It's no Nuge but it's something. Also: Daily.
So it seems a lot of people, including you, I believe, have resisted the "Denard Robinson 2011 = Michael Vick 2010" path to blind hope for the upcoming football season. I'm as hopeful as anyone else because duh, but I'm also aware that Robinson is probably too small and inaccurate at this point in his development for this to be a realistic possibility.
But what about Troy Smith? I believe that kid was around Robinson's size, but probably a little slower and had an arm that was probably a bit more accurate but not quite as strong. Do you agree that Smith (against anyone other than Michigan, against which he was a planet-devouring demigod regardless of the season you want to talk about) is a realistic/optimistic benchmark we can have in mind when projecting Robinson in 2011?
This isn't to say Robinson will be as good as Smith, only that their skill sets are comparable, as are the coaching philosophies under which they operated, and that getting some mixed bag of 2005 and 2006 Troy Smith out of the QB position would be a positive.
Troy Smith's career does give some hope that a hopeless n00b of a quarterback can develop into a lethal gunslinger. When Justin Zwick was injured midway through 2004 he was pressed into the lineup as redshirt sophomore and was somewhere between Sheridan and Forcier until he played Michigan. You don't need to be told he was insane against M: 18 rushes for 145 yards, 13 of 23 passing for 241 yards, three total touchdowns, no turnovers.
Without that game his numbers were turrible: 3.0 YPC, 6.6 YPA, 56% completion percentage. With it—and as much as we hate to admit it, that happened—his redshirt sophomore numbers were about on par with Tate Forcier as a freshman except with fewer turnovers. With the exception of TD-INT ratio, Denard was actually well ahead of him as a true sophomore, averaging almost nine yards per attempt and running for a billion yards at 6.6 yards a pop.
So if he can improve as much as Smith we're in business. The next year he blew up, completing 63% of his passes for 9.3 yards an attempt with 16 TDs and 4 INTs. He also rushed for around 600 yards on 12 carries a game.
- Smith was handing off and throwing to Santonio Holmes (first round pick), Ted Ginn (first round pick), Antonio Pittman (fourth round pick), and Anthony Gonzalez (first round pick). You can see Stonum and Roundtree getting drafted but probably not until late; Smith had a ton more talent at his disposal than Robinson will.
- Smith had the same coaches for the duration of his career.
- Smith's improvement was standard deviations above the mean, so while it's an optimistic benchmark for Denard it's not one it's reasonable to expect he'll reach.
- Smith's running ability may have opened up some passing lanes for him but nowhere near as many as Robinson's did. If you're going to de-emphasize Robinson's legs that should make it tougher to pass and easier to run.
If Smith provides an optimistic benchmark for Robinson he also provides one for Michigan's coaches: as Smith developed Ohio State's offense gradually morphed into a passing spread reminiscent of Purdue at its absolute apex. This is generally out of character for Tressel—he only brings out the spread option for Pryor in times of great need—but as Smith developed he earned enough trust from his coaches for them to play to his strengths.
Have a question for you, Sir. This is all hypothetical but I was wondering what would you think at the end of it all?
April 2011 - Coach Hoke receives email concerning Player X selling comp tickets (nevermind everyone does it, it is still illegal), Coach Hoke emails back, says he'll check into it. Now...what does Coach Hoke do? What do you hope he does? Go to Compliance? Or handle it internally?
So, he decides to handle it internally
April 2011 - Coach Hoke asks player, player denies selling tickets.
April 2011 - Send email to parents of Player X reminding them that selling comp tickets is illegal.
April 2011 - Has meeting with team reminding that comp tickets can't be sold.
June 2011 - Sends email to person who sent first email verifying that Player X did indeed sell tickets (so, he doesn't get tickets for upcoming season)
Dec 2011 - Michigan Compliance Office gets documentation that Player X did indeed sell tickets.
Dec 2011 - Player X confesses to selling tickets...Michigan self-reports and recommends 5 games for the following season (since that is the normal recommended punishment for this type of violation and the fact that the player didn't come forward).
