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First: Tim attended the open section of the practice and posted some initial thoughts. He'll be at the 12:45 press conference as well. Meanwhile, the Big Ten Network gets unfettered access to the whole thing. Assorted highlights below. BONUS: I think this whole "everything in the world is scattered in 140-char chunks across twitter" thing is going to be rampant in the future so I inaugurated a new tag: "twitter for humans."
OH MY GOD SHOULDER PADS
Robinson "has better touch and a tighter spiral than I predicted on the long ball."
That shot of Michigan's tiny, tiny quarterbacking contingent is from the Big Ten Network, which is taking in today's practice in its entirety. They are tweeting and twitpicing and so forth and whatnot. It's all very sound-and-fury-signifying-eh-not-much, but here's a fun fact:
Why's the ceiling so high? Michigan went around and measured all the nation's indoor facilities to make sure its was the highest.
I bet one dollar that there's a closet somewhere in Schembechler Hall full of Enzyte. A locked closet.
Also, this child…
…would be very cute if he wasn't on the two deep at safety. Sad commentary on the secondary depth: some of you are checking the link to see if that's true.
You mean the tweedle-dos can be useful? Dave Revsine is also twittering up a storm. The BTN's ability to take in practices from everyone leads to interesting comparisons:
Amazing how much smaller Michigan's skill guys are than OSU and PSU. Not a positive or a negative -- just a different philosophy.… Again -- interesting to see difference in philosophy. I've seen more WR's working on blocking in 1st 20 mins than last 2 days combined
Revsine's also jumping to conclusions on one Tate Forcier:
Initial impression -- Forcier has a nice arm. Looks good. Throws well on run. Robinson a tad more inconsistent, but still fine for scheme. … It's amazing how poised and confident Forcier looks. As Howard said to me, "he has 'it'". Just has an impressive air about him.
[UPDATE: Revsine's final thought:
Tate Forcier is the PERFECT QB for the Michigan system. Good arm,very comfortable throwing on the run and good speed and scrambling ability
I have been looking forward to It ever since we lost It sometime around the Horror. More QBs:
Denard Robinson has looked accurate on short passes during team work. Clearly the #3 at this point, but obviously it's very early.
Also, Vincent Smith looks "really good" because he is "tough to catch," it's "pretty obvious" Patrick Omameh "will be able to help." Aaand if there was a twitter wishing well I'd throw 140 characters down it to make this come true:
Lot of emphasis on one on one tackling -- which was a liability for this team last year. Hard to tell from practice, but looks better.
O'Neil Swanson is a true frosh walk-on from the cradle of football, West Bloomfield, Michigan. He went to Country Day and checks in at an impressive 5-10 156 (which is exactly my height/weight).
Looks like we've got our own Paki O'Meara, though ours is less terrifyingly close to the top of the depth chart. Rothstein also mentions that Justin Turner's a little behind:
While everyone else watched M drill, turner was off on the side not in pads working on backpedaling
Minor and Mathews were in non-contact green. Minor's thing is a lingering headache (concussion?) from a car accident a few weeks ago; we'll no doubt find out what's up with Mathews at this afternoon's press conference.
- Rothstein ran down the first team offense and it was exactly as you might expect: Forcier, Minor, Koger, etc. Huyge still appears to be the leader at right tackle. Okay no big deal except at one spot…
- With Mathews out the nominal first team wide receivers were Hemingway and Savoy. We've started to hear some nice things about Savoy, but given his extremely limited production to date that says more about Stonum. The things are not nice. Hopefully this is a get-on-the-same-page sort of thing?
- Rothstein noted a couple guys in red riding bikes and then made some notable omissions from his second-team offense: Carlos Brown and Rocko Khoury. And maybe Ricky Barnum, but it's hard to tell.
- Rothstein can identify "Jock Jams" in less than three notes.
- aaarghghghgahghagargh from Birkett:
Michigan's punt returners are having problems catching (or judging) the ball. During the morning punt period, with no oncoming cover team, return men Carlos Brown, Terrence Robinson and Martavious Odoms dropped three consecutive catchable balls.
- Birkett focused on Brandon Herron quite a bit, noting he (and RVB) got the best of Ortmann and Dorrestein in a couple drills—eek left tackle—and claiming he is "primed for a big season." I might switch my twitter wishing well request to this one.
Also: maybe we will get some use out of a Grady after all. Kelvin Grady was widely expected to spend this year fastened to the bench as he reacclimated to football, but after some impressive performances (including one sweet practice catch I mentally filed as IN, 1, protection N/A—WOO FOOTBALL COMIN') in practice Rodriguez thinks he'll see the field:
"We’re not in full pads yet, but what I’ve seen in three days, Kelvin Grady’s going to play for us this year. He’s a very quick learner, he’s very coachable, he’s got ball skills. And I think we have a position that fits him perfectly in that slot."
