I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
Will Cameron Gordon bring balance to the force? Will Vlad the Impaler ever transition from psych to sang? Is Marvin the Marvelous Marvel just an empty OMG shirtless? Do 40-times matter at all? Will Misopogon exhaust his annual allotment of rhetorical questions before this deck is even finished? I dunno, but I was seriously freaking about about free safety, man, so I dipped into UFRs of yore and found….hope?
STOP! Have you read Part One?
We were talking about the deep safety position in GERG's 3-3-5-ish defense seen in brief previews (e.g. Ohio State, to much rejoicing) last season. We also did a recap of UFR scoring for safeties of Michigan past (here's a spreadsheet). The reason we're talking about this is because Michigan has had some pretty bad play(ers?) from/at that position, and because according to 3-3-5 experts, for the defense to be good, the deep safety should be a total motherfucking
In Part II you were expecting a rundown of candidates for 2010, and how they might stack up against the guys of years past. This is still half-written, and coming. But we hit a snag, and now it's a three-parter.
The people you can blame for this are as follows:
- The head of a certain federal agency who made like a bazillion major announcements that kept me at work all week
- Mustaches for Michigan (This Monday: Be There)
- A player who no longer plays for Michigan
- Fireaxis, who released a free iPhone version of Civilization
- Steve Sharik
What Sharik did was this and this (scroll down to his comments, which before Brian decided to give the comments section a Weis-ian strategic advantage, I could link to directly). Because of these people, I had to a.) Spend a lot of time on press call-ins, b.) Do an awful lot of research on mustaches, c.) Re-write an entire section that had already been completed, d.) Fight a brutal amphibious war against an Incan-British alliance for global domination, and e.) Completely re-imagine my metrics for determining what is needed from the Free Safety in Michigan's defense.
The Hero in Our Base Defense:
What I came up with: Michigan in 2006 had a good defense. This was mostly due to good players. But the scheme wasn't all that different from what we think GERG is gonna bust out in 2010:
You are probably looking at this alignment right now (look how far off Hall is playing up top) and having flashbacks of Donovan Warren sitting deep in what we called last year's failed 3-3-5 experiments. There's a good reason for that: I believe this is the same defense.
Jamison (bottom of the line) is in a hand-down version of Roh's spot; Harrison at top, the nominal "nickel" has come up on the line to blitz, not too different from Steve Brown's spot last year; Dave Harris is in the middle; Prescott Burgess (=Mouton) is set up in the flat near the bottom. Both Trent (bottom) and Hall (top) are playing 9 yards off the line. Jamar Adams (=Kovacs) is on the 1st down marker.
Just slightly out of the picture, sitting deep and probably reading Infinite Jest, because defending the deep ball when Branch and Woodley are tearing things up is useless, is Brandent Englemon.
You won't see either make a play here. On this particular play, Penn State saw the loose coverage, changed up whatever they were going to run (given the play until then, likely a run left), and sent a quick toss to the top wideout. Leon Hall came up to make a fantastic play and keep it to 2 yards.
What I want you to see is Jamar Adams, the safety behind Hall at the top of this play. With the "nickel back" Harrison blitzing, Adams came down into the box to act as another linebacker. As it turned out, he was help if Hall can't make this play, probably running Derrick Williams out of bounds after a 5- or 6-yard gain.
Now, this looks like a pass defense, but had Penn State run into it, there was paper all over the place. Ultimately, eight (!) players were in the box, with a surprise blitz coming from Harris, a not-surprising blitz from Harrison, and either Adams or Burgess busting in faster than a receiver could block them. Behind them, Englemon was in centerfield, ready to come up.
Michigan ran a similar defense last year against Penn State:
And we saw some of this too against Michigan State and Ohio State.
The way I think I can identify this is because we get the same exact reaction from Brian in UFRs and recaps each time: to paraphrase, "WTF [Star Cornerback] is playing way off the line here!"