Dec 2011 - Coach Hoke signs document that no other information was available (giving him the benefit of the doubt, since he gets several hundred emails a day and the fact that he's gone through an entire football season)
Jan 2011 - Michigan Compliance office finds emails related to ticket incident while searching for something else.
Feb 2011 - Michigan Compliance Office interviews Coach Hoke and self-reports information. Recommends 2 games hoping that Player X's suspension is reduced.
March 2011 - Player X's suspension is upheld, Coach Hoke changes his suspension to match Player X.
So, what should Michigan do with Coach Hoke? What do you want to happen to Coach Hoke if he got caught up in something he thought that he could handle internally?
I know it is all hypothetical in nature though Player X could be anyone and I imagine this event could easily come to pass, but everyday coaches make decisions, some good and some bad...but I would be interested in hearing what you would want to happen if this particular event were to go down that way.
Really enjoy your site even though I'm an Ohio State fan...as we don't quite have anything like it.
I'm not sure if that exact scenario rises to the level of a firing—which I'm guessing is the aim of the email—but that part at the top where you get a credible email from someone known to you about guys getting illegal benefits and do not immediately notify compliance is a huge deal. Maybe this is just me speaking as a Michigan fan who has lived through the great annoyance arising from a lack of communication with compliance, but I don't think so. Your compliance department is still "internal." It's not the NCAA. It's essentially on your side unless it really shouldn't be, and they need to know exactly these kinds of things. You can handle a bar fight internally. You cannot handle extra benefits internally.
There are also some key differences between the above scenario and what appears to have transpired at OSU. The hypothesized investigation-type substance where Hoke asks the player about selling tickets and gets a "no" is not sufficient in OSU's case—the original email broke lawyerly confidence to reveal a federal investigation had turned this up. The lawyer is a former OSU walk-on who has defended OSU players in court; he followed up his concern with a second credible email. That's a situation in which you can't just say "did you do this?" and be satisfied with the answer. Though we're not 100% sure on the details yet it seems like the information relayed should have been easy to confirm and only wasn't because there was strong motive not to.
I agree the form Tressel signed a few months later is one of those things that runs across your desk and you sign it because it's boilerplate. But once the investigation is underway, not telling the U or NCAA about some funny emails you responded to and even forwarded to Terrelle Pryor's sketchy "mentor" is far less plausibly innocent.
In the end, Ohio State got to and won a BCS bowl because of Tressel's actions that kept five ineligible players on the field; the alternative was likely indefinite suspensions until the investigation was completed. It looks like a breathtakingly cynical act, and it's not just Michigan fans saying this. What's described above can plausibly be described as "mistake"—and that is what separates it from Tressel's deliberate cover-up.
I got into a conversation with one of my close friends from Michigan about something you wrote in a blog post two days ago: "There's no reason any women's basketball coach not at UConn or Tennessee should be making more than 100k. What's going to happen? Are the empty seats going to stop coming?"
My friend had forwarded it to me because he thought your comment was hilarious. It ended up leading into a much more detailed discussion on coaching salaries. Have you by chance seen the athletic department salaries? It is very interesting.
Three things stand out:
1. dominated by the football staff (though not surprising)
2. the sheer number of women's sport coaches (regardless of gender) who make over $100,000 (softball, soccer, etc.)
*3. how many comparable sports where the women's coach makes significantly more than the men's coach. for example, consider tennis (women's coach: $115k. men's coach: $94K), soccer (women's: $152K. men's: $72.5K), track (women's: $122K. men's: $82K), gymnastics (women's: $156K. men's: $91K), and cross country (women's: $103K. men's: $75K). Any thoughts as to the reason for the discrepancies? As far as I know, TItle 9 does not regulate coaching salaries. Is it explainable by length of service? Or perhaps that the men's coaches are making more through other avenues (i.e., camps, sponsorships, etc.)?
