this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
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.
I'm in Chicago. I'm going to go to the Big Ten Media Hootenanny and see if I get kicked out or stabbed or something. If I don't I hope to ask Joe Tiller "if there's a gentleman's agreement amongst Big Ten teams not to recruit each other's verbal commitments, how did Michigan State commit Garrett Bushong end up signing with Purdue?"
After his head explodes I'll try to get up a post in the afternoon.
For now, links and such.
Adieu. Michigan's put out the fall roster; Marques Slocum is not on it. There are no other unexpected departures.
No. I don't know the female t-shirt model's name. Or her phone number.
What? Speaking of Tiller, I ran across this article from a few days ago in a Wyoming paper on the Big Ten's most walrusy coach:
"But since I've announced my retirement, it's amazing to me how many people come up and thank me and say they're appreciative. I'm thinking, 'Where were they a year ago when the bloggers were nailing me for losing to Michigan in Ann Arbor?'"
No offense to the two burgeoning Purdue blogs Off The Tracks and Boiled Sports, but they were probably sitting around being totally unaware of the internet firestorm raging inside their computers, just like the great majority of Michigan fans assume you had heat stroke you said "great game from Tacopants today."
Is this a good deal? Alabama and Clemson are opening the season in Atlanta. Kudos to them; the trend of moving football games off campus is far less annoying than the one in which no one plays anyone. But I wonder if it's worth it:
Alabama and Clemson will reportedly earn nearly $2 million apiece for their season-opening matchup in Atlanta.
Quick calculation suggests that $4 million divided by 90k (the approximate capacity of Bryant-Denny) is about 44 bucks, and we know that on average SEC tickets go for well more than that. So why not just have a home-and-home?
Diaries. SpartanNation drops in and gives us a taste of what we have coming; it's ugly. Chrisgocomment provides some further perspective on Carr's career. And wolvrine32 lists Michigan Commandments that Rich Rodriguez is enjoined to follow.
I still believe Kirk Ferentz was someone's first choice to be Michigan's next head coach. We'll never know, but the preponderance of rumormongering from here and elsewhere is hard to deny absent any contradictory hypotheses.
From a neutral perspective, Ferentz was a weird first option. He was successful... three years ago. Because of that rapidly receding success he was paid six kazillion dollars a year. And he was way ethical if you ignore the spate of questionable characters he recruited over the past few years and the housing scam he ran with his son.
But by God, he looked like an honest man. Nice jaw. Appealing salt-and-pepper hair. Aura of calm politeness at all times. Super hot daughters and strapping lad sons. People began to question his performance, but most of the opinion directed at Iowa's extended run of Facebook terrorism was meta-criticism: "isn't it weird no one's giving Iowa heat"?
Ladies and gentlemen: heat. This Iowa stuff that's gone down? Heavy. In sum:
- Cedric Everson (remember him?) and Abe Satterfield allegedly have nonconsensual sex with another Iowa athlete.
- The university suspends and eventually boots Everson and Satterfield, but pressures the victim into handling it "in house," allows Everson to move in with his girlfriend(!) three doors down from the victim, and generally appears to have no inclination towards actually doing something until the victim files formal charges.
- Some recruit is chased by eight cops whilst naked, racking up Iowa's 634th arrest in the last three years.
The mother of the victim was so incensed she released a scathing letter originally sent to Iowa eight months after she originally sent it. This is the money quote:
"University of Iowa's character was non-existent. It is disappointing to say the very least," the alleged victim's mother said in a phone interview. "We were told the school will take care of it. We will keep it in house. We will be swift. We will be just, and you don't have to worry about it."
And this is the money quote about Kirk Ferentz, Michigan's probable first choice coach in November:
Speaking of dorm rooms, the alleged assault occurred in a "ghost room," registered to a third player but unoccupied. After the incident, according to affadavits obtained by the Press-Citizen, Ferentz ordered the player to reoccupy the room, and a different player moved into the room as well. The room was never secured, evidence was never gathered from it, and the incoming players cleaned all the mess from the alleged assault. [mess including a used condom and sheets with an "orangish-reddish" substance on them -ed]
When I read the Press-Citizen article the first time around I thought it was a case of university bureaucracy exhibiting spectacular stupidity, not malice. This is not. It certainly appears like the behavior of the athletic department -- keep it "in house" because Iowa's got a first class prison right next to the chem building, throw away the evidence contained in the ghost room, keep it vague in the media -- was mostly concerned with whether or not they could salvage the careers of two defensive backs.