My guess is it was Ron English's "pretty-bad-unless-you-have-Leon-Hall-to-bail-out-your-ass," and GERG's "what the hell do I do with crap safeties?" attempts at doing what Bud Foster at Virginia Tech does much better:
This was the subject of a since-mostly unremarked article on MGoBlog suggesting that Michigan is going to V-Tech's base defense. Essentially, it's VT's old 4-4 deal with a linebacker exchanged for a safety because spread defenses were murder on it. In Brown's description:
What makes Tech's "quarters" coverage particularly interesting is that they have not actually changed their old "G" front, they have merely removed one guy from the box and lined him up at safety without changing his aggressive responsibilities against the run.
Below is how Virginia Tech lined up against Kansas's spread in the 2008 Orange Bowl. … The Hokies lined up in their base quarters look from the "G," merely moving the former "Rover" (circled) to safety, while moving the "Whip" outside, over Kansas' slot receiver; this formation gives the offense very little information, and in fact, with Jayhawks' motioning an extra blocker into the backfield for a run to the left, is inviting for a run, with six blockers in the box against six defenders:
I recommend the entire article (in case three links weren't a clue).
I leave it to the football geniuses around here to give you more and better information as to how this applies to Michigan. The salient point for the free safety is the job description is a bit different than the "Centerfielder" in a base Cover-1 or Cover-3 that I supposed we were running when I started this.
Herein lies the hope. Going for a fourth link to this brilliant article:
The free-safety then was free to play a "robber" technique -- that is, on pass plays, he read the quarterback's eyes and broke on intermediate routes, but on runs, where he truly became valuable, he was an incredible ninth run-stuffer in the box.
It's a Cover 4 defense made to stop the run. Blitzes come from all directions, positions are hybridized so attacks can come from anywhere, and the primary defense against the pass is to look like you're in pass defense pre-snap, and to not give the QB much time to throw post-snap.
For our purposes, this means the Free Safety doesn't have to be a Ryan Mundy (at West Virginia, people with long memories) with super speed (that's your cornerback). His job is to back up a safety/linebacker-type object in man, and if anything gets by the Mack linebacker, clean up the run (or if you're Brandent Englemon, bring a book).
Below is as comprehensive a UFR Chart? Chart! as I can produce on Safety Play in the UFR era:
The blue line is the positives, so if the safety in question did nothing remarkable whatsoever, that will be at zero.
Years in brief:
2005 (average: 0): Safety Armageddon began in '05 and lasted through 2006. Fortunately, with the notable of 4th quarters in 2005, the safeties during this time had little work to do, good or bad. Willis Barringer, Jamar Adams (who later settled at box safety) and Brandon Harrison all got time deep. That 0 during a position-hating deity strike is the 2nd best year in recent history at deep safety is scary, but this may say less about the safety play, and more about Brian working the kinks out of the UFR scoring system.
2006 (average: –0.3): The one negative thing about the 2006 defense was the play at safety, mostly because Mundy and his great talent wouldn't cover anything. It was bad enough to be a soft spot, but not so bad that the great front 7 and CB play couldn't make up for it until Michigan met Ohio State-/USC-level passing attacks.
2007 (average: 1.1): After The Horror, Jamar Adams moved to free safety (listed as SS but I watched videos and he was the deep man in lots of 3-3-5s), and "keep me off your damn chart you hippie" Brandent Englemon of the 1/0/1 URFs took over the box safety spot. Adams was horrific against Oregon but settled in and provided the best FS play of the period.
2008 (average: –1): The year of Stevie Brown. When he was good, e.g. the Minnesota game, he was good. But when he was bad, Stevie was "lose MSU game all by himself" bad.
2009 (average: –3) Overall the worst safety play of the period. When Woolfolk was deep, he was tested seldom and usually finished an 'eh' 0/2/-2 or something while QBs made cornerbacks not named Warren their bitches. The bottom dropped out when Michael Williams was tried deep, and the meat of the season featured huge ugly numbers against an overmatched Kovacs until Woolfolk returned late.