BBA '01, Lifelong Michigan Fan
A number of the discrepancies are obvious: the women's soccer coach used to run the national team; the men's coach used to run Michigan's club team. Carol Hutchins has established Michigan as a softball superpower. She's the equivalent of women's basketball coaches at UConn and Tennessee. The women's track coach is in his 27th year while the men's coach is in his second; the cross-country coaches are in year 19 and 1, respectively.
While I don't get why there's such a gap in the gymnastics salaries—women's gymnastics is consistently very good but the men won the national title last year—most of those are easily explainable by seniority or other obvious factors. My main thing is that all these salaries grate when the NCAA claims poverty prevents them from doing more for the guys who bring in the money by risking what now seems to be quite a lot. The only environment in which a gymnastics program drawing 1500 people per meet can afford to pay their head coach 100 dollars for every head in the stands is one in which administrators are like "good God, what do we do with all this money?"
your next UV title most definitely needs to come from this site: http://yes.thatcan.be/my/next/tweet/
I put in mgoblog and got this sample tweet:
MGoPost: TomVH: An Interview with the board can't get any head explodes.
I am very sorry, board, but yes.thatcan.be/my/next/tweet/ does not lie. Not that it's making a huge leap in suggesting that about a sports message board.
If you just want to see all of the pictures, you can skip to the gallery at the end, but here are a few of the more-interesting photos from media availability.
Denard lines up mostly in the shotgun when the media is allowed to watch, and also gets to wear white pants (an Adidas prototype, not available in maize yet).
Devin lines up mostly under center (though both QBs practice taking snaps under center).
Since the Athletic Department already spoiled the surprise in Tuesday's "Play of the Day" video, I don't feel guilty pointing it out. Yes, that is Mike Martin lined up at rush linebacker, and he sometimes drops into coverage as well.
Not gonna lie, Cam Gordon looks slick in all-whites.
Your starting defense appears to be Roh, Van Bergen, Campbell and Martin on the line, along with Tony Anderson, Carvin Johnson, Kovacs, and Avery in the secondary. The linebackers changed from practice-to-practice, with Cam Gordon the only constant (He's joined by Herron and Mike Jones on this play).
Thomas Gordon's name is spelled wrong on his jersey. That's probably why he's one of the few guys to wear a game jersey in practice (i.e. because it's defective).
Brady Hoke points at things a lot.
Troy Woolfolk back on the field! Here getting a pick in defensive skeleton drills. Looks much happier than he did in bowl practices:
He was also joking around with JT Floyd, his fellow injured DB.
The rest of the photos live in this picture gallery:
Droid app. The MGoDroid app has been tested and has hit the store. That link probably isn't very useful but just search for "MGoDroid" on the app store and lo, it will be there.
PRESS CONFERENCE. Is this the first college football hype video to ever prominently feature a press conference?
I'm thinking yes.
Everybody get a face tattoo. So… Mike Tyson thinks he is you but wants to be Marques Slocum:
Other than his pigeons, he’s had pet tigers over the years. I ask Tyson if he were an animal, what animal would he be?
He looks up at the tinseled ceiling. He scratches his thick neck. “I’d like to be a lion, but I think I’m a wolverine,” he says.
Wolverines: “They’re like big giant rats. They’re about 50 pounds and fearless. They fight to the death. They don’t move fast. They walk slow because they’re not afraid of nothing. That’s how I think. And they can be a little reckless.” But also, he says, “I’d like to be a lion and have lion status: to make other people do my work and get the credit for it.”
This does not qualify as one of the top thousand crazy things Mike Tyson has said, but it does qualify in the top one of weird things he's said about your favorite school's mascot. Mike Tyson, man.
We were like whatever. Denard talking about staying, talking about what his teammates said, talking about oh come on—PREPARE THE FACEPALM:
"They took me in and said, 'Man, look, we're not trying to have the team break up like it did our freshman year,'" Robinson said. "They said, 'We kind of rebelled and it was like whatever.' My teammates, they're like brothers to me, and they were like, 'Stick around. We need you to stay.'"
