he's spoken with Tom Brady regarding Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis:

"Brady's pretty busy this week."

On whether he's spoken with him at all:

"I've talked to Tom Brady on numerous occasions, about a lot of things."

On ND running back Darius Walker:

"He's a guy that can make you miss. He's got great vision. He's a very good pass receiver. He's one of those guys that can hurt you in a lot of ways."

On Adrian Arrington:

"He's going to be out awhile."

On Jake Long:

"I think it's going to be a long time. I think I've said that."

On any other injuries:

"None that I can think of. [Smiling] But my memory is not what it used to be. If I don't comment, then you'll know it was an honest mistake."

On Michigan's running backs:

"In a game like that, we had an opportunity to get a lot of guys some snaps. I have complete confidence in [running backs coach] Fred Jackson.

"Normally, we go into a game with an idea of seeing how things are going to go. I've been on staffs where you promise a guy he's going to play, and then you get into a game and it goes much differently. The idea here is to be ready to play, to be ready to compete.

"Every opportunity you get to play is an opportunity to earn the confidence of your coach and therefore increase your playing time. Max Martin would probably have played a lot sooner, but he missed a couple of days last week because he got banged up a week prior."

On the backs' different styles:

"It's a great plus. Any time you can put three guys in there who have different abilities, it creates issues for the defense. You still have to block them, but certainly we've got three guys in there who are all different types of backs."

On Michigan's offensive line:

"They did a good job. Certainly, they are going to be challenged a lot more as we go forward.

"Leo Henige is a powerful guy in there. He's a great run blocker. He will punish you. I never expected him to come back this soon, because he's had some setbacks along the way. I thought he did an excellent job.

"I thought Adam Kraus did a good job in there. Mark Bihl got some snaps, and I thought [Matt] Lentz and [Adam] Stenavich did a good job."

On Michigan's fullbacks:

"They all got some work. Brian Thompson has earned that starting position at fullback. He did some good things. I thought Will Paul got some experience. He did a couple of really impressive things in there. He's a big guy, with a big body, and he should get better as we go. Paul gives us some size back there that I really like."

On last year's Notre Dame game:

"It was a learning point. It was Chad Henne's first game on the road. It was Michael Hart's first game on the road. As far as those two guys, both of them came out of there feeling like, 'Hey, I've played in a big game against a big rival and had some success.' From the standpoint of those two guys, we came out as coaches with great confidence that if we didn't give them too much, they could be very successful. Of course, that had an impact on our team - no question about that."

On his first Notre Dame experience as a Michigan coach:

"My first memory was not a pleasant one. In 1980, we went down there and got behind, 14-0. John Wangler is one of the great quarterbacks we've had here and never gets credit for what he did. He had a lot to do with changing the way we played football here. Wangler went in and rallied us. It was 14-14 at the half.

"We took the lead with 1:36 left, or something like that. I remember their quarterback, Blair Kiel, threw the ball right to us on defense and we dropped the ball. It would have ended the game, but we dropped the interception.

"Some interesting things happened in the last minute down there. Then, of course, Harry Oliver stepped in there and kicked the winner. That was my first memory."

On the series:

"I think it's a great rivalry, because of the history. Going back, it's kind of interesting that Rockne and Yost did not get along. I don't think they liked each other too well. I don't think Crisler and Leahy liked each other very well.

"Because of the fact that both those men were ADs, as well as the football coach, we didn't play Notre Dame for a long time. That plays quite a controversial part of the discussions that go on today regarding scheduling, conference affiliation and all that.

"It's a great rivalry, because of the history of football at the two schools, and being the winningest two programs in the history of college football."

On Weis:

"I've known Charlie quite a while. I had him in here a couple of years ago to speak at our clinic. I met him once on a visit to the Giants when he was there, and I visited when they were with the Jets.
"I like him, and I have a lot of respect for him."

On the mental aspect of being more physical:

"It's all intertwined. That really has to be the foundation. If that's not the foundation, then you cannot be successful on either side of the ball.

"It's a physical game. It's a contact sport. That has a lot to do, in every game, with who wins and who loses."

On when he realized the defense wasn't as physical as he wished, and when he decided he needed to make personnel changes:

"I don't want to get into all of that. You try to look at a game … the difficult thing in coaching is to evaluate a player after a loss, but it's equally difficult to evaluate a player after a victory. The truth is that you see things. As a coach, you can fall into the trap of looking at things emotionally. What we strive to do is look at it, look at him the same and evaluate his performance whether it came after a win or a loss. That way, you have the best chance to be fair, the best chance to help him improve.

"It's challenging either way. When I looked at our team as a whole, that's an area we have to deal with. Sometimes that means making changes. Maybe you get somebody's attention, and maybe it doesn't matter. But the issue is that you've got to try to put people out there that are going to play very hard and very physical."

On the secondary vs. Notre Dame:

"This offense gives you a lot more sets so the nickel defense can factor in there. As far as being set, we've still got a lot of competition there. We've got some young players … I would have liked to have gotten Brandon Harrison in the game. I think he's going to play as we go forward here, because he has some abilities and he's a smart guy."

