What did Grant Perry do in preseason practice to earn the opportunity he did and how do you evaluate his performance on Thursday?
“What Grant did was he consistently came in and practiced every day at a high level, especially for a true freshman who’s also picking up the offense. He was out there every single day getting better and better.
“His performance in the game was in some ways out standing and some not precise route running, so it was…I wouldn’t call it as consistent as we would like but I think he’ll improve from it. I think he showed signs of some really outstanding play in terms of catching the ball, route running, and blocking. He had some blocks that were things of beauty. So, it was a good first start. But a couple costly mistakes.”
Was that interception on him?
“You never say it’s totally on one player, but he did not run the correct route. It was not close to being precise. It was something he just made up. But, again, when it comes to playing the quarterback position you don’t have to throw the ball if someone doesn’t run the right route. So, there’s fingerprints on that first interception for Grant and Jake [Rudock].”
Drake Johnson was with the team, traveled, dressed, everything. You have any better feel on him this week?
“Yeah, we’re going to evaluate that as the week goes on. Drake’s in really good communication with the doctors [and] the doctors are in really good communication with him. Cautionsly feeling pretty good where we’re at right now and we’ll see what happens during the week.”
[After THE JUMP: “And he’s a football player. There’s a compliment that…you can’t give a better one.”]
What were the biggest positives you took from each side of the ball after watching the film?
“Defensively, sudden change situations. After a turnover our defense gave up no points in those situations. Gave up no points in the two-minute drive situations. The other side is not getting any turnovers. Got the one turnover right before half. Would like to see more aggressiveness in terms of the ball; clubbing it, ripping it, getting it out, getting it over to our side. Be more handsy. Getting our hands on balls, whether they’re tips or PBUs or interceptions.
“I thought that the defense as a whole, again, more consistent, more consistently fast. I’d like to see that. There’s parts of the game where we didn’t get lined up quickly to formations and downs as quickly as we could have and should have.
“Offensively, when all 11 were doing exactly what they were supposed to do- the precision of the unit has to be all 11. The times when we did have breakdowns [it was] one guy, one breakdown, one missed assignment or two on the same play. Would like to…would like to..ended up being costly. And maybe over costly, over punitive. All of it is fixable and that’s what we’re working hard to do right now.
“I thought the discipline was really good offensively, and that showed up. Not a pre-snap mistake, penalty was very low and really missed assignments were low. Again, it was a key one by one guy, and it wasn’t one guy who did it every single play but a play here, a play there and that just goes to show you how important all 11 are, especially on offense. And defense.
“We were good in the red zone. Picked up a good amount of first downs. Sustained drives. We had four drives of over eight plays. We had a twelve play drive in there. We did some good things as I mentioned in the red zone. Short yardage…shows how important short yardage is when you pick up short yardage situations. Turnovers also were costly offensively.
"Putting it all together. Putting a game together with precision down in and down out is key, especially when you're playing a good team and you play a good team on the road.
"Special teams was...I thought we did well. Was happy with Jabrill and the decisions he made in the return game and the one kickoff opportunity he had. Thought he did an outstanding job on the punt. Spectacular, really. If that ball hits the ground who knows which way it could bounce and you could lose another 20-25 yards. Thought we covered and covered well. There were a lot of touchbacks in the game so good coverage in returns for both kickoff units. All pretty good.
"Played with 10 on one occassion, which you don't want to see which would be the downside there. But for a first game I thought our special teams was pretty darn good.”
Can you talk a little more about the getting-to-know-each-other process between quarterbacks and receivers and if there are acceptable minor route adjustments and learning to pick things up between quarterback and receiver?
“Uh, yes. We talked about precision and what showed up in the game a few times. We had two deep ball opportunities and I’m going to keep coaching that. Jehu [Chesson] felt like he was open and slowed down during the route, which…it’s very hard to judge a receiver who’s going full speed when he slows down during the route. In his mind he’s open and just, ‘Hey, throw me the ball.’
“But those two being on the same page…I mean, you don’t know a receiver’s going to slow down. It’s almost imperceptible when you’re in the pocket to know if he’s running 100% or has backed it down to 85 or 80, so that’s a big one. That was a huge…would have been a huge factor in the game for him to hit one of those deep balls. I think that really speaks to your point, as did two of the interceptions, you know, both by the young receiver who ran the wrong route. Did not run the precise route.
“He’ll grow from it though. He’ll learn from it, and that’s the importance of making the corrections from one week to the next week. Especially the first game to the second game. We’d like to make as many of those corrections and adjustments as possible, and I think we’ll do a good job doing that.”
