Michigan had their first scrimmage over the weekend, and the internet was alive with reports. I've gotten a couple emails and the board had a few things I'm attempting to follow up on to determine if they're independent reports or just regurgitation. For now, a few items that seem to be reliable across the spectrum.
Will Campbell is not happening. The Nathan Brink hype was an early indication of that and reports from the scrimmage talk about him more than Campbell. It seems highly likely Ryan Van Bergen starts the year at three tech with Brink the starting SDE. According to one source Campbell is "barely playing with the twos." Maybe Rodriguez and company weren't wrong to move Campbell to offensive line last year.
Obviously, that's bad. The DL was paper thin even when Campbell was supposed to start. Now you've got a walk-on in the starting lineup and Campbell may not even be a plausible backup. At least Van Bergen is somewhere around 290—just fine for three-tech—and Brink is a redshirt sophomore. At 265 he's light for a strongside DE and as a walk-on he's probably not going to do much, but for now we can close our eyes real tight and imagine JJ Watt in a winged helmet.
Yeah… that's the stuff.
Brink appears to have beaten out a healthy, senior Will Heininger, so he's got that going for him. Van Bergen, meanwhile, often spent entire games on the field last year. He's going to have to play ironman again this year.
Fitzgerald Toussaint might be happening. The constant refrain from all practices until the Saturday scrimmage was "there is no running back, Shaw by default, Smith on third downs." Saturday the internet lit up with Toussaint-related exclamation marks.
Could this be a real thing? I think so. Toussaint had a pretty good recruiting rep and his struggles so far have been injury-related. It would be one thing if he was just buried on the depth chart behind meh competition. It's not. Even skeptics have to admit Tousssaint's high school highlights are pretty sweet:
Though his competition level was not good he has the track chops to prove that speed you see is not an illusion. He was the 60M Ohio state champ as senior in high school and put up a 10.59 100 meter. The guy can go.
He's more of a slashing zone runner than a horse to run power with, but I don't see any horses to run power with who aren't conspicuously omitted from all reports except dark mutterings about being in the doghouse and missing the WMU game via suspension. If Toussaint is the guy Borges might shrug and run a crapton of zone—it's not like the media will notice.
Roh skepticism ominous. I hope Craig Roh's sickness is the main reason he's come in for a round of "is that all there is?" from the internet, because Michigan needs him. There was one weird report that Roh was playing a three-tech in certain situations—passing downs, I'd hope. That might have been a bit garbled—possibly a three-man front with a very technical linebacker for deployment against the spread.
That's something I am 100% in favor of, BTW. Michigan never got a handle on spread teams under Herrmann and it might be a little worrying if Mattison wasn't reacting to the great trend in college football lo these many years.
Hype magnets. Freshman and new faces getting buzz include:
- WDE Frank Clark, who has been getting some first-team snaps in the passing down package. Seems like he'll be deployed as a situational rusher this year.
- WLBs Brandin Hawthorne and Desmond Morgan(?!). Hawthorne's been running with the ones in practice glimpses and there are scattered reports Morgan is also getting time there. If those are accurate, just moving Morgan to WLB when he seems much better suited for the middle is an indication neither Mike Jones or Brandon Herron is impressing and they are scrambling to fill the spot with someone, anyone. Aaigh Kellen Jones.
- WR Jeremy Gallon has made a move. I'm not sure how much room there is for him at WR since there are already two 5'9" guys ahead of him on the depth chart, though. And putting him back to return punts seems like asking for it after whatever that was last year.
- More Kenny Demens.
- Michigan's using Steve Watson as an H-back.
- Thomas Rawls has a shoulder injury.
- Courtney Avery seems to be maintaining his lead in the race to start opposite Woolfolk.
- I haven't been able to confirm this so no names, but a linebacker is reportedly not in camp and hasn't been all fall. That might be a prelude to a departure
Insider scuttlebutt espectacular scheduled Saturday. They'll have another one this weekend. This one is open to Motts donors and premium seat holders, which I'm sure Hoke loathes but sometimes dollah dollah bill y'all works in the fan's favor.
If last year is any indication there will be a flood of often-contradictory reports here and elsewhere; I'll pick through them and add impressions from the email.
Tim and Tom's departure has caused major consternation on the message board, but maybe this will help: there are new people.
Ace is the victor of the duel for the recruiting ninja job. For the past few years he's been building The Wolverine Blog into a contender in the Michigan blogosphere; before that he was writing on a daily basis for The Ace of Sports. He spent a year in there interning for The Wolverine, as well.
