"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."
Large flurry of relevant diaries lead me to delay this one. Only 2 canto's left after this one…
In the loosely adapted ways of Dante, I present to you the tenth canto of Formerly's Football Inferno. I promise nothing when it comes to grammar, punctuation, logical plots, or anything that normally goes into story writing.
For those of you unfamiliar, Dante walks through each region of hell to learn the sins and punishment by talking to those souls trapped. In this circle of Dante's version, those who would commit violence are punished. The murderers, bandits, those that would commit suicide, blasphemers, and sodomites were all tormented in three separate areas. Murderers were submerged into a boiling river of blood, suicide cases were reincarnated into bleeding trees picked to death by harpies, and the blasphemers and sodomites were destined to wander a desert of flames as fire rained from the sky.
The walk from the 6th to 7th ring of hell was totally agony. The gods were also fans of the USMNT. So while watching a 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup game, they discovered the vuvuzela. That damn horn blared through hell for weeks. I'm still deaf. Michigan must never go bowl-less again. They must never lose to Ohio State ever again. The punishment is overkill, even for those in hell.
As we descended into the 7th ring, we were met by it's guardian, the Penn State Nittany Lion. As we went to pass him, he jumped in front of us and began to mumble and jump around. I turned to Davy and asked, "what's his problem?"
"He's trying to scare you into turning back."
"This is supposed to be scary? He's like a teddy bear with a scarf. Jumping around with arms raised is supposed to be intimidating?" I ask as the Lion hangs in head that he'd yet again failed to put fear in to a Michigan fan, just like his highly rated teams that have failed again and again in Ann Arbor.
"He is a pretty weak mascot. I'll give you that, but he's also going to be our guide through this realm," replied Crockett. "Now you, Cowardly Lion—"
The lion interrupted with a few mumbles. "Oh, right, Nittany Lion. Lead us through this circle, the circle of Violence against the program."
The lion then waved his hands in a "come this way" fashion and the Duke and I followed along the top of a ridge. After a brief walk, we came to point above a valley below us. In the valley were hundreds of Michigan fans wearing maize. On a ridge below us sat centaurs with great bows, firing flaming arrows down on to the fans below. As I stopped and watched, Crockett noticed my interest.
"Those are the fans that have sold their tickets to opposing teams' fans. This sin has lead them to lead their life standing in the crowd they can never escape. On top of that, the one team who never buys tickets, will forever rain arrows down on them."
"What team are the Centaurs?" I ask.
"Indiana are the Hoosiers. Why on earth are there centaurs down there?"
"What did you think a Hoosier was?"
"Good point. But centaurs?"
"Back when Bob Knight was coaching, he had this crazy theory that running horses in basketball might have a more sinister purpose. He, being the most influential person on campus at the time, convinced the medical school to merge his players into half man, half horse creatures that would have the speed and stamina to destroy teams on the court."
The Nittany Lion mumbled and Crockett laughed, "Yeah, never could get those flesh eating corn monsters to work. That Bob Knight was a crazy fella."
"You've got to be kidding me," I respond dryly.
"Nope. The kids didn't last long. As soon as they died, they became the perfect fit to fill this role in hell."
After sitting there a while, the centaurs caught sight of us and began to divert some of their arrows upward. Pulling out his six shooter, Crockett began to fire down on the centaurs to provide cover as the Lion and I moved on.
As we fled, Davy fell out of range as the Lion urged us forward. At a fork in the road, I tried to insist that we wait up for Davy. The Lion mumbled and pulled me along. With Crockett being familiar with hell, I figured he'd catch up, and what harm could come from following the Lion. He's so cute and couldn't possibly do me harm. Right?
As we pushed to the left at the fork, we came upon another valley, this one composed of several barren, black trees. The Lion directed me into the forest, peering ever so suspiciously at the darkness above us. Something was up.
As we reached the trees, it was clear that names were carved into them. While some names had faded out, some were still freshly carved. One of those, a particularly tall tree, the name of Epke UDoh was written. Interested, I went up to touch the engraving. Upon touching the engraving, the whole tree flinched.
"Who goes there? Is it another one you of you damn harpies?" came a voice from within the tree.
"No, it is I, formerlyanonymous, a Michigan fan."
"Oh, good. I thought one of those damn harpies came back to bite at me."
"Who are you?"
"I am Epke Udoh. Like all of the other trees in this area, I'm the soul of a Michigan player who quit a Michigan team or transferred to another school."
"Huh. That sucks."
"You have no idea. What are you doing down here?"
"The Nittany Lion… hey, where'd he go?"
"That treacherous Lion has lead you into a trap. He despises Michigan fans, and he's lead you to the harpy feeding ground," explained Udoh. And with that, the swoop of wings up above began to become audible. A dark creature dove down and Udoh, ever defensive, swatted the harpy down to the ground like a blocked basketball.
