he grew a beard
What's the best option for acquiring Frozen Four tickets? Just wait until there's a glut of tickets from fans of non-tourney teams, wait 'til the FF is settled that week? At this point (after moving to NY) I'd be willing to go just to see the games.
Every year, the Frozen Four sells out over a year before the actual event transpires. As a result, thousands of fans end up not going because they can't be bothered or just bought the tickets to maintain their priority, and tickets are beyond plentiful. Unless you're dead set on getting the best seat in the house there's no reason to buy them until you arrive on site. I've gone when it was in Buffalo and Denver and both times acquiring seats for face value was a snap. If I really care to push it I probably could have got them for less. This year it's in DC, which cares about college hockey not at all, and if Michigan gets there I'm planning on buying on-site.
The only exception to this is if a Frozen Four happens to be in Minneapolis or Boston and a local team makes it; in that case tickets can be tough.
Brandon Smith, from Jersey in last years haul. He was Army, solidly recruited by some other bigs (FLA), he has disappeared off the map. Even with a red-shirt, should I have been less optimistic in that his name seems to only come up with trepidation, as in, "oh my god not Stevie and a Frosh". What do you percieve as his main challenges to getting on the field?
Smith was a pretty big recruit but was also more of an athlete than a solid player at any particular position. He played QB, KR, PR, S, and some LB for his high school team because he was one of those guys you use as much as possible; this speaks well to his athletic ability but also means he wasn't quite as ready to play as someone who was a safety all the way. So Smith started the year looking like a likely redshirt, then had an appendectomy which sealed it.
I haven't heard the trepidation you have, though. What practice mentions I've read have been very positive on his ability and optimistic he can be a solid player. That's no guarantee—Grady Brooks, Kevin Grady, etc etc etc—but he's not a guy who's fallen off the map during his redshirt year. I think he'll play, and challenge Mike Williams for a starting spot.
It is interesting that the Big Ten is again considering a nine-game schedule. I can remember the Big Ten race back in 1982. That year Michigan played nine Big Ten games (back when there were only 10 teams) but Ohio State played only eight. This actually decided the title because Ohio State beat Michigan in Columbus, had a better overall record, but finished 1/2 game back in the standings. (Searchable Big Ten standings database if you want to poke around.)
Michigan was 8-1 in the conference (losing to OSU). Ohio State finished 7-1 and beat Michigan. Michigan went to the Rose Bowl to lose to UCLA for a second time in just over 4 months. For some reason, only Iowa and OSU played 8 BT games while the rest of the conference played 9.
I was only 12 or 13 years old at the time. Imagine the chaos if that happened in the age of the internet!!
Keith in Northville
Holy cow: Keith is right. In 1982, the entire Big Ten played nine league games except for Iowa and OSU. This also happened in 1981, when those two schools tied for the title at 6-2. OSU and Iowa were co-champs in a year when the only Big Ten game that didn't get played was Iowa-OSU!
In 1979 and 1980, Northwestern and Minnesota played an extraneous ninth game against each other; the rest of the league stuck with eight conference games. In 1977 and 1978 it was Wisconsin and Northwestern playing a full round-robin. It appears that in the late 70s and early 80s Northwestern was so concerned about its ability to schedule nonconference games that it just struck up a deal with whoever had rotated off their schedule to play a game anyway. Opponents were happy to oblige, as Northwestern won just one conference game from '77 to '81. (They beat Illinois 21-7 in '77.)
In '83 the league stopped its experiment with wacky unbalanced schedules, playing a full round-robin for two years before settling back into its traditional eight-game schedule.
Does anyone know what the heck happened in 1981 and 1982? I get full round-robin schedules. I get Northwestern running around, hat in hand, to whichever conference mate was denied the opportunity to blast them into the stone age. I don't get "everyone plays except Iowa and Ohio State."
I've been a UM hockey fan for a long time, but I used to be the type that was a score-watcher until the weather got warm, then I would pay strict attention for the stretch run. My first UM hockey memory was the Mike Legg goal and I was hooked (boom, pun) since. The last few years I have taken a more consistent interest despite living outside of Michigan, mostly thanks to MGoBlog. It's been a lot of fun and I must say that I couldn't believe the surly mood I was in after the Notre Dame Frozen Four game last year.
