mesmerism! presidential assassinations! circuses on fire!
This is belated, but still relevant since I just saw Michigan run this play with Denard Robinson as the tailback in the Purdue game. This is a staple of the Illinois offense but it's something Michigan hasn't run yet in the Rodriguez era. I assume Michigan decided that the best way to practice it was to install it, and once it's installed you might as well run it.
It's Michigan's first drive of the day. The setup is a standard four-wide set on which Michigan is in a stretch setup with the quarterback behind the tailback:
On the snap it looks identical to the stretch in the backfield, with the running back coming across the quarterback's face to take a handoff, or not take a handoff. The line, however, is doing something completely different. They're blocking down:
On a stretch the line would be moving the same direction as the tailback and leaving the backside defensive end unblocked. On this play they block the opposite direction and leave the frontside DE unblocked. This is a veer.
Michigan's run a different sort of veer earlier that looks more like a traditional stretch with the tailback attacking upfield and the quarterback the player that needs to be contained. That touchdown against Purdue last year where Minor ran untouched into the endzone was a veer. On this play, the upfield threat is the QB and the RB needs to be contained.
On the exchange the Illinois line has slanted in anticipation of a stretch; they're reacting to the line. The backside DE is shuffling out and Koger is immediately releasing to the second level to pick up a block on the MLB:
Forcier keeps it. I think he keeps it incorrectly given the DE's reaction to the play:
Oops. If that DE had taken off for the tailback this is a good gain. Look at that crease up the middle. Since Forcier isn't Denard Robinson he probably gets tracked down by a safety—they're off the screen deep—but Illinois has gotten fooled by this play. Everyone except the DE, that is:
He cuts off that crease.
Forcier's a slippery bugger in space, though, and this DE is not nearly as agile as he is. As we've seen all year, dude can make you miss. He manages to get around the DE and to the outside. This delay has allowed opponents to converge, though:
Forcier gets down voluntarily:
It's four yards thanks to the mismatch between the DE and Forcier, but he had to make a guy miss to get it.
- Forcier's freshman status is much more pronounced on the zone read. Forcier's made a lot of poor decisions this year when it comes to handing the ball off or taking it. Most of the time his error is keeping the ball, but when Robinson came in to run the veer against Purdue he handed it off as the DE was running right out of the play and Robinson got nailed for a three-yard loss.
It's not just the passing game which should improve as Forcier gets more experience. Michigan's run game is being hampered by Forcier's youth as well. This is why the quarterback is even more important in Rodriguez's system than others.
- The veer is an excellent counter to Michigan's usual zone stuff… To the line it looks like a stretch and will draw stretch responses. As you can see in the frames above, the Illinois line has crashed itself out of the play, helping Michigan down-block it. There's a big damn crease if the DE heads out for the tailback. If the DE is on a scrape exchange and crashing for the QB, the handoff read is a potential big gain because the scraper is going to have to deal with a blocker and you have a tailback in a lot of space for cutbacks. Michigan tried it a couple times against Illinois; Illinois, unsurprisingly, reacted well to it. It's their base running play, IME. They've seen it.
- …but it requires far more precision on the read. Watching Juice Williams in detail the past couple years has given me an appreciation for how difficult it is to perceive the DE's intent and momentum, and how your fakes can drag him out of position. Williams gets low and extends the ball and holds it there almost impossibly long, then drags it out after the DE commits. Forcier does not have that patience yet.
This read is also more important to the success of the play. If the DE crashes down on a stretch he may get to the tailback if other people on the DT cut off creases. Fundamentally he's a cutback defender and a play can still work if the QB is not contained and gives it off. Here a missed read is probably going to be a loss, Forcier jukes notwithstanding.
Mike Cox is pretty. A reader who's way more familiar with the facial features of fifth-string running backs than even I am was taken aback by a Bivouac newsletter featuring a fellow who appears to be Mike Cox:
Cox's mgoblue mug shot:
That's the same dude, right?
Extremely important CORRECTION: The "death touch" cartoon referenced in the Monday column was not GI Joe but Batman: The Animated Series. A helpful reader provides details:
I believe this was the animated series of Batman. I very clearly remember an episode of this, but I think there was only one real "death touch", which Batman was able to find by feeling up the bad guy's sparring dummy. He then confronts the guy who hits him there!(!). BUT of course Batman is too smart for that and had armored that spot so he wouldn't die, and then pwns the fool.
Craig Flemingloss '07
I now remember this clear as day. Fools at the Ohio State game are going to get a swift jab that's a one-way ticket to hell. Or they're just going to get poked in the neck. 50-50.
CYA, chanter of CYA. I noticed this during the portion of the Saturday Miami game I didn't spend crossly drinking at home:
I was at the game for about 10 minutes, when after Miami (Ohio)’s first penalty, I participated in what has come to be known as the ‘C-Ya’ chant. …
Like usual, I said the same chant tons of times Friday night with thousands of other fans and nothing happened.
Saturday night, I got kicked out. Not cool, dude.
Two or three others in the immediate vicinity of one cranky usher also got the boot over the course of the game. I didn't see the guy the next section over executing similar justice, so I assume that these are the actions of one guy who's mad as hell and isn't going to take it anymore, not a Yost-wide thrust.
