to play football, not to play trumpet
Part one of the all-singing all-dancing season preview.
This is literal and metaphorical. Yesterday I got up at eight and shut off at some point between at 3 or 4 AM. I've spent the last two days discussing probably nonexistent NCAA violations instead of putting the final touches—read "writing the last third of"—this year's season preview. In the last year and a half I've spent one summer rolling my eyes and beating back an incredible wave of idiocy about Rich Rodriguez shredding every last bit of information on the West Virginia program and another attempting to explain to pastors and civilians the odd circumstances that led to a 3-9 season at hallowed Michigan. In between, hallowed Michigan went 3-9. None of it was particularly enjoyable.
I'm tired of reading obvious bullshit and having to explode it. I'm tired of filing particularly annoying articles in the folder where I keep the stuff to unearth and laugh at later. I'm tired of explaining and debating and debunking never getting around to the statistical work I did the first couple years of the blog's existence. I'm tired of oscillating between anger and uncertainty, apathy and sadness. I wanted to become unmoored from the static existence that was late-era Schembechler football, but it turns out the current is mostly undertow.
Most of all, though, I'm tired of this backup laptop, its half-gig of RAM, erratic wifi, and maddening inability to understand that I've plugged it into the damn wall. Seriously. Hurry up, Malaysia.
Rich Rodriguez is tired, too. He stood in front of a room of cameras and reporters yesterday and the first thing he said was "I don't usually have notes, but…" and then he sort of trailed off and fumbled with some paper and for a moment it seemed like he forgot how to read or just had to stare at the paper and wonder what had happened after Pat White injured his hand against Pitt, how he had gotten here and what a mistake it had been.
There was nothing for it, though, so the words formed themselves and stumbled out. Time goes one direction, at a constant rate.
As you might guess from the title, I write one of these every year. Last year's documents the whole sordid Rodriguez-defection-West-Virginia-hissyfit in elaborate detail—it comes complete with a Shot At Love With Tila Tequila reference—before wandering around to Michigan's prospects going into 2008 somewhere about 80% of the way through. It was that kind of offseason. This offseason was that kind of offseason, too.
Though the outlook was "grim," good God I had no idea how accurate this statement would turn out to be:
Michigan’s going to run out on the field and play like they’re one of those teams trying to make inferior talent work.
Yes, yes they did. Not so much with the working, and sometimes not even so much with the trying, but by God yes the running and the inferior talenting. "Great fun" it sounded like. Great fun it was not aside from a couple improbable plays against Wisconsin and an impossible afternoon against Minnesota.
The final paragraph was half-right:
It’s going to be a fiasco. It’s going to be ugly and tantalizing and dispiriting and awesome. I can’t wait.
Fiasco, ugly, dispiriting: check. Those other two qualities are pending.
A brief tour of the depths my mind sunk to when it wasn't turning in 200-word game columns featuring Henri, The Otter of Ennui:
DESPAIRING ASSERTIONS ABOUT THE STUPIDITY OF INFORMATION FLOW
Rich Rodriguez takes some time to talk about the internet's depressing tendency towards mocking and anger in some depth. The media takes the three sentences sure to generate the most outrage and create the dumbest image of Rodriguez, and the internet responds with mocking and anger.
I mean… what can you even say here?
IMAGINED CONVERSATIONS IN THE STYLE OF THE BIG LEBOWSKI
We've been frantically trying to reach you, EBay.
Where are my goddamn wins, you bum?
Well… we, I don't…
They did not receive the wins, you nitwit! They did not receive the goddamn wins. OUR STREAK WAS IN YOUR HANDS.
This is our concern, EBay.
EXTREMELY LOW-GRADE ASSAULT BEEFS
A couple rows above me, a middle-aged man stood on a bench and booed and booed.
He was angry. I was angry.
I stooped to pick up whatever flingable bit of detritus I could find, seized upon an empty water bottle, and chucked it at the booer. I missed,* lightly damaging an older man a row behind him. But I did get his attention. And the old guy looked like he was on The Other Side, so eff him.
WHATEVER THIS WAS
Fear/Paranoia Level: 0 out of 10. (Fear is the mindkiller. Fear nothing anymore; in your despair you find the freedom only the forsaken can experience.).
Desperate need to win level: 0 out of 10. (Needs lash the soul to the rack of imperfection. You need nothing. You experience all things, and all things experience you.)
