"I love it that Ivy League coaches are coming to our camp and Big Ten coaches are coming to our camp. South Florida is coming. We've got about 70 schools that are coming to our camp."
Just one observation turned daunting question. While reading the position breakdowns and the subsequent 2008 recruiting class analysis [in Hail To The Victors 2008], I found myself wondering, "what about Sam McGuffie?" You referred to him in the Running Back section of the breakdown as a potential contributor, and highlighted his infamous mix tape we have all come to love, but you did not provide the recruiting breakdown that you did to others (though you said you failed to do so with some due to earlier coverage provided, but you did not mention him in this instance).
All I am really wondering is what kind of impact will McGuffie have on the immediate impact of the team? As you pointed out, athletes are the life-blood of the Rich Rodriguez system, and he has a good amount (many true freshman) at his disposal. Still, as highly touted a recruit as he was, and the buzz that he has created along the way, I would love to see him have an impact as soon as possible.
Is he ready?
Fall practice hasn't started yet, so no one really knows. There are reports floating around claiming him to be like this awesome unstoppable squirrel-man, but what context is this in? At Big Ten Media Days, Rodriguez mentioned getting reports from seven-on-seven sessions that the players are evidently running of their own volition. (College football summer workouts have a very complex idea of free will.) If the Squirrel Man reports have any basis in reality, they're coming from pad-free skeleton passing drills in which finding "empty grass" is as easy as stepping on the field. This is also known as McGuffie Heaven.
If McGuffie wasn't tearing up seven-on-seven drills it would bode unwell; killing them is a necessary but not sufficient prerequisite to the dominance we all envision. Unfortunately, I can't find this in the archives but last year I came across video from one of McGuffie's playoff games in which he looked small, man. Like 164 pounds small, which was what he was listed at when he put up the 4.32 40 that put him on the map even before his junior year explosion. Mixtape goes here:
The skeptical insiders, few that they may be, usually cite his overwhelming tininess as a reason it'll be a while before he sees the field, and they'd definitely have a point if Lloyd Carr was still the sheriff in this town. But he's not. The Rodriguez offense doesn't care if you can move the pile or scratch out a third-and-three or even pass block much. It just wants you to find the aforementioned empty grass, then run a long way. It's kind of a glorified seven-on-seven drill.
With Kevin Grady in the doghouse and Michael Shaw listed as a wide receiver on the preliminary fall roster, McGuffie's path to the field is now significantly clearer. I doubt he'll pass either Minor or Brown, who've proven themselves far more capable than David Underwood had, but I think a year in the Noel Devine role is forthcoming. Further rationale can be had in the 2008 recruiting recap of McGuffie.
OK, so I found another question you should have asked at the Big Ten meetings...Looking through the weekly release there are four "Quality Control" coaches listed. What the hell does *that* mean?Keep up the good work,Mike
Brian,You've mentioned some of the things you'd like to ask (TE's in the new offense... OK, so thing, singular). And expressed your - and I assume everyone's - exasperation with the lack of new/serious questions coming from the traditional media. If you were gifted a sit-down with Rodriguez what would be on your list of questions, trying as much as possible to remain and football related and tilling the ground for non-redundant information?I know there's rules pertaining to talking about specific recruits, but asking about how he judges the "Southern Strategy" so far, and time/effort allocation as far as that goes, the general DE situation, how one jumps in to sell a school he himself is still learning about and how he sees those pitches changing as he gets into the job. Maybe the initial reaction he sees to the changing level of openness not usually associated with the Football program. Or posing the same question you've been getting: Can you make me not afraid about this season?
Anyway, I was wondering more what *you* had in mind as you camp out in Chicago. Granted an interview (30 min., an hour, something of decent length) what would you ask?-Colin
These are the things I had written down to ask if I got a chance:
"You have six tight ends on the roster and an offense that hasn't thrown a pass to a tight end in seven years. What are you going to do with these guys?" [asked, got a vague answer.]
"How did you initially strike upon Scott Shafer as a defensive coordinator? Were you aware of his rampant blitzing tendencies? Do you think the higher risk balances out with sacks and turnovers?" [first part asked by Tom Dienhart; exploration of how Rodriguez understands applied football mathematics left untouched.]
"You've run more than 70% of the time in the last few years at West Virginia; this has generally worked out well but when the offense bogs down it doesn't seem to have a backup option. In your ideal offense, what's the run-pass split? Is your dream quarterback more Pat White or Donovan McNabb?" [this came up quite a bit and rodriguez answered it thoroughly]
"There are three minutes left in the game and your opponent is out of time outs. You're up two. You have the ball on your opponent's 34; this is outside of your kicker's field goal range. It's fourth and four. What do you do?"