The harpy squealed, and arose. This harpy was quite strange. It looked like a crack whore who had grown wings. As it lifted up, it became clear, this was a woman who was once attractive, but as her MSU shirt alluded, she spent 4 years at Michigan State, losing all her beauty. She was now a broken woman, stupid, ugly, and unable to shut her mouth.
The harpy, squawking loudly, made it's advances at me. Retreating under the protective branches of Udoh, I hoped to get the help from his tremendous reach. I was lucky that his longest branches were able to keep the harpy at bay just long enough for Crockett to arrive, guns blazing. The harpy didn't last long with the tree and Crockett firing. After a brief few seconds, it scurried away into the darkness.
"Thank you, Epke. Even if you chose a crappy, Christian school over Michigan, I'll always be a fan of yours."
"I appreciate it formerlyanonymous. As for you Mr. Wayne, would you mind signing my bark? It's a tremendous opportunity to meet an accomplished actor like yourself!"
Bang bang bang. "Take that you filthy animal. It's Davy Crockett."
"Dammit, that hurt!" yelled Udoh.
"Serves you right to call me by some other guy's name!" exclaimed Crockett. "Alright boy, you ready to get back on track. I caught up to that damn Lion on the way back up to the 6th level. Beat the tar outta him, and if it wasn't for me already having this kick ass coon skin hat, I'd be wearing something new by now."
With that, Crockett lead us away from Udoh. As we climbed back up the ridge, we could see from a far that the harpy who fled earlier had returned to Epke with several of her friends. Udoh was no match for the flock. He fought off several, but the final four Spartan harpies ripped him to pieces.
After reaching the fork in the road, this time Crockett lead us down the right path. This ridge lead us to yet another valley. In this one, we found a large desert. In this desert were found only a hand full of men. As they crossed this desert, the sand would burst up in flames with every step they took.
After one of their yells, I asked Davy, "Who are these people?"
"These are the sportswriters that turn against Michigan in order to better themselves. They proverbially bit the hand that feeds. For their Jihad against the program, they were banished to the deserts where they are set ablaze. That one way over there, that's the soul of Rosenberg. He has a special punishment. Not only does he walk this desert, but occasionally dolphins emerge from the sand and punch him with their tails."
"So you're saying, in Soviet hell, dolphin punch you?" I ask.
"This isn't Soviet hell. This is Michigan hell. Where the hell did that come from?"
"You don't get the internet do you?"
"No, we don't take kindly to communist around here."
"Right," I say sarcastically.
Davy went on, "But anyway, as you can see over there, writers from the now defunct Ann Arbor Chronicle lay in the desert over there. Yonder, you'll see the Detroit News writers sitting in that expanse. And lastly, you see the writers from the Detroit Free Press wandering in groups like the sodomites they are."
"I know, funny word, right?" the Duke says as he laughs. "Now let's get moving. We've but just 2 circles of hell left and the gods are definitely in our favor. Michigan has won 4 in a row to start this season. We shall travel quickly with them doing well."
And we were off.
Just got back from Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon in Chicago ... a fan's take on things (just edited and added photos)
My buddy and I arrived at the hotel about an hour before the pre-luncheon player and coach signature sessions.
While we were wondering around killing time, we walked by a ball room where all the coaches and players were at tables being interviewed by the media. There was no one at the door at that moment (to check for a media badge), so we just strolled in. We were wearing ties and did not seem to attract any attention, so we walked about and listened in to various interviews. It was the first time I was able to see most of the Big Ten coaches and other non-Michigan players up close. I was especially excited to see JoPa, who had a nice big audience at his table.
We didn't stay long and headed off to get in line at the fan area. While in line, we noticed many of the fans with BigTen Footballs (had all 11 school logos on them) to get signatures. Seemed like a great idea to have players and coaches to all just sign one ball. Stepped out of line and went and bought a football and a mini Michiganhelmet.
Once in the team booth area, there was a stage where the BigTen Network was filming live ... they were bringing up the coaches one and two at a time for a few words. From where we were standing, we could not hear what was being said. When the coaches were done, they went to their team booths, met up with the players and met with the fans.
I think there were at least 500 people standing in various team lines. My goal was to get all 11 coaches to sign my new football ... I got 8 before time ran out. JoPa was not available for autographs, and someone said he typically was not for this event in the past.
Highlights from meeting the coaches and players:
- All the coaches were very nice, with the exception of Dantonio ... he seemed aggravated and refused to sign my ball on the way to his booth. Even in the luncheon speech Dantonio was the least outwardly positive (had a frown even when saying good things about his team).
- The most positive were RichRod, Fitzgerald, and I am sorry to say Tressel.
- I was surprised at how chummy the coaches were with each other. They seemed to gravitate to one another during the transitions from one place to another ... they were patting each other on the back and seemed to enjoy each other's company.
- The Michiganboys were great ... Troy, Mark, and Stephen were all joking with each other and having a great time.
- Ben Chappell (IU QB) went out of his way to make conversation, and was impressed with his presence.
After the sig session was over, all the players got on stage for a photo, followed by the coaches. Then at 11:30we all went into the auditorium for lunch.