Ace is taking over the recruiting portions of Tim and Tom's job. Obviously, it's going to take some time for him to get up to speed, as Tom's had years to build contacts. Weekly updates are not on the table in the immediate future. We'll build up to that. Ace is also planning on chipping in hockey and other coverage.
Ace identifies himself as "Ace."
Heiko's taking over the beat reporter aspects of Tim's job: he'll go to press conferences and media availabilities and be the MGoBlog representative in the press box. Heiko spent last year covering water polo and volleyball for the Daily; he's in the midst of getting an MD/PhD.
Heiko identifies himself as "Heiko."
Known only by his masked alter-ego, you know the Mathlete from such posts as "Never Punt With Tebow" and "Depressing Charts About Michigan's Defense," for which I'll omit the link. He'll use his massive database of plays to post weekly interesting things.
I'm still around, of course, as is Misopogon. We are also planning on adding a couple intern sorts, one a photographer, the other an Ohio-based recruiting guy who will hit up some of the many Ohio high school games that will feature Michigan commits.
Heiko and Ace's official duties start Thursday. The Mathlete's already started. Wednesday is Tim's final rodeo on the site and Tom has already departed. Thanks to both for their efforts the past couple years.
Kill it with fire.Last year some horrible, horrible hip-hop artist whose songs should be titled "Making You Want To Die Part VII," "Making You Want To Die Part VIII," and so forth and so on, released some fake pump up video that momentarily panicked the fanbase into thinking we'd Freekbassed ourselves.
[By MGoLaw every mention of We Are ND must be accompanied by We Are ND:
We remain in full compliance.]
We had not. Nor have we this year when some horrible, horrible hard rock outfit attempted to pull the same trick with their song "Making You Want To Die Part IX". Should I even link this monstrosity? I will but only if everyone signs a blood oath to never support the people responsible for this.
/blood oath signing music
All right. It's here. The worst part about all of this is that someday the Assistant Vice Associate Athletic Director For Making Michigan Stadium Wicked Sweet is going to hear one of these things and think it is a good idea instead of a malformed baby we should leave on the mountain to die.
That last part is not a joke. Multiple people have sent Lucy Ann Lance's interview with the new chief marketing officer along because of an ominous passage towards the end of it.
The middle of the article has an extensive discussion of ads in Michigan Stadium and how they will never happen. While I'm grateful for that I wonder if the guys in charge of this stuff have any idea why that's important to the fanbase. I don't think they do:
Lucy Ann: Any other changes that you have coming out regarding branding of the University of Michigan?
Lochmann: Event presentation and how people experience the brand at our events is a big part of building the brand, and we are in the midst of hiring some event presentation folks to really focus on making it a wow experience for our fans who go to basketball, hockey, football, soccer. It’s not just a PA announcement.
Lucy Ann: More entertainment?
Lochmann: Exactly. We really want to make all Michigan Athletics a destination for sports fans.
"It's not just a PA announcement?" Do I have to refer a guy who actually works in the athletic department to the ten-year-old kid who blew his mind at last year's Illinois game? Shouldn't the person in charge of branding Michigan understand it? Michigan does not have "just PA announcements." It has one of the grand old men of the PA business, Carl Grapentine.
The primary reason Michigan fans don't want ads in the stadium is because they distract from the game. The chief marketing officer says he won't put ads in the stadium but looks to "really focus on making it a wow experience."
It already is a wow experience. There are a 110,000 people in a stadium watching Desmond Howard or Charles Woodson or Denard Robinson. Wow has been accomplished. Wow is also accomplished at Yost. Wow is not at Crisler, which is by far the chintziest Michigan sports venue. Make the connection. The chief marketing officer's primary duty should be to recognize and preserve the parts of the Michigan tradition that are unique, not turn everything into a February Knicks game.
I envy Notre Dame fans in this department. They have an iron grip on what they want their stadium experience to be like. It's a little weird that it does not include massive HD replays, but there is no threat someone will promise FREEEEEEE PIZZZZZAAA or play Let The Bodies Hit The Floor at Notre Dame Stadium. There would be a gentle, friendly riot.
Bo finishes. Via Wolverine Historian, a one-hour Michigan Replay special on Bo's last season:
Grimly grim under a steel-grim sky. So you're just skipping along in this article about Mike Hart's initial foray into coaching at Eastern Michigan when Ron English pops up and slaps you with this baby:
“Mike’s strengths were never his physical abilities, they were always his mental abilities, his emotional abilities, his character. That’s what I’ve always loved about him. He’s a no-brainer in this profession as long as he can deal with the hours, the commitment, the movement and the disappointment. There’s a lot of disappointment in this profession.”
