Previously: Kyle Kalis
Brian Cole wants to see the field this year. [Fuller]
Next up for the Media Day interviews is slot receiver Brian Cole, one of a few freshmen who was available to speak to the media, presumably because he enrolled early and went through spring practice with the team. Cole has already undergone his first uniform change. While he wore #81 in the spring, he's now rocking #41, perhaps a sign that senior walk-on tight end Michael Jocz (now the only #81) is in line for some playing time.
A couple guys have said they didn't even know it was Media Day until they walked in. How has it been with Harbaugh keeping you guys on your toes?
Oh, yeah, it's blessing us though, I'll tell you that, because he's getting all of us ready for the league, NFL-ready. He's treating it like it's the NFL, so people are just getting a better understanding of what it's going to be like if you play in the NFL.
How big of a transition is it coming from high school to this type of environment? What's been the toughest part of that?
It's very overwhelming, to be honest. It's a lot of pressure. You have your highs and your lows. To be honest, it's been hard, but it's been a good experience.
What's he got you playing right now?
I'm playing slot receiver.
I know you played a lot of different spots in high school. How comfortable are you settling into that position?
I'm still getting used to it since I never really played receiver. So my footwork, stuff like that, I'm still working on it. I like it a lot, though. I want to score touchdowns, too, so that's always fun. Catching them isn't so bad, either. I'm just getting used to it.
You guys have Jedd Fisch as a receivers coach, another guy with NFL experience. How big of a help is it to have somebody who's been there?
It's great. The whole coaching staff, they know what it takes, and having Coach Fisch, that's my dawg, I love Coach Fisch. He's always helping me. He's always on top of me about everything, too.
With you in the slot, do you expect to be utilized as a runner as well as a receiver? How do you expect to be used out there?
To be honest, I don't know. I have no idea.
So they're keeping you in the dark about everything.
How easy has it been to pick up the playbook?
Not easy at all. (Laughs.) It's still coming along. It's just the fact that, coming from high school, our playbook looked nothing like that—like, it was numbers, and that was our play. Having all this extra stuff, audibles, all these extra signs we can do, it makes it a lot harder but you gotta learn it. If I want to play I gotta learn it, so that's what I'm trying to do.
Four hour practices, it sounds like the intensity is way up; how well do you think the team has adjusted to that?
Well. We grinding. We got better every day, so things are going good with those four-hour practices. It's not hurting us too bad.
What are your expectations for this year? Do you have anything laid out?
As far as team goals, I don't know. I know, even not talking to them, I know we want to win, like, every game, and that's what we plan to do. We're going to work, have fun, and just win.
And for you personally, what are your expectations for your play this year?
I just want to play. I just want to touch the field.
This afternoon's Media Day marked the unofficial start of Michigan football season. Over the coming days we'll be posting several interviews with players and coaches—and, of course, Harbaugh's presser. First up is Kyle Kalis, who had some fascinating things to say about the new way of doing things under the new staff. Oh, and some thoughts on shirtlessness. Note: several of these are MGoQuestions, but not all or them. I'll note in other posts if I had an actual one-on-one.
What's been the biggest change for you from Hoke to Harbaugh?
Really not much has changed team-wise. It's great to know we have a coach like Coach Harbaugh. Going through spring with Coach, learning how he likes to do practice, seeing how intense he is—I think just his intensity alone drives us and makes us practice harder which in turn is going to make us a great team. Especially going into camp, it's going to be a long camp, it's going to be a grind, but we've put in the work all summer and we're ready for it.
It sounds like Harbaugh is keeping you guys on your toes. Do you guys know the schedule or...?
Oh, yeah, Coach's deal is he doesn't like us to know, he doesn't like us to be able to prepare for things. He wants us to be able to react. That's what we're doing so far. Like coming into today, we didn't even know we had media today. We walked through the door and here we are talking to you guys.
So you guys didn't know this was going on today?
We knew something was up. When we got the schedule, there was no practice today, so were like, "Oh, something's up. It's going down."
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the interview.]
The worst kept secret in Michigan football is now finally public:
Media Day uncovered another loss that had not yet come to light with redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Chris Fox bringing his playing career to a close.
A native of Parker, Colo., the 6-6, 303 pounds Fox played in one game last season, but was not introduced with the lineman on Thursday despite appearing on the roster.
An athletic department official confirmed that Fox will continue with the program as a student assistant coach. He will be moved to a medical scholarship, which does not count against the 85 scholarship limit set by the NCAA.
Fox was set to be a redshirt sophomore this fall and opens up a 2016 scholarship as a result. Michigan was already at 84 scholarship players give or take a Norfleet, so his departure opens up another slot for a walk-on.
Upchurch – MGoBlog
Michigan’s first stroke of bad luck came late in November: the Wolverines had just lost a hard-fought contest to eventual 1-seed Villanova in Brooklyn, but starting point guard Derrick Walton suffered some sort of toe injury – one that would affect him for the remainder of the year, eventually sidelining him for good in late January. It was evident that the injury sapped Walton of his explosiveness, both vertically and running in the open floor, but he played through it until his other foot was injured, most likely due to overcompensation for his original injury.
