Fall practice started yesterday. In marked contrast to years previous there was significant access granted, with reporters allowed to attend the first 30 minutes of the practice; there was also a press conference. Also in marked contrast to years previous, this apparently happened:
I'm trying to envision Lloyd Carr chest-bumping (or, according to the Free Press, "chest-butting") the starting running back. It's not working.
News items from Rodriguez's press conference:
- Mysterious long snapper George Morales, the last recruit to commit to Lloyd Carr, was present and accounted for today. Rodriguez even clarified his status: he's on scholarship(!) and competing for the backup(!!) long snapping job. The immediate reaction is, of course, WTF. Offering a long snapper a scholarship is totally unprecedented and seems a ridiculous waste of a scholarship. More on this later.
- Kevin Grady practiced; when asked about it Rodriguez said:
He's still suspended as far as actual games, but he's practicing. He's done enough to earn his status back on the team, but he's not done enough yet to warrant playing time, if you know what I mean. There will be some playing suspension, but that's yet to be determined. But he's out there working, and he's not working with the first couple groups.
- Junior Hemingway was still in a non-contact jersey after an injury in the spring. (According to Chengelis, it will be "a few days" before he's full-go.)
- Elliot Mealer did not practice and it's "doubtful" he'll practice at all this month. A redshirt seems assured.
- Molk, Johnson, Massey, and Brown -- all of whom had issues in the spring -- are fine now.
- Brown took snaps at QB.
- Freshman linebacker Marcus Witherspoon did not practice. Sounds like this is a Clearinghouse issue that should be resolved shortly.
- Carson Butler switched to #5; Justin Feagin is now #3. (Both players are sharing with defenders; this is okay as long as they're not both on the field at the same time.)
- Three freshmen were called out as potential contributors on defense: Mike Martin, Boubacar Cissoko, and JT Floyd. On offense, anyone at a skill position was mentioned.
There have been plenty of practice impressions bandied about -- concern about the quarterbacks reigns, shocker -- but it's a half hour on the first day of fall. Practice impressions should be reserved to the truly obsessive. Like me! I watched Rivals' video($) from the practice; nothing particularly stuck out except the editor's skill at whittling down what sounded like a pretty rough outing from the quarterbacks into five minutes of accurate balls. There was this one drill Shafer was having the linebackers sidle through an obstacle course, then scoop a loose ball, presumably in an effort to turn fumbles into touchdowns.
More on Morales. Rodriguez said that he signed in February. I'm a bit skeptical -- if so, why didn't they announce it with the rest of the signings? -- but also not, because the guy is on campus, way out of shape, and snapping. For dollars. Is this guy going to occupy a scholarship slot for the next four years?
I find that hard to believe and have concocted an alternative scenario: secure in the knowledge Michigan would have spare money this year, Carr offered Morales a guaranteed year of scholarship money to get him on campus but made it clear it was a one-year thing and future years would be doled out much like they are to other walkons: if there's an open slot, some kid gets lucky. Sort of like Reed Baker's scenario.
This is all probably moot. If this picture is any indication, he's going to explode in a shower of lipids the first time he comes within 100 meters of Mike Barwis.
No, he didn't. Either Adam Rittenberg must have looked at the wrong list or Michigan's deal with Adidas includes rocket-powered rollerskates, because this did not happen:
Walking through Michigan's weight room on the way out, I stopped to check out the team-high totals for several categories. Johnson tops the bench-press chart at 500 pounds, Taylor squatted a team-best 625 pounds and cornerback Morgan Trent ran a 4.13 in the 40-yard dash.
Morgan Trent is faster than he's given credit for (this is Trent running down some guy named Percy Harvin...
... which, like, dude) but no one runs a 4.13 unless he's just been thrown off a building. It doesn't matter. I guarantee you that Michigan fans on message boards say things like "LOL Morgan Trent runs a 4.13 so you'll like never complete a pass ever" all year, and when he gets drafted NFL fans will do the same. The Apocryphal Morgan Trent 4.13 Forty is now a part of internet lore, and it will never die.
Oooh, Barwis. Snippets of Barwis porn for your delectation. One:
The numbers on the jerseys were a little bit shorter and a little bit wider under the new Adidas material. The thinner men - including defensive lineman Terrance Taylor - were a noticeable shift in the tight-fitting jerseys.