In a nutshell:
The best seasons of average play from each guy at deep safety:
- +1.10 – Jamar Adams (SR)
- +0.71 – Brandent Englemon (RS JR)
- +0.67 – Willis Barringer (SR)
- +0.00 – Jamar Adams (SO)
- -0.64 – Steve Brown (JR)
- -0.67 – Brandon Harrison (FR)
- -1.14 – Ryan Mundy (JR)
- -1.30 – Charles Stewart (SR)
- -1.92 – Troy Woolfolk (JR)
- -4.00 – Jordan Kovacs (RS FR)
- -6.00 – Michael Williams (RS SO)
2009 looks pretty fucking bad now, doesn't it? I think Brian was a bit ruthless with Woolfolk for missed tackles that weren't TDs, the effect of Woolfolk is not shown. Also, this isn't a "who's the best player" list since a lot of the guys at the bottom put in their bad play as underclassmen, and many are small samples against varied competition levels (e.g. lots of strong numbers versus Northwestern). It is only an average of their UFR'ed contributions while at free safety.
And just in case it matters, here's the respective play of those who also spent time at box safety:
- +3.00 – Brandon Harrison (SR)
- +1.00 – Brandent Englemon (RS JR)
- +0.83 – Jordan Kovacs (RS FR)
- +0.75 – Brandent Englemon (RS SO)
- +0.73 – Jamar Adams (JR)
- +0.25 – Michael Williams (RS FR)
- -1.33 – Jamar Adams (SO)
-2.93 – Michael Williams (RS SO) Lessons: 1) Kovacs is a damn good box safety for a
redshirt freshman, walk-on, godsend. 2) Michael Williams wasn't good at anything.In our assessments, keep in mind what kind of player each 2010 candidate may be, and how his play might compare to any of the above candidates. 3) Our free safety prototype: rangy, heady player who can cover, tackle and avoid mistakes. Our box safety prototype: a lot of brains and solid tackler, speed and hype not a major concern.
This seals it.
We have a defensive set that is built to involve the safeties, more often than not, in run coverage, while the cornerbacks either play Cover-2 or man-up on the edges. Our free safety, our Hero, then, is a responsible guy who can tackle, lay a mean hit, and has enough speed to get there. Lanky cornerback-type he is not. Tiny Charles Drake-type object he is not.
And even historically, it has been just that type of player who has excelled at not drawing the ire of those paying close attention.
A safety with some linebackerish qualities: this might actually work.
In the Thrilling Conclusion…
Cameron 'Dark Side' Gordon
Vladimir 'The Impaler' Emilien
'Marvelous' Marvin Robinson
The following letter appears in the Fall issue of the Alumni Association Magazine. I have wrote a letter in response. I encourage you all to do the same and/or offer some feedback on my letter. This dude graduated in '61 and is probably completely out of touch with reality, but I still want to slap him across the face. And if the Alumni Association prints something like this, I think it says a lot about the pressure David Brandon will be faced with if this season does not go well.
Let's Return to Athletic Tradition
I have been a long-time supporter of U-M athletics. My dad was a track man, holding a Big Ten record for nine years. My daughter was a swimmer and lettered for four years. I went to school at U-M in the late '50s and graduated in 1961.
Now please ask me how I can support our two major sports teams when our University has let things go so far away from any and every Michigan tradition. I still have season tickets for football and basketball (sustaining member of the Victors Club), but sometimes I ask myself why. I am not alone with this very negative attitude, and only the future will tell the University how its supporters are disgusted. Just another example was that terrible defensive call for the last 2.2 seconds of the OSU game during the Big Ten Tournament. The University, regents and president are not responsible caretakers of our athletic tradition. Why Michigan fell in love with coaches from West Virginia, I have no idea, but they have put us back way before our glory days starting with 1969. The entire thing makes me upset.
The president is very kind to send us all a nice Christmas card every year, but I wish she could understand what is happening on State Street. The only positive thing I can think of is our new athletic director, but it bothers me he seems to support these coaches and that one of them was on the president’s selection team for his new position. I would assume his hands are tied for at least the next few years. Maybe when Michigan gets NCAA sanctions in August, we will all really understand how far we have fallen. Oh, but the football coach’s job is secure for yet another season. I guess someone forgot the old and new investments that the University has on State and Stadium streets.
T.H. Smith, '61
My letter to the Michigan Alumnus:
Stick By Our Teams, Keep Believing
T.H. Smith (’61) wrote a letter that appeared in the Fall ’10 edition of the Michigan Alumnus. Mr. Smith asked how he can support our two major sports teams. To Mr. Smith and anyone else who may feel similarly, I would like to offer a response to that question.