The uneven enforcement is annoying and will do nothing to stem the tide of that chant. That said, Michigan's been trying to erase or ease the cheer since I started attending games at Yost 11 years ago. In the long-long ago, Red Berenson even brought his adorable five-year old grandchild onto the ice to personally plead the student section to stop; no one did. They just added a sarcastic-seeming "we love you, Red" at the end of the thing. I thought that was pretty disgraceful: the only reason Yost is what it is today is Berenson, so if he wants you to stop doing something you should do it no questions asked.
Mostly, the chant's not clever. It's just a string of stuff that gets progressively further over the line every time something gets added. The things that used to get tacked on, like "Wildfong" in honor of a particularly annoying opponent or "Boren" for obvious reasons, are lost to history, replaced with generic swearing. I have been known to curse like a sailor from time to time; this is not mounting a high horse about vulgarity. The CYA chant is boring and embarrassing in the format currently served at Yost. It's not something worth fighting for when Red Berenson, who should be your God, wants it dead.
If the university actually wants traction on this, they should provide a carrot and stick to the entire student section in the form of ticket prices: higher if they continue, lower if they stop. Randomly tossing chickens* out of the game is just going to shame the Daily's editors even more than their humiliating defeat at the hands at a bunch of socially maladjusted engineers from the Every Three Weekly last weekend. It's not going to help, it's going to instill the Fight For Your Right To Party mentality that I saw after the Children of Red incident. The only thing that will work is a naked display of aggression on the part of the university. Either drop it or drop the bomb.
I will admit that I stood out from the other Children of Yost. I may or may not have had a megaphone. And I may or may not have been, ahem, dressed up — if you went to the game, you might have seen a six-foot chicken standing against the glass in section 18.
On a similar topic. I haven't ever heard Berenson tear his team a new orifice like he did in the aftermath of this weekend's pantsing at the hands of Miami. After the Redhawks scored to go up 4-1 on Saturday, the team started gooning at an alarming rate:
"I'm embarrassed," Berenson said. "We played like a bunch of spoiled brats, and we've gotta suck it up. When you're getting beat, you just keep working hard for the team. You don't take it out on the other team and take stupid penalties that are going to hurt your team even further. That's not the way we play hockey, and this team will learn that."
I wonder if this embarrassment extends to Tristin Llewellyn, whose spot on the depth chart opposite Chris Summers on what you assume is the #1 defensive pairing makes no sense to me. Llewellyn has been a dumb penalty factory ever since he arrived and makes a ton of chance-generating defensive mistakes. Putting him on the ice against top lines is asking for it; I don't get Berenson's faith in the guy when Kampfer is available.
On ice, but only metaphorically. Interesting bit from an AnnArbor.com piece on the freshmen getting redshirted:
Michigan has played 10 of 21 true freshmen this year, though linebacker Brandin Hawthorne has not seen the field since September and is in position to get his redshirt back.
…if Michigan has held him out because he is "injured," which I'm betting is the case. Michigan pulled medical redshirts for Adam Patterson, Junior Hemingway, and Kenny Demens last year and only Hemingway had injuries that were known to the public.
Mike Jones and Vlad Emilien continue to play on special teams but not on the defense, frustratingly, though I can understand why Emilien was put on the field given the situation at safety. Anything that can potentially get him ready sooner is more valuable than a hypothetical fifth year given Michigan's situation at the position.
The article also expands upon something Tim touched on in his press conference recap:
Rodriguez singled out cornerback J.T. Turner, safety Thomas Gordon and receivers Jeremy Gallon and Cam Gordon when asked what freshmen currently redshirting have caught his eye. He also said Michigan has "some really talented young offensive lineman" in Taylor Lewan, Quinton Washington and Michael Schofield.
I am terribly pleased that Gordon is one of the guys mentioned, just because of his position and his low recruiting profile. Gallon has a nice two-year gap between himself and Odoms now; if he lives up the recruiting hype Michigan should have a nice one-two punch at slot until Roundtree graduates. And one of the tackles—probably Lewan—stepping forward to claim a starting spot would be… well, probably not great. Next year's line is probably going to be something like Omameh-Schilling-Molk-Barnum-Dorrestein/Huyge, with Barnum potentially replaced by whoever's not the RT if he can't hack it yet. If one of the tackles is breaking through as a redshirt freshman that's probably a negative.
Advertisin' note. The M-Den, which is fantastic in all ways that an entity can be, has a holiday promotion running: orders over $100 come with a ten-dollar gift card.
Vote of confidence. Rote:
"He's not going anyplace," Martin said. "Rich is an outstanding coach. There is no question he's got my total support. I think the world of that guy. Is he perfect in every respect? Nobody is. But he works hard. He'll get it right."
Honey, I'm the AD. In the vein of "Let's FOIA 30-year-old grade records" and "Michigan coaches have loans from a bank the AD founded": Martin's embarrassment that was on all the premium sites yesterday afternoon appears to be shoving past some clueless DPS workers who don't know what the AD looks like. This never happens on sailboats. That's probably why he's retiring.
