also duty-free guys falling over and grabbing their shins
Note: video from last year is lightboxed; previous years will take you off the page.
|Greg Mathews||Sr.||Junior Hemingway||So.*||Martavious Odoms||So.||Kevin Koger||So.|
|Darryl Stonum||So.||Je'Ron Stokes||Fr.||Kelvin Grady||So.*||Martell Webb||Jr.|
|James Rogers||Jr.||LaTerryal Savoy||Sr.*||Roy Roundtree||Fr.*||Brandon Moore||Fr.*|
|Spectacular near TD vs ND|
|Slant n go n stop|
|Deep speed questionable|
In an ideal world, senior Greg Mathews would play Avant to someone else's Braylon Edwards but unless Darryl Stonum explodes after a disappointing freshman year or Junior Hemingway goes from the walking wounded to awesome Mathews will be the #1 guy. That's not all bad; in the rare instances he had the opportunity to reel in a ball last year he displayed hands worthy of that guy currently being underrated on the Eagles. Witness this circus catch against Minnesota:
That's Mathews in a nutshell. He got zero separation from the (terrible) Gopher defensive back, which necessitated a difficult catch; this was no problem. By the end of the Northwestern game, Mathews had graded out better than any other receiver in UFR receiverchartin': 23/24 on routine catches, 5/7 on somewhat tough ones, and 3/10 on attempts to make circus catches. That's impressive. The only other Michigan receiver to reel in a circus catch last year (in a total of 18 opportunities) was Carson Butler, and he just did that to remind us exactly how much talent he was wasting. Even in excellence, Carson Butler annoys.
Back to players who play for Michigan: Mathews is a possession receiver. Though he managed to get his yards per catch above 10 last year, it wasn't by much. If he's interested in making announcer's lives easier this fall he'll undergo a blackendectomy a la Michael Jackson and allow people to talk about his grit, routes, and hands, all of which happen to be excellent even if he's a guy from Florida with loads of melanin.
The starter opposite Mathews is still to be determined and may end up a platoon. Two players figure to get significant amounts of playing time.
Door number one: redshirt sophomore Junior Hemingway, who must have irritated Angry Michigan Receiver-Hating Czarist Nobles at some point in the recent past. Not even Carlos Brown can claim a series of unfortunate events as ridiculous as that suffered by Hemingway, who endured a severely sprained ankle as a freshman, then sprained his ankle again as a sophomore, then picked up a nearly-as-severe shoulder injury that he managed to play through until mononucleosis finally struck him down. At least no one tried to drown him.
Tentatively healthy and in possession of a well-deserved medical redshirt after last year's trials, Hemingway enters the season in a pitched battle with fellow sophomore Darryl Stonum. In limited opportunities Hemingway's displayed superior hands—he reeled in a wide array of Coner ducks in the spring game—and serious leaping ability. He was impressive in the brief window before various limbs and immune systems turned against him. The Utah UFR looked for the tiniest sliver of a silver lining and found it in Hemingway:
Receivers: possibly a bit better than we expected if Hemingway can continue his impressive performance. He got behind a Utah defensive back who was bailing out into a cover three for the touchdown, caught a tough slant, and generally looked big, fast, and good.
He could not continue that performance because he was busy being shot, stabbed, and poisoned by chance.
Hemingway was a big recruit with a ton of early offers who got mysteriously downgraded because of his appearance in a South Carolina all-star game despite a high school career full of production and ridiculous circus catches. Even if he lacks pure deep speed his ability to sky could see him emerge into a new version of Marquise Walker; he's got the hands and the ability and I've been in his corner for a long time. I think he wins the starting job opposite Mathews and establishes himself a player to be excited about going into 2010. As of now he is the leader, and may actually be on top of the depth chart if a temporary Mathews demotion was something more than motivational. Rodriguez was explicit about Hemingway's spot at Media Day:
“Junior’s in probably the best shape he’s been in, but he’s still not ready where I think he’s going to be," Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said. "We need him to be - he and Greg Mathews in particular got to be two guys that we can count on as far as making plays and being able to do all the things we ask our wideouts to do. Those are kind of two of the upperclassmen that their time is kind of now."
One side note on "all the things we ask our wideouts to do": Hemingway is huge for a receiver, tipping the scales at 226 on the spring roster. This might go a ways towards explaining his rumored lack of elite speed. It should also help with the perimeter and downfield blocking that is critical in the spread 'n' shred. Hemingway is atop the depth chart and will be a prime target if the positive practice hype holds up.
|Clocks an OLB|
The aforementioned Darryl Stonum is Hemingway's main competition and. The rumblings from fall camp are mostly about pages and getting on the same one and drops and so forth and so on; at one point when Mathews was out with a minor injury it was fifth-year senior and nonentity-to-date Laterryal Savoy who drew into the starting lineup opposite Hemingway. Stonum had bounced up to the top pair late, though, if that means anything. It probably doesn't.
Stonum's considerable recruiting hype (on the cusp of five stars, offers from USC, Florida, and the rest of the world) gave way to a disappointing freshman year during which, as 99%-apocryphal-but-still-telling rumor has it, he quit the team a half-dozen times only to return soon after. Stonum didn't do much last year, and that was at least as much on him as it was on the quarterbacks. The "forty or even fifty catches" that weren't "out of the question" last year turned into a measly 14 catches for 176 yards and one touchdown courtesy some seriously poor defense by an anonymous Boilermaker.
But you could form an NFL All-Pro team out of temperamental wide receivers who needed to get on the same page with their coaches and quarterbacks after a nothing freshman year. Divas are tolerated at the spot as long as they preen en route to the endzone.
Backups and Whatnot
Severe attrition in the wide receiver corps leaves options few and far between past the three potential starters. No one's sure if incoming freshman Je'Ron Stokes, who's about six-foot, belongs in the slot or on the outside. The depth chart would strongly suggest outside, though, and that's where we'll slot (ha!) him until disabused of that notion by events on the field. FWIW, Rodriguez has said they'll use Stokes here exclusively.
