Pacific Rim 2 is going to be about giant robots built to fight Adam Jacobi
Sometimes you start typing up a UV bit and then you hit 600 words and break it out into a post you had not intended to write.
So: hockey. It's been playing. They spent the first couple weeks wandering about looking pretty bad, then annihilated St. Lawrence to be an incredibly underserving #1. One Hunwick game misconduct later they came back from Northern with just two points in their CCHA opener and that ranking was gone.
Ferris rolled into town last night with a 6-0 record and sweep of Miami to their credit; Michigan came away with a validating 5-2 win. I have a habit of watching Ferris early in the year, thinking they're really good, and then watching them go .500, but I mean it this time: I think this is a really good Ferris team. This time I'm on steadier ground what with their record.
I'm still getting a handle on the team since it is hugely different than last year's outfit, but I think it's going to be more fun to watch than last year's edition. That's not to say it will be better—they won the league and got to overtime in the national title game—but they've already scored more pretty goals than they did all of last year.
That's thanks in part to Lindsay Sparks going from oft-scratched to the team's leading scorer. I won't question Red Berenson in case he decides to look at me with disappointment, thereby turning me into dust, but… I don't get it, man. The last couple years it seemed clear he was more of a threat than several second-liners, let alone the Rohrkempers of the world. This year he's looking like an all-conference player. He's already got 11 points, many of them featuring top-level skill.
Freshman takes in order of eeee:
- Phil DiGuiseppe. As I tweeted yesterday, guy can play. Slick passer, good jump, good size, good hands. Sometimes you pull these guys out of Junior A (not B, as I erroneously tweeted) and it turns out they can't make the transition. No such problems for DiGuiseppe, and he just turned 18. Star potential.
- Zach Hyman. Hyman hasn't leapt off the page as much as DiGuiseppe but he'll get there. He's good good balance and hands and he's been an effective part of the Sparks line.
- Mike Chiasson. Steady, conservative defensive defenseman. Will be a four year player; should quietly hold down a second pairing for most of his career.
- Brennan Serville. Has not been as noticeable but seems to have a regular spot. Don't know much about his game yet.
- Travis Lynch. Slotted into a spot with Wohlberg and Glendening and has 3-3-6 already. Had a sweet deflection last night on a Bennett point shot. Not sure if he can keep this up but he's been on a tear since about two seconds after he committed.
- Alex Guptill. Getting a generic-big-guy vibe from him. He'll slouch around the third line most of his career before suddenly getting really good as a senior, like Rohlfs or Lebler.
Szuma and Sinelli got in one game; they get incompletes. They are the new generation of healthy scratches.
Random other items:
- Greg Pateryn is a long-limbed rock. Tough to get enough space to get a good chance when he's on the ice. He will screw up too often to be truly great but if they come through this period without Merrill okay it will be because he held down the fort against top lines.
- Kevin Clare is unbelievably slow. I think he's the guy who sees his playing time decline when Merrill gets back.
- Derek Deblois looks like he's taken a step forward this year. Ditto Brown.
- I guess I can't complain when David Wohlberg is above a PPG but I don't like having him on the same line as Lynch (freshman edition) and Glendening. I'd like to see what a Sparks-DiGuiseppe-Wohlberg line could accomplish, and let the Lynches and Glendening anchor a checking line.
- The official scorer at Yost is padding opponent shot totals like a mother. Anything that gently rolls to a stop two feet in front of the goal is counted. I'm of a mind to look at Hunwick's home/away splits last year to see if there's a big difference in save percentage.
Michigan's streak of picking up an NTDP goalie has hit a third straight year with the commitment of 2012 G Jared Rutledge. Hurray. You're worried.
You're right to be, but Michigan's streak of having that goalie blanch at the prospect of competing with Shawn Hunwick and bolt to the OHL should end at two since Hunwick will be gone after this year. Rutledge, like Trouba, waited a long time to figure out what he was going to do so he wouldn't end up breaking his word:
"I told Red I didn't want to be their hat trick," Rutledge said with a smile. "I told them all along that when I made my decision, I was going to be 100% sure I was coming there. I couldn't be happier and I'm really excited."
Tell us what we've won, me.
Rutledge is a smallish goalie reputed to have excellent anticipation, rebound control, and positioning:
Rutledge is technically and positionally very sound, is excellent at controlling rebounds, handles the puck well, competes hard, has a good glove, doesn’t get phased on the rare occasion he does let in a bad goal, and is extremely good at anticipating the play. Though he isn’t overly big, he challenges exceptionally well, and makes life miserable for shooters. If you don’t beat him on the first shot, chances are you won’t get another opportunity.
Sounds like a less-tiny Hunwick who isn't constantly kicking pucks out into the slot. (No offense intended to Tiny Jesus.) He was drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 OHL draft by Saginaw and is kicking around draft lists as a "B"—mid-round—prospect. His stats are pretty solid—he's averaged between .910 and .920 save percentage splitting time between the U17 and U18 teams, generally outperforming his competition in the same situation.
Hockey recruiting class: complete? Michigan might add a walk-on piece here and there, but this looks like it's about it for next year (question marks denote kids Heisenberg has listed as 2012 or 2013:
- Forwards: Boo Nieves, Daniel Milne, Justin Selman, Max Shuart(?)
- Defensemen: Jacob Trouba, Connor Carrick, Spencer Hyman(?)
- Goalie: Rutledge
If Merrill makes it through his current suspension I'm guessing he will be around next year as well. It seems like someone who was going to leave after this year anyway would book it given the severity of the punishment. If so they may or may not add Hyman. Right now they're scheduled to bring back everyone save Pateryn and I'm not seeing a ton of departure threats. Maybe Bennett. Hyman would be the seventh defenseman at best in that situation because Michigan would be insanely loaded on D: Merrill, Bennett, Trouba, Moffie, Carrick, Chiasson, Serville, and Clare plus Szuma and possibly Hyman. If Merrill and Bennett both take off then there'd obviously be room.
I wish there was a little more depth in the forward corps—I haven't seen any buzz about Milne and Selman being draftable—but a quality goalie plus two first-round types is a big haul to go with what's looking like a promising freshman class.
The scoreboard is hypothetically awesome but they're still trying to figure out how to use it. Goal replays are erratic; highlight packages sometimes don't appear at all in intermissions, and penalties never get replays. If they're willing to put the Wohlberg goal up last night as it was being reviewed I don't think that's a controversy thing. I get that there's only one camera but at least some of the penalties are on the puck.
As for Yost… man, it has been off. I think moving the seniors close to the band was a mistake. When they were in the middle of the ice the chants had a smaller maximum distance; now the two sections furthest away from the band are mostly empty and totally lame. Are ticket prices too high? Michigan ran that Groupon special and packed the empty endzone seats; once that stopped we were again treated to nearly-empty sections in both endzones. I sit amongst the old fuddies now and they're not around either.
Another possibility: odd starting times have thrown people off after decades of Friday, Saturday, 7:30, see you in two weeks.
Whatever the explanation, I'm not feeling the same sort of excitement in the building that there was even a couple years ago. We're seeing the same sort of apathy infect the student section at football games. I think it's time to start taking attendance and offering people nice perks for showing up on time, like better seats next year. The AD's solitary focus on money is making the product worse.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Purdue|
|WHERE||Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|WHEN||Noon Eastern, October 29th 2011|
|THE LINE||Michigan -14|
|TELEVISION||National on ESPN2|
|WEATHER||mid-40s, clouds moving in, 30% chance of rain|
Remember Aliens? This is like that except with Purdue coaches.
Reminder! Hit up the Draftstreet freeroll this weekend.
