AnnArbor.com's basketball beat writer, Mike Rothstein, was kind enough to stop by and answer a few questions about the upcoming basketball season. If you want the opportunity to ask him some questions of your own, he'll be participating in a live chat on AnnArbor.com today at noon.
1) For the first time in recent history, the Michigan Men's basketball team probably has higher expectations than the football team. Is this Michigan basketball team capable of handling the pressure of expectations?
A: I think so. Having a freshman point guard concerns me, but Darius Morris seems to be pretty mature for his age. Plus, Beilein is pretty high on him overall and believes he'll pick up his systems quickly, so that shouldn't be too much of an issue. It's an interesting question because none of these guys have been in this situation before, at least not since high school. Not being picked in the top three of the Big Ten, as odd as it sounds, might have helped because that's one less preseason accolade around this group. But the way they shook off being No. 15 in the country – in some ways, it really seemed not to matter to them – sold me that they should be OK.
2) With a more talented roster than last year's team, is it Sweet 16 or bust for this squad?
A: Perhaps, but that's the thing when it comes to the NCAA tournament. Save for four to six teams, it really is all about the draw you receive. It's why a lot of times, upsets can be predicted – Winthrop over Notre Dame in 2007, Villanova over Clemson in 2008 and Western Kentucky over Illinois last year. Those are just three examples but it all comes down to how a team is playing at the end of the year and what the first-round opponent looks like. For instance, if Michigan were matched up in the first round with a team that had a 6-11, 6-10, 6-8 front line, that would probably be a bad thing. That said, this team is certainly capable – from both talent and coaching standpoints – to make a serious run. But when it comes to March, look at that draw. The worst possible scenario for any team is to see a veteran mid-major or low major team that has been to the tournament the year before and put a scare into a high seed. Those teams often break through the next year.
3) Last year's team had vocal leadership from seniors CJ Lee and David Merritt. Those two are both gone, so is somebody going to be a vocal leader? Or is it more likely that somebody (i.e. Manny Harris and/or DeShawn Sims) simply leads by example?
A: It's funny you ask this because it was one of the first things I noticed about this team once I was around them for more than 10 minutes. Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims are the leaders on the court and will have to lead by example. Both are working on the vocal parts of being a leader and Harris told me he has gotten on guys in practice and in the summer workouts led by the players. But the guy who stands out to me as the vocal guy is Zack Novak. He has a lot of respect in Michigan's locker room and both Harris and Sims have said he's part of that leadership core. When I watched one of the track workouts before the season, Novak was literally encouraging almost everyone. He'd pick up Ben Cronin, who was still returning from injury, after a set and he'd cheer Anthony Wright – who was coming off his own injury – as he crossed the finish line. Sims and Harris will lead, but Novak is really a hidden key there.
4) Which players are expected to contribute this year that the average Michigan fan might not know from last year?
A: Tough to say since a year ago I was watching a highly-ranked team drop into the NIT (more on that Notre Dame team in one of the later questions). But I'm really high on Ben Cronin if for no other reason than should he put it together by midseason he gives Michigan a different look than the Wolverines have had, and that is a legitimate 7-footer. I think you're going to see great leaps in play from Novak and a more consistent effort from Laval Lucas-Perry now that he's had another summer in Ann Arbor. Also, Matt Vogrich is a deadly shooter. It might take him a little while to find his rhythm in college – he has to adjust to bigger, stronger defenders, a faster pace and a slightly deeper three-point line – but he's going to be an asset by season's end. Zack Gibson has also appeared to have more consistency so far. If he can even come close to resembling Kevin Pittsnogle – and that's not an easy thing to do – for this Michigan team, that could be really dangerous.
5) Which player that did play a big role last year is most-improved for this season?
A: I hinted at it earlier, but I really believe it is Novak. You could even argue Manny Harris here because pro scouts have really raved about him and he feels like he's more consistent, but Novak got rid of some of the excess bad weight he was carrying. He's a dirty-work player who can also shoot it well. In some ways, his game reminds me of Purdue's Chris Kramer in how he does the little things and is a very good glue guy, although Kramer is a better defender. Darius Morris is the X-factor on this team, but if Novak becomes a consistent third scoring option behind Harris and Sims, that will bode well for Michigan.
6) John Beilein has never taken a team past the Elite Eight. Can a team running his system make it all the way?
A: That's a really, really good question. Some of his past teams, I think that answer would be no. But I think the Final Four is possible and then from there, you never know. Remember, that West Virginia team that went to the Elite Eight was probably a basket or two in regulation away from beating Louisville and heading to the Final Four. It wasn't like they ran out of gas until perhaps the overtime of the Elite Eight game. While I don't think Beilein would say this, I believe this team has the chance to be more athletic and versatile than that team. If Manny Harris can stay healthy, having him and Darius Morris driving to the basket will create holes for shooters. Defensively, as long as the combination of man-to-man and 1-3-1 is humming along they'll have a shot in most games. Beilein is a heck of a game-day coach and in the tournament, those types of coaches usually are the ones that end up in the Final Four.
