a terrible blight on our fine country
Word has reached the mgobatcave that freshman running back Mike Cox is currently scouting destinations back east in anticipation of a transfer. If he gets registered and such for the fall semester, he can spend this year as his mandatory redshirt and be eligible next fall; if he goes through with it we’ll know soon.
Cox probably saw the writing on the wall with Sam McGuffie and Michael Shaw already seeing time and three running back recruits—all of whom are decidedly small shifty types, not thumpers like Cox—in the 2009 class.
The moral, as always: don’t recruiting running backs with funny names.
BONUS SECRET INSIDER INFOS! The band is going to play “Hangin’ Tough” this weekend. NKOTB 4EVA.
No in-out since it’s the first one in a while, but a dossier of those in trouble:
MY FATHER has a shirt that says he’s my dad and points me out to various passers-by who notice it. This is not cool.
ANTONIO BASS’ TRAITOROUS KNEE. Bass was a high school quarterback who made Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Draws work with some regularity during his freshman season. He’d be a redshirt junior who couldn’t throw worth a lick but could be Pat White if his knee hadn’t exploded in a contact warmup drill. Preposterously, the injury was the worst knee injury Michigan football’s ever experienced and Bass’s career is over.
EAGLES FANS IN MAIZE. There was a smattering of boos at halftime, which is only barely acceptable when a team is clearly playing under its capabilities and even then it’s pretty dickish since no one’s getting paid. When no one from the fans to the coaches to the players knows what they can do, booing can only be the province of people who should exit the stadium like stray extra points.
(THE) GENERAL BLOODYMINDEDNESS OF (THE) UNIVERSE. The Year of Infinite Pain, The Horror, Josh Moore, the Bass thing above, the transfer of Jason Forcier just in time for him to watch Tavita Pritchard beat Oregon State, Mr. Plow’s departure to the maw of the Great Satan… I mean, come on.
WEST VIRGINIA. Make one funny move and we’ll hire Huggins to coach Grand Valley State.
THE SUN. By the time the game was over half the people in the stadium looked deep-fried and the other half had evaporated. Also it got in my eyes. Stupid sun.
THE 4-3 AGAINST A SPREAD. I thought we ditched this at the same time we ditched Jim Herrmann? At least Shafer got wise relatively quick and junked in in favor of nickel packages galore in the second half; though most credit the defensive line with the carnage wrought it was the secondary actually covering Johnson’s first and sometimes second reads that allowed the defensive line to exercise their constitutional right of assembly at the quarterback.
Site note: UFRs will be Wednesday/Thursday going forward; every year I suggest they will be Tuesday/Wednesday and am forcibly disabused of this idea the firs week. Also, I miss Joel A. Morgan’s cartoons and am accepting submissions for random inclusion into UFR. It’s like the New Yorker: you submit stuff and sometimes I post it when it strikes my fancy. Except I don’t pay you.
O Do Not Forsake Me. Jerry Green is officially one thousand years old:
Michigan opened its celebrated anti-tradition era with its heavily publicized modern-style offense looking as though it were conducting a fire drill.
By that, I mean helter-skelter, willy-nilly and putt-putt!
Glabdanged frozzmatozz put that in your pipe and smoke it boy howdy I got an Indian nickel lets get a phosphate at the druggist this qualifies as a sentence in a major newspaper these days.
Later, Green uses “newfangled” without a hint of irony:
So what's different, other than this newfangled offense that made Rodriguez such a coveted football coach?
Well, it's now tradition-be-damned at Michigan!
I didn’t even know you could do that. I also didn’t know you could use exclamation points helter-skelter, willy-nilly, and putt-putt!
Green is a weird mix of Grandpa Simpson and T. Herman Zweibel; the above-linked column is a must-read if only for its antiquated strangeness. I mean:
On the sideline, Threet and David Cone and then the replaced Sheridan wigwagged the signals to the quarterback of the moment. Assistant coaches in headsets, connected by wire to play-callers up above, translated the plays into the code for the semaphore artists.
These things are newfangled: wigwagging(?), connecting things to other things by telegraph, and signaling plays into the sideline. Also newfangled: the horseless carriage, fire, and the atmosphere. Don’t get proper views of the night sky anymore with all that nitrogen in the way back in my day we had proper views and also we were prokaryotes someone bring me my cranberry juice.