Stokes was a highly touted recruit in or just outside of the recruiting sites' top 100 lists who Michigan snatched away from Tennessee once the Vols told Tajh Boyd to talk to the hand and Stokes got concerned about four years of Cromptonesque quarterbacking. As with the other freshmen mentioned above, all of the internet's knowledge about Stokes can be found in his recruiting profile. A brief highlight from the Pittsburgh Sports Report:
An electrifying game breaker with excellent speed, Stokes could use more size on his current 6’1” and 180 pound frame. He has great hands, knows how to get open, makes a lot of acrobatic catches and is terrific after the catch.
Stokes will have the opportunity to find playing time; given his athletic gifts it's probably just a matter of time before he slides into the fourth outside receiver spot.
Just about everyone is waiting impatiently for fellow freshman Cameron Gordon to hit the practice field and get switched to linebacker, where he will be a reassuring athletic presence on a unit that needs the depth badly, but he is coming in as a wide receiver and may stick there. If he does, think Mathews and Avant: Gordon is a strapping fellow more suited to heading over the middle than going deep. Hopefully Gordon can redshirt and think long and hard about which side of the ball he wants to end up on.
LaTerryal Savoy and James Rogers also exist. If Savoy was ever going to find the field it would have been last year, when the receiving corps was wracked by injury, youth, and incompetence. He's a fifth year senior now; there's no upside to playing him unless he's clearly better than the other options, which he won't be. The Stonum depth chart hijinks above are not new: Savoy was supposed to be the star of camp last year and was even nominally first string in practice. When the season rolled around he was quickly shot down the depth chart.
Rogers has a bit more upside and time left, but he's failed to make an impact in three years at Michigan and has struggled to find a position after bouncing to and from the secondary. (He was a high school tailback.) His speed is bountiful but goes strictly in a straight line; younger, more agile options will probably eat up his playing time. The pair might see ten catches between them.
|Punt return TDin'|
Martavious Odoms started every game he was healthy for, led Michigan in receptions and yards last year, added a punt return touchdown, and did all this as a true freshman. Normally, this would mark him as a future star and have Michigan internets abuzz about how the little bolt is going to dominate foolz with his mad skillz, yo.
This has not so much happened. This very site has a typical, if slightly harsher than average, example of the fanbase's opinion of Odoms:
…what you're not seeing in those stats is the number of drops he had. You're not seeing the number of times he gained 3 yards when we needed 4 on third down. And you're not seeing his pathetic work on returns.
Ouch. The lingering image of Odoms from last year is a man moving so fast you only catch a glimpse of his dreadlocks… as he futilely attempts to dive on his own fumble. Odoms coughed the ball up six times in the final four games of the year, permanently etching him into the James Whitley Memorial Hall of Men Not To Be Trusted With The Ball in the minds of many.
This is the part where I scour last year's UFRs for evidence for or against this position, but in this instance another diarist has beat me to it. jg2112's analysis:
…on Odoms' 26 catches that were executed with even marginal competence by the QB and the blockers, he averaged 14 yards per catch. His average was pulled down 5 yards a catch by crappy throwing and blocking. That's a significant variance.
…While Odoms' fumbles were disappointing, his receiving was not. In a normal year, Odoms wouldn't have seen the field. However, the experience will help him play even better this year, and the depth behind him (Gallon et al), Tate's accuracy, and better blocking will give the offense the versatility to use the slot more effectively this year.
I co-sign that. Odoms has a year of experience and production on anyone else in the lineup. I am skeptical any slot will beat him out. Odoms will see his playing time dip as the team brings in viable options other than him—they had none last year after Terrance Robinson's injury and Rodriguez specifically stated they'd like to have Odoms off the field more—but those expecting him to be replaced wholesale are going to be disappointed.
The book on Odoms from his critics is that he lacks the big-play ability you'd ideally have in a slot receiver. That seems to be grasping at straws after he turned in more big plays than any other member of the receiving corps despite being saddled with quarterbacks who couldn't chuck a bubble screen straight nor threaten downfield enough to back safeties and linebackers off. I mean…
…I don't think that's a fluke. If you want to claim the fumbles are intolerable I'm with you, but writing off Odoms' talent after a year that would have been promising in most other situations is a mistake. I still go back to what a close observer of Florida high school football told me unprompted when Odoms committed:
He's a tough SOB. Small cat, really tough, will remind you of Steve Smith. Very, very fast. I'm a huge Martavious Odoms fan, you'll love him.
I'm betting on a lot of hurried backtracking on Odoms after the year.
Backups and Whatnot
Roy Roundtree's about the same weight as your average slot receiver, but he's been put on the rack and stretched to 6'3". Last year he redshirted in an attempt to protect him from being split in half by linebackers. Roundtree was mostly forgotten about in the process, and no one expected much from him this year until he broke open deep (against walk-ons, yes) and reeled in that pretty 50-yard Forcier bomb in the spring game. He added an array of other catches across the middle and on fades and other things; if not for the presence of Forcier himself, Roundtree would have exited spring with more buzz than any other new face.
This sudden renaissance has an impossible reason behind it: Roundtree managed to get through and entire high school career and a redshirt season as a freakin' wide receiver without anyone noticing that he couldn't see anything:
"In the first half of the spring, he was struggling catching some balls, and then we looked at him, and he'd squint at you," Rodriguez said Saturday.
"That was the first sign, 'You'd better get your eyes checked.' The doctor said he didn't know how he was walking a straight line."
This, of course, is straight out of Major League. I assume that Brandon Graham is praying to Jobu as we speak and Denard Robinson is running around with a ridiculous nickname at incredible speed before starring in Demolition Man.
Roundtree figures to see time both inside and outside as a fourth receiver and should provide a reliable underneath option. With Koger and a bunch of other slots and three potentially viable outside receivers there's no telling where on the targeting chart Roundtree will end up but 10-20 catches, most of which move the chains but don't do much else, seems reasonable.
As far as slot ninjas go, the #2 guy on the roster is, shockingly, basketball refugee Kelvin Grady. Once he found himself stapled to John Beilein's bench in favor of walk-ons he read the writing on the wall and decided to try his hand at the other sport in which he was a spectacularly agile and quick, if undersized, star at East Grand Rapids. Check it:
Happily, an inability to shoot or defend won't hamper him in football. He's a redshirt sophomore by eligibility and hasn't played football in three years, but that hasn't stopped him from acquiring an impressive quantity of practice hype and coaching praise. Por ejemplo:
“Kelvin Grady has made a lot of big plays,” Rodriguez said this afternoon. “That’s been a – I don’t want to say a pleasant surprise, because we thought when he came over, he’d have a chance – but Kelvin has done well in camp.”