I hope we learned our lesson about it was like whatever, because the lesson is then you get like whatevered by Toledo argh argh argh.
E-fact: Jerry Kill is a BHGP plant. E-fact for real:
In 28 years as a football coach, Minnesota's Jerry Kill has developed an extreme dislike for unforced errors…. So the first-year Gophers coach set the accountability theme quickly.
Some players have been forced to wear brown jerseys in spring practice with the words “Minnesota Lophers” on the front and “I let my teammates down” on the back.
If that doesn't work he's going to show them Courage Wolf.
This week in the near future of Michigan Stadium. Penn State blog LBU on the PSU facebook page soliciting suggestions for piped in-music:
How about letting the Blue Band play on a more regular basis? You know, because part of what makes a college football atmosphere better than the NFL is that live marching bands provide the soundtrack with their unique fight songs. Words cannot describe how frustrating it is to listen to other college football broadcasts, hear the band play consistently, and then listen to a PSU broadcast and constantly hear Blur's "Song 2" played after every defensive play and "Zombie Nation" after every touchdown while the Blue Band is virtually non-existent. Not that Guido D'Elia or anyone in the Beaver Stadium brass seems to give two shits, though.
This is the inevitable end state once piped in music is permitted. We have already heard "Let the Bodies hit the Floor" like Michigan Stadium is the site of a very special Smackdown taping; Special K will not stop until your spirit is dead. Constant vigilance is required.
This week in the semi-distant future of anywhere but Michigan Stadium. Not that I'm arguing David Brandon should schedule Miami (Not That Miami) instead of doing this…
"We've had some preliminary discussions with Stephen Ross about whether or not it would be possible to come down here [Miami's Generic Corporate Stadium] and play a game," Brandon told the Naples Daily News. "We don't have anything scheduled, but that's something we'd consider because this is an important recruiting area for us, as well."
…but it's frustrating we've devolved college football scheduling to the point that the only things that make sense for big nonconference games are neutral sites. I don't care who or what Michigan hypothetically plays in Florida, it would be a thousand times better to have a home-and-home. I mean, how much more awesome would this upcoming Alabama game be if it was a two-game campus series? Like 250%, easy. I'm insane but I'm not flying to Miami to watch Michigan play a nonconference game.
Orson tattoo suggestions. One: refugees need your help and if Michigan helps the most Orson will write things about how Michigan is awesome. Two: if everyone puts up 50k, Orson gets a tattoo. This should obviously be a portrait of Adrien Karsten doing a black-power salute, his defiant fist gripping a 1040. With like guns and bloody roses ringing it. Now that you've envisioned this you must make it happen.
Of course Manny Diaz likes advanced stats. Bruce Feldman has an Insider article on Manny Diaz($), the former Mississippi State DC who pwned Michigan and hopped to Texas this offseason. I've mentioned more than a few times that Diaz's D does very well in advanced stats, and Diaz himself knows this:
"It is really cool to see how many people who are a lot more intelligent than I am, and who obviously have a fair amount of spare time, are starting to take the game of football and try to really break it down and get under the hood in terms of their analysis," Diaz said. "You see this with college basketball, too. They're not settling for whatever they've been force-fed, either, through mainstream stats or through mainstream media analysis. They're looking to find the story behind the story, and there's really some quality stuff out there. When I have some time, I enjoy looking for this stuff. It's not always some 'A-ha!' like you're at the oracle moment, but it is interesting. There is a lot to this game, and I am constantly fascinated by it."
He pointed Feldman to a post on Bill Connolly's new SBN blog that ranks MSU's D 12th nationally—considerably better than they did in total yardage (49th). He also mentions that red zone percentage is a dumb stat, complains about sacks counting as rush yards, and references the Bulldogs' tremendous luck when it came to fumble recoveries last year. All these things are regular hobby-horses of the stat focused. He's an internet nerd.
