this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
The last couple days have seen a minor internet hubbub about Rich Rodriguez's statement that Michigan fans should "get a life," or something like that. That's all 95% of the people who have seen this story have comprehended. In their minds, Rich Rodriguez sat down at a press conference and said "everyone who's upset about 3-8 needs to get a life."
He did not.
On Saturday someone posted this on Rivals:
"Way to tough it out McGuffie. Maybe his little fingers were cold?"
Someone else posted this on Scout:
"I've never been more excited for senior day
goodbye and good riddance."
No links, as both are locked behind paywalls (and the Rivals one is probably lost in the ether by now) but it's not like anyone familiar with the depravity you can find on any message board more confrontational than Hello Kitty Forever is surprised by this genre of comment. You could dig them up on most message boards after a horrific loss. I do it on a weekly basis.
The men who said these things are in need of anger management or a kitten or something to do after a loss other than get so angry steam comes out their ears and they post stuff about amateurs their mother would slap them for. You might describe this something as a "life."
Rich Rodriguez was asked about them because all years of struggle must be followed by stock question #49: "Do you read the horrible things written about you on the internet?" Rodriguez responds:
This is a public position. It's not like a politician, I'm not running for office. I mean, God bless them. They choose to have that public scrutiny. As coaches, we know it's part of the job, but we don't choose to have it. Most of us would rather not.
But the biggest thing that is disappointing is when somebody, not necessarily the media, but when a fan or somebody would make it personal to your coach or to your players. Especially to the players, because those guys are amateurs. When they would make a personal comment or say something that's not related to coaching or not related to playing.
I don't get on message boards. I don't think anybody, any of our players or family should. But it's amazing some of the things that people would say or amazing things people will yell at you of a personal nature. You almost want to tell them get a life. I mean, there's a whole lot bigger problems. You lose a ballgame, and then you look at the economy or after every game I usually get to meet one of our veterans or somebody. You know, to take it personal on a coach or player to me, I don't think it's ever right.
But I'm glad fans have passion, but it's still kind of I guess a lot more bolder. You all would know. It's a lot more bolder what people would say and write. Not you all, but bloggers or whatever, than it used to be. We've seen it coming for a few years.
Absolutely, right? The saddest thing about the internet is this sort of anonymous hatred. I love the internet. It gave me a writing outlet and a job and online scrabble. But, man, trawling through message boards after a loss in search of some scrap of useful news and/or analysis is depressing. It kills my productivity. It makes me want to do something else. And it's because of these little hate factories that just lose their head and spew.*
Here Rodriguez talks about this, gives a reasonable answer across four paragraphs, and even manages to conclude it with "but I'm glad fans have passion." He is obviously talking about that small segment of the fanbase that runs to post bile on the internet and almost seems happier when the team loses. Guess which part of this four-paragraph response got put in an AP story?
“It’s amazing some of the things that people would say (on a message board) or yell at you of a personal nature,” Rodriguez said Monday. “You almost want to tell them, `Get a life.’
“There’s a whole lot bigger problems. Look at the economy.”
Cue sarcastic responses from around the internet. Here's one from increasingly retarded Deadspin:
He's right. The economy is dreadful in the Great Lakes State right now. That's probably why your fans don't like paying $60 a pop to watch your comically inept offense destroy everything they hold dear. Or that their school had to pay $2.5 million to West Virginia University just to get you out of the contract you bailed on. Or that you're earning another $2.5M to deliver the most losses in school history. (And they have a lot of history.) One fan even has to sell his allegiance to pay the rent.
That guy's a Michigan State fan, so fine. I get that I have to think Mark Dantonio is a ridiculous insecure hothead who is just so perfectly Sparty No(!)* and this guy has to think Rich Rodriguez is a heartless mercenary cheerleader-nailing guy.
Then there's this from Kevin Donahue (emphasis mine):
I have just four letters for Coach Rod: STFU.
Is it unthinkable to this college football fan that the one guy who cashed in more than anyone else in this sport in the last twelve months would dare question the passion of fans. Hey d-face, you are where you are today BECAUSE fans care about this game.
I'm not even a Michigan fan... and this pisses me off BIG TIME.
