You don't want to know what I had to do to secure that seat
The media day roundtable session took place just a couple of hours before Denard Robinson delivered his keynote address at the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon. This meant, unfortunately, that in my half-hour at Denard's table the majority of the questions related to the speech, how he prepared for the speech, his nerves before the speech, his pre-speech nerves compared to his pre-game nerves, Kirk Cousins's speech, and so on.* What follows is my best effort at collecting relevant, non-speech quotes, as the speech did a decent job of speaking for itself.
Was timing something that got sacrificed last year somewhat because you guys were learning a new offense?
I think that did hurt us. Us not having timing, that was a key issue. My footwork, I was thinking so much that my footwork was everywhere; throwing off my back foot was one of the things I messed up a lot on. That’s what I’m trying to change this year, I’ve been doing that [during the] offseason and working on that timing. Now we’re not thinking about the offense because we know the offense and we have confidence in ourselves. We know the offense and now we have the opportunity to have success in the offense.
Was the problem that you were thinking about too many other things last year, especially early?
Yeah, earlier in the season I was still learning the offense, trying to get the basis of the offense. Towards the end of the season, that’s when it started coming along, because I was in the offense enough to know the offense.
MGoQuestion: Compared to last year, now that you’re more comfortable in the offense, do you expect to have more input into the game plan? Will Coach Borges give you more input in terms of which plays to call?
I think so. I think Coach Borges, he’s always open-minded, he always asks, “what do you think about this?” That’s the kind of guy he is. If I don’t feel comfortable doing something, he would ask me if I feel comfortable doing it. That’s just Coach Borges, that’s just his personality, that’s the way he coaches.
MGoQuestion: The offense really seemed to evolve last year as you got more comfortable and as Coach Borges got more familiar with the personnel. How would you say the offense changed over the course of last year, and where are you guys today compared to where you were at before last season?
I think we’re way past what we were before [last season]. We’ve built this chemistry in the offense and we feel confident and comfortable with the offense. When it comes down to making the reads and making the right checks and getting us into the right play, I think we all know how to do it now.
MGoQuestion: Schematically, were there changes that Coach Borges made once he got more familiar with your game and the rest of the offense?
He made little tweaks, but I feel like he made game plans, and whatever he’d feel would be successful, that’s what he used.
MGoQuestion: Do you expect this year to be any more or less involved in the running game than you were last year?
I don’t know, you gotta ask Coach Borges. If you want me to run the ball a hundred-some times a game I’ll run it. Whatever it takes for us to win, that’s what I feel anybody on our team would do.
When you’re watching a defense—let’s say it’s Alabama—what do you look at? When you’re, as a quarterback, studying a defense just casually … what do you look at?
You look at the coverage. I’m a quarterback, so I look at the coverage first. You want to see little hints that they give you, like if there’s a safety coming down, how far is the linebacker up to the umpire, how close the safety is to the umpire—if the safety is right on the umpire he’s probably coming, or he’s got to cover somebody, stuff like that. You might see the corner bail before his time, so you can tell that’s probably a [cover] 3 or 4, something like that. Just looking at what kind of coverage they’re in, if the corner is flat-footed or is he on his toes, little things like that you want to look at.
UNEXPECTED ANSWERS TO CORNY QUESTIONS
Did you ever envision in your wildest dreams ending up where you’re at today?
Oh, man, to be honest with you I didn’t. I didn’t know how far I’d go. I was just telling Kovacs and Taylor last night, in high school I didn’t think I was a D-I athlete, so now I’m here and it’s like it’s all a dream.
You didn’t think you’d be a D-I athlete?
Yeah, in high school I really didn’t. I really didn’t think that until I got my first offer from Florida my junior year.
*I've unearthed exclusive footage of this portion of the roundtable.
Johnny talked with me this morning and indicated he'll be coming back," Berenson said Monday. "He definitely had some dialogue with New Jersey. Jon realized he only played half of the season and he wants to be ready when he makes the move. He wants to be competing for an NHL job when he does. He doesn't want to be playing in the minors. I think it's the right thing for him.