That being said, my somewhat uninformed question is: do the refs really screw everyone like this in the CCHA? Trust me, I know they're bad. Like, The Mentalist bad. I'm just saying, it seems like the Wolverines have been on the receiving end of this as of late. I know that it goes with the territory of being an obsessive fan that you will think your team is being screwed, but when puck hits skate and goes in, it's hard to shrug off being called a homer. When's the last time UM has been handed a game a-la Notre Dame and Ohio State? And you know, aaarrrgggh and stuff.
I've long been of the opinion that CCHA refs not named Shegos* or Piotrowski were uniformly awful. Any new recruits quickly proved themselves about as incompetent as the rest of the bunch. Though a couple of the promoted linesmen have struck me as okay so far this year, it's too early to tell with them.
HOWEVA, I have never seen a team get so completely hosed on two separate occasions. Two obviously blown goals in two separate one-goal games is a truly enormous effect, one that can't be matched by a demonstrative Ed Hightower charge call, or anything at all, really. I've never seen anything like it.
In the decade I've been following Michigan hockey, these are the controversial (non-) goals that stand out:
- Some nonconference game against BC: Michigan is up 3-2 with about two minutes left in the game. There's a late scramble for the puck, which ends up lying in the crease for a BC player to roof a nanosecond after the ref blew it dead. Michigan goes on to secure an important nonconference game.
- Some game against State: I think this was the one Michigan ended up tying when Jason Ryznar scored with a second left. Anyway, a State defenseman blasted the puck… somewhere. A goal light went on, but the puck wasn't in the net. Replays showed very little, but there was a telltale net bulge—it looked like the State defenseman had actually shot the puck through the net. Not quite as impressive as beheading a goalie a la Jack Johnson, but still. They checked the net for a hole, didn't find one, and declared no goal.
- The NCAA regional game against Colgate: This, I believe, was the year Michigan played after the beyond epic St Lawrence-BU game that went into four overtimes. (They played Maine with four defensemen and collapsed late.) I watched an entire game of hockey and the feed only picked up when the OT started. Anyway, that was the second round.
In the first round, Michigan went to overtime with Colgate. At some point there was another goalmouth scramble in front of the Michigan net that was eventually blown dead. When Josh Blackburn, who had ended up partially in the net, moved the puck was revealed to be well over the line. It was not entirely clear when the puck had crossed the line, however, and after a lengthy review it was called no goal.
- The Buffalo Frozen Four against Minnesota: it's tied late in the third period, and by this time you know the drill: goalmouth scramble, puck loose that the referee can't find, and a whistle that goes just as Jason Ryznar pokes it through the fivehole.
Most of these are controversial early whistles from the referee, something that's inescapably part of hockey. None of them are the inability to see a puck obviously kicked in the net, or goals inexplicably waved off for absolutely no reason. I've never seen Michigan handed the equivalent of two goals via sheer blind incompetence.
The Colgate thing was probably the luckiest Michigan's ever gotten: it was like those plays in football where you're sure the call on the ice is wrong but there just isn't enough evidence to overturn it. It was a game-losing goal that Blackburn luckily obscured until it was too late.
Side note: the CCHA should obviously incorporate every available camera angle into its reviews, and the NCAA should repeal the inane rule about kicked goals. Anything that's not thrown or high-sticked into the net should count.
*(This knowledge appears to be disappearing into the ether, but there used to be two Shegoses (Shegii?) in the league. They were brothers. When displeased with refs who were not Shegoses, Yost would chant "we want Shegos." When displeased with refs who were Shegoses, Yost would chant "other Shegos."
The origins of this were never clear. Did the chant get started out of genuine respect, or the belief that Shegos was beyond horrible and preferring Shegos to anyone was the worst insult imaginable? Given what we know about Yost, probably the latter. This would be ironic, since the closest thing I have to a "thank God he's reffing" moment now is when I see Shegos on the ice.
Yes, like he was against Ohio State. He can't do anything about Langseth randomly awarding/disallowing goals.)
Amateur Barwis Porn. MGoBoard denizens are ahead of the curve on this, but Jeremy Gallon has a number of videos up that document parts of his Michigan official visit, and they're pretty cool. Here's the legendary "you can't do this" Barwis pushup we've heard so much about:
Not that you didn't know this already. Michael Spath talked to Red about the ficky-ficking against Ohio State on Saturday:
He also took about five minutes to rip the hell out of the replay system and the CCHA officials. He's very aware of what the two games (ND and OSU) could end up costing his team in the long run. But while he wants to see wholesale changes to the replay system he doesn't know that it will change because enough programs (ones that don't get TV often) probably wouldn't benefit from introducing new technology.