It was a tough, apathetic year in which the main goal of the blog was to yell at people I thought were stupid or shortsighted, which is, I imagine, like getting in a knife fights against an endless army of Skip Bayless clones. There is a certain grim satisfaction to the work that must be done, but eventually you end up covered in viscera and no closer to making the world a less annoying place.
The team, meanwhile, left or sucked or sucked and left with a few notable exceptions. They looked lost, caused my brain to fritz out as per above, and drove poor Johnny into a malaise that saw him pop up infrequently and then only to level a complaint we all felt at some level: this isn't my team anymore.
This, as did everything last year, caused a small internet war to break out. People were booers or bottle-tossers, skeptics or believers. Michigan fans probably put more time into flaming the hell out of each other than any fanbase has in history. But nothing is good for unity like a war.
I had a hard time parsing out the emotion I felt yesterday, a melange of anger, skepticism, selfish pathos, scorn, more anger, and something strange. And then I'm on the radio yesterday and I think of something. I signal to John Bacon that I have something to say and once Wayne Drehs finishes up his thought I say it. I don't remember it exactly what I said but I remember the thought.
Rich Rodriguez is a fundamentally artless person.
I have winced at many a Rodriguez press conference. Corny jokes about the Lion King, awkward phrasing, distinct lingering unflattering accent, typical coaching banalities, etc etc etc. Basically all the cultural things that differentiate Rodriguez from Carr are negative to me except insofar as he doesn't tolerate 350-pound starting offensive linemen who just quit the team a few weeks ago. That I'm with. It's just all the peripherals that I'm leery of.
This is some part of why portions of the local media have gone bats lately and a major source of ammunition for the little guy with a pitchfork who sits on your shoulder and whispers "doooooooooooom… doooooooooooooom" into your ear. But it was incredibly helpful yesterday when Rodriguez was trying to work through his statement. Because not for a moment did it cross my mind, or apparently the minds of even the most cynical observers, that Rodriguez's emotion was not genuine. The Free Press folk immediately scurried back to their cave to write an editorial that opened with "The issue is not how much Rich Rodriguez and his fellow University of Michigan coaches care about the young men who play football for the Wolverines."
Lloyd Carr might have handled that differently, been snappy or angry or more aggressive but one of the things that became clear as his tenure lengthened is that a journalist that unfairly attacked one of his players would find himself between a grizzly cub and his mother. The most important thing to Carr was the making the kids under him happy and successful. Though Rich Rodriguez has different ideas about what qualifies, yesterday it appeared that went for him too. For the first time (and possibly the last time), Rodriguez reminded me of Lloyd Carr. I want the head coach at Michigan to react like that when his reputation is threatened.
So this is bizarre after everything. But this year one of the many, many reasons I want Michigan to win—you try hitching a career to your favorite team—will be a new one. I'll be rooting on a personal level for Rich so he can have a press conference during which he can make an awkward comment about all this with a smile on his face, and I can wince inwardly at it.
This is slightly dated but we know why, right? Let's just skip the recriminations and go to the bits. Bits about the first depth chart release:
- Rumors of Greg Mathews' demise are apparently exaggerated, as he remains atop the depth chart at outside WR.
- Kelvin Grady is second to Odoms, and only Odoms, at slot. Massive rise there.
- Offensive line is exactly as expected.
- Adam Patterson is over, man. He's behind a redshirt sophomore walk-on. That's Will Heniger, by the way, and if Graham goes boom we're in serious trouble.
- Roh is second to Herron at deathbacker.
- Yikes: Brandon Smith is idling behind Kevin Leach; hopefully just inexperience at the position there.
- Where's Hawthorne in the Brown backups? 5-10 guy who I thought was a corner Floyd Simmons is third string.
- Mike Williams has apparently wrested the starting job opposite Woolfolk from Vlad Emilien.
- Oh, god, starting secondary, remain healthy.
- Olesnavage, as expected, is slightly ahead at kicker.
- Morales may have shaped up but he's not even on the depth chart at long snapper. Ryan Van Bergen(!) is.
- Odoms. Hold on to the ball. Hold it. Love it.
Huge week for the Friday Night Lights feature, as nearly every Michigan commit kicked off the season this weekend, and Mgoblog was live and in person for four of the games (covering 6 of the commits). Players with MGoOriginal content will be at the top, and guys who haven't hit the field yet are towards the bottom. Without further ado, Friday Night Lights:
MI QB Devin Gardner
Last Week: Game Preview. Ann Arbor.com fluff. Inkster loses to Ann Arbor Pioneer 32-35. Article #2. Devin threw 10/14 for 97 yards and a touchdown, while running 16 times for 113 yards and a touchdown. See the MGoBlog review of Gardner, including a photo gallery and HD video.
