The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
Note: video from last year is lightboxed; previous years will take you off the page.
Rating: 3.5 of 5.
|Mark Ortmann||Sr.*||Steve Schilling||Jr.*||David Molk||So.*||David Moosman||Sr.*||Mark Huyge||So.*|
|Perry Dorrestein||Jr.*||Ricky Barnum||Fr.*||Rocko Khoury||Fr.*||John Ferrara||Jr.*||Patrick Omameh||Fr.*|
|Taylor Lewan||Fr.||Tim McAvoy||Sr.*||--||--||Quinton Washington||Fr.||Michael Schofield||Fr.|
Last year I grimaced at a two-deep that contained four freshmen, one of whom was slated to start, and one player (Steve Schilling) with an iota of starting experience and gave the sorry bunch the most well-deserved 1 rating since… well, 3000 words earlier when I slapped the dread number on the quarterbacks.
For six games this was painfully accurate. The Utah game was grim all around but perhaps grimmest on the offensive line:
Offensive line: their overall suck was obviously part of the gameplan in a huge way; I expect that will seriously impinge on Michigan’s attempts to forge an offense all year. Like 2005 except worse.
This persisted and persisted and we can skip the gory details but then something funny happened at about the same time Brandon Minor ascended to the starting tailback job: they got sort of competent. Let's hit this up one last time: over the last six games of the season Michigan outrushed a hypothetical average team by 25%. They didn't do this by piling on inordinate numbers of carries. If Michigan had extended that performance over the course of a full season they would have been 30th in rushing nationally.
This year, every single player who saw a snap last year is back. Intermittent starter Tim McAvoy has been booted to third-string, and Steve Schilling is no longer making a go of it at tackle, where he cannot pass block. Perhaps best of all, there are actual backups.
The line already took its quantum leap forward midway through last year and will be limited in certain spots, but further progress should see them end up… good? Yeah, maybe.
Rating: 3 of 5.
Fifth-year senior Mark Ortmann returns at left tackle. Jake Long he is not. Ortmann picked up his share of negatives in pass protection last year, most notably against Penn State when he was –5 on a day when Michigan only got to 21 total pass-pro points. The minuses came on two players where Ortmann was "beaten badly by [Maurice] Evans"; the latter resulted in a game-killing sack/fumble. The next week against Michigan State he picked up a –6:
Ortmann(-2) totally smoked by a blindside rusher… Ortmann(-2) took a poor angle downfield, though, and the MLB beats him, prompting Threet to pitch it despite a State LB having decent contain. … Ortmann and McAvoy just run by an MSU linebacker … A three-man rush; Ortmann's guy spins inside of him and dives at Threet's feet [to sack] … Ortmann(-2) beaten pretty badly [on a sack].
It wasn't all bad—there were a couple of good plays sprinkled in there—but the end result was "I'd be surprised to see Ortmann keep his job once Dorrestein is healthy." I was surprised, it turned out. Ortmann was an unquestioned starter through spring but it would be a Joppru-level breakthrough for him to become even an honorable-mention all conference sort.
Being functional and unremarkable is a good target for Ortmann this year; his upside is more Adam Stenavich than Long.
Right tackle, on the other hand, is a battle that promises to go until kickoff of the Western game and probably beyond. Redshirt freshman Patrick Omameh was everyone's heavy leader until a week before the spring game, when redshirt sophomore Mark Huyge was surprisingly inserted into the starting lineup. Until that point Huyge, a guy who was considering MAC offers before Michigan came along, had been an afterthought. Huyge got good reviews, albeit against undaunting competition, and is your tentative opening-day starter.
It's worth pointing out that Huyge, like stating center David Molk, was recruited by Michigan after they implemented Mike Debord's zone-heavy ground game and is thus more likely to fit in with the spread 'n' shred than guys in the classes above them. It's too bad that line class consisted of two-count-'em-two players.
Neither tackle is likely to be a standout—all Big Ten is not happening—but there are options and backups and they're entering year two of the Barwis program and year two of the same offensive scheme and we should see a considerable step forward from this position in the run game. Last year, Michigan's outsize zones never got outside because the tackles were getting pushed back, which led to a lot of plays where Moundros shot outside aimlessly as the player he was supposed to be blocking for was forced to cut it up. A large number of Slaton's big plays came from getting outside the tackle, and Michigan should see at least a few instances where they successfully spring Shaw or Brown outside this year.