Rough count was 150 or so tables with 10-12 guests at each. The room was huge. All the players and coaches were introduced and sat along one wall. There were many video screens so everyone could see what was going on.
Rece Davis was the host, he was great ... he had some great jokes and did a few impersonations between speakers. All the Big Ten coaches spoke, JoPa, was the clear favorite ... he really warmed up the room. I took a video of RichRod and JoPa that I will post later. Rich's speech was good, but nothing new. Fitzgerald was the best public speaker.
Rece said in his opening that it would not surprise him to see Kelly (ND) and Schiano (Rutgers) here next year ... but that seemed tongue in cheek.
We also heard from the Big Ten commissioner, and a few others. A Purdue player spoke on behalf of the athletes, and he did very well all things considered.
They did a fun thing at the end ... all the QBs went in the center of the room and tossed footballs to table guest with winning door prize ticket numbers ... some where real deep balls! One guy got hit in the face (but he was ok), and the Minnesota QB whiffed 3 times in a row ... the ball just fell out of his hands ... then he overthrew his table. The biggest door prize was two tickets to Rose Bowl with round-trip airfare and a stay at the Ritz.
For those that want all the details, we had salad, and a filet and chicken cutlet lunch with a slice of cheesecake to top it off.
There were 17 Michigantables and we all were given UofM Adidas visors and a block M lapel pin. The Iowafan base was the most vocal.
All in all, it was a great event. I would recommend others to attend if you have the opportunity in future years.
You can see Troy and Moundros close up in middle row at the end (see M pin)
See Rece there ... he one to left of the Red Jacket Rose Bowl guy. RichRod was third from left.
After conference, that is Tressel waiting for his ride I suppose (tan suit with back turned) ... he was just reading his Blackberry for a few minutes all by himself ... no handlers even. Seemed lonely.
Enjoy the first - and only - time you're going to get a full press conference transcript from me. Trust me people, I'm representing the content of the interview accurately, while keeping only the relevant stuff. Presenting it in this form doesn't do you any better, and it's an enormous pain in my ass.
You see my daughter is… is… asked me to start teaching her football. So I don't know if her future goal is to be a sideline reporter, or the next Angelique, I don't know what she wants to be but uh, she's (inaudible).
Chengelis: What did you mean when you said you were the coach who's the most anxious to coach this year.
Well I think… you know, probably the best times as a coach is when you get on the practice field. Uh, maybe even mores than the games because that's when you're around, it's just you, the coaches, and the players, and you get to teach and watch them progress and learn, and when you get on the field there's none of that other stuff, if you know what I mean. So I'm probably as excited as I've been in a long time to just get to practice.
Snyder: You talked in the spring, a lot of your comments about Tate were about academics or maturity and stuff. What's your feeling on that at this point?
I don't know; we'll find out at the end of the week. I'm hoping that everybody - they grow and mature, not just on the field but off the field as well. You know, until we're allowed to do things with them you really don't know. I'm anxious to see how Tate responds to that. I know he's getting a challenge and I talked yo him this spring about this: "You're getting a challenge from Denard, you're getting a challenge from Devin, and if you're a true competitor we'll see how you respond." That challenge will continue in August.
Snyder: You said you had the seniors over. What did they say about, you know, him and his maturity?
We really didn't talk about individual players. They came over, some of the guys would say "hey this guy looks great" or "hey this guy looks great" but they more or less, they talked about themselves, and some of the things they want to do, some of the things they want to do in camp. And they seemed… they gave some great ideas, and I think - we've always met, I've always met with the seniors a few times a year. But I started earlier, and I'm gonna meet again a couple times. Probably, you know, once every 2 or 3 days in camp, just to get their input. And Im really excited about that (inaudible 1:58)
Rothstein: You said last year at this thing that if you didn't get to a bowl you'd be ticked. Where are you this year, what do you feel? Is there pressure more, maybe?
I don't know if you can put - again, this sounds like coachspeak - I don't know if you can put more pressure than you do on yourself anyway. I mean, you go into every ballgame, every season with a certain amount of pressure to win every game. Is there heightened pressure because we've done poorly the last two years? Externally, you may think so, but internally there can't be no more than we've already done. It's not like we're going "ok, first year we've got excuses, second year got…" nah, we fully expect our guys to compete. We always set a goal to compete for the Big Ten championship. Now I don't know if we're good enough yet, or if we're gonna deserve to win it. I would think that's gonna be our goal and expectation every year.
[?] You said the team's gotten closer from the adversity. How have you seen this, is it a surprise to you?
Well I think, no it's not a surprise, but I think young folks are that way. I think any time adversity strikes - and it can strike at various points - it usually will band your young group together more often than it tears them apart. I've seen that get our guys closer, talking to our senior class. I'll be able to judge through camp. I mean, they'll face adversity in camp, all teams do. You know, it's hot, they're tired, whatever, and they've gotta push through practice, and I think this team will be able to battle through that because of what they've been through before.