This week: Inkster (0-1) @ East Kentwood on Thursday. MGoBlog might be in atendance. Hell, let's take a vote. Would you rather have more Devin video or some Austin White video from this coming Thursday?
MI WR Ricardo Miller
Last Week: Game Preview. Ann Arbor Pioneer defeats Inkster 35-32. Article #2. Ricardo caught 3 passes for 70 yards. Photo gallery and scouting report never really got published, because there was actually too much(!) content for MGoBlog to handle this weekend, so you'll have to suffer through the MgoHighlights:
This Week: Dexter @ Ann Arbor Pioneer (1-0). MGoBlog will either be at this game, or the Huron/Tecumseh game. Leave your preference in the comments.
OH WR Jerald Robinson
Last Week: Canton South fell to Dover 14-27. Jerald caught 2 passes for 6 yards, returned one kickoff for 15 yards, and made 1 solo tackle and 6 assisted tackles. See the MGoBlog report from the game, including video.
This Week: Canton South (0-1) @ Canfield.
MI WR/TE Jeremy Jackson
Last Week: Ann Arbor Huron fell to Chelsea 35-29. Jeremy had 6 receptions for 86 yards, including a 48-yarder. He also added 3 tackles and 6 assisted tackles from his free safety spot (where he actually looked pretty good, at least at the high school level). Original MGoHighlights:
This Week: Tecumseh @ Ann Arbor Huron (0-1). MGoBlog will either be at this game, or the Pioneer/Dexter game. Leave your preference in the comments.
OH DT Terry Talbott
Last Week: Wayne defeats Cincinnati Princeton 21-4. MGoBlog was there, and you can see the photos here:
We're still having a slight delay on the HD video, but it will be posted when available. Terry finished with 8.5 tackles, 4.5 for loss (18 yards). He also had 1.5 sacks (11 yards) and 2 QB hurries.
This Week: Huber Heights Wayne (1-0) @ Canton McKinley on Saturday.
OH CB Terrence Talbott
Last Week: Wayne defeats Cincinnati Princeton 21-4. MGoBlog was there, and you can see the photo gallery above.
This Week: Huber Heights Wayne @ Canton McKinley.
SC QB Cornelius Jones
Last Week: Spartanburg defeats Union 35-0.
"Jones ran for touchdowns of 3, 1 and 3 yards and completed 6 of 7 passes for 91 yards and a touchdown."
“He’s a very athletic quarterback and you have to give Spartanburg credit, they just took it to us,” Union County coach David Lipsey said.
As with last week, Clarence Beeks gives us the dish.
This Week: Spartanburg (1-1) @ Northwestern.
|Cornelius Jones 2009|
MI RB Austin White
Last Week: Stevenson falls to crosstown rival Franklin 7-21. Austin has 14 carries for 64 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown for the Spartans' only points. Rivals has video of White's performance. Be forewarned, though - it caused my browser to lock up once.
This Week: Howell @ Livonia Stevenson (0-1) on Thursday. Leave comments on whether you'd rather have MGoBlog at this game, or Devin's game in Grand Rapids on Thursday.
TX RB Stephen Hopkins
OH WR/S DJ Williamson
OH OL Christian Pace
OH LB Antonio Kinard
Last Week: Liberty defeats East 17-6.
This Week: Niles @ Liberty (1-0).
OH CB Courtney Avery
Last Week: Lexington led 7-3 when the game was suspended due to weather:
When the game was suspended, Avery was 6 of 7 passing for 91 yards with one TD and one interception.
Once the game resumed, he picked up where he left off, leading to a 42-17 victory.:
The Minutemen had big plays throughout the game as Avery connected on 18 of 28 passes for 278 yards and three TDs, including scoring connections to Kenya Coombs (53 yards), Brian Byrne (28 yards) and Kevin
The touchdown was a 53-yarder.
This Week: Mart @ Lexington (1-0).
TX RB Tony Drake
Last Week: Skyline's season doesn't open up until this Friday.
This Week: Kimball @ Skyline.
LA Slot WR Drew Dileo
Last Week: Dileo's season doesn't start until the 11th.