A leaping, one-handed catch started it all off when it got posted on the official site and it actually seems like Grady will play this year. Daver Birkett of AnnArbor.com thinks Grady is ahead of even Roundtree. Since he's already used his redshirt there's no reason to hold back if he can.
With Grady's star has experiencing an unexpected rise, Terrance Robinson's is dimming. Robinson missed all of last year with a severe ankle sprain and what few mentions he's garnered since have mostly concerned his inability to catch. There were some transfer rumors, and while AFAIK those were totally unsubstantiated their plausibility says a great deal about his position on the depth chart. With three players ahead of him and Gallon sure to push once he gets acclimated, Robinson's career needs defibrillation lest it end DOA. Robinson's main hope for playing time this year may be on punt returns.
Finally, incoming freshman Jeremy Gallon has a ton of hype behind him after three years as Florida powerhouse Apopka's single-wing quarterback and a dynamite showing at the Army All-America Game, but he battled academic issues to the wire and was the last freshman to arrive. He's only been on campus for a few weeks. A midseason emergence seems like the best-case scenario, perhaps with a side of being awesome at punt returns; if Grady and Robinson provide sufficient depth a redshirt seems preferable. Gallon, after all, hasn't been a receiver much.
For Gallon's high school dossier check his 2009 recruiting profile.
Michigan's six-deep logjam at tight end has been seriously thinned by graduation, position switches, and compulsory early NFL draft entry, but there's still enough depth and talent to warrant an offseason visit to Oklahoma, home of the killer spread tight end passing game.
Kevin Koger is most of the reason for this after emerging as a true freshman starter halfway through last year when Rodriguez tired of the purse-swinging that passed for Carson Butler blocking. He didn't actually do much—a function of his youth and the quarterback situation—but did catch a couple touchdowns and now looks to blossom. Calvin Magee on Koger:
"Kevin Koger's had a great great offseason," said Calvin Magee, Koger's offensive coordinator and position mentor. "He's done well. He's gotten a lot stronger and a lot faster, and it's a natural progression from freshman to sophomore year.
"He's changed his body. You know, his weight's around the same. He's more lean now. So naturally, he's got more muscle on him. That allows him to be faster and he's one of those kids that committed himself to the offseason conditioning and it's going to help him a great deal."
|First catch a seam TD|
|TD called back|
|Digs out a wheel|
|Assisting the RAGE|
As a recruit, Koger was highly sought, just outside top 100 lists and the subject of a pitched recruiting battle between Michigan and Ohio State that went the right way. That bodes well, as does the offseason hype and quick ascension up the depth chart.
There are twin drags on the Koger projections, though: Rodriguez's inexperience deploying tight ends and the likely presence of a freshman quarterback leery of going over the middle of the field. Rodriguez did claim in a press conference during fall camp that Michigan is deploying tight ends "80% of the time," however; with a mountain of hype behind him and questionable options outside of him, Koger should find himself open on many a seam this year.
According to practice reports, junior Martell Webb is running a strong 1A to Koger and should see extensive time himself after a wasted sophomore year in which he caught no balls and hardly saw the field even after Massey and Butler saw their playing time chopped or eliminated.
There's some corroborating evidence for the practice reports, too. Webb was a consensus four-star recruit and seemed on a stardom track as a freshman when he started after Massey was sidelined with a knee issue and Carson Butler pissed off the coaches—he was Koger before Koger was Koger.
Behind those two is redshirt freshman Brandon Moore, who had a boatload of offers before he made his early commit to Michigan but then struggled through an indifferent senior season and saw his rankings drop considerably. He was reputed to be a no-block TE, more of a bulky 6'6" receiver than an inline blocker. Practice rumblings were silent on him until just recently, when he was purported to be coming on. He'll rotate in some in preparation for bigger things once Webb graduates.
Yes. Yes, it's a Downfall parody. But it's a good one.
Does it inadvertently Godwin itself, though?
"Current and former." Outstanding catch by diarist summit595 to lock in on this snippet of Drew Sharp's appearance on Dan Patrick:
Dan Patrick: Current players turned on RRod. What's that all about?
Sharp: Well the Free Press talked to a couple freshmen at media day. They gave an honest answer - that's what work days are like. They were surprised how long it was. Now there are some former players, who knows if they have an axe to grind, but it doesn't preclude the very real possibility that these guys are telling the truth...hard to believe all these guys are lying.
Oops. When presented with an opportunity to be Drew Sharp and rail about a lack of team unity, Sharp instead outs his colleagues' deception. As noted in an earlier post, the section on who the Free Press talked to and about what was confusingly worded and vague. You could even call it weaselly. Check it:
For this report, the Free Press interviewed 10 current or former players and the parents of four others.
The drop of "current and former"—the only place "current players" are mentioned aside from the "twisted" quotes from the freshmen—has led to a large number of people who dismiss the excessive practice charges to fret about Rodriguez losing his team. For example, two of the thee questions Rodriguez was asked on his ESPN appearance*:
Question: How do you explain loyalty among the players when 10 players former and current were interviewed?
Question: But how much unity is there if current players are talking to media but not to you?
All the accusations in the article came from Michigan's own players and not just the ones who fled the program.
"The most troubling parts about the alleged NCAA rules violations that took place in Michigan's football program aren't the accusations themselves, but who made them.
The bigger issue for Rodriguez is the splintering around his program, even inside his program.
There are dozens more. Sharp's revealed that the story's "current" players are limited to the freshmen. Neither has any problem with the program. All of the inflammatory quotes in the piece are from disgruntled transfers. This was obscured through either incompetence or malice.
(Side note: there is one report—which, unbelievably, I can't find, sorry—from Joe Schad with a "confirmation" from a current player, but he's not quoted. There's a big difference between saying "yes I was at the football facility from X to X," which we've all learned is an incredibly malleable statement in the eyes of the NCAA," and saying "Michigan has committed violations." [Update: Tom found it.])
*(Okay, maybe the press conference isn't the only time I'll be reminded of Lloyd Carr. Article headline: "The chemistry is tremendous.")
