There will be significant attrition this offseason. The first to fall:
In today’s weekly Big Ten teleconference, Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said sophomore Zion Babb was no longer with the team. Rodriguez said the wide receiver hasn’t been with the team since Sunday.
So… yeah. I was sitting on this until I had some outside confirmation and this serves as outside confirmation since three guys were mentioned as a group of players who had already made their decisions. The other two who have told the coaches they are out: sophomore LB/S Artis Chambers and Sam McGuffie.
Okay. Done panicking? Some context for this information:
How solid is it? Very solid. Three sources very close to the situation.
How official is it? It is not official until it is official. Earlier this year I said freshman RB Mike Cox was transferring based on equally solid info, but Cox reversed course and decided to stick out the year. Until someone actually enrolls somewhere else there is always the chance for a reconciliation.
Is this the end of it? No. The rumors are flying fast and furious about a couple guys buried on the depth chart; I don't have confirmation on anyone else and at this point I think they're still on the fence.
Removed NC LB Hawatha Bell (dropped us), TN CB Marsalis Teague (hasn't mentioned us in months and probably should have been dropped some time ago).
Added GA WR Jamal Patterson, LA WR Kenny Bell, PA WR JeRon Stokes, FL CB Jayron Hosley.
As always, some links from Varsity Blue.
New wideouts. With MN WR Bryce McNeal's decommitment Michigan is in need of a big hulking outside WR type and has a dearth of prospects with serious interest. They still have a dearth of prospects who seem likely to sign the fall, but it's not for lack of trying. Three guys I tacked on the board:
GA WR Jamal Patterson is a Stanford commitment who announced he will take some visits; one will be to Michigan. This one will get more interesting if Harbaugh, as rumored, takes the Raiders job.
LA WR Kenny Bell sounded like he was genuinely interested in Michigan this summer but couldn't afford to take an unofficial visit and ended up committing to LSU. He plans an official to Michigan now; still seems like a longshot.
PA WR Je'Ron Stokes is a Tennessee commit who is now looking around; Michigan has inquired.
Also added. FL CB Jayron Hosley has been idling out there with a number of meh offers despite his status as a Rivals250 guy, but now he's reeled in a couple big ones:
A little more info on the two offers. Michigan offered Hosley last week, and OSU offered him this past Thursday. Hosley doesn't know much about either school or the Big Ten conference and hopes to sort things out on visits.
He will not take any more official visits (Louisville in Sept)until after his season is over. When talking to him you get the sense he has no idea where he wants to go, but knows things will certainly clear up after seeing more schools campuses. It seems OSU will get Hosley up for an official.
Michigan's biggest need remaining in the class (assuming the guys wavering end up sticking and Will Campbell doesn't cause mass seppuku on Rivals/Scout) is cornerback; Michigan will no doubt be on him hard.
The Waverers. Sounds like an indie band and is now a drummer away from putting out "Rod Save The Recruiting Class"($, info in header);
Jordan Barnes has been committed to Michigan since the summer and while he maintains he is still committed to the Wolverines, Barnes wants to make sure he is making the right decision. Part of the process of making sure is looking around at a couple of other schools.
He joins TX WR Dewayne Peace and LA DT Dequinta Jones as guys who remain committed but are looking at official visits. Barnes' decision came down to Michigan and Alabama the first time around, so it's pretty safe to assume the Tide is the most prominent other team in the picture; they've already got a high profile MLB commit and may slow play him to see if they have room for a less touted guy at the same position in their class.
Weekly Will Campbell reassurance. Campbell took an Alabama visit and came back saying all the things you say about trips, but didn't commit or come close to it. Saban cleverly tried to get Campbell's 2010 teammate (and Michigan recruit) Dior Mathis to come along, but Mathis didn't end up taking the trip.
LSU is coming up in the next couple weeks, I believe, and then Campbell has trips to Michigan and Miami scheduled. He keeps listing USC but I don't think USC is seriously pursuing the guy.
Oh, BTW: Campbell is an Army All-American.
