here's one vote for "John Beilein's head in a Futurama jar"
When you're a blogger, stupid post ideas flit through your mind on a daily basis: "college football programs as cheeses!" or "4,000 words on the construction of authority and why it's still weird when people ask me questions." One of the very stupidest ideas I ever had was a recent one: "I will present myself as a guinea pig and go through a Barwis workout."
I said it was stupid.
Any lingering thought I might actually attempt to go through with this idea -- no doubt futile because Michigan's athletic department remains highly leery of the internet -- was crushed, maimed, and then hurled bodily into a trash can by Spencer Hall's (or Orson Swindle's or maybe SpencerOrson Hall-Swindle's) two-day odyssey of pain. The process looked a lot like this:
That was after nine minutes. Add a significant amount of hair, subtract three minutes, and add some dangling organs I have forcibly ejected from my body and are currently being nipped at by Barwis Wolves and you have the probable result of Worst Idea Ever. So thanks for that, Mr. Hall-Swindle. I owe you a beer and maybe a kidney.
After day one Orson dropped this into his Curious Index and I immediately thought of Barwis:
The mode of thinking this morning after talking with the trainers I'm "working" with (read: being maimed by) is that the only possible reason any discrepancy might exist between the SEC and the Big Ten is talent development. That's it: not schemes, not odious theories involving weather, nothing but the training they receive and the varying emphases different programs build into their training programs. We're brewing up a piece on this at SN, but in short think of player development in college football as one exaggerated episode of Top Chef: when everyone's working with the same produce, how you cut it up and prep it makes all the difference at the margins.
This is unremarkable, since "eeee Barwis" has replaced "sex" as the thing I think about every ten seconds as mandated by crappy stories in the "Lifestyle" section of your rapidly imploding local paper. But it turns out Orson was also allowing his thoughts to linger over Michigan's new S&C demon:
Bringing us to the future, a.k.a. the West Virginia/Michigan training program. I mentioned Michigan's superb record against the SEC above; now consider how well Michigan did using training techniques from the 1970s, as it did until this year's complete revamping of the training program.
(Fun story that's been floating around college football circles: Under the former management, Michigan linemen, in order to gain weight, were allegedly told to "eat a whole pizza" at night. [not alleged; directly stated by Pat Massey, the lineman in question, to Brent Musberger. -ed] I'm amazed they didn't flounder like sick race horses on Saturdays. [Uh... some did. -ed] Also: no squats. The most basic fundamental move in weight lifting simply did not exist in their machine-dominated training program.)
Michigan is now busy reprogramming its players to play in the 21st century, demanding speed at every position (yes, even for pizza-mobbing offensive linemen) and totally rebuilding their talent development system.
Two thoughts crossed my mind as we finished drills: One, that not vomiting on day one represented a substantial accomplishment for a squishy blogger; and two, that if Michigan did as well as it did with old training methods, the possibilities for the Wolverines under a newer, speed-obsessed regime remain both frightening and limitless.
Mike Barwis went from a respected but obscure S&C coach at West Virginia to the head of a cult he had no hand in creating. He is the highest paid and probably the most famous trainer in the country. There is an "eeee I'm a little girl for Mike Barwis" tag on this blog, and it is only half-sarcastic. Can he possibly live up to the hype?
First, we should establish that this comment from Swindle's personal torturer...
"In terms of players we see for the combine, the best-conditioned and prepared athletes by conference come in this order: the SEC, the Big 12, the Pac-10 is just a little bit under that, and then the Big Ten brings up the rear."
...has not actually translated to any notable superiority on the field. This is Michigan's problem with "southern speed":
|1/1/2008||vs.||Florida (9-4)||W||41||35||@ Orlando, FL||Capital One Bowl|
|1/1/2003||vs.||Florida (8-5)||W||38||30||@ Tampa, FL||Outback Bowl|
|1/1/2002||vs.||Tennessee (11-2)||L||17||45||@ Orlando, FL||Citrus Bowl|
|1/1/2001||vs.||Auburn (9-4)||W||31||28||@ Orlando, FL||Citrus Bowl|
|1/1/2000||vs.||Alabama (10-3)||W||35||34||@ Miami, FL||Orange Bowl|
|1/1/1999||vs.||Arkansas (9-3)||W||45||31||@ Orlando, FL||Citrus Bowl|
|1/1/1997||vs.||Alabama (10-3)||L||14||17||@ Tampa, FL||Outback Bowl|
|1/1/1991||vs.||Mississippi (9-3)||W||35||3||@ Jacksonville, FL||Gator Bowl|
...oops. Add up all the bowl games the two sides have played against each other in the last eleven* years and the SEC is ahead 15 to 14 with most of the damage being done against Ohio State, 0-4 in that timespan and 0-7 since '91. Clearly, being fast -- if SEC teams actually are, which is debatable -- is not a magic ticket.