Green circa 2.5 billion years ago
The invaluable Smart Football might be posting at a more regular rate, and lets hope so, because…
When Rodriguez got to Tulane with Tommy Bowden they threw the ball over the place, but (a) it was in Conference USA, (b) they were excellent at the 3-step passing game, but defenses are better at defending against those passes now than they were a decade ago, and (c) his downfield passing game left something to be desired. And in the years since, it's not that Rodriguez is at heart a running guy, it's just that was what worked and it masked some of the passing game deficiencies. When I study the route combinations, they do not appear to be designed conceptually, and instead are a kind of grab-bag of a few routes here or there. You don't see his schemes organized of horizontal, vertical, and triangle stretches.
…this is about the most interesting thing anyone’s said about him since he was hired at Michigan.
Now, Rodriguez's saving grace is I've seen him in action, and he's an excellent fundamentals coach and is a great teacher. And I think he understands all these things - I mean the guy did exploit the zone-read spread stuff before anyone else - but hasn't had the chance to reexamine his offense with such a critical eye. This season, to be successful, I believe he will have to.
Being successful this season will rest less on the pass routes and more on reducing the overall Yakety Sax vibe, IMO, but down the road this will be something to look out for. Click the link for what Smart Football means by “conceptual” pass routes.
This worked out. The “Victors Walk” was a neat addition to a football Saturday:
A ton of schools do this for good reason; glad to see we’re amongst them. I hope the former letterwinners are included in the walk when Michigan does the thing where they bring back a bunch of old dudes for the Tunnel Of History.
Perception is a weird thing. Dr. Saturday, nee SMQ, on the defense:
If there's anything good to take away for the Wolverines, it's that the defense, overall, lived up to its hype. Brian Johnson shredded it for 260 yards and a couple touchdowns in the first half -- he only topped 260 yards in an entire game once in '07 -- but if you were too distracted by the offensive horrifics on the other side to notice, the Utes' second half production amounted to two first downs and six total yards. If not for the towering leg of Kicking-and-Punting Messiah Louis Sakoda, who hammered home the eventual winning margin on a 54-yarder after the Utes went three-and-out from the Michigan 40, it would have been a shut out. It was dominating, anyway, and there's some promise in that. Just some, though, not enough to raise expectations beyond the Champs Sports Bowl.
I don’t see how you can just dismiss the shredding handed out, as it’s clear evidence of a glaring weakness in the linebacker corps and something between inexperience and Cato June at safety. The overall performance graded out to “slightly disappointing,” as you’d hope Michigan scoring 23 points would be enough for victory. It would have been if not for that little kicker guy, but only just.
The second half was very encouraging and it’s better to have Michigan suddenly get its act together late—hopefully that straight 4-3 we saw against the spread is permanently junked—than come out storming and fall apart; I am still a bit leery of the unit. Notre Dame will be interesting.
Meanwhile, an even more mystifying reaction: “Michigan needs to get creative”:
As the fans howled, Odoms gained three yards. No cloud of dust could be spotted from the press box, but it might as well have been there.
As far as creativity went, the first play was about as good as it got for Michigan on Saturday. So were the results.
To call the Wolverines' offense vanilla would be an insult to the term. Rodriguez came to Michigan as an offensive innovator, but his playbook might as well as been a pamphlet against Utah.
?!?!?!? Martavious Odoms is a tiny freshman slot receiver who received a shovel pass counter on the first play of the game. About the only thing that could have been less Lloyd Carr would have been a double-reverse trick pass. And I submit there’s a limited amount of creativity you can install into a gameplan when you have no quarterbacks who have ever taken a college snap, one returning OL starter, and freshmen everywhere at the skill positions. Rodriguez was busy getting them to run the right way and was only 90% successful at that. And there was a fair bit of creativity: the attempts to get Utah leaping offsides, the option here and there, the shocking lack of bubble screens
Etc.: Braves & Birds weighs in; Varsity Blue breaks the numbers down a bit; the WLA is cranky at you, not the team; Carty is like the only guy who doesn’t have a “Don’t leap to conclusions BUT” paragraph; MVictors has the circle of death, plus a picture of a dejected Scott Shafer
Update 9/1: Linked to articles on MI WR Dion Sims, NJ DE Anthony LaLota, CA QB Tate Forcier (second), FL LB Brandin Hawthorne, SC DE Chris Bonds, FL CB Mywan Jackson, SC DE Sam Montgomery, AZ DE Craig Roh, CA OL Michael Philipp, TN CB Marsalis Teague, MI WR Cameron Gordon, video of OH RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, picture I am going to use whenever MI DT Will Campbell is mentioned. Moved FL LB Brandin Hawthorne and FL RB Vincent Smith to committed. Moved CA QB Tate Forcier to committed. Some links from Varsity Blue.
Do we really have an offer out to this guy?