The other main topic of Red's press conference was the availability of Mark Mitera. Michigan's captain appears to be a go this weekend:
"I'm expecting that he'll play this weekend, but we're going to go day-to-day now that we're down to the last week," Berenson said after practice. "I'm looking at it as if he'll play. Gonna put him in a defensive rotation (Tuesday), and we'll see how he looks as the week goes on."
Also, Brian Lebler was injured Saturday—it's a shoulder thing—but is practicing and is day-to-day for the Ferris series.
A pairwise note. the Hoover Street Rag caught something I didn't when I surveyed the situation:
Miami has a better record, but since they haven't reached the 10-win threshold (when the head-to-head series is taken out) it isn't counted. This weekend, they play OSU. A team under consideration. If they sweep, they win the category and the comparison, even if we sweep Ferris State.
Michigan would have an opportunity to take the comparison back by doing better than Miami in the CCHA tournament, as unless Michigan and Miami are upset they're schedule to meet in the semifinal.
Er, really? The topic of a ninth Big Ten game will not die:
"That was a discussion that may move forward," Alvarez said. "We've discussed nine games. That will be something we'll probably take to the coaches."
The ADs are aware that 9 X 11 = 99 and 99 can't be divided by two; one team would only play eight Big Ten games. This would be absolute chaos if one of those teams was locked into the Big Ten title race, though. If one team is 8-0 and the other is 9-0, who's the champ? If one team is 8-1 and the other is 7-1, who's the champ? I just can't see that working out.
My best effort to a workable system: All league schedules are set just like they are now with the exception of one particular week. This week is kept clear until the previous season ends. The last place team in the league gets matched with a pre-arranged MAC opponent. They probably wouldn't mind, as they would have an easier path to bowl eligibility.
At this point you have ten teams in two groups:
- 2 teams not scheduled to play the last-place team.
- 8 teams with the last place team on the schedule.
The group of two have one and only one available option for their ninth game and get matched up with that option. The other six (or eight) teams get randomly matched up with one of the two teams they miss, with an emphasis on 1) variety and 2) fairly balancing home and away. I don't think it would work out exactly right every year, but the differences would be pretty small.
You are then hoping there are no worst-to-first miracle seasons, or you're putting in some sort of emergency championship game in the event that happens, or you're actually counting this MAC game in the conference standings, or you're just fine with making a mockery of the championship. I'd love to see a ninth conference game—I'd love to see anything other than Wisconsin-Cal Poly, really—but it just doesn't work.
|Deerfield Beach, Florida - 5'9" 175
|ESPN||40 (ie: unranked)|
|Others||#25 in Broward County.|
|Other Suitors||Kansas State, UCF, FIU|
|YMRMFSPA||Uh… Denard Robinson?|
|Nothing except a bunch of "hey, this guy is Denard Robinson's teammate!"|
|Notes||Teammate of Denard Robinson|
Adrian Witty, a teammate of Denard Robinson, is Denard Robinson's teammate. On this team, which they share, they play together. Also, Witty and Denard Robinson attended the same high school. At this high school, they played on a team which they shared and played together on: they were teammates.
That should be clear. Many, many folks regard Witty's offer as the heroin-laced carrot used to lure critical QB recruit Denard Robinson away from Urban Meyer's clutches and to Michigan's post-apocalyptic frozen wastes. But Witty does have legs and plays a position* and he is this year's most emphatically shirtless recruit. Therefore he will be Tim Tebow.
So let's consider the man. The internet is undecided as to his height, which is either 5'9" or 5'11" (or 6'1" according to Scout, but that's an outlier and can be disregarded), and his position, which is either cornerback or safety. For his part, Witty thinks corner:
''If I go up there and work the way I know I'm going to work, I'll be the starting cornerback at Michigan next fall,'' said Witty, who visited Kansas State, Michigan and FIU.
No offense to Witty, but if his prediction comes true while Boubacar Cissoko and Donovan Warren are still around you can find me on a ledge somewhere.