Coach Beilein, in just his second season in Ann Arbor, took a squad to the second round of the tournament – the first time Michigan had even made the NCAA tournament in over a decade. Additionally, Coach Beilein is highly regarded throughout the collegiate basketball sphere and is the head of the NCAA Ethics Coalition, a major reason that President Coleman trusted him for insight on the search for a new athletic director. Coach Beilein is a man of the utmost dignity and respect and deserves every Michigan fan and alum’s support.
Coach Rodriguez came into a difficult situation. Our football team happened upon a severe lack of depth in talent on both sides of the football, forcing Coach Rodriguez to rebuild from the bottom. He has come under fire for major violations even though they appear to be the result of a lack of institutional accountability in the athletic department.* And, yes, on the field he may have underachieved in the first two years of his tenure. However, he has said and done nothing but proudly represent the University of Michigan. Most importantly, he is the coach of 105 student athletes that proudly play for Michigan, and that should be reason enough to earn your support.
Last year Michigan Athletics saw great accomplishments in volleyball, hockey, softball, women’s tennis, women’s gymnastics, and water polo in addition to a National Championship in men’s gymnastics. All reasons to support the athletic program we love.
In closing, I leave you with this quote, and urge you to support our coaches and student-athletes in all sports:
“When your team is winning, be ready to be tough, because winning can make you soft; on the other hand, when your team is losing, stick by them. Keep believing.” – Bo Schembechler
EDIT: * Updated. Previous sentence referenced the Lloyd Carr era b/c that was when Labadie and Draper were hired, but it came off as being accusing of Lloyd, which I did not intend.
As the football season approaches, I find myself checking into this wonderful site on an increasing basis. Replace "increasing basis" with "every 5 minutes", and that last sentence will be true. Yes, the fall fanaticism is upon us.
Here they come
As well all know, MGoBlog* is an incredible and irreplaceable resource for Michigan football** fans. It has a unique space in the blogosphere, and we all, as fans of U of M football, are lucky and privileged to have it.
So why am I writing this diary? To get some more mgopoints? To state a bunch of obvious truths? No, rather, to first state a concern, and then suggest a possible solution.
These are truths you can handle, actually
The Concern: Brian Leaves MGoBlog
The concern is simple: that one day, perhaps sooner rather than later, one Brian Cook may pack up and decide to do something else with his life. I'm not saying this is going to happen, and I certainly have no particular indication that Brian is anything but happy and content as leader of the mgoblogosphere, but each time I read one of his brilliant articles, I find myself thinking: this guy is going to get swept up by some bigger media outlet. His writing is terrific, heartfelt, funny, thoughtful, and even occasionally poetic (I could link to dozens of examples here, but what is the point? You all know what I mean).
This is a train leaving a station. Imagine if Brian were on it?
Envision, if you will, the tragedy that would result. Certainly, my own personal Michigan football experience would be greatly lessened***. Worse than any freep scandal or crazy coaching search, the thought of Brian Cook leaving this fine site for some greener pastures is too painful to consider.
The Solution: MGoBlog Day
So let's not consider it. Or rather, let's take steps to make it less likely. What I suggest today is an alternative: a celebration of the best. Specifically: let us create an unofficial MGoBlog Day. On this one day a year, each of us would tune into the site, perhaps write a little bit about why the site is so great for us, but, more importantly, DONATE. If each serious reader donated as little as $5 or $10 or $20 (or much more, if desired) each year, I suspect Brian and company would become notably better compensated for what he does, and presumably this would (perhaps greatly) lower any future possibility of Brian thinking of moving onto some bigger or different stage. Let's make Brian rich!
Pledge Drive: Everyone hates these, but...
This NPR-ish pledge drive would just take place once a year, which begs the question: which day should such a celebration of all that is MGoBlog take place? The day that came to my mind is this: the last Thursday before the first game each year. This year, it would be 09/02 before the UConn game. Why this day? Well, as that first game approaches, I think we all sense with great anticipation the beginning of the season. Thus, some time right before that first game is when I appreciate MGoBlog the most, and look forward to the season full of UFRs, Unverified Voracities, and all the other standards that this blog has created for us. And why not take advantage of the fever pitch that is undoubtedly building anyhow?
