Welcome all of you Michigan Football Faithful to 2010 - the Year of Redemption (hopefully). 2008 and 2009 were bizarre years for all of us, both painful and embarrassing to some degree and always with that feeling of an especially bad dream that we just couldn't wake up from. Never in most of our lifetimes have we seen our beloved Wolverines flail about in such a disgraceful manner. Now the corner is there to be turned and with this recruiting haul I see prosperity coming on like a freight train... but like a freight train it may take a while to get here.
And how refreshing was it to see this class come together without the constant re-shuffle that was the 2009 recruiting class? I was happy with the players we landed in 2009 but the steady drip of decommits was frustrating. Losing the two defensive tackles at the last moment was especially humbling. Who does that to Michigan? Nothing like that this year, thank goodness. Just commitments staying the course and signing their papers on time, plus a welcome 4/5 star surprise on signing day to give it that proper Christmas-like feel.
Now with two full Rich Rod classes on board, a vision seems to be coalescing out of the fog of the past two years. We are starting to see positions filled with layer upon layer of players with blue-chip credentials or high upside potential. The cupboard is certainly no longer bare, though its talent is young. The players themselves start to look more interchangeable, like we don't have to fall off cliff should so-and-so get hurt or pick our poison in the defensive backfield.
I mean, just look at the Defensive Backfield for a moment and consider:
Corner - Warren (The MAN! Unfortunately decided to move on)
Corner - Cissoko (Reminder to take every hyped recruit with a grain of salt)
FS - Kovacs (Freshman Walkon played inspired football, but so SLOW!)
SS - Williams (Reminder to take every hyped recrui...
(What too much salt will do to your blood pressure.)
Depth: Yes Woolfolk and JT Floyd were also in the mix with the former decent at times and the latter burnt crispy.
Corner - Turner (Please no grains of salt...)
Corner - Woolfolk
SS - Robinson (Maybe not a LB?)
FS - Dorsey (Please no grains of salt...)
Depth: Christian, Johnson, Kovacs, Emilien, Floyd, Gordon, Talbott, Avery, Vinopal
Yes the 2010 bunch looks young and inexperienced. It also looks light-years better than their 2009 counterparts with the exception of Warren and has some much improved depth to plug in in case of injury/incompetence. If Warren had stayed the D-Backfield could have been a strong point of the 2010 team.
Another area where the depth chart is looking solid is on the OL. Many will bemoan the fact that only one OL recruit was landed in the 2010 class but the depth chart shows that things are looking just fine:
|OL (13 - 3)||M. Schofield*
Those five returning starters are encouraging for the coming season, no? Plus the gap created by taking only one OL recruit this season will provide a nice "early playing time" selling point for 2011 OL recruits.
Looking at the rest of the team gets me downright giddy...
QB - Should be a strength with DG an EE and hopefully a RS as well. Tate will hopefully put on several pounds and take his game up a notch.
Receiver - Stocked to the gills and I, for one, can't wait to see if Gallon can live up to his hype. Stonum, Roundtree, Koger, and Hemingway have all already shown flashes. We certainly stocked up nicely through recruiting as well.
RB - Plenty of talent here though low on proven commodities after V.Smith (may his surgery/recovery go smoothly). Shaw and Cox have had their moments and I think Fitz is going to be special.
DL - We seem to be in great shape as far as starters go. I would love to see RVB slide over into Graham's vacated DE spot and Will Campbell show his quality inside as a starter. Hopefully LaLota has progressed well as a RS and can provide useful depth. Sagasse played well in spot duty last year IIRC.
LB - The huge recruiting haul here was desperately needed but won't yield effective depth until 2011 IME. Here's to hoping that under GERG's tutelage, the likes of Ezeh and Mouton can turn a corner, or that JB Fitzgerald can take it up a notch. LB looks like the weak link once again for the 2010 team unfortunately. GERG needs to bring cohesion and make the LBs a unit, instead of the Stevie Brown w/2 lost sheep look of last season.
P/K - Welcome Mr. Hagerup, your arrival is indeed timely. Gibbons, just don't fuck this up, OK?