Rich Rodriguez takes some time to talk about the internet's depressing tendency towards mocking and anger in some depth. The media takes the three sentences sure to generate the most outrage and create the dumbest image of Rodriguez, and the internet responds with mocking and anger.
I mean… what can you even say here? The way information spreads is messed up. Thanks to the restrictions of newshole the AP writer has to snip out 90% of what Rodriguez says. He picks the lines sure to cause commotion when taken out of context. Thanks to the epic fail of the newspaper industry, everyone with the story headlines it as sensationally as possible in order to get their OMG hits. Given the opportunity to whack the piñata, the internet does so. The whole thing is depressing from stem to stern.
You know, the media complained for 13 years about how gruff and inaccessible Lloyd Carr was. Then they get a guy like Rodriguez who's far more open and they heap crap on him. The net impact of this will be to make Rodriguez gruff and inaccessible.
I don't understand. Unless you assume that the people running newspapers cannot model the future beyond tomorrow's newspaper, it makes no sense. Oh. Ohhhhh. It appears I do understand.
*(The comments here can be vicious at times because there is a cabal of people committed to relentlessly policing stupidity. Sometimes I wish it didn't have to be like that, but when I go read comments other places I am swiftly disabused of that notion. The cost in lack of civility to people outside the tribe is far outweighed by the maintenance of a coherent identity. No regular here would dare post the things that lead off this post and if they did they would be ridiculed by a dozen people before I had the opportunity to deploy the banhammer. This has happened multiple times. Everything I delete already has several responses asking the poster to FOAD.)
**(Okay, seriously: seriously. No, seriously: if Michigan wins on Saturday Michigan State plays Penn State for a trip to the Rose Bowl. Which is THE ROSE BOWL. Dantonio's response to the question "are you rooting for Michigan?"
"I'm not rooting for Michigan… I have too many good friends and too many people that wouldn't let me back into their house to let me do that. So Go Bucks."
Seriously. Sparty, man. Sparty.)
So… hey. How are you guys doing? A brief update on the post from earlier today that has way more comments than the other one: in the comments and on MGoBoard a commenter put up a "wait just a minute!" sort of post stating that he had a friend who knew players on the team; he had confirmed earlier that McGuffie wasn't going anywhere. Unfortunately:
Well after doing more sleuthing..
4 other sources have texted him back and have said that he is gone....
On to other matters, I guess.
No, wait, the same matter. A variety of thoughts:
- I'm actually most concerned about the Chambers transfer because Chambers played at a position with no depth, whether it's safety or LB. Does Michigan's average YPC next year drop if all of McGuffie's carries are taken by Shaw, Brown, and Minor, all of whom have looked pretty good when healthy? Maybe, maybe not. Do we really need all the lottery tickets we can scrounge to find competent safeties? Hell yes. Running back is the spot on the roster that can take the attrition best.
- That said, please refrain from posting the standard "that guy sucked anyway" posts. At best those are sour grapes, and at worst they're flaming retardation. I'm removing diaries/comments/message board threads in that vein and severe offenders are getting the ban hammer.
- In terms of the program, I'm not concerned about guys who aren't seeing any PT and committed to another program entirely deciding to leave. This encapsulates Babb and Chambers and the other couple guys who are getting some transfer buzz. McGuffie is another matter, but given his indecision on signing day, his general reticence with the media and other team members, and the weird situation that went down at the Northwestern game (even if he had a death in the family it sounds like McGuffie didn't tell Jackson that when he elected not to play, given Jackson's reaction) I don't think this one is a shock.
As far as scholarships go. At this point I assume Michigan is not going to offer Andre Criswell a fifth year, and Laterryal Savoy may or may not get one. I thought Butler was a goner but if he's playing at DE he may stick around for the chance to prove himself a viable NFL option and Lord knows Michigan needs DEs next year. Brandon Graham is making noises like he'll return, but that's 50-50 IMO.
The recruiting board currently shows 21 definite openings (11 seniors, 4 unused going into the year, the Patilla, Hill, Babb, and Boren transfers, and the Witherspoon and Slocum academics issues). Chambers, McGuffie (should he stick with his decision), and Criswell make 24 with a number of other possible defections on the horizon.