7) Is Michigan poised to make a major run at Michigan State as the instate power?
A: Not yet. Not as long as Tom Izzo and Michigan State keep reaching Final Fours with relative consistency. The Spartans have been to more Final Fours recently than any program in the country. Recruits, until Michigan shows consistency with reaching and advancing in the NCAA tournament, want to play for Izzo. What Michigan can likely hope for in the next few years, if Beilein continues on his current trajectory, is a situation similar to what things look like in the states of Kentucky, North Carolina and at least until recently, Indiana. Two programs considered among the Top 15-20 in the country almost annually with alternating turns at the top. Michigan has a ways to go to reach that point again consistently still but it's not unheard of. The past tradition is there.
8) What needs to happen for Michigan to make a run at the conference title?
A: Going back to the previous question, I'm not sure that they have enough firepower or depth to get there. Michigan State is an awfully good team this year. I ranked them No. 2 on my AP ballot in the preseason. Purdue, while I'm reserving complete judgment until I see a healthy Robbie Hummel for a few games, is right on par with them. Barring injuries, those are likely your top two. No reason to think Michigan couldn't finish third. I have them as the third-highest Big Ten team on my AP ballot and I voted them third in the Big Ten media poll.
A third-place finish will garner an NCAA berth and considering the depth of the Big Ten this year, likely a pretty high seed. But to answer your question, I think they'd need to pretty much win out at home in the league and pick off a few of the tougher games (Wisconsin, Purdue, Michigan State, Ohio State, Minnesota) on the road. Staying healthy is also going to be key. Michigan, while they have a nine-to-10 man rotation, can't afford to have one of its Top 4 guys (Harris, Sims and Novak along with Morris being the likely point guard) go down. The depth just isn't completely there yet. When I did my preseason prognosticating, I said Michigan would be 11-7 in the Big Ten. While I don't think that'll be enough to win the league, it'll be enough for the tournament.
9) What circumstances would lead to Michigan missing the NCAA Tournament?
A: An long-term injury to a key player (Harris, Sims, Novak, Morris) would be a killer. But providing Michigan stays healthy, remember earlier when I said I'd discuss Notre Dame's season last year, this is where it goes. Notre Dame, if you remember, was tabbed to be a potential Final Four team in the preseason after a second-round showing in the NCAA tournament a year earlier. They were a veteran team, didn't really lose a lot (other than current NBA D-Leaguer Rob Kurz) and had two stars returning in Luke Harangody and Kyle McAlarney. This year's Michigan team is somewhat veteran, didn't lose a ton (although C.J. Lee and David Merritt were big from a leadership standpoint) and have two returning stars in Harris and Sims. But the Big East last year – like the Big Ten this year – was stacked with a ton of talent and depth. You knew going in there were going to be one or two teams in the Big East that got swallowed by the league. There ended up being two that were ranked in the Top 10 at some point in the year and ended up in the NIT. Notre Dame was one. Georgetown was the other.
I get the same feeling about the Big Ten this year, where one of the projected Top 7 or 8 will just get crushed by the power of the league. Michigan's non-conference schedule should be strong enough (Old Spice, at Utah, at Kansas, BC, UConn) where barring an epic collapse in the Big Ten the Wolverines should be in for sure if they win a couple of those games. But there's a stretch of games that could be a confidence killer (it's what happened to Notre Dame and to a lesser extent, Georgetown) in the midst of the conference slate. Notre Dame lost 7 straight (six to Top 25 teams) which killed NCAA tournament hopes. Starting with Indiana at home on Jan. 14, the Wolverines then have Connecticut at home followed by at Wisconsin and at Purdue. Then they come home to play Michigan State. Those five games, in that order, represent the toughest stretch of the season and one that could send most teams in the country spiraling. Get through that and Michigan should be OK. Go 0-fer and then it becomes a bit dicey.
Predict: Michigan's final record: 21-9 regular season, 11-7 Big Ten
Michigan's team MVP: Manny Harris (although it wouldn't stun me if DeShawn Sims won it)
Michigan's Post-season Result: No. 5 seed NCAA Tournament, Sweet 16
The Big Ten Champion: Michigan State (regular season); Purdue (conference tourney)
Number of Big Ten teams in the NCAA tournament: 7
The final score of Michigan's first game on Saturday: Michigan 82, Northern Michigan 61.