English's perspective is informed by being head coach of a school where going 2-10 gets you a "keep up the good work," of course. Pair that with Eastern's gray concrete stadium and it's like being the head coach of North Korea's football team. Watch out for lightning.
And here's everything. Burnt Orange Nation has collected every nasty bit of PR to befall college football in the past year, getting up to 23 separate incidents (Michigan's major-ish violations are included). This is my favorite one:
13) Unranked UConn Cant Sell Fiesta Bowl tickets (December 2010)
In a further indictment of the current system, there were a flood of stories related to schools being unable to sell their allotment of tickets for bowl games. Most notably, UConn resorted to begging fans to buy Fiesta Bowl tickets. Not surprisingly, it didnt work. Later calculations placed their financial losses for the game at $1.66 million. Their actual losses were much higher, as OU kicked their ass and then their coach fled for Maryland. Good times.
The bowl system has successful shoved all the uncertainty onto the college programs they are parasites on, even up to the BCS level.
Etc.: Bleacher Report hires Dan Levy, Dan Rubenstein, Josh Zerkle, and Bethlehem Shoals? What is going on? Gary Danielson declares "landlocked" MSU and Purdue the toughest gigs in the Big Ten. Indiana? Or have people given up on them entirely? He's also a superconference believer, FWIW.
The Sandwich War. SI's Andy Staples was in town recently to cover something or another and took the opportunity to cast a vote in the ongoing blood war over the best deli sandwich in Ann Arbor. The contenders are Zingerman's and Maize 'n' Blue Deli:
Staples goes for Maize 'n' Blue, citing price and having to unhinge his jaw as major considerations. Message board duly blows up in a way that makes me think I should put conversations about Zingerman's in the verboten category with politics and religion. Clearly sandwiches are both.
I'm hoping to flag Staples down the next time he's in town so I can take him to Frita Baditos in the hope his mind will be blown and Satchel's in the hope he gives Northern barbecue at least a C-.
No. Stop asking. Kudos to the Big Ten for reassuring everyone that they're not going to pick off half the Big East for no reason. Via a press release:
"In response to a number of recent media inquiries received by several Big Ten Presidents and Chancellors regarding the likelihood of further expansion by the Big Ten, the COP/C would like to reiterate that it will not be actively engaged in conference expansion at this time, or at any time in the foreseeable future."
"We said that we will continue to monitor the landscape, but we have closed down active expansion and have no plans to seek new members."
Twelve and done and good.
Locks. In case this wasn't made explicitly clear by Tim's recap, Brady Hoke directly asserted three guys would be defensive starters. There are no real surprises in that group:
Hoke said he's filled "about two or three" starting spots on defense. When asked who they were, he responded:
"(Cornerback Troy) Woolfolk's had a nice camp, I think (nose tackle Mike) Martin's had a nice camp, (safety Jordan) Kovacs has had a nice camp."
If you were hoping Kovacs was overtaken by someone more athletic you can shelve that. I'm hoping he enters his Englemon phase where he doesn't do much that im- or de-presses anyone. Woolfolk shooting to the top of the cornerback depth chart isn't a surprise but there was a chance the lingering effects of his injury prevented him from being as effective; that apparently hasn't happened. Good news—in the secondary and everything.
I'm a little surprised Demens isn't on that list given the practice buzz. Bad sign? Overreaction? It can be both.
I'm getting the impression they might actually run more read option this year than they did last year.
You are feeling very sleepy. You are Desmond Howard. Jeff Hecklinski could have been a hypnotist if he wasn't a football coach. He also accuses Roy Roundtree of "prancing" and stands next to a short dreaded guy who's injured:
Unless I'm mistaken, that's Martavious Odoms getting his Bob Marley on. First the cast, now a shoulder injury—Junior Hemingway must have pressed a mysterious button that someone told him would make him resilient but turn someone else on the team into Glass Joe.
BIG TEN: STOP MAKING AND NAMING THINGS. YOU ARE EMBARRASSING US ALL. This is the new Cy-Hawk Trophy:
This is what "Iowa Corn" came up with instead of, like, a Hawk in an F16 launching a missile at a tornado that was reaching out a airy appendage of doom. That's a rivalry trophy. That thing above belongs at Art Fair. Adam Jacobi would like "a lot less of this effort to turn the conference into a bad Norman Rockwell painting." Co-sign.
It's not like they didn't know that was going to happen. Iowa Corn also came up with this:
Oh, no. Dave Brandon: do not slap a winged helmet on that thing and put it on the sideline. Please.
The Big Ten Network stopped by a Michigan practice and did their usual suite of impressions that may or may not mean anything. They totally could mean something and it's the preseason so you'll jump on the barest morsel of information, so here they are.