2010 items. I had erroneously stated that Pahokee WR De'Joshua Johnson was widely considered a Florida lock; that should have been Florida State lock. But it sounds like he may give Michigan (and others) a shot:
“I know a little bit, but I don’t know too much about them. I just started liking Michigan in the 8th grade, because that’s when I started paying attention to football. That’s when I realized that was my way out of here [Pahokee].”
With some familiar faces already in, or on their way to Ann Arbor, where exactly do the Wolverines rate in Johnson’s choices?
“Michigan is highly favored along with Florida State. My five are Florida State, Michigan, Miami, and then I go with Wisconsin, and I guess Florida,” said Johnson.
Luke Stampini from SoFlaFootball.com elaborates:
FSU has a very good shot. When I first met De'Joshua he was all about FSU and he was going to FSU for sure. The more and more I talk to him though, the more and more other schools are closing the gap.
He wants to see other schools now, it seems like he is pushing back his decision timeline as well. Is this him starting to understand the recruiting game or is the gap between FSU and other school really starting to close???? I don't know.
He is excited about the Michigan offer, really wants that Oregon offer so he can check out their campus. "I don't know if I'll ever be able to go to Oregon again in my life" is what he told me.
FSU still leads though.
Here's Johnson in action:
Etc.: Long article on the Pahokee kids trying to deal with the murder of their teammate.
Yeah, Florida springs past Texas. Neither has anything approximating a nonconference test yet but Florida is has had fewer cupcakes on the schedule to date and has generally throttled the opposition more thoroughly, Ole Miss game aside.
Oklahoma slips a bit. Moot after the TT game anyway.
Georgia up significantly and Oklahoma State down significantly… are completely unjustified right now.
The ACC and your six 7-3 teams: go to hell, please.
Any help is welcome.
What do you think about, in the wake of over half the student section not showing up for Northwestern), having a "first come-first served" system, to encourage students to show up early for games? Having half the student section, so-called the most "passionate" fans, not show up on senior day, even despite the conditions (they're 18!--if my dad can show up at 51, so can they), that was just embarrassing.
I can't blame large chunks of the student section for failing to show yesterday. Sorority girls just don't care. But, yeah, I think the student section's general tendency to show up halfway through the first quarter is annoying.
One man's attempt to revamp things:
Tickets should be limited general admission. Your ticket has a section on it and one of two sub-sections representing the top third of the stadium and bottom two thirds.
Michigan compiles the time your ticket was scanned every week and does seating priority based on that, not seniority. Rules:
- You get 20 points for getting scanned 40 minutes before kickoff (warmups), 10 for 20 (band), and 5 for 5 (kickoff). You lose five points for being more than five minutes late, and you lose 20 for not getting scanned at all.
- You get 20 points each for having season tickets for hockey and/or basketball.
- Validated tickets don't count for or against you, but anyone whose ticket is validated more than three times doesn't get tickets next year.
- Your worst two scores are dropped.
- Seating priority and priority for away game and bowl lotteries is based on the previous year's scores; seniors might get a bonus.
- Anyone with a negative score isn't allowed to buy tickets.
This last one will never get implemented but anyone who's spent significant time in the student section would just love to boot those always drunk, always late, always early-departing, always annoying "fans" out.
This comes from an acquaintance of mine who lives in DC:
So, I'm out at Kokopoolis, this really cool (and not at all trendy) pool room at the south end of the Adams Morgan strip here in DC. We're just wrapping up our game when this dude comes over toward our table carrying a rack of balls. The following is not even close to verbatim, but it's as close as my alcohol-ravaged mind will ever get.
"You using this table?"
"Nope; all yours."
[Notices Michigan shirt (and, as other communications might indicate, I was wearing a Tigers hat too) , presses index finger to my chest] "You go to school there?"
"You'll be real good. My old coach works there now. Few years, he-"
"Yeah, dude, 2010-2011 we'll be national title contenders."
"Yeah you will. My old coach, he works there now. He'll do good things."
"I used to play for West Virginia"
"Oh yeah? What'd you play?"
"Cornerback. I got this Fiesta Bowl ring right here."
[Flashes ridiculously huge Fiesta Bowl ring]
[stammers]"Uh, yeah, nice! Your name, sir?"