Borton: Is there any news about guys that won't be able to start, uh, fall camp. Because of injuries or… anything? [obvious Shaw leading question #1]
No, I don't, uh, and I don't know. I think we're pretty good, health-wise, talking to the trainers. I think Will Heinenger's the only one that, uh, that had an injury in the spring that won't be able to perform in camp. I don't have any concerns health-wise.
[?] There is a couple theories about if Michigan and Ohio State should be in the same division. Any theories on how that might break out?
Isn't that interesting?I think you guys know as much as I do. How this all is going to shake out. Is it geographically? Is it competitively? Is it history and tradition? I think, uh, we have a lot of smart people in our league, and they'll be able to figure out how to balance it out fairly and competitively, but still be able to keep your tradition alive. Because it may be where, uh, an institution can pick their two rivalry games that they wanna play every year. Whether in your division or the other division, who knows. I have not put - and this is an obvious tangent - I have not put one thought into that. Because right now I don't care. You know, I care that we play Ohio State every year, and I think fans care that we play Michigan State every year, but that probably gonna happen. I'm just worried about getting a first down against UConn right now.
[?] The question is the possibility of playing them twice a year, because, uh…
Yeah, that'd be… I'm sure our fans would be pretty excited. If you won it the first time you may think "well, I don't wanna play it the second time." I think Michigan loves to play against Ohio State and Ohio State loves to play against Michigan.
That would not diminish the rivalry in your eyes?
I don't think so.
Birkett: How about playing them on back-to-back weeks? I don't know if that would be a tough (inaudible).
I think it would sell out if you played three times a week, in Ann Arbor, Columbus, or Chicago. I don't think there would be any problem with that game selling out.
[?] How important is it to you that they play the last game?
You know, I'm just giving my opinion, but the last game, traditionally, has been terrific. I think that's, you know, I think you prefer that, but if you didn't, and say you had to play 'em earlier or something… as long as you're playing 'em. But I would prefer, again this is just myself, but I would prefer to play them at the end, just from a tradition standpoint.
Chengelis: Can you talk about the running back situation? Vincent Smith is back… [obvious Shaw leading question #2]
I believe Vincent is, talking to - again, talking to our training staff - should be 100% for camp, uh, and healthy, which is key for us there. And then, Mike Cox had a really good spring, he's a guy that we're really looking forward to progress, and Fitz Toussaint had a really good spring, he was injured last year. Those three in particular, we thought… uh… you know, should be guys that'll lead the charge for us.
Balas[?] What is Michael Shaw's eligibility status? [overt Shaw question]
Well we're still waiting on some - we don't comment on our guys' academically, and they still have two weeks of summer school left. Uh, which for some of our players, uh, we'll keep in touch with them.
Rothstein: Are you surprised with Vincent being able to come back as quickly as he has? Sometimes with these ACLs...
Not with the medical technology that's available these days, and the science-y part of it. Before ACL would be 10-12 months. Now - you have to do the rehab - now they can come back quicker.
Chengelis: With two quarterbacks - I know it's a really - could you see yourself shuffling them in and out, in and out during a game?
Not so much, Angelique, shuffling in and out, because you do want that - if they're on a roll, and in a rhythm, you don't wanna take a guy out. If he's hot, you let him stay hot. Certainly, I don't - I'm not opposed to playing two. Last year, we started in with maybe three in the thought process. But I wouldn't be opposed to playing two. Our biggest key is that they play better and more consistently. The biggest thing for us is just taking care of the ball. Taking care of the ball, executing the offense, and you know, if they can extend a play or make a play within the framework, they can do it.
You said up there that there were things you regretted from last season. Is there anything that really sticks out?
There's a number of things. You can go back after every game and search calls. I think it was a fair question, but I never really thought about going for two [against Michigan State]. If I'd known the end result would be what it was, I'd do it all over again, but uh, there's plays you call you would likke to take back, but after reviewing the film, after every game the coaches're like "gosh, I could have called this or called that." You know, you can play that "what if" game all you want. I don't think it does you any good other than learning. And we always learn. Always think we have to do that.
Can you learn, maybe, in the summer from that?
Well, you know, not one big thing, but I can tell you this, and I told the seinors this. I said the first year, with a team is a little bit tougher because as coaches you don't know your players as well, even though you watch them on film and all that. You know, you have to kinda ll, you don't learn their strengths and weaknesses as well as you would the second year. Same thing's true for the third year. The more you're around your guys, you know what makes them tick, what motivates them, what their strengths and weaknesses are. You try to find that out in 15 practices in the spring, and 29 in August, but… you know, that's not always the case.
[uh…] Let's say Denard wins the starting quarterback. Could you move Tate to another area on the field or is he your backup quarterback?
