"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
So I got an email yesterday predicting the departure of a quarterback from Florida and thought to myself "oh God, not Denard Robinson."
Well, it wasn't Denard Robinson. Sophomore-to-be slot receiver Justin Feagin is no more:
"Justin Feagin was dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules Thursday evening," head coach Rich Rodriguez said in a statement.
That's ambiguous as to whether the dismissal or the violation came Thursday, but I'm guessing it's the former.
I'm of two minds about the departure. On the one hand, it would be hard to pick out a player on the roster whose departure would be less likely to impact Michigan's performance on-field both this year and going forward. Feagin was a late flier Michigan took on the off chance he might be a viable quarterback. He was not and got bounced to slot receiver, where he wasn't a factor. With the spring emergence of Roy Roundtree and availability of freshmen Terrance Robinson (a redshirt), Jeremy Gallon, and Je'Ron Stokes, he didn't figure to be a factor in the fall. And it's not like slot receiver looks like a thin spot going forward; enough bits have been spilled about Michigan's receiver-mad recruiting class to fill all the tubes of the internets.
On the other hand, Feagin is the first Rodriguez recruit to leave [UPDATE: forgot about Taylor Hill, who left almost before he arrived] and did so in inauspicious circumstances. The email yesterday provided some murky detail on the violation of team rules and it's the sort of thing that is a no-BS immediate seeya type of thing. I'll let the actual journalists ferret out the details, as one anonymous, if prescient email does not a solid story make. I'd be surprised if it didn't end up in the papers eventually.
Though this kind of thing happens at a certain rate to all programs, it's another opportunity for evil bad PR gnomes to stroke their beards and mutter sagely about What Is Going On In Ann Arbor. And I (baselessly) liked the kid. How could you not, given the picture at right?
Also: you can subtract at least one additional point from Michigan's APR, which isn't going to be fatal or anything but it ain't good. Also also: I have Michigan at 20 scholarships for 2010 now, assuming that Cone and Wright don't get fifth years.
Hi. MGoBlog was a one man show, and then a guy I didn't know emailed me a bunch of stuff about how he was pretty sure Bryce McNeal was going to decommit given his Facebook status updates and wall posts. As per standard policy, I noted the information and didn't say anything about it since the tipster in question hadn't proven his mettle. Bryce McNeal proceeded to decommit, and Tom VanHaaren proposed he function as an MGoBlog recruiting correspondent using the magic of the internets (and, soon after, his phone).
I'd been thinking that social media was an untapped source of information and agreed, and soon started posting things like Anthony Fera chillin' with JoePa based on Tom's sleuthin' and talkin'. Tom set to providing a ton of valuable content and being the main force behind much of the news this site has managed to break in the last seven or eight months. It's surpassed all my expectations, and just goes to show that if you find someone with the right skill set and put them in the right spot, Good Things result.
MGoBlog is absorbing Varsity Blue, and intends to deploy Tim Sullivan as an internet-aware beat writer this fall. We've talked with the athletic department—which has been shockingly open and helpful with all this—and Tim is good to go. Paul will also join up in a capacity we'll work out as we go along—he's got a "job" that requires him to "go to work". Formerly Anonymous' outstanding baseball content will be imported 99% untouched. Important: I will not be writing any less.
This represents quite a reversal from MGoBlog's previous position on being a primary source and requires some explanation. So:
I don't plan on being the guy. One: I'm bad at it. Two: I'm good at other stuff. I've spent four years developing an expertise that has nothing to do with the tasks commonly associated with sports journalism. That expertise has propelled this blog to a living and represents a nigh-insurmountable hurdle for any other organization to clear. Spending my time doing something other than that's pretty dumb. So I won't.
I'd like to remain insulated from the corrupting influences of access*, and this arrangement will allow me to do that, mostly. The threat of losing access for your content is unavoidable once you start to benefit from it, but this site has already positioned itself as a site that's usually in Michigan's corner. I know they monitor this site and others, closely. They have not mentioned any issues.
The Varsity Blue guys all bring valuable expertise to the table. Paul and Tim were longtime WOLV stalwarts and have a four-plus-years head start on me in the stuff I'm bad at. As you might imagine, they also can do stuff with video that is extremely helpful on the web. And FA has encyclopedic knowledge of Michigan baseball, again something I lack. They all can use bigger platforms, and by joining up they can use some of the institutional cred I've accumulated over the past four years.
I think it can work. I'm not sure if twentysomething beatwriter with an internet orientation who might ask questions like "what's the deal with that formation where Greg Mathews is covered up in the slot?" will bring a ton of value to the table but it's at least worth an experiment. I'm going into this with the expectation it will be a two-year trial on both the part of the AD and MGoBlog, one that might not work. But think it will be valuable.