As to Witty's rating, there's one very good reason he's been virtually ignored by the scouting services: an ACL tear that happened in the state semifinal game of his junior year held him out of much of his senior year. That's not enough to explain his paucity of offers and low ranking—plenty of kids with similar injuries are higher rated and more hotly pursued, like say Vlad Emilien—but it does mitigate those red flags. Witty, supposedly still less than 100%, got back on the field halfway through his senior season and ended the year with 50 tackles and an interception. He also tacked on four catches for 143 yards and a touchdown.
Video from that senior year:
Before the injury there were a couple ridiculous (FAKE!) 40 times out there. Here's one:
The Class of 2009 also includes safety Adrian Witty (5-11, 185), who also put up some fast (4.4) numbers at combines in the off season.
And the second is even more delectably fake:
In the early moments of the game, Witty, who ran a 4.35 (40) and sparked the Bucks as a receiver and return specialist, injured his knee.
That article, written in August, also contains more details on the severity of Witty's injury, which he terms "total ACL repair":
For months after he struggled with the pain and the loss of strength and motion in his knee.
“The first couple of weeks, I turned it up as much as I could take,” Witty said. “After that, I fought through the pain and tried to make it more mental, which I knew I could handle and control better.”
While the doctors are slated to release Witty in early September, head coach Art Taylor will take his time bringing this talented athlete back, which means that this youngster will come back in less than a year after the surgery.
“I am about 70-75% right now, and we are in August,” Witty said. “I’ll be back. Right in time for everything to start moving quickly!“
I don't know if I 100% buy the article's hypothesis about Witty being "one of the top-rated safety prospects in South Florida" before the injury simply because ACL tears are no longer a big huge enormous career-altering deal most of the time and if Witty was really a big prospect schools still would have pursued him. Again, Vlad Emilien had Ohio State and Wisconsin and Stanford offers, amongst others, despite a near-identical injury and recovery schedule.
That fast-fast-fast stuff is backed up by his coach, though:
"Adrian is Denard but on defense. Adrian was our leader, and it was really unfortunate what happened to him last year. But he worked hard, and came back. He’s fast. Denard is a very fast young man, and Witty before the operation, rumor has it, could beat Denard in a race. He has a lot of speed. Adrian Witty is such a polite young man, and he’s not very flashy off the field. But on that field, he’s everywhere. I really can’t say enough about his personality either. He’s a really good kid, and a fantastic student in the classroom. Never in trouble, and I’ve never had any problems with him on or off the field."
So, I dunno, maybe they've got something here.
Witty also continues a theme under Rodriguez: the acquisition of guys who are completely obsessed with football, for whatever reason. (Perhaps the best examples of this are Tate Forcier and the various Pahokee guys.) Quote:
BEST MOMENT OF '07: "The best moment for me, point blank, is playing football. I can't really tell you what the best moment is."
I like my players to be slightly deranged about football, so hurrah.
*on a team with Denard Robinson.
Why Denard Robinson? TEAM make GOOD LEADERSHIP
Guru Reliability: Low. Witty is under the radar.
General Excitement Level: Well… low. Offers and ratings and injury uncertainty.
Projection: Obvious redshirt, and then we'll see if all that stuff about his speed was true. I think there's a 30% chance he defies his ranking becomes useful.
I'm preparing the 2010 recruiting board for a debut (hopefully) next week and along the way have assembled relevant information for you perusal as to what Michigan needs and looks likely to acquire in the near future.
Twelve seniors graduate and there are currently four(-ish) open scholarships with three unused from the 2009 class and the transfer of Steven Threet. Redshirted seniors pursuing a fifth year will be David Cone, Perry Dorrestein, Steve Schilling, John Ferrara, Bryan Wright, Greg Banks, and Jonas Mouton. Cone and Wright are obvious candidates for a firm handshake and well wishes, but everyone else figures to be of use.
So peg the initial number at 18. Normal attrition should see that get to 22 or so and another year in which 25 scholarships come open is possible.
Quarterback: Very high. There are only two scholarship QBs on the roster. Michigan has already offered six QBs and will be looking to take at least two and maybe more if some of them can be moved elsewhere.
Running back: Moderate. Three players graduate and Michigan lost two running backs to transfer in the offseason but Michael Shaw, Mike Cox, and the three freshman remain. Michigan will probably take two, hopefully one of extremely high caliber.
Outside receiver: High, but with three four-star-plus commitments already there's not much to worry about except decommits.