To me this is more interesting as an information-on-the-internet problem: I got a couple of freaked-out emails because premium sites were dropping dark hints about an "embarrassment" that was about to come out about Bill Martin. That embarrassment is stating "Honey, I'm the AD" and gently pushing someone out of his path. If anyone on the premium sites had just said that, or if the information was not locked behind a paywall and thus subject to wild speculation by people outside of it, the minor panic would not have happened. The perpetual non-information being purveyed on subscriber message boards is annoying both as a recipient and a competitor. My favorite part is when moderators elsewhere say "as we've been telling you for weeks (in one-way ciphered Navajo)" after this site says something newsworthy in explicit detail. You'll note that if this site has information it just tells you what the information is and the context it was received in.
Example! I've received some solid information that suggests Fred Jackson is probably going to move on after the season by his own choice. This should not affect the status of his son's commitment; Jackson's probably going to head to the NFL.
Given my opinion of how important a running backs coach is—not very—I don't think this is a big deal and hope the replacement is one of those young, energetic recruiter types. The first guy who leaps to mind is Ty Wheatley, now on Ron English's staff at EMU. With all the Rodriguez stuff—and the rumors as to where some of it is sourced—that may not be an option.
Etc.: Thanks to BWS I spent 20 minutes yesterday watching some guy play impossible Mario levels. Craig Roh's dad says recruits and their parents have the internet too. Big Ten Tour hits Michigan, runs into a guy who looks like Scott Steiner but says he's Hulk Hogan. Side note: I am 100% sure that I saw Scott Steiner wandering around before a game last year.
If you can help out finding articles on any of the commits, e-mail me, and I'll try to include your contribution.
New Commit LA S Carvin Johnson
Last week: Rummel knocks off Shaw 18-17.
Breaud was terrific, taking many huge hits, particularly from a human missile named Carvin Johnson and by linebacker Chris Randle. Johnson, who earlier this week committed to Michigan, returned a punt 69-yards for a score on a brilliant effort but the play was called back for a block in the back by Rummel.
This week: Rummel (10-0) v. Captain Shreve in Round 1 of the State Playoffs.
|Carvin Johnson 2009|
|East St. John||W 20-14|
|OP Walker||W 23-0||1|
|Brother Martin||W 13-7|
|St. Augustine||W 7-6||1|
|Archbishop Shaw||W 18-17|
MI QB Devin Gardner
Gardner was 6-of-11 passing for 120 yards and two touchdowns, and he ran 11 times for 120 yards and three more touchdowns.
"He played one of the better games of the year for me," Inkster coach Greg Carter said. "He took the game over. Every time Redford Thurston (8-3) would score, he would lead the team down to answer."
Paul was there (albeit a little late), so enjoy some video from the second quarter on:
CityBallers was also there, and they provide video as well.
This week: Inkster (7-3) @ Southgate Anderson in Round 3 of the State Playoffs.
|Devin Gardner 2009|
|East Kentwood||L 33-52||19||30||389||3||1||63.33||12.97||10||102||2||10.20|
|St. Edward||W 14-7|
|Highland Park||W 27-22||9||16||127||2||2||56.25||7.94||11||74||2||6.73|
|Bay City Central||W 27-20||7||13||132||1||0||53.85||10.15||15||95||1||6.33|
|Muskegon CC||W 34-19||4||9||110||0||0||44.44||12.22||99||1|
|St. Ignatius||L 20-49||1||0||1|
|Edsel Ford||W 51-19||4||7||51||2||0||57.14||7.29||6||98||2||16.33|
SC QB Conelius Jones
Last week: Spartanburg loses to Dorman 0-28. Jones passed 5/14 for 40 yards and a pick.
This week: Spartanburg (3-8) @ Rock Hill in Round 1 of the State Playoffs.
|Conelius Jones 2009|
|Boiling Springs||L 35-39||1||0||77||1|
MI RB Austin White
Last week: Stevenson falls to Detroit Catholic Central 0-38.
Senior Austin White, who has committed to play at the University of Michigan next season, finished the game with 75 yards on 10 carries for the Spartans, but was unable to use his speed to break a big run against the very solid Shamrocks defense.
...except for a 30-yarder, which I would call "big." I was there, so enjoy some video:
As you can see, Stevenson employed some direct-snap shotgun stuff for White, including throwing a pass. I hadn't seen them use that before this year, and I wonder if this was its debut. If so, I question the logic of installing something completely new for a big playoff game. I also question the logic of only giving your running back the ball 10 times when he averages 7.5 yards each carry, but whateva.
|Austin White 2009|
|South Lyon||W 37-0||8||173||3||21.63||0||0||0||-|
|South Lyon East||W 47-20||16||234||5||14.63||0||0||0||-|
|Catholic Central||L 0-38||10||75||0||7.50||0||0||0||-|
TX RB Tony Drake
Last week: Skyline pounds Sunset 56-0. Drake had just two carries, but they spanned 102 yards, and both made it into the end zone:
Tony Drake ran up the middle 79 yards untouched with 4:50 remaining to give Skyline a 7-0 lead. Drake scored on a 23-yard run on Skyline’s next play to make it 14-0 with 2:37 remaining.
Then he got taken out of the game and Skyline won the end.