Fever Pitch: actually not a bad movie
The most important thing about having such a day is that it serves as a reminder to donate. I have donated a few times myself, but personally can never remember when or how much. By having a single day where we all donate, it simplifies things quite a bit. Kind of a "subscription" of sorts, but still in the pure voluntary spirit that has driven the site thus far.
Anyhow, it is just a thought. I would be curious to hear your thoughts on this idea. Some questions to ponder:
- Should we have such a day?
- If so, does the day proposed (the last Thursday before opening day) make sense? If not, which day?
- If agreed to, how can we track progress of donations? Would Brian be willing to state how much was raised on that day? (at least a ballpark figure?)
Your input is truly appreciated****.
* What is the proper capitalization, anyhow?
** Yes, there are other sports, but come on
*** "greatly lessened" = "would suck a lot more"
**** well, not truly. but kind of. isn't that good enough?
It's August and that means the return of my favorite fall sport. That's right, volleyball. While I haven't quite gotten to my season preview (should be one for volleyball and the soccers coming if next week goes as planned), stories are already hitting the news wire.
Today, the Big Ten released the Preseason Conference Poll and Preseason All Big Ten teams. Michigan, coming off a 27-10 regular season and #9 final national ranking, has been picked to finish 5th in the Big Ten (pdf) behind perennial favorite Penn State, Illinois, Minnesota, and Ohio State. This is pretty much on par with the final standings last year, where Michigan finished tied with Ohio State in 4th place.
Coach Rosen via MGoBlue:
"Preseason polls do not mean much," 12th-year head coach Mark Rosen said. "The conference is good enough right now that one through 11 is up for grabs. I really think that the Big Ten is the deepest it has ever been this year. We have a lot of work to do to live up to that finish, but I think that our team is up for it."
Along with the standings, Michigan also had two players named to the Preseason All Big Ten Team. Senior setter Lexi Zimmerman makes her 3rd consecutive Preseason All Big Ten Team, this time as a unanimous pick.
Joining Zimmerman on the Preseason All Big Ten Team is junior left side hitter Alex Hunt. Hunt makes her first appearance on the Preseason Team, and looks to be Michigan's biggest returning weapon after the graduation of Juliana Paz and Veronica Rood.
(Photos via MGoBlue)
Camp is here! The summer is shrinking…. The coaches are drilling… and the players are sweating. The season opener is just over three weeks away, and a new chapter will be written. So why are you still wearing the student shirt from 2005?
Once again, it’s my privilege to present to all of you the second round of the MGoShirt 2010 Season Line, as designed by yours truly and produced exclusively by Underground Printing in conjunction with our very own MGoBlog.
As an MGoBlog exclusive, we’re rolling out the wolverine’s share of the line today, allowing all of you maize and blue faithful to get the very first glimpse of these new designs and imagine yourself walking down State Street sporting this unique Michigan apparel. And, yes, conveniently enough, these very same shirts are immediately available for purchase at the MGoStore! Remember, the title of every shirt is an active link directly to the catalog entry for that product. You can shop as soon as you see the shirt if you'd like.
AND a special offer is being made today—Underground has created Special Deal for those that want to own the full MGoShirt Alert 2010 collection. Buy all 10 shirts (or any 10 shirts - mix and match your favorites) and get them for $150 (25% off!). MGoStore has also heard your prayers and is now offering multiple shirts in the coveted American Apparel option-- you asked for it, you got it!
So enough with the Billy Mays bit—let’s get to the shirts:
We’ve got options this year, kids—whether you’re a shoelace guy or an Our Man Tate loyalist, you can rest easy knowing that the other guy is ready to step in and deliver at a moment’s notice. This shirt allows the wearer to clearly identify himself as a number 5, with his second choice of quarterback emblazoned on the back.
DESIGNER INSIDER: We toyed with simply choosing one QB over the other, but in the end the front and back concept works really well. I must disclose that the guys at UGP wrote these, and even looked up the correct spelling of midi-chlorians-- I will say that I love the way everything’s worded. Both sides read easily, and jump off the shirt.
