"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
We know that we have been dealt a tough hand regarding the secondary: denied admissions, early entries, transfers and strikes-down from upon high. Yes this is all hard to handle, mostly because we are dealing with it all simultaneously. Yet, we all need to move on, play on and dream on. Is this an ideal situation? No, but our team needs us, and us them. So how do we move past all this: grieve and catharsis.
As such, I have created a work of art to help us understand this difficult situation (grieve), pour out our emotions (catharsis) and move on to support a young and important position group in this, a pivotal year for our beloved and historic program.
Take your moment of silence, feel free to cry, do whatever you need. For those less intimately familiar with the program and its struggles, I have made this handy key:
The Michigan flag, waving proudly in a crisp autumn breeze:
This element reminds of the glory that was, is and always will be Michigan football.
- Demar Dorsey: Demar was the highest rated Big Ten recruit in the class of 2010 (according to ESPN), but was denied admission by the UM. His story is long and alternatingly heart-warming and -breaking. The MGoCommunity writhed as it seemed the administration was out to get Rodriguez, then we learned that Dorsey never completed his admissions requirements. He committed to play for Louisville but has been conspicuously absent from their team. He will likely play for a Ju-Co this year.
- Michigan Secondary-Hating God: Likely a hold-over from days of yore, this deity uses his powers for evil: dismantling Michigan's secondary at any and every opportunity.
- Troy Woolfolk (Artist's rendition): This image (by MGoBoard's very own The Shredder), depicts Troy's epic demise at the hands of the MSHG (see #3 above). The resulting dislocated ankle and broken fibula have likely ended Troy's senior season before it began; a medical redshirt is expected.
- Donovan Warren: All-Big 10 corner who skipped his senior season to enter the NFL draft upon reports he would be a third-round pick or better (and likely loss of interest in Michigan). He went undrafted and was signed as a free-agent by the New York Jets.
- The Wolverine: Our beloved avatar, a member of the Michigan family and legendary nickname. He sheds a single tear as he surveys the wasteland that is this 18 month famine for his beloved secondary.
- Justin Turner: A blue-chip corner recruit and redshirt freshman who just transferred to West Virginia. He missed most of fall camp waiting for the results of his Ohio high school graduation test. He spent his brief career at safety weight (likely not Good, Barwis weight) and had conditioning and motivation issues. Seemed like a tremendous loss, but was unlikely to be in good enough playing condition for at least the begining of this season.
- T-Wolf (Artist's rendition): The alter-ego of Troy Woolfolk. T-Wolf has never been captured in photographic form, so Michael J. Fox's iconic (and nearly as fierce) Teen Wolf stands in. However, Teen Wolf's facial expression accurately represents the pain* that T-Wolf feels. (* This pain is spiritual as T-Wolf can feel no physical pain)
- Boubacar Cissoko: Diminutive but well-rated cornerback who was dismissed after a troubled and brief Michigan career. This decline was extrapolated into real-life, where Boo Boo ended up robbing some delivery and cab folk and was recently sentenced to prison for a short-to-long period of time. It appears that the lime light was too much for this young, introverted immigrant.
- Adrian Witty: Three-star-ish corner recruit seemingly pursued to lock up Denard Robinson, but rumored to be highly desired by the Rodriguez regime. He was denied admissions after his test scores jumped too much too quickly. It seemed as though he might enroll in January instead, but admissions closed the door for good allowing Witty to enroll at Cincinnati (upon Rodriguez emphatic recommendation.) He is a projected starter as a freshman this fall.
- Never Forget: This phrase represents our undying devotion to these fallen heros, and leads to much lamentation amongst fans. However, by putting this entire situation in proper view, we can move on and begin to heal. Never forget these men of fall (fail), but never fail to embrace those brave warriors who are still with us. "Let the dead bury their dead." For the rest of us, let us rise from the ashes, just like the remaining Michigan secondary and focus on the triumph that can be ours.
I just got back from the scrimmage today and wanted to pass on a little information. The scrimmage was open to suite holders and club seat ticket holders. It started at 3pm and ran until 5:00. It was structured much like the spring game, where they began with special teams, and exchanges, punting, kicking, punt blocks, and punt/kick returns. Lastly, was the Blue against white scrimmage starting at the 30, then the 2, then the 50.
