Round Two of roundtable interviews. Previously: Troy Woolfolk drops bombs. Up next: Stephen Schilling.
- Rodriguez tells the players on the team not to worry about exterior drama. He wants them to focus on football, and he can worry about outside factors. Everyone tries to ignore what's said in the media sometimes, or have thick skin about it.
- Schilling doesn't think the outside drama has worn on Rodriguez too much. He's a strong coach, and can get through it.
- The struggling the last couple years has been tough on everyone. It's been humbling, because most people on the team (Rodriguez included) have had success everywhere they've been. It's tough, because nobody commits to Michigan expecting to experience a losing season.
- The opener has a bit more excitement than it does in some years. Last year probably taught everyone to not put too much stock in the first game.
- Iowa and Ohio State are two games that Schilling's looking forward to, because he likes to measure himself against the best. Whoever comes out on top in the league has earned it. Michigan needs to hold up their end of the bargain to keep the OSU rivalry meaningful.
- The first couple years, there were a few guys who weren't able to buy in. Some of them left to transfer to other schools, etc. Now, everyone is bought in.
- There have been several moments that could have gone the other way that would have made the last two seasons very different. The goal-line stand against Illinois was a big regret for the offensive line. The MSU loss was easy to get over, because it was just the first loss and most of the season was still ahead of them.
Personnel & Schemes
- The team is much more experienced in year three. It's easier for the coaches to add new schemes, because the players know what they're doing now. "Every year, you get more comfortable with the coach, and he gets more comfortable with his players." There should be an even bigger jump between years 2 & 3 than there was last year.
- One reason Denard was able to improve so much in the spring was that he got to fly under the radar. There wasn't as much attention and pressure on him as there was on Tate.
- Taylor Lewan and Patrick Omameh are best friends, so it's funny that they've emerged at about the same time. Both guys are really physical, maybe to a fault sometimes, because they might risk injury. Both are athletic, and should be good additions.
- David Molk's injury last year helped a couple guys get some reps in the spring, especially Rocko Khoury and Christian Pace, and also Elliott Mealer. Pace has a great work ethic, and his performance this spring showed that he could be a budding star. Still, it will be good to play next to Molk again.
- There's potential for the offensive line to become dominant. They've been great at times, but they need to make that dominance more consistent.
- The defense's ability to play multiple fronts on defense will make them harder to prepare for. The offense also benefits, because they get to practice against different types in fronts.
- The seniors had five or six meetings to get on the same page for leadership purposes. They wanted to be sure they were all leading with good continuity. The biggest thing is to lead by example.
- There's a sense of urgency among the seniors, and they have a few special things planned for camp "that I'm not really gonna talk about."
- The run up State Street last week was the senior-led run for the last workout of the year. It's a team bonding experience. Everyone had a fun time running up to the Diag, but a few guys took the bus back when the run was over.
The hire of David Brandon as Michigan's AD already put a stake through the heart of any dim chance Les Miles had at the head coaching job in Ann Arbor, but if it hadn't this should disqualify him($):
"I got called to coach Miles' office. I had no idea it was coming," Elliott Porter said of his being asked by LSU to 'grayshirt' this season and re-enroll next year. "He just told me that they didn't have room for me. I moved out of my dorm today and I am now back home trying to figure everything out. It's been a rough 24 hours." …
"I have to win a waiver, but it shouldn't be a problem," Porter said. "It's unfair how they told me at the last minute." …
"I want to be somewhere that I am wanted," Porter said. "I understand how things are going at LSU, and they didn't have room. To me what happened today wasn't fair. But it's how things go. It's a business. And I fully understand that now."
That's a Rivals article from the Tennessee site; Porter is thinking about signing with UT. Meanwhile, LSU is lying its ass off about the situation:
"Coach made every attempt to get him to stay but the young man wanted to leave," LSU media relations director Michael Bonnette said.
…every attempt except for actually giving him the scholarship promised six months ago. As an aside, one of the Google News hits for Porter is an irrelevant piece from New Zealand serendipitously titled "Slave labor system rotten to the core."
While that's a little over the top—those excitable Kiwis—this is a clear-cut case of a school signing too many kids and jerking one unlucky one around when too many qualify. Porter had a frickin' dorm room and is still trying to find a new place to land on August 4th. As Oversigning.com points out, college football is explicitly not a business. This is supposedly the reason the kids are amateurs, and anyone who gets the impression it is a business might take a huge amount of money from shady characters or enjoy a party in South Beach someone else is paying for. By allowing coaches to take chances like this the NCAA is degrading respect for its other rules.