Run Offense vs. Purdue
DT Kawaan Short
This looks like something of a strength for the Boilers. By raw yardage they're hovering around mediocrity but they're only giving up 3.7 YPC despite not having many sacks. Break out the actual opponents (and Minnesota), though, and things look quite a bit murkier:
They got blown up by ND, did well against Minnesota, okay against PSU, and not so good against Illinois. That not so good was obscured by sacks and possibly understandable as Purdue bled out a win after jumping up 21-0 early.
DT Kawaan Short will be a handful. By far Purdue's best defender, Short already has 9.5 TFLs, six of those things other than sacks. He's a penetrator in the Mike Martin mold, but stockier and harder to move when you get a lock on him. LBs Joe Holland and Dwayne Beckford are Purdue's leading tacklers—neither does much in the way of playmaking but at least they don't have a safety leading the tackle charts. That safety is third, which is okay. By all appearances this is solidly middle-of-the-road run D.
Ace noted a couple of little guys on the perimeter, particularly a 235-pound guy they're running out at DE, so the way to beat these guys may be to test the edge. That goes double if they're in man coverage, something Ace also noted—receivers can run off the outside help and force those linebackers to flow hard if they're going to cut down stuff that gets outside.
In this year's offense that means the speed option and jet sweeps possibly featuring Denard, along with pin-and-pull zone. The problem with the latter is that Michigan can't make it work, so they're left with a few gimmicky plays and no consistent threats. You'd think that Borges would notice the line blocking pretty well when asked to outside zone on those speed options sooner or later, but POWER is to be used. They use POWER. Not WELL.
Michigan gets Ricky Barnum back from an ankle issue this week. What that does to the interior line is as of yet undecided. His replacement, Michael Schofield, has been playing well. The right guard, Patrick Omameh, has been struggling extensively. They may flip Schofield to the other side and see what that does, or they might throw Mark Huyge inside after he was exposed in pass protection against Michigan State.
Either way, Michigan needs to see their run game bounce back to the levels it was performing at before Michigan State. That should mean 20 carries for Denard, and hopefully he can break one long—something that's been missing from this offense.
Key Matchup: Interior line vs Short. A weakness-type substance goes up against Purdue's best player. If they can deal with him their options get large and the YPC too. But they probably can't.
Pass Offense vs. Purdue
Ricardo Allen right, returning a very bad INT last year
Oh, this again. Denard has had two weeks off since the Mike Valenti Experience in the trash tornado, two weeks to heal any lingering "boo-boos" and maybe step into a throw or two. This weekend the wind should be manageable. The opponent may not be so pliable.
Massive strength of schedule disclaimers apply, but the Boilers are 27th in pass efficiency D. Those massive strength of schedule disclaimers: McGloin, Scheelhaase, Gray, mid-major goobers. Tommy Rees pilots one of the few functional passing attacks Purdue has seen; he went 24 of 40 for 254 yards and three touchdowns. That's still not particularly good (6.3 YPA) but with the Irish racking up nearly 300 on the ground Rees was not required to go deep.
Because of the competition, it's tough to tell how much quality they really have. They're not a tire fire. That is established. Past that it's tough to take anything out of 40% passing performances from MarQueis Gray and Matt McGloin (on the Midwest trash tornado day). I think they're at least decent. Scheelhaase is okay and was bottled up to an extent that demanded the entry of ludicrously-named Illinois freshman/Bond girl Riley O'Toole. The Purdue secondary is not Michigan's last year or Northwestern's this year. They have people.
I'm not sure how much that will matter since Michigan's passing game has been in Man vs. Himself mode for much of the year. From Denard back-footing interceptions against Northwestern to Vincent Smith running a hitch instead of a slant on the fatal MSU pick six, simply executing the basics has been Michigan's main issue. That and throwing to the blitheringly wide open guys. For whatever reason, both of Michigan's quarterbacks go into Rex Grosssman "eff it, I'm going deep" mode far too much, often with disastrous results. I keep writing key matchups that don't mention the opponent because opponents haven't been the main problem.
Ace saw Purdue go man all day against Notre Dame, something that seems to invite trouble against a quarterback as athletic as Robinson. If he can break the pocket against a Purdue line that's a little wobbly on the edges there could be some grass for him; if they spy that should open up other things.
It doesn't seem like Denard is going to be under a lot of pressure. Purdue likes to keep its safeties deep and is 93rd in sacks. They might change their gameplan given the massive pressure Michigan allowed against MSU—if so I'll have a little fit if Michigan doesn't have some tools to deal with that.
Key Matchup: Denard vs Accuracy. Forever and ever this key matchup until Denard's missing at a rate that forces defenses to fear him in the air. Is this possible? Absolutely—a lot of spread QBs have light-on moments. Until it happens it hasn't happened.
This section is unchanged from two weeks ago. Until this part.
Run Defense vs. Purdue
Signs of life against Penn State and Purdue are only that—signs. The Boiler offense remains a creaky thing still trying to lock down a starting quarterback and tailback. The Illinois game saw Purdue rip off two long touchdown drives to open the day. They were gifted a short field on a bobbled punt, converted, and then went into a shell:
The Boilers played a very different game after the break, when they must have enjoyed the Joe Tiller staple of halftime meals -- pasta, turkey and warm milk. Purdue had three whole first downs in the entire second half, two of which came on one drive. Drive is a generous term, really, as the Boilers never got inside the Illinois 40 in the second half.
Purdue barely cracked 300 yards. The previous week they put up a respectable 344 on Penn State's upper-echelon defense but threw three picks. Both their touchdown drives started on the opponent side of the field after a long kickoff return and an interception.
They're still finding their stride. It looks like Caleb TerBush has won the starting quarterback job from Robert Marve, who had only five attempts against Penn State and did not play last week. He's more of a run threat than the statuesque Marve, but less of one than Rob Henry during his brief windows of functionality between ACL surgeries. TerBush has 200 or so yards on the ground this year if you disregard sacks. Purdue uses a lot of inverted veer and other zone read type plays; TerBush will be used to keep the defense honest and not much more.
The backfield is a heated battle between Ralph Bolden and Akeem Shavers with Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert also chipping in carries. (My guess for the most common thing Bolden says: "No, thank you, I would not like to convert to Islam." Number two: "I am sorry to hear about your horrific knee injury.") Bolden has an edge in carries but this is a platoon situation.
Purdue has been forced away from its traditional short passing game by quarterback incompetence and injury. They now deploy a full-on spread 'n' shred with a heavy emphasis on the inverted veer. It looks like a combo of Rodriguez and Malzahn run by the kind of athletes who end up at Purdue—eh—and works at the level you'd expect. Bolden's averaging 4.8 YPC, Shavers 5, TerBush somewhere around that. They've been decent:
Some of those Illinois struggles can be chalked up to Purdue being the sort of team that gets up 21 and tries to strangle the game as safely as possible because of their QB situation. 166 yards in a competitive game against Penn State is impressive. The Lions have a top-20 rush defense.
Key Matchup: Hawthorne, Ryan and Demens making correct, quick decisions on option/zone read plays. They'll get optioned a bit—Ace noted Purdue running some of the short pass/run combo plays Michigan tried against MSU—but they have to be better at their assignments than they've been in the recent past. Purdue's offense is built to exploit indecisive or excessively aggressive players. Balance.
Pass Defense vs. Purdue
Left: I shouldn't have spent last night reading all that Nietzsche
Right: Siller is now a WR, but just to terrify you
TerBush has taken the reigns. Against Illinois he was okay, but only okay. TerBush is King of the Dinks, averaging 11.2 yards per completion in Big Ten play. That is not many yards per completion. His YPA (again Big Ten) is a below-average 6.7. Ace:
TerBush hits his receiver on a slant for the first down, and this appears to be the route he's most comfortable throwing—he throws almost exclusively underneath, with a lot of slants and inside hitches, and rarely chucks the ball beyond ten yards.