This week: Skyline (10-0) v. Garland rowlett in Round 1 of the State Playoffs.
|Tony Drake 2009|
|Plano East||W 45-19||15||167||1||11.13||0||0||0||-|
|Lake Highlands||W 42-27||19||226||2||11.89||1||6||0||6.00|
|W.T. White||W 62-3||4||50||1||12.50||0||0||0||-|
TX RB Stephen Hopkins
Last week: Game preview:
Give me Marcus RB Stephen Hopkins to not want his spectacular career to come to an end just quite yet and a Marcus win. Prediction: Marcus 27, Hebron 23.
Marcus running back Stephen Hopkins, who entered the game needing 44 yards to set the school’s all-time rushing record, gained 171 yards with two touchdowns
“We’ve had a great offensive line since I have been here,” Hopkins said. “And coach Erwin always believed in me. Thanks to all of them I was able to get that done.”
“It was all guts,” Hopkins said. “We picked the right time to show it and I’m proud of the team for how we fought and won. We have to keep fighting and keep getting better every week,” Hopkins said. “We have to step it up on offense and on defense and we have a chance.”
This week: Marcus (6-3) v. Grapevine in Round 1 of the State Playoffs.
|Stephen Hopkins 2009|
|Plano West||W 35-25||28||128||3||4.57|
|Tyler Lee||W 17-7||22||118||1||5.36|
|Southlake Carroll||L 30-41||28||150||1||5.36|
|Flower Mound||W 63-39||21||217||2||10.33|
|Flower Mound||W 35-28||28||171||2||6.11|
LA Slot WR Drew Dileo
Last week: Game preview:
“I love playing at The Rock,” said Dileo, a Michigan football commitment who has scored 11 touchdowns this season. “The atmosphere is great. It’ll be a packed house and we’re playing for the district championship. It’s a great honor to be in this rivalry.”
It looked like the Wolves had Parkview stopped, but on fourth-and-3 at the PBS 47 the Eagles executed a fake punt, with Dileo running 24 yards for a first down.
Three plays later, Dileo scored on an option pitch around left end. Scott’s second PAT made it 17-7 with 9:39 left in the half.
Dileo later had a 41-yard punt return.
A 23-yard Wilson to Dileo pass helped key the drive that ended with a 2-yard TD run by Brandon Johnson.
This week: Parkview Baptist (8-1) v. Marksville in Round 1 of the State Playoffs.
|Drew Dileo 2009|
|Christian Life||W 60-14||1||50||1||50.00|
|Church Point||W 54-0||2||40||1||20.00|
|Port Allen||W 32-7||11||65||0||5.91||3||92||2||30.67|
|West Feliciana||W 23-7||50||1|
MI WR Ricardo Miller
But when Pioneer's Miles Sorise found Ricardo Miller on a 36-yard touchdown pass less than a minute into the second quarter to trim the deficit to a touchdown, it appeared Pioneer was ready to match Canton score for score.
This week: Pioneer (8-3) has been eliminated from the State Playoffs, and their season is over.
|Ricardo Miller 2009|
|Arthur Hill||W 58-20||1||20||0||20.00|
OH OL Christian Pace
Last week: Preview fluff:
“Pace has been on the line for all three years I’ve been at tailback,” Mansnerus said. “I have a lot of trust in him, but all of them are good friends. We have a close bond together as teammates.”
Avon Lake outguns Maumee, 56-35 in Round 1 of the State Playoffs.
This week: Avon Lake (8-3)
OH DT Terry Talbott
This week: Wayne (7-4) has been eliminated from the playoffs, and their season is over.
PA DE Ken Wilkins
"It's frustrating, but even moreso because I'm a senior," Wilkins said. "When you're a senior, any game can be your last game. You definitely want to get back and play."
When asked how he thought he has played this year, Wilkins said, "On defense, I wasn’t having as good of a year as I did last year. But I think some of that was due to a lot more people knowing who I was this year, and teams scheming more around me. I'm more involved in the offense this year, though. I was having an OK defensive year."
Trinity falls to Mars 0-17.
This week: Trinity (4-6) has been eliminated from the State Playoffs, and their season is over.
PA DE Jordan Paskorz
Last week: Hampton upsets Chartiers Valley 19-7 in Round 1 of the State playoffs.
This week: Hampton (6-4) @ Uniontown in Round 2 of the State Playoffs.
FL S Marvin Robinson
Last week: Lake Region falls to Bartow 7-45. Robinson is out for the year with an injury.
This week: Lake Region (0-8) v. East Ridge.
OH CB Terrence Talbott
This week: Wayne (7-4) has been eliminated from the playoffs, and their season is over.
MI WR Jeremy Jackson
Huron's (5-4) season ended without a playoff berth. Jackson finished with 43 catches for 573 yards.
OH WR Jerald Robinson
Canton South (3-7) missed the state playoffs, and its season is over.
OH WR DJ Williamson
Harding (6-3-1) will not make the State Playoffs, and its season has ended.
OH LB Antonio Kinard
Liberty (4-6) missed the State Playoffs, and its season is over.
OH CB Courtney Avery
Lexington (6-4) missed the State Playoffs, and their season is over.
WI P Will Hagerup
Whitefish Bay (5-5) has completed its season.