So: how many can Michigan take? Last year's class was 24 but Stonum can be backdated, so 23 carry forward. Michigan can take 25 in a class but two of the seven early enrollers can also be backdated, leaving Michigan a max of 27 slots in this class. I think we will see them suffer enough attrition to max that out. Career backups on 3-9 teams who have to endure Barwis are probably thinking "Indiana State has a good program in Not Vomiting Every Weekday."
Now, can Michigan fill those slots? With 18 current commits and three guys who seem likely to join up (DTs Campbell and Graves and S Emilien) they're at 21. It seems likely they'll pull in a couple more OL; from there things get dicey. There are now enough names on the WR board (and enough opportunity) to expect them to pull one in; ditto cornerback. That's 25, but there are three commits wavering. It might take some snake oil to get it done.
You're halfway to level four. Reader Steve Sap displays a sense of terrific timing and provides a version of Fandom Endurance III for possible stickers, buttons, or tattoos:
I expect to see this on someone's head next year.
There will be significant attrition this offseason. The first to fall:
In today’s weekly Big Ten teleconference, Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said sophomore Zion Babb was no longer with the team. Rodriguez said the wide receiver hasn’t been with the team since Sunday.
So… yeah. I was sitting on this until I had some outside confirmation and this serves as outside confirmation since three guys were mentioned as a group of players who had already made their decisions. The other two who have told the coaches they are out: sophomore LB/S Artis Chambers and Sam McGuffie.
Okay. Done panicking? Some context for this information:
How solid is it? Very solid. Three sources very close to the situation.
How official is it? It is not official until it is official. Earlier this year I said freshman RB Mike Cox was transferring based on equally solid info, but Cox reversed course and decided to stick out the year. Until someone actually enrolls somewhere else there is always the chance for a reconciliation.
Is this the end of it? No. The rumors are flying fast and furious about a couple guys buried on the depth chart; I don't have confirmation on anyone else and at this point I think they're still on the fence.
Removed NC LB Hawatha Bell (dropped us), TN CB Marsalis Teague (hasn't mentioned us in months and probably should have been dropped some time ago).
Added GA WR Jamal Patterson, LA WR Kenny Bell, PA WR JeRon Stokes, FL CB Jayron Hosley.
As always, some links from Varsity Blue.
New wideouts. With MN WR Bryce McNeal's decommitment Michigan is in need of a big hulking outside WR type and has a dearth of prospects with serious interest. They still have a dearth of prospects who seem likely to sign the fall, but it's not for lack of trying. Three guys I tacked on the board:
GA WR Jamal Patterson is a Stanford commitment who announced he will take some visits; one will be to Michigan. This one will get more interesting if Harbaugh, as rumored, takes the Raiders job.
LA WR Kenny Bell sounded like he was genuinely interested in Michigan this summer but couldn't afford to take an unofficial visit and ended up committing to LSU. He plans an official to Michigan now; still seems like a longshot.
PA WR Je'Ron Stokes is a Tennessee commit who is now looking around; Michigan has inquired.
Also added. FL CB Jayron Hosley has been idling out there with a number of meh offers despite his status as a Rivals250 guy, but now he's reeled in a couple big ones:
A little more info on the two offers. Michigan offered Hosley last week, and OSU offered him this past Thursday. Hosley doesn't know much about either school or the Big Ten conference and hopes to sort things out on visits.
He will not take any more official visits (Louisville in Sept)until after his season is over. When talking to him you get the sense he has no idea where he wants to go, but knows things will certainly clear up after seeing more schools campuses. It seems OSU will get Hosley up for an official.
Michigan's biggest need remaining in the class (assuming the guys wavering end up sticking and Will Campbell doesn't cause mass seppuku on Rivals/Scout) is cornerback; Michigan will no doubt be on him hard.
The Waverers. Sounds like an indie band and is now a drummer away from putting out "Rod Save The Recruiting Class"($, info in header);
Jordan Barnes has been committed to Michigan since the summer and while he maintains he is still committed to the Wolverines, Barnes wants to make sure he is making the right decision. Part of the process of making sure is looking around at a couple of other schools.
He joins TX WR Dewayne Peace and LA DT Dequinta Jones as guys who remain committed but are looking at official visits. Barnes' decision came down to Michigan and Alabama the first time around, so it's pretty safe to assume the Tide is the most prominent other team in the picture; they've already got a high profile MLB commit and may slow play him to see if they have room for a less touted guy at the same position in their class.