Looking Farther Ahead:
These three recruiting classes signed since Rich Rod took over have been solid and very good indeed considering the circumstances. The players signed do seem to fit into the type of team RR favors, now both on offense and on defense. This means there is no going back, really. Michigan no longer has the players for a Pro-Style offense shoehorned into the Spread Option and the defense has stockpiled players for GERG's gimmicky defense. If this team can continue to improve, make a bowl, and let RR and staff make it to 2011, this program is ready to explode. If we are forced to go looking for a new coaching staff however, it will take just the right one to be able to pick up these highly customized pieces and make them work.
Here's to a great 2010 season and an off-season filled with optimistic joy free from turmoil and controversy.
Many of the posts here have suggested that a certain unnamed newspaper in a big city near Ann Arbor has a media bias. If you want to learn more about the topic of media bias—how to investigate it and what to do about it---you might want to start by checking out the interesting summary and references on the topic of media bias in the link below. In fact, it raises some interesting questions if anyone wants to investigate the investigators—ie the unnamed newspaper which makes money trying to expose the frail underbelly of defenseless adolescents and their schools.
First, to determine whether or not there is a hidden agenda of writers or editors, look at their personal and business contacts, sociodemographics, attitudes, past professional connections, payments to speak or write (eg Do they ever get gigs through the influence of people with an axe to grind or those who would directly benefit from harm to a particular school’s program?). Also, look at quotes that reveal their beliefs, the frequencies of positive or negative word use or topic or headline choice for one school vs. another. Look at the paper's selective use or exclusion of experts, spokespersons, sources (eg interviewing a police officer for a player in a unfavored school but the father of a student in a more favored competitor).
Second, to determine if the larger organization fosters a bias, ask: What are the business interests of the paper (eg advertisers)? Could they be motivating a bias? Are any of the advertisers actually boosters at competing schools? Also, how about the paper’s ownership? (Hypothetically, for instance, if you were to look at two randomly chosen papers, like the Freep and the now defunct AnnArbor News, you would find they're owned by a mega-corporation called Newhouse News).
Why is that relevant? Maybe I'm naive but I can't really disprove the academic quote from the link below. It says “reporters and especially editors share and/or acquire values with corporate elites in order to further their careers. Those that don’t are usually weeded out or marginalized.” If so, one might conclude that one of the largest media groups in the country, with outlets all over the nation, like Newhouse, could have enough clout to--not necessarily even get you on TV, get you cited in national sources, or get you a news job in the future—but in fact, decide whether or not your paper folds (and I don’t mean putting a crease in your newspaper).
What to do about media bias
First, publicly disclose affiliations “when a news organization is reporting a story with some relevancy to the news organization itself or to its ownership individuals or conglomerate.” Do a paper’s sponsors have interests that conflict with sponsors of the school they attack? “Often this disclosure is mandated by the laws or regulations pertaining to stocks and securities”
Also, publicly disclose which owners of media outlets have vested interests in other commercial enterprises or organizations…Note whether any of them are boosters of athletic departments at competing schools....Do they have commercial ties to university officials or members of the Board of Directors at these schools?
If justified, demand the resignation or reassignment of biased reporters and or editors….possibly petitions or letters from prominent journalists, organizations etc…even referrals to the attorney general in the unlikely event that there are possible violations related to stocks or securities.
Finally (and probably the most effective measure), put pressure on the paper’s financial ties. I know, it may seem overwhelming if you are up against a large publication or even a mega-corporation. However the link notes: There is “a long history of advertisers pulling out support when media content becomes too controversial.”
Of course, I am not suggesting any of these actions…or even asserting that a media bias does exist at all, let alone in the state of Michigan…Horrors, no....But, I can’t help thinking about its hypothetical relevance to UM.
Doesn’t UM have the largest alumni base in the country? If they were (hypothetically) the victim of biased coverage, how long would they keep being fed what any clearly hostile media sources are serving?
In fact, doesn’t UM now even have a politically savvy, well-connected AD with commercial ties all over the world due to his past role as a CEO of a major corporation?
What would happen then if the new AD were to learn about the presence and sources of bias, if the advertiser’s associations with biased media started gaining publicity, even starting on widely read blogs like this?
If I were an advertiser for such as source, making a lot of dough by indirectly paying hacks to trash a school,.....well,
I’d thank my lucky stars if the alums, AD, and other prominent people couldn’t get mad enough to stand up and fight back....
Privately, though, I’d be shaking in my hypothetical boots.