Prior to seeing this scrimmage I was a fan of Tate and would tell anyone who asked, that Tate would be the starter. After watching the scrimmage, D-Rob will be the starter. He was much better in the pocket, made good decisions when faced with getting rid of the ball or being sacked with loss of yards, and his exchanges were very good. Think about some of the ball fakes that Juice Williams had. D-Rob isn't there yet, but he will be. I also think there is NO WAY that Gardner will redshirt. He played very well and almost as good as Tate in every phase of the game.
With passing, D-Rob led his receivers well and his completion rate was astronomic as compared to last season. Both Tate and Devin had throws that were routinely behind the receivers or not catchable.
The most pleasant surprise for me was Stephen Hopkins. This is a guy who has a chance to be a 1,000 yd rusher. He hit the holes well and was a load to take down. Smith, Cox and Shaw also did well, but in my mind, not as good as Hopkins.
Kelvin Grady played VERY WELL today and was probably responsible for the most yards of any player.
On the defensive side of the ball, M-R0b had a nice pick that he took for 50 yards. I love it when I see someone who can walk the walk and talk the talk. There was solid play by T. Talbott, Ryan, Jones, Gordon, Herron, Hawthorne,Van Bergen, Roh, Avery, Johnson, and Demens. I do not mean to leave anyone out, but they all looked good.
The O-Line was great and it was nice to see that we truly are 2-deep with linemen. The D-line looked good and will definitely cause some problems for teams.
Special teams will be better this year, watching Broekhuizen kick 40 yard field goals on a regular basis. There were no fumbles on kick returns and although there were some turnovers during play. They were few, and not by the "first string". We are going to have a much better team than people think.
Rich Rod was having fun. He was smiling, meeting with fans and player's families, and didn't appear to be stressed at all. I walked into the stadium with Hagerup and had a nice talk with him. What a great guy. After talking with him it is very clear that this team is out to prove something. I can't wait until the 4th.
I don't think I have revealed anything about the team that would aid scouting by UConn, but if Brian or Tim think so, delete this post. There's no way I want to do anything to hurt the team.
I published my original diary shortly after spring practice. Now that there is some more clarity to the 2010 Defense I thought I would revisit the numbers and see where we stand. I just hope our defense does not look like Jimi's guitar.
2010 Michigan Defense
*I list who I think will be starters first
RS Jr. Ryan VanBergen
RS Fr. Anthony Lalota or Fr. Jibreel Black
Jr. Mike Martin
So. Will Campbell
RS Sr. Greg Banks
Sr. Renaldo Sagesse
So. Craig Roh
RS Jr. Brandon Herron or Jr. JB Fitzgerald
Sr. Mark Moundrous or RS Sr. Obi Ezeh
RS Sr. Jonas Mouton
So. Mike Jones
RS Fr. Tom Gordon or So. Floyd Simmons
So. Jordan Kovacs
Fr. Marvin Robinson
RS Fr. Cam Gordon or So. Vladimir Emilen
RS So. JT Floyd
Fr. Cullen Christian
Sr. James Rogers
So. Teric Jones or Fr. Courtney Avery or Fr. Terrence Talbott
Big Ten Averages
These numbers are just terrible in comparison to the Big Ten.
Not All B10 Defenses Are Created Equal
After looking at the B10 Total Defense rankings from 2009 there appeared to be 3 fairly seperate categories of defensive quailty.
Craptastic: 404.0 yds/game (Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, MSU, Minnesota)
Decent: 354.1 yds/game (Purdue & Northwestern)
Great: 295.3 yds/game (Wisconsin, PSU, Iowa, OSU)
Again the numbers are just plain scary.
What does this all mean?
Seems that only LIttle Brother fields the same experience level defense that Michigan does. I am predicting a shootout for the Paul Bunyon Trophy. I wish I could come up with something more positive.
Okay, let's see if I get this straight. The main reason we need to put OSU and Michigan in different divisions is the humunguous payout that the conference will get when they meet (as they inevitably will) in the conference championship game.
We'll still play them every year, but since we don't want them to meet on consecutive saturdays, this means we have to move the U of M -- OSU tilt up to the end of October or beginning of November.