On whether he was surprised the lack of physical play was an issue given last year's defensive performances:

"I look at it as what we did on that particular day. All the things that were said … sometimes those are pretty good assessments, and very often they're so inaccurate it's laughable. What I try to do is look at each guy and how he's competing, and if he is not competing hard and playing physical, I am always looking to give somebody else an opportunity. That's the case right now."

On whether he's trying to get Watson's attention by putting an "or" next to his name on the depth chart next to Will Johnson:

"I'm not going to talk about individual guys, because you can do that … and I've seen some very inaccurate assessments about the way people played here, by the way. They're ALL 'ors.'"

On whether the changes can be undone by a good week of practice:

"No. No."

On whether it's easier to keep running plays inside vs. a 4-3 or a 3-4:

"It depends on who you are and who you are playing against. This is really what has changed, in my judgment … the offenses today. We're doing it, and I saw it last night, I see it in the games I've watched. What offenses are doing a much, much better job of, the biggest change - in the NFL they've got a 45-second clock. We've got, on an average play, 37 or 38 seconds. Normally it takes an official 12 to 15 seconds to mark the ball ready to play, and from that point you get 25 seconds.

"What has happened in that space of 12 to 14 seconds before the 25-second clock starts is coaches are getting the plays in on offense during that time. So you're seeing the huddle being broken with 20, 19, 18 or 17 seconds. That allows a team to go up to the line of scrimmage and get into a situation where it appears they're going to snap the ball. Then a quarterback makes a call and backs off, and the defense now moves. Then he still has time to get into the best play against that defense. That is what has changed offensive football, I think, more than anything else, because offenses are using the cadence, they're using that 12 seconds in there to get the plays in faster, and that really puts defenses in a bind."

On whether Dave Harris would have started last week had he been healthy:

"Who knows? He wasn't healthy."

On whether he's mad:

"Am I mad? I never get mad. I've been accused of that. I haven't slept in two nights, so I don't profess to come here in a great mood, no."

On whether he sees Notre Dame joining the Big Ten someday:

"They have a tradition, and tradition is very, very difficult to change. I don't have any idea of what the thinking is. I do think college football has changed dramatically if you look at the ACC, and I would imagine at some point we're going to have 12 teams in the Big Ten, so I think that changes the landscape. Whether or not that would change Notre Dame, I can't tell you."

On how Charlie Weis's aggressive approach when it comes to recruiting affects Michigan's recruiting:

"Kids are making up their minds earlier, but I think they probably have more commitments at this stage than they typically do. As far as our recruiting, no, it doesn't affect us. If we are recruiting the same guy and we get a commitment, which we did recently, that's good. But if we lose one, that's not so good. We just keep on going."

On recruiting vs. Notre Dame:

"I've always said this, and I believe it: the University of Michigan and the University of Notre Dame are two very, very distinct universities. They are as distinct as you could ever look at. In most cases, it's a pretty easy decision. We don't go down to the wire on a lot of those guys because they make up their minds. If they're interested in those two schools, they know where they want to go pretty quickly once they visit."

On whether he'd welcome Notre Dame to the Big Ten:

"First of all, I don't think it matters what I think or what I would do, or if I would welcome them. It's not my decision. Now when they make me commissioner and give me omnipotence, I would be able to do that. Anything we can do to strengthen this conference is a positive. How that's going to end up, I can't tell you. I can't begin to tell you."

On what he's thinking when he's laying awake at night:

"You toss, you turn, you get up, you go back, you look at the clock. You're mad because you know valuable sleep time is wasted. You know what it's going to do to you the next day.

"One of the challenges of any season - I don't care where you go in this game, there are things that aren't going like you want them to. Sometimes you don't know why something isn't going like you think it would. Sometimes, the more you dwell on something, you come up with an idea. There are always issues on any team, and right now that's the biggest issue we have, and we're going to try to deal with it in a way that can help us get better."

On whether defenses won't be able to catch up to the new offenses:

"I think that's a great question. I remember when the wishbone came in, and everybody ran the wishbone because nobody could stop it. Then, eventually, defensive coaches came up with some ideas that made it a very, very difficult offense to score unless you had outstanding personnel.

"As defenses got better, a lot of those coaches out on the West Coast, particularly in the northwest when they went to the one-back set … they forced defenses to take a linebacker out of the core of the defense and spread 'em out. That continues to be the evolution today. You see a lot of teams with no back in the backfield …

"It's frustrating when you're on that side of the ball that is striving to find some answers. Of course, the other thing that has had incredible impact on college football is the 85-scholarship limit. We had 105 scholarships here when Bo coached. That's a major difference, because I think a guy like Garrett Wolfe would have played in the Big Ten 20 years ago. Now he's helping make Northern Illinois an outstanding football team. I think that's why you see close games a lot of times where a traditional name is playing somebody who doesn't have a traditional name.

"That's the arena we're in, and it's challenging."

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