Before the Michigan lacrosse team kicks off their campaign to defend back-to-back MCLA National Championship seasons, they'll participate in 3 scrimmages against varsity squads. D-1 Bellarmine will visit Oosterbaan Fieldhouse on Sunday, with D-3 teams Wittenberg February 6th and Ohio Wesleyan February 12th. If you want to see Michigan compete against some pretty good teams (and hopefully show they're worthy of varsity status), the exhibition seaosn is a good chance.
Bellarmine plays at the top level of NCAA Lacrosse, in Division 1. That said, they're certainly a lower-tier D1 squad, finishing 6-8 last year, and #52 of 59 by LaxPower's computer rankings. Bellarmine is located in Louisville, Kentucky and participates in the Great West Lacrosse League. Their most notable win came against Binghamton, who finished with a 90.7 power rating. Notable losses came at the hands of a couple schools you may have heard of by the names "Notre Dame" (11-6 winners) and "Ohio State" (11-7 winners).
The Knights return their top 3 goal-scorers from a year ago in Sean Doyle, Derek Hopcroft, and Jarrett Davis, all seniors. They also return their #2 groundball collector in sophomore Karsen Leung, though they lost #1 in that category, faceoff specialist Bobby Snider. Their #2 faceoff guy, Craig Carson, is a sophomore this season, and he won 48% of draws last year. Goalkeeper Scott Bowles, who started 12 of Bellarmine's 14 games last year, returns for his junior campaign. He went 4-4 last year, saving 50% of shots faced and allowing 10.51 goals per game.
Though Bellarmine was kinda bad last year, they return a lot of their important pieces, and they certainly have the ability to reload more than a club team like Michigan. This should be a good challenge for the Wolverines, and a chance for fans to see them against D-1 competition.
D-3 lacrosse is considered to be about on-par with the MCLA, in which Michigan plays. Wittenberg finished 66th out of 156 teams in the division by LaxPower's computer rankings last year. Their final rating of 83.93 is well below Michigan's 89.90. Wittenberg plays in the same conference as Ohio Wesleyan, Michigan's next scrimmage opponent, and lost to the Battling Bishops 13-7 last season. The Tigers finished the season 7-6.
Last year's leading scorers were a duo of sophomores from Pickerington North High School (alma mater of Justin Boren) in Matt Lord and Mitch Cohagan. Faceoff specialist Kevin Pfotenhauer, who won 53.4% of his draws last year, returns as a junior. Both of last year's goalies, Mark DeOliviera and Spencer Baker, return, and DeOliviera was a captain last year as a sophomore. He saved 60% of shots he faced, and allowed just over 8 goals per game. Assuming no attrition, the roster should be very experienced for 2010, as there were only 3 seniors on last year's squad.
Wittenberg, though they played near middle-of-the-pack in Division 3 last year, will probably be a better team this time around, and should be a good test for the Wolverines. Michigan scrimmaged the Tigers prior to the 2009 season as well.
Ohio Wesleyan Battling Bishops(!)
Ohio Wesleyan was the most successful last year among Michigan's pre-season opponents. The Battling Bishops, on top of having an awesome mascot name, finished 10-5, and with a 90.24 power rating on LaxPower, good for 16th in D-3. Against competition of Michigan's approximate caliber (89.90), they lost at Lynchburg (89.7). The Bishops lost to Denison in the first round of the D-3 NCAA tournament.
Rob Young is the team's leading returning scorer, but the next two from last year (Nick Gallagher and Karl Zimmerman) have both graduated. The faceoff duty was split last year, and Ricky Sheetz, who had the most opportunities and won 56% of his draws. The next two in line have both departed. Jud Hall was the team's starting goalie last year, and he'll be a junior in 2010. He allowed 7.76 goals each game, with a .561 save percentage.
Based on power ratings, Ohio Wesleyan should be Michigan's toughest competition of the pre-season, and they're the last chance to prepare for the regular season.
After the exhibition season ends, Michigan kicks off their regular season with a road trip out west over spring break. They'll play games at Arizona, Arizona State, and rival BYU. A full preview of the regular season (including, you know, a preview of Michigan's team) will be coming up when the regular season draws near.
On the surface, the primary Freep article on this topic, A look inside Demar Dorsey’s recruitment to Michigan: What police records show; what U-M’s recruit says (link is to printer-ready version, no ads), is not problematic. It gives Demar a voice, and it lays out most of the facts. Fine.