Pass blocking might be more problematic. Ortmann struggled some last year and the right tackle will be a new starter. There will be some ugly sacks against top-flight defensive ends.
|Clearing for McGuffie|
|Sustained POA block|
|Frowns: Toledo holding|
Rating: 4 of 5.
Steve Schilling's long-overdue move to guard promises to end the parade of ineffective LGs Michigan deployed last year. Last year they tried Tim McAvoy, John Ferrara, and even obvious tackle Mark Ortmann there before going with Schilling after the Illinois game. Schilling was needed at tackle soon after and moved back out. Ortmann's one-game experiment ended with a –6 in pass protection, an de- and impressively large number for an interior linemen. Ferrara was a defensive tackle weeks before the season. And McAvoy was the reason Ortmann and Ferrara were tried out. Anything that looks like a steady starter will be a massive upgrade.
Meanwhile, Schilling probably should have been a guard from day one. His two years starting at tackle featured plenty of pass protection struggles—he racked up a record –12 against Vernon Gholston as a freshman. By the Purdue game last year I'd just about given up on the idea of Schilling as a tackle:
I am leery of both tackles these days, BTW, and wouldn't be surprised to see some sort of reconfiguration that sees Schilling slide inside to guard next year.
Lo, it has come to pass. As a tackle, Schilling hasn't had the opportunity to display the athleticism that got him five stars at the fervent attention of USC when he was a recruit, but it still exists and after two years in Michigan's new-look strength and conditioning program he should be about as strong and agile as he'll get.
What Michigan needs from Schilling is pancaked linebackers, and while he hasn't proven he can do that quite yet, he is a guy entering his third year starting that has all the guru approval in the world (for what little that means for linemen). Signs point to above-average, with "meh" and All Big Ten the ends of the reasonable spectrum of expectations.
|Sealing vs ND|
|Doubling ND wsg Molk|
|Good downfield stuff|
David Moosman returns at right guard. Like everyone at guard last year, he had some issues finding and taking out linebackers downfield—there's a Picture Pages with an example—but he wasn't obviously bad. This made him the line's best player early until the guy I am most unreasonably eeee about on the team came into his own. (That would be David Molk, about whom more next.)
The slightly problem is that Moosman didn't seem to improve much as the season wore on. He was just an okay player the whole year; in context that was a lot more impressive early than late. Another year like last, where he's functional but unremarkable, is on the docket.
Moosman is a really smart guy, for what it's worth, and not "for a football player."
This blog fell a little in love with center David Molk as the season progressed and Molk started anchoring better against defensive tackles 50 pounds heavier than he was. The affair started in the second game of the year when Molk successful impeded the progress of some MAC defensive tackles…
I thought David Molk was great a week after being hurled back into the ballcarrier more than once. Against Miami he consistently got across the face of the defensive tackle lined up to the playside, allowing the guard a free release into the second level where he would either whack a linebacker and someone would run for 20 yards or whiff that linebacker and Michigan would get zero.
…a week after getting Sam-owned against Utah:
The lingering fear is that this is more a function of the opponent than any great leap forward. In retrospect, against Utah Molk was getting the same excellent position on his man but after he got that position the DT picked him up and dropped him in the RB’s lap.
|Tough reach vs ND|
|Frowns: MLB whiff|
|Rare win v Newkirk|
|Sealing playside DTs|
|More of that|
|Textbook reach block|
The next week against ND, Molk, Moosman, and McAvoy were named "heroes" for consistently blowing up the interior of the ND defense; the UFR section titled simply "McGuffie!" immediately shot credit to the guys on the inside:
Michigan had great success with the zone stretch and occasional dive because Molk and either McAvoy or Moosman spent the day crushing the playside DT downfield.
It wasn't to last, though. Wisconsin's veteran defensive tackles "murdered" the interior line against both pass and run. By that point there was a pattern: the Michigan interior line was good, even great, against substandard opponents but could not cope with big, veteran DTs. This held true until the Penn State game, when Michigan and Molk went up against one of the best defenses in the conference and at the end of it Molk ended up in the "heroes" list. He even got his own Picture Pages:
He got dinged later in the year for being small, but in a system like this where he's reach-blocking all day his agility is an asset. Time and again against Penn State he successful executed these blocks, springing people into the secondary. Against Notre Dame he did the same thing.
The issues are obvious, though: too many missed blocks, and too many blocks where he's just not strong enough to deal with his man. But he's a redshirt freshman; strength should come.