After a disappointing sophomore campaign, it’s prudent to recall exactly how good Walton was as a freshman. He started all but one game for a team that would come to the brink of a return trip to the Final Four and excelled in a modest role on offense. Derrick got better throughout the season: he posted a gaudy offensive rating (120.8) on a not-insignificant usage rate (18.4) in conference play while posting the fourth-highest free throw rate of qualifying players in the Big Ten; he was arguably Michigan’s best perimeter defender; he shot 41% from three on the season on 105 attempts. Expectations were naturally quite optimistic for the highly-touted Detroit point guard entering his sophomore season.
It’s hard to quantify exactly how much of Walton’s struggles were due to his injury, the stark decline in talent around him, or the burden of an increased role on offense, but the drop-off was so severe that the injury is the best explanation. After shooting an impressive 59% at the rim as a freshman, he shot 41% inside the restricted area as a sophomore – evidence that his toe was clearly bothering him. Derrick was still called on to play just shy of 40 minutes a game (barring auto-bench foul trouble in the first half) and, even though Spike Albrecht played well down the stretch, Walton was clearly Michigan’s first option at the point guard spot before his season-ending injury.
* * *
[After the jump: let's go back to the beginning]
Oblig coach obit. Don't get on my case, man.
I mean, he gave Penn State a free shot at the endzone by taking a timeout with three seconds left in the first half.
What do you do with that? How do you put that into your ongoing calculations? Add that datum to the rickety mess that is your ever-shifting, often-hypocritical, prone-to-explode model of your favorite thing in the world, and what happens? I don't know. The brain elects not to travel down that path. The future ceases to exist, replaced by only the ever more nonsensical present. All series diverge. Projection is impossible.
Let's jam that thing in anyway.
Not an improvement, but not any worse either. At that point such a thing was almost expected, after the previous year's offensive line roulette and 27 for 27 and two minute drills that usually took five minutes. Time for some maniacal giggling, then.
On the bright side, even three-and-a-half years deep into a coaching tenure that resembled nothing so much as Wile E. Coyote sauntering off a cliff Brady Hoke still had ways to surprise you.
Brady Hoke should never have been Michigan's football coach. This was apparent from the start, as at the time of his hire he had two assets: the fool's gold of an undefeated MAC regular season and a reasonable, if truncated, turnaround job at San Diego State. Aside from that he had five seasons of average MAC ball and zero years as a coordinator. Even the breakout year at Ball State ended with consecutive blowout losses to Buffalo and Tulsa.
When you stake your program to a resume like that you're as likely as not to come out the other end with Tim Beckman or Tim Brewster or Darrell Hazell. An infinite number of nondescript gentleman have had the ball bounce the right way during the furball that is a season in the Mid-American. Some of them populate the lower rungs of the Big Ten when Purdue can't think of anything better.
And then there's Bo.
Bo was on another level, having gone 27-8-1 in league play in six years with Miami. Even he was widely derided. Here is that picture again.
In the center is a man who has made a Decision. It's no exaggeration to say that Michigan's best and… most recent athletic directors staked their careers on whether they could separate coaching talent from noise.
All these years later, you get why Canham rolled the dice on Bo. Bo was a legendary hardass who took nothing from anyone and comfortably existed atop the roiling mass of chaos that is any football program, successful or not. He chewed out players on the sidelines, sent them back in the game, and cracked impish smiles at the reaming he'd just handed to the young man. He has a gravitas that stays with the program—veritably looms—a decade after his death. Bo had the proverbial It, and you can understand how he communicated that to Canham in whatever passed for a job interview between them.
That understanding will permanently elude historians attempting to discern what comparable force of personality Brady Hoke brought to a press conference in the Junge Center in January 2011.
There was a moment, though. Now it's hard to remember that Brady Hoke had two years in which it seemed he was indeed gold that does not glitter. Hoke gruffly intoned "This Is Michigan, fergodsakes" in response to a question nobody remembers. He wore short sleeves in weather ranging from torrid to frozen. His matter-of-fact declarations and tough toughness were his tentpoles. We hung a great edifice of hope on it; Hoke going to and winning a BCS game in year one provided buttresses and filigree and whatnot to the structure.
At a few years remove it's clear that Hoke stumbled ass-backwards into that success. Few 11-2 seasons have been jankier than Michigan's 2011. The Notre Dame game that kicked things off was a deranged exercise in winning against double coverage; Michigan threw 41 times for 2.8 YPA against Michigan State; they had 166 yards of offense before chuck-and-pray time against Iowa; they were one overthrown Braxton Miller pass away from losing to a .500 OSU team; they won that bowl game with 184 yards of total offense.