Black Heart, Gold Pants has been calling for mass resignations, and I'm not quite there. But Kirk Ferentz is alleged to have instructed two football players to
destroy evidence in a rape case involving another football player occupy a room he knew was a crime scene. [Update: clarification; Ferentz probably didn't say "you go destroy that evidence"; he did tell someone to move into a room that he knew would be of police interest.] If that turns out to be true (since that information is based on affadavits given by the players who moved into the room, that's highly likely), Ferentz immediately sets up shop one level above Dave Bliss in coaching hell.
We've heard an awful lot about Rich Rodriguez's lack of character this offseason because he changed jobs, tried to reduce his buyout, and said some silly things about the truth coming out. This was despite a seven-year run without a hint of NCAA sanctions and repeated weak showings in the Fulmer Cup. Meanwhile, Iowa is imploding and it took the most serious allegations leveled at a college head coach since the Bliss incident for anyone to notice. If you hadn't listened to Kirk Ferentz and Rich Rodriguez, hadn't seen pictures of their wives, couldn't hear their accents, this would all be terribly mysterious.
But we have and it's not. The whispered accusation about Rodriguez -- he's a hillbilly -- is true. He shops at Costco and is only interested in Rudyard Kipling if he's 17 years old and benches 400 pounds. He makes goofy jokes at press conferences and occasionally says things you wish he hadn't. He does not inspire third-party confidence like Bo or even Lloyd did. He is not a titanic figure astride the globe, molding young men into little Academic All-American Adonises. He is resolutely, publicly human, full of venal sins. He is impossible to truly adore in the way college football fanbases wish to adore their proxy father figures. He punctures the "Michigan Man" myth every day. He, like Zaphod Beeblebrox, is just this guy, you know?
And, like, okay. I'm nearly 30. I have a father. I just want someone who will win football games and not utterly disgust me when the scales fall from my eyes and the preposterous lie is exposed for all to see. I prefer my heroes poor and uncertain of their future, anyway.
The rich history of Michigan stealing traditions may go even deeper than previously known. Michigan, of course, stole Cornell's hockey cheers and Princeton's winged helmets and West Virginia's coaches and, on three separate occasions, Notre Dame's dignity. And this is the first page of the 12th chapter of a 1960 book by Bear Bryant:
Insert Dave Letterman going "eeeeeh" and pulling on his collar here.
Not even I believe this. Ex-sign-gobblin' linebacker and current Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald pulls out the Playbook of Ultimate Boredom when quizzed by ESPN's Adam Rittenberg re: Rodriguez:
I see you have a magazine on your desk with Rich Rodriguez on the cover. How will his arrival at Michigan impact the league?
PF: It will be a huge change for Michigan football. I've gotten to be around Rich a couple times and I'm very impressed with him as a person. I'm very impressed with his demeanor and his humility. A coach that who's been a head coach since a young age, has been very successful in his time as a head coach. The success that he had at West Virginia is incredible. To bring that mind-set and what they do to Michigan, it's going to be a great challenge for all of us. I'm not looking forward to competing against him. He's had great success. It's just going to take him a little bit of time, like it takes everybody when you go to a new university, to get all his pieces into place. But I'm sure he's got an acceleration plan to get that ready this fall.
Emphasis mine. Product Rodriguez's humility does not appear in my list of TOP 500 RICH RODRIGUEZ ASSETS. (All assets omitted are "Mike Barwis.")
1. Approx. 15 years experience as collegiate head coach
2. Modern, ass-kicking offensive system
3. "Coal spoon" mentality
4. Tendency to hire people based on qualifications, not friendship
5. Mike Barwis
11. Brandon Graham
23. Donovan Warren
56. "Lion King" joke he tells during press conferences.
110. Access to lifetime supply of hairspray.
124. Tight buns, according to my grandmother.*
234. $2 million dollar West Virginia home he will never ever sell
298. General lack of proximity to Mike Debord
343. Still-beating heart of West Virginia cheerleader
412. Pact with devil
499. Crack team of a lawyers who say things like "OMG he's a slave"
500. Agent Mike Brown.
*(Sadly, not really.)
Wisconsin 1999. Via the prolific Wolverine Historian:
"Rivalry" of a sort. Fanblogs compiled the top 15 most lopsided series (minimum: 50 games) and Michigan is on the good side of four:
15) Michigan-Purdue, 53 games, .770
14) Michigan-Iowa, 54 games, .778
11) Michigan-Wisconsin, 61 games, .795
4) Michigan-Indiana, 59 games, .847
#1 is Oklahoma-Iowa State, which Oklahoma is winning at a 92% clip; the only other Big Ten matchup in the list is #9 Ohio State-Northwestern.
