ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Rich Rodriguez was at ease with reporters for a change, casually chatting and cracking jokes Monday.
Michigan's embattled coach said there was a reason he looked and sounded more relaxed — as he previewed the opener against Connecticut — than he had the past two years.
"It was kind of refreshing to have a press conference with all football talk," Rodriguez said. "We haven't had a whole lot of those."
He has been tense and defensive at his weekly news conferences because of problems on and off the field.
A year ago Tuesday, Rodriguez fought back tears in the same room while defending himself after anonymous players claimed the amount of time they spent on football during the season and in the offseason greatly exceeded NCAA limits.
The school later acknowledged it violated four major NCAA rules under Rodriguez.
Rodriguez seems ready to move on and provide a better sense of how he is when comfortable and confident.
"Maybe everybody knows me better, and I know everybody better," he said. "The more you know somebody, the more you relax. I've come to the realization that you are who you are, people are going to judge you regardless, so why worry about it?"
The Wolverines lost a school-record nine games in his first year and flopped to 5-7 last season.
Rodriguez has been widely identified as on the hot seat but said there is no added sense of urgency.
"There's more pressure at higher levels because it's more important to more people, but as a coach, you feel the same," he said. "I'll stay awake the night before Saturday's game, thinking about what I've got to do, just like I did at West Virginia and Glenville State."
Instead of recoiling at his first weekly news conferences of the season, Rodriguez smiled and laughed while answering questions.
How will he inform his quarterbacks — Denard Robinson, Tate Forcier and Devin Gardner — who will start against Connecticut?
"I don't need no Dr. Phil moment with the guys," Rodriguez said.
Arizona State: Junior Steven Threet, a transfer from Michigan, was named starting quarterback.
Memphis: Sophomore Cannon Smith, a 2009 transfer from Miami who sat out last season, was named starting quarterback.
Mississippi: Starting defensive end Kentrell Lockett is not practicing as he gets tested for a recurring heart condition.
MISSOURI: Suspended running back Derrick Washington was charged with sexually assaulting a former tutor in her apartment during the summer. Assistant Boone County prosecutor Andrea Hayes said that a single count of felony deviate sexual assault was filed against the senior from Raymore, Mo., the Tigers' rushing leader the past two seasons.
Oklahoma: Defensive tackle Adrian Taylor (broken ankle in December) will be a game-time decision Saturday against Utah State.
Texas: Cody Johnson, a pile-driving touchdown scorer who coaches thought would be a short-yardage specialist, was named starting tailback. Considered the third option behind Tre' Newton and Fozzy Whittaker, the junior reported in excellent shape then was impressive in the Longhorns' commitment to finding a tough, new running game.
UCLA: After a week of rest, quarterback Kevin Prince looked capable of playing against Kansas State by Saturday. Prince, whose training camp has been disrupted by a small tear in a back muscle, split time with Richard Brehaut running the first-team offense. Both were erratic, but Prince had improved velocity.
Vanderbilt: Junior Larry Smith was named starting quarterback. He started last season but had to win the job again this season.
Virginia Tech: Sophomore tailback David Wilson will not redshirt.
WAC: The conference is demanding a $5 million exit fee by Oct. 25 from Fresno State and Nevada, which are leaving for the Mountain West Conference. WAC commissioner Karl Benson said the league would sue the universities if they don't pay. He also said the league won't let the schools leave until after the 2011-12 season.