"Very good to meet you."
"You too, man. He's gonna be real good."
"Oh, I know, man."
So, besides being a wasted opportunity for me to ask some relevant, probing questions about the future of our program, and besides making myself look like a f---ing dicktard, this was a pretty nice experience of a WVU player saying unequivocally positive things about Rodriguez.
The Death Butterfly is going to be amazing.
I have nothing to add to this.
In the last mailbag, assistance in tracking down a video of Bo's "The Team" speech was asked for, but apparently there is no video. So says a man who was there:
In regards to you question about Bo’s speech, there is no video only audio. The speech occurred at a full team meeting at the beginning of the 1983 campaign. He would often address us in this manner on Fridays before we got on the bus for the Campus Inn or to the airport. I can tell you that this speech pales in comparison to speeches he gave to us on Saturdays in the locker room just before we hit the field.
Too bad. Side note: I'm pretty okay with the hype video they've installed as part of the pregame festivities, but does it not seem like an enormous missed opportunity that the above-mentioned speech doesn't feature prominently in it? I mean, if the thing ended with "the team, the team, the team" or "in the end it's going to be Michigan, again" you would have to put a roof on the stadium just so it could be blown off.
I get a fair share of questions from people more suspicious of Rodriguez than I am, and one guy asked a whole bunch so let's just tackle a bunch of protestations at once, shall we? These are from Tony Mlynarek:
I am a disgruntled and frustrated fan (will resume mgoblog reading, email groups, etc. after spring game). It's not the number of losses, it's the way we continue to lose. How much more maize n blue can we bleed this season?
I fault our offense and special teams in losing to Utah, Notre Dame, MSU, Toledo, and Northwestern. Since RichRod is the head coach, and directly oversees the offense and special teams, it would help if you (or better yet RR) [not likely! -ed] would answer these questions:
At what point do the coaches accept responsibility and coach the players to play well? Lack of execution has been the scapegoat for RR. Yet how do we expect our players to execute plays they actually cannot do? This has nothing to do with the spread vs. another scheme. Eg.-Why in the first half against NW would we ever call 2 pass plays on the goal line? Sheridan cannot throw downfield. Sheridan's strengths include handing the ball off, throwing a screen, and running for 2 more yards than Threet would on a keeper. Play calling has been an issue all season. Run Brown 3 times there and we get a touchdown instead of a blocked FG.
I find it very difficult to criticize any one play call, and given Michigan's redzone struggles against Minnesota the week previous "run three times = TD" is far from proven. Especially since we're talking about second and goal from the six. That's really a decision to throw on second down that didn't work out; third and goal from the six is a passing down.
More generally: it's not that I don't blame the coaches for a variety of things that have gone wrong this year. I just don't know. It is entirely possible that Scott Shafer found himself in over his head and cost Michigan a game or two or that Rodriguez's inability to reel in a quarterback last year cost Michigan dearly. It is possible Rodriguez is just exceptionally bad at transitioning programs.
It is also possible that the vast array of misfortunes to befall the program since Carr's retirement (transfers, injuries, etc) coupled with some dodgy recruiting and retention in the last few years would have condemned any coach to the same sort of nuclear waste dump of a season.
The things I think are long term trends are mostly encouraging: recruiting the hell out of Florida, running a bewildering array of run plays, playing to win, etc. The things I think are one-year flukes are mostly discouraging: fumbles, special-teams disasters (though at this point the special teams disasters are pretty much down to freshmen fumbling the ball), an inability to figure out who your best players are.
Why did Sheridan ever start over Threet in September? It's obvious Threet is a better passer down field and has a better pocket presence.
This one I can't explain. It's not necessarily that Threet and his 5.5 YPA (woo!) is any better than Sheridan, it's that Threet has, at times, seemed marginally capable of developing into a decent Big Ten starter. Sheridan's always looked like a guy picked off the IM champions; when your five-yard hitch passes have ICBM trajectories your upside is... well, you have no upside. I guess Rodriguez thought that Sheridan was the better guy in practice.