At the very least it's another shot at a punt returner who won't fumble the ball. Here's some high school video to whet your appetite and not remind you of McGuffie in any way:
There's also a dead ringer for Javon Ringer's long one when he escaped from Shawn Crable.
We're in, and by we I mean Tim. Huzzah.
A few quick notes from today's practice. More coming this afternoon, since Rich will meet with the press at the conclusion of practice.
- If Vincent Smith is actually 5-6ish, there is no way Denard Robinson is anything taller than 5-10. Denard is overstated on the roster, but I also think Smith might be a little taller than previously thought.
- Denard didn't look too shaky during practice. I know other reports have been concerned with his throwing, but it didn't seem too bad. That doesn't mean he's the next Peyton Manning, but he's certainly capable of throwing it.
- A little bit more on this in the coming days, but it seems as though the infamous "Frozen O-line" play from the beginning of last year will be changed for 2009. [Editor's note: this was the play where no one on the offense would move except for the QB and the WRs; it was designed to pull opponents offside and prevent them from jumping the snap and only worked intermittently.] Instead of the QB floating a ball deep, he was taking a knee. This might will encourage the referees to actually make an offsides call.
- Kevin Grady was playing both fullback and tailback during practice. He lined up at fullback in the I-formation (as did Moundros).
- The most impressive player to me was Mike Cox. Especially during the "M" drill, he was running with authority, breaking a couple tackles, and using a combination of power and jukes to run it. He's not quite Brandon Minor (who did not practice), but he's definitely going to be a useful replacement when Minor moves on (or is inevitably injured during the course of the year).
- Speaking of Cox, Troy Woolfolk uncorked a big hit on him during one of the reps in the "M" drill.
- Darryl Stonum tweaked a knee blocking during the drill. He looked to be in pain, but got up and walked off on his own power. Hopefully that means it's nothing serious.
- In other minor injury news, Fitzgerald Toussaint tweaked his left biceps, but again, it didn't appear to be too serious
I was content to drop the whole Feagin thing after that post Wednesday but two developments demand to be relayed.
What Rodriguez didn't know. Maize 'n' Brew has their own excellent take on the whole Feagin thing that's worth reading in its entirety, but its most useful bit comes when it digs up the Palm Beach Post's expose on Feagin's dastardly past:
Florida Department of Law Enforcement records showed that Feagin has received two traffic tickets in Broward County, one in Palm Beach County and was charged with a misdemeanor in Palm Beach that was later dropped. Details regarding the misdemeanor charge are unclear.
That's the extent of the public records on Feagin's malfeasance. In that article, Heritage head coach Willie Bueno reiterated his ignorance about Feagin's shady past: "I certainly wasn't aware of any arrests while he was at American Heritage."
Feagin's record consists of a dropped misdemeanor and his head coach continues to assert he knew nothing wrong; the Palm Beach Post itself thought Feagin was enough of a stand-up guy to name him their small-schools player of the year when he was a senior. What, exactly, was Rodriguez supposed to do?
Meanwhile in the land of milk and honey. AJ Sturges, the hockey player on the wrong end of some portion of Glen Winston's anatomy, has released a statement. He's not pleased with the current state of things:
Last October, I was assaulted by Glenn Winston. This was not a fight, or a disagreement. I was in bed in my room and came downstairs after hearing the commotion caused by three cars pulling up filled with screaming and violent people. I was standing in my front yard trying to figure out what was going on when Glenn Winston punched me in the head from the side. I never saw him. I did not have any chance to protect myself at all. Neither did his other victims.
That night, I received a fractured skull, five stitches inside my mouth, and a subdural hematoma, or bleeding on the brain. I was not involved in a college fight, as this story is perceived. After having nothing to do with any events that occurred earlier that night, I was attacked in my own house.
As a hockey player, I know what a fight is. What happened that night was not a fight. What happened was a violent crime. Pure and simple.
This is not a fanciful account. Sturges' story is corroborated by multiple witnesses in the police report on the matter.
Which police report, by the way, is absolutely amazing. Remember our good and great friend Andrew Conboy? Conboy, of course, was a Michigan State hockey player until he and Corey Tropp—also reinstated, by the way, what standards this university-type substance maintains—brutally assaulted Steve Kampfer late in a far gone game at Yost.