There's a lot more that goes into Diaz's success, but I think he's the first coordinator at a major school to advocate advanced stats. College football isn't exactly basketball and their growing Kenpom obsession, but that's a start.
Currently, the NCAA bars companies from using an athlete’s name, image or likeness in advertisements, promotions or other ventures. That would change if the legislation gets passed.
The initial proposal, for instance, would allow game footage of current athletes to appear in TV ads, as long as the ads mention the name of the athlete’s institution. Companies could publicize sales events by saying athletes would be present to sign autographs.
In both cases, the sponsor would benefit from the athlete’s image or presence. The school would benefit with money from the sponsor. The athlete would remain unpaid.
Sam Keller and Ed O'Bannon are currently suing the NCAA for unpaid videogame representations of themselves; this would make the currently wink-wink nudge-nudge system explicit. That can't be legal, right? I mean, you can make guys sign whatever you want but at some point you can't just demand unpaid publicity rights get handed over. Do the guys on the NCAA cover even get paid? Why can they throw Tebow on the front of a box after he's out of eligibility? Amateurism make law explode.
Ohio LB Joe Bolden (6'2", 225 lbs) was in Ann Arbor a few weeks ago with his dad and his uncle, who also happens to be his coach. He decided to take another trip back up, but this time with his mom and dad. Here's his highlight film and his thoughts on the visit.
TOM: You were just in Ann Arbor a few weeks ago, so what prompted this visit?
JOE: I didn't see as much as I wanted to last time. This time we got to drive through campus, see the classrooms, and we just got to see a lot more than last time. We go the grand tour of everything. I didn't get to see a dorm because there weren't any vacant, but I got to see the building that I would be living in.
TOM: I know you went up with your dad and uncle last time, who went with you this time?
JOE: Just my mom and dad.
TOM: What did they think of the visit. Your dad has seen campus before, but this was the first time for mom. How did she like it?
JOE: She really liked it. She really liked Coach Hoke, and Mrs. Hoke and Mrs. Mattison were actually up there so she got to talk to them for awhile too. To me she seemed pretty impressed.
TOM: Did they have questions for the coaches that they, as parents, wanted answered? I know moms can be protective sometimes.
JOE: Not really any more questions, they pretty much answered everything before I asked them. Coach Hoke without my parents even asking answered everything. We sat down for about 45 minutes and just talked about me living up there. He talked about her being a mom and obviously she's protective. He told her that if I were to choose Michigan that I'd be safe and taken care of.
TOM: So where are you at right now with the process? I know you told me last time that you think you're getting close, but what does that mean?
JOE: Right now I have it narrowed down to a couple schools that I'm very serious about, but I want to keep those quiet so I don't give anyone the wrong impression. I'm getting as much information on them as I can, and talking to as many good resources as I can.
TOM: How will you know when you're ready to decide?
JOE: I still haven't gotten the chance to sit down with my mother, father, and uncle and weigh out the pro's and con's of everything. My uncle wasn't at school today, but we'll probably sit down in the next couple days. I really don't have a timeline, it could happen tomorrow or it could happen in February. I'm not sure yet.
TOM: When you say weigh everything out, what are you thinking about with regards to each school?
JOE: Academics has always been a big part of my life. My parents have stressed school work comes before the game of football, so that's number one. If I fit into the program, if I like the coaches, and if the university has tradition, a good winning tradition.
Notes from Brady Hoke's final press conference before the Spring Game. Photo from file.
Spring game - not enough depth to have a draft "and that would be what we'd wanna do, have the seniors draft." 1s will go against 1s, 2s against 2s. "We'll keep a score of some sort, but there's no scoreboard anyway." Winners get steaks, loser get hot dogs. The teams tied last Saturday. Scrimmage - "It will go until I think we've done enough plays."
Offense and defense will both be on the field the whole time. Al will coach the offense, Greg defense. "So that they can get the mechanics of gameday and getting the plays and personnel in and all that," Borges has been away from the field in the last couple practices.