"Have you heard of David Romer? (If not, explain David Romer.) Do you think that makes sense? Do you like David Romer? Please tell me you like David Romer."
"Your recruiting has a much more Southern bent than Michigan's had previously. What's the rationale behind that? Does southern speed actually, like, exist, in your opinion? Does it worry you that Michigan's going to be picking the leftovers from instate schools?"
"Why the hell is it so hard to convince kids to leave Mississippi?" [Seriously. I want to know this.]
"If you call all the offensive plays, what's Calvin Magee's role as your offensive coordinator?"
"Are you concerned that the proliferation of the spread offense will blunt its efficiency? Do you think it's just plain superior to other offenses or is it something you'd discard if the game shifted to it too hard?'
"It's been reported that Michigan is moving to a spread punt formation. What's the advantage of that, and why have so many teams moved to it?"
"How has your recruiting changed since you've arrived at Michigan? Have you aimed at a different sort of player? Most of West Virginia's high-rated recruits had legal or academic issues; was that a product of necessity? Is there any advantage in taking guys hanging by a thread?"
"Are some high profile recruits turned off by Mike Barwis and his general promise to work you like a dog? Do you prefer a guy with a high athletic ceiling or one with crazy work ethic?"
"In last year's Rutgers game Greg Schiano consistently stunted the backside DE into a gap and blitzed off the corner. Have you seen this sort of defense before? What does it do to the spread and how do you combat it?"
"How does your offense change when the defense doesn't have to respect the QB keeper on the zone read?"
Many of these would draw vague responses designed to sort of answer the question without really answering anything, unfortunately. I think the Rutgers one might get a point-blank "no," but if it got answered that would be extremely interesting. I think the key is to ask about specific incidents or strategies and avoid the 10,000 foot view; make it as hard as possible for them to slip into generalities. That's is something that would be much easier in the immediate aftermath of games.
A couple of weeks back, you made the following comment: "And Steven Threet is not necessarily chopped liver. He was Rivals' #8 QB prospect two years ago, a four-star with a number of attractive offers. In an alternate universe where Carr is still the coach and Mallett is still around, I bet he's still your odds-on favorite to start this fall."
I found this to be a very provocative statement (about Threet potentially starting over Mallett) -- do you have anything to back this up, or was it just a hunch?
Thanks and Go Blue!
If by "anything to back this up" you mean anything more than the avalanche of insider rumblings and tips that came in over the course of the fall, no. I wrote this in February and still believe it to be true:
About every week I got an email from someone on campus who had seen the kid getting high or trashed. Some talked to him; all who did came away with the opinion that the guy didn't care about anything. Sources inside the program confirmed multiple times that Mallett had a major attitude problem, something that was so pervasive that it even worked it way into one of the local newspapers. The dissent was evident on the sidelines during the disastrous Wisconsin game, when Mario Manningham bitched him out on the sidelines, or during Mallett's disastrous stint in the Illinois game, when Carr bitched him out for two solid minutes.
In October I wrote this based on multiple sources:
The situation here is precarious; without a major attitude adjustment things could be very sketchy at quarterback next year.
I have heard it far and wide and so many times from so many sources that the conclusion is indisputable: Ryan Mallett is the reason Ryan Mallett transferred, no matter what Ryan Mallett's mom -- no doubt the least biased source around -- says.
Mallett was in such deep conflict with Carr and his performance onfield was so miserable that the "experience" gained was a net deficit. Barring a 180 wherein Mallett got "on the same page" with Carr -- always a possibility when you're dealing with a 18-year old kid -- is he going to go with the kid he hates and doesn't play well or the kid he likes and hasn't, like, thrown a ball backwards to Carson Butler?
Update 7/28: Added LA DT Dequinta Jones as a commit. Linked to articles on OH OL Marcus Hall, FL QB Eugene Smith, VA QB Kevin Newsome (another), notes on MN WR Bryce McNeal and Newsome, CA QB Tate Forcier, AR CB Darius Winston, SC DEs Chris Bonds and Sam Montgomery, NV DE Keenan Graham, TN CB Marsalis Teague, SC DE Chris Bonds, TX K Anthony Fera (Some links via VB).
Removed NC WR Jheranie Boyd (dropped us), TX OL Nick Ash (Nebraska).
Also: Jim Stefani's got some thoughts on Michigan's class to date.
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting board lives here.
As per usual: quarterbacks. This hit the front page late last week, but it's worth repeating: VA QB Kevin Newsome said something other than "no comment" about his recruiting and it was reassuring:
"I'm committed to Michigan," Newsome said. "Me and Bryce McNeal were going around bragging how we're going to beat Randall Carroll, who's going to USC, Cierre Wood, who's going to Notre Dame. We were bragging about things like that."