When he did go deeper against Illinois many throws were to Tacopants, and yes yes Michigan has that problem that's another section. Here we are talking about Purdue's oft-errant quarterback.
Justin Siller is Purdue's leading wideout with 28 catches. You remember him well, all too well. Purdue will throw him out there in a wildcat look from time to time if only to mess with your head. Prepare for this now. When Siller's at WR he's pretty good, an athlete who accelerates smoothly into space. Underneath running mate OJ Ross—once vaguely on Michigan's recruiting radar—is a slot receiver playing outside frequently due to necessity. Think Gallon. Holding down YAC on these two will be a priority.
With a yards per catch significantly over ten(!), Antavian Edison is the kinda-sorta deep threat. Purdue will also line him up in the backfield. There is also a person named Waynelle Gravesande who will not play much on offense but is named Waynelle Gravesande and you should be notified of these things.
The tailbacks are hardly involved in the passing game. Shavers, Bolden, Hunt, and FB Jared Crank combine for ten catches.
Purdue takes a lot of sacks; they're 80th nationally and would be a bit worse if the NCAA was measuring something reasonably like sack rate—Purdue's 212 attempts are a bit below average.
So… Michigan seems like they should be able to deal as long as they're not put in awkward situations by turnovers and returns. They still haven't given up anything long and when Troy Woolfolk isn't gamely limping in the direction of Keshawn Martin opponent's really haven't had much opportunity thanks to competent(!) safety play and good play from the cornerbacks. Purdue is not good at long stuff and gives up sacks with some frequency. Bend but don't break should work in this situation… as long as Michigan's perimeter holds up.
Key Matchup: Thomas Gordon and cornerbacks against the bubble and other YAC-focused throws. This is the sort of spread team that loves quick-hitting stuff in an effort to get you tackling in space, something Michigan did extremely poorly against Northwestern. Improvement here will force TerBush into situations he's not comfortable with.
If Michigan ends up losing this game chances are many of the infinite fingers of blame shrilly point at this unit. You know about Michigan's struggles to return or cover anything; Brendan Gibbons remains a suspicious customer.
Purdue's special teams are wildly variable. Sometimes they're not getting game-winning field goals blocked against Rice or giving up a kick return touchdown. But their punting is fourth nationally with a net of over 41 yards a kick. The aforementioned Gravesande has been pretty decent returning punts, and Mostert has been strong on kick returns. Kicker Carson Wiggs is decent. He's 9/14 on the year.
So… yeah. This could swing either way but if the game turns into a puntfest that would seem to be advantage Purdue unless Hagerup finds his form in a big way.
Key Matchup: AAAAAH GIBBONS YOU PUT IT THROUGH THE UPRIGHTS
This seems appropriate for a game in which the spread is two touchdowns.
Also, this is a real thing from a real military mag.
- Denard's accuracy remains at low ebb.
- Short is too disruptive to get a consistent ground game going.
- Molk head bob snap disaster.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Purdue does play man extensively and pays for it, letting Denard break the pocket repeatedly.
- TerBush is harassed into ridiculous throws.
- Borges used the bye week to put in a bunch of effective plays I'll complain weren't saved for a tougher opponent.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 3 (Baseline 5; +1 for Another Argh Bubble Opponent, +1 for Default Plus One Paranoia Until Denard Throws Straight, –1 for They Can Say The Same Thing About Throwing Straight, –1 for I Think We're Better Than Rice, –1 for Not To Mention Middle Tennessee, –1 for Comparative ND Scores, Man, +1 for Looming Possibility Of Borges/Denard Fusion Mishap, –1 for Opponent Basically Cannot Move Ball For 400 Yards.)
Desperate need to win level: 9 (Baseline 5; +1 for This Is Not The Last Two Years, Please, +1 for Deflating Home Loss To Purdue Would Be A Sign Hoke Does Not Get It Just Like RR Did Not, +1 for I Like Nine Wins And I Cannot Lie / You Other Brothers Can't Deny / That When A Bowl Walks In With An Itty Bitty Date And That Citrus In Your Face / You Get Sprung(!), +1 for Danny Hope Must Die For The Sake Of Craig Ross.)
Loss will cause me to... find Craig before he does something heinously illegal to Danny Hope's mustache, and then watch him do it.
Win will cause me to... complete the arduous conversion of "Baby Got Back" into a Citrus Bowl ode*.
*[Win will not actually cause me to do this.]
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
While I'm a bit leery of the Boilermakers after their surprisingly competitive October this remains an opponent that lost to Rice, squeaked one out against Middle Tennessee, got blown out by Notre Dame, and allowed Minnesota to score in the first half.
Denard should rebound. He's at home, the defense he's going up against isn't as good, and the wind won't be as much of an issue. I bet Borges has some new stuff that is effective, and that will see Michigan's offense revert to the unit that put up 42 against Northwestern despite a bunch of terrible turnovers. Of which there will be more. Sad face.
On defense, Michigan might give up a cheap one—they're going to eventually—but Purdue has an offense that has to grind down the field. If they don't get short fields they won't put up many quick touchdowns, and when you have an offense like that you eventually get behind the chains and have to give it up.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Massive Denard improvement, which is something of a copout since he could twist his own helmet and improve over last week. But, like 60% completions and looks much better.
- We see more Shaw and Rawls than you might expect.
- Thomas Gordon moves back to the nickel against a team with more outside edge running and they do improve on the bubble screens.
- Michigan, 29-18
Strong language contained herein. Three and Out is a book about the short, tumultuous reign of Rich Rodriguez at Michigan.
[star wars text scrolling]
The week after Michigan collapsed against Illinois in 2009, they prepare to take on Purdue.
A weary Rodriguez wearily surveys his weary troops, because he has to or the media will write about other things…
[/star wars text scrolling]
The Friday night before the Purdue game, Rodriguez dug at his meal like a hungry prisoner who was sick of eating the same gray food every night. When I told him I was surprised that the guys seemed loose, like they were still having fun and staying positive, he stared at his food, paused, and said, “I don’t care.
“I don’t care anymore about trying to analyze the psychology of these guys, especially for the press. I just want them to freakin’ play. I’m sick of it.”
Sick of what?
“Everything. I’m sick of the situation I’m in. I’m sick of the crap I’ve got to deal with every week. I’m sick of people not taking responsibility.” A case could be made that all happiness is feeling like you have possibilities. When someone wins the lottery, he’s happy not because he won the lottery but because he suddenly has dozens of options he didn’t have the day before.
But the corollary is also true: All unhappiness is feeling like your options are shrinking and the world is closing in on you. That you’re trapped. Rich Rodriguez’s options were shrinking. By the time he arrived in Ann Arbor, it was clear he could not go back the way he had come. But after only twenty-one games at Michigan, it had become just as clear there would be only one way he could stay: winning football games. And fast.
Every Friday night, between the dinner and the movie, the offense and defense met separately with their coaches to go over the scouting report one last time. But this week, instead of reviewing the opponent, they reviewed a tape of their practices that week. The message was simple: The Illini didn’t beat the Wolverines. The Wolverines beat the Wolverines.
Job 1: Hold on to the damn ball. There was a reason John Heisman famously showed his players a football and said, “Gentlemen, it is better to have died a small boy than to fumble this football.”
But John Heisman never met Tate Forcier. On one play Rodriguez showed that night, Forcier held the ball like an oversized sponge and swung it around like he was washing his windows with it. Sure enough, the defense soon forced a fumble.