This is still mindblowing. More from, yes, Carson Butler:
"In college football, ain't too much voluntary," he said. "If the weight room is open, you're going to go. If it's a run, you're going to go, if it's a workout, you're going to go whether it was voluntary or not. That's every player on the team. For all of the years I was there, everything that was voluntary, I remember every player on the team being there.
"Especially at this level, you're supposed to be in there, and that's how it was."
Perhaps more importantly Butler describes the Sunday activities as "going over game film and making corrections." This is the second time a player has brought up film as a Sunday activity, with Toney Clemons the first. Video watching is explicitly stated as a non-countable hour by the NCAA. I need a graphic that has the national debt clock photoshopped to read "noncountable hours."
That article also contains quotes from Jeff Backus and John Jansen that are ambiguous. Backus:
"I know how it was when I was there - we went by the rules," he said. "As far as what's going on there now and how the players are being treated or whatever it is, I haven't experienced it.
"I know what happened when I was there and Lloyd (Carr) always had our best interest at heart."
Am I paranoid or is that less than a vote of confidence?
They found another Sacred Single Hardcopy Room. West Virginia did a cursory examination of their records and found nothing out of the ordinary:
"Based upon our looking back over the weekend, we don't feel we have any concerns," WVU's Assistant Athletic Director for Communications Michael Fragale said Monday. "We have checked it out and there has been nothing flagged and nothing out of the ordinary.
"There were no student-athlete complaints during the time (Rodriguez) was here."
This isn't surprising, but given that West Virginia's compliance department doesn't sound like a rinky-dink organization…
"Compliance was always around," one player said. "You couldn't do it even if you wanted to. There wasn't any rule-breaking going on because you couldn't do any of that with compliance around like they were."
…it does reduce the chances that Rodriguez was going ape at WVU without anyone noticing and casts further doubt on the idea that Michigan's operating recklessly outside of NCAA maximums.
Parents are not exactly fleeing. Forcier, Schofield, Stokes, and add Donovan Warren and Craig Roh to the list of players whose parents have been somewhere between supportive of Rodriguez (Forcier) and ready to burn down the Free Press (Stokes and Schofield, who's following up his earlier statement everywhere he can post it). Roh posted on the Scout free board:
Again, Coach Dews made it abundantly clear what we had to pay for and what the school was allowed to pay for, what our responsiblities were and what the school's were. I was tired of hearing about all the rules. It was like dealing with the IRS. There was NO push to report to school early, in fact we were told that if craig wanted to report to summer school early, it was on his dime and totally voluntary. Craig's summer was very balanced. He VOLUNTARILY asked to watch tape as much as he could. Nobody pushed him to do it or even suggested it. He had more free time than he wanted.
Lastly, I know for a fact that Craig missed workouts in the summer and even missed parts of at least three practices at camp so that he could attend class. He was excused with absolutely no repercussions by the coaching staff.
There's a good bit more. (I've reproduced the elder Roh's post in the diaries so that it's archived in a place more permanent than a message board, where it will eventually evaporate. Also while I'm in a parenthetical, HT: Genuinely Sarcastic.)
The elder Stokes and Warren called into WTKA. Stokes:
Daaaang. Kirk Herbstreit on Sportscenter:
"I think that it's a bit of a witch hunt."
"It's pretty easy to select a group of people to find that can turn their back on Rich Rodriguez after a 3-9 year."
"It's easy to pick on a guy...after the worst year in school history."
"I find this really insulting to everything that Rich Rodriguez and everything that he and his training staff have stood for."
Anyone notice that the opinion on this thing amongst the talking heads breaks down neatly into guys who played football, who universally think this is a crock, and journalists, who think this is brilliant? I mean, when Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Spielman are laying into this thing you know there's not a former player on the planet who would say anything different.
Jim Tressel and a bunch of OSU players are also "providing moral support," in Hinton's words, which yes lol they want to keep Rodriguez around. But when virtually every coach in the Big Ten is saying something similar that speaks to muckrake fail. Hinton:
After three days in the headlines, I think it's safe to say the broad reaction has veered sharply in Michigan's favor from the standpoint that a) There's no effective way (short of staring into players' souls) to distinguish between what was actually mandatory and what was just strongly encouraged, if you know what I mean, and b) The precedent from an actual crackdown would send ripples toward the compliance departments of essentially every major program in the country, forcing halfhearted reforms no one cares about except, apparently, the Free Press. They got their investigation, but when you're up against a cultural norm so entrenched that Ohio State comes rushing to Michigan's defense, that boulder's not going anywhere.
And, finally. Johnny! Hey-o!
The 2010 Michigan Recruiting Board holds all the updates on prospects of interest.
Tom Lemming's top prospects list is generally pretty kind to M:
#1 Combo-passer Devin Gardner
#23 Tailback-slotback Austin White
#25 Tailback-slotback Tony Drake
#6 Big back Stephen Hopkins
#13 Wide receiver Ricardo Miller
#19 Wide receiver Jeremy Jackson
#20 Offensive guard Christian Pace
#24 Inside linebacker Antonio Kinard
#4 Safety Marvin Robinson
There are a bunch of other targets included on the list, obviously. While we're talking rankings, Rivals recently updated theirs, and say hello to the #1 QB in all the land:
That of course means I'm contractually obligated to point out the rockin' MGoBlog HD highlights of Gardner.
Cullen Christian's reported visit plans seem to change by the day, but for now, he's planning to visit only Michigan and UCLA, along with maaaybe a third school to be named later. He still intends to make a decision during his senior season. (Christian photo by Bob Donaldson of the Post-Gazette). His teammate, Brandon Ifill, will visit in September (likely along with Cullen), and says that the two prospects are no longer tied to the idea of going to the same school. How about a little pre-season fluff on their team, as well.
The Particularly Revealing Scout Header is becoming a staple of recruiting posts lately, and who am I to change that?
Maryland safety Josh Furman will be taking his first official visit on Sept. 12 to Michigan. “Michigan is showing a lot of interest,” Furman said. “I’m very curious to see what the campus is like and I can’t wait to see a game at the Big House. I also really like (wide receiver) coach Tony Dews. He’s a great guy and I just get a good feeling about him.” Although Furman still denies a leader...
The rest of the article is behind paywall, but jesus is that one informative header. So: Furman likes Michigan, and add him to the list for next weekend's visitors. Fluff on him, mostly concerned with his ability to run the ball.