Doubly reassuring was the wave of praise that followed Newsome's appearance. Newsome, of course, started the recruiting year in the top 20 players at both sites and has dropped steadily since. Josh Helmholdt's operative theory on why Newsome's performance dipped after the Army All American junior combine that got him rated a five-star player:
In January, at the U.S. Army combine in San Antonio, the 6-foot-3, 217-pound Newsome was sensational throwing the football. He showed off his strong arm and displayed exceptional accuracy while throwing a very catchable ball. The one question that lingered after his performance in San Antonio, however, was the length of his delivery.
Newsome worked on shorten his delivery about the same time he started running track for his high school this spring (Newsome won the 2008 Virginia Class AAA state title in the 110-meter hurdles for Western Branch with a time of 14.15 seconds). For a few weekends, he was able to get away from his track team to compete at two Elite 11 camp qualifiers, but the rust in his arm showed.
The adjustment period appears to be over. Rivals guy Jeremy Crabtree (same article):
"Kevin was dramatically improved from what we saw of him in our events this spring and summer," Crabtree noted. "He talked about being able to be more focused on football and not worried about track and he started working on a lot of the little things on his own.
"He just showed great work ethic and it was impressive to watch as you left the field on Sunday and he was still out there throwing balls at targets by himself. The kid wants to get better and already has gotten better. It's going to be interesting to see where he will be when he's able to get focused on football 24/7."
Meanwhile, CA QB Tate Forcier continues to narrow his focus, eliminating schools as they pick up quarterback commitments:
"I've got a solid six," Forcier said. "Right now it is Michigan, Oregon, Penn State, Florida, Washington State and New Mexico."
(I've got ten bucks that says New Mexico is not the choice.) There's no leader, technically, but which school on the list has two QB commits and a seemingly impervious spot in his top five?
"That's possible, but I think I might take a few officials. It could get done within the first few weeks of the season, maybe even before," Forcier said. "I know one of my officials will definitely be Michigan. One's probably going to be a Florida one and probably Penn State."
The timing here is bad. The above article indicates that Forcier, like Newsome, plans a January enrollment at the school of his choice; this space had previously asserted that Forcier's apparent willingness to wait provided Michigan an excellent backup plan in the event of a Newsome decommit. If he's enrolling early that's off the table.
Would Michigan even take a commit from Forcier at this point? They're clearly still recruiting him. Whether that's as a precaution or as a potential third quarterback in the class is murky. I've made my position clear: no offense to Forcier, but Newsome is a linebacker-sized honor roll student, class president, and state hurdles champion who's had little if any quality coaching thus far and is transferring to a prep school, then enrolling early. He has massive upside and is working feverishly to make that upside come to fruition. He's okay with Shavodrick Beaver coming in with him, which will give Michigan at least four viable options next fall.
If I'm choosing between Newsome and Forcier with the slight possibility Newsome doesn't decommit, give me Newsome. Michigan shouldn't risk his commitment.
Oh, and: FL QB Eugene Smith had us in his top five recently, though he's backed off of the idea of a top five altogether now. Whee!
As for MN WR Bryce McNeal, The Top Gun camp giveth security and the Top Gun camp taketh it away:
McNeal says he's still "100 percent committed" to the Wolverines, but he plans to keep a close eye on how first-year coach Rich Rodriguez runs his version of the spread offense. McNeal also said he plans to take his official visits just to be sure.
"I can't wait (to see Michigan's offense)," McNeal said. "It's going to be a big deal for me. I'm 100 percent on my commitment and everything, but I'm still going to take my officials to make sure I'm certain. If they come out and just pound that ball, I'm going to have to think about some things."
Florida, Oklahoma, Clemson, and Louisville are hypothetically on the docket. McNeal also showed well at the Top Gun camp, landing in Crabtree's top 11 players at the camp:
McNeal spent most of the camp on the sideline with a tweaked hamstring, but when he was out there Saturday and Sunday, he showed more than enough to explain why he's ranked among the nation's elite receivers. A tall and athletic prospect, McNeal - a Michigan commitment - had some of the softest hands in the camp. He also ran crisp routes. He was having a heck of a camp before the injury, and Michigan fans should be excited about his progress.
Sounds like his ranking is secure.
Kickers are about to or have actually gotten offers, depending on who you listen to. The Old Coach put out a story indicating TX K Anthony Fera had picked up a Michigan offer; there's also this kid in Florida named Brendan Gibbons. Sounds like Michigan is going to offer both and take the first one to commit, which should yield a kicker by mid-August.
Michigan is set this year with Kicking Competency Lopata returning for a final year, but after his departure they'll have only an assortment of walkons and recruited kicker Bryan Wright. Michigan's willingness to offer a scholarship kicker when he's got two years of eligibility left should tell you all you need to know about their opinion of his performance to date. Assuming Michigan picks up either Fera or Gibbons and the new guy ends up starting, Wright's unlikely to get a fifth year.