Offloading a portion of the daily burden should allow me to focus on some other stuff. Mostly this refers to recruiting, which VB already covers with aplomb. I plan on handing off a significant chunk of it to them, which will give me some extra time to work on research-heavy posts and more columns and whatnot.
This will also necessitate some changes as far as the presentation of information goes. Right now there's just a front page that gets updated 1-4 times daily and then the diaries and message board. More stuff will be hitting the front page now and we'll have to work to make that make sense for readers. I've always tried to avoid bombarding readers with way too much stuff to grok; that's going to be tougher now.
As always, try to bear with us—and it's now an actual us!—as we feel our way through this… undiscovered country. Spock.
Tim's first foray here is a trip to the Big Ten Media Days, where he will hopefully end up less pwned than I did.
*(I don't want to write something critical in UFR and have to worry about whether the player in question will give me the evil eye. And I don't want to get all friendly with another guy and pull my punches. Sportswriter bravado about facing down the subjects of your pieces is just testosterone.)
Any news regarding the possible eligibility of Jason Forcier for this upcoming season? Any idea when we might hear from the NCAA and any conjecture as to what the outcome might be? I’m guessing (based on the fact we haven’t heard anything) that this probably won’t happen.
I’d sure breathe easier with an experienced backup to the freshman tandem we are fielding.
Thanks! Best, Mark
No, not really. The elder Forcier's transferred to Michigan and applied for the semi-repealed Mundy waiver; a decision has to be coming in the next couple weeks since fall drills start in mid-August. I don't know how likely a waiver is, and neither does the athletic department. I asked Bruce Madej about it; the response: "we have not had this before so there is nothing to draw from."
As far as breathing easier… while it'll be nice to have Forcier around for multiple reasons—can't hurt Tate's adjustment to college, for one—I'd be mildly surprised if he ended up above Sheridan on the depth chart. He's had little time to learn the offense and at this point has far less D-I playing time than Sheridan. Even if he does win the third (second?) string spot, if he sees the field it will be time for serious panic.
The tight end position and the slot receiver position look as though they will have more competition and more depth this year. From early reports both Koger and Webb are some of the most athletic players on the team. Odoms will have his hands full trying to keep his starting slot position with Stokes, Roundtree, Gallon and Robinson behind him. Do believe this added depth will create changes in which formations are used. Maybe two TEs with Koger and Webb or could two slots be on the field and that the same time to make bubble screens to either side of the ball? Thanks.
You'll definitely see some formations with four wideouts and two slot guys; Rodriguez went to that frequently at West Virginia. As you note, that will prevent defenses from cheating on the bubbles and hopefully add some variety. And it might not end there. Gallon, Robinson, and Teric Jones all spent their high school careers in the backfield, and thus might be better candidates to go from the backfield to the slot or pull up to provide option pitch guys on QB runs. Gallon's got a pretty accurate arm for a 5'8" guy; I have waking dreams about Gallon pulling up to pass a la Antwaan Randle El in that Super Bowl.
As far as dual TE sets… well, I don't know. At West Virginia, Rodriguez would move Owen Schmitt around as an H-back and that was it as far as TEs went. So he's already in unexplored territory here. If I had to guess, though, I bet he tries it. He's an inveterate tinkerer and likes to mix up some I-form and whatnot to catch opponents off guard; if he's got two tight ends there will probably be a game in which we see a change-up dose of twin-TE ace sets. They can run zone stretches from that, too. I also bet that at least one of the hyped tight ends falls a little flat, causing significant separation between option A and option B and that twin TE sets never make it out of the exotics phase.
Those will feature more this year but It's another new formation I expect will emerge in the fall: a 1TE 2RB shotgun set with Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor in the same backfield. Michigan showed this in the spring game with some frequency and it promises to be difficult for opposing teams to defend as long as both seniors remain healthy.
Though we all know July is a complete and utter dead zone as far as college football is concerned, I thought of a question to occupy our time that hasn't really yet been asked. With everyone under the sun making predictions about how next season will go, no one has really considered or elaborated on what effect, if any, this season could have on the current 2010 class coaches are compiling. You, and several others, have mentioned that a 3 and 9 season caused an understandable dip in recruiting, perhaps prompting coaches to widely pursue more players (some of lower rank) while turning higher rated players off on Michigan, etc. Though rankings aren't everything.
But, if 2009 goes the way of 7 and 5 or even 6 and 6, do you see a potential increase in interest from guys either on the fence about Michigan or turned off by the Wolverine's 2008 season. Basically, can success in 2009 win over 2010 guys currently not on the board? If so, who? Or with this summer almost in the bag, are recruits starting to finalize their decisions and close the door on schools they haven't yet considered?