I like him. I like David Molk. I think he can be very good at football. Is this clear? Probably not. What Michigan needs from Molk this year is twenty more pounds, more familiarity with the offense, and that's it.
BONUS: I don't remember any bad snaps last year except maybe one or two in the Northwestern game, when it was eminently forgivable.
Backups And Whatnot
Oh praise Jesus: there are some. Last year when Ortmann got dinged up early in the year, Michigan actually unearthed walk-on Bryant Nowicki to play left tackle until they could tell Perry Dorrestein to play on the other side of the line the following week.
Dorrestein and the loser of the pitched Omameh-Huyge battle will be the primary backups at tackle. If Huyge's grip on the job remains solid, the bet here is that Omameh flips to left tackle by midseason in preparation for 2010 and Dorrestein returns to the right, where the coaches apparently prefer him.
On the interior, redshirt freshmen Ricky Barnum and Rocko Khoury have been praised regularly in practice reports and are the top options at guard and center, respectively, in the event of an injury to one of the starters. Barnum's position is less solid than Khoury, as he's been afflicted with frequent minor injuries thus far in his Michigan career and missed most of the spring with a wrist issue. Also Khoury's the only guy around who's been snapping consistently.
Your other non-freshman options are John Ferrara, the converted defensive tackle who the coaches are keeping on the offensive side of the ball despite some serious depth issues at DT, tragedy-stricken Elliot Mealer, and journeyman Tim McAvoy. Of the group, Ferrara is the most likely to make an appearance. The coaches tried everything in their power to remove McAvoy from the starting lineup last year and moved Schilling inside to finally solve that particular issue. Mealer spent all of last year rehabbing a shoulder injury and is probably a year away from seriously competing for a job.
There are indeed freshmen, but if Rodriguez managed to redshirt all six guys from last year's class despite the patchwork nature of last year's line it will take truly epic misfortune for any of the incoming kids to see the field this year.
One man's guess as to the second unit: Omameh, Ferrara, Khoury, Barnum, Dorrestein.
Rivals and Scout are reporting that OH CB Greg Brown has committed to the Michigan Wolverines. Brown is the first commitment in the class of 2011.
Informative Update coming in the morning.
Light day at the press conference today, aside from the pseudo-bombshell that Brandon Minor is still injured, and is now considered questionable for Saturday. It remains to be seen how much of this is legit, and how much is gamesmanship/giving the press something new to talk about. Either way, not good. Carlos Brown would get the start if Minor can't go, with Shaw, Grady, and Vincent Smith also garnering playing time.
Rich says the coaches are starting to have a good idea of who will start at QB on Saturday. They'll let the quarterbacks know tomorrow night who is getting the starting nod.
Big focuses in camp this year: holding onto the ball and avoiding negative yardage offensive plays. He felt like they held onto the ball pretty well in last year's camp (and we know how that turned out), but it's even better this year.
During punt return practice, the returners seemed to be having some sort of competition to not be the first to drop one. When someone finally did, a grad assistant who had been turned the other way immediately turned around and asked "Was it Terrence [Robinson]?" It was.
Damn you, Angry Michigan Running Back-Hating God:
brandon minor still nicked up - not sure if he can go saturday. if he can't, cbrown will get the start. shaw, grady, smith will also play.
That's Tim twittering, FWIW.
Note: video from last year is lightboxed; previous years will take you off the page.
|Greg Mathews||Sr.||Junior Hemingway||So.*||Martavious Odoms||So.||Kevin Koger||So.|
|Darryl Stonum||So.||Je'Ron Stokes||Fr.||Kelvin Grady||So.*||Martell Webb||Jr.|
|James Rogers||Jr.||LaTerryal Savoy||Sr.*||Roy Roundtree||Fr.*||Brandon Moore||Fr.*|
|Spectacular near TD vs ND|
|Slant n go n stop|
|Deep speed questionable|
In an ideal world, senior Greg Mathews would play Avant to someone else's Braylon Edwards but unless Darryl Stonum explodes after a disappointing freshman year or Junior Hemingway goes from the walking wounded to awesome Mathews will be the #1 guy. That's not all bad; in the rare instances he had the opportunity to reel in a ball last year he displayed hands worthy of that guy currently being underrated on the Eagles. Witness this circus catch against Minnesota:
That's Mathews in a nutshell. He got zero separation from the (terrible) Gopher defensive back, which necessitated a difficult catch; this was no problem. By the end of the Northwestern game, Mathews had graded out better than any other receiver in UFR receiverchartin': 23/24 on routine catches, 5/7 on somewhat tough ones, and 3/10 on attempts to make circus catches. That's impressive. The only other Michigan receiver to reel in a circus catch last year (in a total of 18 opportunities) was Carson Butler, and he just did that to remind us exactly how much talent he was wasting. Even in excellence, Carson Butler annoys.