That should end Michigan Hockey Summer, leaving them intact enough on defense despite the bizarre defection of Connor Carrick. A lineup of…
- Clare/Serville/Chiasson blender
…is pretty damn good. Chris Brown's absence will be felt, unfortunately.
Media days provided a chance for Taylor Lewan to show off his new, "vanilla" approach to interacting with the media as he continues to mature into a team leader. Of course, this is still Taylor Lewan, Finger 'Stache Enthusiast, so even when he's aiming for bland the conversation inevitably veers in the direction of colorful. Here are some excerpts from his roundtable session covering Alabama, the left guard competition, hosting recruiting visits, his playing weight, and some unfortunate news regarding the twosie:
RELEVANT FOOTBALL STUFF
MGoQuestion: Now that you’ve been in the same offensive system for a year, how much of a comfort level do you have in the offense, and how have you seen it evolve since the beginning of last year?
It’s a lot more exciting just going into camp and jumping right into it. Last year we had to take it slow, obviously, because we didn’t know the plays yet. I think it’s going to be exciting just jumping right into it and having the offense evolve even more than it did last year.
MGoQuestion: It seems like four offensive line positions are set, but left guard is still up in the air. What do you see out of the guys that are competing for that right now?
Joey Burzynski, he’s a redshirt sophomore, and then Elliott Mealer is a redshirt senior; both guys are really capable of playing the position. I think it’s a good problem to have when you’ve got two guys battling it out like that, and I think nobody’s job on the offensive line is set in stone.
MGoQuestion: Kyle Kalis has been mentioned as a guy who could come in and play. How much of a challenge is it to come in as a true freshman on the offensive line?
It’s unbelievably hard. Unbelievably hard. Just developing as an offensive lineman is probably the hardest thing to do at a college position. Kyle definitely passes the eye test when you look at him. He’s a big fella, looks strong. Everybody’s technique needs work, but we’ll see when camp rolls around.
MGoQuestion: At running back, the status of Fitz Toussaint is obviously up in the air right now. What do you see out of a guy like Thomas Rawls, what does he bring that may be different than what Fitz does?
Thomas Rawls, he runs angry, and he runs aggressive. He’s capable of doing all the things Fitz can do. One guy that’s really overlooked, and I was talking to Denard and Jordan about this yesterday, is Vincent Smith. Vincent, he’s without a doubt pound-for-pound the toughest guy on our team, and he’s like 5’6”. He’s unbelievable.
MGoQuestion: Have you started watching film on Alabama yet?
MGoQuestion: What kind of challenge does their defensive line pose? Are you paying attention to matchups yet?
I don’t know numbers yet or anything, but they’re a really good team. That’s the great part of Alabama; you lose five first-round draft picks and you’re gonna have five coming up after that. I’m real excited to play this game, I’m excited to see Michigan in this game, and Dallas isn’t a bad place to play, either.
MGoQuestion: Them playing a 3-4 defense, you don’t see that a lot in college football. Does that pose a different challenge for you as an offensive lineman?
Yeah, it changes blocking schemes here and there, but there’s no reason we should have a problem with that. In some ways that helps our passing game a little bit, flaring out and picking up blitzes, with three down linemen. In some ways it can help our inside zone or our power. There’s just a whole lot of things that go into it and if we come to play, we’ll be successful.
Does their defense remind you of your defense in terms of creativity, the number of blitzes…
Yeah, absolutely. Actually, they’re real similar. I’m excited to see what happens there. I don’t know if they twist and stunt as much as we do, but we’ll see what happens.
KOVACS VS. LEWAN, PART II
MGoQuestion: Jordan was over there saying you’re boring this week. Is that good for you? Is that an adjustment to make?
Boring, he said?
Boring and ugly, actually.
Well, I’ll agree to that first part. I’m not ugly. But I don’t know, I wouldn’t say boring, just focused on the goals at hand right now.
[Later] Jordan said to tell you that he called you ugly.
That’s twice now that I’ve heard that. I’m not happy about it.
Maybe he’s testing the vanilla-ization of Taylor Lewan.
You tell him that, uh… just don’t tell him anything. Tell him he looks lovely today. He looks like an accountant, actually.