“I also wanted to mention Jarrod Wilson had a heck of a tackle on a punt return. We had two guys not playing the correct leverage, and understanding the field awareness and Wilson made a heck of a play. Probably a touchdown-saving tackle by being aware, by playing the proper leverage and coming to balance and making a good open-field tackle before the returner could turn that one into a real big return.”
Is 43 passing attempts a little higher than you’d like to see, and when you get 2.6 yards per rush would you like to see maybe a little more consistency in the run game to alleviate that pressure off the passing game?
“Yes. Yes, we would. Yeah. Would like to be better at that.”
[SID points to person with next question. Harbaugh continues staring into the distance.]
“I think our first down consistency was pretty good. 60%. On first down we made- 60% of our first downs were four yards or more, which is something we track and want to be good at.
“But yeah, to answer your question of course we want to be better at rushing the football. And that comes with the interior line and the interior line has got to play as an entire unit. We talked about it a little earlier, all 11 playing together and not one guy having a breakdown or missed block. The fullback missed a couple assignments, and we’ve just got to be better. Make those corrections. Go from week one to week two…
“Thought it was good, though. Seen a lot of first games where there’s more errors, where there’s multiple errors, multiple missed assignments. We didn’t have that very much. I really thought our guys knew what they were doing for the most part and really executed what they were doing, and they can execute it a lot faster and a lot better. They know it, and I think they were kind of double checking themselves both offensively and defensively. ‘Hey, I know this.’ Boom, go, yeah. Where [here] they knew it, ‘Oh, let me double check myself’ and that created some hesitation but for the most part they really did a good job knowing what to do and then doing it but do it at a faster pace and a faster, higher level.
“But we did get, on offense especially, the one mistake here and then another guy another mistake on a play, 10 out of the 11 doing it right, it was just a lot more costly per the down, making the down unsuccessful more than you’d normally see. But that’s okay, we’ll get it right. We’ll fix it.”
Touching back on Jake [Rudock] at Utah. 25 completions on the road. Three picks aside, as a former quarterback do you think he showed some poise being able to complete 25 passes and more importantly stay upright, which has been a problem around here in recent years?
“Yeah, no question. Jake did a lot of really good things and was involved in some really punitive plays where he had fingerprints on it along with another player, but that’s the way that goes. Welcome to football. For his performance, look at it not even being a first game or first time playing with this team I thought he was accurate. That’s what he showed in camp; consistently accurate, and consistently accurate in practice usually means consistently accurate in the games, like any position. I thought he managed the game very well. There were no fumbled snaps, there was no going the wrong way with a handoff. Kept the ball off the ground in passing and running situations from the quarterback standpoint. Showed really good courage in the pocket. We didn’t have any sacks in the game, but we had a few too many one guy making a mistake, getting leakage, and then the quarterback getting hit a lot hard than you’d want to see.
“You know, those can add up. Call a quarterback crazy, but you get hit that way and the commentators start talking about the quarterback’s feet having “happy feet.” Well, call me crazy, that happens, so we’ve got to get better at that.
“Liked not having any sacks, but Jake certainly had his fingerprints all over getting the ball out and completing them under pressure, and standing in there and taking a hit on a few of occasions and throwing a really accurate ball. That’s exemplary.That we didn’t have the fumbles from the pocket and the quarterback position was also another plus. Thought he was outstanding in running the offense, especially in the two-minute drive at the end of the game.
“That was good practice for us, and it put us in position to have some shot at winning the game, which was still winnable, so that was good to see. And there’s other good things he did, but yeah, overall I was impressed with the way he played.”
Are you bringing back the helmet stickers this year?
What’s the criteria for a player to earn a performance sticker?
“There’s team criteria, there’s unit criteria, and there’s individual criteria.”
So you awarded some after Utah?
“Correct. Amara Darboh had the most stickers.”
De’Veon Smith got the most carries Thursday. Do you anticipate a little more of a rotation trying to find maybe a little more explosiveness from the running back position, or is that what you have and that’s what you’ll have to use right now?
“We’ll use all our options, all of our options that’re available. I don’t anticipate using just one back, nor did we in the game against Utah. I thought De’Veon ran extremely hard. He took the brunt of some missed assignments and some, uh…when a player blocks the wrong guy or misses a guy not only will the play go for a yard or zero yards but he took a couple big hits. The offensive line and fullbacks have to take great pride in making sure that doesn’t happen and we can improve in that area. He ran tough, played tough and kept coming back for more. Thought his second effort was extremely good on three or four carries. He caught the ball out of the backfield, and he also dropped one, so it was the story of the game.