This is belated, but still relevant since I just saw Michigan run this play with Denard Robinson as the tailback in the Purdue game. This is a staple of the Illinois offense but it's something Michigan hasn't run yet in the Rodriguez era. I assume Michigan decided that the best way to practice it was to install it, and once it's installed you might as well run it.
It's Michigan's first drive of the day. The setup is a standard four-wide set on which Michigan is in a stretch setup with the quarterback behind the tailback:
On the snap it looks identical to the stretch in the backfield, with the running back coming across the quarterback's face to take a handoff, or not take a handoff. The line, however, is doing something completely different. They're blocking down:
On a stretch the line would be moving the same direction as the tailback and leaving the backside defensive end unblocked. On this play they block the opposite direction and leave the frontside DE unblocked. This is a veer.
Michigan's run a different sort of veer earlier that looks more like a traditional stretch with the tailback attacking upfield and the quarterback the player that needs to be contained. That touchdown against Purdue last year where Minor ran untouched into the endzone was a veer. On this play, the upfield threat is the QB and the RB needs to be contained.
On the exchange the Illinois line has slanted in anticipation of a stretch; they're reacting to the line. The backside DE is shuffling out and Koger is immediately releasing to the second level to pick up a block on the MLB:
Forcier keeps it. I think he keeps it incorrectly given the DE's reaction to the play:
Oops. If that DE had taken off for the tailback this is a good gain. Look at that crease up the middle. Since Forcier isn't Denard Robinson he probably gets tracked down by a safety—they're off the screen deep—but Illinois has gotten fooled by this play. Everyone except the DE, that is:
He cuts off that crease.
Forcier's a slippery bugger in space, though, and this DE is not nearly as agile as he is. As we've seen all year, dude can make you miss. He manages to get around the DE and to the outside. This delay has allowed opponents to converge, though:
Forcier gets down voluntarily:
It's four yards thanks to the mismatch between the DE and Forcier, but he had to make a guy miss to get it.
- Forcier's freshman status is much more pronounced on the zone read. Forcier's made a lot of poor decisions this year when it comes to handing the ball off or taking it. Most of the time his error is keeping the ball, but when Robinson came in to run the veer against Purdue he handed it off as the DE was running right out of the play and Robinson got nailed for a three-yard loss.
It's not just the passing game which should improve as Forcier gets more experience. Michigan's run game is being hampered by Forcier's youth as well. This is why the quarterback is even more important in Rodriguez's system than others.
- The veer is an excellent counter to Michigan's usual zone stuff… To the line it looks like a stretch and will draw stretch responses. As you can see in the frames above, the Illinois line has crashed itself out of the play, helping Michigan down-block it. There's a big damn crease if the DE heads out for the tailback. If the DE is on a scrape exchange and crashing for the QB, the handoff read is a potential big gain because the scraper is going to have to deal with a blocker and you have a tailback in a lot of space for cutbacks. Michigan tried it a couple times against Illinois; Illinois, unsurprisingly, reacted well to it. It's their base running play, IME. They've seen it.
- …but it requires far more precision on the read. Watching Juice Williams in detail the past couple years has given me an appreciation for how difficult it is to perceive the DE's intent and momentum, and how your fakes can drag him out of position. Williams gets low and extends the ball and holds it there almost impossibly long, then drags it out after the DE commits. Forcier does not have that patience yet.
This read is also more important to the success of the play. If the DE crashes down on a stretch he may get to the tailback if other people on the DT cut off creases. Fundamentally he's a cutback defender and a play can still work if the QB is not contained and gives it off. Here a missed read is probably going to be a loss, Forcier jukes notwithstanding.
Mike Cox is pretty. A reader who's way more familiar with the facial features of fifth-string running backs than even I am was taken aback by a Bivouac newsletter featuring a fellow who appears to be Mike Cox:
Cox's mgoblue mug shot:
That's the same dude, right?
Extremely important CORRECTION: The "death touch" cartoon referenced in the Monday column was not GI Joe but Batman: The Animated Series. A helpful reader provides details:
I believe this was the animated series of Batman. I very clearly remember an episode of this, but I think there was only one real "death touch", which Batman was able to find by feeling up the bad guy's sparring dummy. He then confronts the guy who hits him there!(!). BUT of course Batman is too smart for that and had armored that spot so he wouldn't die, and then pwns the fool.
Craig Flemingloss '07
I now remember this clear as day. Fools at the Ohio State game are going to get a swift jab that's a one-way ticket to hell. Or they're just going to get poked in the neck. 50-50.
CYA, chanter of CYA. I noticed this during the portion of the Saturday Miami game I didn't spend crossly drinking at home:
I was at the game for about 10 minutes, when after Miami (Ohio)’s first penalty, I participated in what has come to be known as the ‘C-Ya’ chant. …
Like usual, I said the same chant tons of times Friday night with thousands of other fans and nothing happened.