On the other hand: holy hell did West Virginia look fast, and with functionally zero four-star or better recruits. Under Rodriguez, West Virginia outperformed its recruiting rankings every year, assembling team after team somewhere between good and great without the benefit of more than one or two guys a year with any shot in the NFL. Barwis had a hand in that just like Gittleson had a hand in Gabe Watson's failure to live up to his potential.
The thing that excites about the transition is the sheer gulf between Gittleson, Carr, Debord, et al., who were all decent enough in their time but by 2007 were reduced to shoving an unmotivated, out of shape Alex Mitchell onto the field against Ohio State, and the Rodriguez/Barwis regime, where Mitchell would be laughed off the team. It's not so much the new training techniques that excite but the demand that team members participate in offseason workouts even you're a starter and Daddy has a landscaping business. The offseason is optional: so is playing time.
Over time, everything in your program is shaped by the attitude you bring. Michigan recruits are committing in the full knowledge Barwis is going to kill them, and they are eager to be killed. In time, this will manifest itself and the only things separating Michigan from national title games will be blind luck and Jim Tressel.
*(eleven is a weird number that looks carefully chosen to conceal difficulty, but I'm just using Jim Delany's stupid letter from last year, which pointed out that the teams were dead even over the preceding decade, and going from there.)
Last year, there was a book, and it was good. This year there is a book, and it's probably even a little better. You can order it here.
The book features:
Stuff by me. I preview the Michigan offense, defense, and special teams, which is even better than last year, when I totally forgot about special teams until the book was full. HTTV: now with special teams. Rad. I also take a quick trip through Michigan's recruits and reprise last year's zone running article with a version focused on the spread 'n' shred.
Stuff about opponents. Matt Hinton, who you probably know better as Sunday Morning Quarterback, provides a rundown of every Michigan opponent save Ohio State and Notre Dame. Those two get their own articles by Tom Orr, late of Michigan Monday at the OZone, and Brian Stouffer, Fanhouser and impresario of The House Rock Built.
Stuff about the new guys. Dan D'addona gives you the Rodriguez dossier from Glenville State to Pat White, Russ Levine takes stock of the program at a fulcrum point, and Christopher Paul Anderson looks at blitz-mad defensive coordinator Scott Shafer from his perspective at Stanford.
Stuff you won't find elsewhere. Michael Elkon of Braves and Birds took an in-depth look at how the top coaches in the country did in their first years out and Colin Johnston, who you may remember from the comments section of this blog or his own endeavor, expands upon the hours he spent researching/lamenting Michigan's linebacker play, breaking down in just what ways Obi Ezeh needs to improve if Michigan's going to avoid getting run over by Wisconsin and Ohio State this fall.
Just plain awesome stuff. Lloyd Carr's exit was a great boon to this year's edition of the book:
- It caused Rocky Mountain News columnist Paul Campos to pen an entertaining piece about the insane few weeks in between Carr's resignation and Rodriguez's hiring, during which any one of us would have beaten a man to death with his own limbs if it meant the coaching search would reach a satisfactory conclusion.
- It allowed local author Craig Ross to finally publish a piece about his attendance at a Scot Loeffler-run quarterbacks meeting.
- And it paved the way for Johnny of RBUAS to interview Carr himself.
All three pieces are terrific.
THERE IS ALSO A ROSTER. Sweet.
Over the next couple days I'll republish last year's zone article, which features heavily in this year's zone article, and provide a couple excerpts.
'House. Jimmy Johns delivers coke so fast you'll freak*, and 'Bama is one scholarship closer to cramming everyone in the phone booth. Just like Saban planned. (Thanks to the dozen or so emailers on this... more email than I've received on a single topic in blog history, I think.)