2011 OH CB Greg Brown
Ross (5-5) missed the State Playoffs, and its season is over.
|Greg Brown 2009|
|Benedictine||W 28-21 (OT)||6||99||1||16.50|
|Findlay||L 40-43 (3OT)||8||122||1||15.13||0||0||0||-|
|Marion Harding||L 0-21||0||0||0||-||4||13||0||3.25|
A very special mailbag, with just one question. This one has been asked, or implied by people sending me reasons the play of the team is definitely the fault of the coaches, by many, many people the past couple weeks. If you sent one, I read it. I'm not responding except here. Sorry. Usually I try to be better about it.
The platonic ideal:
Just talk me off the ledge...
Please explain what it would take for you to no longer support Rich Rod. What specifically has to happen? And then, please state not just what you expect to see from the program in the coming years, but how the team will improve? To me, that's why I just can't support Rich Rod anymore. Show me where are the underclassmen who will show improvement and how you actually see the coaches making them better.
I just don't see it. Instead, I see a mentally soft team, that while yes, has serious deficiencies, is currently losing to teams that also have serious deficiencies. Our players seem to be all over the place and just poorly coached in general.
Like I said, talk me off the ledge..
I get emails like this because I've been a supporter of Rodriguez throughout his tenure at Michigan and am moving much more slowly towards the conclusion that Rodriguez should be fired than the rest of the universe. The emailer asks for specifics. To set ground rules, here are the assumptions I am working with.
Virtually nothing that happened in 2008 was avoidable, and it was mostly not Rodriguez's fault. Michigan's program had already been gutted by attrition and poor motivation by the time Rodriguez made it to campus, and the exodus of offensive stars in the aftermath of his hiring was an inevitable consequence of the radical shift in offensive philosophy.
I have it from reliable sources Ryan Mallett was gone no matter who was the coach and that Manningham was headed for the NFL after three years from day one. Arrington left because Mallett left. Boren left because he was asked to put in the same amount of effort as the rest of the team and not given special exemptions to go be Mr. Plow. If you want to blame Rodriguez for Boren, fine. Add him to the team last year and you still have a disaster of an offense that starts Nick Sheridan most of the year.
Arguments that Rodriguez should have stuck with a pro-style offense he's never coached and forgo the installation of his system in order to get to 5-7 when hardly anyone on the roster has even played in a pro-style system have been discussed already; I think they are silly.
Rodriguez is not responsible for the enormous holes on the roster. Rodriguez has had a single full recruiting class and had a brief window in which to patch some spread-type players onto Carr's last class. The gaping holes on defense and the lack of talent at outside receiver and offensive line are almost entirely Lloyd Carr's doing. The freshmen quarterbacks are a combination of Carr putting every egg for three years in Mallett's basket and the radical shift in offensive philosophy.
This has been discussed elsewhere on the blog; I won't belabor the point.
Hiring Scott Shafer was a terrible mistake, and the other hires are questionable. At the very least it was a misjudge of the guy's ability to fit in on the staff. At worst, he allowed his DC to get submarined and saw the defense implode because of his assistants' impatience.
This may extend to Rodriguez's other hires as well: Jay Hopson has recruited very few players as Michigan withdrew entirely from Mississippi after last year's debacle; Hopson also secured the commitments of both defensive tackles who went elsewhere on signing day. His linebacking corps has regressed horribly.
And while the jury is still be out (very, very out) on Robinson given the players he has to work with, but his track record since his salad days with the Broncos is one of relentless failure with a single good-not-great year at Texas mixed in.
It is worth noting that the guys who can really be considered DeBord-style crony legacy folk are Magee, Tall, Smith, and Gibson. Dews is a vagabond who was a grad assistant at WVU for a few years before wandering around to Holy Cross, CMU, and UNLV. Frey was picked off from South Florida a year before Rodriguez left WVU and had no prior connection to Rodriguez. Hopson is obviously new. Fred Jackson was an enforced hire by the Michigan AD.
The crony guys are the offensive coordinator who everyone loves, the DL coach who is, IME, doing a very good job, the QB coach who helped Pat White be Pat White, and… well… Tony Gibson. At this point I'd rather see Rodriguez hire a guy he knows inside and out; the folk he brings in from the outside haven't done that well.
We are not at the point yet where the deficiencies in the team are clearly the doing of the coaches. It's pretty suggestive at linebacker, sure. But the secondary is just a disaster zone and would be a disaster zone if Monte Kiffin cloned himself eight times and had all eight players try to teach the safeties how to play football. The offense has improved greatly from year one to year two and has done so with true freshmen at quarterback. Since Rodriguez has a track record of success, he should be extended the benefit of the doubt.
They're not "soft." They don't play like mincing Frenchmen. They play like speed-addled kids with ADD. They are irresponsible and sometimes dumb. This is because they are terribly young or Michigan's linebackers. What does "soft" even mean? Jonas Mouton blowing coverages and cutback lanes game after game is not soft. Mike Williams overrunning everyone on Illinois is not soft. Michigan blowing assignments on the Illinois goal line stand is not soft.
It takes time to dig out.
Michigan was not a 3-9 team by accident; they had the talent of a 3-9 team. If you disagree with that, it's probably to suggest that Michigan was really a 5-7 or 4-8 team that Rodriguez screwed up into being a slightly more horrible team, right?
If you think that Michigan's downfall was entirely Rodriguez-made and you're pointing to the gutted recruiting classes that were in the top ten at their inception but have been ground down to dust, you can safely move on from this post since nothing in it will convince you. My opinion is that a combination of poor late stewardship from Carr and the wrenching transition to the opposite of Lloyd Carr in so many ways is what doomed us to this transition.