Tight end Carson Butler looks great, slimmer and stronger. He should be a major asset for Rodriguez and the new starting quarterback.
"I asked them, 'Raise your hand if you're in the best shape of your athletic careers,' and I think they all raised their hands," Rodriguez said. "All of our team is in better shape. They got through the first practice, which was pretty intense. They got through it very well. The key for us is to continue to do that. We're not in game shape, but we're in better shape than we were in the spring."
Site note: I've added the Depth Chart by Class to the "useful stuff" navigation item and updated it to reflect the current situation.
Ladies. Hello. We would like to talk to you. No, we don't ever take these off.
Can anyone ID these gents? The guy on the left looks a little like Boren, but AFAIK the only guy on the team with dreads is Martavious Odoms, a freshman who never crossed paths with the family values maven. Don't bother with the one on the right, who's obviously John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever.
I read this thing called SEOmoz, which is a horribly named but quite good blog on search engine optimization and related things. Before Friday, if you had asked me what the chances are I'd ever mention it in this space I would have told you "zero point zero," but I'm wrong:
Fluent Simplicity compiled a list of brands who are on Twitter. The list is pretty comprehensive and is broken down into sector. It's interesting to see which major companies have a Twitter account. (I was especially amused to see that Michigan State has one. I imagine their tweets to consist of either "won the game. students rioting" or "lost the game. students rioting.")
Etiquette advice from a caveman. A couple people have emailed noting that newspapers have used quotes from the response to "my question" about tight ends from media day. It's really nice that there are people out there who act as defenders of the MGoFaith, but the question was asked in an open forum with a dozen people listening. Responses in that situation are fair game, as if it was a press confernece. It's not like I had an exclusive interview with Rodriguez or anything.
Also, Angelique Chengelis is really nice, continually got information no one else did during the Carr era, and helped Johnny land the Carr interview that features in Hail To The Victors 2008; she's the last media person anyone should be criticizing.
Yes, your math's wrong. By request of Dennis Dodd, who titles his latest blog post "please someone tell me my math is wrong": your math is wrong. This is your math:
According to my math (always a dicey proposition but hang with me, it's only a blog [SCREW YOU GOLLUM -ed]), the average college team ran 72 plays per game last season. Fine, great. The average NFL team ran 62.76 plays per game. That's with the 40/25 rule. That's also a difference of 9.14 plays per game. Multiplied by two teams thats more than 18 plays per game difference. ...
It looks to me like the NCAA rules committee is about to bastardize the game like it did two years ago when its misguided timing rules slashed something like 13 plays per game. The rules were adjusted last season and once again we had reasonable college football.
Your math completely ignores the biggest timing difference between college football and the NFL: on a first down, the clock stops until the chains are set and the ball is ready for play. This takes somewhere between 10 and 15 seconds -- looks like 12 is a good average -- and last year the average Big Ten game had 40.6 first downs. Approximately eight minutes runs of an NFL game clock that does not run off an NCAA game clock because of this rule change, which means a college game is 15% longer than an NFL game because of this rule's effect*. 72 is 115% of 62.76: virtually the entire difference the length of pro and college games is explained here.
Also, during the bastardized clock season you wrote an article proclaiming the Return of Defense, citing an amazing 10% decrease in scoring offense in a year when games were 10% shorter. You should probably not write things about the game clock.
Games will probably be a bit shorter because out of bounds plays will now have the clock wound after the ball is marked ready for play; the effect will be considerably smaller than 2005.
*(I think. I'm not sure whether I should be dividing 60 by 52 or 68 by 60. Statistician help? The latter would be 13%, FWIW.)
Coin. More dollars for the program:
The University of Michigan became the latest elite college athletic program to sell off a package of its media rights, bringing in $86 million through a 12-year deal with IMG College.
The deal, which runs through June 2020, marks the first time Michigan has bundled all of its media rights into one package and marks the continuation of a trend where colleges are hiring companies, such as IMG College, to maximize revenue from those rights.