Saturday night, I got kicked out. Not cool, dude.
Two or three others in the immediate vicinity of one cranky usher also got the boot over the course of the game. I didn't see the guy the next section over executing similar justice, so I assume that these are the actions of one guy who's mad as hell and isn't going to take it anymore, not a Yost-wide thrust.
The uneven enforcement is annoying and will do nothing to stem the tide of that chant. That said, Michigan's been trying to erase or ease the cheer since I started attending games at Yost 11 years ago. In the long-long ago, Red Berenson even brought his adorable five-year old grandchild onto the ice to personally plead the student section to stop; no one did. They just added a sarcastic-seeming "we love you, Red" at the end of the thing. I thought that was pretty disgraceful: the only reason Yost is what it is today is Berenson, so if he wants you to stop doing something you should do it no questions asked.
Mostly, the chant's not clever. It's just a string of stuff that gets progressively further over the line every time something gets added. The things that used to get tacked on, like "Wildfong" in honor of a particularly annoying opponent or "Boren" for obvious reasons, are lost to history, replaced with generic swearing. I have been known to curse like a sailor from time to time; this is not mounting a high horse about vulgarity. The CYA chant is boring and embarrassing in the format currently served at Yost. It's not something worth fighting for when Red Berenson, who should be your God, wants it dead.
If the university actually wants traction on this, they should provide a carrot and stick to the entire student section in the form of ticket prices: higher if they continue, lower if they stop. Randomly tossing chickens* out of the game is just going to shame the Daily's editors even more than their humiliating defeat at the hands at a bunch of socially maladjusted engineers from the Every Three Weekly last weekend. It's not going to help, it's going to instill the Fight For Your Right To Party mentality that I saw after the Children of Red incident. The only thing that will work is a naked display of aggression on the part of the university. Either drop it or drop the bomb.
I will admit that I stood out from the other Children of Yost. I may or may not have had a megaphone. And I may or may not have been, ahem, dressed up — if you went to the game, you might have seen a six-foot chicken standing against the glass in section 18.
On a similar topic. I haven't ever heard Berenson tear his team a new orifice like he did in the aftermath of this weekend's pantsing at the hands of Miami. After the Redhawks scored to go up 4-1 on Saturday, the team started gooning at an alarming rate:
"I'm embarrassed," Berenson said. "We played like a bunch of spoiled brats, and we've gotta suck it up. When you're getting beat, you just keep working hard for the team. You don't take it out on the other team and take stupid penalties that are going to hurt your team even further. That's not the way we play hockey, and this team will learn that."
I wonder if this embarrassment extends to Tristin Llewellyn, whose spot on the depth chart opposite Chris Summers on what you assume is the #1 defensive pairing makes no sense to me. Llewellyn has been a dumb penalty factory ever since he arrived and makes a ton of chance-generating defensive mistakes. Putting him on the ice against top lines is asking for it; I don't get Berenson's faith in the guy when Kampfer is available.
On ice, but only metaphorically. Interesting bit from an AnnArbor.com piece on the freshmen getting redshirted:
Michigan has played 10 of 21 true freshmen this year, though linebacker Brandin Hawthorne has not seen the field since September and is in position to get his redshirt back.
…if Michigan has held him out because he is "injured," which I'm betting is the case. Michigan pulled medical redshirts for Adam Patterson, Junior Hemingway, and Kenny Demens last year and only Hemingway had injuries that were known to the public.
Mike Jones and Vlad Emilien continue to play on special teams but not on the defense, frustratingly, though I can understand why Emilien was put on the field given the situation at safety. Anything that can potentially get him ready sooner is more valuable than a hypothetical fifth year given Michigan's situation at the position.
The article also expands upon something Tim touched on in his press conference recap:
Rodriguez singled out cornerback J.T. Turner, safety Thomas Gordon and receivers Jeremy Gallon and Cam Gordon when asked what freshmen currently redshirting have caught his eye. He also said Michigan has "some really talented young offensive lineman" in Taylor Lewan, Quinton Washington and Michael Schofield.
I am terribly pleased that Gordon is one of the guys mentioned, just because of his position and his low recruiting profile. Gallon has a nice two-year gap between himself and Odoms now; if he lives up the recruiting hype Michigan should have a nice one-two punch at slot until Roundtree graduates. And one of the tackles—probably Lewan—stepping forward to claim a starting spot would be… well, probably not great. Next year's line is probably going to be something like Omameh-Schilling-Molk-Barnum-Dorrestein/Huyge, with Barnum potentially replaced by whoever's not the RT if he can't hack it yet. If one of the tackles is breaking through as a redshirt freshman that's probably a negative.