Tate's a quarterback. Denard could play other positions and we fully prepared him "hey listen, if you're not the starting quarterback, I don't want you standing next to me 70% of the time on the sidelines. Once you learn quarterback, you'll learn the other skill positions." But, you know, he's battling for the starting quarterback job, so he's not played anything else, and I don't think he'll play anything else in camp. Because he's trying to be #1, and I think he's right there.
[Snyder] Not having to play too much quarterback in the games… can that be simulated enough between spring, and fall?
Well, the one thing you can't - it's hard to simulate - is when you go live. And in the spring, they were live the whole time except the spring game, and I thought that's one reason our spring game wasn't as good as I'd like, because we had them just getting tagged. I think it's better for their learning purposes when they're live. I don't want to go live in August though, because you don't want to be (inaudible) in camp. In August, I don't think we're gonna make them go live. But I think we saw enough in the spring of them being live in eight practices or so, and really let them practice.
Rittenberg: Do you know when you're going to meet with the NCAA, is that going to interrupt your…?
It's on the 13th in Seattle. It's when we'll appear in front of the committee. And normally it would be our first day of two-a-days, but we've adjusted our schedule, so our… I won't miss any arctics. We'll still have two-a-days, they'll just be the next day. I've been fortunate enough to not… we'll keep it from being a distraction, you know I'll have to go and do it. We all at the University have to go, and look forward to meeting with them, and further that process along.
[?] Can you talk a little bit about the outside receiver position. You're stacked at the slot position, but there really hasn't been a home-run threat on the outside. Junior Hemingway's been hurt, Darryl Stonum's been hurt, who's the big home-run threat outside for Michigan this year?
That is one thing we have been looking for. Particularly in this offense, I think there's a misconception about the outside receiver's role. They can have a huge role in this offense. And we hope they have. Darryl Stonum and Junior Hemingway are the two guys we hope to lead that charge. We have some youngguys, some freshman enrolled early we hope can help out, but it startswith Darryl and it starts with Junior. Both of those guys have been in the program, Darryl's got great speed, and if they can give us a deep threat on the outside, we can be a whole lot better offensively.
Snyder: Is Darryl gonna face any extra discipline… from you? Because of, you know, the jail thing.
No, I think he's faced that discipline. And he informed us when it was happening.
It little profits that an idle fan
Near this dark tv, among these skeptics
Match’d with aged buddies, I mete and dole
Unequal expectations on Rich Rod,
Who strives, plans, and coaches, and knows not me.
I cannot rest from internets, I drink
Life to the lees: all times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone: on couches, floor.
The angry Michigan hating-God dash’d
Budding prospects for a winning season.
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known: championships,
And wins, losses, coaches, rivals, heartbreak.
Myself not least, but have cheered through them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers
In ringing stadiums of the Big Ten.
I am a part of all games I have seen;
Yet great success is a scale whereby we
Weigh our expectations. An untravell’d,
Unthink’ably black era have we liv’d.
How anguish’d are we to lose: nay, flounder?
To fall from mountains, once-victorious?
As though to win were happiness, were Life.
Two years pass’d all too tort’uous – misery.
Little remains: but ev’ry hour is an
Opportunity for something greater.
Coach Rodriguez, a bringer of new ways,
Claim’d some two Suns to rebuild and retrain,
And this Blue spirit yearning in desire
To chase victory like a sinking star,
In the Biggest House ever known to man.
Hail! This is my Team, mine own Wolverines,
For whom I carry my torch and my pride.
Well loved by me, they labour endlessly
To make tough a doughy people; through hard
Practice they elevate themselves skyward.
Near blameless is Rod, centred in the storm
Of lawsuits, investigations, char’cter
Assassinations. In offices of
Schembechler Hall hearths burn late into night.
Whilst The Game waits, he works his work, I mine.
There lies the field; the Big House near complete;
There stands the empty scoreboard: new seasons
Await. My Michigan Men, souls that have
Toiled, and wrought, and fought with me — That e’er
With a frolic welcome took the hardships
And the glory. You and I are Arr’gant:
Arrogance hath its honour and its toil;
Loss dims it not: and something ere the End,
Some play of noble note will yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the Arbor,
The long summer wanes; the slow clock ticks, tocks.
The deep MGoWeb moans round with many
Voices. . . . Come, my friends, ‘tis not too late to
Seek a newer form of facial hair. Push
Off, and sitting well in order smite the
Follicles from your cheeks: for my purpose
Holds to grow a magnanimous Mustache!!
It may be that the games will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the crystal ball,
And see the great Yost, whom we all well knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To Strive, to Grow, to WIN, and not to yield.
Pillaging again this August ...
Via the Big Ten.
An Interview With:
MICHIGAN COACH RICH RODRIGUEZ
THE MODERATOR: Next up is Rich Rodriguez.
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Good morning, everyone. Thanks for coming. I'm excited to be here. There's probably no one more excited in the country to start coaching football than I am. So it's good we start in a week really excited about this year's team.
The last two years have, there have been quite a lot of experiences, a lot of drama, so to speak. But I think our guys have stayed focus. It's fun to be around them, watching them grow up, see our young guys get some experience, take their lumps a little bit.