Back to players who play for Michigan: Mathews is a possession receiver. Though he managed to get his yards per catch above 10 last year, it wasn't by much. If he's interested in making announcer's lives easier this fall he'll undergo a blackendectomy a la Michael Jackson and allow people to talk about his grit, routes, and hands, all of which happen to be excellent even if he's a guy from Florida with loads of melanin.
The starter opposite Mathews is still to be determined and may end up a platoon. Two players figure to get significant amounts of playing time.
Door number one: redshirt sophomore Junior Hemingway, who must have irritated Angry Michigan Receiver-Hating Czarist Nobles at some point in the recent past. Not even Carlos Brown can claim a series of unfortunate events as ridiculous as that suffered by Hemingway, who endured a severely sprained ankle as a freshman, then sprained his ankle again as a sophomore, then picked up a nearly-as-severe shoulder injury that he managed to play through until mononucleosis finally struck him down. At least no one tried to drown him.
Tentatively healthy and in possession of a well-deserved medical redshirt after last year's trials, Hemingway enters the season in a pitched battle with fellow sophomore Darryl Stonum. In limited opportunities Hemingway's displayed superior hands—he reeled in a wide array of Coner ducks in the spring game—and serious leaping ability. He was impressive in the brief window before various limbs and immune systems turned against him. The Utah UFR looked for the tiniest sliver of a silver lining and found it in Hemingway:
Receivers: possibly a bit better than we expected if Hemingway can continue his impressive performance. He got behind a Utah defensive back who was bailing out into a cover three for the touchdown, caught a tough slant, and generally looked big, fast, and good.
He could not continue that performance because he was busy being shot, stabbed, and poisoned by chance.
Hemingway was a big recruit with a ton of early offers who got mysteriously downgraded because of his appearance in a South Carolina all-star game despite a high school career full of production and ridiculous circus catches. Even if he lacks pure deep speed his ability to sky could see him emerge into a new version of Marquise Walker; he's got the hands and the ability and I've been in his corner for a long time. I think he wins the starting job opposite Mathews and establishes himself a player to be excited about going into 2010. As of now he is the leader, and may actually be on top of the depth chart if a temporary Mathews demotion was something more than motivational. Rodriguez was explicit about Hemingway's spot at Media Day:
“Junior’s in probably the best shape he’s been in, but he’s still not ready where I think he’s going to be," Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said. "We need him to be - he and Greg Mathews in particular got to be two guys that we can count on as far as making plays and being able to do all the things we ask our wideouts to do. Those are kind of two of the upperclassmen that their time is kind of now."
One side note on "all the things we ask our wideouts to do": Hemingway is huge for a receiver, tipping the scales at 226 on the spring roster. This might go a ways towards explaining his rumored lack of elite speed. It should also help with the perimeter and downfield blocking that is critical in the spread 'n' shred. Hemingway is atop the depth chart and will be a prime target if the positive practice hype holds up.
|Clocks an OLB|
The aforementioned Darryl Stonum is Hemingway's main competition and. The rumblings from fall camp are mostly about pages and getting on the same one and drops and so forth and so on; at one point when Mathews was out with a minor injury it was fifth-year senior and nonentity-to-date Laterryal Savoy who drew into the starting lineup opposite Hemingway. Stonum had bounced up to the top pair late, though, if that means anything. It probably doesn't.
Stonum's considerable recruiting hype (on the cusp of five stars, offers from USC, Florida, and the rest of the world) gave way to a disappointing freshman year during which, as 99%-apocryphal-but-still-telling rumor has it, he quit the team a half-dozen times only to return soon after. Stonum didn't do much last year, and that was at least as much on him as it was on the quarterbacks. The "forty or even fifty catches" that weren't "out of the question" last year turned into a measly 14 catches for 176 yards and one touchdown courtesy some seriously poor defense by an anonymous Boilermaker.
But you could form an NFL All-Pro team out of temperamental wide receivers who needed to get on the same page with their coaches and quarterbacks after a nothing freshman year. Divas are tolerated at the spot as long as they preen en route to the endzone.