For all of the number 16’s in the crowd, here is the alternate. Dilithium on the front, Midi-chlorians on the back. I understand this seems to be the current consensus of the blog, and whatever happens Denard’s gotta get on the field.
DESIGNER INSIDER: I’m pleased with both of these. I wanted a fun typeface, something that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Because this QB battle is sure to become serious enough in the next few weeks.
The Blue Album. No matter what Rivers ever does with the rest of his career, he still can’t take that one away from me. Dude, they really named the album after Hurley?
DESIGNER INSIDER: I’ve always rooted for that certain linebacker who wears #8… he’s come such a long way and I have to believe that he’s going to get something done this year. I can’t be the only one… can I?
Vlad Tepes, Dracul, the very impaler of souls and eater of hope, is coming off a very quiet redshirt season that allowed his knee to heal. It’s time to consume the blood of the innocent and hang their heads on stakes at the thirty-five yard line. I’ll let you all guess what part of that statement is actually true, and what’s just funny Internet stuff.
DESIGNER INSIDER: I’ve seen this image of the real, historical Vlad before, but once I actually got to work on it, I was surprised at how not terrifying he really seemed to be. This historical depiction looks more like the guy who gives you rental skates at the outdoor rink than a ruthless, heartless dictator. If you ask me.
Vader keeps the ball vertical, no spin, laces out. The Dark Side of the force puts a big focus on great ball control skills, I guess. Sure, it’s a Yoda quote, but I just wanted to do something Vader-esque again, and the quote fit.
DESIGNER INSIDER: This is based on the scene in Empire right after Luke loses his hand—I know the zone read doesn’t typically require Tate or Denard pitching the ball, but it just seemed to look so right in conjunction with the pose, so I kept it.
The kid in the #9 jersey with the dreads and the consistent herculean effort—you know who I’m talkin’ about—he gives slot ninjas everywhere a good name. Well, a ninja is only as good as his gear. This guy is well armed and clearly ready to play with more than a few ‘hard edges.’
DESIGNER INSIDER: enjoyed watching Tay work so hard the past two years and look forward to seeing him continue the trend this season. I originally tried to get the dreads involved but it just took away from the design. I’m beginning to think UGP should just sell entire sets of maize and blue ninja suits with #9’s on their front and back, but that’s another story. Certainly one of my favorites.
I tried to look back to see where it came up exactly, but at some point during last year’s rollout this slogan came to surface, and I always wanted to revisit it. It’s the same slot ninja that I put together last year, but with the true shout-out to all our boyos from Pahokee. Who knows? If enough of us sport this shirt on primetime TV, we could truly cement the Pahokee-Ann Arbor pipeline connection. DO IT FOR THE TEAM!
DESIGNER INSIDER: Fun, a little goofy, almost looks like a legitimate kid’s shirt—that’s all by design. I also wanted to do a white shirt, because as of now everything I’ve done for MGoStore has been a maize or blue shirt. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I try to keep diversity in my UM wardrobe, and right now the colors are winning handily over the whites and grays.
So there you go—another healthy batch of MGoShirt goodness that are guaranteed to make the next three weeks feel like 6 hours. Okay, not really—but at least you’ll know you’ve got the merch you need for the opening tailgate. Shop, buy, wear with pride, and YELL AS LOUD AS YOU CAN when the game starts!! And don’t forget—if you’re interested in loading up your closet with some high quality MGoApparel, Rishi and UGP have made it possible with the MGoShirt Alert special offer! Simply go to the store and put 10 shirts into your cart, and the special offer will take the discount off for you!
I'm not sure what next week will bring in the 2010 MGoShirt Alert-- stay tuned. Three weeks til kickoff!
Hello everyone, Six Zero here with another installment of:
SIX QUESTIONS WITH MGOSTORE
Inspired by the official site’s “Two Minute Drill” series and TomVH’s famous Q&A segments with potential recruits, this weekly feature highlights some of the more famous personalities here at MGoBlog. Without pulling back the infamous veil of blog anonymity, we’ll get to know some of your favorite posters better and possibly shed some light on their definition of why it’s so darn Great, To Be, A Michigan Wolverine.
