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January 8, 2008

Rodriguez talks transition, predicts transfers

New Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez didn't hold back in speaking with radio host Jim Rome today, broaching subjects from death threats he's received from angry West Virginians since leaving for Ann Arbor and potential transfers from his program.

Rodriguez predicted both Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington would leave, adding he hadn't heard much from either of them.

"They have not told me specifically yet," said Rodriguez. "I talked to Adrian - both of them - before the bowl, but I tried to stay out of it and let them concentrate on the bowl game. I've talked to Adrian since the bowl game a little bit and I think he's leaning a toward coming out, but I don't think he has made the announcement yet.

"I have not seen Mario. I don't think he's back in Ann Arbor yet, so indications are he may be coming out, as well."

There will be no hard feelings if they choose to leave, he added.

"I want to wish them the best. I don't know them very well, but I've watched them play and they are great players. Obviously, for selfish reasons I'd like to have them come back, but if that's what's best for their careers, they've got to do that and we'll be okay, as well."

Rodriguez added he expected freshman quarterback Ryan Mallett to leave, as well, noting he'd done his best to convince him he could fit in his spread offense.

"I believe he is going to transfer," he said. "He has not told me specifically, but he's told other folks in the program, and I talked to him before the bowl game and I talked to him once after and gave him our spiel. But again, if he chooses to leave, he can make a choice he thinks is best for him and we'll be okay.

"I talked to all of the quarterbacks about how our system can adapt to the quarterback, because we've had throwing quarterbacks in this system that have had great careers and gone on to the NFL. I did it a couple of times. I recruited [Mallett] once, I recruited him twice and then after the third time I'm thinking, 'okay, three times is enough for me.' It's a great institution, and if somebody doesn't want to be here who is already here, you wish them luck and move on."

Rodriguez touched on a number of other subjects with Rome, as well. Here's the transcript:

On Rivals.com's top player, quarterback Terrelle Pryor, and whether or not he feels he has a shot at him: "Unfortunately, I can't talk specifically about recruiting. But we are excited about one of the commitments we have. We have 15 or 16 commitments, and I'm also excited about the recruits we think we can get here.

"The neat part about it is we have some coaches and recruits that Michigan has been recruiting for years, and also my staff, whether they came from West Virginia or elsewhere, has a number of recruits they are excited about and think can play at a high level. We are going to mix those in the next three weeks and try to assemble a great class. I know we are going to be able to sign a full 25, so that's exciting."

On whether he believes he can have immediate success at Michigan: "I sure hope so, and I'm sure all the Michigan fans hope so as well. I think we have enough talent here. We probably need to talk again this summer and I'll be able to tell you this spring exactly how far we've got to go, because right now it's a blank canvas. I don't really know. I watched a couple of bowl practices, but until I see them practice in our system and how quickly they'll adapt … I'll know then.

"Also, we're going to try to adapt to our guys, and we'll find out at the end of spring where our best talent is and adjust accordingly."

On whether he's aware of the intensity of the Ohio State rivalry: "Oh yeah, and I knew that coming in. Anybody who follows college football knows the intensity of that rivalry. I know all the Michigan fans, who they were rooting for last night.

"We have three great rivalries. Obviously, all the games in the Big Ten are important, but we're probably unique in that Ohio State, Notre Dame and Michigan State are annual rivals for us. I know the expectations here are big, but they are big everywhere. They were big at West Virginia. So that doesn't faze me at all."

On selling Michigan on the recruiting trail: "The one thing that is exciting … obviously the great tradition we've had here, and not just recently, but throughout 120 years of college football. The 33 consecutive bowl games, the number of guys in the NFL, the reputation of the institution academically. We have more living alumni than any school in the country, which is quite amazing.

"When you walk into a young man's house when you have that Michigan jacket on, you get immediate attention from them. That's pretty exciting."

On the challenge of implementing his system at Michigan: "Everybody runs some version of spread at some point or another. A lot of times the systems can help you at times, but a lot of times it's overrated. It's about getting good players to execute and play extremely hard, no matter what system you have. If you do that, you'll have good success.

"Now, our spread, we like to think is flexible. We can go a few different ways. If we have a running quarterback, we can run it a little more. If we have a throwing quarterback, we can do that. If you have a guy who can do both, that's even better.

"There are going to be challenges because it's a transition. These guys have been recruited for a different systems, and we're putting a lot in there. It's going to take time for them to adapt. But I like winning too much not to adapt to our personnel a little bit, too. It's going to be tough. We're losing our quarterback, a couple of our leading receivers may turn pro, we're losing a great running back, our best offensive lineman … it's going to be some transition, but I think they guys have a great attitude, and they'll buy into it.

On whether he was surprised at the backlash from his home state when he left: "The level of animosity … I knew there would be some hard feelings, but the death threats, vandalism - it surprised me a little bit.

"Not all the facts are out there. Everyone wants to know the reasons why - eventually there will be some reasons [given]. But for me, I think everyone needs to realize how excited I am to be at Michigan. It's a great opportunity in my profession to be a coach at a place like this.

"There are other factors involved, and I've tried to take the high road, not get involved in some of the things involving loyalty and being a man of my word, because I've always been a man of my word. But eventually the truth will come out and I hope people will understand why I've gone to Michigan. So I want them to appreciate not just me, but what the staff has done the last six, seven years or so in building up the program at West Virginia."

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