Defensive ends. With Lousiana defensive linemen DeQuinta Jones hitting the LSU camp at 305 and seemingly establishing himself a defensive tackle, Michigan needs them, and how.
It looks like you can scratch off NV DE Keenan Graham, who the LA Times reports will take an official to UCLA and that "Virginia Tech could end up being one of the only other schools that Graham visits" before he commits. SC DE Sam Montgomery is "expected to stay in state" according to ESPN, but Michigan will get an official.
More happily, SC DE Chris Bonds will set an official visit to Michigan; his other trips will be to Alabama, USC, Notre Dame, and Tennessee. He's a big fish.
AR CB Darius Winston decommitted from Arkansas a few weeks ago and named Michigan his leader. Unfortunately, he's backed off that assertion:
"I have been just quiet about everything," Winston said. "I just don't really have a top school right now. I'm just open and focusing on my season."
Despite his decommit from the Razorbacks, Winston attended the most recent Arkansas camp; he also plans stops at Ole Miss and LSU. Michigan should still get an official.
I'm not too excited about anyone from Glenville listing Michigan, but this on OH OL Marcus Hall might be worth mentioning:
For some time, Ohio State, Illinois and USC were atop Hall's list. That has changed. "Illinois, Ohio State, Florida State and Michigan, those four are all pretty even at top right now."
Ohio State was the prohibitive favorite, but with 24 commitments and a few guys in a holding pattern the Buckeyes may run out of slots; Hall may also look at the depth chart and decide to go somewhere he won't be stuck behind a couple five stars.
I am left uncertain how to react. I would call for Matt's jersey to be retired, only we don't assign numbered uniforms in the blogosphere. I would put my meager talents as a songwriter to use in penning a Don McLeanesque paean, but, although the site is coming to an end, Buddy Holly will continue to cut albums, as it were, so such a dirge would be excessive.
SMQ himself erroneously headlines the departure announcement "SMQ Sells Out," probably because he and I and most of the leading vanguard of getting-towards-30 college football bloggers came of age in the Nirvana era, when "selling out" went from changing who you were for money to being paid, period. SMQ is not selling out by the former definition; we should welcome the latter.
I've got a pretty good idea where he's headed, a month or so ago I got pinged by an old associate in search of recommendations for a national, full-time college football blogger and feverishly recommended him. I assume that everyone else contacted responded in a similar fashion, and further assume he got the gig. I won't spoil the surprise, but rest assured that SMQ is going to a place where he will be compensated for his words and -- this is important -- be forced to post many more of them. He will not be turned into a drone that asks coaches how they feel about OSU's national title losses. This is a win-win.
Proposal. Tim Tebow went to Thailand, stole a baby, and did a Heisman pose in front of cameras, but he was evidently beat to it by this guy:
Seeing a civilian do this gave me an idea: all college football blogs that deign to have the sort of "about" page that contains a picture should find a baby and stiffarm the hell out of someone imaginary. Crocs optional. I am working on baby acquisition. Temporary baby acquisition.
We're hunting witches. Here's the Outside the Lines piece on Penn State's outburst of bad behavior in recent years:
Except for the "To Catch A Predator" tone of the voiceover, that seemed pretty fair: mention of the high graduation rates and acknowledgement of how many charges actually resulted in convictions, something that the list flying around the internet failed to do. (They should have ommitted Austin Scott's rape charges, as those never even made trial.)
The numbers are still high, though, and Paterno's combative, dismissive interactions with ESPN Chris Hansen were embarrassing. More embarassing: the interviews with the guys who live in the apartment where Anthony Scirrotto's posse rode rougshod over random engineering students, and the general reaction of the university ("clean up the stadium!") and local police force ("one guy gets a misdemeanor assault beef!") to what sounds like a situation that warranted far more.
Depth chartin'. I haven't seen this anywhere else, but Varsity Blue claims to have a copy of the first official depth chart. Interesting items[update: commenters point out this is just the same thing that was release immediately after spring. Oh well]:
- Starting SLB is listed as Austin Panter. SLB is Mouton or Evans, MLB Ezeh or Thompson.
- Strong safety is Harrison or Stewart.
- OL from left to right: Ortmann, McAvoy, Moosman, Zirbel, Schilling.
- Hemingway the other starter at outside receiver; Clemons listed as the starter in the slot (no freshmen yet: Jim Potempa is his backup.)
More detail over at VB.
Bill Martin (Ann Arbor, MI) steered his Great Lakes 70 Stripes to three first place finishes in three races in IRC Class 1 on Sunday to grab first place in the Rolex US-IRC National Championship. Martin wins the second annual championship trophy and much more, a specially engraved Rolex Steel and Platinum Yacht-Master timepiece.