Advertisin' note. The M-Den, which is fantastic in all ways that an entity can be, has a holiday promotion running: orders over $100 come with a ten-dollar gift card.
Vote of confidence. Rote:
"He's not going anyplace," Martin said. "Rich is an outstanding coach. There is no question he's got my total support. I think the world of that guy. Is he perfect in every respect? Nobody is. But he works hard. He'll get it right."
Honey, I'm the AD. In the vein of "Let's FOIA 30-year-old grade records" and "Michigan coaches have loans from a bank the AD founded": Martin's embarrassment that was on all the premium sites yesterday afternoon appears to be shoving past some clueless DPS workers who don't know what the AD looks like. This never happens on sailboats. That's probably why he's retiring.
To me this is more interesting as an information-on-the-internet problem: I got a couple of freaked-out emails because premium sites were dropping dark hints about an "embarrassment" that was about to come out about Bill Martin. That embarrassment is stating "Honey, I'm the AD" and gently pushing someone out of his path. If anyone on the premium sites had just said that, or if the information was not locked behind a paywall and thus subject to wild speculation by people outside of it, the minor panic would not have happened. The perpetual non-information being purveyed on subscriber message boards is annoying both as a recipient and a competitor. My favorite part is when moderators elsewhere say "as we've been telling you for weeks (in one-way ciphered Navajo)" after this site says something newsworthy in explicit detail. You'll note that if this site has information it just tells you what the information is and the context it was received in.
Example! I've received some solid information that suggests Fred Jackson is probably going to move on after the season by his own choice. This should not affect the status of his son's commitment; Jackson's probably going to head to the NFL.
Given my opinion of how important a running backs coach is—not very—I don't think this is a big deal and hope the replacement is one of those young, energetic recruiter types. The first guy who leaps to mind is Ty Wheatley, now on Ron English's staff at EMU. With all the Rodriguez stuff—and the rumors as to where some of it is sourced—that may not be an option.
Etc.: Thanks to BWS I spent 20 minutes yesterday watching some guy play impossible Mario levels. Craig Roh's dad says recruits and their parents have the internet too. Big Ten Tour hits Michigan, runs into a guy who looks like Scott Steiner but says he's Hulk Hogan. Side note: I am 100% sure that I saw Scott Steiner wandering around before a game last year.
If you can help out finding articles on any of the commits, e-mail me, and I'll try to include your contribution.
New Commit LA S Carvin Johnson
Last week: Rummel knocks off Shaw 18-17.
Breaud was terrific, taking many huge hits, particularly from a human missile named Carvin Johnson and by linebacker Chris Randle. Johnson, who earlier this week committed to Michigan, returned a punt 69-yards for a score on a brilliant effort but the play was called back for a block in the back by Rummel.
This week: Rummel (10-0) v. Captain Shreve in Round 1 of the State Playoffs.
|Carvin Johnson 2009|
|East St. John||W 20-14|
|OP Walker||W 23-0||1|
|Brother Martin||W 13-7|
|St. Augustine||W 7-6||1|
|Archbishop Shaw||W 18-17|
MI QB Devin Gardner
Gardner was 6-of-11 passing for 120 yards and two touchdowns, and he ran 11 times for 120 yards and three more touchdowns.
"He played one of the better games of the year for me," Inkster coach Greg Carter said. "He took the game over. Every time Redford Thurston (8-3) would score, he would lead the team down to answer."
Paul was there (albeit a little late), so enjoy some video from the second quarter on:
CityBallers was also there, and they provide video as well.
This week: Inkster (7-3) @ Southgate Anderson in Round 3 of the State Playoffs.
|Devin Gardner 2009|
|East Kentwood||L 33-52||19||30||389||3||1||63.33||12.97||10||102||2||10.20|
|St. Edward||W 14-7|
|Highland Park||W 27-22||9||16||127||2||2||56.25||7.94||11||74||2||6.73|
|Bay City Central||W 27-20||7||13||132||1||0||53.85||10.15||15||95||1||6.33|
|Muskegon CC||W 34-19||4||9||110||0||0||44.44||12.22||99||1|
|St. Ignatius||L 20-49||1||0||1|
|Edsel Ford||W 51-19||4||7||51||2||0||57.14||7.29||6||98||2||16.33|
SC QB Conelius Jones
Last week: Spartanburg loses to Dorman 0-28. Jones passed 5/14 for 40 yards and a pick.
This week: Spartanburg (3-8) @ Rock Hill in Round 1 of the State Playoffs.
|Conelius Jones 2009|
|Boiling Springs||L 35-39||1||0||77||1|
MI RB Austin White
Last week: Stevenson falls to Detroit Catholic Central 0-38.
