Notes from Rich Rodriguez's Monday meeting with the press.
Denard - "I talked to the trainers." He has a bruised knee, he'll be limited today but should be able to do everything tomorrow. You expect him to play? "Yes."
Fitzgerald Toussaint screwed up his shoulder, they're trying to determine the exact nature of the injury.
Rodriguez is optimistic Carvin Johnson should be able to play. Brandon Herron has been out with an ankle injury, but he should be able to play this week. Mike Williams is still out with (multiple) concussions. [Ed.: would not be surprised if that's it for Williams and he goes on a medical scholarship.]
Michael Shaw sprained his knee against BGSU. "He's kinda day-to-day," but should hopefully be full-go tomorrow.
Tate - "There's nothing wrong with his knee." He took a helmet shot to the quad.
"Denard is special. He's got the ability to break every play himself." The other guys are capable. "This is a physical game. Quarterbacks get hit." Runners or passers can both get hit. Run the same plays with all three QBs. They limit Denard's reps in practice by having him run plays that don't get him beat up in practice. He won't run as much. "Just blow a quicker whistle so he doesn't keep running 20 or 30 yards downfield."
Backup situation still the same? "Maybe. We'll see how they practice this week." Devin and Tate are both #2 guys to Denard. Within the next couple years, they'll have enough QB experience to do everything they want.
RBs - "Maybe the reason Denard had so many yards running is defenses were paying attention to the running backs." They've been running well since camp. A few nagging injuries have prevented RBs from being as productive as they can be. None of them are as explosive as Denard. RB rotation "We're probably gonna have to" for the rest of the year. Need to have 3 or 4 capable guys if they stay healthy. Toussaint probably doesn't get caught from behind without the knee brace. "He's faster than that." Wanted to play Toussaint more. "He's gotta be able to practice to get some confidence in him."
"Taylor [Lewan] played pretty well." A few mistakes, but good job for his first start. "Perry's playing really well." He has a toe sprain. Huyge gives flexibility there. Huyge is the first guy in at both tackle spots. They've been wanting to get Ricky Barnum into the game - he's the first guard in. Addressed Molk's penalty with him - didn't see it on coaches' film.
"Because we had the front coming back, not just the offensive line but the tight ends..." more receiver experience, QBs running it well has added another dimension. "I've been probably as pleased with what we've done in the passing game." QBs good decisions.
DL has gotten some pressure. RVB has been good, Greg Banks solid. "We're not really pleased that we're having as much depth as we'd like." Have lots of different packages to create a bit of pressure.
"Mike [Martin] has been one of the most consistent players we've had." He's been playing more than your average nose guard. "Mike's been dominant." He gets a lot of attention from opponents, but still lots of pressure.
Craig Roh is solid, and they've been able to do a lot of different things with him. "Jonas Mouton didn't have a good game against Umass, but he's played really well in all of our other games. Outstanding."
Pleasant surprises on D? "All those young DBs, playing so early." About 13 true frosh have played - most of them on D. Sometimes they're playing like true freshmen, sometimes they step up.
Hope the young defenders get some experience as the year goes on. Want to get/stay healthy there. Can play well and have success - doesn't mean they'll dominate people every game. "We expect our defense to play at a very high level, and they've got a lot of pride in doing that." Avery and Christian - "That was the most they've both played. Courtney will play a lot on special teams, too."
Does he remind players of last year? "I don't. It's in the past. Didn't you see the movie the Lion King, right?"
Michigan is sometimes a read-option team, sometimes a QB-iso team. "There's a lot more of our offense that'd we'd like to do, and are probably gonna have to do coming up."
"There's a lot of things that's cyclical in football... There's no patents on schemes, we know that." Might pick up things on opponent film that their previous opponents used against them successfully.
Gotten 8 turnovers this year, gave 2 right back. Will have to be more aggressive going forward. Played more aggressively than against UMass. "We didn't play great, but we played better." They have a physical day on Tuesdays, but in games they need to point out technique flaws to fix them. "It's hard to work [tackling] a lot during the week because you don't want to get your own guys banged up in practice."