That's about $7.2 million per year on top of the reported $5-7 million they're making from the Big Ten Network. Since Florida just signed over a similar suite of rights (that is: all the stuff Michigan is signing over to IMG plus the TV rights to everything except most football and some basketball games) to the same company for $10 million per, that seems like a pretty good deal. And it's not going to compromise Michigan stadium's zealous purity:
Throughout the negotiations, IMG College had to convince the school that it would protect the integrity of the game-day experience inside Michigan Stadium, known as "The Big House."
"We can increase the revenue and value of corporate sponsorships by doing things outside the stadium," Stultz said. "The more we talked about that, the more excited they got about it."
Etc.: Michigan is running a video countdown to the season; they're super fluffy but where else can you see images of guys doing hang cleans to rawkin' 80s guitar solos? Don't answer that question. Soon-to-be-ex AJC sportswriter Tony Barnhart has Auburn spread junkie Tony Franklin give key bullet points on why it, like 80s guitar solos, rawks. (Sidenote: the problem with newspapers offering voluntary buyouts is that often the guys with options -- the ones who aren't reprehensible -- say "okay" and the Terence Moores of the world cling to the lifeboat.) The Hoosier Report has old video of a 50s-era Michigan-IU game. The stands, they are not so full.
Update 8/4: Linked to articles on FL LB Brandin Hawthorne and FL RB Vincent Smith (one, two), AR CB Darius Winston (second), FL RB Jaamal Berry, MD DE Jason Ankrah and MD CB Travis Hawkins, OK RB David Oku, MI S Thomas Gordon, GA LB Devekeyan Lattimore, FL S DeAngelo Hadley, FL CB Mywan Jackson, TN CB Marsalis Teague, MD CB Travis Hawkins, header on FL CB Mywan Jackson. Moved FL S Mike Jones to committed. Linked to video on FL WR Jeremy Gallon, FL RB Vincent Smith.
Also, an article on Michigan's recruitment of kickers from Helmholdt; not adding Jerome Swinton just yet but keep an eye on him, I guess. And WTKA's recruiting insider podcast has useful info on Bryce McNeal and FSU commit Willie Haulstead; also some interesting items on defensive ends and Mywan Jackson. (As per usual, some links from VB.)
Editorial Opinion: Safety Mike Jones looks to be just the tip of a three-star Florida commitment iceberg. A couple of Pahokee kids, FL LB Brandin Hawthorne and FL RB Vincent Smith, are announcing August 29th, but all indications are the "announcements" are a foregone conclusion. Josh Helmholdt:
FlaVarsity.com publisher Michael Langston, who has covered both Pahokee prospects' careers the past few years, feels Michigan is the team that has the best chance to land both players.
"With Vincent, it's the ties there, how he would fit into the system and the fact that Michigan offered him first," Langston said. "With Brandin, he feels comfortable with that staff and feels he can come right in and play linebacker or whatever position they are going to play him. There's no guarantees, but those are reasons why I think those two will pick Michigan." ...
Hawthorne said Monday that his decision will come down to Michigan, West Virginia and South Florida, but he also predicted that he and Smith would be playing together in college. Michigan is the one school remaining on both prospects' lists, so the writing appears to be on the wall.
The Facebook wall, more specifically. Varsity Blue:
Pahokee Blue Devils Brandon Hawthorne and Vincent Smith won't announce their respective college decisions until August 30th, but it appears as though Michigan has a very good shot at landing both. Several readers have chimed in to let me know that each has changed various aspects of his Facebook page to indicate impending commitment to Michigan.
We saw something similar with MN WR Bryce McNeal, who decked out his Myspace page with an eye-gouging Michigan layout and told at least a couple questioners he'd decided on Michigan; public disavowals were for show and McNeal ended up committing publicly -- more publicly, at least -- a few weeks later. You can pencil those guys into the class. (McNeal, by the way, has backed off on his official visit plans and now says he is 100% Michigan.)
So we can pencil those guys into the class. Hawthorne's a slightly undersized outside linebacker sort while Smith may be the smallest guy Rodriguez has recruited to Michigan, which is saying something. Pat Summerall narrates a fluff piece with some swanky junior-year highlights:
That kid might look like he's starring in an urban remake of "Honey, I Shrunk The Kids" but he looks like he's going to break the sound barrier on a couple of those runs.
Keep your pencils out for FL CB Mywan Jackson , too:
Jackson has made unofficial visit to several programs this summer, including all of the major in-state programs as well as Louisville, Middle Tennessee State and North Carolina. Michigan, though, stood out above the rest.