VA LB Aramide Olaniyan has set up four of his official visits, one of which will be to Ann Arbor. His others will be to North Carolina, Duke, and UCLA. For his fifth and final visit, he's considering Stanford, Wake, and Vanderbilt (quite the student, no?). No word yet on which game he'll be attending.
Michigan is in the final 5 for CT LB Khairi Fortt, along with Penn State, Georgia, USC, and North Carolina. The article implies without explicitly stating that those will be the schools he officially visits, as well.
MI DE CJ Olaniyan talked with Rivals AMP:
Nothing earth-shattering. He wants to make a commitment by the middle of his season, and the two visits he's thought about so far are Notre Dame and Penn State. As far as Michigan goes, he likes the academics, and has been on campus for three unofficial visits.
He Who Has Amazing Name
Though Michigan's QB recruiting is probably all wrapped up, LA QB Munchie Legaux still likes the Wolverines. M has made his final three along with Baylor, Oregon, and Tulane (they must not be able to count very well in Louisiana, I guess), and seems to be still giving him some pretty good attention. The rest of the article is pretty M focused, so I suggest checking it out. Munchie himself says he might not be fast enough to play receiver, so bringing him in for a position switch is probably not what Michigan is going for. I would presume he's being given the attention in case of another decommitocalypse, a la last year. In addition, he looks like Vince Young with dreads. (Legaux photo by Susan Poag of the Times-Picayune).
Michigan is still nominally in the running for CA RB/LB Anthony Barr, but when your finalists are 3 schools from your home state, your dad's alma mater, and Michigan, Michigan is probably the odd man out here. If he doesn't end up signing with the Irish, it will probably be with one of the Cali schools.
Michigan is still in the top group for FL RB Eduardo Clements, though Georgia is on top of the heap for now.
Michigan is not in the top 4 for MI DT Johnathon Hankins. I think that ship may have sailed when he was too... hefty... to earn an offer in camp. He'll likely be removed soon.
Bill Kurelic thinks Michigan will end up with Dior Mathis, and Seantrel Henderson and Sharrif Floyd will go to Minnesota(!) and Florida, respectively.
There was also an article on Tony Grimes from the Miami Herald but you now must register (for free) to view it. Hey, great way to get me to not link to your paper, guys. Same with an article linked up on MGoBoard: Torrian Wilson got hurt last week, but it doesn't appear to be too serious.
Removed MD RB Marcus Coker, who will be a Hawkeye.
Removed FL DE Corey Lemonier, who is no longer considering M.
Note: video from last year is lightboxed; previous years will take you off the page.
Rating: 5 of 5.
|Brandon Minor||Sr.||Mark Moundros||Jr.*|
|Carlos Brown||Sr.||Kevin Grady||Sr.|
|Mike Shaw||So.||Anonymous Walk-on||----|
|Mike Cox||Fr.*||Anonymous Walk-on||----|
|UW veer TD|
|Used as H-back|
|PSU TD #1|
|More PU RAGE|
It's no coincidence that Michigan's running game took a quantum leap forward when Brandon Minor was installed as the starter against Penn State and told to run very hard in one direction until the gore covering everything proved too slippery to get a foothold on. MINOR RAGE was born in a shocking first half against Penn State and all other options were instantly demoted to second-best. Gone was the preseason depth chart that featured a whopping three "OR" denotations. When healthy, Minor was the guy. It was obvious from his first drive against the Nittany Lions. It was obvious from his first thumping run:
After weeks of watching a couple freshmen zip into linebackers or, more often, linemen and then attempt not to get killed, Minor blasted into the secondary and left one of Penn State's safeties in a heap. Debate: over.
So what the hell took so long? Well, Sam McGuffie did flash hints of talent, most impressively against Notre Dame, before opponents figured out that you could just murder his brain. Minor, battling a wrist injury all year, put the ball on the ground with alarming regularity when he got the odd carry early in the season. And there were persistent rumors that Minor found himself amongst the discontented masses on the team that did not fully buy in. (Yes, this which makes Minor's post-season callout of any lingering Zion Babbs a bit odd, but it is what it is.)
Also, Minor hadn't been that impressive in his first two years at Michigan. This preview last year noted the gap in YPC between Minor and Carlos Brown—one that persisted even if you chopped down Brown's 85-yard ramble against Minnesota to something more reasonable—and came down on the skeptical side of things:
Minor runs too upright and stiff for my tastes. He's clearly slower than Brown and the fleet freshmen, has little wiggle, and tends to plow over and through defenders instead of trying to avoid them. Sometimes this ends with Minor spectacularly trucking someone; sometimes it ends with Minor taking a wicked shot from a headhunting linebacker or safety. …
IMO, he gets his fair share of carries throughout the year but is clearly less effective than at least one other tailback and possibly two.
This prediction looked bang on for six games, at which point Minor's projected best case—a poor man's Darren McFadden—sort of came true, didn't it? Minor's not going to go in the top ten of the NFL draft but he had his moments of thunderous downhill stomping, slashing through holes and over and through and past out-of-position defenders. He was one of the few players to seem a physical match for Penn State and Ohio State defenders and should improve further with a year of buy-in and Barwis. Evan Royster may be an obvious selection for All Big Ten tailback this year, but they put two on the team and from this vantage point Minor's as likely as anyone to claim that second spot.
There is a caveat, though: if healthy. I may have been wrong about Minor's overall efficacy but the ominous injury note above was borne out. Minor's early fumbling problems were caused by a wrist issue that lingered through the year and he missed the Northwestern game not with any specific issue but just because he had gotten the hell beaten out of him the past few games. Minor missed sections of camp after an offseason car crash left him with persistent headaches. Asking him to be a Ringer-level workhorse is a bit much.
|Loping vs Purdue|
|Tripping over Leman|
|Nice first down|
Meanwhile, the man this preview thought would claim the starting mantle, albeit nominally, came down with the usual array of nagging ailments from hamstrings to hangnails to exploding penguins. Carlos Brown hardly found the field all year. In fact, he was en route to a medical redshirt before Minor came down with that comprehensive ass-kickage and he was brought out of mothballs to play in the most unpleasant game ever staged. Despite the rust, wholesale lack of a passing game, and driving sleet, Brown impressed, racking up 115 yards on 23 carries—five per—with a long of only 17 against Northwestern's fair-to-good rushing defense.