Every year is different. "Not that we don't have some issues, because we do." Team is on the upswing, but not where they want to be yet. Will still have issues and problems, hopefully will stay healthy. "I think this year's team is executing pretty well, and playing pretty good at times. We know we have to play better."
Experienced receivers - "When you're inexperienced, it shows in certain facets, but the biggest thing it probably shows is in game adjustments." Players can help make those adjustments when they know those things.
"We had two #9s. We - I screwed that up." Officials didn't notice, but BGSU's coaches pointed it out. "Courtney's gonna, I believe, be #5. I think that number's open."
Tay Odoms penalty - "We've had quite a few discussions on a cut block" He can't go back toward the ball, seen other people not get flagged for it. "That's a clarification, and we're trying to get a couple other ones."
"We're trying to get those guys experience getting a first down in the red zone." on the last Gardner TD, when they went for it on fourth down.
"I usually defer. This is my 18th year as a head coach, and I would say except on a few rare on occasions, but I've almost always deferred." Defensive guys will be able to go out there and stop them.
New PR formation - "They were a team that had showed a lot of roll punting." Wanted to try to catch a low punt. Dileo did a nice job. Upset with ST penalties. Have to be on your toes on returns for various punt formations.
Saban mentioned MICH-Alabama "Nick knows more than I do." Both schools talking, nothing signed or delivered "Pretty interesting though, isn't it? Yeah, it's interesting."
Hoosiers only played 3 games, probably one of the healthiest teams in the Big Ten. "They probably had their best game last weekend." Added excitement going into the Big Ten for coaches and players. "Everything's gotta get cranked up a notch" in preparation.
Pistol - "It's a system. It's the same as any offense - if they execute it well, they're gonna have their moments." Last year, 1 or 2 big plays hurt MICH.
Can't blitz all the time without exposing yourself to 1-on-1s. Chappell is a veteran, need to use different methods to confuse him. Don't blow assignments to give him the cheap one. Make tackles on the short completions.
IU receivers - one of the strengths of their team. Big, athletic. MICH's young DBs - four true freshmen played. "We're gonna have to have a great week in preparing for their passing game and for those wideouts." Tandon Doss - they get the ball to him running, returning, and receiving.
IU hasn't seen a similar offense to MICH this year. They've changed defense a bit schematically. Lots of guesswork about how they'll handle our spread.
Seen some B10 games on TV. "This may be the strongest the Big Ten has been in years. For a long long time, for all 11 teams." League is tough and physical, the veterans know what league play is going to be like.
Younger guys have already played on the road - "That was the one good thing about going to Notre Dame." They've got a bit of road experience. They'll see that environment on the road for the rest of the year. Rich has never coached in Bloomington.
9/25/2010 – Michigan 65, Bowling Green 21 – 4-0
It's been a long time since this has happened, but in the aftermath of a 721-yard outburst against a I-A opponent there's no grand emotional narrative arc to relate. Last year there was a sense of relief after the Western game; the Eastern game was a reminder that sometimes Michigan plays teams obviously worse than they are and beats the pants off them and isn't that nice but sometimes the quarterback goes down and that's not nice at all. The Bowling Green game was that minus a loss to a 3-9 MAC team the year prior—i.e., a pleasant nothing in which crappy special teams play was just an opportunity to rack up more yards on offense.
There was a bout of slight indigestion when it was 21-14, but in the aftermath of an offensive performance in which Michigan scored 9 touchdowns on 11 drives (and kind of scored two more on the drives that technically came up empty) complaining about that would miss the forest for the trees. I mean, Michigan took the admonition to "STOP KICKING THE DAMN BALL" from the preview literally. I can't even make yet another impassioned plea against I-AA games since Bowling Green is part of the MAC, as I did after last year's silly offensive yardage number. So let's just get to the bullets.
Well, one thing first: Tate Forcier seems pretty level-headed for a guy the internet spent most of eight months deriding as an immature quitter bound to transfer ten seconds after Denard stepped on to the field against UConn and he declared himself "out" in the aftermath.
Somehow he's still here. He could have gone. He could have put in his papers like LaLota or Turner and spent a redshirt year somewhere else and preserved a year of eligibility and had three years to compete on a two-deep that doesn't feature Denard Robinson. But he's here, picking up small children in #16 jerseys after going 12 of 12 and running around on broken plays despite being obviously gimpy.