I think I should revise my position here: Saban's managed to sluff off most of his roster deadweight on medical scholarships of dubious merit and it looks like there will be no outright cuts. So this is not PURE EVIL, as previously theorized. It is still KIND OF EVIL, a highly unethical way to game the system that makes Alabama hope something like 20 Fulmer Cup points happens. As the JCCW says:
...I doubt Lionel Mitchell probably thinks very much of the crunch. I have zero clue how severe his back injury might be, but either a) it's hella severe, career-threatening, painful as anything, and still even 'Bama fans are writing things like "If I had to wager, I would bet there's nothing wrong with his back" and believing he was just too crappy to keep his scholarship; b) it's not that severe, but rather than wait and see if he could come back from it and contribute, his coach has told him his career's over anyway. Neither seems like a scenario that would make Lionel Mitchell happy.
Second: I certainly don't blame 'Bama fans for not wanting to put the 2 of Lewis's surprise academic disqualification--which even OTS said was "dumbfound[ing]," "never made sense," and left him with "no clue"--and the 2 of "'Bama needs scholarships" together.
Also at the FanHouse: if you have Time Warner you may be getting good news about the Big Ten Network soon.
(HT: Pete Holiday.)
Vic Sprouse might want to buy a disguise kit. The West Virginia Record describes itself as "West Virginia's legal journal" and one Vic Sprouse comes down on Rich Rodriguez's side in the ongoing spat:
Looking at the RichRod saga now through the prism of knowledge of the utter disaster that is the Garrison administration, it is apparent that they ran Rich off.
I believe Rich is telling the truth when he said the entire relationship changed when Garrison took over. His relationship with Pastilong changed. His relationship with Garrison changed. And, before you know it, Garrison was wanting to show he was the new Sheriff in town and he wasn't going to accept ANY ADDITIONAL demands of Rich Rodriguez.
What a shame.
Michigan lucked out because West Virginia is the sort of backwards place where the governor can appoint an unqualified unversity president the entire faculty thinks is a dolt, and that president and his athletic director can poison their relationship with one of the best coaches in the country. Rodriguez fell into our laps just when we were going to start scraping the bottom of the barrel.
First, one thing I can't take is just how often Rich refers to himself in the third person. That is such a bad habit, someone needs to break him of it, it's tough to listen to him say "Rich Rodriguez" over and over.
I don't have as much revenue as the Big Ten, so I can only read a couple sentences from this Sports Business Journal article:
The Big Ten Conference generated more than $177 million in revenue during its 2006-07 fiscal year, according to documents filed this month with the Internal Revenue Service.
Anyone got the full monty on this? I assume it has interesting Big Ten Network details.
Worst. Comic. Ever. Andy Staples has an entertaining piece on the constant race to stay one step ahead of the NCAA's recruiting regulations. The real meat, though, is an honest-to-god recruiting tool used by Oregon to land Jonathan Stewart, who you may remember from such runs as "Aaargh," "Aaaargh not again," "I want to die," and "How many points do they have now?" It's a comic book. The worst comic book ever made. This is perhaps my favorite stupid part of many stupid parts:
The comic's "plot" consists of a kindly old grandfather telling his towheaded little brat all about the legend of "Snoop," AKA Jonathan Stewart. That grandfather is... familiar.
Follow up. Lake The Posts landed an interview with the Northwestern sign-stealing guy that's worth a read. There's this on Payne's tendencies -- the Luther Van Dam bit:
As I broke down the film of Michigan's offense in '95 I thought there was a possible tendency with the center's non-snapping hand. I went back and checked every snap and sure enough the tendency was about 95% that when his hand was on the ground it was run and when he had it on his thigh it was pass. This was not signal stealing, this was just a tendency found way before the game was even played. But it was a GREAT help for our defense. (As a GA I was in the coaching booth for games and was not stealing signals.) This is not exactly unfair tactics on our part but more of an error on their part. Either they coached the center to do the hand thing or the kid was doing it himself and their coaches never noticed. Either way it was their own fault.
That speaks to a certain complacency, I think. I wonder how many other teams noticed?