Weekly Will Campbell reassurance. Campbell took an Alabama visit and came back saying all the things you say about trips, but didn't commit or come close to it. Saban cleverly tried to get Campbell's 2010 teammate (and Michigan recruit) Dior Mathis to come along, but Mathis didn't end up taking the trip.
LSU is coming up in the next couple weeks, I believe, and then Campbell has trips to Michigan and Miami scheduled. He keeps listing USC but I don't think USC is seriously pursuing the guy.
Oh, BTW: Campbell is an Army All-American.
2010 items. I had erroneously stated that Pahokee WR De'Joshua Johnson was widely considered a Florida lock; that should have been Florida State lock. But it sounds like he may give Michigan (and others) a shot:
“I know a little bit, but I don’t know too much about them. I just started liking Michigan in the 8th grade, because that’s when I started paying attention to football. That’s when I realized that was my way out of here [Pahokee].”
With some familiar faces already in, or on their way to Ann Arbor, where exactly do the Wolverines rate in Johnson’s choices?
“Michigan is highly favored along with Florida State. My five are Florida State, Michigan, Miami, and then I go with Wisconsin, and I guess Florida,” said Johnson.
Luke Stampini from SoFlaFootball.com elaborates:
FSU has a very good shot. When I first met De'Joshua he was all about FSU and he was going to FSU for sure. The more and more I talk to him though, the more and more other schools are closing the gap.
He wants to see other schools now, it seems like he is pushing back his decision timeline as well. Is this him starting to understand the recruiting game or is the gap between FSU and other school really starting to close???? I don't know.
He is excited about the Michigan offer, really wants that Oregon offer so he can check out their campus. "I don't know if I'll ever be able to go to Oregon again in my life" is what he told me.
FSU still leads though.
Here's Johnson in action:
Etc.: Long article on the Pahokee kids trying to deal with the murder of their teammate.
Yeah, Florida springs past Texas. Neither has anything approximating a nonconference test yet but Florida is has had fewer cupcakes on the schedule to date and has generally throttled the opposition more thoroughly, Ole Miss game aside.
Oklahoma slips a bit. Moot after the TT game anyway.
Georgia up significantly and Oklahoma State down significantly… are completely unjustified right now.
The ACC and your six 7-3 teams: go to hell, please.
Any help is welcome.
What do you think about, in the wake of over half the student section not showing up for Northwestern), having a "first come-first served" system, to encourage students to show up early for games? Having half the student section, so-called the most "passionate" fans, not show up on senior day, even despite the conditions (they're 18!--if my dad can show up at 51, so can they), that was just embarrassing.
I can't blame large chunks of the student section for failing to show yesterday. Sorority girls just don't care. But, yeah, I think the student section's general tendency to show up halfway through the first quarter is annoying.
One man's attempt to revamp things:
Tickets should be limited general admission. Your ticket has a section on it and one of two sub-sections representing the top third of the stadium and bottom two thirds.
Michigan compiles the time your ticket was scanned every week and does seating priority based on that, not seniority. Rules:
- You get 20 points for getting scanned 40 minutes before kickoff (warmups), 10 for 20 (band), and 5 for 5 (kickoff). You lose five points for being more than five minutes late, and you lose 20 for not getting scanned at all.
- You get 20 points each for having season tickets for hockey and/or basketball.
- Validated tickets don't count for or against you, but anyone whose ticket is validated more than three times doesn't get tickets next year.
- Your worst two scores are dropped.
- Seating priority and priority for away game and bowl lotteries is based on the previous year's scores; seniors might get a bonus.
- Anyone with a negative score isn't allowed to buy tickets.
This last one will never get implemented but anyone who's spent significant time in the student section would just love to boot those always drunk, always late, always early-departing, always annoying "fans" out.
This comes from an acquaintance of mine who lives in DC:
So, I'm out at Kokopoolis, this really cool (and not at all trendy) pool room at the south end of the Adams Morgan strip here in DC. We're just wrapping up our game when this dude comes over toward our table carrying a rack of balls. The following is not even close to verbatim, but it's as close as my alcohol-ravaged mind will ever get.
"You using this table?"
"Nope; all yours."
[Notices Michigan shirt (and, as other communications might indicate, I was wearing a Tigers hat too) , presses index finger to my chest] "You go to school there?"