Carlos Brown, this is your abridged Northwestern UFR:
Brown splits them and is a safety away from six points. … I really wish Brown didn't go down so easily on this one; with Mathews blocking downfield a cut outside might make this a touchdown. … Brown runs through the flailing arms and is away for a good gain. … Brown splits the two linebackers, then jukes a safety(+1), picking up the extra five yards he needs for the first. … should try to bounce it all the way back behind Sheridan—Steve Slaton used to do that to good effect—but instead just runs into a bunch of dudes. … makes a sweet spin move to evade the rolled up corner and safety. Free of those two, he picks up the first down. Major + play from Brown here. … Brown is indecisive with the safety and gets taken down. [Ed. Note: after ten yards.] … Here's the season for you: Michigan runs against what's essentially a five man front, gets a vast gaping hole and will pop Brown into the secondary for somewhere between eight and a zillion yards, and Brown falls harmlessly to the turf three yards in the backfield.
Carlos Brown got out of the grave and turned in an excellent running day, though a series of slips and stumbles prevented him from breaking a long one, and that last zone stretch on which he turned a likely first down into third and thirteen was a killer.
That's consistent move-the-chains production from a guy we know has gamebreaking speed. Combine the two and you might have something resembling the top-50 player Brown was coming out of high school.
That's the trick though, that and not having a series of freak hand, ankle, groin, hamstring, thigh, spleen, and pancreas injuries that limit him to one 85-yard touchdown against Minnesota and a lot of dour, beslinged observation from the sideline. There's no time like the present for Brown to live up to the extensive recruiting hype and occasional 80-yard touchdown—he had another one in the spring game.
If Brown is healthy and if Minor is healthy at the same time, expect to see a heavy dose of two-tailback sets that allow Michigan to zone read in either direction, run plenty of triple option, and prevent opponents from teeing off towards one side or the other. Rivals actually ranked Minor as a fullback coming out of high school and last year Minor's occasional deployment as a lead blocker was effective, as this Michigan State defensive end can attest:
Unless, of course, he's still wondering why his legs are made of eels and the sky smells so prickly.
Backups And Whatnot
|Season's first TD|
|Gets tackled oddly|
With Sam McGuffie wisely choosing his ability to remember where he lives and Conference USA over a sophomore season at Michigan, Michael Shaw is other experienced option on the depth chart. Last year he did his best Brown impression, alternating impressive, zippy runs with groin injuries. He added some bonus freshman stuff, too: the occasional horrible decision that ended in a seven yard loss or fumble, either of which events ended with Rodriguez spittle arcing across the field.
Like Denard Robinson, Shaw is made of dilithium, the winner of the 200, 4x100, and 4x200 at the Penn Relays his senior year of high school and a guy who was shocked when someone, anyone managed to track him down from behind once he broke into the open field:
"I broke a long run and got dragged from behind. It was then that I was like, 'I'm really hurting. I've never not been able to run, not been able to explode.' "
There was good reason for the slowdown, a groin injury that would eventually require offseason surgery for a "sports hernia." If Angry Michigan Running Back Hating God doesn't get involved again, Shaw should see extensive work as a slot-capable tailback on passing downs and all-purpose injury/fatigue backup as he's groomed for the (or, more likely, a) starting job in 2010. Somewhere between 50 and 100 carries at a high YPC and one or two runs where he goes so fast he mutates into a frog-like thing and everyone pretends it didn't happen afterwards would be a tantalizing sophomore year.
Past Shaw there's a cavalcade of freshmen in two groups. Group one—pounding Minor sorts—is Mike Cox. Cox is a redshirt freshman out of a New England prep school better known for producing hockey stars than football players. They only play nine game seasons; Cox was hurt for most of his senior year; no one scouted him before that because right New England prep school; then he redshirted. So, yeah, we don't know much about Cox. There have been erratic positive practice mentions that make the Minor comparison and suggest Michigan made the right choice when they went for Cox over instate star Jonas Gray, now at Notre Dame, after seeing the two side-by-side at camp. Cox should see some time spelling Minor, as Michigan doesn't have anyone other than him to pick up the thundermoose mantle.
Group two—spread ninjas—has two guys in it, both true freshmen. Ohioan Fitzgerald Toussaint was the higher-rated by the recruiting sites. He spent his senior year either shredding defenses for like 250 yards on 10 carries or getting swamped for like 40 on 20. There was little in-between. His highlight video is full of fancy jump-cuts and serious change-of-direction skills; he's slightly undersized but who cares, right? Toussaint's had some injury issues in fall camp and it sounds like Michigan is looking at redshirting him, which they obviously should since he's fifth string at best. Recruiting profile here.
And then there is tiny, zippy Vincent Smith, who arrived for spring and did this during the Michigan drill…
…impressing everyone and reminding us all that Rich Rodriguez might have some idea what he's doing when it comes to tiny who-dat running backs.
Smith's spring game was just okay, but the practice buzz up until that point was very positive. The buzz since has remained equally positive, with teammates dropping his name apropos of nothing. Here's the always-excitable Fred Jackson:
“Small guy, but a big back. He plays big. The way he blocks you and the way he’ll run over you. I’m going to bet that he’s 170 pounds, I don’t know exactly. But I’m going to say he’s 170 pounds and he runs like he’s 200 pounds.”
It's Smith, not Shaw, who's listed as the first backup to the two seniors on the initial roster. That means no redshirt and frequent duty; I'm betting he's the fan favorite in the race for the starting job next year. His recruiting profile beckons for the curious.
I have a hunch that Michigan fans and opposing linebackers are going to become very familiar with redshirt junior fullback Mark Moundros this fall. We know that Rodriguez likes to feed his ogres, and last year Michigan had some success passing to Moundros out of the backfield until opponents caught on to that one play they can actually do and shut him down.