TATE: "Hey, kid. The offense scored a touchdown on every drive I had a part in."
SMALL CHILD: "Hold me up higher so I can see Denard."
My fiancée starts rooting for the other team whenever they are obviously overmatched, something that happened seven minutes into Saturday's game. She made an exception when Forcier rolled on the field. After the game he said he loved Michigan and would never go anywhere. You can't blame him if that turns out to be untrue, but I hope he stays around. I've got a feeling Michigan is going to need him.
NON-BULLETS TOLD THE PUNTER TO GET SOME COFFEE
Denard. Fine. Jumping higher than mortals for no reason late in a blowout:
Would have liked to see him get a couple more drives and finish his day with 200 yards rushing on ten carries just on the off chance he leads Michigan to enough stunning shootout wins to hit up the Heisman ceremony with a serious chance to win, but the important thing is that he's healthy. If he doesn't stop doing this, however, I am going to die with worry.
Number two. IME, Forcier. Gardner was certainly impressive downfield but on first glance seemed to make a ton of mistakes running the zone read and even when he did get some room displayed a nasty tendency to cut everything outside like he's still in high school, turning 6-8 yard gains into 2-3 yard gains. Forcier was crisper despite his status as Michigan's nominal #3.
Devin Gardner redshirt conspiracy. Yes, I am a one man Rubicon when it comes to this: Forcier was warmly welcomed by the crowd and got another big cheer when he came off the field late, then spent the postgame press conference saying things about how he will never, ever transfer. If that is true, that could be huge for the 2014 Wolverines because it might provide an opportunity for Gardner to redshirt next year. I want my fifth year senior Gardner, dammit.
Have I been advocating for this publicly? Someone gave me a shout out on the twitters when Michigan debuted a punt formation featuring three returners, so I must have been crabbing for it at some point.
I've been grumbling vaguely about the necessity for a second returner in this space for a while, but when Michigan came out in their new punt return formation on Saturday I was livid at myself for describing exactly what Michigan should do against spread punt formations during my Thursday WTKA appearance… during the commercials. Doh.
Anyway, the situation:
- The spread punt formation has virtually erased punt returns.
- Spread punting is almost impossible to fake out of as long as you rush the punter and cover the outside guys on the line.
- A single punt returner is insufficient in an era of line-drive rugby kicks.
The response I suggested (in the commercials) and Michigan implemented exactly:
- Two cornerbacks line up over the outside guys and cover/block them.
- Six guys charge after the punter on every snap to prevent fakes and maybe block a couple punts.
- Three returners are spread across the field so that Michigan fields almost every punt and maybe gets a return or two.
A friend of mine also pointed out that since punt coverage guys are focused on the returners, not the ball, having multiple guys back there has the potential to confuse them. If the ball's coming down to Dileo and Gallon's moving upfield like he's going to field a short one, the coverage team has an unpleasant choice between splitting their duties between all three guys and teaching their guys to look up and find the ball, forcing them to take their eyes off their destination and possibly exposing them to killshot blocks.
The results in game one of the experiment were encouraging. Michigan fielded all but one punt and got some of those return things—what are they called—oh yeah—yards. Dileo looked as smooth as promised, fielding punts and making one or two guys miss before getting tackled.
I don't think Michigan can pull off the triple return threat against a conventional formation since it would be vulnerable to fakes, but against spread punt teams they should use it all the time.
The other thing I was advocating for was the deployment of a Wolverine Heavy package and we sort of saw one near the goal line. Koger and Webb lined up as H-backs, there was a tailback, and Michigan ground forward as you might expect. That's not quite Heavy, in which there are two tight ends, two H-backs, and no one in the backfield except a tank, but the flexibility provided by the H-backs should make short yardage hard to stop; I'd like it if M put one of the TEs on the line and brought in McColgan.
Corner what. The third and final thing Michigan debuted was a dime package in which the MLB and one of the DEs come off the field in favor of two additional cornerbacks on passing downs. JT Floyd dropped back to deep safety with Gordon; Kovacs stayed underneath. This also gets a thumbs up assuming the freshmen corners can cover people. This is not certain, but it's hard to imagine them being worse at it than Roh or Ezeh, no offense to either.