Backups and Whatnot
Severe attrition in the wide receiver corps leaves options few and far between past the three potential starters. No one's sure if incoming freshman Je'Ron Stokes, who's about six-foot, belongs in the slot or on the outside. The depth chart would strongly suggest outside, though, and that's where we'll slot (ha!) him until disabused of that notion by events on the field. FWIW, Rodriguez has said they'll use Stokes here exclusively.
Stokes was a highly touted recruit in or just outside of the recruiting sites' top 100 lists who Michigan snatched away from Tennessee once the Vols told Tajh Boyd to talk to the hand and Stokes got concerned about four years of Cromptonesque quarterbacking. As with the other freshmen mentioned above, all of the internet's knowledge about Stokes can be found in his recruiting profile. A brief highlight from the Pittsburgh Sports Report:
An electrifying game breaker with excellent speed, Stokes could use more size on his current 6’1” and 180 pound frame. He has great hands, knows how to get open, makes a lot of acrobatic catches and is terrific after the catch.
Stokes will have the opportunity to find playing time; given his athletic gifts it's probably just a matter of time before he slides into the fourth outside receiver spot.
Just about everyone is waiting impatiently for fellow freshman Cameron Gordon to hit the practice field and get switched to linebacker, where he will be a reassuring athletic presence on a unit that needs the depth badly, but he is coming in as a wide receiver and may stick there. If he does, think Mathews and Avant: Gordon is a strapping fellow more suited to heading over the middle than going deep. Hopefully Gordon can redshirt and think long and hard about which side of the ball he wants to end up on.
LaTerryal Savoy and James Rogers also exist. If Savoy was ever going to find the field it would have been last year, when the receiving corps was wracked by injury, youth, and incompetence. He's a fifth year senior now; there's no upside to playing him unless he's clearly better than the other options, which he won't be. The Stonum depth chart hijinks above are not new: Savoy was supposed to be the star of camp last year and was even nominally first string in practice. When the season rolled around he was quickly shot down the depth chart.
Rogers has a bit more upside and time left, but he's failed to make an impact in three years at Michigan and has struggled to find a position after bouncing to and from the secondary. (He was a high school tailback.) His speed is bountiful but goes strictly in a straight line; younger, more agile options will probably eat up his playing time. The pair might see ten catches between them.
|Punt return TDin'|
Martavious Odoms started every game he was healthy for, led Michigan in receptions and yards last year, added a punt return touchdown, and did all this as a true freshman. Normally, this would mark him as a future star and have Michigan internets abuzz about how the little bolt is going to dominate foolz with his mad skillz, yo.
This has not so much happened. This very site has a typical, if slightly harsher than average, example of the fanbase's opinion of Odoms:
…what you're not seeing in those stats is the number of drops he had. You're not seeing the number of times he gained 3 yards when we needed 4 on third down. And you're not seeing his pathetic work on returns.
Ouch. The lingering image of Odoms from last year is a man moving so fast you only catch a glimpse of his dreadlocks… as he futilely attempts to dive on his own fumble. Odoms coughed the ball up six times in the final four games of the year, permanently etching him into the James Whitley Memorial Hall of Men Not To Be Trusted With The Ball in the minds of many.
This is the part where I scour last year's UFRs for evidence for or against this position, but in this instance another diarist has beat me to it. jg2112's analysis:
…on Odoms' 26 catches that were executed with even marginal competence by the QB and the blockers, he averaged 14 yards per catch. His average was pulled down 5 yards a catch by crappy throwing and blocking. That's a significant variance.
…While Odoms' fumbles were disappointing, his receiving was not. In a normal year, Odoms wouldn't have seen the field. However, the experience will help him play even better this year, and the depth behind him (Gallon et al), Tate's accuracy, and better blocking will give the offense the versatility to use the slot more effectively this year.
I co-sign that. Odoms has a year of experience and production on anyone else in the lineup. I am skeptical any slot will beat him out. Odoms will see his playing time dip as the team brings in viable options other than him—they had none last year after Terrance Robinson's injury and Rodriguez specifically stated they'd like to have Odoms off the field more—but those expecting him to be replaced wholesale are going to be disappointed.