This year Michigan figures to have several plays they can actually do and one spectacularly accurate short-range passer. You can see a glimpse of a Moundros-heavy future in the Forcier
porn highlights from the spring game: Forcier gets pressure from an outside blitzer on a rollout and hits Moundros dead in stride. Moundros turns it up in front of a trailing linebacker and picks up a first down. Shades of Aaron Shea there. Shea was Michigan's last frequently-used H-back, an all-purpose fullback/tight end who hauled in 38 catches in 1999. While that number might be a stretch for Moundros something like 20, most of which turn into first downs, isn't out of the question. The occasional carry might be in order, too.
|Blocks three guys|
|Crushing a corner|
As far as backups: with Vince Helmuth's move to the defensive line and eventually the MAC, there really aren't many options. Kevin Grady is still around but he's not much of a fullback and after four years disappointing on and off the field the chances he picks up a major role are slim indeed. He's listed second on the depth chart at the spot, FWIW. Michigan's best bet for a backup will probably be a to-date anonymous walk-on. Both Owen Schmitt and Moundros started as walk-ons, after all, and Rodriguez has directly stated he won't recruit scholarship fullbacks in the future. He prefers to breed them in Barwis vats in the IM building basement.
Guest post from Jon Chait, who needed a platform via which to respond.
So Brian yesterday noted Deadspin’s foray into the “Let’s Accuse A Coach We Don’t Like Of Violating NCAA Regulations Without Bothering To Learn What The Regulations Say” genre popularized by the Detroit Free Press. I wanted to chime in because that same post featured a not-very-insightful shot at yours truly.
Yesterday I wrote a column for Rivals pointing out that, while it’s fine for Michael Rosenberg to express his strong anti-Rich Rodriguez opinions in his sports columns, allowing a columnist with such a strong viewpoint to write an anonymously-sourced investigative news article on the same topic of his obsession is improper.
Deadspin’s Dashiell Bennett drops the gotcha on me:
Jonathan Chait stepped down from his high horse at The New Republic to lambaste the Freep's Michael Rosenberg for his anti-Rich Rod bias, stating that no place he worked would ever let an opinion writer do hard news about a subject he was so "passionate" about. Interesting, if true. I wonder if any of those fine, upstanding newspapers Chait's talking about would let an alumnus (UM, Class of '94) attack another writer because they published dirt about an organization he used to be associated with?
Jesus. Was I writing an investigative news article in a newspaper about a topic which I have strong opinions on? No, I was not. Nor should I. Having lambasted the Freep’s journalistic ethics, if I were to go to the Detroit News and propose they hire me to write an expose about how Freep sports editors are laundering money for the Cali drug cartel to fund their kitten-strangling hobby, the News should definitely not hire me. In fact, I hereby authorize every newspaper in the country to reject any future entreaties by me to report and write investigative news stories on any subject in which I have previously expressed strong opinions.
It’s perfectly ethical for Rosenberg to wage his anti-Rodriguez jihad in his sports column. Dumb, unpersuasive, misleading, sometimes factually inaccurate, yes, but not unethical. It’s likewise perfectly ethical for me to opine about the University of Michigan, despite having graduated from it. But if Dashiell Bennett learned he was the subject of an investigative news story in the New York Times, authored by me, reporting on the scandal of people who are allowed to write sports blogs despite having IQs under 90, he would probably feel that something unethical had transpired.
Part two of the all-singing all-dancing season preview. Previously: The Story, 2009.
Once upon a time, the Edmonton Oilers—of whom I am a fan mostly because of Mike Comrie and Chris Chelios, but that's another post—did something right. At the advent of the salary cap era in the NHL they traded an array of prospects and spare parts to Saint Louis for Chris Freakin' Pronger and signed him to a five-year deal. They surrounded Pronger with an array of steady old hands and overachievers and then set about deploying the NHL's best defenseman en route to the Oilers' traditional position when the trade deadline rolls around: on the fringes of the playoffs, unsure whether to buy or sell. Ah, the Oilers.
They bought, shipping a first-round pick and conditional third-rounder to the Minnesota Wild for elderly platoon goaltender Dwayne Roloson, who was not and is not Marty Brodeur. A meaningless move and wild overpayment? Maybe for anyone else in the NHL.
When looking at save percentage relative to league, I use something I call relative save percentage. … I’ve got the numbers for every team since 1987-88; that’s 435 teams in all. Guess how many of those teams have put up a relative save percentage worse than the Oilers' 982.
Oilers blogger Mudcrutch—the statistically inclined fellow above—ended that pre-trade post above by muttering that it was "depressing to think how good this team could be with half-decent goaltending." When Roloson came in, he whipped out the Godfather references and declared the new guy would make the Oilers 12 goals better over the remainder of the regular season, a "ridiculous number."
He was right. The Oilers made the playoffs, charged through the Western Conference, and made the Stanley Cup finals. There they fell in seven games after Roloson was injured in game one, leaving Ty Conklin to commit one of the all-time worst gaffes in Stanley Cup history and be exiled from Canada forever. Conklin is currently a hobo living in Venezuela and definitely didn't latch onto the best organization in professional sports; Pronger would demand a trade ten seconds after the season ended. Edmonton's team has an average age of 12 and hasn't sniffed the second round since. But for one shining moment, a league-average goalie made all the difference.
I think you see where I'm going with this.
Nobody held out much hope last year when Rodriguez's top two options post-Mallett were a walk-on who was honorable mention All-Conference in high school and a guy who got beat out by a walk-on who was honorable mention All-Conference in high school. But even what little hopes were proffered (Sheridan "could be a non-liability who successfully keeps the heat off the other skill position players," said this blog) turned out to be wildly optimistic.
Nick Sheridan and Steven Threet set the bar for quarterback futility so high (low?) they shattered this blog's horrible-quarterbacking touchstone from years past: 1993. Brian Griese and Scott Dreisbach played Sheridan and Threet, respectively, en route to this:
Those numbers are ugly. They are also vastly better than what Michigan endured last year. I'll spare you the full horror show and just highlight the most important number, yards per attempt. Griese and Dreisbach averaged 7.1 YPA between them. Threet and Sheridan? 5.1. Even Tacopants—Jason Avant's eleven-foot-tall imaginary friend—was discouraged:
Dude, Tacopants is going to catch 400 balls this year.
No, because even he’s watching these sail over his head, and he can be whatever height he wants to be because he is made of dreams and snails and puppy dog tails.
So, yes, Michigan is staring down the barrel of a depth chart that features true freshmen at spots one and two, and people are pretty sanguine about that. Let's just embed this artifact one more time to reinforce why:
Tate Forcier, spring game, 11/14 for 130-ish yards, fifty more on the ground, five total touchdowns, complete failure to heave looping balls that nestle gently between the numbers of opposing defensive backs. Forcier was the easy winner of "Most Encouraging Development" after the spring game. You've heard, seen, and possibly cleaned up after it all before.