"Oh, yes. Definitely," Jackson said when asked if Michigan was the best he's seen.
Jackson's actually a quarterback for his high school team but most everybody's recruiting him as an athlete with an eye towards making him a defensive back. He visited Auburn with a couple teammates this weekend; he may commit right quick or extend his decision a bit further into the fall.
Aaaand one more: some kicker. Though TX K Anthony Fera was reported to have an offer last week, it appears this is not the case and that Michigan is still deciding between him and some guy from, yes, Florida. Said guy is FL K Brendan Gibbons. Someone will get an offer soon and quickly commit:
"I went to (Michigan's) camp and I think I'm their number one guy," Gibbons told Rivals.com last week.
Fera also feels strongly about his chances of being Michigan's top guy. He reported Sunday evening that he had received an email from Michigan assistant coach Fred Jackson saying the decision was down to two guys. If the lot is cast in Fera's favor, he is ready to make a decision.
"If they end up offering both of us at the same time and it is first come, first serve, then I will probably take it," Fera said. "But if they give me a week or two, then I would probably take that week or two and talk it over with my parents."
Add those guys in and Michigan is suddenly getting full before football season even starts. Jackson, Smith, Hawthorne, and Some Kicker Guy would be commitments 15 through 18; Michigan's current count of open scholarships for 2009 is 17. There will be further attrition before February -- probably four or five guys, if not more -- but spots are rapidly dwindling. There is an undercurrent of panic on the message boards about the three-star flood, especially in relation to Ohio State's monster haul. I'll address all that in a separate post.
Onto non-impeding-commitment news: a few weeks ago, five star AR CB Darius Winston decommitted from Arkansas and named Michigan his leader; unfortunately, in recent articles he's backed off that assertion. His coach still thinks he's leaning north, though:
"I know Michigan has come on strong as of late and if I had to guess I'd say that's where Darius is currently leaning," Smith added. "But Darius is really open to everyone right now."
Long way to go there, obviously.
Two Southern defensive backs have three-star ratings but pretty wicked offer sheets and are listing Michigan. First, FL S Angelo Hadley :
Another school whose tradition of great players impresses Hadley is Michigan. "They have great tradition too," he said. "They always have good defensive backs and I liked guys like Charles Woodson and Desmond Howard. They always have their players highly drafted and I like the new coaches. They seem nice and I definitely plan to take a visit there this fall."
If he's serious he'll schedule an official; that's up in the air. Meanwhile, TN CB Marsalis Teague has had some interesting conversations with Michigan coaches:
Most of the schools in Teague's top six are recruiting him for cornerback, except for Michigan which he says are liking him as a signal caller. "I love their new style of offense they are gonna run under coach Rich Rodriguez ," he said. "It's the same offense we run at my high school and they said I could play quarterback there.
"Coach Rodriguez says they need a guy like me to run his offense," he said. "But they are also looking at me for corner or receiver. I guess the defensive coordinator wants me for cornerback and the offensive coordinator wants me for quarterback. Either way they've got a spot for me."
Teague is 5'10" and I will bet anyone other than the coaching staff one million dollars that even if he commits -- unlikely as he has a Miami offer and has liked them since he was a wee tyke -- he never sees a snap at quarterback.
Bonus random Southern defensive back! This one's FL CB Jayron Hosley:
Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez may also be on the verge of offering Hosley.
"They (Michigan) want to come see me play. They haven't seen me play in person; they've just seen my film. They are going to see a game and go from there. I think in September," said Hosley.
The two Michigan assistants handling Hosley's recruitment are Quarterbacks Coach Rod Smith and Defensive Coordinator Scott Shafer.
Hosley's a Rivals 250 guy.
Michigan was expecting a commitment today, but not in football. Mike Jones doesn't care, as the three-star Florida safety dropped to Michigan today($). Informative update coming.
Informative Update: As previously mentioned, I would have preferred it if Jones was named "Frobozz Tamoshanter," as then he would not share a name with a popular rapper and a million other people. But I'm dealing.