I see lots of disjointed talk about The Value of Progress and Change but at bottom, the logic is: huge rivalry+conference championship=Megabucks.
Now let me tell you why that probably won't work, and why we're risking a very valuable asset on the equivalent of a lottery ticket.
At bottom, sports rivalries are not rational. They are emotional. Mess with the atmospherics and you diminish the value of the whole event.
Timing was always key to the OSU "experience". For decades the game has been played late in the year -- the last game of the regular season (except for one season where U of M had a road game in Hawaii) and that made the stakes high. Championships were at stake nearly every year and if one team or the other was down instant redemption was possible.
Move the OSU game to October or early November and the stakes are lower. The event loses its importance. It's still OSU and Michigan on the field, but the excitement just won't be there. Lose and you can still make up the game against Northwestern next week. Win and you still haven't clinched anything.
For lack of a better way to put it, the magic will be gone. And without that magic OSU is, well, I doubt it will turn into just another game all at once, but it won't be the biggest rivalry in sports any more. It'll look and feel more like MSU. Yeah, it's still a rivalry, but (sorry Sparty) it isn't the huge year-in-year-out deal that OSU is.
And -- here's the irony -- if it's no longer the biggest rivalry in sports, then we can't assume that the league will rake in megabucks when the two teams finally do meet in the championship. Lose the excitement surrounding the matchup, lose any advantage in terms of ratings and, by extension, rights fees.
For this gamble to pay off, Michigan and OSU will need to meet in the championship pretty soon, while memories of the glory days are still fresh. Odds are against that. Let's face it, Michigan isn't all that good right now. Oh, I'm not predicting doom but I wouldn't assume that U of M will be ready for championship contention in 2012. Rich Rodriguez might not be around after this year, and how many people on this board have argued that if we get rid of Rodriguez we're looking at another three years of rebuilding? (I've gotten negged for suggesting otherwise. Don't go wobbly on me now all you spread option afficionados!)
The OSU rivalry is a valuable asset and Brandon looks set to gamble with it. For this gamble to pay off, Brandon's going to need to draw to the football scheduling equivalant of an inside straight. Maybe I'm missing something, but this doesn't look like a smart gamble.
I understand the excitement. We may get to play two OSU games a year every now and then. If it works out -- Cha-ching! But if it doesn't work out, we may not play any OSU games -- at least not the way we're used to, with championships and reputations on the line. The thrill will be gone Oh, they'll wear the right colors and the band will do script Ohio, but it won't be as exciting and it won't be worth nearly as much, emotionally or economically.
Yes, economically -- the game is a great draw, year after year, right where it is. The conference might lose that draw, diminishing the value of its TV contracts. If you still support this move, okay, but lets come to terms with what we -- at Michigan, at OSU, and in the Big Ten -- might lose if the cards don't fall right.
[Edit: Note that I was writing this when Brian posted a front-page reference to the same idea on Slow States. All I can say is either great minds think alike or this is freaking obvious.]
What happened to the biggest rivalry of the old BIg 8 conference, Nebraska-Oklahoma, when it was split across divisions when the Big XII was formed? I'll answer that for you -- it was eclipsed by Texas-Oklahoma, a divisional rivalry. The collapse of that game is a major reason why Nebraska is leaving that conference to join the Big Ten.
What would happen to the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry if it were split across divisions? Could it be eclipsed by Penn State-Ohio State, a divisional rivalry? This isn't as far-fetched as you might think. An occasional championship matchup will not make up for turning the regular-season game into a trophy game instead of a must-win game with the divisional title almost always on the line. In the long run, the loss of this dynamic could damage the Michigan program and ultimately the Big Ten brand.
This doesn't need to happen.
It is possible to create both geographic equity (i.e., what Penn State wants) and competitive intensity (i.e., what Michigan and Ohio State should want) in a divisional alignment that preserves or protects all major rivalries. The only real question here is how to split up the quadrangle of hate (Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, formerly a triangle) -- no matter how you do it, you're going to lose part of that. Without further ado:
- Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Purdue, Northwestern
- Michigan State, Penn State, Nebraska, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois
Protected regular-season games: Michigan-Michigan State, Ohio State-Penn State, Iowa-Nebraska, Minnesota-Wisconsin, Indiana-Purdue, Illinois-Northwestern.