Normally this would be the section of the preview that discussed Forcier's performance to date, or in the event of a new starter, summarized the behind-the-scenes fawning and tried to take it down to a reasonable level. But every iota of information we have on Forcier's been hashed and rehashed in this space already. The executive summary:
Tate Forcier is the one who didn't get away, the one who was planning on committing even when Kevin Newsome and Shavodrick Beaver hadn't twirled their mustaches in dastardly fashion and tied Michigan football's hopes to the train tracks before effecting their getaways. His brother is my favorite Michigan player of all time who never played. He is a relentlessly trained quarterback prodigy ready to step in on day one—which was a month ago—and challenge Steven Threet for the starting job. God help us if he flames out.
Here's the world's most succinct scouting report($), via a story title from the Nebraska Rivals site: Forcier Equals Accuracy.
Two thousand other words await you at the link if you're interested in a recap and haven't already committed them to memory. (Which bad form, MGoReader, bad form. Downvote yourself in your heart.)
Forcier has been shaped to be a quarterback since he was a wee tyke. The younger sibling of two Division I recruits (who, it must be said, never actually played), Forcier is the smallest, most consistently drilled, and best mechanically. He's had college-level coaching for years on end now and should be considerably more prepared to play than your average freshman quarterback.
Since we have a general idea of what to expect in Forcier's specific case relative to other freshmen, let's examine what other freshmen thrust into the spotlight tend to do. Doctor Saturday's spent a lot of time this offseason pondering the direction of the Michigan program, and in one post he surveyed the brief, undistinguished recent history of true freshman quarterbacks. Stolen table coming atcha:
If you scanned that like I did your first reaction was "holy hell, Threet & Sheridan's YPA was well worse than everyone on this list except Jimmah." And yes, it's true. Taken as an aggregate, this random sampling of who-dats and future stars comes out to 6.7, a little worse than Dreisbach-Griese and vastly better than Threetsheridammit.
The upshot: freshman quarterbacks suck, but on average they suck far less than Michigan's two-headed monster of yesteryear. An average-for-a-freshman performance from Forcier will be a huge step forward for the offense.
Note also the tendency of spread—or at least mobile—quarterbacks to cluster at opposite ends of the spectrum. The #1, 2, 3, and 5 quarterbacks were all spread-ish, mobile-ish types. So were the worst, fourth-worst, and eh, maybe fifth-worst. In conjunction with Rodriguez's success with relatively inexperienced quarterbacks (Rasheed Marshall and Pat White at West Virginia) this looks like something of a theory: spread offenses lend themselves to early success as long as you have one-and-a-half talents. Williams, Ball, and Freeman did not. Williams and Ball couldn't throw worth a damn and Freeman was a Spread In Name Only quarterback shoehorned into a spread offense despite his inability to run.
But maybe as long as you're a polished, super-accurate short passer (Leak) or thrilling athlete (Pryor, Griffin), you can get away with your half-skill well enough. (Not having taken in much of a horrible Pac-10 team, I'm not exactly sure where Tuitama fits.) If spread quarterbacks are either surprisingly good for freshmen or horrible, the horrible ones tend to be undercoached, sushi-raw fast guys with the accuracy of a tommy gunner on amphetamines.
This is the precise opposite of Tate Forcier, long may he remain unbroken and functional.
Backups and whatnot
Everyone's hoping that incoming freshman Denard Robinson earns the out-and-out backup spot by the Big Ten schedule because the alternatives are Sheridan, about whom scroll up to the Conklin/Markkannen analogy, and David "Coner" Cone. Since Robinson just arrived a few weeks ago and didn't get the spring exposure Forcier did I've got nothing more to offer on him other than what got dumped out in his recruiting profile and what's been said about his crazy ninja speed by coaches and teammates.. The executive-executive summary: Pat White. Except maybe… faster?
Offensive coordinator Calvin Magee said Robinson is bigger than Pat White was when he came to West Virginia as a freshman, and quarterbacks coach Rod Smith said Robinson's speed compares favorably to White's.
“I don’t want to blow him up, but he’s fast," Smith said. "He’s fast. It’s fun to watch because when he breaks through - and I love Pat to death, but I’m not so sure this kid - he’s fast. They’re close."
His high school coach gets misty:
"Oh my god, Michigan is going to get an explosive, explosive quarterback," Taylor said. "He's a leader, he pushes his will to win on others. I've never seen a kid so competitive."
Stevie Brown on Michigan's jackrabbit:
“I remember one time Denard (Robinson) broke. When Denard opens up and runs there is nobody that is catching him. He hit a little seam, we lost contain on him and I think he probably hit 80 yards and it felt like five seconds.”
Question: Nobody in the Big Ten is catching him?
"I can't say that. I don’t really know how fast everybody is, but I doubt it.”
He is made of dilithium, and reports from practice are surprised at how accurate his arm is on short stuff.
Robinson will probably work his way into the offense in a version of the Feagin package from last year—ESPN will dub it the "Wild Dawg"—except he's actually capable of throwing so defenses will have to respect that.
I'd been hoping Forcier puts a stranglehold on the job and Robinson would end up redshirting in 2010 before emerging as a hyper-fast skill position player or cornerback, but given all the practice buzz you have to keep him around at QB until such time as he doesn't provide an element of explosiveness far beyond the alternatives. IE: Devin Gardner starts, which is still very much up in the air. This year he's the only thing standing between Michigan and…
Nick Sheridan. I nicknamed him DEATH just in time for the Minnesota game, where he proceeded to play sort of like a good, if physically deficient, Division I quarterback. It couldn't last, though, and Sheridan finished the year by going 8 of 29 against Northwestern and 8 of 24 against Ohio State. Across both games he totaled 148 yards. No offense to his work ethic or general standing as a person, but if he sees the field it's time to cower.
I know, I know, I know. He will probably play against Western and he's listed amongst the great wide ORs on the quarterback depth chart. But I refer you to the stats above and this blog's pre-jihad obsession with debunking the idea he will start. I won't belabor it further.
And this is probably the last time I'll get to use a sentence that's sat untouched in this preview since he matriculated, so prepare to shed a single tear: if David Cone sees the field something has gone very wrong.