Slot receiver: Moderate. If Jeremy Gallon makes it in Michigan will have three underclass guys at the spot and should be okay to forgo a slot if they want, but they'll probably take one. Rich Rodriguez is really into slot receiver pokemon.
Tight end: Low. Michigan threw an offer out to OH TE Alex Smith, who committed to Cincinnati already, so they're not entirely out of the market but the starter is a sophomore and he's got a redshirt freshman behind him. If they find a guy they like they might take him but they're not going to kill themselves about it.
Offensive line: Moderate, but only because offensive line never goes below "moderate." With nine recruits in the last three classes and a hidden gem or two amongst a wide array of four-star sorts Michigan doesn't need a huge influx of players. You always want three guys at OL, though.
Defensive tackle: Very high. Michigan's inability to hold on to defensive tackle recruits not named Will Campbell leaves Michigan with nothing past the two-deep. Even though no one graduates this year, DT is probably the thinnest spot on the team outside of quarterback.
Defensive end: High. Michigan picked up two desperately-needed prospects in Craig Roh and Anthony Lalota but the position remains very thin. Adam Patterson and Brandon Graham graduate; at least two here.
Linebacker: High in the middle, as Michigan didn't take one last year, and low-ish on the outside, where they took three or four depending on the final disposition of MI WR Cameron Gordon.
Cornerback: High. I'm on the paranoid side when it comes to cornerbacks: I want a thousand, I want a thousand every year, and this is a year so I want a thousand. Last year Michigan picked up one near-five star in OH CB Justin Turner and one complete flier who may be a safety in FL CB Adrian Witty. This year there are no seniors but depth is somewhat lacking and Donovan Warren may be an NFL draft flight risk, so I'd like to see at least two and, since I'm paranoid, three would be better.
Safety: High. Two prospects join up this year and Michigan has but one senior, the much-maligned Stevie Brown. I'd like to see two or even three players here, too. Paranoia.
In table format, with names of note:
|QB||Very high||2||MI QB Devin Gardner||SC QB Cornelius Jones||FL QB Jeffrey Godfrey|
|RB||Moderate||2||MI RB Austin White||MI RB Nick Hill||FL RB Corvin Lamb|
|WR||Met||3||FL WR Ricardo Miller||MI WR Jeremy Jackson||OH WR Jerald Robinson|
|Slot||Moderate||1||FL WR Kenny Shaw||MI WR Dior Mathis||FL WR De'Joshua Johnson|
|OL||Moderate||3||NC OL Robert Crisp||FL OL Chaz Green||OH OL Andrew Donnal|
|DE||High||2||OH DE Derrick Bryant||MI DE Will Gholston||MI DE CJ Olayanin|
|DT||High||2||MI DT Jonathan Hankins|
|LB||Low||2||MI LB Austin Gray||OH LB Antonio Kinard||MI LB Daniel Easterly|
|CB||High||2||FL CB Lo Wood||PA CB Cullen Christian|
|S||High||2||FL S Marvin Robinson||PA S Brandon Ifill||OH S LaTwan Anderson|
That adds up to 21 plus a punter.
Even though it's early there are still a number of players out there with offers who name Michigan their leader or in a reduced leading group. In order of most confidence to least:
FL (or MI) WR Ricardo Miller. Miller's one of the top ten prospects in Florida and widely regarded to be a top 50 overall player. He's also moving to Ann Arbor this summer to play at Huron, so, yeah, not going to decommit.
MI WR Jeremy Jackson. Fred Jackson's kid and a future Ricardo Miller teammate (at two different locations), Jackson's supposed to be a mid- or even low-four star prospect. This belies some truly impressive reported offers: Texas, LSU, Florida.
OH WR Jerald Robinson. Robinson committed about two seconds after picking up his Michigan offer; he's currently rated a borderline four-star, as near as I can tell.
Persons I Expect Will Be Part Of The Class
FL CB Lo Wood. Wood has repeatedly claimed Michigan his leader and holds an offer. He's from Apopka, Jeremy Gallon's school, and there's a lot of scuttlebutt that indicates he's Michigan bound.
FL WR Kenny Shaw. Shaw is a 5'11" slot guy who is the soon to be former teammate of Ricardo Miller, who's moving to Ann Arbor this summer, and he's named Michigan his clear leader a couple times recently.