LEWAN'S HUSKINESS/SMALL CHILD
Last year, Craig Roh said to call you husky because you’re self-conscious about your weight.
You can call me husky all you want. You can feel these hips if you want, too. I’m 310 pounds. There’s gotta be a little love, right?
But seriously, he was praising you for harnessing your…
…your volatile nature.
[laughs] I used to, actually, when I was younger, in high school I was always worried about how I looked. Craig, how’s it look? Right here, in this area. [Your torso?] Yeah, you gotta make sure it at least stays flat, you know?
What about how Craig looks right now?
He’s fat. Tell him I said that. [What about his hair?] His hair’s awesome, you don’t like it? I think the flow is unreal. But Jake Ryan has the best flow in the league, hands down. Write that down.
[After Lewan discusses bringing his weight from 250 lbs. as a freshman to 310 lbs. now] Do you think about that though, that you’ve kind of added a small child?
I’ve added a small child to my body. So, you’re just calling me fat to my face. I feel like we can get past this together. No, I’ve never woke up in the morning and thought, “you know what?” [rubs belly, laughter ensues]
But seriously, do you think you can play at this weight?
The goal was always to get past 300 pounds, so I know coming in that the biggest thing I could do to hide my child is to eat healthy as much as possible, and that’s what I’m trying to do.
MGoQuestion: Jordan mentioned you taking a role in recruiting, hosting players and stuff like that. What’s it like hosting players on campus?
It can get awkward, almost. You don’t know the guy at all and you’ve got to take him around for the night. I enjoy it. Me and Pat [Omameh] kind of praise ourselves with recruiting. We’re the best there is, that’s how we look at it. It depends on who you’ve got; some are talkative, some aren’t, you’ve just got to feel them out and see what they want to do.
MGoQuestion: Do you take any credit for landing any of the guys on the team?
I couldn’t do it. Well, I don’t know. Actually, I’m gonna say yes. Me and Pat, we hosted Jack Miller, we hosted Eric Magnuson, Kalis, a bunch of guys. I don’t know if I’d take credit, but definitely, I enjoy the recruiting process.
ON FIELDING CALLS FROM NFL AGENTS
Have agents been contacting you?
I don’t know. I get a lot of phone calls from numbers I don’t know, and I just don’t pick them up; there’s no reason to. My focus is on the University of Michigan, and there’s no point jumping into something and getting in trouble like that, because that’s not who I am.
When did you start getting phone calls?
I don’t know. Last month. But I don’t answer any of the phone calls. No one’s talked to me because I haven’t talked to them.
TAYLOR'S TWOSIE: RETIRED
MGoQuestion: Were you surprised by the attention paid to the twosie?
Yeah, I don’t know why that was made to be such a big deal. I got that thing for my teammates and all that stuff, for us to enjoy, mess around on it. The media kinda turned it into its own kind of monster, I wasn’t expecting that. I don’t really use that thing anymore. When you’re trying to give off the image of being a leader on this team, you probably shouldn’t be riding a two-seater bike. [Ed-S: FALSE!!!]
Taylor Lewan on Kovacs: "He looks like an accountant."
The roundtable session at media days takes on a remarkably repetitive nature, a product of giving reporters two hours to move freely between tables and fire away questions. Inanity ensues. Perhaps no player serves as a better example of this than Jordan Kovacs, who in the 40 or so minutes that I spent at his table fielded approximately 7,432 questions about his journey from walk-on to All-Big Ten safety. I mean, of course this happened:
Reporter: Do you ever get tired of questions about being a walk-on?
Kovacs: [laughs] Yeah, I was just asked that.
Jordan Kovacs is tired of being asked if he's tired of being asked about being a walk-on, and would someone please help me out of this wormhole?
Anyway, here's some select quotes from his roundtable session. I'll post Taylor Lewan's later today, and Denard Robinson's will go up tomorrow.
RELEVANT FOOTBALL STUFF
MGoQuestion: Now that you’re in the second year under Greg Mattison, do you expect the defense schematically to change at all in terms of playcalling? Do you expect it to get more aggressive this year?