Etc.: normally I am a Michael Rosenberg fan but I have to agree with BSD and their fisking of his BTN-Comcast column. Said column made no sense. Vijay's trying to figure out if ESPN's any better at ranking players. Autumn Thunder makes a triumphant return. More pictures of stuff, this the football practice facility.
So... new guys. Jordan Barnes is a shortish linebacker from Fort Wayne, Indiana, and a three-star to both Scout and Rivals. ESPN basically agrees, giving him a 77 ("meh"), and saying:
Overall, Barnes is ideal for a team struggling to slow down two-back, power-running schemes but could have difficulty playing cutback versus heavy zone teams. Tough, strong and physical with good short-area burst; should be very productive in the middle for a tradition[al] 4-3 team.
Hey... that's us! Stats:
The 6-foot, 225-pound prospect recorded 146 tackles in 2007 with 38 tackles for loss.
Your standard "save me, Jebus" stuff.
Okay, so he sounds like a Sam Sword type, a two-down run stuffer. There are a couple indications he could be something more: a pretty decent offer list (Illinois, Wisconsin, Purdue, Louisville, and Alabama according to Jim Stefani) and the opinion of the Wolverine's Josh Helmholdt, who suggests Barnes has made a leap forward in recent months and could be headed for a breakout senior year. FWIW, Stefani has a similar take:
Very athletic. Great combination of power and quickness. A bit raw as a player, but has a lot of upside.............Very impressive at May 2008 Columbus Nike Camp.............Tested second best in the SPARQ at the February 2008 Orlando Nike (4.50(hand 40, 4.24/sh, 38.1/vert, 37'0"/pb, 125.88/SPARQ)
Upside is the word of the day here. That SPARQ score is super high, especially for a linebacker. He's not that far away from a four-star ranking on Rivals (he's the #20 ILB and #17 has the fourth star) and could get that if he performs up to his combine numbers this fall.
A fun biographical fact: Barnes is the son of former Lions LB Roosevelt Barnes.
Dewayne Peace, meanwhile, is the only thing approximating a camp commitment we're going to get this year, and he's rated like one: the #128 wide receiver to Scout, #76 to Rivals, and currently unscouted by ESPN. He did have offers from Kansas and Texas A&M and was impressive at all his camp stops:
Peace, the MVP at his position from South Grand Prairie, will be one to watch. His ability to make the tough catch despite going against a very aggressive group of DB's was impressive. With just two offers in hand from Kansas and SMU, things should continue to grow in the recruiting arena.
Video via VB:
There's also some fluffy stuff over at something called Prep Ticket. And that's all there is on young Mr. Peace. At 6-foot and 160 or 170 pounds Peace could be ticketed for defensive back or wide receiver.
Argh three stars? Cranky emailer:
Hi Brian, how are you?
quick question for you...in short, why in the F are we recruiting all of these three star athletes like Dewayne Peace and jordan Barnes?
I guess this Barnes guy is somewhat of a freak of nature (I mean hey, Alabama wanted him too), but Peace? He has offers from Kansas, Texas A&M, CSU, UCF, SMU, and MICHIGAN....
what decision does this kid have to make? Isn't it a no brainer he is going to Michigan? The only question is, why do we want the 76th best wide receiver? We are Michigan, shouldn't we be settling for a LOT better?
Talk to me goose....make this right in my head so I can stop fuming!
Every school takes guys rated at about Peace's level when they find them and like them enough to offer. Even Ohio State's admittedly monster 2009 class has Adam Homan, Rivals' #38 MLB, Zach Boren, the #64 "athlete," and Duron Carter, the #73 wide receiver. In general, I'm okay with camp commitments since they come after an extended look at a prospect and his abilities. When Michigan has Peace on campus for a week they probably know much more about his abilities than the recruiting gurus -- working off a day camp here and there and maybe some highlight video, of which Peace doesn't have much -- do.
Serenity now, Mr. Joseph.
...and I just barely resist the temptation to pun like it's 1999. (Scout link, FWIW.)
Peace is a low-ranked WR from Texas with offers from Texas A&M and Kansas; he camped and earned an athlete offer. IMO, he's a defensive back in college but they're telling him he could play on either side of the ball. Varsity Blue's got a little bit. More from me tomorrow.