PA CB Cullen Christian. Christian has also named Michigan his leader repeatedly. Early reports have he and his teammate Brandon Ifill #9 and #10 in PA, which would make them solid four-stars in a good year in-state and borderline ones in an average one.
PA S Brandon Ifill. Christian's teammate, he's named Michigan part of a leading group of two in two separate articles recently; in one article the other contender was Maryland and in the other it was Pitt. Ifill's also a wide receiver; Michigan is obviously focusing on defense with him.
OH DE Derrick Bryant. Bryant named Michigan his leader and even went so far as to suggest he'd be an early commit. Though he's backed off the latter part of that stance, Michigan remains in good shape for Bryant. Bryant's a Rivals 250 to watch guy who has a shot at the top 100.
MI RB Nick Hill. Hill doesn't have an offer yet; if he did he'd probably be just below Wood, as everyone has assured the Michigan fanbase that Hill is a longtime Michigan fan who won't wait long if/when he gets his offer.
Persons Who Are Fairly Likely To Be Part Of The Class
FL S Marvin Robinson. After being proclaimed a Michigan lock for years Robinson has opened up his recruiting a little bit. There's been an undercurrent supporting UNC; his high school coach is an Ohio State fan; etc etc. Still, there are many positive vibes on Robinson that remain current.
SC QB Cornelius Jones. For whatever reason Michigan chucked an unofficial offer at Jones before he'd even stepped foot on a football field, and reconfirmed that offer after he had an impressive junior season. Michigan leads and it'll be hard for the likes of Duke and Wake Forest to pick him off.
FL QB Jeffery Godfrey. Godfrey has a clear #1 according to Michigan's Rivals site, so you know who that #1 is from that article's provenance. The main issue with Godfrey and Jones may be the looming presence of instate QB Devin Gardner, a guy Michigan wants badly. Michigan may forestall taking an early commit from a quarterback as they wait for the big fish, or Michigan could add a guy later in the recruiting season that might spur an already-committed player to reconsider.
MI CB/WR Dior Mathis. Mathis is this year's big Cass Tech prospect, a pint-sized corner/slot receiver who's slighter but faster than close analogue Boubacar Cissoko. Mathis was infatuated with Miami (That Miami) growing up and was initially planning on an early commit, but the flood of Michigan folks at Cass managed to forestall that. Now presumed to be a Michigan-Miami battle.
Persons Of General Interest
MI QB Devin Gardner. Gardner's played it close to the vest so far, but has totally dropped Ohio State from consideration after they were slow to offer. He's got offers from everywhere else and is by no means a lock, but Michigan offers an attractive depth chart close to home and has been pursuing him hard.
MI DE Will Gholston. Gholston is 1) a 6'7" wrecking machine at linebacker and 2) supposedly a heavy Michigan State lean. (He goes to Southeastern, which is coached by an MSU equivalent of Tom Wilcher, and rumor has it he even lives with one of their Sparty, no(!) coaches.) Michigan is pursuing, though it may be futile.
MI RB Austin White. White and Hill are the top two backs in the state; Michigan is pursuing both, but White already has two brothers at State and will clearly be an uphill battle.
Michigan probably won't get everyone in the "I expect they'll commit" category, but they'll probably pick up all but one or two. Since all of those folks seem like solid four-star sorts except maybe Hill, that would be an excellent eight- or nine- four star start with very little in the way of low-rated downers. Add in Robinson and a quarterback or two and that's most of the top half of a top-ten class, minus the one or two five stars. The initial returns are promising.
Disclaimer: a lot of this information, especially about how high-ranked these kids are going to be, is extremely speculative.
Programming Note: I'll be on WTKA with John U Bacon this afternoon from 4-5. WTKA streams live for those in the diaspora.
It wasn't a total head implosion weekend. Lost in the dual frustrations from hockey and basketball was the baseball team's strong start: 4-0 against an array of Big East teams (and, oddly, Purdue), including two walk-off wins to open the season. Formerlyanonymous is now blogging up a storm about the baseball team at Varsity Blue; his article on the weekend is probably the most detailed recap of a Michigan baseball weekend ever written(!).
Michigan is in Jacksonville Wednesday through Sunday taking on a wide array of meh-sounding teams: North Florida, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Jacksonville, and Akron. Their major opportunity to get some committee-impressing nonconference wins comes in mid-March when Michigan goes to Arizona for a three-game series.