Senior Austin White, who has committed to play at the University of Michigan next season, finished the game with 75 yards on 10 carries for the Spartans, but was unable to use his speed to break a big run against the very solid Shamrocks defense.
...except for a 30-yarder, which I would call "big." I was there, so enjoy some video:
As you can see, Stevenson employed some direct-snap shotgun stuff for White, including throwing a pass. I hadn't seen them use that before this year, and I wonder if this was its debut. If so, I question the logic of installing something completely new for a big playoff game. I also question the logic of only giving your running back the ball 10 times when he averages 7.5 yards each carry, but whateva.
|Austin White 2009|
|South Lyon||W 37-0||8||173||3||21.63||0||0||0||-|
|South Lyon East||W 47-20||16||234||5||14.63||0||0||0||-|
|Catholic Central||L 0-38||10||75||0||7.50||0||0||0||-|
TX RB Tony Drake
Last week: Skyline pounds Sunset 56-0. Drake had just two carries, but they spanned 102 yards, and both made it into the end zone:
Tony Drake ran up the middle 79 yards untouched with 4:50 remaining to give Skyline a 7-0 lead. Drake scored on a 23-yard run on Skyline’s next play to make it 14-0 with 2:37 remaining.
Then he got taken out of the game and Skyline won the end.
This week: Skyline (10-0) v. Garland rowlett in Round 1 of the State Playoffs.
|Tony Drake 2009|
|Plano East||W 45-19||15||167||1||11.13||0||0||0||-|
|Lake Highlands||W 42-27||19||226||2||11.89||1||6||0||6.00|
|W.T. White||W 62-3||4||50||1||12.50||0||0||0||-|
TX RB Stephen Hopkins
Last week: Game preview:
Give me Marcus RB Stephen Hopkins to not want his spectacular career to come to an end just quite yet and a Marcus win. Prediction: Marcus 27, Hebron 23.
Marcus running back Stephen Hopkins, who entered the game needing 44 yards to set the school’s all-time rushing record, gained 171 yards with two touchdowns
“We’ve had a great offensive line since I have been here,” Hopkins said. “And coach Erwin always believed in me. Thanks to all of them I was able to get that done.”
“It was all guts,” Hopkins said. “We picked the right time to show it and I’m proud of the team for how we fought and won. We have to keep fighting and keep getting better every week,” Hopkins said. “We have to step it up on offense and on defense and we have a chance.”
This week: Marcus (6-3) v. Grapevine in Round 1 of the State Playoffs.
|Stephen Hopkins 2009|
|Plano West||W 35-25||28||128||3||4.57|
|Tyler Lee||W 17-7||22||118||1||5.36|
|Southlake Carroll||L 30-41||28||150||1||5.36|
|Flower Mound||W 63-39||21||217||2||10.33|
|Flower Mound||W 35-28||28||171||2||6.11|
LA Slot WR Drew Dileo
Last week: Game preview:
“I love playing at The Rock,” said Dileo, a Michigan football commitment who has scored 11 touchdowns this season. “The atmosphere is great. It’ll be a packed house and we’re playing for the district championship. It’s a great honor to be in this rivalry.”
It looked like the Wolves had Parkview stopped, but on fourth-and-3 at the PBS 47 the Eagles executed a fake punt, with Dileo running 24 yards for a first down.
Three plays later, Dileo scored on an option pitch around left end. Scott’s second PAT made it 17-7 with 9:39 left in the half.
Dileo later had a 41-yard punt return.
A 23-yard Wilson to Dileo pass helped key the drive that ended with a 2-yard TD run by Brandon Johnson.
This week: Parkview Baptist (8-1) v. Marksville in Round 1 of the State Playoffs.
|Drew Dileo 2009|
|Christian Life||W 60-14||1||50||1||50.00|
|Church Point||W 54-0||2||40||1||20.00|
|Port Allen||W 32-7||11||65||0||5.91||3||92||2||30.67|
|West Feliciana||W 23-7||50||1|
MI WR Ricardo Miller
But when Pioneer's Miles Sorise found Ricardo Miller on a 36-yard touchdown pass less than a minute into the second quarter to trim the deficit to a touchdown, it appeared Pioneer was ready to match Canton score for score.
This week: Pioneer (8-3) has been eliminated from the State Playoffs, and their season is over.
|Ricardo Miller 2009|
|Arthur Hill||W 58-20||1||20||0||20.00|
OH OL Christian Pace
Last week: Preview fluff:
“Pace has been on the line for all three years I’ve been at tailback,” Mansnerus said. “I have a lot of trust in him, but all of them are good friends. We have a close bond together as teammates.”