The MGoStore is alive. It actually senses your UM apparel needs and makes all of our maize and blue wishes come true. And when it’s not reading the minds of Wolverine fans across the globe, it likes to surf the Internet, and actually is an avid reader and member of MGoBlog. It’s a big fan of UFR, and loves any reference of the Muppets.
Actually no, the store is not sentient… BUT its very owner does maintain a profile and presence here on the blog, and does interact with the rest of us from time to time. So it’s my pleasure to spotlight Rishi Narayan in this exclusive interview:
1. Rishi Narayan, the mastermind behind MGoStore and ultimately Underground Printing as a whole. You’ve already told the Ann Arbor News about how Underground started upon your graduation from UM, but tell us, who where you when you originally launched the business and what was your vision then, and where does it all stack up to what UGP is today?
Although I'd love to take credit, Brian is obviously the mastermind behind the MGoStore, he always has been. We are just working really hard to legitimize it, make it something other than a site that sells a couple shirts here and there.
When we started the business, my partner Ryan Gregg and I were just two engineering students who figured out quickly they didn’t want to be typical engineers. Underground (then it was called A-1 Screenprinting, first in the phone book!) was initially just a way to try something else out because we were bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. Although I love shirts, it wasn't the love of shirts that got us going, it was the need to figure out a different path OTHER than working as an engineer.
Where does that stack up to what UGP is today? Well we definitely aren't engineers (although somehow I got roped into getting a masters in ChE). Honestly, we just really love entrepreneurship and small business. Our growth is just our way to keep things interesting, new opportunities and avenues. We obviously love t-shirts, but it really could have been anything for us, our ultimate goal is really to make something of this little college startup.
How then, did Underground Printing get involved with MGoBlog? Describe the partnership that culminated in MGoStore.
We obviously have known and loved MGoBlog for a long time and thought that we would be a great fit running Brian's store. However, somehow I missed the time period when Brian switched from Spreadshirt to the other company that shall remain nameless and felt like we missed an opportunity.
However, I was introduced to Brian by email through a friend of a friend (thanks James Jarvis if you are reading this). He had heard of us through the grapevine and specifically because of our sponsorship of the student section at Yost (which we would still do this day if Adidas hadn't taken it back away from us). I guess we agreed it was a good fit and the rest is history.
2. Some people may not realize that MGoBlog is just one of the many facets of UGP-- You guys not only produce UM gear for the good people of Ann Arbor and beyond, but also field similar operations in such non-partisan locations like West Lafayette, Minneapolis, Madison, Champaign, Bloomington, Evanston, ahem, East Lansing, and others. You’ve even expanded into non-conference territories such as Morgantown, Lexington and Pittsburgh! Dude, are you taking over the world?
No, we just really love college life. Note that you didn't say Columbus, and you never will. We made that decision we decided to open up stores.
Amen, brother. For each of these locations, are you looking to specialize in school culture shirts for each perspective school (like MGoStore), or is the role more akin to a custom screenprinter for fraternities, sororities, and other local organizations?
We really feel that our bread and butter will always be custom printed apparel. However, we are beginning to build up our retail presence as well, and shirts with local "flair", like MGoStore shirts, are a big part of that.
Gotta heart the Flair. One of UGP’s claim to fame is doing the on-field championship shirts for the Steelers when LaMarr finished off Kurt Warner for their last Super Bowl victory. How was that deal put together? Any other big projects on the horizon?
That was through our relationship with Reebok/Adidas. When we first started, before we had developed our store model, it was all about printing more shirts for bigger customers. We have been printing for Reebok for about 6 years now, and as we have grown we have printed for Superbowls, World Series, NBA Finals, etc. It's fun, and cool to be a "part" of it all, but printers that specialize in that are essentially always betting. You live and die by the hot market print.
We decided it wasn't worth getting bigger like most printers...if we were going to print 40,000 shirts, we would prefer it be for 400 customers rather than 4, which is the basis of our store model. So our big projects now revolve around opening stores, although we are currently working on some relationships with former Michigan greats, much like our relationship with Jalen Rose.
3. The MGoStore is thriving, and one of your products was even featured on a History Channel program. What are the best-selling shirts in the line, and if you don’t mind, what’s your personal favorite?
