ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The Michigan football offense is truly ‘new look’ even though there are so many returning players from last year.
Now that the Wolverines are heading into Week 3, with new offensive coordinators and a new starting quarterback, the complexion of the maize and blue attack is rapidly changing. We saw just how dynamic QB J.J. McCarthy could be in his first start against Hawaii.
On Wednesday, co-offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore met with the media to discuss the state of the offense, how he’s acclimating to his new role, what he’s seen from the offensive line, and more.
Here is everything he had to say.
On shuffling guys in and out
Good, good. It’s next man up, guys just practice like that, we do that in training camp. So guys are, they’re already ready to make those changes. So it’s crazy how common you kind of feel when you insert some of those guys in because of the way we practice and the competition we practice against. So those guys are getting great work against our defense. So it was good and just excited about the progress we’re making.
Having a consistent middle to the OL
It’s great. Obviously, with the experience those guys have and how well they’re all playing, it’s been really good for us, especially Olu. You’ve read about him in spring ball and training camp and watch him in the game just put the stamp on how good he really is and what he’s done. So it’s been good. He’s taking control of the group, and then in the middle, and he’s been very positive for us. And we’re excited about him.
Improving upon the OL inconsistencies
Yeah, I think it’s just — it’s a process. We’ve got to go through the same process we do every week. And it’s going to change and we’re going to play better players and play better competition as we get into Big Ten play, and we know that. So we’re just excited for the challenge. I’ve seen the progress in practice, even saw more of it this week. I can see it in the game bit by bit. So it takes time that the line that we had last year wasn’t what they were in Week 12 and Week 1. So it takes some time for those guys to build that rhythm and chemistry — they’ve started to do it in certain games. So we see the process go on and see the progress rolling.
Trente Jones' first starts and growing pains
Yeah, I think the big thing is, it’s the first time you’re really at a starting position. When you put on the helmet here and you’re a starting tackle at Michigan, it’s a big deal. So I think sometimes in your mind you can make it bigger than you really need to. And it’s all about confidence. If you play with that confidence, if you walk around with that confidence, if you practice with that confidence, you’re gonna play like that on Saturdays. And I’ve always told the guys you play how you practice and he practiced a lot better last week and played a lot better. So just continue to do that and if you continue to do that and progress, he’ll be in the right direction.
Did Jones play more because he's inexperienced?
Yeah, I think that’s part of just being a guy that hasn’t played as much football. Those guys have played in countless numbers of games so try to get him more experienced, more playing time. And it’s been really good for him. Especially that last game — he played much better and played really well. So just watching his progress — currently good.
Play-calling and lack of pre-snap penalties
It’s been good. Again, play-calling has been smooth. Play-calling — I felt like there’s been a rhythm. Obviously, when you put up the points we have, it’s felt like it’s gone pretty well. We always think there’s things to improve.
But the pre-snap penalties, really it’s on the players, just their focus and their detail. They came out in that game in an hour rain delay, they could have been not excited and unfocused and they came out with juice, with energy, and with the same focus they would have if it would have kicked off at eight o’clock. So, just watching them progress has been really good and play-calling has been smooth.
Difference between Cade McNamara and J.J. McCarthy when it comes to throwing downfield
I think it’s all about the balance. And really, it’s predicated on gameplay, there’s just those shots were a little different versus the team we played in the first week. They played a lot deeper, so there was less opportunities to do that. And so I think that’s why that took place and then this team was just so aggressive and they played a lot closer to the ball. So we’re gonna try to take advantage of what people do, whether you play deep, whether you play close and manipulate ways to get the ball where we want to get it not where they want us to put the ball.
What's the learning curve been like for him?
Just different because I’m calling plays so it’s — obviously when you’re not a play-caller, you suggest plays, you have a thought process of what plays you would like to be called. And then your suggesting a play call like, ‘I’d like to get this one in this area,’ but you’re not saying it during the series and there’s more focus on just your position. When you’re calling plays, you’re watching everything. So there’s less of me, like just watching the offensive line. When I’m calling plays is less than just watching a position. It’s more watching everything. And then between series and drives, it’s communicating with staff, trying to figure out what do we want the next series of things to look like, figuring out the rhythm and making the notes to make that happen. So then the communication with the players is to try to be as much and as detailed, but it’s just a little different when you are calling plays.
On Mimi Bolden-Morris
She’s done an outstanding job. She’s very smart, very intelligent, super athletic, and she actually throws the football way better than I do. That’s not a joke. She really does throw better than me. But she’s outstanding. She’s very intelligent. She’s very detailed, very willing learner. She’s always asking questions, trying to make sure she’s doing things the right way and exactly how we want them. But she’s just been an outstanding addition to us. And it just to gives you a different perspective, of somebody that didn’t play the sport, but is an athlete, and can see it through those eyes. And obviously, she’s a woman, but to us, she’s just another coach and the players look at it the same way. And she’s done an outstanding job for us.
Does she make suggestions?
She’s asking questions, but there’s also times she suggests things and says things like, ‘Oh, that makes sense.’ And she’s an integral part of what we do on game day. She’s on the sideline, and she helps with substitutions and things like that, which people look at as maybe not as important, but it’s super important — especially with the personnel we put in the game. So she does a really good job for us and super excited to have her.