“High and tight, high and tight, high and tight,” Rodriguez said with relative calm. “Anything else is selfish. It shows disrespect for your teammates, and I know you’re not selfish, and I know you don’t want to disrespect your teammates.”
Here he was, going into the tenth game of the season, reviewing something they had covered on the first day of spring ball, the first day of summer practice, and just about every day since. It was pretty clear Rodriguez was tired of that, too.
But he knew it came with coaching young players, and he usually enjoyed the teaching process. But they were repeating the same lessons too often, which became especially aggravating when he had no idea how many lessons they would get.
Job 2: In the spread option offense, the quarterback has to take three steps and throw it. Not four steps. Not five steps. And no hitches, either. Three and throw. Three and throw. The timing was simple but exact—and it was everything. Any freelancing and incompletes, sacks, and interceptions soon followed.
And that’s exactly what Rodriguez saw next on the practice tape: Forcier taking three steps (an improvement), seeing his receiver open— but then hitching, which allowed the linebacker to cover the receiver. Rodriguez was calm but firm. “I’m sure I will not have to see on Monday any tape of any Michigan quarterback taking three steps and a hitch when he should be taking three steps and throwing.”
Next play, same thing, but this time Forcier threw it behind the receiver. The linebacker just missed making the interception.
“That one’s late. Why? Three and hitch instead of three and throw. I’ve been doing this for twenty years! I didn’t just wake up and come up with this thing. We have refined this over time. We know what works. We’re not guessing! Three steps and throw! THROW! You’ve got to trust the timing!”
But it was really more than that. The quarterbacks had to trust the system—and the coaches who had created it.
The flipside was just as simple: The coaches had to remember that Forcier was still a freshman. And even though Rodriguez’s quarterbacks on every team he’d coached eventually won Conference Player of the Year, not one of them did it his first season.
If the Illinois game could be reduced to Michigan’s four tries from the 1-yard line, Michigan’s season likewise boiled down to four great chances to win just one game to secure a bowl bid: Michigan State, which ended in overtime; Iowa, which ended one pass short of a winning field goal attempt; Illinois, which broke on the 1-yard line; and Purdue, which looked like an eminently winnable game. But like the fourth-and- 1 play against Illinois, the pressure mounted with each failed attempt. This was Rodriguez’s last best chance at match point.
Blow it against the Boilermakers, and the odds would only get taller against Wisconsin, and taller still against Ohio State, still in the hunt for a national title. Collars were tight in Ann Arbor.
The quarterbacks didn’t think Purdue would be a pushover, either. “They’re good, they play hard,” Sheridan said later that night in his hotel room. “Much harder than Illinois.” And then, unable to let Illinois go: “I still can’t believe we lost to those guys.”
“Don’t let ’em beat you twice,” Forcier said, as a half- joking warning they’d all heard a hundred times. “Man, we just got to win again. That’s been driving me fucking nuts. We just got to win again.”
Freerolling. Contest time: Draftstreet.com has put together an MGoBlog freeroll for their weekly fantasy game. They use salary-cap style drafting: you've got 100k to spend on 2 QBs, 3 RBs, 2 WRs, a TE, and two flex players with players priced by expected performance. This weekend Denard has a massive 17k pricetag, but you can get Fitzgerald Toussaint and his hopefully-more-than-two-carries for 4k. You get the idea.
A hundred bucks gets distributed amongst the top five finishers and I will hit the winner with a t-shirt of their choice as well. Sign up before noon Saturday to get eligible. I'll remind folks tomorrow.
you and me both, Mr. Beilein
Countdown: McGary. Mitch McGary says he's down to Michigan, Duke, and Florida and will be deciding within the week:
As for my recruitment, I’ve got some big news for you guys. T.J.’s not the only one committing next week. I’m planning to make my commitment next week sometime too.
Sam Webb says Michigan is still the leader, but he's not deploying the gut feeling. Let's go, McGary.
Did oversigning just die? Everyone's focused on the pittance schools are about to fork over to their players as schools move towards full cost of attendance. But this is a potentially huge change that was also just announced:
The Board also approved multi-year grants up to the full term of eligibility, though one-year grants will remain the minimum. A prescribed minimum award value should apply to all scholarships (percentage amount to be decided in the coming months), and institutions could increase the allotted aid during the period of the award.
The current restrictions and processes for reducing or canceling aid will be maintained and only non-athletically related conditions for reduction or cancellation will be permitted in aid agreements. Student-athletes will continue to have a hearing opportunity for any reduction or cancellation of aid.
IE: you can now offer scholarships of up to four years and you cannot cancel that scholarship for "athletically related conditions." Someone tweeted that "this might be used as a recruiting tool" to Andy Staples… which… horror!
That doesn't eliminate St. Saban Memorial Hospital but it does give schools that intend to keep their players around a leg up on the axemen of the world. B+.
Also there is this, something I've advocated:
Presidents also voted to allow institutions to provide financial aid to former student-athletes who remain at or return to the institution to complete their degrees after they have exhausted their eligibility.
That's long overdue. I wonder what the details of that are… could that be used to get a master's degree in something potentially useful after the kid has found out he's not a pro and has the time to get something other than a General Kinesiology degree.
Other changes include bumping JUCO eligibility requirements up a bit, moving the APR cutoff to 930 effective in 2014 and banning teams below that threshold from postseason play.
No mention of that infuriating scholarship cut proposal. Hopefully that's dead and in a ditch. If so, bravo for the NCAA. That package of changes is a huge move to the good, and it came about in about six months.
Radio. This morning's WTKA appearance in two parts: part one, and part two. That is how parts work. I defend Carr from a guy who really dislikes Carr, talk even more about Three and Out, have a really interesting conversation with Craig Ross (who knows Carr fairly well) about the man himself, listen to a very strange call from New York that connects college football to the global financial catastrophe, and bomb the Free Press. Oh, and we talk about Purdue and Craig's irrational hatred of "Horseface" Danny Hope.
Seriously, people, you need to listen to Chuck at the beginning of part two. You will not regret it.
Exclusive. Angelique, of course, lands one with Hoke. The no headset thing is for realz:
Q. I get asked a lot if you're like Bo Schembechler or Lloyd Carr. You're not. So who are you?
A. I don't know. It doesn't matter to me what people want me to be. I'm going to be who I am. I can remember when I took the Ball State job, talking to Bo, and he had two things he told me. One, he told me to move over to the offense, and I asked him, 'Coach, why? My expertise is on the defensive side of the ball,' and he said, 'Well, you control the game offensively.' I told him with great respect I would think about it. But I've always been able to hire great coordinators, guys who understand what we want to do. And the other thing Bo said was, 'Be yourself.' So I just try and be myself.
Q. Which is?
A. A D-line coach.
Q. But you're not anymore.
A. Yeah, but I am.
Q. What does that mean?
A. Pretty simple.
Q. You're pretty simple or the concept is pretty simple?
A. I'm pretty simple as long as I think about the kids because that's why we get to do what we get to do. It's for the kids, and it will always start there.
I love that. No headset uber alles.
Dirt sandwich. Michael Beasley is suing guys:
The Washington Post reports that Minnesota Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley is suing his former agent and his former AAU coach for conspiring to create a situation in which they could represent him once he became a professional player. The lawsuit alleges that the agent, Joel Bell, and the coach, Curtis Malone, first sank their teeth into Beasley when he was 14 years old.
The lawsuit comes less than a year after Bell sued Beasley for wrongful termination and breach-of-contract.
Beasley's allegations in this countersuit are lengthy and complicated.