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting board lives here. I’ll cover the commitments in separate googlestalking posts over the next few days. As far as the guys who are uncommitted or already in the fold…
This is the most important thing you’ll see in this post:
That’s wholly shirtless DT commit Will Campbell dressed up like Thor. I wish I could say this was some sort of surprise, but prep photographers get super bored from time to time and take the opportunity to make athletic guys who get all the girls dress up like goofs.
Meanwhile, my optimism re: MA OL Brennan Williams was ill-founded as he’s dropped M and plans to stay on the east coast—Varsity Blue wins this round. That’s a damaging blow for Michigan’s hopes for another high profile offensive lineman in the class; at the moment there is no one on the board that seems particularly likely to end up at Michigan. Michigan’s not graduating any OL this year and just took six, so the need is not critical; another decent prospect would be nice.
Elsewhere, there’s been some movement on the defensive ends we all crave. CA DE Craig Roh made an official visit for the Utah game and now Scout has an article indicating in the header that his decision will be coming shortly($). He likes Barwis, as all defensive ends should:
"He's out-of-this-world good," Roh said of Michigan's new conditioning guru. "He was the most impressive strength and conditioning coach I've seen. He's very outside the box. They don't just do ordinary lifting, and that really impressed me."
Roh explained the strength gains of one of Michigan's defensive ends.
"He weighed like 280 and benched like 300," Roh said. "(Barwis) stripped him down to 240 and built him up back to 270. Then he could bench 400 or something like that. That was just in five months! If you make those kinds of gains you are obviously doing something right."
Roh’s taken a second visit and is now accelerating his timetable, which either indicates 1) Michigan is it or 2) Michigan was the only school that might hypothetically snatch him from USC’s clutches and they didn’t quite get it done. They’re definitely in his top two. The premium sites have differing levels of optimism here; we’ll see.
Meanwhile, NJ DE Anthony LaLota was impressed by his visit and has decided to push out his commitment timeline until he takes in some official visits. Previously, he was planning to commit immediately after his unofficial to Michigan. Thoughts on his trip:
"It's a great place," he said of Ann Arbor. "The Big House is great and the atmosphere there is a lot of fun. I also love their tradition and history of winning.
"They are known for winning and I think they'll be great under coach Rich Rodriguez," LaLota said. "He's been a very successful coach and did great at West Virginia and I think he'll continue at Michigan. I don't think they'll have a bad season."
LaLota also plays on the offensive line, but says the Wolverines and others are recruiting him for defensive end. "They said that I need to come prepared because there's a good chance I could play early there," he said. "I really like how they always seem to prepare their players well for the next level."
Elsewhere in that article he has nice things to say about Rutgers and Notre Dame; Boston College, Michigan, Notre Dame, and Penn State are noted as the best campuses he’s been to; previous Virginia was thought to be in strong position for him. Add it up and LaLota’s future destination remains extremely murky.
SC DE Sam Montgomery is close to narrowing down his favorites and Michigan didn’t get a mention in the Kornblut article detailing his process. But hey, he likes Yankee talkin’:
I like to keep you guys guessing," he said. He did say that he is getting a better idea of where he plans to take his official visits and that South Carolinians may be pleased with his choices. This summer, Montgomery visited UNC and NC State. He liked both schools. "North Carolina is a great school. They really impressed me. They have a great atmosphere and I fell in love with John Blake." He also spoke highly of NC State. "I liked their coaches and their accents. They talk like people from up north. They acted like really want to win." Sam says he still wants to visit LSU and Miami but has not decided if these will be official or unofficial visits.
Paging Scott Shafer’s Midwestern brogue on line one. Montgomery’s previously claimed Michigan was an official visit on the docket. Optimism here is low; he appears ticketed for somewhere closer to home even with the weird affection for northern non-accents.
Fellow SC DE Chris Bonds has Michigan in his top six along with USC, the other USC, ND, Alabama, and Tennessee and looks upon Michigan junior Adam Patterson as something of a role model:
Bonds remembers watching Patterson choose Michigan over South Carolina in January 2006.
“Adam, he was a cool dude,” Bonds said. “I was a young guy. He was an old guy. Good role model. Adam would always tell me, ‘Just don’t let it get to you. No matter where you go, if it’s here or its Alaska or Hawaii, just don’t let it get to you.’ “
That list looks set up for a full slate of official visits plus some unofficial ones to the local school; Bonds has yet to tip his hand about where he’s leaning. He’s also got former teammates at Notre Dame and South Carolina.