Here's a confusing thing: Cullen Christian has practiced with the ones in warmups two of the last three weeks. I thought he was going to start against Notre Dame because of it. But when Michigan brought in its dime it was Talbott and Avery getting the PT; Christian alternated some with Rogers. The first bit implies that Christian is the #3 corner; the second implies he's the #5. Maybe the freshmen have different responsibilities in the dime package and they're working the players in at different positions until they learn both.
Running back mess, verdict, no verdict. Shaw continues to look like the best tailback available. As long as he's running hard and finding the lanes, something he's done a much better job of lately, he's the #1 guy. Smith was okay but as the games pass it seems more and more indisputable that he's lost some burst after the ACL surgery and probably won't be full strength until 2011.
Of the four backups, Cox seemed the most impressive in limited time since Toussaint's runs came on vast, gaping holes in the line. Also, he got run down by a MAC linebacker. What's up with that, Fred Jackson? (A: he's still wearing a knee brace and is not 100%. People of twitter: I was joking.)
Preview: 2011. Late in the game we got answers to obscure personnel questions:
- What position does Brandin Hawthorne play? Spur.
- What position does Steve Watson play? Defensive end.
- Who is the primary backup at guard? Ricky Barnum.
- What's the deal with Kenny Demens? Oh, there he is.
Michigan also got a preview of its 2011 offensive line when Perry Dorrestein "got a hangnail or something." Taylor Lewan was entrenched at left tackle so Huyge came in to play on the right, and Michigan lifted Steve Schilling for Ricky Barnum. That is 99% likely to be your '11 starting OL down to the positions: Lewan-Barnum-Molk-Omameh-Huyge. They got lifted for backups on the next drive.
Pretty straightforward this week. I might have been a little overly schizophrenic in the middle section, so steer me right if that's the case.
Since this is a resume poll, and we'll have five data points for most teams next week, I intend to move to a full-resume ballot next week, with a resume chart to back up my rankings.
Quotes from after the game. Will update with photos when they're ready.
Injuries: "Denard seems to be fine, I know that's the first thing you're gonna ask." He'll get treatment and be fine after some rest and ice. No x-rays needed. He was moving around on it. Michael Shaw is "pretty much the same as Denard. Just a little bit sore." Perry Dorrestein is fine, just got "a hangnail or something on his toe."
Today was a good win, the team got better in all three phases. Defense was a little more aggressive than last week, offense controlled the game with the run. "Last week, we did not play well." Improved this week on defense and special teams especially. It was nice to get lots of guys in there, especially seniors.
Team is deeper on offense than last year. "Defensively, we're younger." Completely different years. "I think there's enough positive things that we can grow from and enough negative things that we can fix." The first goal is the B10 championship, everyone is 0-0 in the conference.
Offense didn't have to do a whole lot in order to move the ball, ddn't have to show a lot. Executed well.
All three QBs did well. Didn't think about putting Denard back in at half. "We were moving the ball whoever the quarterback was in there." Needed to just get a couple stops. "I wish he woulda stepped out before he got hit." Needs to scoot out when the touchdown isn't going to happen. "I thought all 3 quarterbacks were very efficient." Devin not as ready as Denard or Tate because he's a year behind. These guys are getting it. "All three of those guys have not hit their ceiling yet. Not even close." It's a tough deal because only one can play at a time. Denard and Tate both more comfortable seeing the field than last year. Seeing things like coaches see them, why a play did or didn't work. Tate maturity - "I'm impressed with a lot of our guys' maturity. There's a lot of progress."
RBs - "It started up front. I thought our line and our tight ends did a good job blocking." Made a couple mistakes, but it was nice to get lots of RBs experience.
Guys come in boys, leave 4-5 years later as "a man, a Michigan Man."
Could tackle better, hit a couple screens on us. Missed opportunities to make tackles. Played more aggressivley, not on their heels like last week.
A couple special teams penalties were frustrating. Would FG kicker have been Broekhuizen? "Maybe." Depending on length and hash.
Team knows Indiana is very good, they can't mail it in and win.