"You'll be real good. My old coach works there now. Few years, he-"
"Yeah, dude, 2010-2011 we'll be national title contenders."
"Yeah you will. My old coach, he works there now. He'll do good things."
"I used to play for West Virginia"
"Oh yeah? What'd you play?"
"Cornerback. I got this Fiesta Bowl ring right here."
[Flashes ridiculously huge Fiesta Bowl ring]
[stammers]"Uh, yeah, nice! Your name, sir?"
"Very good to meet you."
"You too, man. He's gonna be real good."
"Oh, I know, man."
So, besides being a wasted opportunity for me to ask some relevant, probing questions about the future of our program, and besides making myself look like a f---ing dicktard, this was a pretty nice experience of a WVU player saying unequivocally positive things about Rodriguez.
The Death Butterfly is going to be amazing.
I have nothing to add to this.
In the last mailbag, assistance in tracking down a video of Bo's "The Team" speech was asked for, but apparently there is no video. So says a man who was there:
In regards to you question about Bo’s speech, there is no video only audio. The speech occurred at a full team meeting at the beginning of the 1983 campaign. He would often address us in this manner on Fridays before we got on the bus for the Campus Inn or to the airport. I can tell you that this speech pales in comparison to speeches he gave to us on Saturdays in the locker room just before we hit the field.
Too bad. Side note: I'm pretty okay with the hype video they've installed as part of the pregame festivities, but does it not seem like an enormous missed opportunity that the above-mentioned speech doesn't feature prominently in it? I mean, if the thing ended with "the team, the team, the team" or "in the end it's going to be Michigan, again" you would have to put a roof on the stadium just so it could be blown off.
I get a fair share of questions from people more suspicious of Rodriguez than I am, and one guy asked a whole bunch so let's just tackle a bunch of protestations at once, shall we? These are from Tony Mlynarek:
I am a disgruntled and frustrated fan (will resume mgoblog reading, email groups, etc. after spring game). It's not the number of losses, it's the way we continue to lose. How much more maize n blue can we bleed this season?
I fault our offense and special teams in losing to Utah, Notre Dame, MSU, Toledo, and Northwestern. Since RichRod is the head coach, and directly oversees the offense and special teams, it would help if you (or better yet RR) [not likely! -ed] would answer these questions:
At what point do the coaches accept responsibility and coach the players to play well? Lack of execution has been the scapegoat for RR. Yet how do we expect our players to execute plays they actually cannot do? This has nothing to do with the spread vs. another scheme. Eg.-Why in the first half against NW would we ever call 2 pass plays on the goal line? Sheridan cannot throw downfield. Sheridan's strengths include handing the ball off, throwing a screen, and running for 2 more yards than Threet would on a keeper. Play calling has been an issue all season. Run Brown 3 times there and we get a touchdown instead of a blocked FG.
I find it very difficult to criticize any one play call, and given Michigan's redzone struggles against Minnesota the week previous "run three times = TD" is far from proven. Especially since we're talking about second and goal from the six. That's really a decision to throw on second down that didn't work out; third and goal from the six is a passing down.
More generally: it's not that I don't blame the coaches for a variety of things that have gone wrong this year. I just don't know. It is entirely possible that Scott Shafer found himself in over his head and cost Michigan a game or two or that Rodriguez's inability to reel in a quarterback last year cost Michigan dearly. It is possible Rodriguez is just exceptionally bad at transitioning programs.
It is also possible that the vast array of misfortunes to befall the program since Carr's retirement (transfers, injuries, etc) coupled with some dodgy recruiting and retention in the last few years would have condemned any coach to the same sort of nuclear waste dump of a season.
The things I think are long term trends are mostly encouraging: recruiting the hell out of Florida, running a bewildering array of run plays, playing to win, etc. The things I think are one-year flukes are mostly discouraging: fumbles, special-teams disasters (though at this point the special teams disasters are pretty much down to freshmen fumbling the ball), an inability to figure out who your best players are.
Why did Sheridan ever start over Threet in September? It's obvious Threet is a better passer down field and has a better pocket presence.