Another 3:30 start. I hate 3:30 starts. You can't see the end of the noon games or (obviously) any of the 3:30 games or the start of the later games and in general I feel like I've missed a whole day of football whenever that goes down. So, like, bleah to Stadium & Main's clever breakdown of the possibilities for the Michigan-Michigan State game that leads inevitably to this:
Maybe there's an super-small chance that if both Michigan and MSU absolutely stink, the game will be given a Noon start on BTN, ESPN, or ESPN2, but that would mean no Big Ten 3:30 game on ABC - and I don't think that's ever happened, or is even allowed to happen since it probably violates the Big Ten's contract with ABC/ESPN.
And thus the conclusion that M-MSU will be 3:30 on ABC.
I think we can swing a few grand for edumahcation. If anyone ever tells you your plan to funnel more money to kids playing college football by extending their scholarships by a year or two is "too expensive" or something like that, please do me a favor and laugh in their face:
In just the last three years, assistant coaching salaries in the Big 12 have risen by almost 37 percent.
At OSU, that figure is a Big 12-high 65 percent, and would've been even higher had former Cowboy offensive coordinator Larry Fedora - who was making $393,000 - not left to be head coach at Southern Mississippi.
Once a bottom dweller in assistant coaches' pay, OSU, at $2.13 million, is now second in the Big 12, trailing only Texas' $2.38 million payroll.
The money goes somewhere, and increasingly it goes into palatial facilities and rich coaches.
That's what she said. A guy on MGoBoard points out that walk-on defensive back Jermaine Jackson is from Alaska, and he's not someone you want to mess with in the Eskimo stick pull:
University of Michigan defensive back Jermaine Jackson, a Bartlett High School graduate, won the Eskimo stick pull in an intense battle of leverage and strength against Matthew Evans.
In the event, two athletes sit facing each other with their feet together and knees bent and try to pull a short stick away from each other. Evans had a longer reach and a weight advantage, but he needed to defeat Jackson twice in best-of-three rounds. He took the first round, but Jackson won the second.
"What I was thinking was grip, all grip," Jackson said. "I was losing my grip in the first round."
Good news for Jackson: "Hold the rope" is one of Rodriguez's mysterious catchphrases ("spot the ball" is the other).
Odd demographics. This is probably not the exact right place to mention this, but if you live around MIS there's a charity raffle going on with this sweet hog as a prize:
Updated with information and stuff!
A defensive end has signed up. His name is awesome: Dequinta Jones. It is so awesome that a google search for just his first name pops up stuff about him. (When you are a blogger prone to google-stalking these things become disproportionately important; I vaguely hope Mike Jones changes his name to "Frobozz Tamoshanter" before he commits to Michigan, if indeed he does so.)
Update: Okay, this one's pretty weird. Jones hasn't visited Michigan and the last time he touched base with a recruiting site he claimed that Alabama and Cal led with a decision pending on Signing Day. He wasn't even on the recruiting board. Then out of the blue he picks Michigan. He is from Louisiana, the national epicenter of wacky recruitments. All these things indicate a potentially shaky situation. But, like... what the hell. He's committed. On with the show.
Jones is a three-star to everyone. Tiger Rag's "Midsummer Top 40" published just a few weeks ago weirdly claims no offers and interestingly claims he'll end up inside:
27. DeQuinta Jones DT (6'2,265, 4.8) Bastrop HS - Jones is explosive off of the line of scrimmage and is a quarterback's nightmare. Jones moves along the defensive line for his high school team fulfilling different positions, but with some added weight he will likely be more of an inside guy at the next level. Jones is currently flying under the radar as he awaits his first offer, but like many other talented prospects offers should appear flowingly throughout his senior season. During the spring, Jones took in visits at LSU, Alabama, Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
"Dandy Don" has him a bit higher at #19, saying he is a "little under-sized but has great speed and outstanding work habits." He appears to have fallen in the estimation of the gurus after starting out a member of the Rivals 250; clearly that's no longer the case. He's actually moved steadily down, falling from #187 in the first Rivals 250 to #218 above to entirely out and just a three-star. I know I've said this a few times already this year, but he might have some upward mobility left with his late-ish flurry of offers and Michigan commit. 50-50 he ends up a four star and back in at the tail end of the Rivals 250.
ESPN, however, is not particularly impressed, providing a 77. His evaluation is littered with words like "adequate"; in summary:
Has the ability to develop into a solid college defender that can at worst could be a good swing guy.
They, too, bring up the defensive tackle thing.
Unfortunately, that's about all on Jones: he's a DE/DT prospect that is sitting on the 3/4 borderline. Given Michigan's needs, a good pickup but not a thrilling one.
And now, a word. Earlier this year there was a mailbag in which a reader asked which of the premium sites was the better one to subscribe to. At the time I hadn't had much direct experience with Scout, but I related the general opinions of a trusted group of internet friends. I've now added some direct experience to my portfolio of Scout knowledge.