It won't surprise anyone that he was involved:
A hockey player and one of White's friends began fighting over a woman, and White got involved in the skirmish. Hockey player Andrew Conboy intervened and he and White fought in the street outside the house. Conboy "won the fight," according to witnesses, and White left the scene.
Several minutes later, three cars arrived at the party, filled with mostly football players. Witnesses told police the men were looking for Conboy but began "beating up everybody they could."
Three cars of football players randomly assault a house full of people, all of whom not named Andrew Conboy and one other anonymous hockey player did nothing. AJ Sturges ends up in the hospital with a brain injury for trying to calm things down. Winston lied to the police about his involvement and still hasn't offered even a meaningless apology. And exactly one player, a walk-on, leaves the team.
There's more drama down the road at the other school, but Michigan State doesn't mind the boredom.
Rich Rodriguez dismisses a wannabe drug dealer from Michigan and immediately there are suspicions regarding the tautness of his program -- procedural questions that were once mostly asked of Michigan State head coaches.
Yet on the same day, Mark Dantonio welcomed back a running back freshly released from a four-month jail term for hospitalizing a hockey player during a campus fight last fall. Dantonio placed unspecified restrictions on the player's return, reminiscent of Lloyd Carr's private penal policy at Michigan, and the actions barely raised a public ripple.
Roles are reversing. Perceptions are changing.
I'm not even mad. I'm impressed. Here Sharp acknowledges the double standard—at his own newspaper, in his own column—and uses it to criticize Rodriguez and praise Dantonio. He sits at A, takes a good hard look at B, and then leaps to Q. I hope he donates his brain to science. Meanwhile, Rosenberg is silent. He's written five of the last six Fridays.
ooooooo. Rosenberg, this is the ghost of credibility past: if you don't take the opportunity to abashedly retract your previous column and correct the matter, I die after a long illness. ooooooooo.
And so. I don't want the argument here to be chucking stones at glass shanties. This isn't really about Michigan State. It's about an incredible double standard offered up by the Free Press. The situations here:
- Player deals weed and attempts to broker cocaine deal or scams someone out of 600 dollars. He is immediately dismissed. He had traffic tickets and one dropped misdemeanor in high school.
- Three carloads of mostly football players drop in on a house party, wreaking havoc and hospitalizing someone with brain trauma. One walk-on is booted from the team and the guy who put someone in the hospital gets out of jail early to rejoin practice.
One of these qualifies as "boredom": the chaotic melee involving a dozen or more football players. One of these is evidence that the head coach is a nefarious win-at-all-costs villain, but it's not the unprecedented lenience shown to the perpetrator of a scary, violent crime.
If a hockey player falls at a party and the other program in town is run by a West Virginian, does it make a sound?
*(Right, right, the "it just gets them hits and ad views" argument: that link goes to the "print this article" page, which has no ads, and is nofollowed to prevent the googles from caring about it.)
UPDATE: Voting has closed for this round. Stay tuned for the Championships.
We're getting close to the end. Just four uniforms are left, each a survivor of four rounds. But only one can be a champion. And only one gets to be the team that loses to what I think we've pretty much already decided is the champion.
We're done now with brackets. From the Final Four, you get to pick two. Or three. Or one. Or all four. The two with the most votes at the end will move on to the Finals. Fair enough?
Of course, no Final Four of any tournament would be complete without an over-the-top, hype-generating recap of the entire tournament, with highlights...and explosions.
[Stuff blows up like whoah after the jump.]
Over-the-Top, Hype-Generating Recap of the Entire Tournament, With Highlights...and Explosions
In Round 1 (men's, women's), we discovered that Misopogon doesn't know the difference between cheerleaders and dancers. And that embedding polls is tough. And that 64 uniforms is a lot to research. And that people like the 'Yay!' girl. And that the volleyball uniforms are awesome. We also had one decision between two white hockey sweaters come down to a last-minute vote by Misopogal.
In Round 2 (men's, women's), the contenders separated themselves from the pretenders. The dance team exited as quick as they entered. And tempers kind of got lukewarmish over a battle in the Men's Standing Out from the Crowd Region between the awesomerest basketball unis and the awesomecoolsuperrad lacrosse duds, with the cagers' jerseys narrowly winning out. Also, OP favorite, the throwback icers' jerseys, those that the ice hockey team like had a ridiculously winning record in, those that barely survived last round to one Block M uni, fell to another. Apparently, MGoBlog readers like a "big honkin' obnoxious emblem on the front" (reader myrtlebeachmaizenblue).