This year the quantity and quality of the observations are significantly reduced, FWIW. Last year there was a fourth guy (Griffith, I think) tweeting stuff and it seemed like they got more information out of it. UPDATE: Okay, Griffith was there. He updated later than everyone else; I've added them in.
Players Of Note
Robinson is the one guy who can beat you. D Gardner is also really impressive. D Morgan, Q Washington stood out among young defenders.
Hurrah positive Quinton Washington mention. Also, leave Desmond Morgan alone: he is not a fullback yet.
UM Prac - Good day today Smith,Gallon,Cox,Countess,Grady,Shaw,Wilkins,Ash,Black,Schofield , Washington,Lewan,Watson,Koger,Eddins
Okay, that's like half the team, including Steve Watson—who is never going to play—doghouse member Kenny Wilkins, and walk-on (and not even the hyped walk-on) Chris Eddins. At least you see Washington there too.
@BTN_Michigan Other freshman that will see playing time CB Blake Countess, CB Raymon Taylor, LB Desmond Morgan, DE Brennen Beyer
There Is No Running Back
Borges said he hasn't had a clear stand-out at RB. Wants to try to find one - but he hasn't emerged. Lots of options there, though.
UM Practice - No veteran running back has really separated himself from the pack. Rawls has had a great camp and may be in the mix.
Mattison talked about decision to leave Ravens - said he loves developing kids - taking them from freshman yr to making the NFL.
Just leaving Michigan practice. The staff is really impressive - a lot of teaching and a lot of feedback in the practice.
Pro Style Transition Promises And Fear
Borges made it clear he is going to try to utilize all of D Robinson's skills - even if it means running stuff that he doesn't typically run
UM Prac -Integrating two different off may be much more difficult than I first thought. It's will be a challenge and interesting to watch
That's ominous. Grab-baggin' it?
UM Prac - Regardless of what the Michigan O will look like Denard looks like a vet and has great body language. He was a lot of fun on set
Gerry DiNardo Doesn't Actually Watch Football Games
UM Prac-Teams in the B1G that run the ball the best do a certain blocking drill. UM did it today - entire team playing with better leverage
This isn't entirely clear but his previous tweet is about how practice is very different so the implication is that Michigan did not do this blocking drill a year ago. Michigan led the league in YPC one year ago even though they played with turrible leverage and ran like 70% of the time.
UPDATE: there's a story that makes this clear, with Griffith talking about this same mysterious drill:
"One of the things I hadn’t seen in a (Michigan) practice recently is when you see one of the best running teams in the league and the drills they do; I saw those drills at Michigan. That’s an indication they’re going in the right direction.”
This quote will be fun when Michigan's YPC drops by a yard this year. I mean, no one thinks Rodriguez didn't need to go but the least you can give the guy is he knows how to put together a rushing offense.
Gerry DiNardo Puts Together Lists Of Words
UM Prac - Defense will improve significantly - because of offense scheme, coaching emphasis, simplicity, different packages, and pressure.
So, that's everything. Including "offensive scheme." Also including both "simplicity" and "different packages." I wouldn't be surprised if DiNardo believes that few possessions == good defense. He is very old and a terrible football coach. It seems like DiNardo hated Rodriguez; before he even got to practice he was talking about how you have to run the I-form to play defense.
UM Prac- No surprise prac was much different than recent past.More emphasis on Kick Game (Brady coached it),emphasis on D (Brady coached it)
Our defensive head coach coached the defense. Last year our offensive head coach coached the offense. This year Brady Hoke, who knows jack about kicking, is looking at the people kicking the ball.
WTF, Gerry DiNardo?
UM Prac-defending I form w/o a dynamic TB & no designed QB run plays is a problem.OSU has done it the last 3 yrs. & struggled vs the best D.
Either DiNardo meant "O" at the end or he meant "running" at the beginning. It seems like the former from the context, which means he thinks Michigan running the I-Form is dumb, except it makes the defense better… except it makes the offense worse… this is how you have a losing record at LSU.
Avery Horn, Sam McGuffie
So I got this email and I was going to put it in a mailbag and then I realized the world needed a stand-alone dossier of the things Fred Jackson has said about his running backs. This is it. This is the email:
You frequently make a jab at Fred Jackson and his son for jointly comparing freshman running back Thomas Rawls to Mark Ingram, saying that this comparison is part of Jackson hyperbole. It sounds like your point is that the Jacksons have a history of comparing mediocre running backs to great ones. However, in the "Fred Jackson Hyperbole Tracker" tab, when I click on it, the only posts it brings up are two, and both involve Rawls. Could you provide more instances where Jackson erroneously jumped the gun with a whacked-out comparison of a running back that only resulted in mediocrity?