Alumni returning - "It's great to have all these guys back. I think they've got close to 85 for the flag game they're gonna play. We've got over 300 coming in Friday night for a team meeting."
Team meeting: "We're gonna have a conversation. You know. We're just gonna talk about Michigan football." Introduce the new staff to the former players, and talk about how they're accountable. Current players will not be present.
Held out Saturday - Woolfolk, Floyd, Lewan, Demens, that's about it. Shaw and Molk are both back. Woolfolk has done very little. "He's done some individual drills and stuff like that. He maybe has taken a few snaps in 1-on-1 and a few snaps in 7-on-7." Floyd is behind in his recovery compared to where Woolfolk is.
Hoke always participates in hands-on coaching "I couldn't just walk around and watch stuff."
"We're heading down the home stretch of spring, obviously. We've got two days left to keep evaluating." Mindset, mentality, etc. will still be evaluated in the final two days. "We've made some progress in some of those areas but we're a long way from being the football team we want to be in the fall."
Koger, Herron, RVB leaders. Hard for Molk to assert himself since he's been out so much. "Your definition of a leader can vary. It doesn't have to be a vocal guy."
There's better communication, especially on defense, at this point than there was at the beginning of spring. It starts with communicating changed fronts. "I think that there's a pride that those guys are starting to feel as a defense." Defensive communication - "I think Ryan [Van Bergen] has done a really good job. I think he gets it." Cam Gordon and JB Fitzgerald, Kovacs, Carvin Johnson have been vocal out there.
Defensive coaching chemistry: "It's great. It's like they've coached together forever... As soon as recruiting was over, we started those meetings, how you wanna coach it, how you coach it."
"I think we're OK" with how much they've gotten done this spring. Really depends on how the next two practice days go. "I usually like to compete in 2 minute offense/defense] 3 or 4 times throughout the spring." They'll work that in earlier in fall camp to make sure they get it done.
Individual evaluations with every player, with Hoke and their coordinator and their position coach. "Expectations, where they're at, what they need to do. Where their weight needs to be when they report. What their role right now will be in the fall... The evaluations at the end, believe me, they'll be very specific."
Freshmen contributing this fall: "Really haven't thought about it much yet." Depth concern at OL and DL might provide some opportunities, but it's too early to say. Corner? "Maybe. We'll see. Greg Brown's really, in the last week and a half he's really stepped up." Courtney Avery has stepped up as well.
Lloyd Carr - "He's been over. Hasn't been to a practice, but he's been in and we've talked a little bit. Coach Moeller has been around a little bit, and Coach Hanlon is here every day [laughing]."
Denard and Devin: "I think Devin is a very talented guy and I think he's learned the offense well. I think he's got a good handle on it. There's some consistency we've gotta coach better with." QBs will organize 7-on-7s in the summer. What will Denard take into the summer to work on? Footwork issues, ball mechanics, play action game. He needs to settle his feet on dropbacks. "The mental aspect of getting you in the right plays" based on safety alingment, defensive fronts, etc.
Running back - "I think Hop's had a pretty good spring... Toussaint's been pretty steady." Mike Cox hasn't practiced as much because he has a class during Tuesday practice time "so that doesn't help him." Smith has played well. Incoming freshmen will have a chance to step in. "Hopkins is a guy right now who has been probably the most consistent." He can also line up at FB and do some things there.
Tight ends - they have the guys to run what they want. Koger was out early in spring "but he didn't miss much." He's been good on the line, Ricardo's more of a "move guy" right now. "I think the 4 guys you mentioned [Moore and Watson] all have done a good job in the offense, and that will be an important part of what we do offensively."
Molk - "He's been doing some individual, and then yesterday he did more of some of the team stuff." With Lewan out, Huyge has played both tackle positions, Schofield has been good, Ricky Barnum has been kicked out to tackle a few times. "You have 7 or 8 guys who will form kinda the nucleus of the group."
Rocko Khoury has gotten a lot of good snaps. Omameh has taken most RG snaps, played a little bit at RT. "A guy like David who's played a lot of football, sometimes you need to give snaps to more of those other guys."