Jones is a high three-star to Rivals. ESPN says "he should work for Craftsman" because he has the tools to play safety or outside linebacker, then spends the bulk of their scouting report talking about his blitzing:
Exceptional edge blitzer that has great timing and quickness; speed rushes by the offensive tackle before he can get set. Offensive backs can't or won't block him when blitzing off the edge; really creates havoc in the backfield. Does a great job of using his hands to shed blockers in order to get to the ball carrier. Likes to hit and really delivers when tackling but needs to be more consistent at bringing his legs.
They rate him a 77, which is the ESPN equivalent of a high three star. Scout is a little bit less enthusiastic than the other sites, giving him three stars and ranking him the #47 safety -- the last four star is #23.
All that is less than inspiring, but there are a couple good reasons he's down the list. An injury knocked him out five games into Edgewater's season (and by that time he'd collected 56 tackles, 8 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles) and he's not going to any of the camps on offer by recruiting sites. A couple months ago he basically resolved he'd be going to Michigan or Notre Dame, removing the need to hunt for more offers.
Speaking of: There's some confusion about whether or not Jones actually had a Notre Dame offer or not. He reported one earlier in the year, then reported he didn't have one after M/ND unofficials. But maybe that changed?
Edgewater safety Mike Jones committed to Michigan on Thursday, the day of his 18th birthday. Jones said he chose between Notre Dame and Michigan.
The safety said Michigan started recruiting him "from day one," and when the the Wolverines hired former West Virginia Coach Rich Rodriguez, West Virginia coaches began recruiting him. He said he had offers from Auburn, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Syracuse, Kentucky, South Florida, and UCF.
The other big offer on that list is Auburn; other than that pretty eh, so a Notre Dame offer would be of note. The only thing I can find on it is a guy named "RichmondIrish" on MSNBC saying that he "got an update" to the effect that "jones didn't get offered by ND, but said they are very close to doing so." There's some further chatter to the same effect. Those guys were probably lifting information from ND premium boards and their impressions are probably accurate. FWIW.
(Sidenote: Let's hope these guys are right: "roh [AZ DE Craig Roh] is going to be tough to pull from Michigan. he said they are his top school as of now." FWIW, Sam Webb was also very positive about Michigan's chances for Roh on WTKA a few days ago.)
One other note of interest: Jones intends to enroll early.
Editorial Opinion: Jones is probably destined for OLB and I'll move him there on the recruiting board. Yes, another three star from the South without offers from instate schools and I admit to being a little concerned by the prevalence of these guys, but that's another post. One happy note: given the injury it's possible he's underrated.
Top 100 California point guard Darius Morris, long presumed to be the lockiest of Michigan locks, finally made it official today. No googlestalking coming from these parts, as UMHoops already has it on lockdown:
I have seen a lot of people comparing Darius Morris' commitment to Daniel Horton's at the start of Tommy Amaker's tenure. Daniel Horton was a better talent than Darius Morris; Horton was a McDonalds All-American and a 5-star on most recruiting services. I think it would be very hard to craft an argument that Darius is a better player at this time than Daniel was in high school.
Much more over there; check it out.
Ohhhhh. Reader Alton finally reveals the key change in the rules that has caused coaches nationwide to dream about high octane no-huddle attacks:
New NCAA Rule 2-4:
"A dead ball is ready for play when:
a. With the 40-second play clock running, an official places the ball at an inbounds mark or between the inbounds marks and steps away to his position.
b. With the play clock set at 25 seconds, the referee sounds his whistle and either signals to start the game clock or signals that the ball is ready for play"
2-4b is, helpfully, the existing rule and 2-4a is the new rule in effect when the 40-second play clock is. So there is a hypothetical window in which you can snap the ball under the new rule -- ball is down and umpire is moving -- that you couldn't under the old rule. So maybe there is something to the seemingly inexplicable meme. We'll see this fall.
Side note: my main issue with the new clock rules is how confusing they are. The clock's like this unless it's late in the half, at which point it's completely different. Any time you're implementing a rule and feel the need to not implement it at a certain point in the game, you should probably reconsider.
Ehhhhh? The preseason coaches poll just came out and Michigan is #24. Weird, but #24 before the bowls will probably be 8-4 and I kinda think they'll be 8-4, so not too weird. Other teams of note:
- #3 Ohio State
- #12 Wisconsin
- #19 Illinois
- #22 Penn State
- Receiving Votes: Utah (#28), Michigan State, Notre Dame
Uhhhhh. Ohio State DT Doug Worthington picked up a DUI a few days ago. Kevin Grady's ability to drive(-ish) at a blood alcohol level that would put most people in a coma prevents the throwing of stones from this particularly glass house, but is this a little fishy?