The book on Odoms from his critics is that he lacks the big-play ability you'd ideally have in a slot receiver. That seems to be grasping at straws after he turned in more big plays than any other member of the receiving corps despite being saddled with quarterbacks who couldn't chuck a bubble screen straight nor threaten downfield enough to back safeties and linebackers off. I mean…
…I don't think that's a fluke. If you want to claim the fumbles are intolerable I'm with you, but writing off Odoms' talent after a year that would have been promising in most other situations is a mistake. I still go back to what a close observer of Florida high school football told me unprompted when Odoms committed:
He's a tough SOB. Small cat, really tough, will remind you of Steve Smith. Very, very fast. I'm a huge Martavious Odoms fan, you'll love him.
I'm betting on a lot of hurried backtracking on Odoms after the year.
Backups and Whatnot
Roy Roundtree's about the same weight as your average slot receiver, but he's been put on the rack and stretched to 6'3". Last year he redshirted in an attempt to protect him from being split in half by linebackers. Roundtree was mostly forgotten about in the process, and no one expected much from him this year until he broke open deep (against walk-ons, yes) and reeled in that pretty 50-yard Forcier bomb in the spring game. He added an array of other catches across the middle and on fades and other things; if not for the presence of Forcier himself, Roundtree would have exited spring with more buzz than any other new face.
This sudden renaissance has an impossible reason behind it: Roundtree managed to get through and entire high school career and a redshirt season as a freakin' wide receiver without anyone noticing that he couldn't see anything:
"In the first half of the spring, he was struggling catching some balls, and then we looked at him, and he'd squint at you," Rodriguez said Saturday.
"That was the first sign, 'You'd better get your eyes checked.' The doctor said he didn't know how he was walking a straight line."
This, of course, is straight out of Major League. I assume that Brandon Graham is praying to Jobu as we speak and Denard Robinson is running around with a ridiculous nickname at incredible speed before starring in Demolition Man.
Roundtree figures to see time both inside and outside as a fourth receiver and should provide a reliable underneath option. With Koger and a bunch of other slots and three potentially viable outside receivers there's no telling where on the targeting chart Roundtree will end up but 10-20 catches, most of which move the chains but don't do much else, seems reasonable.
As far as slot ninjas go, the #2 guy on the roster is, shockingly, basketball refugee Kelvin Grady. Once he found himself stapled to John Beilein's bench in favor of walk-ons he read the writing on the wall and decided to try his hand at the other sport in which he was a spectacularly agile and quick, if undersized, star at East Grand Rapids. Check it:
Happily, an inability to shoot or defend won't hamper him in football. He's a redshirt sophomore by eligibility and hasn't played football in three years, but that hasn't stopped him from acquiring an impressive quantity of practice hype and coaching praise. Por ejemplo:
“Kelvin Grady has made a lot of big plays,” Rodriguez said this afternoon. “That’s been a – I don’t want to say a pleasant surprise, because we thought when he came over, he’d have a chance – but Kelvin has done well in camp.”
A leaping, one-handed catch started it all off when it got posted on the official site and it actually seems like Grady will play this year. Daver Birkett of AnnArbor.com thinks Grady is ahead of even Roundtree. Since he's already used his redshirt there's no reason to hold back if he can.
With Grady's star has experiencing an unexpected rise, Terrance Robinson's is dimming. Robinson missed all of last year with a severe ankle sprain and what few mentions he's garnered since have mostly concerned his inability to catch. There were some transfer rumors, and while AFAIK those were totally unsubstantiated their plausibility says a great deal about his position on the depth chart. With three players ahead of him and Gallon sure to push once he gets acclimated, Robinson's career needs defibrillation lest it end DOA. Robinson's main hope for playing time this year may be on punt returns.
Finally, incoming freshman Jeremy Gallon has a ton of hype behind him after three years as Florida powerhouse Apopka's single-wing quarterback and a dynamite showing at the Army All-America Game, but he battled academic issues to the wire and was the last freshman to arrive. He's only been on campus for a few weeks. A midseason emergence seems like the best-case scenario, perhaps with a side of being awesome at punt returns; if Grady and Robinson provide sufficient depth a redshirt seems preferable. Gallon, after all, hasn't been a receiver much.
For Gallon's high school dossier check his 2009 recruiting profile.
Michigan's six-deep logjam at tight end has been seriously thinned by graduation, position switches, and compulsory early NFL draft entry, but there's still enough depth and talent to warrant an offseason visit to Oklahoma, home of the killer spread tight end passing game.
Kevin Koger is most of the reason for this after emerging as a true freshman starter halfway through last year when Rodriguez tired of the purse-swinging that passed for Carson Butler blocking. He didn't actually do much—a function of his youth and the quarterback situation—but did catch a couple touchdowns and now looks to blossom. Calvin Magee on Koger:
"Kevin Koger's had a great great offseason," said Calvin Magee, Koger's offensive coordinator and position mentor. "He's done well. He's gotten a lot stronger and a lot faster, and it's a natural progression from freshman to sophomore year.