Sometime yesterday both sites came out and said "we can't confirm this yet, but we're getting indications that Dequinta Jones has committed to Michigan." Rivals got Jones on the phone and got these direct quotes from him:
"I talked to Coach (Jay) Hopson and he asked me if I was ready to be a Wolverine and I said 'Yes sir,'" Jones told Rivals.com national analyst Barton Simmons Monday afternoon. "Coach Rodriguez was in his office and heard the celebration down the hall and came out to see what it was all about and found out I committed."
Point for Rivals if you care which recruiting site posted information about a commitment nanoseconds before the other. No one who's sane should, but this is internet recruiting we're talking about here.
Scout did not take this well. They've got a story up with quotes from Jones' parents saying that Jones hasn't committed anywhere and that he was "on the farm." Okay, fine, whatever, different information. But Tom Beaver has posted this in at least three separate places:
Let's hope this didn't get messed up by the gun-jumping.
This garners responses like this:
TOS ["The other site" -ed] at their best. Way to do the due diligence Sam/Tom. That's why I come here for the real news.
To recap: Rivals has a direct quote from a kid saying he has committed to Michigan and that Jay Hopson and Rich Rodriguez know. They run a story reporting this. Tom Beaver laces his premium message board with innuendo about "gun-jumping" and lets his message board minions leap to the desired conclusion. Given the situation outlined above -- weird, no-visit Louisiana commit out of nowhere -- there's at least a small chance this commitment doesn't make it to February, at which point Beaver will tut-tut those jerks at Rivals who had the audacity to run a direct quote.
Lord knows I've had issues with a couple of the more sanctimonious Rivals writers, but Beaver routinely pulls stunts like this whenever he's beaten to a story. It's dishonest and drives me crazy. If you're looking to sign up for one site or the other, keep it in mind.
Two further news items in the ongoing coverage of Alabama's oversigning escapades:
- Destin Hood was a second round pick of the Nationals and has signed an MLB contract. This doesn't affect Alabama's numbers. They were already at the 25-player maximum (actually 27 with two early enrollees) without Hood, who was always expected to play baseball.
- Ezekial Knight has a name that always looks misspelled. He has also been shot down by Alabama's doctors after surgery to repair a heart murmur didn't totally fix the issue. Is this legit? On the one hand, Knight was a starting linebacker in 2007 and 'Bama is now critically short at the position. On the other:
"They didn't clear him to play at Alabama for some reason," said Randy Boyd, his former coach at Randolph County High. "He thinks he can play, and being young ande ambitious, he's going to try and get cleared at a smaller school."
"From what he tells me, they tell him that he can't play, but they can't give him a reason why. They just tell him he just doesn't need to play. One or two smaller schools have told him if he gets cleared by the doctors, and the physical has been passed, they are going to let him play."
Of all the medical disqualifications handed out by Alabama, Knight's is the least questionable. He was a starting linebacker who had a heart murmur and lingering complications from surgery; if he were to keel over during practice or a game after the warning signs he's received it would have been a permanent black mark on Alabama's program. Also, he would be dead.
In any normal situation, no one would even cock an eyebrow at the departure, but this is the thing: once you put yourself in the spot Alabama is in you stop trying to retain kids at all costs and start trying to eject them. I probably should have put a question mark in the "Cut" headline -- "Cut?" -- because we don't really know what happened with Tarence Farmer. I think it's incredibly doubtful that a redshirt freshman wide receiver/defensive back would transfer in mid-July instead of, say, after spring practice or not at all. But it could have been a voluntary transfer after Saban pulled him aside and said "kid, you're never going to play here and you should transfer" or been rude to him or cold to him or indifferent to him. There are ways of encouraging kids to leave your program.
The thing that's often lost here is how lucky(?) Alabama is to only have one scholarship to go. Jeremy Elder commited armed robbery for 28 bucks. Jimmy Johns delivered coke so fast you'll freak. An incredibly large number of kids came down with medicalscholarship-itis. Farmer had a mysterious mid-July transfer he doesn't want to talk about. And they're still a scholarship over.
It doesn't really matter whether Farmer was explicitly or implicitly told he should no longer be at Alabama. Schools should not be in the business of encouraging attrition from guys who aren't likely to contribute on the field, or they should just give up on the idea they're a non-profit organization in the business of promoting capital-S "student-athletes". You are operating in dubious waters when the result of Tarence Farmer's transfer is not the loss of a potentially useful player but his replacement by a higher-rated one.
I've said it before and will say it again: you should not be able to sign a player to a LOI unless you can show the NCAA where the scholarship is coming from. Extend the signing period past the end of spring practice, require a uniform "returning roster" date, and permit only enough LOIs to fill that gap. No more of these last-second medical hardships or midsummer transfers. No more pushing kids out of the boat. Punish attrition.