Eh… not much. By the time it'll be clear Michigan has improved and Rodriguez isn't a dead man walking, 99% of Michigan's targets will have already made their decision re: Michigan. For one, there won't be many slots in the class even midway through the fall. Michigan will add maybe 7 or 8 players before February, and by mid-September they'll probably have half of those guys. A competent season could collect one or two guys who might have gone elsewhere, and that effect is pretty marginal.
Where you would see a bounce is in the 2011 class.
Through The Wolverine Blog I saw a link to the Bentley image bank library at UM. I was checking out team photos from throughout the years (which is awesome) and came across this photo that appears to have the team wearing three different jerseys.
Any info on what the deal is with this? Is this just what they wore at practice back then? Would love to see some striped throwback jerseys sometime at Yost. These are nice too:
I have no answers for Gabo here, but I figure someone out there might. What's the deal with Michigan's motley collection of jerseys here? It's the Great Depression, so maybe they didn't sell enough pencils to get a unified kit. The guys on the right appear to have eaten their shirts entirely.
Hey, look over there… it's a bird, it's a plane, it's… AnnArbor.com:
According to a Detroit Police Department arrest report, Cissoko was a passenger in a car that was pulled over June 6 for speeding on Belle Isle.
After a three- or four-minute pursuit, the driver was asked out of the car and hand-cuffed. Cissoko then began yelling “Leave my boy the (expletive) alone,” the report said, and was arrested when he failed to comply with an officer's orders to stop.
Woo! We've got a Henry Gates of our own.
Upshot: a lone Fulmer Cup point, probably, and that's all. Rodriguez provided a generic statement about how the discipline is being handled internally, which implies he won't miss any time. Hopefully in the future Cissoko doesn't hang out with people who react to cop sirens by leading them on a brief chase on Belle Isle.
The Columbus Dispatch got ahold of the "one-plays"—conference opponents you don't play home-and-home—in the Big Ten this year, and Michigan got off easy:
Illinois at Michigan
Michigan at Purdue
IE: Michigan does not play in Champaign this year and Purdue does not play in Ann Arbor. With both teams looking like strong candidates for Sweet 16 seeds… eh… I'll take it. I wonder if Michigan knew about this when they decided to chuck Kansas onto the schedule?
UPDATE: The answer to the above question is "yes" according to a former student manager; the program knows well in advance who will rotate on and off the schedule.
Nosie. Boise announced their big nonconference game… and it's against Virginia Tech, which you will note is not Michigan. M is still casting about for a reasonable opponent to open the 2010 season. Options are getting thin on the ground.
Ok, let's talk about this again. Tennessee is pushing Eric Berry for the Heisman, which isn't going to happen unless Tennessee is way better than everyone expects they'll be but fine. I enjoy quixotic Heisman campaigns of all stripes and miss the defunct blogger version of the Heisman—even if it handed its lone trophy to Colt Brennan—because defenders and the occasional lineman featured.
Unfortunately, ESPN's Chris Low—the SEC version of Rittenberg—took the opportunity to launch a broadside at Charles Woodson's '97 win, which is for my money one of the few times the award has managed to make any goddamn sense. The reasoning, as you might expect, is flimsy and insular. A brief fisk:
The Heisman Trophy has been a dirty word on Rocky Top ever since Peyton Manning was jobbed of college football's most prestigious individual award back in 1997.
How does one get "jobbed" out of an award where people are handed ballots and asked to vote on who they think is the best player? Were there chads?
I'm not one of those conspiracy theorists…
This phrase is always followed by the author suggesting and supporting a conspiracy theory.
… but there sure seemed to be a movement by some in 1997 to keep Manning from winning the award.
See? "I'm not one of those conspiracy theorists" is a phrase that always means its opposite. There should be a word for that.
Part of it was his being forced down everybody's throats for four years, and part of it was the fact that he was winless against Florida.
Never mind that he delivered Tennessee its first SEC championship since the advent of the league championship game, was the driving force behind the Vols' remarkable 45-5 run from 1995-98 and threw for 3,819 yards and 36 touchdowns his senior season.
Q: What does Tennessee's '98 national title season have to do with Peyton Manning?
Chris Low A: Something.
Sane Person A: Not a goddamn thing.
He was saddled with the label of not being able to win the big one -- and despite his enormous talents -- became that guy some voters took glee in voting against.
Dude, the award purports to reward the best player in college football, and against Florida Manning threw two interceptions, one an 89-yard pick-six, and saw his team fall behind 33-14 before Manning managed a meaningless garbage time touchdown. He'd been outplayed by Doug Johnson. That opened the door. The New York Times on Manning after the Florida game: "A Heisman candidate? Yes. A hands-down winner in the fall? Please."
Then Woodson bashed through it by dominating Michigan's season-ending showdown against Ohio State by intercepting a pass, setting up one of Michigan's touchdowns with a long reception, and doing this:
One player failed, and another did not. It's harsh to say Peyton Manning "couldn't win the big one" but it's not a stretch to claim that Charles Woodson blew him out of the water in both teams' most important games of the season.