To boil it down: The Post reports that Beasley and his mother allege that Bell helped cover the costs of Beasley's participation in a high-profile AAU team, including transportation, lodging, other family expenses and $2,500 in cash. The lawsuit also reportedly alleges that in return for that help the agent and coach took steps to ensure that Beasley would sign with Bell once he turned pro after one season at Kansas State, including paying for his mother's rent and car payment after she moved to Kansas to be near Beasley.
The NCAA's next massive reform should be providing some framework for agents to work with players to get some of this stuff above the table for the benefit of everyone. If agents have some access, bad actors can lose that access. Agent prohibition is working about as well as actual Prohibition.
Mattison on missed tackles. Bruce Feldman talks with Mattison, and Mattison says the same boatload of interesting things he usually does:
"I don't want to talk about anything that was done before. I know what we believe in defensively. You have to keep it inside and in front. There is never, ever an option of not going hard to the football. And the key words are 'to the football' and where the football is going to be. If you see the ball breaks outside and a big lineman is chasing, he's never gonna catch it: 'Don't chase it, cut it off! Go where it's gonna be!' We practice that every single day all the time. Every single practice play if that lineman is not running at an angle where he can go make the play, he is going to hear about it. And if he does it too much, he won't be in there. Our guys have bought into that. They truly understand now that that's how you're supposed to play when you wear the winged helmet on defense."
GERG version of this: murph murph murph murph murph.
This, however, is pure luck:
It wouldn't seem like a stretch to think all of the preaching about taking proper pursuit angles, running to the football and gang tackling is the reason why Michigan is tied for tops in the country with 14 fumbles recovered. That also comes out of just 16 loose fumbles. Other teams around the Wolverines in that category high in the NCAA rankings actually have a much lower percentage of fumbles recovered. (Last year, the Wolverines were 87th in fumble recoveries with just seven, which came from 12 free footballs.)
14 of 16 fumble recoveries is insane, and fumble recovery rates are the most random things in football. I don't think they can be attributed to coaching even a little tiny bit.
For people complaining about spoilers, I have bad news: they fire the guy. But we won World War II, so we've got that going for us. Unless this is an alternate history and we're all Nazis, but only Michigan State fans believe that because Michigan State fans will believe anyone is a racist if it helps exonerate Will Gholston. Denard: totally racist.
Anyway, I show up briefly. A few reporters show up more extensively, and then there are the players—addressed as a group—and the new athletic director.
This guy's opinion: boy, does that hippie with the blog need a haircut. But his logic… so dashing.
Person Who Identifies Himself As Brian
(And you guys.)
So… right. There are some scattered MGoBlog references, mostly as a reading of the fan zeitgeist. "Never Forget" is referenced because "Never Forget" is always referenced all the time; The Horror is identified as The Horror, and so forth and so on. The blog's permanence relative to most message boards (and even newspapers, which put their stories behind a paywall after a while) seems to have made it the database of record when it comes to how the average fan felt at X point in time, even if the average fan here is not the average fan elsewhere. It's around. Since that's more than anything else can say, its opinion wins by default.
A couple people have asked for more detail about the point in the book where I show up in the flesh. This is after the WMU 2009 press conference, which was the first one post-Free Press story. I've had a couple days to consider the story and have come to the conclusion that it's a misleading, unethical hack job. I am steaming. I go to the press conference to liveblog it.
Afterwards—and in retrospect I can't believe this actually transpired—I go to the front of the room, where Snyder is, and repeatedly ask him if he knows what a countable hour is in an unfriendly fashion. He refuses to answer. The pattern is: I ask, he says he won't respond because I am a "competitor," I ask, he says the same thing, I incredulously ask if he will not defend his article, etc. etc. etc. This is actually broadcast (off-camera but audible) on the MGoBlue stream, which was not turned off after the presser.
I give up on Snyder and am in the process of storming out when I happen on Rosenberg in the little vestibule between the Junge proper and outside. I ask the same thing; Rosenberg responds that he does know what a countable hour is, so I start in on why that wasn't in the article and how realistic it is that a head coach at a major program had been more than doubling the NCAA's allotted maximums for years. He starts asking me my name over and over again, which I ignore in favor of further badgering. Craig Ross, watching this with a combination of bemusement and horror, eventually tells Rosenberg my name. I think this was because he wanted Rosenberg to start saying other things, but you'd have to ask him and he doesn't remember interjecting. So that's lost to history.
I had no idea this was going to be in the book until just before the thing went to print when Bacon emailed me with Rosenberg's version of the event and asked me if I had any corrections, which I did since he remembered me as some wild-eyed nut instead of a wild-eyed nut with very specific questions.
And <poof> like that, he's gone.
As for my bête noir… well now. Revelations about Rosenberg from the book:
- Countable hours was "in the story at some point" but "there were a lot of edits."
- He did not attend a single practice before writing the infamous story in which he declares it "sad" that Michigan is employing a guy to belittle its students. (I found this so implausible when I read it that I double-checked with Bacon about this; he dug up the email he had gotten from Rosenberg as proof.)
- He told multiple Michigan employees that he "hated Bill Martin" and "was going to get him run out of his job."
- He got teary when Michigan fans left nasty reviews of his book on Amazon.
Rosenberg has taken to twitter to call Bacon a "fan" and claim the book is "littered with errors," complaining that Bacon made "almost no attempt to talk to anybody who would contradict his subject's point of view."
How Rosenberg knows this is unknown. Bacon states in the book that he repeatedly tried to talk to Martin, Coleman, Carr, and Brandon but never got anywhere. Certainly Brandon's response to the book—a disingenuous "what book?" issued at the same time he's pressuring the M-Den not to carry it and Bacon has been exiled to Drew Sharp Row—indicates the sort of cooperation the AD is providing the guy.
Meanwhile, the height of irony:
When I asked Rosenberg if they had made any attempt to talk to players with different views, he replied, "Did we keep calling until we got guys to say, 'Hey, it's fine?' No, we didn't."
The difference between Bacon's book—which contains a half-dozen quotes from Rosenberg as it attempts to show both sides of the story—and the Free Press piece is stark. The [REDACTED] has the balls to complain about Bacon's approach to journalism? After the NCAA called the original article exaggerated and misleading? After they took countable hours out of the story? /head explodes
That this guy still has a job is a black mark on the Free Press. That he's still allowed to show up at press conferences is inexplicable. That he has the chutzpah to criticize someone else's journalism is totally expected, because he's just that kind of guy.
Players of all varieties
The only enjoyable parts of the book are the moments when Michigan's players come into focus. I suspect that Bacon soft-pedaled some of the Tate stuff. He comes off as a fairly likeable, if pretty weird, kid. Denard and Devin and Mark Moundros and Ryan Van Bergen and Mike Martin all come off well.
At least we've got that after the last few years. Michigan's players are easy to root for. They don't put MIKE VICK on their eyeblack or fracture skulls or not pay for tattoos or give quotes about how "everybody murders" to the media. They leave all that stuff to the adults.
That feeling you got at the end of the Hoke press conference when Brandon was talking and you thought "Rodriguez was a dead man even before the bowl" is a feeling most of the players had. Bacon, too, which he made more explicit than he did in the book in an appearance on the Huge show yesterday.
Brandon's drawn-out firing process does seem like an unnecessary delay of an already-made decision. The impression Bacon got was the players thought Rodriguez was done, people around the program felt Brandon was hoping for a loss in the bowl game. So cut the cord already.
We don't get much else on the current AD.
Sometimes I post on Wednesday, sometimes I post on Thursday. Ideally I should post on Tuesday, but ideally Michigan should be undefeated.
Fear scale: 0 = Bye week?; 1 = If Michigan loses to this team somebody’s going to get fired; 5 = 2010 Illinois; 8 = Best in conference/will play in a BCS bowl; 9 = National title contender; 10 = Hold me, Ace.