I expect Rodriguez to provide continual improvement until Michigan is back to being Michigan. That's my baseline. I'm not exactly thrilled with what's gone on this year but I think it's understandable. Given the roster situation and the chaos at DC—which Rodriguez is responsible for—this Michigan team is within the range in which Rich Rodriguez is not an idiot who got lucky with Pat White and Steve Slaton. It's towards the lower end of the range but it is in the range. It takes time to dig out from the hole they were in.
Next year, Michigan must be better than they are this year. I have no idea where the emailer is getting the idea that Michigan can't be a better team when they return at least 16 starters on offense and defense, with Donovan Warren a potential 17th, some combination of Dorrestein and Omameh a potential 18th, and Darryl Stonum a functional 19th.
Additionally, the players on this team are still extremely young. There are 11 starters on the team who are sophomores or freshman by eligibility, and many of the guys with redshirts in there are guys like Hemingway, Huyge, and Molk who missed large chunks of time with injury. The quarterbacks should take huge leaps forward in their second year. The only spot at which Michigan should be appreciably worse next year, excepting special teams, is Brandon Graham. That will be a major loss; it won't offset improved play at every position on the field.
So, sure. If you really don't think Michigan is going to be better next year I can understand why you'd want to see Rodriguez fired. I also think you're completely nuts.
If they aren't obviously better, then Rodriguez should be fired. If they don't make a bowl game, if they aren't obviously moving away from the Big Ten cellar, if they don't approach yardage parity against BCS opponents, Rodriguez should be fired. I think all of those things are seriously unlikely, and am willing to invest a year to find out. Where it is in black and white: acts of God nonwithstanding, Michigan has to go 8-5 next year or Rodriguez should be cut loose. 7-6 might be okay if the bowl matchup is obviously bad.
This is the last I'll say about it until next year.
- Injuries: Brandon Minor's ankle injury is ongoing, and now he has a bruised shoulder as well. Junior Hemingway has a back bruise and was limited against Purdue. Martavious Odoms is still day-to-day, he hasn't progressed that well. Perry Dorrestein is getting better. Carlos was limited against Purdue because he missed the week of practice with tendinitis.
- Personnel notes: Brandon Minor gives the team a completely different dimension because he is able to break tackles and run downhill. Without him, the offense isn't as good. Patrick Omameh played pretty well, especially for his first start. He has some technical things to improve, but he played hard and was physical. Tate had a few missed reads and bad decisions, but didn't play poorly. JB Fitzgerald graded out OK. Rich doesn't know who will start on defense this week,because nobody on the defense graded out at a championship level. Olesnavage should be fine mentally - it was his first extra point miss of the year. Brandon Smith is moving around trying to find a position. He's at safety now, though his future might be at linebacker. The coaches wanted to get Denard in the game more, but didn't want to disrupt Tate's rhythm.
- The defense plays well in practice, but seems to be clueless in games. For players to think that is "disheartening" for Rodriguez. He thinks the lay well, but for a few big mistakes. On both big pass plays (excluding the one to the RB, I assume), the player in man coverage just let his eyes get off his man for a second.
- The offense didn't seem to be that different from first to second half. Purdue made a couple adjustments, and there were some execution errors, but other than that it wasn't bad. The second half collapses of late have been a result of just needing to play better. There isn't a lot of time at halftime to attribute the difference to "halftime adjustments." The team needs to mature mentally and show resiliency. They should be mentally mature enough at this point in the season. Rich was more disappointed with the resiliency against Illinios than he was this week.
- Purdue's onside kick was a very good call and executed to perfection. Michigan needs to be more prepared for that.
- The decision to go for it on fourth down was never reconsidered. It wasn't an issue of whether the coaches thought they could score again if they kicked the field goal, but a matter of stopping Purdue to get the ball back.
- Against Wisconsin, the team needs to just play. Don't worry about outside factors (though bowl eligibility may be motivation), or the surroundings just play football. They're a big physical team, and Clay will definitely be the biggest back that the defense has seen all year.
- There are only 70 or 71 recruited scholarship players on the roster this year. It will take 2-3 recruiting classes to get the numbers up, and have the ability to let younger guys wait their turn. Players like Justin Turner and Thomas Gordon will be good players in the future.
- Boise State never approached Michigan about playing each other in 2010. Rodriguez thinks the schedule is probably set for the next couple years, but Boise is a possibility 4-5 years down the road.
- His decomitment from Purdue gave the Boilermaker players a lot to talk about all day. They were constantly talking to him, but he's not a talker, and didn't respond. Torri Williams was his recruiting host for Purdue, and Roundtree broke Williams's tackle on his touchdown reception.
- Martavious Odoms is a helpful teammate to Roundtree. They get to go against each other as competition in practice, but that doesn't mean Odoms won't give Roy tips on how to improve his game.
- Roundtree's strength and conditioning has come a long way since he first arrived. He was a laughingstock when he first arrived, but now his teammates appreciate how far he's come.
- Tate is just a freshman, so ups and downs are to be expected. He's currently on a bit of a down cycle, but will be ready for Wisconsin.