Hello again, Elliot. Elliot Mealer's unfortunate life story has made him perhaps the most-chronicled anonymous redshirt freshman offensive linemen ever(!). His local paper has a story on him, and this one deviates from the usual fluff and goes for a couple of interesting quotes:
"The speed of the game is just incredibly different from high school," reflected Mealer. "I talked to guys who I had played with at Wauseon and told them about the first time I faced speed in practice. I was playing left tackle against Tim Jamison (2008 starting defensive end). He comes at me and in high school you are taught to get your hands on him and move, but he slapped my hands down before I ever got them up. The next thing I realize I'm on the ground asking what happened and he's sacking the quarterback."
There's also a story about John Thompson crushing Mealer backwards, causing him to wonder if he'd been concussed; it's a step up from the usual stuff you get in these things.
One downer: it sounds like Mealer's on-field future may have been damaged by the car crash.
For Mealer, the challenge is restoring lost shoulder strength which may never return.
"The team has been doing a lot of upper arm strengthening in the weight room, but I'm not allowed to start that until after spring break (Feb. 20-28)," said Mealer. "At that time, I will start out with two to three days of upper body strength training and I'm not sure how long that will last, but it could last my whole career just to stay on top of it."
Mealer was a top-250 sort who certainly projected to playing time; with lingering effects from the injury he won't be in the conversation to start this year, at the very least.
…Rodriguez is in danger of falling behind in the spread offense arms race in terms of sophistication. I discussed that phenomena with Purdue as a pass-first spread team over the last decade, but it's of a slightly different order with Michigan. In the spread's nascent days, the spread-to-run innovators included Rodriguez and Kevin Wilson and Randy Walker at Northwestern, with Urban Meyer following shortly after. Wilson is now at OU and of course Meyer is at Florida. Compare their offenses with Rodriguez's: there's not much difference from a run-game standpoint (though Meyer and OU mix up their sets a bit more and use more tight-ends now), but the passing games have seen a wide departure. Wilson now uses what Chuck Long put in at OU, with some schematic residue lingering from Mike Leach and Mark Mangino, while Meyer, along with Dan Mullen and Mike Sanford, assembled a pro-style one-back approach gleaned from John L. Smith and Scott Linehan from Louisville and Joe Tiller and Jim Chaney from Purdue. I can't say I'm a huge fan of Meyer's passing game, but it's definitely more sophisticated than what Rodriguez has going on.
But Rodriguez is a bright guy and his passing game originally derived from (though is a long way now) the old run and shoot. So you'd think he could remedy this. Yet with nothing but true freshman, that evolution will have to wait. The longer they wait, however, the farther behind they fall.
This is more of a restated concern than a new one, and it's worth pointing out that the situation Rodriguez inherited last year was not conducive demonstrating any sort of great leap forward in passing sophistication. The larger issue is that Rodriguez, scrambling to do a thousand different things to reshape the Michigan football program, is probably not spending a lot of time keeping ahead of the game. It's all conjecture until walk-ons have been banished from the depth chart, but it's worth keeping an eye on.
I'm hoping this is more of a Pat White effect than a Rich Rodriguez one; West Virginia's passing offense of late didn't look sophisticated because 1) it didn't have to be and 2) it didn't play into White's strengths. Even if White did well at the combine keep in mind that Rodriguez was deploying the guy as a freshman/sophomore/junior, so the bulk of his recent forays into passing games were with a wobbly underclass jet engine; risk would be stupid in a situation like that. Tate Forcier, the most accurate passer EVER, figures to change that equation significantly.
More attrition? Buried in this recruiting chat from Josh Helmholdt is an interesting bit of speculation:
The WR position was a disappointment this past year, so I certainly understand the need to recruit as many WR's as possible. Also, the depth at the slot WR position is shallow and could get even thinner before the freshmen come in next year.
That points squarely the departure of a slot receiver currently on the team. Martavious Odoms was Michigan's leading receiver a year ago and has two teammates joining him, so it's unlikely to be him. Terrance Robinson is a redshirt freshman who didn't play because of injury. Rodriguez recruited him to play in the slot, too. He's probably going to stick around and try to earn playing time. There's only one other guy on the roster who played in the slot last year: Toney Clemons. There have been erratic transfer rumors about Clemons for months now, but never anything concrete. This is also not concrete, obviously, but Helmholdt doesn't just say things without sourcing.