The Road Ahead:
Purdue (4-3, 2-1 B1G)
Last game: No. 23 Illinois 14, Purdue 21 (W)
Recap: If you want something more than handwaving, see Ace’s FFFF.
In a nutshell, Purdue managed two real drives in the first half while stymieing Illinois’ offense for a good 50 minutes before the Illini finally came to. As Ace indicates, the Boilermakers didn’t so much win this game as Illinois lost it: Purdue is a not very good team that happened to play well. The Illini were a better team that made enough mistakes to beat themselves. Sometimes you can bring a knife to a gunfight and prevail because the guys with the guns shoot at each other first. That’s not the best analogy but you get the point.
Right now they are as frightening as: After losing to Rice and narrowly escaping Middle Tennessee State at the beginning of the season, Purdue has improved enough to play Penn State close and beat a ranked Illinois team. What does this mean?
It means that the Big Ten isn’t very good. Fear level = 4.
Michigan should worry about: Underestimating Purdue’s defense. While not stellar as a unit, they’re fairly opportunistic, led by a secondary that is competent to good. CB Ricardo Allen, the guy who intercepted Denard last year and hurdled him for a 94-yard touchdown, is still on the team. He’s a sophomore, so we’ll be seeing him for a while.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Saturday’s weather forecast says 52 degrees and partly cloudy with 0 percent chance of trash. Roy Roundtree's Donald Duck voice.
When Michigan plays them: Is Michigan good enough to not beat itself? Most signs point to yes. This game may not be pretty--you should avert your eyes every time a Purdue running back makes for the sideline or when Denard throws a duck into coverage--but a barring a complete collapse on both sides of the ball, the Wolverines should at least be able to grind out a win.
Next game: at No. 17 Snake Oil Emporium
This week's Thursday Recruitin' discusses Jordan Payton's upcoming decision (again), big news coming from both Josh Garnett and Zach Banner, the next great Michigan nickname, several new 2013 offers, and BREAKING Mitch McGary news. Usual request: Please let me know if you have any comments, criticism, suggestions, etc.—as always, I'll be reading the comments, and you can also reach me on Twitter or via email, where I'll also encourage you to send any recruiting articles of interest that you think I should include for the next week's edition.
Rounding Out the 2012 Class
With the addition of Jeremy Clark to the 2012 class (more on that later), Michigan now has 23 commitments and five spots to fill—probably with two receivers, and offensive lineman, a running back, and perhaps a defensive back. How will they round out the class? I guess this is a good place to start:
That's four-star CA wideout Jordan Payton, of course, who decided—after visiting Notre Dame for the USC game last weekend—to push back his planned announcement from Tuesday to some time in the next two weeks. After the visit to South Bend, Payton claims that Michigan and Notre Dame are "tied" for the lead in his recruitment ($, info in header) after he had maintained that Michigan was his clear leader heading into the weekend. While this could be cause for a meltdown, I wouldn't get too worried—Payton is taking the time to gather his thoughts after a big visit, and I still think Michigan is in great position to land him whenever he decides to make his choice. Notre Dame always come back right at the end, right?
In more encouraging news, Puyallup (WA) OL Josh Garnett has set one official visit, and, well, you see where this is going [emphasis mine]...
"I'm going to Michigan on Nov. 19 when they play Nebraska," Garnett said. "I'm also going to visit Miami at some point also. I'm thinking pretty seriously about visiting Oklahoma too."
One school is showing Garnett more attention than the others.
"Cal is recruiting me the hardest by far," he said. "Coach (Tosh) Lupoi is the lead recruiter but all of their coaches are in contact with me. They are definitely showing me a lot of love."
Garnett is working down his list of 11 programs but said he has no favorites at this time among the group. Stanford, Oregon, Washington, Auburn and Notre Dame are a few other programs on the list.
While this by no means indicates that Michigan is his leader (one look at the quote about Cal should dispel that notion), Garnett coming to Ann Arbor is certainly a good sign, and anything can happen once a recruit gets on campus. [Morning edit: Of course, just before I go to sleep last night a new Garnett article pops up on Scout in which he says he "may" make it to Ann Arbor for the Nebraska game ($), so we'll have to wait and see if this one really happens. Encouraging news is slightly less encouraging, but still, I think, encouraging.]
Meanwhile, Garnett's fellow blue-chip Washingtonian lineman, Zach Banner, has been the center of attention this past week, and he named his top five schools ($, video embedded below) before heading to Notre Dame for an official visit:
For those who don't feel like clicking on the video, Michigan made his final five along with Notre Dame, Oklahoma, USC, and Washington. If you head over to Oklahoma's Rivals site, you'll see (at the moment I'm writing this, at least) a big fat headline proclaiming "Sooners On Top" linking to an article that claims Oklahoma leads for Banner ($, info in header), with extensive quotes from the recruit about how well his visit went. While I usually don't blockquote from premium articles, there's been genuine debate about how to interpret this quote, which comes off as a bit of a leading question from the interviewer but also seems to point to Oklahoma leading:
So is it fair to say that Oklahoma is currently the leader and Washington and USC will have to show him something that surpasses what he saw at Oklahoma?
"Yeah," he said plainly. "All five of them are going to be completely involved but I'm still taking my USC and (Washington) visits but if you were going to ask me who I'd bet on, Oklahoma has a good chance."
Interpret that how you will, but obviously Michigan is still in it, though they might have some ground to cover. Just as notable, IMO, is Banner saying he'll announce his decision date (note: not make his actual decision, just to be abundantly clear) this Saturday, at his Army All-American ceremony.
There are other options on the offensive line, as well. TomVH caught up with Jordan Diamond, and read his article ($) and check out the video interview (free) over at WolverineNation. Michigan is still among the schools Diamond is interested in, and he's been in contact with former Chicago Simeon teammate and current Wolverine Chris Bryant, but he says he has "no favorites" at this time and will not make a decision until signing day. After taking in the ND-USC game last weekend (along with every other top prospect on the planet, it seems), Diamond won't be making any other visits until after his season is over.
In related news, four-star OL and recent offeree Alex Kozan just picked up an offer from Ohio State ($, info in header). Michigan and OSU join a top group of Arkansas, Oklahoma State, LSU, Oregon, Colorado, Iowa, and Illinois, but Kozan is looking to pare that list of nine down to three or four in the near future.
Also, five-star OL/DE Arik Armstead has indeed opened up his recruitment, but 247's J.C. Shurburtt says this is likely a battle between Cal and USC, and with no mention of Michigan they're a fringe contender at best. Don't hold your breath for this one.
For more on wide receiver recruiting, updates on current commits, 2013 news, and MITCH MCGARY'S FINAL THREE AND IMPENDING DECISION (*cough*), hit the jump.
Borges look likey...
How was your bye week? “Good. So far so good. Got a little bit of a jump start in the game plan, which is good. Like every bye week, we had a chance to heal up. We had some kids that could have used a little bit of time, and the bye always gives you that opportunity, so it was a good time to have it.”
Did the bye week give you an opportunity to add to the playbook or did you just work on what you already have? “Well, just to do the nuances that go with any game plan. I think one of the mistakes you make in the bye weeks and bowl games is you have too much time and sometimes you get a little zealous about wanting to do too much. You come up with all these ideas because you have all this time to practice them, and sometimes it’s not a good idea. But we’re not really doing anything more in this plan than we would do in any other one just because it’s a bye week.”
Hoke said offensive line needs to improve. What are the things you want to see out of them? “So much fundamental, you know. Good steps, good pad level, playing with leverage, and then targeting the front, some of those types of things, making sure we’re getting every play started because I think that was a problem a week ago. We had trouble getting some plays started because we didn’t target the front as well as we should have. Most of it is fundamental. It usually is.”