The only additional comparison I can think of that Jackson (Sr.) made recently was that Stephen Hopkins reminds him a lot of Chris Perry. … Are there other times when Jackson did made comparisons and was wrong?
If there are, then Jackson certainly has a history of hyperbole, and your point stands. If not, then perhaps you're just being a little too cynical about the potential that Rawls has. Yes, it's probably always safer to be skeptical when someone says "this guy will be awesome," but it could be that Jackson hasn't been able to get excited about running backs in recent years. He did, after all, coach some decent running backs over the years, who did some good things for Michigan. Though I shouldn't need to tell you that.
Let me know what you find. I'd be curious to see if Jackson has done this before.
You defy the memes. I accept your challenge.
FRED JACKSON ON…
Jackson called Allison "unbelievable," adding the Lake Orion native has a chance to be "the best fullback we've ever had here." High praise indeed given he's only been hitting for a week.
"Everybody used to say Anthony [Thomas] couldn't run, but nobody could catch him either. Underwood is like that. He can break out in the secondary and they'll say, 'He doesn't look like he's running,' but you won't find anybody catching him."
Running backs coach Fred Jackson called Horn the fastest tailback he has ever coached.
Luckily for Michigan, it has what running backs coach Fred Jackson calls the best two running backs in the same class in his 17 years with the Wolverines — freshmen Michael Shaw and Sam McGuffie.
“Sam is the quickest I’ve seen,” Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson said.
"Michael Hart ability with speed," Jackson said, comparing Toussaint to U-M's all-time leading rusher. "The kind of guy that can do Michael's cuts, he can sit down, sink his hips and explode by making steps. He's faster than Mike and a very, very tough guy, like Mike was."
More Fitzgerald Toussaint:
"He's as talented as anyone who walked in the door," said Jackson, who has coached Michigan career leading rusher Michael Hart, Chris Perry, Anthony Thomas and Tyrone Wheatley, to name a few.
Jackson said he had never before heard of a player breaking his shoulder blade. But before the injury, Jackson saw budding talent.
"He's got great feet, acceleration, strength, power," Jackson said. "I can compare him to somebody -- he's like a fast Chris Perry. He's going to be very good."
I got guys now that got me very excited. I'm talking about a couple years like '94, when we had Wheatley, Biakabutuka, Jesse Johnson, Eddie Davis, those kind of guys.
Brandon Minor (and the rest of the 2008 group):
Jackson said he never has had a speedier group of tailbacks while at Michigan, and he never has had a more physical back than senior Brandon Minor. … "I've coached a lot of tough guys, but I'm going to say right now, (Minor's) probably the toughest back I've ever coached physically," Jackson said.
"Thomas Rawls, to me, is a combination of Anthony Thomas and Chris Perry, but he's faster than both of them," Jackson said. "He's got their feet, their power, and he's got a running style more like Chris', because he really sinks before he hits you."
"No doubt," Jackson said. "I saw him play enough. The kid's got the right stuff. He's just like [Alabama's Mark Ingram], but he's faster than Ingram. He ran 10.65 in the 100 meters, at 220 pounds. Just think about that."
"Before he's done here, he'll be another Chris Perry. But I don't know if Chris was ever 230 pounds."
Michigan RB Coach Fred Jackson didn’t hold back when talking about Shoelace’s speed, “I promise you this, there ain’t nobody in the country who can catch him,” Jackson said. In my 18 years here, I’ve never seen a kid that fast. Nowhere. And I’ve seen some fast kids on other teams, (but) I’ve never seen anybody that fast. “I mean, it’s scary. Every time you miss him in practice, strike the band up, it’s a touchdown. He’s going to shock a lot of people.”
Okay, that last one is right.
UPDATE 8/13/2012: On Thomas Rawls:
"He's got Mike Hart kind of feet, but a lot faster than Mike."
UPDATE 8/14/2012: Comparing Rawls to Mark Ingram:
"They were almost identical high school backs," said Jackson. "Obviously, Mark Ingram had a great (offensive) line at Alabama that helped him along, but Thomas is a lot faster than Mark, (and) has the same type of ability. I'm not trying to compare them in any way but when you watched them in high school, they were very similar running backs."
On Dennis Norfleet:
"Norfleet is as quick as any kid at Michigan since I've been here," said Jackson, in his 21st season. "I've not seen a guy that quick." ...
"...I don't think (anybody) is faster than Denard," Jackson said. "(Norfleet's) got the quickness that will put him in the same positions Denard gets in quicker than Denard will get in them. Now, Denard once he gets side by side will pull (away) from him probably."