Meanwhile, FL CB Mywan Jackson seemed on the verge of a commitment before a visit to Auburn with teammates gave him pause. He now plans a full slate of official visits; Michigan appears to be the team to beat:
Jackson took unofficial visits to all of his finalists except Illinois and South Carolina this summer. His trip to Michigan is the one that stood out. Jackson described the school as being "a wonderful place."
A versatile talent, Jackson (6-foot, 178 pounds) said Auburn and Michigan have told him they would give him a shot to play quarterback. His other finalists have him projected to play cornerback. Either scenario is fine with Jackson.
"I'd give (QB) up," he said. "I just want to get on the field."
UNC and Louisville are the other two finalists along with M, Auburn, Illinois, and the Other USC.
Video! Plenty of highlights from the first week of high school action. Liberty crushed Niles behind impressive performances from Fitzgerald Toussaint and Isaiah Bell:
FL WR Jeremy Gallon went flapjack nuts against a Seabreeze team that was 12-1 last year and features Michigan safety prospect Jonathan Scott, though Scott didn’t play, running for 304 yards and four touchdowns in Apopka’s blowout opening night win. (Video.)
There’s also this fluffy bit on GA LB Devekeyan “DeDe” Lattimore:
I think Michigan will fade for Lattimore, as they already have 3 or 4 linebacker commits in the class with the recent addition of Brandin Hawthorne and the potential moves of either or both of their safety commits.
Etc.: Michigan and MI LB/WR Cameron Gordon appear to have little mutual interest. MI TE Dion Sims is still leaning towards college basketball; he just tore his ACL and is done for the year.
Awesome. This is exactly what the team needed:
Michigan sustained injuries to wide receivers Greg Mathews (ankle) and Junior Hemingway (shoulder). Safety Brandon Harrison didn't play the second half because of a groin injury. Running back Carlos Brown was limited with a shoulder injury. Defensive tackle Terrance Taylor hurt his foot and was in a walking boot after the game.
Thankfully, none of these injuries is supposed to be severe. Though Rodriguez downplayed the importance of the depth chart, Mathews is still listed atop one receiver position, although it’s an “or” with Stonum, and Harrison is listed as a starting safety. Hemingway is not present. He wasn’t present last week, either, and still played. Carlos Brown has disappeared from the RB position but Rodriguez said “we think he’ll be available.”
Mathews and Van Bergen (ankle) were “day to day”; Hemingway was “a little nicked” but his absence was “precautionary.” Harrison’s injury was actually a leg, injury, not a groin and he “should be fine.”
Other notes from the first in-season press conference:
- Feagin “isn’t ready to play” and will be redshirted.
- Threet had a “few more positive things” and “took the edge a little bit.” Still sounds like both will play. Before the opener Sheridan was getting most of the reps with the top unit; in practice this week they’ll split them evenly. I expect Threet to get the first shot at Miami.
- Defense was “awful in the first half”; Michigan “not good enough to play bad and win.”
- Grady is “practicing with the team” and is a maybe to play against Miami.
- Will Johnson and Obi Ezeh were the best players on defense.
- Mouton “got in there and provided a spark.” Sounds like they’ll be shuffling the linebackers some.
- There is “little separation” between Minor, McGuffie, and Shaw. “All three” are in rotation with the first group—no Brown.
- Redshirts are still somewhat up in the air, but Koger and Roundtree were called out as guys who will probably get in at some point.
- You can hear the longing in this quote on Miami, can’t you?
I know they've got nine returning starters on defense, and watching a little film on Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt's biggest plays were when the quarterback took off running. He as a really good athlete and got a lot of big runs, and that was the difference in the ball game.
The rest of it was the usual.
The status of the freshmen in re: redshirts:
- PLAYED: Shaw, McGuffie, Odoms, Stonum, Fitzgerald, Cissoko, Martin
- WILL PROBABLY PLAY: Koger, Roundtree, Robinson
- MIGHT PLAY: Khoury, Barnum, Floyd, Smith, Demens
- REDSHIRTS: Moore, Feagin, Hill, Cox, Mealer, O'Neill, Omameh, Wermers
Notably, only Fitzgerald saw action solely on special teams. This is a significant change from the Carr days, when many would burn their redshirts covering kicks and punts and the like, and a departure from Rodriguez’s professed philosophy on the redshirt—he, like Carr, prefers to get kids on the field as freshmen for whatever reason. I wonder if the new staff is giving the vast majority of the reps to people they feel can help now and thus the guys who might normally play in an average year are even more unprepared than they otherwise might be.