Have those things slipped as the year’s gone on? “They’re getting better. They have improved. Up till the last game I thought we were getting a good feel for it, and sometimes you get a rude awakening and you realize you’re not where you need to be. Sometimes it takes a game like that to realize that, so we’ve gone back and Coach Funk’s done a great job building those kids from the ground up, starting over again and making sure the steps are right and just doing all those things that are fundamental to the position.”
Is there something missing from the running backs that keeps them from being feature backs? “No. No one’s standing out, basically. It’s not something missing. It’s just no one is standing out, and until somebody does, we’re going to operate the way we’ve operated.”
(more after the jump)
[Coordinator transcripts will be up shortly after I figure out how to turn .wma files into Quicktime compatible files.]
News bullets and other important things (forgot this earlier, sorry, FML):
- Barnum and Lewan have been practicing, should be healthy.
- Justice Hayes is getting a redshirt.
- Coaches are working on getting Marell Evans a sixth year of eligibility.
Opening remarks: “I thought we had a good day yesterday. Thought we had a lot of spirit to us, a little chippiness to us that I always enjoy. I think we competed really hard. I thought we played fast on both sides of the ball.”
Will Heininger said he’s been focused on playing lower. How much has he improved? “Well anytime you play with good pad level, and I think Will played his [best] football game two weeks ago to this point in the season. That has to translate to him playing better this week and better next week. I think he’s playing with a little more authority, which you like to see out of a guy who’s a senior, but I was pleased with his performance.”
Would you like to see Will and Mike not just push the pocket but also get past their guys more? “Well yeah, I mean the name of the game is football. That’s the object. You always want to be able to -- not just your block, your initial protection if you want to call it that ... the ability to ragdoll off and get to the football or get to the quarterback is a critical issue … We want more pressure from them, no doubt about it.”
What does chippiness at practice tell you about your team’s mentality? “Usually, and I’m sure you’ve all done the same thing, when you have a little bit of edge to you, no matter what your’e doing, it seems there’s a little bit of energy in there, a little bit of focus, and a little bit of wanting to get back out there on the field or do it again.”
Is it fair to say that your running backs are never going to be as productive as you want because of what Denard’s able to do? “I don’t know about that. I think that there’s enough in the system -- either it’s out of the two backs or split backs, I-backs, one back -- I think there’s enough diversity to it. [What] we all know is this thing gets a little harder as you go because you’re playing better football teams. The defenses you’re going to play against in the Big Ten, they’re obviously well-coached and the athletes are out there.” But does it change things at all because your best runner is your quarterback? “I don’t think so. Not for where we need to get to.”
*What are the keys to improving linebacker hesitancy problems? “I think the biggest key is your focus on that key. I was an A-gap linebacker years ago, now I’m a nose tackle. I think the initial reaction, the play recognition, the aiming points when you’re going downhill, there’s a lot of things. Playing with the speed that you need to play with. If you’re hesitant at all, that half a step that you’re behind can cost you as a defense.”
*Is that something you emphasized this week in practice? “Yeah, I think, in fact after watching all the tape last night as a defensive staff, we played faster. We played more downhill. That’s going to be something that constantly we have to do a good job of coaching and focusing on.”
Is Ricky Barnum healthy enough to take his job back? “Yeah. Well, we’ll find out. It’s competition. But he’s healthy. Lewan’s healthy. They all practiced.”
How confident is this group? “You know, the way they practiced yesterday, I think there was a confidence that they have. I think that part of it was one thing you wanted to see as a coach. And they were good on Sunday. Sunday they came out and flew around, but there was even more physicalness to how we practiced yesterday.”
Any update on Marell Evans? “No. I tell you what, he busts his butt out there though as a scout team linebacker. On the scout team, with the kicking game, and everything else. He’s been a great teammate.” Does he have a chance of getting another year of eligibility? “There’s a lot of hoops to go through and it’s pretty daggone complicated trying to obtain a sixth year and all those things.” Is that what you’re trying to do? “That’s what we’re trying to work towards.”
Do you feel like you need to give the running backs a certain number of carries in order to establish them? “I think you do have a get a number of carries. We’ve talked about that as a staff, that carries are important, and that probably sounds really dumb, but it’s important to get a number of carries that you can get with them. That’s one thing that we all felt that we maybe should have had a little more touches for them two weeks ago.”
Is there a number of carries you try to hit every week? “At the end of the day, you want to win the football game, so whatever you can do or whatever you’re going to do, that’s going to help you offensively … in saying that, I would love to have between the two of them maybe 20-25 touches a game. Now every situation changes. You get down, you think you can exploit something else maybe, and you don’t execute it as well as you should have -- those things happen in the course of the game plan. One thing, we talked about this, I thought Al and Greg both have done a great job of adjusting game plans in the course of games. They’re both really good football coaches. I don’t know if I answered your question. I think I did. I just think, we’d like to run them, but we’ve got to be able to run them.”
Are Fitz Toussaint and Vince Smith the two running backs at this point, or is Shaw included? “Michael can be in there, too. You see who gets a little bit of the hot hand, to some degree. Vince is very multiple in what he can do. Not saying Fitz won’t be, but Fitz, he’s a young guy still.”
Could Thomas Rawls get more carries? “He could. We’re trying to get him some work on some of the kick game and all that, but he could.” What about Justice Hayes? At this point are you redshirting him? “Oh yeah. Yeah.”
Anyone else (Ed: I think this person means freshmen) who hasn’t played yet that might play, barring injury? “Barring injury, I don’t think so. I think what we’ve done so far, we’re at our limit.”
Re: Perimeter defense … How do you think Purdue’s going to attack you? “Well, I would attack our perimeter. The stretch play they run and all those things are ready made for it.” Similar to what Michigan State did? “Similar. Not quite the same. They’ll TGO (Ed: ?) pull it, or do some different things depending on if the tight end’s on the line, in location or not in location, depends if it’s weak back, strong backs -- there’s a lot of different ways you can get to it. They throw the bubble. They throw the rocket. They run the outside zone, the stretch play. Yeah, that’s where I would start.”
How are you doing in terms of containment? “Obviously it’s been something we’ve done a very good job of emphasizing. Our attacking the blocks, getting off blockers, all those things that go along with it, our inside-out pursuit, all those things.”
What do you see out of Caleb TerBush? “Well I think he’s been very active in a lot of different areas, but I think he’s been accurate. I think he’s got a good arm, throws the ball well. He’s taking care of the ball pretty well for them. You don’t see him panic. He’s elusive enough to get out of some problems. They’re going to look at what you’re doing a little bit defensively, and they’re going to check. He’s done a good job of getting them in and out of plays. I think he’s a pretty daggone good quarterback.”
*asked by yours truly
I'm impressed with the large numbers of people who seem to have already blazed their way through Three and Out. It took me a while. I stopped for a few days after "Honeymoon from Hell" because it was too depressing; every chapter featuring a game I knew they'd lose spectacularly required a little bit of willpower to start.
But I'm done and a large number of you are done. It is time to talk the turkey.
We've got this document. What does it say about major players in the saga? I was planning one part here but this got long, so today we'll cover Carr, Rodriguez, and Bill Martin, with various players with less prominent roles in the story covered in a post tomorrow.
It says a few things about Lloyd Carr that are not nice, and implies more. Bacon's said he left a lot of things out that he could not get multiple sources on, which is both his responsibility as an actual journalist and horribly frustrating.
The main strikes:
- Informing his former players he would sign any transfer papers they wanted at his meeting with them after their bowl game, a marked contrast from the Bo-Bump transition.
- Telling Mallett he "needed to leave".