This, I think, was an error. I don't think it will be one we see in the future.
Why did Shaw and McGuffie receive favoritism over Brown and Minor this year? It's obvious they fit his scheme more, and they weren't injured as often. However, if your veterans can only practice a few days out of the week, you still play them over freshman. Would Rod play White and Slaton even if they couldn't practice all week? Brown and Minor were never given the benefit of the doubt this year until the youngsters proved they can't get past a decent D-line.
I think this question is "why did McGuffie start for half a season?" Shaw's lingering groin issue limited him to a grand total of 11 carries before the Purdue game; he's actually seen more extensive use of late.
We all know why Brown didn't play: he was, as always, injured. Minor was also dinged up, though not to the extent that he couldn't see the field.
A hypothetically dinged Slaton or White is still Steve Slaton or Pat White, a guy Rich Rodriguez has extensive knowledge of. A dinged Carlos Brown or Brandon Minor is just a guy in pads you've never seen practice full strength. And then when you throw Minor out there, he fumbles something like five times in his first fifteen carries.
Coaches need some time to figure out what their players can and cannot do. Even Mike Hart languished on the bench for the first couple games of his career, and he was a healthy guy playing behind David Underwood.
What was the extent of Threet's injuries prior to NW game? If he can't go now against O-state, why did we risk playing him on a short week of practice vs. NW?
Threet's injury that kept him out of the Minnesota and (most of) the Northwestern game was a concussion. With Threet playing poorly before that and Sheridan having turned in a pretty good game against Minnesota, I can see the decision to go with him, especially if Threet had missed a lot of practice time. And then you play him because you're down a touchdown and you're 3-8 and maybe if you can scrape a drive together you can win. The injury that knocked Threet out of the Northwestern game is a separated shoulder; he didn't aggravate a pre-existing condition.
In a similar vein:
I am continually surprised on the message boards by the amount of people saying that RR should be fired, which I think most people think is (at least) a bit reactionary and premature. What would we really be accomplishing by his firing?
However, in coming to his defense, many people seem to be of the opinion that any criticism of the coach at all is somehow not supporting the team. I am not referring to the now tired "booing" issue- I mean at all- on message boards, in the newspapers, etc.
I don't see how some criticism of RR is somehow exclusive of supporting RR. I don't think it's so far out to say that RR is not having a good season. Losing to 2-8 Toledo was pretty bad. But while I am willing to criticize- and quite fairly, in my opinion- RR for things like the loss to Toledo, I don't think he should be fired.
Has the trauma of this season caused people to think that "support" and "criticize" are mutually exclusive? Carr got criticized all the time- hell, I criticized Carr when we lost and I thought the coaching was at fault, but that didn't mean I didn't support the team or hated the coach.
Why do so many people seem to think that supporting RR means giving him a free pass for the season? I think most people were ready for a down year. I wouldn't have been over the moon, but I think I could have squared with this season if we had beaten Toledo and Purdue. But all the streaks coming to an end is important and depressing.
But isn't it fair to criticize RR for things he has done wrong this year while falling short of the extreme (and wrong) opinion that he should be fired?
I dislike the way these things get framed online; people mostly end up arguing at strawmen, and in doing so memes get born. I scan a lot of message boards and haven't ever seen someone defending Rodriguez use the words "free pass."
And what does that even mean in that context? As best I can tell, it means that the person supporting Rodriguez doesn't think the timetable where we can talk about firing him has been accelerated. There are two main camps of thought out there:
- This season puts Rodriguez on the hot seat starting in 2010, at which point he must deliver or bust.
- Sweet Jesus, this thing is going to take some time to put back together; we should be patient, which means five years.
I am obviously in camp two. Anyone in camp one should know they're rooming with Drew Sharp.
As far as the criticisms… I mean, sure, you can advocate patience and still think Scott Shafer was a mistake. The main problem with arguing on the internet (and, actually, everywhere) is excessive certainty. You can't say "this guy needs to go!" after one year. You can't declare this season to be definitively Rodriguez's fault, and you should wait for more data.
I am attempting to discern what.
UPDATE: I done did unbroke it!