'I've finally won a national championship,' Martin said when told of his win. 'My wife has a national championship in the Cal 25 Class seven years ago. We're finally even.'
Martin attributed his three bullets on the last day to excellent crew work and to Bruce Nelson, his tactician for the regatta. 'We had impeccable crew work throughout the regatta and especially in the three final races. Every sail selection was perfect. We hit every lay line perfectly. Bruce and the crew were spot on for the series.'
At least it was all worth it in the end, I guess: one Rolex and one Rich Rodriguez later, everyone's happy. Except West Virginia, obviously.
Okay, I did get two questions answered. One: I asked Illinois center Ryan McDonald about J Leman's American flag tie. Had he seen the picture? Yes. Does he just wear that thing? "Every time I see him with a tie it's in an American flag tie." But he apparently didn't wear it to the wedding. "If you're in a tux, you can't pull that off."
J Leman picture goes here.
The other: I did get my question about the number of tight ends on the roster off. Rodriguez responded "well, now that's not entirely true, we threw to Owen Schmitt quite a bit and sometimes he lined up at tight end," at which point I gave him an "aw, come on" kind of beaten-down puppy dog look and he went into a spiel about how at Michigan they have the sort of tight ends they've never had at West Virginia and how they're looking to use them. I asked further about what was the rationale for having them split into the slot when traditionally slot receivers in the spread are 5'8" electron guys.
Rodriguez: "You want to look for mismatches part of what we're experimenting with that with the tight ends. If they can prove to be a mismatch on the field we'll use them; if they can't, they won't."
This was not as revelatory as I hoped, but it wasn't about how he feels about leadership, man.
Clarification: The stuff about Michigan hating children by ducking out of Lamarr Woodley's golf this is a miscommunication and they'll be there next year.
Observation: Curtis Painter has an unbelievable amount of product in his hair.
Theme: Rich Rodriguez would like you to know he's not married to running 70% of the time. This came up at various times as people came in and out, most artfully asking if he was stupid enough to run Steven Threet 30 times a game but all polite like. Rodriguez: "We've been pigeonholed as a club that runs. We have to have enough flexibility to go a couple different ways. You see one spread and it's not like another spread. The spread you can go a lot of different ways."
Later, he was asked about recruiting and segued in to this bit: "We don't have to have Pat White. Pat's a special guy but you can get a guy who can move a little bit and be accurate, we'll go with that." There was a followup about that and Rodriguez made an interesting point: "We're practicing the same plays when Shawn King is the quarterback and Pat White, we just call them differently. In practice we don't focus on one or the other. In the game we were calling what's working."
Stonum. "Stonum is five months ahead of him because he got there five months ahead." Stonum's chances of playing are better because he enrolled early.
Zinger. Much was made about this "apostles" bit that Rodriguez has going on; at one point Rodriguez clarified the deal: "We've always had a group of leaders; we let the players pick. Sometimes it's as simple as picking pregame music. It's not like we're making major decisions. They're making suggestions."
Angelique Chengelis then got off a pretty good one: "there's only one Jesus Christ." Rodriguez, thankfully, did not claim that happiness for himself.
Thing that makes HULK SMASH: IF YOU START A QUESTION WITH "IT'S A CLICHE, BUT" DO NOT ASK THAT QUESTION.
This would be slightly interesting if I knew who Rodriguez was talking about: "He looks stronger. He's done a great job according to Mike and looks like he has as far as getting stronger across the board; he's got a terrific attitude."
Pick your favorite player. That's who he's talking about.
On recruiting: "We trust our own judgments... recruiting rankings are a little overblown but not always. Would I take a roster full of five star guys? I would, if they have the right attitude."
"I think we can go anywhere in the country. Our base areas: Michigan, surrounding states, also an emphasis in Florida. Fortunately for us we think we've got enough of a brand name to at least give us a shot. Some of it is system-oriented, but a lot of it is just the player and attitude all coaches want in athletes."
Observation: no one wants to talk to Purdue LB Anthony Heygood.
Boilerplate: "The thing i like about camp is that it's all football from morning to night. In the spring guys have classes and all that and they've got responsibilities and the like. We'll certainly know our guys better at the end of August. I will know our team a whole lot better after 30 days."
Minor HULK SMASH moment: At this point the Dis-paaatch guy actually asks the us against the world question, which is always "do you think the team is adopting an "us against the world" mentality?" Rodriguez says "no."
Weird: Players vote on captains before the last regular season game.