- Having zero control over his former players, or—worse—tacitly endorsing their behavior by not jumping down their throats.
- Offering something short of the fiery defense Bo would have launched once the program started taking fire.
That's aside from the state of the roster when Rodriguez took over, which wasn't specifically directed at the new man.
Those seem like major strikes. Screw it: those are major strikes, particularly #3. I find it inconceivable that Eric Mayes would made it thirty seconds into the embarrassing "we own this program" speech before Bo burst from his chest like a Xenomorph. Carr does nothing. Multiple former players trash Rodriguez in public. Carr does nothing. The 2009 golf outing that even guys like Chris Balas* come back from disgusted at, naming specific names of players (Marlin Jackson, Dhani Jones) who embarrassed themselves with their behavior. Is Carr even at it? It's worse if he is.
So, like, whatever. Carr doesn't owe anyone anything except the 400k a year he was pulling down as associate AD. But he's no program patriarch. He's just a guy who used to coach here. His loyalty is to an incredibly specific version of Michigan only. The difference between the Bo guys and the Carr guys is obvious. Bo guys organize a weird counterproductive rally for RR; Carr guys go on MNF and state they're from "Lloyd Carr's Michigan" or storm the AD's office to demand RR's firing after every loss**. There are exceptions, obviously. The trend is clear.
I have no sympathy for arguments the guy is being painted unfairly when he was offered the opportunity to tell his side a dozen times. If history is written by the losers here it's because the winners don't care what the public thinks. They can't be surprised when the public thinks they're not Bo.
Carr did a lot of things for the program but his legacy is significantly tarnished by the pit it found itself in immediately after his departure. It was his lack of a coaching tree, lack of serious coordinators, and lack of tolerance for Les Miles that caused Michigan to hire Rodriguez in the first place. It was his lack of a roster—seven scholarship OL!—and lack of support that provided Rodriguez with two strikes before he even coached a game. We can argue about how much is Carr's fault and how much is Rodriguez's, but figuring out the latter is pointless since RR is gone and everyone hates him. The former is "far too much."
*[By this I mean guys who work for publications for whom access is lifeblood. They're naturally more circumspect. The reaction on premium sites to this golf outing was unprecedented, with people moved to call actual former players out by name after years of dark mutterings.]
**[Not in the book; something I got from a good source.]
If you left a goat in the locker room after a Michigan loss and then locked Rodriguez in it for five minutes, you would return to find the walls smeared with blood and feta. There would be no trace of the goat.
Rich Rodriguez was obviously not a stoic guy. His sideline tantrums proved that. The extent of his leg-gashing, table-throwing, goat-cheese-making post-loss hissies is probably the thing that Rodriguez is pissed about. They don't make him look like a stable dude. Neither does his descent into J. Edgar Hoover-esque paranoia, no matter how intent the university was on making that paranoia seems reasonable.
By the time I got through it, my reaction to Rodriguez's portrayal was different than that of the media reviewing the book. It doesn't paint Rodriguez as a guy I would want in charge of my football program. I can deal with one goat-annihilating postgame tantrum a year. Rodriguez seemed to have one after every loss.
So why do most neutral accounts play up the Rodriguez sympathy angle? They do not take the truth that the local media is dominated by agenda-laden twits to be self-evident. When Mike Rosenberg—who comes off as a real winner—bombed Rodriguez with a bunch of half-truths and misrepresentations I bombed back, stating that it was obvious the buyout kerfuffle was university-directed. Surprise: it was university-directed as they tried to get out of their 2.5 million dollar hook. Similarly, Free Press Jihad is re-exposed as a bunch of half-truths at best run by a couple of guys who "had countable hours in there at some point" but had it edited out, no doubt because that's not at all important in a discussion about whether Michigan was more than doubling their allotted time on Sundays.
If you go into the book knowing Rosenberg and Snyder published an embarrassing hack-job and that a large part of the media firestorm surrounding Rodriguez was a combination of University incompetence and the tiny lizard brains of certain folk in the local media*, the main takeaway from the book in re: RR is the sheer height of the plumes his emotional volcano shoots up. I mean, Bacon spends pages and pages on Rodriguez playing up the traditions of Michigan to his players. That's an obvious reaction to the Michigan Man business. I assumed Rodriguez was not an idiot when it came to firing up his troops, I guess, and that stuff shot by me. Beating a bleating ungulate against the wall of the Notre Dame locker room until it bursts into a kaleidoscope of viscera… that stays with you.
I feel bad for the guy. I'm glad he's gone.
*[The rest a combo of Rodriguez never winning any games and his remarkable ability to stick his leg into the press conference bear trap.]
Good Lord, man. I find it hard to believe that a guy who dragged Michigan kicking and screaming into massive financial success and smoothly hired John Beilein (admittedly after making a questionable hire in Tommy Amaker) was really as incompetent as… uh… I believed he was after the sailboat incident. That's Yogi Berra right there but it's also true.
Here's the the story of the post-Carr coaching search from the perspective of this site:
- Kirk Ferentz is reached out to and either is or is not offered; if offered he may have been given an offer that was a paycut. Ferentz fades but it seems like there was truth to the rumors.
- Flailing. Miles heavily discussed. ESPN reports Michigan contacts him after Ferentz falls through. They agree to wait until the SEC championship game is over. LSU boards buzz that Les has told his team he's out. I would be "surprised if it was not" Miles.
- Infamous ESPN report.
- Sailboat. "Have a great day." Sailboat.
- Conclusion reached in the aftermath is that M "essentially passed on Miles."
- Tedford and Schiano now start getting thrown around along with odder names like Grobe and Pinkel. Also some guy named Hoke. So much Hoke.
- Kirk Ferentz momentarily back. Then gone.
- Schiano talked to, offered, accepts, changes mind, offered again, says no.
- Sean Payton!
- Miles again! Seriously!
- Miles out again.
- Jim Grobe. Jim Grobe does not get an exclamation point.
- KC Keeler! Lane Kiffin! Seriously!
- Rodriguez out of nowhere.
- Sigh… Peanut Butter Jelly Time.
It seemed like a clown show, and behind the scenes… clown show. Martin wants Dungy, has no idea if Dungy—who is a broadcaster and can be contacted by anyone at any time for any reason—will take the job. Wants Ferentz, has no idea that the president of the university will stab him if he hires Ferentz. Wants Miles, has no idea that Lloyd Carr will stab him if he hires Miles. Somehow misses on Schiano, then has Rodriguez fall into his lap and grabs him before anyone can think about it, which sets up the whole buyout fiasco the media will spin for six months. The sailboat incident is even worse since Bacon asserts one of the main problems was Martin had a new cell phone and didn't know how to use it.
Martin himself drops out of the story shortly thereafter, which is another indictment of the guy because what enters is a vast institutional incompetence that starts the Rodriguez media cockroach katamari rolling. Everything from the buyout to the Dorsey situation is mishandled not only by Rodriguez (sometimes not even by Rodriguez, as with the buyout) but by the people who should be telling him what is and is not possible. When Rodriguez went to bat for Dorsey with a guy in admissions the guy in admissions should have looked at the guy's transcript before saying yes, and then when he did look at the transcript he should have said no.
Instead we actually sign the guy—opening us up to the most cynical and loathsome of all the lizard-brain media attacks—only to find out he is nowhere near eligible. And don't get me started on the CARA forms, which was a special brand of idiocy all on its own. Martin did a lot of big picture stuff very well, but he was totally unprepared to fix a department that had started downhill long before he arrived.
For all the crap I give Brandon about his failure on big picture stuff, he cleaned out the deadwood with alacrity.
TOMORROW: Players, reporters, me/us(!?).