After last week, the players wanted to just return to playing good Michigan football. Different year than last year. "Everybody's playing for somebody." They play their hardest every Saturday.
Offensive skill guys didn't have any trouble with the rotating QBs, because it happens in practice. When Tate came in, he was shocked everyone was yelling his name. Denard - "I'm pretty sure he'll be back this week coming up - get some treatment on it." Roy is very confident whoever QB is. "Minus the MAs [missed assignments] and the penalties, we just keep rollin'."
Defense showed up today. "Wasn't like the slackin' last week." In practice, it was 11 hats to the ball, they did it today.
RVB is not really amazed at the offense's performance. They've been going toward that for the past year. Expecting to see them make plays.
"Absolutely" more focused than last week. Might have been reading too many press clippings coming into last week. "Circled the wagons and prepared this week like it was a bowl game."
The team used a little more 4-man rush to get to the QB this week. "Persistent, and keep coming after the Quarterback." Had pressures, finally turning them into sacks. As long as the QB is moving his feet, the throws become inaccurate. "If you sack him, it's prettier but you don't necessarily need it."
Better team chemistry this year. Team united, want to play for each other.
"Michigan is noted as a powerhouse in the Big Ten, and we have not lived up to that the past two years." Hungry to be successful in-conference this year.
"A lot of people say I'm not staying here, but I'm still here... I love Michigan, I love everything about it... I love Coach Rod, I love these fans, I love everything about Michigan football."
Felt good to be out there competing again. "Coach Rod just told me to be patient and stay ready." He was ready when his number was called. Coach Rod told him to be ready, he knew he would get in this week. Never know when your number's gonna get called, have to be ready to come in. "Coach Rod's the coach. I'm gonna let them make the decisions, and if they go with him, I'm gonna be right there, ready."
Felt almost ilke a first start again. Thanks the crowd and coaches. How can you not notice that the crowd was supporting him. "Crowd always motivates me. Because you just want to keep hearing that." Michigan has the best crowd in the country, and the team has to to keep them happy.
His injury isn't serious. "I got hit. I got a little dead leg." He'll be fine within a day or so. "I'm healthy, and as long as Denard gets healthy, I'll be happy still." Never 100% as a football player, have to play through a bit of pain.
Hard to wait when you played last year "Denard got the same question last year when I was the guy." Everyone is good enough to play, he'll let the coaches make a decision. No rust. Studied lots of film this week "It was easy out there." Had something to prove when he went out there. "That's what I heard." that he set a completion percentage record. Could have improved a couple things.
Treat every team like a threat. Cites App State. "Treat every game just like you're playing against Ohio State." hould be able to play this well every week. Should be able to have a lot of success this year.
Indiana gave the team a good game last year. Fun to go into away stadiums and have everyone against you.
Team executed better today. Did a lot of studying with good focus this week. Made sure they were focused to take advantage of opportunities.
"We just come out and just execute and make plays." Don't worry about what the opponent's doing.
Denard's injury made him think of his own knee injury, even though it didn't end up being as serious.
The offensive line: "They had a awesome game. Just the same, they're very consistent and always do their job up front." Lewan - "He's doing an excellent job. I was telling him that on a couple of runs."
"We have a lot of talent in the backfield, no doubt." Everybody does their part when their number is called. "We all look at it from... if one man falls down, the next man steps up."
Red zone mindset - "We gotta get in."
Performed better than last week. Pretty good outside of a few plays. This defense is always hardworking, taking positive steps toward learning more. Concentrated and wanted to get everything right today.
Prepared the same as last week, maybe a couple guys watched a little more tape. "I thought our preparation was consistent."
On BGSU's QB: "You know that's in his mind where he's already kinda out of his comfort zone." Backup QB is obviously going to be nervous coming into the Big House.
Impressed with offense? "Yeah. I love our offense. It's very dynamic and explosive."
"I really feel like we have 3 very good quarterbacks coming in that can all run our offense."
Lewan - "I heard he did pretty good. I talked to him after the game, and I'm just excited to see Taylor playing." Been playing against him in practice a few years now, likes to see him develop.
"This team is just so close. Everyone is everyone's friend."
Concentrating coming into Big Ten season. "We... we're ready."