On closer inspection, however, there are two not-so-hidden agendas in the article that deserve our attention. One is its attempt to defend Drew Sharp by continuing to argue that "Dorsey will be able to play college football … thanks to breaks he has gotten from the law" -- that he received "special consideration from law enforcement authorities" because he was "one of the country's highest-rated defensive backs." The other questionable aspect of the article is in its attempt to portray Rich Rodriguez as being disingenuous in his "wrong place, wrong time" comment. Neither of these gambits holds up under scrutiny.
Let's start with the first, which is a more subtle and pernicious version of Sharp's inflammatory "O.J." claim. One obvious point to be made is that in the summer of 2007, when Demar was still 15, he was not yet "one of the country's highest-rated defensive backs." He hadn't yet played as a sophomore in high-school. The consideration Demar received was the same the juvenile division gives any kid at that age in those circumstances. Maria Schneider, the assistant state attorney in charge, says as much in the article:
We are dealing with kids. The vast majority of kids stop offending. I hope this is one of them. … We try to take juveniles and judge them by the circumstances surrounding them. There are many, many things that can be taken into account.The facts are clear. Dorsey was twice sent to a diversion program, once as a first-time offender, and once because he confessed to participating in two burglaries on the same day. The police told the second victim about Dorsey's promise as an athlete and asked him what he wanted to happen:
I responded that I didn’t want the guy to get away scot-free because he freaked me out, to be honest about it. … But I didn’t want to screw the kid’s life up forever.So there you have it -- the victim/witness made the decision. Three older kids were convicted. Two younger kids where not. [I'm assuming that, because the Freep couldn't find a conviction for the other younger kid, there isn't one.] Okay, so there's some room for argument here. Demar's promising future was a factor. Just as it would be with any other kid with extenuating circumstances: high grades, class president, whatever.
However, where the Freep's thesis breaks down entirely is when it comes to the more serious felony armed-robbery charge brought against Demar later, when he was older. First, let me say that this is quite obviously what Rich Rodriguez was referring to when he said "You have to look into why he was in the wrong place at the wrong time." Dorsey was present in a car that was used in a mugging with a pellet gun. Here's what Demar had to say about it:
We was right down here going to my house. We dropped one of our players off, one of our teammates off. When we were dropping them off, they got out the car, tried to rob somebody. I was still in the car.So what do you think the Freep follows up this quote with? A rational reader would expect a comment on how, yes, indeed, Doresey does seem to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time in this case. But no... Here's what the Freep writers follow the above quote with: "Dorsey’s admissions to police in the … burglaries contrast with the portrait drawn of Dorsey’s actions by Rodriguez." No mention at all of how the armed-robbery incident fits Rod's statement perfectly.
Plus, let's not forget the other big-picture point here. If Dorsey was getting "special consideration" because of his status as a star athlete, how is it that he was arraigned and brought to trial before a jury? If he had done it, he would have been convicted. Indeed, we can surmise that someone else was convicted of the crime from the judge's statement:
The defendants all blamed one another as to who committed the armed robbery. My guess is what it came down to was identification.Was someone else convicted of this crime? Odd that the Freep would go to press without finding out this simple, verifiable fact. Let's also not forget that there is a jury verdict extant from the trial. It's right here. The verdict says very plainly that Demar has "been acquitted by a jury." I'm not a lawyer, but this document seems to call into question the judge's recollection of dismissing the charge against Dorsey at trial. Funny that the Freep does not mention it.
That's about it, then. The Freep says Demar got a huge break, but he was brought to trial before a jury. That doesn't sound like much of a break to me. Moreover, a judge and/or jury decided that he didn't do it and that he was indeed in "the wrong place at the wrong time." Only someone with an agenda could possibly argue that Rich meant the burglaries, which Demar confessed to, by "the wrong place at the wrong time." The Freep jihad lives on!
Some people are obsessed with Rich Rodriguez. I’m obsessed with why so many people seem to hate him. I wrote a half-tongue-in-cheek analysis of the RichRod haters (funny note: the stuff about vengeful West Virginia hillbillies was before finding out that WV leads the nation in RichRod Googlestalking). But with National Signing Day and the fallout from the Demar Dorsey questions during the press conference, I had to revisit the topic. I’m covering some old generation gap ground here, but dammit this is my diary so stop now if you like.