How else do you explain 93 of the 921 electors that year not even having Manning on their ballots?
I'm not sure where Low's getting his numbers, as the official site has vote counts that disagree with his accounting. There are 815 first-place votes accounted for of 921 electors, leaving 97 ballots without Manning. Woodson was left off 75. As Low's amply demonstrated here, "never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity" may be a general-purpose axiom but it goes double for sportswriters.
Most years Peyton Manning would have been a slam dunk. He'd be a more deserving winner than 80% of the guys who actually got the trophy. But he had the misfortune to run up against the only compelling (primarily) defensive player in the history of the award. I'm sure a few people were swayed by the idea it was cool to vote for a defender, but it's not like he was undeserving. That's what grates about every Tennessee bitch: they all assert, directly or in-, that Woodson didn't deserve it and the '97 Heisman was a sham and a fraud. Well, whatever. Scoreboard.
BCS bowls were a candle in the wind. Yeah, I follow Charlie Weis on Twitter. I also follow Rich Rodriguez, but Rodriguez hasn't posted anything in months, which is probably wise. Weis still hasn't gotten the concept of self-contained 140-character thoughts—needs to do some self-scouting there—but does provide awesome biographical details:
Got home even later than that last night returning from Chicago, where I saw a concert at Wrigley Field.
Some google sleuthing reveals these guys to be the target of Weis' concert-going affections:
Which lol perfect. Both appear to be on the same strenuous diet of porkfat ice cream that Weis is, too.
Secret cabal postponement. The coaches poll's plan to go dark—complained about in this space earlier—has been delayed. The heroes are the same bunch of villains that got us in this mess:
The return to a lack of transparency upset BCS officials more than what was originally known. There are indications that the change could be a deal breaker, going forward, in the coaches poll's inclusion in the BCS.
In this, at least, the rabble and the Powers That Be are united. If the BCS was ticked off this year they're not likely to be less ticked off if the coaches poll attempts to pull this stunt in the future; I expect we'll see the secret cabal stuff quietly shelved and put next to Hated Rule 3-2-5e on the Shelf of Horrible College Football Ideas.
(HT: Wizard of Odds.)
Spread origins and expansion. It seems like I link 80% of Smart Football's posts, but I blame Chris Brown for making everything so interesting. This latest exchange is more relevant than stuff about four verticals so it avoid the sidebar. Post the first concerns late Northwestern coach Randy Walker's adoption of the Rodriguez spread and what he brought to it:
what Rodriguez showed them was less a new way to attack the problem of good defenses but more just a new way to think about attacking the problem. Rodriguez showed them the shotgun and the zone read stuff they were doing at Clemson and had done at Tulane, but the reason it clicked for Wilson and Walker is that they realized that they could run all their old stuff -- the zones, the power, counter, option, etc -- all from spread sets.
And this was probably the great leap forward for the spread. Indeed, if you look at what Rodriguez was doing at Clemson, a lot of it is there in terms of the zone read, but a lot of it too was just Woody Dantzler running around. It was Walker that took the idea of "spread-to-run" and "zone-read" and systemized it.
The incessant linking must have garnered Chris a number of consistent Michigan readers, because he followed up that post with another one defending his sort-of demotion of Rich Rodriguez from spreadfather to spread… uh, something else.
Really? I try not to tread too heavily on the premium sites' information. I'll freely link to headers and free articles, and will summarize the general feel for a recruit on the interwebs, a feeling that usually starts with posts from insider-type people and then flows outwards onto message boards here and elsewhere. But I rarely lift quotes directly from premium articles*, and even then it's usually to pull something awesome out like Brandon Herron calling Texas Tech "a box surrounded by dirt."
The Free Press has no such qualms anymore, I guess, as they've grabbed Barry Every and Scott Kennedy's brief, premium evaluations of the Elite 11 quarterbacks and posted the Devin Gardner bits. Is this uncool? I kind of think so since the only reason you'd send people to the Elite 11 is to get people to pay for the assessment of their commited QB.
FWIW, Gardner killed it, with Every asserting he was one of the top two quarterbacks in attendance:
"He may not be as big or fast as current Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, but he is a close second. I am torn between him and Bolden as to who I would take to build a college football team around."
State fans go "doh" in unison here.
*(The one major exception to this was when ESPN's player evaluations were behind a paywall; I'd usually pull out a few sentences of a three-paragraph scouting report when putting up a commit post. I figured they'd take the tradeoff of links and exposure for ESPN Insider, and they soon opened up their evaluations to the general public anyway.)
Etc.: Smart Football on yet more lawsuits targeting the NCAA and EA Sports. Ace continues his series on goofy team photos with impossibly young-looking freshman future stars. The Ann Arbor News expires, puts up photo wall a la Battlestar Galactica.