This one I can't explain. It's not necessarily that Threet and his 5.5 YPA (woo!) is any better than Sheridan, it's that Threet has, at times, seemed marginally capable of developing into a decent Big Ten starter. Sheridan's always looked like a guy picked off the IM champions; when your five-yard hitch passes have ICBM trajectories your upside is... well, you have no upside. I guess Rodriguez thought that Sheridan was the better guy in practice.
This, I think, was an error. I don't think it will be one we see in the future.
Why did Shaw and McGuffie receive favoritism over Brown and Minor this year? It's obvious they fit his scheme more, and they weren't injured as often. However, if your veterans can only practice a few days out of the week, you still play them over freshman. Would Rod play White and Slaton even if they couldn't practice all week? Brown and Minor were never given the benefit of the doubt this year until the youngsters proved they can't get past a decent D-line.
I think this question is "why did McGuffie start for half a season?" Shaw's lingering groin issue limited him to a grand total of 11 carries before the Purdue game; he's actually seen more extensive use of late.
We all know why Brown didn't play: he was, as always, injured. Minor was also dinged up, though not to the extent that he couldn't see the field.
A hypothetically dinged Slaton or White is still Steve Slaton or Pat White, a guy Rich Rodriguez has extensive knowledge of. A dinged Carlos Brown or Brandon Minor is just a guy in pads you've never seen practice full strength. And then when you throw Minor out there, he fumbles something like five times in his first fifteen carries.
Coaches need some time to figure out what their players can and cannot do. Even Mike Hart languished on the bench for the first couple games of his career, and he was a healthy guy playing behind David Underwood.
What was the extent of Threet's injuries prior to NW game? If he can't go now against O-state, why did we risk playing him on a short week of practice vs. NW?
Threet's injury that kept him out of the Minnesota and (most of) the Northwestern game was a concussion. With Threet playing poorly before that and Sheridan having turned in a pretty good game against Minnesota, I can see the decision to go with him, especially if Threet had missed a lot of practice time. And then you play him because you're down a touchdown and you're 3-8 and maybe if you can scrape a drive together you can win. The injury that knocked Threet out of the Northwestern game is a separated shoulder; he didn't aggravate a pre-existing condition.
In a similar vein:
I am continually surprised on the message boards by the amount of people saying that RR should be fired, which I think most people think is (at least) a bit reactionary and premature. What would we really be accomplishing by his firing?
However, in coming to his defense, many people seem to be of the opinion that any criticism of the coach at all is somehow not supporting the team. I am not referring to the now tired "booing" issue- I mean at all- on message boards, in the newspapers, etc.
I don't see how some criticism of RR is somehow exclusive of supporting RR. I don't think it's so far out to say that RR is not having a good season. Losing to 2-8 Toledo was pretty bad. But while I am willing to criticize- and quite fairly, in my opinion- RR for things like the loss to Toledo, I don't think he should be fired.
Has the trauma of this season caused people to think that "support" and "criticize" are mutually exclusive? Carr got criticized all the time- hell, I criticized Carr when we lost and I thought the coaching was at fault, but that didn't mean I didn't support the team or hated the coach.
Why do so many people seem to think that supporting RR means giving him a free pass for the season? I think most people were ready for a down year. I wouldn't have been over the moon, but I think I could have squared with this season if we had beaten Toledo and Purdue. But all the streaks coming to an end is important and depressing.
But isn't it fair to criticize RR for things he has done wrong this year while falling short of the extreme (and wrong) opinion that he should be fired?
I dislike the way these things get framed online; people mostly end up arguing at strawmen, and in doing so memes get born. I scan a lot of message boards and haven't ever seen someone defending Rodriguez use the words "free pass."
And what does that even mean in that context? As best I can tell, it means that the person supporting Rodriguez doesn't think the timetable where we can talk about firing him has been accelerated. There are two main camps of thought out there:
- This season puts Rodriguez on the hot seat starting in 2010, at which point he must deliver or bust.
- Sweet Jesus, this thing is going to take some time to put back together; we should be patient, which means five years.
I am obviously in camp two. Anyone in camp one should know they're rooming with Drew Sharp.
As far as the criticisms… I mean, sure, you can advocate patience and still think Scott Shafer was a mistake. The main problem with arguing on the internet (and, actually, everywhere) is excessive certainty. You can't say "this guy needs to go!" after one year. You can't declare this season to be definitively Rodriguez's fault, and you should wait for more data.