"Though I received no official response to these sophisticated and elegant tweets to the Illini Athletic Department, I would like to think that Beckman spent the evening prank calling everyone in Illinois named George McLellan and then ordering an absurd amount of hats off an internet haberdashery to hoard in his home's hat annex."
Tim posted the relevant quote from Troy Woolfolk about Denard's perceived lead in the QB race, and I thought that was bombshell enough, but then the Daily published the whole exchange. Since Woolfolk comes very close to calling Tate Forcier a leper in it, it set off the usual avalanche. In case anyone's living under Charlie Weis*, the full monty:
"Denard has been out there through the thick and thin and been out there all the time regardless if he's hurting," Woolfolk said. "And Tate, he tries to come out, but he's not as consistent as Denard is. And that's allowed Denard to jump a little bit ahead of Tate and I think that Tate's going to have to do a lot of work to catch back up to Denard in camp this year." …
"I personally have a lack of respect for them [players who don't show for voluntary workouts]," Woolfolk said. "The outlook on them is kind of diseased. Like you don't want to be hanging around those people because they have bad work ethic. But at the same time, it's my role to try to persuade them to come out more."
According to Woolfolk, Forcier hasn't shown up to as many workouts as he and the other seniors feel he should have, and Woolfolk said it's hurting his teammates' perception of their signal caller.
"The only reason he's not really labeled as diseased is because of the way he was able to carry the team last year before we started losing. People still trust him a little bit, but he's starting to lose that trust."
Though he quickly retracted the phrasing of those comments on his (protected) twitter account, the sentiment is clear. It matches up with the buzz we've heard since spring practice, except that the original statement had Devin Gardner as the guy who was around all the time, not Denard.
These days my sense of how important things are to the national media is warped to the point where I my first inkling that a local story is going to get splattered across blogs and whatnot nationwide is when Doctor Saturday pings me to get the peanut gallery's view on whatever Michigan item he's about to post. When this happened yesterday, he said a "senior calling out the QB is not such a great way to start the year."
I had not thought about it this way. It hadn't registered as an event to me. Four years ago I might have engaged full-on PANIC; yesterday as I searched for a response I just thought, and eventually said, "I've seen worse."
I've been through the dust bowl. Now I've got soup, and some bread, and a hat.
At the risk of seeing the entire offensive line arrested for stealing the Ambassador Bridge and both quarterbacks transfer to Arkansas, this summer has passed for tranquility compared to the last couple. From the beginning of the 2008 season to the beginning of 2009, Michigan saw Taylor Hill, Zion Babb, Jason Kates, Artis Chambers, Carson Butler, Avery Horn, Sam McGuffie, Steven Threet, Toney Clemons, Kurt Wermers, Dann O'Neill, Justin Feagin, Marrell Evans, and Vince Helmuth leave the program. Fourteen kids. From the beginning of 2009 to now they've lost Boubacar Cissoko, Brandon Smith, and Donovan Warren. Three. Michigan's Fulmer Cup count stands at zero. The worst thing that's happened this offseason is the sturm und drang about Demar Dorsey and his eventual rejection by admissions; Michigan also lost a couple of meh recruits who weren't going to do anything in this critical year.
I'd really like to have one of those corners back— make that two of those corners—but the chatter about Dorsey's legal stuff is emblematic of the summer: a lot of noise about something that doesn't really matter. Compared to the rampant attrition of the past couple years it doesn't rate. Media opinion is a lagging indicator anyway.
What I think it does mean:
- The heavily-rumored preference of the team for Denard is incontrovertible now. Steve Schilling may not have launched into anything as likely to get splashed on posts everywhere, but his statement on Robinson ("He’s definitely taken on some leadership. He’s there every day working hard. He’s been a guy that doesn’t complain. He makes you want to play for him, and he has those qualities to be a special leader and a special quarterback.") says as much or more coming from a guy on the same unit not known for saying much of anything.
- While a lot of the attention is on Tate, if Robinson is around every day earning people's trust that's more positive than it seemed in spring, when both sophomores were in the same boat when it came to work ethic relative to Gardner. Apparently one of them got the message.
- It's up to Tate to earn that trust back in fall practice, which starts in five days. While the competition has gone from obviously Tate to neck-and-neck to edge Denard, Tate still has a huge experience edge and is likely to see the field even if Robinson does win the nominal starting job. The two candidates are so different that it will make sense to play both as long as they remain close to even overall.
- Given the statements about playing banged up it's possible that Forcier's absences have legitimate reasons behind them. Those have not been communicated.
- I still expect both QBs to play early in the season.
- "Hugging it out" needs to occur; Woolfolk's tweet indicates that it should happen.
I don't think it will affect the team much; it does provide some hard evidence for the things that had been whispered all summer. The intrigue at fall camp will put the Cold War to shame.
*(Miss you, big guy. xoxo.)
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."