This Week: Dileo's season doesn't start until the 11th.
PA DE Ken Wilkins
"He's an unbelievable physical talent," Trinity coach Ed Dalton said. "He's very muscular, and he has a 28-inch waist. He looks like an NFL player today. He's not going to take a year in college to get that physical look. He already has it. He's blessed physically."
"[Committing early to Michigan] was a relief off my shoulders," Wilkins said. "I found out where I wanted to go, and there was no point in letting the pressure build up. It was a good position to be in to be wanted by all those schools, but I wanted to do what was best for me."
Trinity's regular season has not started yet.
This Week: Canon-McMillian @ Trinity.
PA DE Jordan Paskorz
A hybrid defensive end/linebacker, Paskorz has carved a reputation as one of the WPIAL's elite players. Various blog writers question how elite...
"Everyone is entitled to their own wrong opinions," DeMatteo said. "Honestly, I can only base mine from working with the kid, but it's hard to find a player of his caliber. He worked hard, he devoted time early in the morning and he didn't miss workouts [ed - too soon?]. Jordan has been a quiet leader, and at least to me, he's exemplified what a Division I player should be."
What isn't questioned is Paskorz's athleticism. His muscular frame -- and the potential to add more bulk -- is evident. He runs a 40-yard dash in about 4.7 seconds and can dunk a basketball from a standing position. Paskorz, who also plays tight end, had nine sacks for a Talbots squad that struggled to a 1-8 finish in 2008.
This Week: Hampton @ Blackhawk
FL S Marvin Robinson
Last Week: Season preview fluff:
Anchoring that secondary will be senior safety Marvin Robinson, who Reynolds called "one of the best players in the school's history."
The article goes on to mention that he is being recruited by schools like Ohio State and Michigan. OK, but which one has he committed to, moron?
This Week: Lake Region @ Winter Haven.
Via Spartan Tailgate, naturally.
I still have a zillion tabs open and can't get to all of them in any sort of depth so a quick tour will have to suffice.
Chengelis articles. A couple of former player quotes:
"As much as I want to say (Rodriguez) is the only one (to surpass the 20-hour rule) and to say he's the worst, I can't," said one former player, who asked to remain anonymous. "I'm sure that happens at every school. It is what it is."
This guy doesn't appear to be all-in, eh? Another one:
"Every team does that, more or less," another former Michigan player said. "Everyone knows voluntary workouts you don't have to be there, but you have to be there. A lot of guys don't even know about the rule, but everybody signed the sheets (indicating you kept to the 20-hour rule). It was never a big deal. Those sheets were signed, and that's the only paper trail there is."
If that's true and compliance has lists of their spot checks, this tempest will quickly suck itself into a teapot. All that's left is anonymous mudslinging from former players (and non-anonymous statements from Clemons), some of which have been directly refuted.
Also, long snapper Sean Griffin disputes the reports about quality control staff checking up on voluntary workouts:
He said he frequently worked with the special teams during the offseason and that an allegation in the report that Rodriguez's staff broke rules by monitoring offseason scrimmages was not true, as far as he could tell.
"When I was helping with the specialists, there was never a coach, a graduate assistant, or a quality control coach there," he said. "I wasn't sitting there writing everything down and reporting to a coach. I worked out with a few of the new guys.
Epistolary bit. Email sent to Deadspin about this post, containing this snippet:
In fact, the coach apparently admitted to one violation during the presser, saying that they send strength coaches into the weight room during offseason lifting "so they don't drop a weight on their foot." (Caring!) Correct me if I'm wrong, but that's against the rules.
m. *Voluntary individual workouts,* provided these workouts are not required or supervised by coaching staff members, except that such activities may be monitored for safety purposes or conducted by the institution's strength and conditioning personnel who have department wide duties.
I know that would have taken 30 seconds of research, so I understand why you didn't have time.
Smart Football devoted a ton of time and space to the thing; as always with Smart Football it's worth a read. He pulls out a couple recent teams that were dinged for exceeding practice limits:
In 2003, limits on facility use and practice time were almost completely ignored at SDSU, and, as a result, the program was placed on two-years of probation. More recently, SDSU exceeded the time allotted by the NCAA by about 15-minutes, and therefore voluntarily curtailed its practice time by an hour, broken up in 12-minute chunks over a week.