"He's changed his body. You know, his weight's around the same. He's more lean now. So naturally, he's got more muscle on him. That allows him to be faster and he's one of those kids that committed himself to the offseason conditioning and it's going to help him a great deal."
|First catch a seam TD|
|TD called back|
|Digs out a wheel|
|Assisting the RAGE|
As a recruit, Koger was highly sought, just outside top 100 lists and the subject of a pitched recruiting battle between Michigan and Ohio State that went the right way. That bodes well, as does the offseason hype and quick ascension up the depth chart.
There are twin drags on the Koger projections, though: Rodriguez's inexperience deploying tight ends and the likely presence of a freshman quarterback leery of going over the middle of the field. Rodriguez did claim in a press conference during fall camp that Michigan is deploying tight ends "80% of the time," however; with a mountain of hype behind him and questionable options outside of him, Koger should find himself open on many a seam this year.
According to practice reports, junior Martell Webb is running a strong 1A to Koger and should see extensive time himself after a wasted sophomore year in which he caught no balls and hardly saw the field even after Massey and Butler saw their playing time chopped or eliminated.
There's some corroborating evidence for the practice reports, too. Webb was a consensus four-star recruit and seemed on a stardom track as a freshman when he started after Massey was sidelined with a knee issue and Carson Butler pissed off the coaches—he was Koger before Koger was Koger.
Behind those two is redshirt freshman Brandon Moore, who had a boatload of offers before he made his early commit to Michigan but then struggled through an indifferent senior season and saw his rankings drop considerably. He was reputed to be a no-block TE, more of a bulky 6'6" receiver than an inline blocker. Practice rumblings were silent on him until just recently, when he was purported to be coming on. He'll rotate in some in preparation for bigger things once Webb graduates.
Yes. Yes, it's a Downfall parody. But it's a good one.
Does it inadvertently Godwin itself, though?
"Current and former." Outstanding catch by diarist summit595 to lock in on this snippet of Drew Sharp's appearance on Dan Patrick:
Dan Patrick: Current players turned on RRod. What's that all about?
Sharp: Well the Free Press talked to a couple freshmen at media day. They gave an honest answer - that's what work days are like. They were surprised how long it was. Now there are some former players, who knows if they have an axe to grind, but it doesn't preclude the very real possibility that these guys are telling the truth...hard to believe all these guys are lying.
Oops. When presented with an opportunity to be Drew Sharp and rail about a lack of team unity, Sharp instead outs his colleagues' deception. As noted in an earlier post, the section on who the Free Press talked to and about what was confusingly worded and vague. You could even call it weaselly. Check it:
For this report, the Free Press interviewed 10 current or former players and the parents of four others.
The drop of "current and former"—the only place "current players" are mentioned aside from the "twisted" quotes from the freshmen—has led to a large number of people who dismiss the excessive practice charges to fret about Rodriguez losing his team. For example, two of the thee questions Rodriguez was asked on his ESPN appearance*:
Question: How do you explain loyalty among the players when 10 players former and current were interviewed?
Question: But how much unity is there if current players are talking to media but not to you?
All the accusations in the article came from Michigan's own players and not just the ones who fled the program.
"The most troubling parts about the alleged NCAA rules violations that took place in Michigan's football program aren't the accusations themselves, but who made them.
The bigger issue for Rodriguez is the splintering around his program, even inside his program.
There are dozens more. Sharp's revealed that the story's "current" players are limited to the freshmen. Neither has any problem with the program. All of the inflammatory quotes in the piece are from disgruntled transfers. This was obscured through either incompetence or malice.
(Side note: there is one report—which, unbelievably, I can't find, sorry—from Joe Schad with a "confirmation" from a current player, but he's not quoted. There's a big difference between saying "yes I was at the football facility from X to X," which we've all learned is an incredibly malleable statement in the eyes of the NCAA," and saying "Michigan has committed violations." [Update: Tom found it.])
*(Okay, maybe the press conference isn't the only time I'll be reminded of Lloyd Carr. Article headline: "The chemistry is tremendous.")