In the Sweet 16 (men's, women's), we decided the regional champions. We learned what "cagers" means (thank you reader afscott4). We lost the last of the football away unis, and the last representative of Adidas' awesome soccer unis. And we lost every last surviving hoops uni. We learned how the gymnastics team chooses their uniforms, and how the MGoBlogosphere chooses which gymnastics uniform they want to vote for.
The Elite 8 (men's, women's) introduced the remaining uniforms (if you missed it, the histories, etc., will be re-posted below), providing each remaining contender a "Use," "How They Got Here," "First Worn," and "Claim to Fame." We also finally forced the readers to pick between two almost identical cheer outfits.
Thus we find ourselves down to four. Your champions, below.
Vote at the bottom.
Use: Worn for home games and occasionally bowl games.
How They Got Here: Trounced 8th seed Gymnastics, Obliterated 5th seed Soccer - blues, Alan-Branch-on-Anthony-Morelli'ed 2nd seed Basketball - blue, and more of the same against the hockey maizes.
First Worn: The blue jerseys originated in the 19th century, and the maize leggins' joined in the 1910s, but this uniform wasn't complete until Coach Herbert O. "Fritz" Crisler brought the iconic helmet design in 1938.
Wings Factor: It all started here, from a practice Fritz carried over from Princeton - 3/3.
Claim to Fame: ESPN named it the Best Uniform in All of Sports. New York Daily News agreed. Also: About. Longhorns blog "40 Acres" puts it second to the Longhorns. Etc.
Use: Worn in 2008-'09 season as the team's primary uniform (18 of 40 games last year).
How They Got Here: Handily upset 2nd seed '89 Hoops Throwbacks, upset the OP by taking out the 3rd seed Ice Hockey '60s throwbacks, rolled over the last remaining football away uniform (the '05-'07s), and skated by the baseball whites.
First Worn: Blue sweaters with big maize block M's were not a new invention. But the current affairs appeared after the 1997-'98 National Championship Season. After the team hardly wore their old blue alternates that year, the Icers switched the blue alts to a similar design as their whites.The look was refined in 2000-'01, experiencing some minor changes (like added white stripes) since.
Wings Factor: The icers were the second team among Michigan athletics to adopt the winged helmet, when Red Berenson handed them out before the 1989 CCHA Playoffs - 2/3.
Claim to Fame: When the hockey team went with three different looks last year, the Block M blues (11-7), got more wear than the whites (12-3), and maizes (6-2).
Use: One of four basic kits, the lesser worn white version (the girls have a pullover with no piping that gets more use).
How They Got Here: Outhustled 6th seed Lacrosse, took out 7th seed Soccer, bested 1st seed and Misopofavorite Volleyball by one vote, and had a somewhat easier time upending Gymnastics.
First Worn: The basic whites for much of softball history are the pullovers. It seems, though I would love a doublecheck on this, that these classy whites didn't appear until this year (replacing white alts that were barely different from plainer version still worn with blue pants), although the blue button-down alts were around in the Nike age.
Wings Factor: Like baseball, the softball gals have the wings and stripes worked into their catching helmets, which works better with the hockey-style masks they use nowadays - 1/3.
Claim to Fame: Who cares what you're wearing on Main Street or in Tuscaloose -- it's what you wear from ear to ear, and not from head to toe that matters, as evidenced by the fact that the first major uniform change since 1978 didn't at all change the stormin' success of Michigan's cheery diamond gals.
Use: One of four different looks for the cheer team -- the others are a tank version of this one, a blue uni and a white one, those last two redesigned recently.
How They Got Here: Sleeves out 'Yay'ed 8th seed Cheerleading - blues, out-smiled 4th seed Softball - blue, out-awesomed 3rd seed Soccer - blue, and out-maize-with-blue-skirt-and-blue-block-M-on-the-chest-ed the aforementioned tank-tops.
First Worn: It seems these pre-date Adidas: sorely missed M blogger Autumn Thunder's eyes were opened on Sept. 23, 2007. HT. RIP. TYVM.
Wings Factor: I don't think the stripe counts. 0/3
Claim to Fame: As mentioned earlier, they are no longer this, and the new look is reminiscent of these guys (click for youtubage):
Which makes them awesome.
Unfortunately, the cheer team is in the midst of re-doing its website, so I don't have the same wealth of info to draw on from the athletic site. That being said, I have an e-mail in with the Cheer Coach, so if I get some more info, I'll update.
You've seen the competition. Who belongs in the Finals? I dunno -- you pick.
Note: I'm going to use the term "spread offense" to refer to lots of different types of attacks, though I'm aware of the differences between pass-first, read-option, and pistol schemes. Since the spread's detractors refer to the spectrum of schemes as "the spread," I'll debunk in favor of "the spread," and not a single implementation of it.