That was awesome, I was pumped when I heard about that. Ironically enough, the kid who was on that show wearing the shirt sent us an email shortly after and told us that he is a history major currently, so being on the History Channel in an MGoBlog shirt was basically the perfect for him.
Worst State Ever is hands down the best seller ever, even after all these years. All the anti-Ohio shirts are pretty popular (shocking), as is Mascots and Catch and Release.
My favorite is Space, Bitches. Because it so perfectly illustrates Michigan domination. I also really love Free the Fab Five because I have this dream that one day everyone will reconcile and we will get our banners and wins back, and we can get a reunion in Crisler.
4. Tell me about your recent purchase of Moe Sport Shops, how did that come about? What is changing and what is staying the same?
Getting involved with a campus institution like Moe's is one of the coolest things we've been able to be a part of. We met Buddy through a mutual acquaintance and hit it off right away. The Van de Wege's are some of the nicest people we've ever met and Buddy is a class act. We starting tossing around a lot of ideas about our places on campus and how we could work together to do something really special that no one else was doing.
Through Underground we've been able to take care of our customers with custom printing and new, fresh retail items like MGoBlogStore and American Apparel brand Michigan Apparel. Our goal is to expand the reach of the store while keeping it "Moe's" by respecting the past and putting a lot of energy into continuing the legacy moving forward. As Buddy likes to tell people, "we've handed the baton to next generation."
In preparation for the coming football season we'll be looking to rearrange somethings so that Moes can carry more styles and items than ever before. Buddy started the process with the addition of a "Kid's Room" a few years back and we're working with him to complete the vision (We talk almost daily and he stops in often to talk to us and old customers). The new improvements should not only allow us to carry more inventory, but begin the transition of adding some MGoStyles to the staple of Adidas, Champion and Retro Brand. UGP will continue to carry the full line up with some of the most popular styles being added to Moe’s for the fall!
5. Obviously, Underground Printing is what you do for a living, and I’m sure you’re a busy man. But what do you like to do for fun on your own time?
This question is sorta depressing, I dont have a lot of interesting extra-curriculars to talk about. I'm a tennis player, trying to get into running (although it’s pretty boring) I am in involved in a few other companies in town (BTB Burrito, Good Time Charley's, and the BTB Party Bus), which takes a lot of extra time. And I am heavily vested in TV, I love TV.
Yes, I too am a fan of this ‘television.’ Describe the perfect meal.
One word: Nachos.
6. The beauty of that answer is in its simplicity. Can you explain why you are a Michigan fan?
I'll be honest - it really came to fruition for me in college. I was born in West Lafayette, and after Michigan Basketball still find myself rooting for Purdue Basketball (love me some Gene Keady). My family moved to East Lansing and my dad is a professor at Michigan State. But I was never really a state fan, I loved the Fab Five and loved my all time favorite wolverine (don't want to ruin question 10). But the decision to come to Michigan was driven by academics and big ten campus feel...I didn't even apply to State. That is where I fell in love with the school, the town, the culture, and the tradition ...most importantly the tradition. I like to think that even though I wasn't an orientation leader I can give a pretty good tour of campus.
Finally, who's your all-time favorite Wolverine?
I knew this was coming, I would say MaliVai Washington. Why? 1) No other MGoProfile's gave the small sports any love and I am a tennis fan 2) I grew up in the Lansing Area and everyone was gaga over Todd Martin, but it was all about Mal for me. 3) I really wanted to say Rumeal Robinson, but I changed my mind. Even just being accused of swindling your mom is just not right.
There you have it. Legitimate proof that T-shirt & merchandising czars are people too. Rishi seems like one of us because he IS… he’s sat in the student sections, he’s walked the Diag, and he’s even lived through the Horror.
The MGoStore will be updated today with more shirts from the MGoShirt Alert, and later today I’ll be unveiling them in a second exclusive premier post. AND I’m told I can share a little secret with you—Rishi has put together a special offer on the Store that I’m sure you’ll all want to check out. Look for that post later today!
The season will soon be here, my friends, and MGoProfile will go on hiatus for the course of the 2010 schedule and the rest of the calendar year. So there’s only two more profiles left… and who will they be?? Stop by next week to find out who’ll be the next MGoProfile!!