- Feels pretty healthy. His shoulder should be fine. The knee injury was just a slight twist, he'll wear a sleeve but no brace over it for the rest of the season. He expected to get a little banged up during the season, especially because his body isn't fully developed yet.
- Past games are in the past, and the team can't worry about them anymore. They need to focus on the future, and beat Wisconsin to get the seniors to a bowl game. Lots of the seniors are from Jason's class, so Tate knows them.
- The second half letdowns have been partially because the team comes out flat. There's no real explanation for it, but it's visible on film. They are pumped at the start of the game, but the leaders need to remind everyone to do the same for the second half.
- The defense is playing well, except for a couple critical mistakes. The offense hasn't helped at times, putting them in bad situations with turnovers. Having a new defensive coordinator makes it hard for them to achieve consistency.
- Tate feels he's been making too many freshman mistakes. He can't do that and expect the team to still win. The game has finally started slowing down for him (he noticed it against Illinois). He just needs to not make mistakes and get the ball to his athletes.
- The second half struggles shouldn't be an indication that the defense isn't good. Sometimes people are just pressing too hard to make things happen. He's not sure if the deficiencies are mental or physical. Sometimes, when the opposing offense has success, it feels like the defense didn't prepare well, even though Troy knows that's not the case. they just need to focus and get it done.
- Greg Robinson is a calm coach, and he's been successful in a bunch of places. Troy feels like last year's defense was bad because the schemes simply weren't working. This year, it's a good defense with too many execution errors at times.
- With a young defense, Obi Ezeh and Donovan Warren are the players who will get on guys when they make a mistake. Warren is a very passionate player, though it usually isn't displayed like it was on Saturday unless things are going very well or very poorly.
- Going to a bowl would be an accomplishment for this team. If they don't go to a bowl, they can't be too disappointed with their progress, because they've still improved the record from last year. Goal #1 is to beat Ohio State, and they want to beat Wisconsin as well. Troy can't wait to get into the atmosphere of Camp Randall and play.
Warning: post rated PG-13 for f-bomb drop.
11/6/2009 – Michigan 1, Miami 3 – 4-3, 2-1 CCHA
11/7/2009 – Michigan 36, Purdue 38 - 5-5, 1-4 Big Ten
11/7/2009 – Michigan 1, Miami 5 – 4-4, 2-2 CCHA
In the aftermath of The Horror, my coping strategy was to shut off the blog—which was then still on Blogger and subject to the chaos of Haloscan's free-for-all—to avoid any emo suicides and watch The Big Lebowski. (Kittens would show up Monday.) Yes, I am one of those annoying people who thinks The Big Lebowski is the pinnacle achievement of western civilization. I haven't gone to a bowling alley dressed up like Saddam Hussein or the police chief of Malibu, at least.
I didn't do this for any reason related to football. I just like the movie. It makes me laugh to beat the band. I'd never thought there was any sort of overarching philosophy in the movie worth starting a religion over. I was in a mood to reflect on the underpinnings of my life, though.
As the movie unfolded I belatedly realized—or maybe it just seemed way more relevant given my mental state—that the Dude is a spectator throughout. At no point in the movie does the Dude actually take an action without being badgered into it by Walter.* Even the cabbie who likes the Eagles ends up taking a decisive action at the expense of our hero. By the end of the thing, Lebowski's rug is gone, apartment destroyed, car burned to a crisp, and friend dead because an inexplicable series of events he had almost nothing to do with.
My girlfriend says that the reason there is not an academic paper about the Dude's shocking lack of "agency," as the smart kids say, is that it is "too obvious to be interesting." So, too, are the parallels to Michigan fandom**.
I didn't intentionally configure my hair to match the Dude but it does and goddamn if big, incompetent misery factory Walter isn't a good stand-in for Michigan athletics at the moment:
(Sorry about the Turkish(?) subtitles. Woo inadvisable copyright claims.)
"Everything's such fucking travesty with you" was my weekend.
I'm worn out after the last two weeks of football and the fiasco at Yost this weekend; when Miami scored to make it 4-1 with maybe 15 minutes left in the third period I reached a breaking point and just left. Other scenes from earlier this week: some guy tells me not to swear so much in front of his kids at the Friday Miami game, I get in a verbal fight with some guy who wants Rodriguez fired and is complaining about Tate Forcier, cousin of mine gets in separate verbal fight after the game when a different guy is yelling "you suck" at Forcier as he runs off the field, and an adorable child in the row behind me at the Saturday Miami game screams "Mich-i-GAN" the whole game—which was cute the first 50 times.
I've got no real analysis of either team other than they're both worse than I thought. I'm burning out after two years of almost unrelenting misery, and looking forward to football season being over for the third straight year. I mean, when Michigan was down to Purdue in the second half, some fan ten or twenty rows behind me kept shouting "they've got no heart" over and over again as the guy in the row in front of me called for Rodriguez's firing. Having a conversation about Michigan football right now is trying to remember that episode of GI Joe where Destro finds a secret ninja manual in a volcano*** that allows him to kill people with precisely-applied touches: if you can just remember where the red dots are you can spare everyone a lot of pain.
I'll address the question I've gotten in a thousand different forms the past couple weeks—"when can we fire this guy?"—in a separate post. It's been that kind of era.