Avon Lake outguns Maumee, 56-35 in Round 1 of the State Playoffs.
This week: Avon Lake (8-3)
OH DT Terry Talbott
This week: Wayne (7-4) has been eliminated from the playoffs, and their season is over.
PA DE Ken Wilkins
"It's frustrating, but even moreso because I'm a senior," Wilkins said. "When you're a senior, any game can be your last game. You definitely want to get back and play."
When asked how he thought he has played this year, Wilkins said, "On defense, I wasn’t having as good of a year as I did last year. But I think some of that was due to a lot more people knowing who I was this year, and teams scheming more around me. I'm more involved in the offense this year, though. I was having an OK defensive year."
Trinity falls to Mars 0-17.
This week: Trinity (4-6) has been eliminated from the State Playoffs, and their season is over.
PA DE Jordan Paskorz
Last week: Hampton upsets Chartiers Valley 19-7 in Round 1 of the State playoffs.
This week: Hampton (6-4) @ Uniontown in Round 2 of the State Playoffs.
FL S Marvin Robinson
Last week: Lake Region falls to Bartow 7-45. Robinson is out for the year with an injury.
This week: Lake Region (0-8) v. East Ridge.
OH CB Terrence Talbott
This week: Wayne (7-4) has been eliminated from the playoffs, and their season is over.
MI WR Jeremy Jackson
Huron's (5-4) season ended without a playoff berth. Jackson finished with 43 catches for 573 yards.
OH WR Jerald Robinson
Canton South (3-7) missed the state playoffs, and its season is over.
OH WR DJ Williamson
Harding (6-3-1) will not make the State Playoffs, and its season has ended.
OH LB Antonio Kinard
Liberty (4-6) missed the State Playoffs, and its season is over.
OH CB Courtney Avery
Lexington (6-4) missed the State Playoffs, and their season is over.
WI P Will Hagerup
Whitefish Bay (5-5) has completed its season.
2011 OH CB Greg Brown
Ross (5-5) missed the State Playoffs, and its season is over.
|Greg Brown 2009|
|Benedictine||W 28-21 (OT)||6||99||1||16.50|
|Findlay||L 40-43 (3OT)||8||122||1||15.13||0||0||0||-|
|Marion Harding||L 0-21||0||0||0||-||4||13||0||3.25|
A very special mailbag, with just one question. This one has been asked, or implied by people sending me reasons the play of the team is definitely the fault of the coaches, by many, many people the past couple weeks. If you sent one, I read it. I'm not responding except here. Sorry. Usually I try to be better about it.
The platonic ideal:
Just talk me off the ledge...
Please explain what it would take for you to no longer support Rich Rod. What specifically has to happen? And then, please state not just what you expect to see from the program in the coming years, but how the team will improve? To me, that's why I just can't support Rich Rod anymore. Show me where are the underclassmen who will show improvement and how you actually see the coaches making them better.
I just don't see it. Instead, I see a mentally soft team, that while yes, has serious deficiencies, is currently losing to teams that also have serious deficiencies. Our players seem to be all over the place and just poorly coached in general.
Like I said, talk me off the ledge..
I get emails like this because I've been a supporter of Rodriguez throughout his tenure at Michigan and am moving much more slowly towards the conclusion that Rodriguez should be fired than the rest of the universe. The emailer asks for specifics. To set ground rules, here are the assumptions I am working with.
Virtually nothing that happened in 2008 was avoidable, and it was mostly not Rodriguez's fault. Michigan's program had already been gutted by attrition and poor motivation by the time Rodriguez made it to campus, and the exodus of offensive stars in the aftermath of his hiring was an inevitable consequence of the radical shift in offensive philosophy.
I have it from reliable sources Ryan Mallett was gone no matter who was the coach and that Manningham was headed for the NFL after three years from day one. Arrington left because Mallett left. Boren left because he was asked to put in the same amount of effort as the rest of the team and not given special exemptions to go be Mr. Plow. If you want to blame Rodriguez for Boren, fine. Add him to the team last year and you still have a disaster of an offense that starts Nick Sheridan most of the year.
Arguments that Rodriguez should have stuck with a pro-style offense he's never coached and forgo the installation of his system in order to get to 5-7 when hardly anyone on the roster has even played in a pro-style system have been discussed already; I think they are silly.
Rodriguez is not responsible for the enormous holes on the roster. Rodriguez has had a single full recruiting class and had a brief window in which to patch some spread-type players onto Carr's last class. The gaping holes on defense and the lack of talent at outside receiver and offensive line are almost entirely Lloyd Carr's doing. The freshmen quarterbacks are a combination of Carr putting every egg for three years in Mallett's basket and the radical shift in offensive philosophy.