11/15/2008 – Michigan 14, Northwestern 21 – 3-7, 2-6 Big Ten
At halftime I momentarily thought I had found a forgotten pair of hand warmers in the recesses of my jacket, only to pull out an empty packet of trail mix and other assorted detritus. This was worse than having no hope of hand warmers at all.
I then examined the various and diverse pockets of my jacket, coming across nothing useful. I did strike upon my ticket from last April's Frozen Four, which now commemorates the gut-punch loss suffered because of Nickelback and Creed. Thanks for leaving it there, Brian Of Christmas Past. I hope your football team goes 3-9, douchebag.
I spent halftime with my hands on the glass of the pretzel oven. Contraption. Vendor thing. Thing with flames and heat that contains pretzels. Whatever the hell it is. It didn't help much.
This is how weird it's been of late: as I huddled near a pretzel contraption at halftime of a game between 3-7 Michigan and Northwestern, soaked, frozen, pondering the grim futility of all things, I discovered that I was sort of enjoying this. Yeah, sure, you had to peel back layer upon layer of misery to get to the morbidly sunny core. But it was there.
If you were there, and stayed there, and did not move from your seat until Nick Sheridan's final pass sailed out of bounds, you have completed the final challenge. This is the worst it can ever be: an awful team that does things specifically intended to hurt you playing a meaningless game against Northwestern in weather not fit for man nor beast. With multiple infuriating million-year-long media timeouts in the fourth quarter. That they lose.
If you put up with it (and far, far fewer than the announced 107,000 did), you are hardcore. You have a black belt in fandom. You get the Fandom Endurance III merit badge. If anyone ever questions your Michigan allegiance, you can just say "I was at the 2008 Northwestern game" and they will have to step off. If they fail to do so with sufficient obsequiousness I'm pretty sure you can cave their skull in with your finger.*
Hell, if you've even watched all these games and maintained enough emotional attachment to swear profusely during them, you're at least a purple belt or a yellow belt or whatever is pretty high up on the belt list.
You probably didn't do this by choice. Anyone with a choice either didn't show up or left or checked out emotionally. You stayed because it was inevitable.
This, of course, is abject stupidity. I, and everyone else there, knew that the four-plus hours spent going to, attending, and returning from the game would be four of the least pleasant hours of our lives. At one point my rain-soaked uncle exclaimed to us all "we do this for fun!"
So, okay, established. Fandom is stupid LOL etc.
But why, hand on the pretzel machine, did I find perverse satisfaction in what I was doing? Why was that horrible game a sort of uniquely rewarding experience in a way last year's Ohio State game, equally dismal on-field and off, was not?
The Ohio State game last year had stakes. Win, and go to the Rose Bowl. And it was Lloyd Carr and Chad Henne and Mike Hart and Jake Long leaving. And it was against Ohio State. There were reasons to go, the chance of seeing something spectacular. Even if that chance was low.
No such chance existed on Saturday. It was pointless and horrible. Anyone with any common sense stayed away. But our stupidity is unbreakable, and that's now 100% proven. There's at least a little something in that.
*(Don't try this at home, kids! Unless you live in Ohio!)
- Hey, chalk up another running performance somewhere between respectable and pretty good. Carlos Brown, back from the dead, was outstanding with his cuts and there were open lanes time and again. And this was against a pretty good run defense in conditions that made throwing an extremely unlikely occurrence.
- Hopefully the Martavious Odoms fumble festival was more due to his inexperience in conditions like those he experienced on Saturday. Remember, this guy is a freshman from a swamp, basically.
- We'll see how he looks in UFR, but Mouton looked dynamite, at least against the run.
- Michigan got jacked by the referees, who 1) took away a Michigan touchdown by ruling Donovan Warren out of bounds, 2) gave Northwestern a touchdown by ignoring an incredibly blatant hold on Tim Jamison, and 3) killed any hope of a comeback by ignoring two obvious PI calls. I mean, whatever, we're 3-8, but Christ the standards in this league are horrifically low.
- That was one high-variance punting strategy employed by Northwestern.
- I hate third and more than 15.