I think he’s going to be the same Coach Mattison. He’s always been aggressive, and I don’t know if you can get more aggressive [laughs]. But I think we’re all more comfortable with the scheme and he’s more comfortable with us. Like I’ve said before, we really look forward to this season with the defense because nobody on this defense has been in the same defense for two consecutive years, and that’s what we’ll have this year, so we really look forward to that and we really look forward to seeing how far we can take this defense.
MGoQuestion: When you’re looking at film of Alabama, what do you see out of A.J. McCarron? What does he bring that you guys are going to have to defend against?
He’s improved a lot. He’s improved tremendously. I think at the beginning of last year he was not nearly as good—I mean, that’s obviously when they were in the quarterback battle—but he was not nearly as good as he was at the end of the year. At the end of the year he was one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, if not the best. Obviously he’s got a great arm, and I think that his running game helps him so much, I think that really opens up the passing game for him. He’s a tough quarterback, a tough kid, and I hope we can make him a little uncomfortable back there, but with their offensive line that’s not going to be anything easy.
MGoQuestion: There’s been a lot of roster turnover over the past few years, especially in the secondary. What kind of challenge does that pose to you guys as a team, especially in practice; is that tough when the guys behind you are constantly changing?
Yeah. That’s always happening. I know Coach Hoke always says it but it’s true that there are always expectations for the position and for the ballplayer. Whoever is at defensive tackle for us, there’s expectations to be great, not that they’re going to step in and be great but that they’re going to work hard this offseason and pick up right where Mike Martin or Ryan Van Bergen or Will Heininger or wherever those guys left off. Obviously those are going to be big shoes to fill but that’s how it is at Michigan.
MGoQuestion: The defense was really good last year at limiting big plays, but then against Ohio State and also against Virginia Tech, they were able to go over the top a little bit. Was that a schematic issue or a matchup issue—what happened over the last two games?
We didn’t play very well, from a defensive backs standpoint. Obviously against Ohio State we gave up quite a few big plays; Virginia Tech it wasn’t as many that cost us, we played a little bit more bend-but-don’t-break defense in that game. We did not play well enough from a defensive standpoint in either of those games, and it starts with the defensive backs. That’s something we worked on a lot in spring ball. It’s not an issue of athleticism or anything like that, it was just guys not being on the same page, and we’ll get that corrected.
So what you’re saying is it was a mental thing?
Yeah, there were more mental errors. A couple of the routes were tough. Ohio State kinda gave us a route that really cost us, it was a tough one to defend.
You know, I don’t remember exactly. It was tough to defend with our coverage; there was some miscommunication, we misplayed it.* Sometimes that’ll happen and you’ve just got to get it corrected and that’s what we did. We played a little better in the second half, as we did against Virginia Tech, and we ultimately won the game.
BEST DEFLECTION OF A STUPID QUESTION
I’m going to have you #1 on my AP ballot in the preseason. Is that a good call or a bad call?
I think that’s a call that doesn’t really matter. Where you start means nothing, it’s where you finish. So, tell me where we’ll finish at the end of the season, and I’ll tell you whether that’s a good or a bad call.
SOUNDS ABOUT RIGHT
What is it like defending Denard in practice?
Yeah, it sucks.
How much do you follow the recruiting stuff?
I don’t really follow any rankings, but you meet the kids and you hear through word of mouth from the players. But at the end of the day, the whole rankings system—I didn’t have any stars, and I’m here today, right? Not one. So yeah, I don’t keep up with it too much.
Are you ever a player host?
I’ve hosted a couple. I think Taylor is the key recruiter, and Roy; we’ve got our go-to guys.
KOVACS VS. LEWAN, PART I
We talked a little bit about Denard and how he hasn’t changed. What about Taylor?
Unfortunately, Taylor, he hasn’t changed. I’m just joking, but you can write that. Taylor, I can’t describe how much I think he’s matured, and I’m sure you see that as reporters. He’s vanilla this weekend. He’s been told to be vanilla this weekend. I don’t even think he needed to be told that, because I think he’s more focused than ever before. I think he understands how far we can take this team, and he’s really harnessed it and he’s really looking forward to it. I can’t say enough about his leadership. He’s got those young offensive linemen in there and he’s really working hard with those guys.