And I think there's a lot of hungry football players up in Ann Arbor, and I think they're as excited as I am to get going. We have some questions, certainly, on both sides of the ball.
Defensively, we know we've got to play a lot better. I think we'll be a little bit deeper. We'll have more guys I think ready to play. Our numbers are really down last year, and I think that hurt us a little bit. And so we went into the season particularly the later part of the year we weren't as deep and did not play be able to play as many guys as we like.
Offensively, we should be better up front. Lot more experience on the offensive line than we had the last two years. Last year playing the two freshmen quarterbacks at times we were productive, but other times we weren't. And that's to be expected. But those guys should be better.
And I think overall, from a football team, we'll have a little bit more experience, as we mentioned. We have a lot of guys coming back. But for us the key is to be able to execute better. Certainly play better defensively and answer some of the questions we have on both sides of the ball on special teams.
I am really proud of our staff and our players for staying focused through all the things that have been going on. As I said, there's been quite a lot of things going on for two years and at times the two years have gone past. And at times it seemed like forever. But nonetheless I think we've been able to stay focused and get some things accomplished the way we wanted in building our program.
So with that, I would open it up for questions and go from there.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. With Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson coming back, are either of them the clear leader for the starting position? Or do you know what's going on at quarterback at the beginning of the season?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I was taking an informal poll for how long the quarterback question would come up. Didn't take long. Thanks for asking.
Really it's a wide open competition. It was in spring. Certainly Tate and Denard both got a lot of experience last year as true freshmen. Tate was enrolled early, so he had a little more experience in the offense with spring practice. Also get a challenge from Devin Gardner, who is a freshman enrolled early, was able to go through spring practice.
I'll be able to tell who retained what from practice and how they progressed. I thought Denard Robinson took some big steps in the spring, which is to be expected, because it was his first spring. He's gotten better as far as learning what we want to do offensively.
I think that competition is going to be healthy. I've said it several times: Our goal is to have at least two guys at every position that we feel we can win with. I think we can have that at quarterback. If we can have three, if Devin can progress and give us a third guy, be able to compete and feel confident with that position, will put us in a good spot.
It's wide open. I hope it's answered who will be the starter or the two guys by the first game, but it may take a couple games before someone clearly separates themselves, if they do.
Q. Coach, there was a little bit of uncertainty towards the end of the season at linebacker. There was a lot of shuffling in and out of the lineup. We saw different looks during spring practice. What should Michigan look for at the linebacking position and how has Coach (Greg) Robinson taking over the linebacking position as a full time coach changed our outlook for the season?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I'm excited about Greg Robinson taking over the linebackers. I think he probably prefers that position since he's coached that the majority of his career, whether it's in college or the NFL.
I think we'll have more competition there than we've had. That's been one of the keys. I know it sounds like coach speak to you all. But it has been one of our keys, is try to develop competition at every position. And we frankly have not had enough of that on either side of the ball.
But at linebacker I think we will. Jonas Mouton is a senior. I think he's primed to have a good year. Craig Roh, who played last year as a true freshman as an outside linebacker at 220 pounds I think he's probably closer to 240 or 250 now, and he should be more prepared, more experienced. Obi Ezeh has a lot of experience there. And then we have Kevin Leach who has played a lot of linebacker. I'm probably going to miss some guys, flip it over.
One guy I want to mention here that's here the next couple of days is Mark Moundros, our starting fullback. Came to me in spring and said, Coach, I'd like to try middle linebacker. I said, Mark, wouldn't make much sense for me to move my starting fullback over to a linebacker position during his senior year. He said, I just think I can bring something to the defense.
And he has. From spring practice I noticed not only him learning the defense and adding a kind of a physical presence, but just his leadership. I think his leadership is going to be invaluable for us.
So Mark is going to go compete for a middle linebacker spot, and judging from what happened in the spring, he's going to be right in the mix.
So we're going to have more guys there. Kenny Demens has got some experience last year. He's going to be a little older. So I think there's going to be five or six guys that we can count on.
I don't know if it's going to sort itself out like the quarterbacks. It may be a couple of games, but I think we can play more people.
Q. This spring Cam Gordon by all accounts had a really strong spring. From what you've heard, reports you've heard, has anyone had a really good summer?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Well, I don't know much about what's going on in the summer. But from talking to some of the players and some of the guys I had the seniors over at my house this past week. We've got a small senior class, which a lot of times is a concern because you want a lot if you have a big senior class, a lot of leads, you feel good.
But our small senior class of 15, 16 guys I think are a great group. They understand what it's like to be at Michigan. They're hungry. They're going to do a great job at leadership.
Talking to those guys they really feel excited about what went on this summer. I thought they did a great job of leadership. They thought some of the guys you mentioned like Cam really prepared themselves well.
And I think that they're ready to go. Again, talking to our guys at the end of spring, they were hungry. Nobody likes what's going on in our program the last couple of years as far as wins and losses.