Ever since Rich Rodriguez came to Michigan, Wolverine fans have been bombarded with assertions by the media, opposing fans, and even the occasional opposing coach that college defenses have "caught up" to the spread offense. Like almost all criticisms of Rich Rodriguez, this will go away if he starts winning. But is there any merit to these claims?
Have Defenses Caught Up to the Spread Offense?
This is an easy debunk, one that's often cited on the internet. Behold: last year's top 10 offenses in the college game. I also included QB rushing yards, since the quote that prompted this post mentioned the quarterback run specifically.
|Texas Tech||531.00||4||43.77||3||Passing Spread||32%||-15|
|Nevada||508.54||5||37.62||t-12||Spread 'n' Shred||58%||1140|
|Oklahoma State||487.69||6||40.77||9||Spread 'n' Shred||64%||585|
|Oregon||484.85||7||41.92||7||Spread 'n' Shred||60%||967|
(*Colt McCoy led his team in rushing yardage with 561 yards. Also, note that these stats count sacks and scrambles as passes and are slightly tilted towards the run.)
Zero teams that operate mostly under center appear (Nevada does use the pistol, FWIW), and half of the top ten saw their quarterbacks rack up over 500 yards on the ground.
It's clear that defenses haven't done so much of the catching up. Even if Tulsa, Houston, Nevada, and Rice are playing against worse defensive talent, are they not doing so with comparable offensive players? Also, take into account Florida, #15 in total offense and #4 in points scored last year. The SEC has a reputation for some of the toughest defenses in the land, yet the Gators managed to put up plenty of points with the spread offense.
The problem with Michigan's offense last year was not defenses "catching up" to the scheme, but rather a lack of talent and execution. Take it from Rodriguez: "This whole thing about catching up to this, it's all about execution."
Can Defenses Catch Up to the Spread Offense?
Now that it's established that the spread offense is not obsolete, we should determine whether that is even a possibility. Is the spread offense successful only because of its novelty? As Smart Football says:
"The book "Spread Formation Football," written by Coach Meyer, begins with the line: "Spread formations are not new to football." Very true.
Wait, I should have been more specific. "Spread Formation Football" was written in 1952 by Coach Dutch Meyer of TCU.
So, there must be an aspect other than novelty that makes the spread offense so successful. Why haven't defenses caught up to the spread yet if it's been around for more than 50 years - longer than the West Coast offense? Why is there no talk about how the West Coast offense is now obsolete? Other than the fact that it would be completely stupid, there isn't one.
Is there something about the spread offense that makes it easier to defend than pro-style attacks once you "catch up" with it? Since defenses haven't caught up with the pro-style offense, with all its tight ends and fullbacks (or at least, they're not bragging about it), there must be something about the spread that make it an inherently weaker scheme than the pro style. If you ask Anonymous Ohio State Coach, it's the quarterback run. But quarterback runs were a key part of the attack for half of the top ten offenses in the country last year. If they've caught up, they must have done it sometime after January.
The only other key aspect of the spread offense is the use of a lot of receiver-heavy shotgun formations. So this must be what enables defenses to catch up with the offense. The bigger, tougher athletes in the pro-style must be better able to move the ball than nimble spread linemen and skill players. Of course, the evidence shows that this isn't the case. Defenses can't "catch up with" competing against smaller players, or they would have by now.
There is no right or wrong answer as to which type of offense is the best in college football. It's all about creating matchups between players, and teaching them to execute well enough to win those matchups. The spread is here, and all evidence points to it being here to stay. The biggest factor in success, though, is execution.
Michigan has a long, rich tradition with the mustache. I mean look at these guys from 1885, 1904, and 1975:
Bam. Ladies, take a moment to catch your breath. Gentlemen, ponder the possibilities inherent in a luxurious, warming lip cover. If you had a mustache you wouldn't have to wonder if people were looking at that little thing in the middle of your lip, you know, the dent, and then you wouldn't have to wonder what that was called. Think of how productive you would be. And think of all the chicks you would score. They'd fall out of helicopters.
Now consider this in the context of Michigan and going "All In" for it.
As Michigan Alumni, we are here to say that we support you, Rich. We support Michigan. And we're showing it with our mustaches. We'll be growing beards during the month of August, and on September 5th, we'll be sporting serious staches for that first game. Go Blue.
You've got a little over three weeks, which disqualifies 15-year olds, women, and Kevin Meyer, one of my housemates from back in the day. Everyone else should do it. you'll look like Tom Selleck, I promise. Even Tim Tebow is doing it. You wouldn't turn your back on Tebow, would you?