This has been discussed elsewhere on the blog; I won't belabor the point.
Hiring Scott Shafer was a terrible mistake, and the other hires are questionable. At the very least it was a misjudge of the guy's ability to fit in on the staff. At worst, he allowed his DC to get submarined and saw the defense implode because of his assistants' impatience.
This may extend to Rodriguez's other hires as well: Jay Hopson has recruited very few players as Michigan withdrew entirely from Mississippi after last year's debacle; Hopson also secured the commitments of both defensive tackles who went elsewhere on signing day. His linebacking corps has regressed horribly.
And while the jury is still be out (very, very out) on Robinson given the players he has to work with, but his track record since his salad days with the Broncos is one of relentless failure with a single good-not-great year at Texas mixed in.
It is worth noting that the guys who can really be considered DeBord-style crony legacy folk are Magee, Tall, Smith, and Gibson. Dews is a vagabond who was a grad assistant at WVU for a few years before wandering around to Holy Cross, CMU, and UNLV. Frey was picked off from South Florida a year before Rodriguez left WVU and had no prior connection to Rodriguez. Hopson is obviously new. Fred Jackson was an enforced hire by the Michigan AD.
The crony guys are the offensive coordinator who everyone loves, the DL coach who is, IME, doing a very good job, the QB coach who helped Pat White be Pat White, and… well… Tony Gibson. At this point I'd rather see Rodriguez hire a guy he knows inside and out; the folk he brings in from the outside haven't done that well.
We are not at the point yet where the deficiencies in the team are clearly the doing of the coaches. It's pretty suggestive at linebacker, sure. But the secondary is just a disaster zone and would be a disaster zone if Monte Kiffin cloned himself eight times and had all eight players try to teach the safeties how to play football. The offense has improved greatly from year one to year two and has done so with true freshmen at quarterback. Since Rodriguez has a track record of success, he should be extended the benefit of the doubt.
They're not "soft." They don't play like mincing Frenchmen. They play like speed-addled kids with ADD. They are irresponsible and sometimes dumb. This is because they are terribly young or Michigan's linebackers. What does "soft" even mean? Jonas Mouton blowing coverages and cutback lanes game after game is not soft. Mike Williams overrunning everyone on Illinois is not soft. Michigan blowing assignments on the Illinois goal line stand is not soft.
It takes time to dig out.
Michigan was not a 3-9 team by accident; they had the talent of a 3-9 team. If you disagree with that, it's probably to suggest that Michigan was really a 5-7 or 4-8 team that Rodriguez screwed up into being a slightly more horrible team, right?
If you think that Michigan's downfall was entirely Rodriguez-made and you're pointing to the gutted recruiting classes that were in the top ten at their inception but have been ground down to dust, you can safely move on from this post since nothing in it will convince you. My opinion is that a combination of poor late stewardship from Carr and the wrenching transition to the opposite of Lloyd Carr in so many ways is what doomed us to this transition.
I expect Rodriguez to provide continual improvement until Michigan is back to being Michigan. That's my baseline. I'm not exactly thrilled with what's gone on this year but I think it's understandable. Given the roster situation and the chaos at DC—which Rodriguez is responsible for—this Michigan team is within the range in which Rich Rodriguez is not an idiot who got lucky with Pat White and Steve Slaton. It's towards the lower end of the range but it is in the range. It takes time to dig out from the hole they were in.
Next year, Michigan must be better than they are this year. I have no idea where the emailer is getting the idea that Michigan can't be a better team when they return at least 16 starters on offense and defense, with Donovan Warren a potential 17th, some combination of Dorrestein and Omameh a potential 18th, and Darryl Stonum a functional 19th.
Additionally, the players on this team are still extremely young. There are 11 starters on the team who are sophomores or freshman by eligibility, and many of the guys with redshirts in there are guys like Hemingway, Huyge, and Molk who missed large chunks of time with injury. The quarterbacks should take huge leaps forward in their second year. The only spot at which Michigan should be appreciably worse next year, excepting special teams, is Brandon Graham. That will be a major loss; it won't offset improved play at every position on the field.
So, sure. If you really don't think Michigan is going to be better next year I can understand why you'd want to see Rodriguez fired. I also think you're completely nuts.
If they aren't obviously better, then Rodriguez should be fired. If they don't make a bowl game, if they aren't obviously moving away from the Big Ten cellar, if they don't approach yardage parity against BCS opponents, Rodriguez should be fired. I think all of those things are seriously unlikely, and am willing to invest a year to find out. Where it is in black and white: acts of God nonwithstanding, Michigan has to go 8-5 next year or Rodriguez should be cut loose. 7-6 might be okay if the bowl matchup is obviously bad.
This is the last I'll say about it until next year.