Barnum: "I tell ya, Ricky's a good football player. He's a tough kid, he's a smart kid, he plays with good technique. That's why he's a good football player." He's been as consistent as any player up front this spring.
Defensive Linemen: Mike Martin - "He's done a good job. We're doing a couple different things with him." "I think think Will Campbell has made strides, but the consistency has to be there. You know Quinton, I think he's going to be a good football payer here at Michigan."Jibreel Black "Jibreel is a guy that, as his body composition changes a little bit, he's gonna be a good football player. I think him and Craig at the rush have had pretty good springs." Roh has progressed better than they thought this spring.
Linebackers - "Marell's done a pretty good job. We moved Brandon Herron back to a Mike." Mike Jones and Brandin Hawthorne at Will. "Cam Gordon's getting better, and I think Cam will have a very good summer." Jake Ryan also at Sam. Those six plus JB Fitzgerlad who "has started to come along a little bit."
Safety situation is fluid. "Carvin Jonhson, I would say of anybody, and Kovacs" know the defense best. Marvin Robinson has also come in and made plays, along with Thomas Gordon.
Kicking game: "I think it's a work in progress." Everything from snapping, to punting, etc. needs to continue improving. Long snappers are competing. Placekicking is a "huge competition with 4 guys in there." Seth Broekhuizen, Kris Pauloski, Jeremy Ross, and Brendan Gibbons. They kicked 14 or 15 times during last week's competition at the stadium. "They haven't been there probably as much as we'd like for them to." The field is the same indoors, the elements are the only difference. "We've got a lot of work to do in that area of it." Wile will get a chance to compete when he comes in. [Author's note: those two statements weren't said back-to-back, so don't read too much into it. Hoke said every freshman has a chance to compete for playing time].
Yesterday we hit the offense; this is the other side of the ball.
Campbell Or Someone Else, Except There Isn't Anyone Else
All eyes not locked on Denard Robinson Saturday will be interpreting any signs of life from Will Campbell as prophecy of opposing offensive lines' impending doom. The facts are these: Michigan has three lock starters on the line, a big hole at three-technique, and a very big man who was a very big former recruit on his way to being a very big bust who is getting personal attention from no fewer than three Michigan coaches.
Michigan has put all their eggs in Campbell's basket. Quinton Washington is backing up Mike Martin—and doing so unevenly—and the only other options there are redshirt freshmen like Richard Ash (also probably an NT if he's anything) and Terry Talbott (probably another year away from being physically ready).
There's almost no way he's not going to start. This makes me nervous because it makes me think about Pat Massey. Massey was 6'8" and never should have been anywhere near DT, but he had a good amount of starting experience when he was inadvisably thrust inside after Michigan ended their one-year experiment with the 3-4. He still ended most plays in a crumpled mess several yards downfield. He was the three-tech next to Gabe Watson; hopefully Campbell doesn't go down as Martin's Massey.
Looking for: my skepticism about Campbell ever performing well is established. If the guy just holds his own and doesn't get blown up on the regular that will be major progress.
Fearing: The third string center getting under his pads and depositing him in Kovacs's lap.
Will only believe three games into the season: That Michigan's previous defensive coaches were even more incompetent than we already believe them to be.
Edge Terror: Yes, Please
Craig Roh is entering his junior year, and the clock has started ticking faster. As a freshman he was incredibly undersized; as a sophomore he was incredibly miscast. Now he's in an upperclassman in an under front as the weakside defensive end—this is his time and place. On a defense wholly devoid of established playmakers other than Martin he is the player most likely to blow up. Michigan needs him to or it's going to be another year in which opposing quarterbacks can finish their crumpets in the pocket before leisurely surveying to see which receiver is open by yards.
Here Michigan actually seems to have a decent second option: Jibreel Black was a complete disaster against the run as a true freshman but flashed disruptive ability when teams didn't run right at him. Like virtually everyone else on the team he should have redshirted; if he had everyone would be talking him up as the next coming because they hadn't seen his shortcomings. As it is a big post-frosh bump in performance can be expected.