Opinion on something that's not that interesting. Rodriguez was asked about this movement towards national officiating crews instead of conference-affiliated ones: "National officiating crews are a good idea; just want the games to be consistently called. The attempt to go national is an attempt to be more consistent." He also said he hadn't noticed much of a difference between conferences in bowl games and such.
Joke about referees: "I used to yell at them a lot when I was younger, but then I figured out they aren't going to change the call so I stopped."
Carlos Brown gon' take some snaps, probably. Carlos Brown was brought up; Rodriguez dubbed him a "wildcard" because he missed so much of spring when he sliced his finger open. This led into a good question from someone who I couldn't identify: "how many guys will touch the ball at quarterback this year." Rodriguez repeated the question with an arched eyebrow, paused, and then exclaimed "good question! I set the over-under: 20"
Then he said this: "we've got to be creative, moreso now than we might have to in the future."
My take-home: hello, Wildcat.
Also, on Feagin: he has to "make his mark in the first two weeks" and will be "given everything he can handle mentally."
How do you feel about the Big Ten perception Ohio State blah? "If you want to change that perception, you've got to win."
Oops. The past few years there were a lot of schools visiting West Virginia, but not ones that he thought he'd play. Including... uh... Ohio State.
The last bit in this quote is reassuring for me, though: "There's no patents on schemes. We never give them everything. Like we never tell people why we call this play in a certain situation. They bring us stuff here, We try to get smarter every year, learn some things from people all the time."
Theme: The other side of "salty language." Talking points from Morgan Trent and Tim Jamison when asked about how Rodriguez was different from Carr. Trent: "he's a little more intense, a little more vocal. He wants it to be chaotic environment in practice so we're ready during the game." Jamison: "He brings a lot of energy, it's great for us. He's not going to pat you on the butt. He demands greatness of you. You need to get better every day. You need to get ready to compete."
Tim Jamison: "I don't think anyone else is going to leave. I think everyone else is ready, confident, and has brought into the program. We're just working out hard, watching TV, hearing about how bad Michigan is going to be. I'm not going to brag on what we're going to do, but we're excited to go into training camp."
Stock answer. Jamison on defending the spread better this year because Michigan has a spread: "As the year went on we got better at it but we can't help but get better at it this year."
What kind of football will people see out of Michigan? American football. Ha. Jamison: "You're going to see a team that's very conditioned, very physical, anxious. We're anxious to see what we're going to do as well."
Awww, Lloyd Carr. Jamison, laughing: "The Brown Jug is the only rivalry Carr broke down from start to finish. From the beginning to the end, every year."
7/25/2008 - Dienhart 1, MGoBlog 0 - Pwned
So I'm sitting in the "media workroom" here at Big Ten Media days after the two hour-period this morning when all the coaches and players sit at different tables and answer questions posted by print and radio media. Some guy in his late twenties with close-cropped hair sat at the next table, prompting the bearded old hand next to me to ask: "totally overwhelmed yet?"
"Not really," he responded.
"Just so much information" was the reply, and then the old hand lapsed into thoughtful silence.
These are the fruits of my labors, the sum total of information I have to bring to you based on my penetrating questions that I envisioned would stun the people I questioned into mute appreciation of my knowledge before offering clear, concise descriptions of exactly what I wanted to know:
"I'm not going to tell you."
"I'm not going to answer that question."
"We strive for balance."
Other people did manage to get off queries that were answered interestingly, but very few. For a prolonged period, I sat at the table Rich Rodriguez was condemned to and tried to get one of the above-mentioned Penetrating Questions in but was constantly cut off by two adversaries I began referring to in my head (and notes) as Enormous Forehead Guy and Smarmy Young Journo, who would leap in at the perfect moment with a question of incredible uselessness like "who do you think has more pressure on them, the players or the coaches?" and then nod sagely as Rodriguez spun out his answer. In this case: "it's equal" was followed by few meandering sentences that served to completely rebuke the very idea of the question in the politest way possible.
This did not occur to the adversaries. I am communing with football, Enormous Forehead appeared to think. This is great stuff. SYJ looked on very seriously indeed, as if Rodriguez's answer to this purposeless question was a papal edict on an ethical matter of exceeding complexity. The force at which my eyes rolled back into my head threatened whiplash; fortunately everyone was fixated on Rodriguez and my lack of professionalism went unremarked upon. (And what better way to get away with it than post it on your blog? Mooohahaha!)
It was at this point my tolerance snapped. I'd like to say I stood and gave a thunderous edict that completely changed journalism forever. I didn't. Instead I typed this into my notes:
"who has more pressure, the players or the coaches?" I WANT TO DIE. I AM SITTING TWO FEET FROM RICH RODRIGUEZ AND CAN'T GET A QUESTION IN AND MORONS OF MORONLAND ARE MORONING MY TIME AWAY FUUUUUUCK
I was stressed! I felt much better, though.