The signs were all there, even in the moment ("lucky as hell," quoth this space in the aftermath of the Denard After Dentist game). I alternated between excitement at the idea of a head coach who had an innate aggressiveness on fourth down and wondering why the hell they thought Denard Robinson could be Tom Brady.
But the games were won, and the recruits rolled in. Hoke seemed to stroll through a garden of four-stars gathering what he would. For a year or two, everything seemed just fine. In 2013, Michigan beat Notre Dame rather easily. Michigan fans were walking on air. Then someone looked down.
Rarely in the history of college football has a fanbase been jerked so rudely to attention as already beleaguered Michigan fans were in 2013. The relatively straight line that was the Hoke era turned into a harrowing plunge straight into the bowels of second-and-eleven-play-action hell. Save for an inexplicable Ohio State game, Michigan became the most brutally unwatchable team in the country the instant they left the field against Notre Dame.
Hoke was the same person through the good bits and the bad. He was gruffly nonsensical to start and gruffly nonsensical to end. As success turned to failure, the things we liked about him became the things we hated about him. Remember when this was hilarious?
That joke isn't funny anymore.
Despite the fact that people will still swear up and down that Brady Hoke is a great dude, I have less charity in my heart for him than I did Rich Rodriguez when it came to write his obit. A slice from that piece:
Coaches aren't humans. They are walking soundbites wrapped in great swirling cloaks of mythology. Rap on one of their chests. You will get a hollow clang and a statement about senior leadership. Kick sand in one of their faces. You will get a lecture from Peter the Great. Peter the Great will be confused and incensed that he cannot sentence you to hang. Tell one his aunt has been dismembered by bikers on PCP and you will get a statement about senior leadership. Seniors don't do PCP and rip aunts limb from limb, because they have leadership.
Rodriguez was human. He was just this guy. He wasn't supernatural or metallic. If you rapped his chest he would probably get a little weepy. He did not seem like a great leader of men, or a colossus astride anything, or even a dude fully in control of his shit.
Hoke was that coachbot even in impossible circumstances. By the end so many indignities had piled up that I was waiting for him to snap.
It never came. He endured the brutally painful press conference following last year's Minnesota game as a coachbot. He released a statement apologizing to Michigan State for Joe Bolden putting a small piece of metal in their field. At no point did he bite the head off a reporter, or say that his boss had sold him down the river, or do anything at all other than repeat the same goddamn things he'd been repeating for two straight years.
I liked Rodriguez because he seemed like a person who reacted to stimuli. He reacted too much, but at least you could see that he was processing information and coming to conclusions about what it meant.
Hoke did not do this. Whether Hoke was stoic or insensate is in the eye of the beholder; given the chaos around the program my vote is the latter. He seemed to shut down in terror when his dream job turned to a nightmare.
As the competence of his team deteriorated, Hoke shuffled his coaching staff nonsensically instead of making real changes. He stuck with his terrible punt formation and a style of offense unsuited for his quarterbacks. Even after it was clear his disastrous program could not be allowed to continue—the financial ruin it would cause must have been apparent to even Michigan's most recent athletic director—nothing changed. If Hoke thought he had a chance, well, he also called timeout to give Penn State a free Hail Mary.
At least Nero fiddled. Brady Hoke stood there in the rain without so much as shaking a fist at the heavens.
After Tyus Battle took the last available scholarship in the 2016 class only to decommit and cause Michigan to lose out on fellow five-star wing Josh Langford, it looked like John Beilein's strict adherence to not oversigning—even in the attrition-heavy environment of major conference college hoops—cost Michigan their shot at an elite wing, especially after they accepted the commitment of three-star Ibi Watson last week.
Sam Webb hinted in the wake of Watson commitment that was not, in fact, the case. When Webb broke the news that five-star wing Miles Bridges, a Flint native who plays for Huntington (WV) Prep, would visit on Monday, the picture became clear: Michigan is changing their recruiting tack and they're not done recruiting wings.
Michigan had been the only school in Bridges' top five not to offer him, since he hadn't taken a visit to Ann Arbor yet. That changed following Monday's visit, according to Webb. While Kentucky and Michigan State are the favorites to land Bridges, there's reason for optimism. Bridges is AAU teammates with top point guard target Cassius Winston, and they've mentioned a desire to play together in college. [Insert caveat about package deals here.]
This is a significant shift for Michigan, as it'd mark a change in Beilein's willingness to project attrition when recruiting. The Wolverines need a point guard in this class; it's expected commit Austin Davis will take a prep year and reclassify to 2017 to make room for one. There isn't an obvious way to make room for one more, but Beilein isn't exactly at risk of going Full Crean (never go Full Crean); with the logjam at the three and the four, plus the potential for a Zak Irvin breakout year, it'd be a surprise if every eligible member of this year's team was back in 2016-17.
It's a lesson learned the hard way, but it looks like Beilein took note of what happened with Battle and is making the requisite adjustments to his recruiting strategy.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]