Looking for: one-on-one pass rush from Roh against Schofield/Huyge/walk-on. He has to be able to beat those guys if he's going to take on the Big Ten this fall.
Fearing: Here I don't think we'll be too disappointed. There are two good options.
Will only believe three games into the season: That they can't get production out of this spot.
Michigan's veteran linebackers have shuffled off to their futures. Since Obi Ezeh was replaced at midseason by immediately obvious upgrade Kenny Demens, middle linebacker is set. Ready or not, Cam Gordon will be the strongside LB. That leaves Jonas Mouton's old spot as the only other in the front seven up for grabs. Despite collecting all manner of safety/LB tweeners answers are few. Candidates:
- Mike Jones. Jones was the primary backup to Mouton last spring and was getting hyped up as a playmaker; one season-ending injury later there are grumbles he is too small and does not fit the position in a 4-3 under.
- Brandin Hawthorne. Yeah… so… Brandin Hawthorne hasn't seen the field in any capacity other than special teams yet and seemed destined for a Darnell Hood sort of career and now he's kind of the only option other than Jones because all the rest of the guys are participating in a pitched battle elsewhere. Speaking of…
- Safety war losers. Carvin Johnson, Marvin Robinson, and Josh Furman all spent part of last year at linebacker and part at safety; this spring they're all trying to fill Michigan's perpetually gaping hole next to Jordan Kovacs. While they won't be playing WLB saturday, if someone establishes themselves as the guy they will probably throw one of these three back in the linebacker pool.
- Oh, and Thomas Gordon. Some reports put Gordon in the WLB battle while others think he's in a distinctly separate boat of guys playing a dedicated nickelback spot. Gordon was a pleasant surprise as the starting spur earlier in the year and if there are few other options at WLB he might inherit that spot by default, flexing out into the nickel when other teams go spread. That would have some obvious downsides—dude is not linebacker-sized—but Larry Foote is not walking through that door.
- Oh, and… um… Marell Evans? Apparently he's back on the team after not playing at Hampton, and while he's getting some practice buzz that's so far-fetched I'm not even going to list it under things I don't believe because obviously.
Hypothetically, the WLB is the best-protected linebacker in an under front and can be a little fast guy who pursues guys all over the field. More realistically you can shield him a bit but offenses will find ways to make your tiny guy go facemask to facemask with much larger folks, especially if the three-tech spot supposed to shield him is iffy.
Looking for: A weakside linebacker that does not blow outside contain constantly. If I had to guess right now I would say Gordon gets virtually all of the time against spread teams and eventually ends up dragged into the lineup against the coaches' better judgment simply because he can play.
Fearing: A major downgrade—Mouton also turned in his fair share of great individual plays.
Will only believe three games into the season: That having Hawthorne in the two-deep is not an ominous sign.
Squinting In The General Direction Of Safety
Well… at least they've got some athlete type substances. They're weakside linebackers mostly but they'd be really fast WLBs. As mentioned, Johnson, Robinson, and Furman are all fighting to be Michigan's scapegoat this fall; there is no clarity as to who will come out on top. Johnson has the initial edge since he's seen the field, but most of that was at linebacker and last year when he moved to safety he ended up behind the leetle tiny Vinopal despite his tendency to look like Jerry attempting to tackle Tom.
As per usual, brace yourselves.
Looking for: Johnson to be as reputed: a bit slow but reliable and an excellent tackler. Basically a scholarship version of Kovacs.
Fearing: Fear? There is no fear, only the cold hard certainty Michigan's safeties will suck.
Will only believe three games into the season: There are no hopes out there to deflate, so we can take a pass on this one.
Oh And Bonus
Looking for: Ball through uprights; more realistically, the matriculation of Matt Wile.
Fearing: Not through uprights.
Will only believe three games into the season: that I can watch a field goal attempt without throwing up.