As strange as it may sound, I think we've gotten closer because of that. And all the stuff that's happened I think has drawn our staff closer, drawn our players closer, and I think they'll be ready to go.
Cam Gordon is another guy we moved from receiver to defensive back in the spring, and we thought he was one of our better performers on our whole team in spring practice.
Q. I don't know how much interaction you have with the fans, but when you do, what has their message been to you?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Hey, Coach, when are we going to win more? Really, our fans have been terrific. You know, we have high expectations of Michigan. Rightfully so we should.
But since the day we've gotten on campus, they've been overwhelmingly positive. And there's always going to be some negativity, particularly when you don't win. But that comes with the deal. Comes with the profession. I think you understand it. Nobody wants to win more than the coaches and players.
But our fans have been absolutely phenomenal. We've had again, to have 110,000 every home game and the support we have when we go out and talk to different alumni groups has been fantastic. And we've got the new big house that's making its debut on September 4th with luxury seats and suites, and sales have been going very well.
We're fortunate to be at a place where they're very passionate about football, and our fans are very passionate about it. And you want to coach at a place like that.
We've got great fans, and I hope we can reward them with more wins and better football. And I think that's coming.
Q. I'd like to get your thoughts on the potential for the Big Ten championship game, and given the rivalry with Ohio State, have you had thoughts about whether you'd like them in the same division or opposite divisions with Michigan?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I think that there's probably a lot of talk going on. Nobody really in the league office has asked for my opinion yet. I don't expect them to. Because I think they know what they're doing. In fact, I know they do.
I think it's exciting to have a championship game potentially. I think Jim Delany and the athletic directors and presidents of Big Ten schools will be able to keep that balance of keeping your traditional rivalries, yet still be able to have something new and exciting in the Big Ten conference.
From a player's standpoint, from a coach's standpoint, most of them will probably tell you they like playing, the idea of playing, a championship game. There's pros and cons. I think you look at certain leagues maybe say it's harder to get to a national championship game if you have the championship game at the end.
Our league is so strong and I think the reputation of our league will continue to get better and better particularly with the addition of Nebraska. We're in a very, very good spot.
I really don't have a preference on how they split up divisions, but I do know this, and I think everybody that follows our programs and Ohio State and Michigan State and some of our rivalries will want to keep those together, and I'm sure the Big Ten will put all thoughts into doing that, and I would be I don't know when it's going to happen. And Jim probably can explain that to you, and we're excited doing that. That's a year down the road. I'm not worried about next week; I'm worried about today and tomorrow, and move on.
Q. Speaking of your rivalry game with Ohio State, you've struggled so far in your first two years with it but it was much closer to last year. Do you feel any more pressure on you and your team to perform better in the game this year?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: You know, I think the pressure this is probably an answer you see from a lot of coaches. Coaches say it's pressure you put on yourself, but that's really the truth. No outside pressure can be more than what the coaches put on themselves. I feel pressure just to get better every day in practice. I don't know if the rivalry games you feel any added pressure other than we just need to play better.
And I don't know if you can think that far ahead. For us, as far as going into that game, we need to win it. More so now because we lost the last two. I think we go into every season, we need to win that game. And that's I think that's kind of something that we always feel.
I think we'll always feel that in Michigan and feel it at Ohio State. Certainly Michigan and Michigan State will always feel that. But for myself and our staff, we just know we've got to get better. And when we get better, we'll compete better and we'll win those games when we deserve to win those games.
Last year in particular, the Ohio State game we didn't deserve to win it. We turned the ball over too much. That's why they won.
Q. I'm wondering I don't think I understood your response completely to that question about the rivalry game. Do you want to keep playing Ohio State in that regular season finale?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Sure, I think we need to keep playing them. And that rivalry may be the greatest rivalry in sports. And I think that will be understood. I think again, I'm just giving my opinion. I think the Big Ten, everybody in the Big Ten office understands rivalries. They understand this. And they'll be able to figure it out where the rivalries can stay together yet you're still competing for a conference championship.
So everybody that follows our program, and probably the same that follows the Ohio State program, wants to keep that rivalry going, expects to keep that rivalry going. And when it's played, I don't know if that's as important as that you play every year. But that's probably what will happen.
I'm just excited about getting ready for camp this year. I'm not putting too much thought into that because I won't have any say so.
Q. Last year you talked about reviewing and getting better as a staff. When you looked back at last year's Michigan State game, the decision to go for the tie and not to go for the win at the end, is that something that you would have looked at? Or is that something that you would think about doing differently again?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: Oh, no, I there's a lot of things that you go back and maybe wish you had a do over. That one I can definitively say we'd go for the overtime every time.
And I've been in a few overtime games before and I've always done it the same way: Kick the extra point when you could, and when you have to go for two, go for two.
That game, at the time we had a chance to tie them, I thought, boy, we're fortunate to have a break and get this thing into overtime. I felt good going into it. Then we had the turnover and didn't stop them. I regretted a lot of things, but not that one.