*(The movie opens with a couple guys peeing on his rug because someone else's wife owes money to Jackie Treehorn. The Big Lebowski directs him to make a ransom drop. Walter screws up the drop despite the Dude screaming at Walter not to screw it up. Walter leads the Bay of Pigs invasion of Larry Sellers's home. Jackie Treehorn invites him to his beach party, so he goes. Maude directs him to show up at her place and directs him to sleep with her—"love me". When the nihilists confront the dude for his three dollars, Walter re-enacts Hill 368 as Lebowski attempts to throw money at Amie Mann's boyfriend.
About the only action Lebowski takes in the movie is telling Brandt that he can have a rug.)
**(Freudian slip: spelled that "fandoom.")
***(This may not be the right character, or even the right cartoon.)
- I wonder if the gameplan on offense was specifically designed to piss Joe Tiller off. Probably not. But dang Roundtree is going hold onto his spot in the lineup when Odoms gets back. He is a Purdue wideout in all ways: physically limited but precise, fearless over the middle, and a guy the quarterback clearly trusts.
- Mouton got pulled for JB Fitzgerald after his (-3, cover –3) on Purdue's first drive but re-entered in the second half; Leach got yanked for Obi Ezeh late, too. So much for the hope that either of the two backups could prove clearly superior to the guys who started the season.
- Carlos Brown had one carry. Injured? Or doghouse after Illinois? Not that I mind: Minor is clearly superior when healthy.
- Omameh played RG the whole game and Dorrestein never came in. If guys like Brown and Dorrestein aren't even on the injury report, why bother having one? Not even "probable"?
- Related: it was really frustrating how many times it seemed that Purdue's offensive line had gotten blown back and Bolden would pop through a hole after taking a circuitous route around a mess. I bet there are some major minuses for the LB corps on the UFR.
- That damn rollout play was shades of the Toledo game. Surely there's an adjustment that can be made there, isn't there?
- Warren doesn't seem good enough to go to the NFL this year anymore. He was mostly a spectator as Purdue complete a ton of routes in front of him.
- With Banks out, Sagesse slid over to act as RVB's backup and Campbell got 20-30 snaps as Martin's backup. He seemed to do a little better.
- I would have gone for it on fourth and ten, too. Michigan had one, maybe two more possessions and needed eight points. Kicking a field goal there only helps you if you get the ball back and score a touchdown, events that seemed unlikely given the defense's performance to that point. It think it's a close decision because it was long yardage and a field goal is a defensible option, but I would have gone for it. That's a real gray area.
- I did have a problem with how much time Michigan took on their final touchdown drive. Scenarios there in the event of a touchdown:
You get two: If you hurried up, Purdue has three or so minutes on the block. If you didn't, Purdue has two. Either way they have an opportunity to drive for the win; the minute there doesn't make a big difference.
You don't get two: If you don't hurry, you've got one timeout and two minutes left and have to try an onside kick and get the ball back with 30 seconds when that fails. If you do, you can kick it deep and hypothetically get the ball back with 1:30 needing only a field goal.
Michigan should have been in jet tempo on the final series, and should have thought about throwing for the touchdown instead of running for it.
- Michigan breaks out the triple option—though I bet the dive is not a read yet—for the first time all year and gets a negative play and a crippling fumble out of it. Two initial thoughts: how is that fair when we haven't run that in the history of Rich Rodriguez, and if Purdue can defend it why the hell can't we?
- The Higgs boson theory from the Purdue preview might be publishable after Michigan lost to Purdue because the kicker missed an extra point in the same game he hit a 51-yard field goal.
Danny Hope introduced Rich Rodriguez to Zack Reckman, the Purdue lineman who got suspended in the wake of the Jonas Mouton Suspension fiasco, in a pissy drama that promises to make future Purdue games more interesting. MVictors has the relevant audio clip from the post-game press conference where Rodriguez complains about the incident.
Obligatory "take" I will bring strong: short of slapping yourself, press conferences don't matter. People use them to support/hate a coach they already support or hate because of on-field events. Nothing from Rodriguez's press conferences has ever made me think he was more likely to succeed or fail at Michigan. It is just talking, and that's a skill that a lot of coaches don't have.
As for the act itself: bush league, but I like bush league. It makes things spicy.
MVictors also reproduces an interesting statement from the officials who did the game about what went down on the crazy Carlos Brown lateral review:
What was the interpretation on the fourth down review with the forward lateral? What was it that the replay official saw?
TODD GEERLINGS: “The replay official saw that the ball, when it left his hand to the point where it touched the receiver’s hand, was clearly forward from the 13 to the 12 yard line. That’s why we had an illegal forward pass from the spot of that pass.”
Who called for the review?
GEERLINGS: “The booth called for the review and I announced that on the field prior to. The coaches on the field were trying to but Purdue did not have a challenge left so they couldn’t have. They were trying to but just as I got the buzz on the pager, I just turned to Purdue and said ‘We got it’ but I think people thought they had challenged it. They were trying to, but they did not.”
This is great. I haven't seen it on tape yet but given the lack of bitching it's probably the right call, and having some clear explanations for what happened in the heat of a critical moment is a much better way to go about defusing potential controversy's than the SEC ham-handed—nay—Delany-esque handling of its ongoing and never-ending refereeing fiascoes.
There's a press conference torrent, too.