More importantly, they're treating athletes like meat. By putting himself in a situation where there was a possibility he'd have to cut a kid in August, Miles has established that his job is more important than his word or the players he recruits. I'm not one of those guys who thinks Michigan's head coach has to be raised from birth by helmeted ascetics to learn the Chi Of The Iso in the Hidden Temple of Hardass, but that's a bridge too far for me. I'll be at the head of the mob if he ever gets hired by Michigan, which he won't so whatever.
Also, the usual: the NCAA needs to make LOIs binding for the school, too, for at least one year and preferably two. They can increase the scholarship limit slightly if necessary to compensate. No school should ever benefit from signing a kid to a LOI they do not honor.
People are annoyed about the change to Michigan Stadium's policy about bringing water bottles into the stadium. This includes myself. Also this crotchety old man grousing about dolla dolla bills ya'll:
“I thought it was a mistake, so I called to check,” he said. “The lady who answered the phone said it wasn’t. She said they had been getting a lot of calls on it.”
Starting with the season opener against UConn on Sept. 4, bottled water is banned, university officials confirmed. They said the policy was enacted for a variety of reasons and free water will be inside for the 100,000-plus fans attending each game.
“I understand why they are doing it,” Ulisse said. “They just spent all that money on the stadium. I’m sure they want to get some money back from the concession stands.”
For the record, the stadium expansion is going to make money and it's not like hawking a few extra bottles of water is going to make a dent in 226 million dollars anyway. I pinged Bruce Madej about the change and he got back to me instantly; in that response were a couple notes about what they're doing to cope:
· Newly installed water fountains located throughout the concourse (28).
· Complimentary cups of water available at each concession stand that has soda dispensing (Still finalizing numbers but they will be quite high)
In addition, the Absopure stands have been increased from four to "more than thirty."
As to reasons for the change, Madej had three:
- We have long lines and we can reduce wait times entering the stadium.
- We can reduce the potential for harmful materials to be brought into the stadium.
- We can reduce the distractions for our police officers so they can concentrate on other security measures.
In sum, Michigan is "really trying to increase the speed of getting people into the stadium."
I remain skeptical since it seems like the main effect of the policy will be to move the lines from the stadium gates to the concession/water stands, and if the complimentary water comes in a little tiny cup there are going to be a lot of thirsty people by the end of a noon game in September. The best part about bringing in your own water is being able to stay in your seat without braving the gridlock outside. Also if you get into the stadium before the band hits the field there aren't any problems.
For what it's worth, Madej did say they were looking into the logistics there, acknowledging that the current setup is impractical. If you can roll in and grab a 20-once cup of water with a lid, everything will be fine. Judging from the widespread anger and quick response from the department, at least they're devoting some time to the issue.
First up from my interviews with Michigan's three player representatives at Big Ten Media Days: Troy Woolfolk.
On The Question Everyone Asks First
- Denard has been out for all the voluntary activities, regardless of whether he's hurting. Tate tries to come out, but he's not as consistent with his work ethic, which has let Denard get out ahead a bit. The upshot: "I think that Tate's gonna have to do a lot of work to catch back up to Denard in camp this year."
- Troy doesn't care which position he plays, as long as he gets to stick with one or the other. Switching back and forth between safety and corner helped Troy have a more complete understanding of the defense last year, but it hurt him to not be able to concentrate on one position or the other the whole time. Now that he's exclusively a corner, he'll be able to focus on that specifically.
- At corner, there's more of a focus on speed, whereas at safety it's also about being big enough to take on running backs and tight ends.
- There are no individual goals in terms of statistics, but Troy's personal goals are to not get beat deep and not miss any open-field tackles.
- Growing up, Troy didn't really know how good a football player his dad had been. Butch didn't really talk about it much. Still, by the end of this year, Troy hopes it's "Troy Woolfolk's dad Butch" instead of "Butch Woolfolk's son Troy."
- Vance Bedford would be shocked to know that Troy is one of the most knowledgeable players on the defense. He used to give him a hard time about not paying enough attention in film, but that's changed. Troy's no longer falling asleep in film room, nor is he "texting on my phone to my friends about how I'm about to go to sleep watching film."
- The main difference in this year's defense is that it's simpler. That will be a help because a lot of young guys will be able to catch on more quickly. This year's schemes have more of a zone emphasis than man.
- It's a little difficult to switch defensive schemes so frequently. there's been a different scheme or coordinator every year Troy's been at Michigan. The players have to make an effort to forget some of the old stuff to absorb the new stuff.