Q. Can you talk about the state of your secondary right now? I know Troy (Woolfolk’s) here this weekend. Especially after with Demar Dorsey not enrolling, could you talk about where you guys are at with that and developing more young players?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: We're concerned about the guys in the secondary. As you mentioned, Troy had a great spring, great year. Jordan Kovacs we thought played very effectively as a walk on. Back as well. Got some experience. Mike Williams got some experience in the secondary.
We mentioned Cam Gordon, who has not played yet. So always a little hesitant to anoint someone as, hey, this guy's going to be a player until they actually do it in games. But we feel really good about Cam Gordon his role in the secondary.
The guy that probably gave us more confidence in the secondary is J.T. Floyd. He's been in the program just a couple of years. He played a little bit last year for the first time, got some experience. But he had a tremendous spring and he's the guy that we really need to continue to progress. If J.T. Floyd can progress at the other corner, he and Troy will be pretty solid over there.
And the safety position, it's kind of wide open. That's the one position where we may have a few freshmen, true freshmen, have an opportunity to contribute. And that's a little scary to say that.
But we really feel confident in the guys we signed that they're smart guys, they're tough guys. If they can learn quickly in camp, they may be able to help us in the secondary.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
Busy, busy week, with a Michigan commitment. I'm not sure when the recruiting sites will post their post-summer, pre-season rankings, but keep an eye out for that soon. Action since last rankings:
7-25-10 Illinois gains commitment from Ted Karras. Minnesota gains commitment from Peter Westerhaus. Penn State gains commitment from Angelo Mangiro.
7-26-10 Michigan State gains commitment from Arjen Colquhoun. Nebraska loses commitment from Dylan Admire.
7-27-10 Illinois gains commitment from Daniel Rhodes. Michigan State gains commitment from Mikail McCall.
7-29-10 Michigan gains commitment from Kellen Jones. Minnesota gains commitment from Mike Moore.
7-30-10 Iowa loses commitment from JaCorey Shepherd. Iowa gains commitment from Cole Fisher. Wisconsin gains commitment from Terrance Floyd. Notre Dame gains commitments from Justice Hayes and Anthony Rabasa.
7-31-10 Notre Dame gains commitments from Aaron Lynch and Jalen Brown. Indiana gains commitment from Bernard Taylor. Wisconsin gains commitment from Makinton Dorleant. Nebraska gains commitment from David Santos.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||ESPN Avg|
Rivals rankings have been converted to their "RR" scale, which is on a scale from about 5 to about 6.1. Unrated prospects are given a 5.1 rating, on par with the worst of any Big Ten commit last year. Scout is on the 5-star system (unranked players earn star), and ESPN uses grades out of 100 (unranked is 40 or 45).
|#1 Ohio State - 17 Commits|
Buckeyes stay atop the heap, though they did miss out on instate LB Trey DePriest this week. DePriest committed to Alabama.
|#2 Notre Dame - 16 Commits|
The Irish end their drought with a huge week, picking up four commits. They've solidified their hold on the second position.
|#3 Michigan - 9 Commits|
The Wolverines pick up Kellen Jones. I've moved them past Nebraska in the rankings, because they're starting to come close in number of commits, but are significantly higher in the quality of those players. Is Michigan on track to get another commit or two soon?
|#4 Nebraska - 13 Commits|
The Huskers trade OL Dylan Admire (decommitted in favor of Kansas) for LB David Santos. Nebraska's averages might improve a bit once all of their commits are ranked.
|#5 Indiana - 21 Commits|
Hoosiers pick up another Michigan prospect in the conference's (+ Notre Dame and Nebraska, of course) largest class. I've rewarded them by moving them past Michigan State. Once other teams come closer in number of commits, IU should fall down the rankings.
|#6 Michigan State - 11 Commits|
No change for MSU. They move behind Indiana on the basis of total commits, mostly because their overall numbers aren't that far off from the other few teams behind the Hoosiers (Northwestern, Iowa, et al).
|#7 Northwestern - 11 Commits|
No change for the Wildcats, except they're now looking up at Michigan State.
|#8 Iowa - 11 Commits|
Scout gives Orloff a 2-star ranking. No other changes for the Hawkeyes.
|#9 Minnesota - 13 Commits|
No change for Minnesota. They're due for a jump once that other half of their class gets Rivals rankings.
|#10 Wisconsin - 8 Commits|
Boooooo grabbing a couple guys who are neither from Wisconsin nor TE/LBs.
|#11 Penn State - 4 Commits|
Penn State's class is no longer the laughingstock of the conference, as they pick up a good offensive lineman in Angelo Mangiro. They still have a long way to go in terms of numbers, but their averages are way above the other teams near them.
|#12 Illinois - 11 Commits|
Illinois picks up a couple prospects, and that moves them past Purdue (while getting jumped by Penn State).
|#13 Purdue - 6 Commits|
Purdue becomes the bottom-dweller in Big Ten recruiting.