8/30/2008 – Michigan 23, Utah 25 – 0-1
Every rational thought in your head suggests that the whole walk-on or freshman-the-coaches-are-panicked-about at quarterback, the line of baling wire and the occasional confused chicken, and freshmen everywhere at the skill positions will combine to yield an offense worthy of Yakety Sax, but until you actual see the damn thing in action you can hold out hope it will be otherwise.
We have seen it in action. It could have gone better. At least we have an incredibly direct metaphor all around us:
This program is under construction with a completion date around 2010. This is going to be a tough year. If you’re prone to hysterics you should do everyone a favor, watch something else, and annoy everyone on the Project Runway message boards with your all-caps posts. Get over it.
If you’d told me the final score before the game I would have been disappointed but not particularly surprised and wouldn’t have budged much from the preseason prediction. Unfortunately, a raft of unusual events obscured a much grimmer picture, especially in the first half. That was a near-worst case scenario. The offense was as bad as everyone feared; the defense was far worse than anyone expected in the first half. Without the latter unit’s second-half turnaround, I would be halfway to the Yukon and my new life as a gold prospector this morning. As it is, I think a bowl game is unlikely since it will probably require a 7-5 record.
But I’m here and we can talk about the game some. The best part was the warmups, and I mean that only somewhat sarcastically. Seeing the 100-some men in winged helmets go “HOO HOO HOO” whilst pivoting was a weird kind of thrill, as was the Barwis-led Circle of Death. This is not your father’s Michigan football, (TINYFMF) etc.
The second best part was Rodriguez’s inability to cope with the idea his team sucked. I also mean that only somewhat sarcastically. TINYFMF was best displayed on Michigan’s last play of the first half, when Nick Sheridan dropped back on third and long and lofted a ball on an ICBM trajectory. Everyone in the stadium knew it would be intercepted the moment it left his hand.
Lloyd Carr would have called a fullback dive and punted. Michigan would probably have escaped the first half with a manageable five-point deficit, and the defense and special teams excellence in the second half would have been enough to pull it out. The entirety of halftime that “22” for Utah rankled. That touchdown looked completely decisive.
So maybe that was a stupid call. Having your walk-on hurl a ball skyward is asking for it. But I vastly prefer the expectation your player can come through in an important situation to the fear he won’t. That tendency is probably going to hurt this year, when expecting any quarterback to do anything except soil himself is a bad bet, but when Michigan is good they’ll go through each series with a mind to score points; they should blow the doors off opponents who can’t cope. Carr’s formula was a recipe for 9-3, 9-3, 9-3, 9-3. Rodriguez will go through more swings based on how much talent he has at his disposal. Eventually, this will be a good thing.
There’s not much more to say: they kind of suck. I don’t know who any of them are. I hope they get better.
- Boy, did I hate the 4-3 Michigan started out in during the first half. That’s a guarantee of zone coverage or a hideous mismatch between first-time starters at linebacker and slot receivers. For the most part it was the former, which the first-time starters at linebacker were terrible at, and Michigan got shredded on a wide array of routes designed test the weakest part of the Michigan defense. It failed.
- Do you ever get the feeling people are prepared to criticize in a particular way even if reality conflicts with them? I’ve seen a lot of rabble rabble about “Rodriguez needs to adapt the offense to his players” in the aftermath of a game in which Michigan threw 60% of the time.
- I bet you could have gotten good odds on “boy, I wish Rodriguez had run more” as a common complaint before the game. That was perhaps the most disturbing development, as it speaks to a total lack of faith in the offensive line.
- Stevie Brown was victimized repeatedly, giving up the 50-yard pass on third and twenty that led to Utah’s first touchdown. I think he was responsible for the coverage on the score right before the half. He did jump another endzone route and bat the ball to Ezeh.
- Feagin? I mean… he couldn’t have been worse.
- The holding and pass interference penalties should be set aside in a description of Utah mistakes, as Michigan forced those errors out of the Utes with a torrent of pressure and wild hopeful downfield jump balls. One of these will serve Michigan in good stead for the rest of the season.
- This would be the point during a game coached by Carr where I would bemoan the zone-tipping, ineffective 4-3 Shafer came out in for the first half; this is considerably more difficult when you have scarcely less information about the football team than the actual coaches do. I’m not sure how you’re supposed to get a grip on whether your defense can handle a spread offense in its base set when you’re going up against that in practice every day. Or how you’re supposed to figure out what you can do on offense when everyone’s a freshman and even the folks who aren’t played in a totally different system.
If ever a coaching staff could be forgiven for flailing about with the wrong players, it was Saturday. The halftime adjustments were encouraging.