- A lack of defensive depth and injuries helped undermine the defense last year, but there are no excuses for how they performed. Troy had knee and shoulder injuries last year that might have hurt.
- Stopping the ground attack will be important this year, and it's up to the big guys up front to help with that. There's enough size there to do it.
- Everyone's "All-in for Greg Robinson," so the team will band behind him and perform well on D.
- "The Team. All-in for The Team" is the rallying cry this year. The players have to play for each other, not worry about fans and other external pressures. There's also a "we can" attitude instead of a "we'll try" attitude. There are senior leaders at every position group except wide receiver. Roy Roundtree and Martavious Odoms have stepped up as the leaders there.
- This is probably the best leadership group since Troy's been on the team. They're the last group of Lloyd Carr-era players, so it means even more that they've all bought in to the new regime.
- There have been nice crowds for summer workouts. It's about the same as prior years, even though the coaching staff has been more explicit that they aren't mandatory with the NCAA stuff going on. The senior leaders have come up with some ideas to get guys to come out.
- Obi Ezeh have gotten bigger in the offseason, but they're probably faster than they were before they added the weight. They're able to run with receivers deep, too. They "look like supreme athletes out there." Troy has confidence that they'll be able to put it all together this year, and be two of the best linebackers in the nation.
- Last year, Jordan Kovacs was a surprise to everyone. He brings attitudes of calmness and confidence, which are important on defense. When Mike Williams went down in the Notre Dame game, Kovacs was a pleasant surprise.
- Courtney Avery is the only freshman corner Troy's seen. He learns fast though, and when he gets beat deep he's able to forget about it and move on to the next play.
- Cameron Gordon is confident, perhaps overconfident. He's also very physical, even though he's a former offensive player (Troy thinks they're all soft). He needs to learn a defensive mentality a bit more, but he's getting there.
- Marvin Robinson has a natural gift at safety, and he's been playing the deep safety position.
- Terrance Robinson has been good in 7-on-7 drills. He was hurt his freshman year, then wasn't quite the same as before in his redshirt freshman year. This year, he should be back to the way he was.
- Troy was able to convince himself to prepare a bit more for rivalry games, such as ND, MSU, and OSU last year. Maybe he shouldn't focus more on them (and focus the same for the other games as well), but it helps him perform well.
- The Michigan State game is a cool rivalry because it's like a state championship game.
[Ed.: Don't forget Woolfolk's burgeoning career as a stand-up comedian. Via the message board and Joe Schad:
"When I see 'O' shaped objects I get instantly angry. I don't eat Cheerios, Froot Loops or Apple Jacks."
Most of it is platitudes and evasion, and what we did learn was mostly that decisions will be made in the future (there is a 30-45 day window in which divisional alignments will be determined) and that foregone conclusions are happening (Big Ten championship game).
Q. Jim, in order to preserve some of those rivalries and create appealing match-ups for television, do you anticipate going to a nine-game football schedule in the future?
COMMISSIONER DELANY: I do. I think that would be really helpful to us. I think there's a consensus among our athletic directors to do that. How quickly we can do that, we can't do that in the next year or two. I'm hopeful we can make progress in years three and four. Hopefully it's not more than that. But it could be depending upon contractual commitments. It would have to be modified.
But I think it would be really good. I think to play each other more is what our fans want, and I think that's what the athletes want. And to be honest with you, the nonconference schedules that we've seen develop as we've added a 12th member have not been good for I don't think the fan base nor have they necessarily been embraced like they might be embraced by the players. I think players want to compete. And I think fans like to see good competition.
So I understand why things happen that way, and I think a ninth game at this juncture would serve everybody's interests.
If Delany is willing to be that blunt about the average quality of the 12th game and the "consensus" amongst athletic directors a ninth conference game is less a possibility and more a thing that is definitively, if only eventually, happening. Because teams have full schedules for the next few years the date this would go into effect is probably 2013.
Coaches seem opposed to the move—Jim Tressel dropped a line about how he "worries about meeting payroll"* that will be someone's signature on MLive for the next 50 years—but screw those guys. I've written a lot about rising payouts for body bag games and an increasing desperation for television inventory combining to ease out this era of dire nonconference scheduling, but that was more in hope than expectation. Delany saying "this is happening as soon as possible" is a major win for everyone except the accountants of I-AA.
As a bonus, a nine game conference schedule will make the divisional alignments less of a hissy-fit kind of deal. You'll miss two opponents from the other division instead of three, making it impossible to entirely whiff on the M/OSU/PSU or the NU/Iowa/UW group.
*(Your conference payout doubles in five years and you're worried because you'll lose something under half a home game every year? Lawya, please.)