On Grant Newsome
When Grant first started, being a student coach, then was a G.A., I knew he’d be an exceptional coach. His detail, focus, how smart he is, how he approaches the game, obviously was a really good player. But just his thought process and the way he attacks everything, you can just see him going up in the ranks, and he’s done an outstanding job and continues to do it. He coaches his guys really hard. And, he does a lot of the things that I do, just because he worked with me so long. But he’s taken his own way of doing things, which is really good. And that’s what you have to do if you want to be a really good coach. And the sky’s the limit for Grant and his coaching career.
Is it because of his relationships or football acumen?
I mean, both. He’s great with X’s and O’s, he suggests plays on game day. But he’s also got a great ability to relate to the players because he’s just was in their shoes. But not at the same time — that separation of coach and player, he does a good job of keeping it that way. So they don’t look at him as just a friend. He’s their coach, and they really do look at it like that.
Are you game planning or calling specific downs?
I’m game planning and calling specific downs. Everything.
We game plan it all. You’re still trying to figure it out!
Trevor Keegan having played left tackle in Week 1
Yes. So, Keegan actually was a tackle in high school and he always thought he was like the next Taylor Lewan — wearing 77 and has all those tattoos. But, he played tackle in high school. And then like, there’s just been times in camp — or it started really last year. He said, ‘Hey, you mind if I go to LT?’ I was like, ‘Sure.’ So we’d switch him and see what he’d do. And the first time he did it, I was just like, ‘Oh, that was pretty good.’ And then we just kind of did it throughout camp to prepare him just in case we needed himm. And we actually did which is really good.
And then, we like to switch guys around and move guys around just to find the best five, best combination of five. We’ve got great athletes up front. They all think they could play tight end which is a joke — only Hayes maybe. But we did that camp and it was really good.
And then Gio, he’s just been on the up and up and up. He came in as a freshman last year, really didn’t know much, really was kind of lost and he’s taken spring and then in this training camp, you can see the steps forward. He was always a big strong kid but it was the playbook and the alertness, the fundamentals and all that and that’s where he’s really taken himself to the next level. And that’s why there’s so much confidence to play him in these games and he’s done a really good job for us.
How much are people in his ear and how much scripting does he do as a play-caller?
Not during series. As we call plays, let the play-caller just call them and not say much. Because when you’re calling something and there’s people yelling, it can be a distraction.
As far as how we script the plays, we have a method to it, can’t really explain it, so. I could, but I’m not going to. We have a great method, and it’s been really good for us. And we’re excited about just kind of progression of what we’re doing.
How involved does Jim Harbaugh get with the offense?
He lets us handle it. He’s been awesome, man. I just again — so blessed to have him as the head coach here and learn from him. And all the stuff he’s done here and sometimes just sit down and listen to stories that he’s had, whether it’s here, or USD and what he’s done with the Niners and all that and the detail and things that he’s done, I don’t think people will understand how good of a coach Coach really is. And it’s been just a blessing to learn from him.
Trevor Keegan losing 40 pounds after the Georgia game
I think a blessing is that we have great food here and Abigail does a great job with the food. He started the season, I think, heavier in general than he started now. So I think he might have gained a little during the season. And really just the way we’re going, he didn’t really track like, ‘OK, I’m gaining this much, this high.’ And at the time, it wasn’t affecting his play, because really, that’s what you really look at, right? So how’s that weight affecting you run? How’s it affecting you move, protect, all those things. So I think that game really stood out to him and he made a personal choice to do that. And he’s playing his best football right now. So I’m just having him keep doing what he’s doing.
On Jeffrey Persi not going in the first game
Yeah, I mean, Keegan just he’s one of the best linemen we’ve got. So put him in a position for us to be victorious and get the win’s really what it’s all about. And Gio would be the next — kind of a ranking of where you’re at. But Persi in this past game played really well and put a lot more confidence in our heads. So it’s gonna be exciting to watch the progress of how he’s been and what he’s doing because he played very physical. He’s obviously a huge man. And he’s played really well. So excited about seeing his progress.
How has J.J. gone through his reads?
He’s been really good. Really, both of them have. Obviously, J.J. had a really good game. But he’s done a really good job. Saw him studying the playbook, studying the game plan, and then understanding and having confidence in what you’re seeing and what you’re studying. So he’s done a great job. He’s gone through his reads, done what he needs to do, and he’ll continue to progress.
On C.J. Stokes' emergence
C.J.’s been awesome. I thought C.J., just the first day in camp, whenever he took his — I can’t remember what run it was, but he hit the middle so fast and so hard, I was like, ‘I didn’t know you were that fast C.J.!’ But he runs physical. He runs hard, just runs tenacious. And he knows exactly where to go and how to do it. So, love C.J. Stokes. Love what he’s done and his progression as a back.
How much is play-calling analytics vs. feel?
I think it’s a little bit of both. There is an analytics part to it, but there’s also the emotional feel and the player. This is all about a player-driven game. And we’re just trying to get the players in the best position and put our best players in position for them to win. So really, it’s really about both. We’ll use analytics during the game. We’ll use it during the game planning and we’ll use it obviously during the game in certain situations. But really, the biggest thing, especially if you’re calling plays is to feel the rhythm of the game, making sure the best players get the ball.