This is still mindblowing. More from, yes, Carson Butler:
"In college football, ain't too much voluntary," he said. "If the weight room is open, you're going to go. If it's a run, you're going to go, if it's a workout, you're going to go whether it was voluntary or not. That's every player on the team. For all of the years I was there, everything that was voluntary, I remember every player on the team being there.
"Especially at this level, you're supposed to be in there, and that's how it was."
Perhaps more importantly Butler describes the Sunday activities as "going over game film and making corrections." This is the second time a player has brought up film as a Sunday activity, with Toney Clemons the first. Video watching is explicitly stated as a non-countable hour by the NCAA. I need a graphic that has the national debt clock photoshopped to read "noncountable hours."
That article also contains quotes from Jeff Backus and John Jansen that are ambiguous. Backus:
"I know how it was when I was there - we went by the rules," he said. "As far as what's going on there now and how the players are being treated or whatever it is, I haven't experienced it.
"I know what happened when I was there and Lloyd (Carr) always had our best interest at heart."
Am I paranoid or is that less than a vote of confidence?
They found another Sacred Single Hardcopy Room. West Virginia did a cursory examination of their records and found nothing out of the ordinary:
"Based upon our looking back over the weekend, we don't feel we have any concerns," WVU's Assistant Athletic Director for Communications Michael Fragale said Monday. "We have checked it out and there has been nothing flagged and nothing out of the ordinary.
"There were no student-athlete complaints during the time (Rodriguez) was here."
This isn't surprising, but given that West Virginia's compliance department doesn't sound like a rinky-dink organization…
"Compliance was always around," one player said. "You couldn't do it even if you wanted to. There wasn't any rule-breaking going on because you couldn't do any of that with compliance around like they were."
…it does reduce the chances that Rodriguez was going ape at WVU without anyone noticing and casts further doubt on the idea that Michigan's operating recklessly outside of NCAA maximums.
Parents are not exactly fleeing. Forcier, Schofield, Stokes, and add Donovan Warren and Craig Roh to the list of players whose parents have been somewhere between supportive of Rodriguez (Forcier) and ready to burn down the Free Press (Stokes and Schofield, who's following up his earlier statement everywhere he can post it). Roh posted on the Scout free board:
Again, Coach Dews made it abundantly clear what we had to pay for and what the school was allowed to pay for, what our responsiblities were and what the school's were. I was tired of hearing about all the rules. It was like dealing with the IRS. There was NO push to report to school early, in fact we were told that if craig wanted to report to summer school early, it was on his dime and totally voluntary. Craig's summer was very balanced. He VOLUNTARILY asked to watch tape as much as he could. Nobody pushed him to do it or even suggested it. He had more free time than he wanted.
Lastly, I know for a fact that Craig missed workouts in the summer and even missed parts of at least three practices at camp so that he could attend class. He was excused with absolutely no repercussions by the coaching staff.
There's a good bit more. (I've reproduced the elder Roh's post in the diaries so that it's archived in a place more permanent than a message board, where it will eventually evaporate. Also while I'm in a parenthetical, HT: Genuinely Sarcastic.)
The elder Stokes and Warren called into WTKA. Stokes:
Daaaang. Kirk Herbstreit on Sportscenter:
"I think that it's a bit of a witch hunt."
"It's pretty easy to select a group of people to find that can turn their back on Rich Rodriguez after a 3-9 year."
"It's easy to pick on a guy...after the worst year in school history."
"I find this really insulting to everything that Rich Rodriguez and everything that he and his training staff have stood for."
Anyone notice that the opinion on this thing amongst the talking heads breaks down neatly into guys who played football, who universally think this is a crock, and journalists, who think this is brilliant? I mean, when Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Spielman are laying into this thing you know there's not a former player on the planet who would say anything different.
Jim Tressel and a bunch of OSU players are also "providing moral support," in Hinton's words, which yes lol they want to keep Rodriguez around. But when virtually every coach in the Big Ten is saying something similar that speaks to muckrake fail. Hinton:
After three days in the headlines, I think it's safe to say the broad reaction has veered sharply in Michigan's favor from the standpoint that a) There's no effective way (short of staring into players' souls) to distinguish between what was actually mandatory and what was just strongly encouraged, if you know what I mean, and b) The precedent from an actual crackdown would send ripples toward the compliance departments of essentially every major program in the country, forcing halfhearted reforms no one cares about except, apparently, the Free Press. They got their investigation, but when you're up against a cultural norm so entrenched that Ohio State comes rushing to Michigan's defense, that boulder's not going anywhere.
And, finally. Johnny! Hey-o!