“Nobody played a perfect game. The closest we had in this game was Amara Darboh and Jake Butt. And also Graham Glasgow graded out very highly. [He] was the highest grading offensive lineman. Thought his play was very good as well. Those three. We talked about some of the other positions and the quarterback.”
Couple of health updates: Jarrod Wilson, can you update us on him? Freddy Canteen, and any other injuries?
“Yeah, Jarrod…Jarrod, I believe, is fine. He didn’t have anything- he was having a hard time breathing, he said. That was…a few more pushups will boost his immune system hopefully and he’ll get in a little better shape.
“Freddy, he was back practicing yesterday and we’ll evaluate that. He’s working through something right now, but he’s getting closer and closer.
“And there’s things here and there.”
“Don’t know that for sure. Not hiding anything from you. Don’t know that.”
You mentioned Jake Butt briefly.
Talk about how his performance and how important that role is in this offense for a big guy like that.
“Yeah. Good things to say. We have some guys who- picture this- are really locked in. Their assignment is their assignment and then everyone’s assignment around them and the whole unit. Jake is as locked in as anyone and as good as anybody I’ve been around in that way, the mental side of the game. Extremely into it, and very bright.
“And he’s a football player. There’s a compliment that…you can’t give a better one. He’s a football player, and he showed that in the game. Very dependable when you’re throwing the ball to him. Made a tremendous touchdown catch. Caught eight passes for 96 yards, I believe. Only Amara had more yards. Same amount of catches. Somebody told me that tied a record for most catches by a tight end in a game.”
SID: “Most in a game since 1995”
“Fact checking! That’s a pretty long time. 22 years, right? Twenty- twenty years. And the touchdown catch; I mean, that was a big-time catch. That was thrown into at least double coverage, and there was a third close by. Jake Rudock trusted Jake Butt with going up and making a catch and he plucked it. He just snatched it and [it was] a good, strong catch. Good in his blocking assignments et cetera. Along with Amara, those were our two best players on offense. Tremendous game.”
Your thoughts this week on coaching your first game in Michigan Stadium?
“Yeah, same as the thoughts were last week. Want to win our next game. Yeah.
“Some people go with the 24 hours to get over a game or 48 hours. I think everybody’s a little different. Some people walk right out of the locker room and they’re over it. I’m not one of those guys. It stays with me- I choose to have it stay with me and in the mindset of our team it’ll stay with us. There’s a bad taste in our mouth when you lose a football game and there’s only one mouthwash for that, and that is winning a football game, so that’s what we’re going to make darn sure on what we’re going to focus on.”
Just to understand this a little better with the run game, you talked mostly about the interior offensive line. Is that where you’re saying it struggled mostly there versus your running backs?
“No, I mentioned the fullback as well. I mean, he’s got to do a better job, though everybody’s got fingerprints on it. The quarterback does, though he did a good job getting us into the right plays and executing the running game. Receivers are involved, some good, some bad. When it came to the blocking on the perimeter, some good, some close to unacceptable, so we’ve got to get a lot better blocking physically on the perimeter.
“Interior, as I’ve mentioned, there was good and there was bad and there was unacceptable. There was missing an assignment, there was missing a man, lined up on a guy and getting ole’d and De’Veon Smith paid the price for that. That’s just a fact. We were too high. We’ve got to get the pad level down. A couple times our guards got in positions you don’t ever want to be in as a football player. So, they know it. They know it better than anybody. And I don’t think there’s anything about getting pad level down other than the couple times we saw in the game where we had a man completely underneath you lifting you off the ground. You are in a state of no leverage. You’ve lost all your power-producing angles, and maybe that’s the best teacher. So, I think we’ll get better at that. We’ll get the pad level down.”
When did Jake Rudock separate himself in camp? When did you know he was going to be the starter, and what did he do exactly to separate himself from Shane and the other guys?
“I don’t remember exactly when it was, but he was consistently…day in and day out, he was consistently playing at the highest level. We charted, we tracked, we used all the indicators possible that you can track. When we watched he was just consistently the best. It was honest and fair that way.
“I wouldn’t say it was that way from day one. There was some getting acclimated with the group and, you know, some struggles in the first five days, call it the first four or five days, but after that he really got into a groove and proved that he was the best player in the camp.”
SID: “Okay, thanks, coach.”
“You got one more? You always got one more? You’re a one more type of gal.”
How hard is it going up against a QB you haven’t seen in the kid from Oregon State? Or I guess you’ve seen one game.
“Uh, well, yeah, seen one game. He was a very effective runner. We’re going to have to have a good understanding of all assignments and possibilities where the ball can go, where the quarterback can run. He got yardage throwing the ball, too. So, you watch him, you study him and try to simulate that in practice for our defense.”