A quick note: Rodriguez should have been more prepared to answer tough questions about Dorsey and handle those questions with more cool. Yet he provided an answer, saying that he had checked the background of every player. So why wasn’t that answer good enough for Sharp, Birkett, etc.? Well, I believe that if Bo, Lloyd, or even Mark Dantonio had given that same answer, there would have been no follow-up. Because the press fears and respects those guys. Rodriguez? Not so much.
Why don’t people respect Rodriguez? The losing at Michigan is obviously a big issue, and winning will solve many problems. But not all of them. Beginning with Bo (and perhaps earlier; I’m no Bump Elliott expert), Michigan has been coached by a taskmaster field general. Demanding, strict, somewhat dictatorial. Moeller may have fit the same mold, but the incident at the Excalibur damaged him terribly – no longer was he the feared leader, he was the pathetic drunk. He was replaced by Lloyd Carr. More intellectual than Bo, he was still the tight-lipped fearless commander, the great lion, the general to lead men into battle.
Rich Rodriguez is not these things. He is a leader, and he has proven he can be an effective one. But he’s not the strict sovereign. He is the fun-loving, loosey-goosey, affable coach [EDIT: should probably just say "He has an affable and good-natured public demeanor, compared to his predecessors more known for withering stares sprinkled with the occasional dry wit."]. Players appear to respond well to that kind of leader. But the media, and many others, do not. Without saying so, they want the coach to be the fear of God disciplinarian. They want to be intimidated. Because when they feel intimidated, they are reassured. They secretly want old-school Dad, and they don’t know what to do with new school Dad.
Mark Dantonio, bless his soul, is the old school Dad that Rich Rodriguez (and John L. Smith) is not. When Drew Sharp cites the double standard, he’s basically saying “Me, Mike Rosenberg, and everyone else want a Dad I fear, not a Dad I play games with. We want Woody and Bo or Tressel or Saban. We want a Dad who listens to classical music or talk radio, not rock or R&B. Old school Dad reassures me that all is right with the world. New school Dad scares me, and reminds me of terrorists, recession, and the decline of all that is good in America.”
Don’t get me wrong – there are reasonable reasons to dislike things Rodriguez says or does (losing games being offense #1). But the generational gap amplifies every negative reaction. It’s not “Rodriguez didn’t answer the question”, it’s “Rodriguez didn’t answer the question and didn’t try to stand up to me or stare me down and where are all the real men in America and what is happening with this country and everything is so complicated now I can’t handle it and dammit RichRod I hate you.”
To sum up: Rodriguez, by being new school, invokes a series of complicated overreactions among people who aren’t quite sure where they stand anymore. Dantonio, by being old school, provides a refreshing, nostalgic respite from everpresent change. The media, and many of the general public, consciously or unconsciously gravitate to that reassurance, which is why we see such different portrayals of the two programs. And it helps explain why Michigan benefitted so much when its coach was old school and MSU was new school.
But second, let me ask: when was the last time you watched a Michigan athlete dance and swagger around like a trash-talking clown because he was soaring on the knowledge that he was athletically superior to everyone else in the game? Not dance and swagger on occasion, but as a state of being. A player that was constantly feeding off the rush of his own talent, employing his physical tools wildly, freely and playfully, like an excited kid just given the controls of a fighter jet.
We have had superior athletes. We have had superior athletes with plenty of charisma. But we have not really had what I described above since the Fab Five. We have not seen it since Webber, but especially Jalen. Watching them was one of the most exhilarating (if sometimes maddening) experiences of my life.
Now third, watch this film immediately:
If you judge only on these few plays, a few things seem clear:
1. Dorsey will not be instructing our team on tackling fundamentals
2. Dorsey was the fastest player on the field in the UA game
3. Dorsey thought he was the best athlete on that field
4. He could hardly stop dancing around like a fool because of points 2 and 3
Where do I stand on all this? I will make my feelings plain. I like it. After years of tight, "dear God don't go the wrong direction" play at safety I am ready for an insanely gifted trash-talking kid who plays a reckless but decisive centerfield and then flaps his arms like a bird. I want that guy at the back of my defense. I want to see his winged helmet come flying into the viewable screen in a blur after starting the play 15+ yards deep.
I do not want him at corner. I want a Fab Five free safety. In 2010. Too much to ask?