Police also say Worthington's Cadillac Escalade had license plates that were registered to another vehicle.
I don't want to be one of those guys who goes around calling Ohio State "O$U lol," but there's an obvious parallel to Maurice Clarett and the Exceptionally Generous Columbus Car Dealer here. It could be nothing, but it could be the jenga block that topples Ohio State's nefarious empire! Moooohahahaha!
Or, uh... it could just warrant some followup. Which no doubt the Dispatch will get right on.
Brahhhhh! Yes, the still got me to post this brief video of a Michigan State coed informing us that RICKS WOO RAWKS:
Oops. This video is stuck on autoplay and thus pure evil. Link here.
Remember that when Michigan State fans launch into soliloquies about the totally awesome poon available on campus, this sort of person is what they're talking about. The only thing I'd touch her bits with is a geiger counter.
And we're done with that conceit.
Context, please. There's a big article in The Sporting News about Justin Boren. In it, he makes Rodriguez-like promises that he'll "let it all out" after he's done and blah and blah and blah. I don't care much anymore; it's not like I'm going to be thinking "boy I hope we beat Ohio State" this fall because of some guy on the bench. But they done dragged me into this:
As it stands now, Boren remains a favorite target on Michigan message boards, with threads labeled: "Attn, NFL: Justin Boren Is A Quitter Who Could Not Handle The System" or "Justin Boren deserves doom and unmitigated failure."
The first "thread" on "Michigan message boards" is actually a post from this blog back in March. The very first words of that post: "Not really." They were even bolded. Michael Bradley, the author of the piece, literally did not read two words of the post. The second "thread" is also a blog post from March, this from "The Errant Yachtsman" At press time said blog is averaging four hits per day and has racked up a total of 1,676 visits; this link has a good chance of doubling that number. (Bradley's projected age: 104.)
Bradley's evidence that Boren "remains" a favorite target on Michigan "message boards": two four-month-old blog posts, one read solely by the author's mother, the other specifically disclaiming the sarcastic headline in the first two words.
And for the record, yes, Michigan fans are well within their rights to think the Borens are dicks. Reason: they've been dicks. Boren not only decided to transfer to Ohio State, but launched an unprovoked attack on the program on his way out that every coach from sea to shining sea will use as negative recruiting ammunition until Rich Rodriguez leaves. Rodriguez, for his part, had said nothing except "Justin Boren has decided to leave the program."
Bradley completely glosses over this in his article, choosing instead to focus on the destination of his departure instead of the nature of it.
(Sidenote: the only thing of interest is a confirmation of the internet rumor that Boren skipped stuff to go plow with Dad: "Boren missed only one Columbus "snow event" while he was at Michigan and that was because he was sick." No doubt Rodriguez put an end to that practice, and that's the source of at least some of the animosity.)
And, finally, the last word on 'Bama. Reserve offensive lineman Patrick Crump has left the team because his "heart wasn't in it," and I kind of have to say something again, I guess, even though it's just going to be the same thing again. Fortunately, the WLA's got it covered:
While Alabama fans want to rationalize the size, scope, and masturbatory practicality of this attrition away, the fact remains that there is and should be some skepticism around Overlord Saban. He knowingly over-signed recruits. He needed to lose a significant number of scholarships. On the cusp of fall practice, he loses exactly that number. Boom. I'm not stupid and I'm not a virgin; coincidences like this don't just happen.
Or, at least, they defy probability. It's incredibly convenient that Saban lost just enough players to fit his entire class in, and IMO the likelihood all the departures were voluntary (excepting the Johns/Elder felony departures, of course) hovers around 0%. That's all. You know what I think, you know what Bama bloggers think, and no one's changing their minds. I'll let it lie now.
Etc.: Rambling, gambling, call-blowin' Big Ten referee Steven Pamon is fired; Darius Morris is committing today, and everyone's fired up; there are no CPU sliders in Madden. Someone please fire Tiburon; VB looks at Rodriguez's first, difficult year at West Virginia.