More drastic was Ball State. The NCAA investigated Ball State, though the scope went beyond just football and into a variety of sports. The NCAA found that BSU’s softball team had “repeatedly exceeded daily and weekly practice hour limitations, failed to give student-athletes a required day off each week from athletically related activities, and conducted individual skill instruction sessions in violation of NCAA rules.” That was not all, however. The NCAA also found that BSU had allowed [27 grand in book fraud, which led to scholarship reductions].
…But it is still early: these are just reports; we have nothing definite yet. And even if some players were working out on a Sunday, that alone doesn’t seem like it would equal a “major violation.” The questions are how widespread this was and how much of it flowed from the coaches — did they encourage it?
Whole thing, read it, etc.
The calling thing. The article in question quoted an anonymous player saying that members of the quality control or strength staff called players who weren't at voluntary workouts. Violation? I don't know. It's not specifically called out in the NCAA rules I reviewed. And it shows up in this article about Colorado (irony!) and Colorado State:
"They call it nonmandatory, but it's mandatory, really," CSU wide receiver Rashaun Greer said of conditioning coaches who keep tabs on attendance. "They will call (no-shows) or text, 'What's going on?' " CU strength-and-conditioning coach Jeff Pittman and his staff are keeping tabs on upward of 100 Buffs this summer. Pittman said participation is pretty much across the board, in every class. This was just chucked out in an article that alleged no violations and has been sitting, unremarked upon, on the Denver Post's website for over a month. It appears, then, that a chunk of the allegations in the article are not violations. Either that or Colorado and Colorado State are supremely dumb. Also, yes, I suppose I'm required by law to note that Toney Clemons transferred to play under Dan "This Is Division 1 Football!!!" Hawkins and there I've done it. Agh. No time (no time) to fisk Ray Ratto's epically dumb column on the thing but I will highlight this bit: it's the argument that Michigan is doing what all the other collegiate scofflaws are doing that strikes us here, first of all because it's such a little boy's argument. "Hey, everyone does it?" That's the one you drop when you get caught toilet-papering someone's house. Ironic of a sportswriter to go there but whatever. I will explain: "everyone does it" is not an attempt to excuse Michigan for misdeeds—because again we are talking about football players playing football. It's a way of evaluating the truth behind the implication that this is a Big Huge Deal that is Ed Martin For Football; if the NCAA average time spent is 45 hours a week, then it is totally plausible Michigan is asking that much out of its players without tripping over NCAA boundaries. Because everyone is.
"They call it nonmandatory, but it's mandatory, really," CSU wide receiver Rashaun Greer said of conditioning coaches who keep tabs on attendance. "They will call (no-shows) or text, 'What's going on?' "
CU strength-and-conditioning coach Jeff Pittman and his staff are keeping tabs on upward of 100 Buffs this summer. Pittman said participation is pretty much across the board, in every class.
This was just chucked out in an article that alleged no violations and has been sitting, unremarked upon, on the Denver Post's website for over a month. It appears, then, that a chunk of the allegations in the article are not violations. Either that or Colorado and Colorado State are supremely dumb.
Also, yes, I suppose I'm required by law to note that Toney Clemons transferred to play under Dan "This Is Division 1 Football!!!" Hawkins and there I've done it.
Agh. No time (no time) to fisk Ray Ratto's epically dumb column on the thing but I will highlight this bit:
it's the argument that Michigan is doing what all the other collegiate scofflaws are doing that strikes us here, first of all because it's such a little boy's argument. "Hey, everyone does it?" That's the one you drop when you get caught toilet-papering someone's house.
Ironic of a sportswriter to go there but whatever. I will explain: "everyone does it" is not an attempt to excuse Michigan for misdeeds—because again we are talking about football players playing football. It's a way of evaluating the truth behind the implication that this is a Big Huge Deal that is Ed Martin For Football; if the NCAA average time spent is 45 hours a week, then it is totally plausible Michigan is asking that much out of its players without tripping over NCAA boundaries. Because everyone is.
Etc.: In the diaries, an anonymous journalist says "I just don't understand how an educated reporter could look at that and not even attempt to figure out the breakdown of "required" and "voluntary" activities." Genuinely Sarcastic has a comprehensive take. Rittenberg has one too. And Jon Chait murders the Free Press' editors.
Brian will appear on Sports Talk 1050 WTKA in... oh, about 10 minutes or so. Presumably, he'll be discussing the Freep Jihad.
Listen live on WTKA's website, or at 1050 AM here in Ann Arbor.
Jihad-relevant snippets from today's press conference.