- Michigan, Ohio State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Purdue, Northwestern
- Michigan State, Penn State, Iowa, Nebraska, Indiana, Illinois
Protected regular-season games: Michigan-Michigan State, Ohio State-Penn State, Iowa-Minnesota, Nebraska-Wisconsin, Indiana-Purdue, Illinois-Northwestern.
I'm not sure which of these two are better in terms of the quadrangle, but you get the idea. This protects most border-war and all in-state rivalries while spreading out the divisions, thereby not screwing anyone in that regard (i.e., like Penn State would be if you put them in an otherwise western division).
Finally, lest you argue this is the ACC redux, let's take a look at their current alignment:
- Virginia, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami
- Boston College, Maryland, North Carolina State, Wake Forest, Clemson, Florida State
I don't know if there are protected rivalry games across the divisions, but regardless, this is not a consistent system. Like the quadrangle of hate, the main problem for the ACC is how to handle the four North Carolina schools and, actually, I think the current scheme has got that right. The main problem with it is they don't split up Virginia-Virginia Tech, resulting in Maryland being split from Virginia.
If the ACC were to follow my methodology with regard to the Big Ten, it would look like this:
- Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Duke, Georgia Tech, Florida State
- Boston College, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, Wake Forest, Clemson, Miami
Protected regular-season games: Maryland-Boston College, Virginia-Virginia Tech, North Carolina-North Carolina State, Duke-Wake Forest, Georgia Tech-Clemson, Florida State-Miami.
There, fixed two conferences in one go!
Last spring I wrote a diary called "Please God, Let me be Dead Wrong About Michigan Football 2010". Part of my concern at the time was Michigan's lack of upperclassmen in the secondary. Like most other Michigan fans, when T-Wolf was injured I felt my whole world collapsing in on top of me.
Having had some time to think it over, I'm much more hopeful than I thought I would be.
Two main reasons:
1. Our offense could be on the verge of a breakout year.
*Denard really sparkled in the spring game. I know, I know, it's just a scrimmage, and he wore a red jersey. However, more encouraging than his accuracy on the short routes and the long TD to Roundtree was the understanding he showed of the offense and his role in it. He sold the pass and THEN ran.
*If Denard is not the starter, I still feel very confident in Tate. Wingless helmet or no, he's added 20 lbs, will have a much better line, and showed a lot in his freshman year.
*Devin is apparently the goods. This means that while our QB's are young, we are in VERY good position for this year and beyond.
*O-line looks good, with upperclassman starters and solid redshirt underclassmen for depth.
*Receiver core is experienced.
*Sure, RB is an open question - but the talent seems to be there, and with a solid O-line we could see a breakthrough (especially if our top 2 RB's are not injured off and on thru the whole season)
*RR's offense has succeeded everywhere he's ever been. At Michigan he hasn't had the personnel he's needed on the field - until now.
*Conclusion: yes, the D will be a weak spot, and yes, we can safely assume that our secondary will be awful. BUT in contrast to 2008 and 2009, one of the two units should be solid, and possibly dominant. Only when BOTH units are bad can we say there is no hope. If one is spectacular, as our O could be, we should be at least .500 and possibly better.
2. Contrary to the what pundits are saying, I do not believe that RR has to win 8 or 9 games to save his job
*What if Michigan wins only 6 games and loses to OSU again, BUT the offense makes major strides, averages 25-30 pts per game, and Denard looks like Pat White? What if Demetrius Hart sees that and says, "Huh, they only won 6 games but the offense is finally up and running, I want to be a part of that"?
*The defense will get better as the talent we already have ages. Defensive recruits could see our progress on the offensive side of the ball and think, "Hmm, their D stinks, so I can step in right away, but their O is dominating, so I know their program is moving in the right direction..."
I am much more hopeful than I thought I would be. We should be much better this year than last, at least on one side of the ball. This should diminish the number of plays we have on defense, and thus reduce the error opportunity of our D-backs. B10 title? Not this year. Victory over The Hideous Minions of Evil? Not likely. But don't be surprised if we surprise. I trust RichRod, and I think that after this season a lot more of the doubters will as well.