It was at this point that Tom Dienhart, who I've considered a dolt ever since he penned a really awful column that chastized an imaginary avatar of Michigan fandom he dubbed "Boy Blue" or "Blue Boy" or something like that, [turns out it was "Big Blue Boy" -- even worse -ed] asked a simple question about how Scott Shafer came to the attention of Rich Rodriguez. Rodriguez said "hey, Tom," shook Deinhart's hand, commented negatively upon his Spartan green Rivals.com polo, and spoke. Thus spake the pope (the following is a paraphrase, not a quote):
I first looked into Scott when he was at I was at West Virginia and we were playing Maryland; Shafer was at Northern Illinois when they beat Maryland and Alabama, which is a big accomplishment when you're Northern Illinois. It wasn't necessarily just the schemes but how hard and aggressive they played. Then I saw what he did at Stanford, beating USC. He's a good fit for what we want to do.
This is pretty interesting, and it led into an entertaining anecdote about Shafer talking to his wife Missy, who asked "you aren't going to be changing jobs again, are you?" (Shafer had, at this point, been at three schools in four years.) Shafer downplayed the idea, headed off to a coaching convention, and immediately got a phone call from Rich Rodriguez.
Meanwhile, I'm just sitting around fuming. My notes before the paraphrase above: "Scott Shafer. Dienhart just asks my question." I have been owned.
Why am I here? Have I gotten anything useful out of this at all, or would my time have been better spent in the Batcave (read: mother's basement) pounding out a preview of Minnesota or something? I have absolutely no better handle on how Michigan will do this year. I don't even have the barest smidge of news to bring you: the two pieces of actual news I've heard have been common knowledge on the internet for a month. I couldn't get anyone to say anything even remotely interesting. I'm pretty sure Travis Beckum thinks I have Down's Syndrome. A rousing success, this is not.
The one saving grace is going back to that Dienhart piece, though, which remains as putrescent as it was when I hammered it a couple years ago. It's really bad: shallow thinking, lame jokes, no justification for any of its premises. Theory: being a good beatwriter/interviewer-guy and being a good opinion merchant are not just unrelated skills but are somewhere near mutually exclusive. I spend my time combing the internet for any piece of novel information I can find, reviewing games and compiling stats, reasoning out things I think about football and compiling evidence to justify my beliefs.
Beatwriters try to eke out interesting responses from interview adversaries. They're believers in the holy grail of access, which necessitates thinking on an entirely different level. It's not real unless it comes from your access, so only things that people say are real. (And often they're deliberately not saying anything.) Take just about any newspaper article or radio piece or anything, really, reported in the objective style favored by the media these past 50 years:
- THING is controversial.
- "THING is great, I love thing" says person X.
- But group Y says THING has PROPERTY OR EFFECT that is negative.
- "I hate THING, think of the children" says person Z from Group Y.
- But person X of group W disagrees.
- "I disagree," says person X.
- Ain't it a funny old world?
This is just about the complete opposite of critical thinking. There is a skill in it; it is not my skill, and my skill is not theirs.
I did transcribe some stuff of debatable utility; that's coming up.
They didn't boot me. I even got a nice shiny pass and everything. I didn't get off any questions to Rich Rodriguez, because god knows he's got to answer stuff about West Virginia and Justin Boren sixty thousand times, but I did ask Joe Paterno what he thought about an early signing period, mostly because the poor guy was about to ninja-kick the next guy who prefaced a question about his potential retirement in some way that implied he would never, ever ask aboout his potential retirement.
I took notes both on Rich Rodriguez's 15 minutes and the INCREDIBLY FRUSTRATING post-interview scrum afterwards.
Like this, only with dumb questions about West Virginia
ONLY SLIGHTLY STALE NEWS: Not that you expected any different, but Rodriguez confirmed that Slocum was off the team. Dispiritingly for would-be lionizers (guilty), he said that it was "academic and other reasons... he did not do the things he had to to remain on the team."
Also, someone wedged a question in about the academic status of the recruits and Rodriguez responded that everyone was good to go. I think this was already known, but confirmation can't hurt. Boubacar Cissoko was reputed to be the player at greatest risk.
Now, onto people asking about West Virginia and my increasing apoplexy.
RICH RODRIGUEZ is excited to be here. Great start. Hopes to meet some of y'all for the first time... little bit of drama for the last seven months he would like to clear up. Has great respect for players, coaches, and the league itself. He's excited to be here. He's been waiting all summer on his new "snake oil concoction" to provide him... uh. (Yeah, kinda wish he didn't say that. )
References the strength staff, getting guys into shape. Transition from a football standpoint is as seamless as he could have expected. Lot of young hungry players getting significant playing time. Pleased with the way the staff came together. Weird emphasis on "re-hired" instead of "retained"... maybe it's an anti-nepotism crusade. No one skates by on rep under Rodriguez, I guess. Thumbs up.