Do you think the vanilla-ization of Taylor has taken away from his aggressiveness on the field?
No. I think we need him to be vanilla off the field. Taylor is one of those guys that… first of all, he’s ugly. But he’s a very aggressive ballplayer; he’s one of those offensive linemen that you hate to play against but you love to have him on your team, because he’s just nasty, he’s ugly—I don’t know if I said that—but he’s a mauler. What offensive linemen do is not pretty, but you love it when they do it for your team.
Just tell him I said that.**
*My guess at the time was Kovacs was thinking of OSU attacking the seam against Michigan's cover 2. Brian concurred when I chatted with him today; Michigan ran a cloud cover 2 where the corners had deep responsibility at the free safety defended underneath, a coverage they only used against the Buckeyes, which could explain the confusion.
**In case you're actually concerned about an offense-defense rift or something, this was entirely in jest. Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion later this afternoon.
Will Campbell perpetual shirt malfunction. Tim Sullivan headed out to the Cass Tech alumni 7-on-7 game last weekend and got this shot of Will Campbell doing, well, this:
He's (relatively) thin. This will make him an excellent football player. Lewan:
"The most dramatic change I've seen in a body on our team is Will Campbell," said left tackle Taylor Lewan. "His body is transformed. He was a sloppy 350 and now he's a toned down 308 kind of guy. He looks real good. His conditioning shows it. You should see him run. He's like a gazelle. It's unreal. I think Will is going to do some special things this year."
Come on, baby.
Haters. I just don't know, man. People deploy "haters" to flip criticism to the critic but surely…
From Garry Gilliam™ twitter feed with the comment
"Just in case the haters thought otherwise"
…nope. There is nothing in this world bad enough to prevent "haters" from being deployed. Yeah, Penn State football player, it's jealousy at the root of all of this.
UNC stuff. A "special faculty committee" at North Carolina has called for "an independent commission of outside experts" to review the relationship between athletics and academics at the university. If this happens expect the outside experts to exhale a slow, sliding whistle at the car wreck:
The report, released Thursday, also states staffers in the school's Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes referred players to classes in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM). In May, the university outlined fraud and poor oversight in 54 AFAM classes between 2007 and 2011, including classes that met irregularly if at all.
That included a class last summer with 18 current football players and one former player.
"It seems likely that someone in the (AFAM) department called athletics counselors … to tell them that certain courses would be available," the report states, "it is less clear whether staff … actually contacted departments to ask about the availability of classes."
So there's that. There's playing Hakeem Nicks in 2008 when he was ineligible, and there was Butch Davis employing an assistant coach literally acting as a "street agent." UNC got a one-year bowl ban and some minor scholarship losses.
Why didn't UNC get hammered? They've subverted nearly as much to the drive of the football program as Penn State did, albeit with far less odious results. If the NCAA is ever going to get a handle on these things, plausible deniability needs to be tossed out the window.
Leave Jordan alone. It's bad enough that Roy Roundtree is 21 and Devin Gardner is 12 and I'm going to be confused but come on man let's not take a bomb to our roster:
In May, Michigan announced that Roundtree would wear the No. 21 jersey of "Michigan Football Legend" Desmond Howard next season. Shortly thereafter, the school announced it would be un-retiring and recirculating Ron Kramer's No. 87, Gerald Ford's No. 48 and Bennie Oosterbaan's No. 47 beginning this fall.
Who might those players be? Will they be announced this season? When will Hoke decide it all?
"Sometime," he said with a grin. "In the future.
Come on man let's not do this. Let's give the numbers to players who have not yet established themselves as starters. Let's do this: not doing this. Come on man.
This one not so close. In other non-WH games on youtube, here's almost all of the 1991 Florida State game. Advantages: Desmond Howard and Keith Jackson. Disadvantages: Michigan loses by 20. Tread carefully:
If that doesn't tempt, 100 random Michigan touchdowns may:
Angry Iowa running back hating God is having its Exodus moment. Or it just released "Blood on the Tracks" or something. What I am getting at is: wow, that got out of hand.