"Very young" on offense... lost some of the best players who've ever played offense at Michigan. One starter returning up front. Deeper on D, you know all this. Players embracing the challenges they've had. Has he said football yet? Don't think so. He just said "ball game" in a southern accent, so if he was going to he would have done it there.
Guys are buying in. End of opening statement
Columbus Dispatch asks about the drama over the seven months... was there one thing that rankled you? "After a while... it's like just stand in line." So many things that weren't true. The only one that really bothered was a question about family values -- they take the most pride in that. "There's no one who's going to have a closer, more familial bond than us."
USA Today lady asks about the lawsuit. Any regrets? He'll address it now so they don't have to address it for 13-14 years. He'd like to move on, in the past, disappointed in certain things. Still hewing to this "the truth will come out" stuff that I really wish he'd quit.
Is anyone going to ask about football? Screw this. I am. [note: I tried. I was going to ask "you have six tight ends on the roster and and offense that hasn't used the tight end in seven years. What do you do with all those guys?" but they didn't get around to me.]
USA Today references the Rosenberg article: "It's been said this embarrassing for the university and for you personally, how do you feel?" Blah. Etc. Rodriguez has already dismissed this USA Today lady has the gumption to follow up with another thrust. This is also batted aside in the same fashion anyone who's paid the slightest attention to Michigan in the last seven months can recite by heart.
Ooh, Daily Iowan asks about the S&C change. Diplomatic answer: "Any time there's a transition or a change, everyone wants to compare the difference; sometimes that's unfair. There's no one perfect way to do things. It's just a little different. Barwis is one of the best in the country, but I'm biased." "Pro players who didn't even know Mike now train with him diligently and bought in." "Our players have seen the change in their bodies."
Next question is about Pryor going elsewhere, transfer of "Ryan Mallette" and that's not a typo, that's how this guy said it. "Steve Threet has a lot of talent, Nick Sheridan did a great job, Justin Feagin... whenever you lose a recruit it's disappointing." One minute left. Not going to get a question off.
Oh MY GOD: Big Ten's bad rap on speed and athleticism question. "The perception is just that: perception. Great speed in our league." What a dillweed, last question was guaranteed to be answered with standard boilerplate.
No wait, there's one more question: Bucknuts.com asks about rivalry games and how he can turn around the Ohio State series. Is anyone going to ask anything that can possibly yield insight? Oooh zing: "I'm not the kind of coach who has a countdown to a particular game, just the next one." He immediately backs out of what looks like a Dantonio rip. "I've heard "just win the Ohio State game and we'll be happy." I don't believe that."
And one final one: what's Kevin Grady's status? Good job, GR Press guy. You get a ninja star. Suspended from the team, no longer working out with the team, still attending classes. He has to do certain things to get back on the team. There will be some playing time penalties, and he's on a strict watch.
POST INTERVIEW SCRUM TIME
Rodriguez has been surrounded and is being asked exclusively about WVU and lawsuit and snake oil and family values and Rodriguez is fending that stuff off, including highly skeptical questioning about the necessity of "salty" language from someone I can't see but is very probably a thousand years old. He does mention Slocum is off the team for academic and other reasons.
Walk-on program is building up. Everyone is qualified and through the clearinghouse. Barwis says players are really excited, gone from "how hard it is" to excited at his progress.
This bit's actually interesting: there's a handful of players they call "the apostles" who the players pick as their leaders for the class; Rodriguez meets with them regularly to communicate with them with other players. 20(!) guys, normally 10-12. Anyone can talk to Rodriguez but these guys are sort of quasi-captains and act as the voice of the player during regular meetings, the last one a BBQ at Rodriguez's house.
Thinks M outside the top 3 is "reality;" look at who we've lost." But you're waiting for it, aren't you? You know some sort of pithy statement abut how rankings are not important is coming. Rich Rodriguez is a coach. He has it in his blood. Here you go: "Last I checked where you ranked wasn't worth a first down."
Ignorant about the jersey number thing -- no #1 btw. "One thing we're not going to do is be fake." All the players who played for me 10 years or 15 years still come back. He knows most of these coaches already from "apparel contracts" and "retreats."
More image stuff. Rodriguez hauls out the "One guy left, 99 stayed" and then in the middle of another WVU question says, a little plaintively, "I just changed jobs." Then he's whisked away to do interviews for television, where he'll no doubt be asked all the same questions and die a little inside.
Meanwhile, I missed lunch.
Hopefully I'll get more interesting stuff tomorrow, when the players do table interviews. I hope to ask the Illinois guys about how awesome J Leman was.