YOUR RUNNING BACKS. I WILL DESTROY THEM, IOWA.
Sophomore De'Andre Johnson got a ticket for "maintaining a disorderly house" because the cops didn't appreciate walking up a never-ending staircase* and then drove very fast away from police*, drawing the usual indefinite suspension. This is the fifth(!) tailback hewed down by AIRBHG this offseason alone, though incoming freshman Greg Garmon got away with a drug paraphernalia charge without a suspension.
Alabama coach Nick Saban’s support staff has expanded to nine “analysts.” That’s up from six in 2011, three in 2010 and none before then.
The money has to go somewhere.
We will fare less well on this list next year. Orson charts fun/good from the perspective of his Orsonbrain. The Big Ten:
This is because Denard. Next year… well, it'll probably be Gardner and if early returns are any indication that will be fun to the Orsonbrain as well because it will occasionally result in passes thrown ten yards past the line of scrimmage or thirty yards behind it. Our brains will probably not interpret this as "fun."
I think Northwestern gets a raw deal here since they are liable to do anything at any time no matter how big their lead is.
Goodbye, Bolden. Rob Bolden's inevitable, slow-motion transfer process seems to have come to a conclusion with an LSU visit and the notable omission of Bolden from the Penn State roster. How he'll improve LSU's football team is unclear. Tulane, maybe.
In any case, the highly-touted in-state QB recruiting class is down to Devin Gardner's one or two years at the helm at Michigan. Joe Boisture discovered he wasn't actually good at football and lasted less than a year at MSU, Bolden lost his job to a walk-on, and Gardner's been stuck behind Denard.
Um. Nebraska's going to wear alternate uniforms for their game against Wisconsin that look slightly familiar, and not just because they give off the faint air of Rollerball.
this is just a picture. don't click on it.
Ad some shoulder stripes and that's Michigan's outfit from last year's ND game. Hopefully Adidas was too busy making jerseys that don't have to be switched out at halftime to innovate this summer.
Derrick Walton doing this work business. He led his AAU team to a championship in Vegas last weekend, garnering MVP honors in the process:
Walton is aggressively moving up the 2013 recruiting ranks, and continued to impress coaches and recruiting gurus with his performance this week in Las Vegas. Before the game, Dave Telep, ESPN.com’s top recruiting analyst, tweeted that Walton is being considered as a McDonald’s All-American after his strong performance.
TELEP: Sprinkle that Derrick Walton name in for McDonalds consideration.
The Mustangs, who boast four Division 1-bound players, cruised through the tournament going 9-0, outscoring opponents by 17 points per game in super pool play.
Walton had 16 points, 13 assists, and one turnover in the final.
Media days stuff. ESPN has a transcript of his speech. Denard:
Etc.: USA water polo goalie Betsey Armstrong will become a Michigan assistant this fall. Advice: try not to get kicked by her. Not that she's in the habit of kicking random passersby. Annual MVictors JDRF donation drive is live. GRITTY GRIT GIRT. SOCKS. WOLVERINE CONSERVATION THROUGH CITIZEN SCIENCE FUNDRAISING.
Michigan adds a commitment this week, so the recruiting rankings are front-paged. Also, Penn State begins their post-sanction slip down the board and there's a new team at the bottom of the list. Changes since the last rankings:
7-23-12: Ross Douglas decommits from Penn State.
7-24-12: Michigan picks up Ross Douglas. Michigan State picks up Devyn Salmon.
7-25-12: Keelon Brookins decommits from Minnesota. Wisconsin picks up Keelon Brookins.
7-26-12: Indiana picks up Demetrius Hill.
7-28-12: Notre Dame picks up Jamel James. Ohio State picks up Tim Gardner. Purdue picks up Keyante Green.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||24/7 Avg||ESPN Avg||Avg Avg^|
^The average of the average rankings of the four recruiting services (the previous four columns). The figure is calculated based on the raw numbers and then rounded, so the numbers above may not average out exactly.
NOTE: Unranked recruits are counted as two-star players.
On to the full data after the jump.