Mason NEEDS this, Pistons, after all you've put him through
Okay okay okay... we need, or at least I need, something fun and full of Michigan pride to get me through McGuffieGate and all the stress that's accompanied what in my opinion has to be the most UNenjoyable Ohio State week since I've been following UM football.
Being that the game is in that foul cesspool of human civilization otherwise known as Columbus, Ohio, I'm sure several of our loyal fans and readers will be making the journey to be taunted, cussed, laughed at, spit on, pissed on, and/or homosexually propositioned. AND of course it goes without saying that those fans will see in great abundance, that familiar tee shirt. You know, the one that at point in the mid 90's deserved a fair snicker just because it was clever and funny and foul all at once. The same one that now gives true meaning to the term 'beating a dead horse' everywhere from State College to Iowa City. The same shirt that drunken frat boys honestly think is something that honestly offends us, even as our powerhouse teams were dismantling their poor excuse for a Boilermaker or Hoosier squad on the very same afternoon.
Yes, that shirt. "ANN ARBOR IS A WHORE."
What was once a relatively funny and imaginative idea is now been BLOODY BEATEN to death by the rest of the Big 10, and I'm sure they'll be in heavy rotation among the drunken and otherwise brain-deprived Scarlet & Gray this weekend. So, I think it's time we RESPOND... and while it's far too late to actually go into production for this weekend, we can certainly talk about it later, Brian. You just work on Sam with VanHaaren.
So without further ado, I unveil my shirt...
"NO SHE'S NOT."
Go forth, Michigan Men, and defend her honor. Well, at least starting next year. GO BLUE.
Beat the damn Buckeyes
Interesting article in the Columbus Dispatch on Rich Rodriguez and the trials of taking over a storied program like Michigan - and struggling mightily your first year.
A couple of things stood out to me. One was the discipline he is trying to install:
It wasn't just the playbook that changed.
"From practices to meetings to dress codes to lifting schedules to where we eat, what we can do, where we can go, curfew -- there are a lot of things that are different," senior defensive tackle Terrance Taylor said. "You expect that, but being here, you want to hold on to something you know about."
Michigan used to have season-long captains. This year, they were chosen on a weekly basis.
Before, Michigan players didn't have a curfew. Taylor said Sunday night's curfew required players to be home by 10 p.m., in bed by 11.
Rodriguez has banned players from using cell phones in the team's building "because when we're in the building he wants us talking to each other," Taylor said.
Given the trouble college football players seem prone to get into when out late, the curfew seems like a good idea. And the cell phone rule connects with a larger theme Rich Rod is trying to build:
As for changing the team's culture, Rodriguez said he wasn't sure how that should be defined. He said that if that meant instilling the desire to do the best they can on and off the field and put team before individual, that's what he wants.
"Is that the culture where I'm at right now?" he said. "I don't know. But that's the culture that I want. If that's the culture that our fans want, then we're on the same page."
I think that is a simple but worthy philosophy: the desire to be the best on and off the field and to value your team more than yourself. I am confident Rodriguez can recruit talent. But if he can mold a true team that has that camaraderie and commitment then Michigan can be a national contender again.
The article ends with an anecdote that shows how Rodriguez is illustrating that commitment himself:
It could very well be that all Rodriguez needs is time. That's something he didn't have after his hiring. Though he had the senior class over to his house more than once, some of them felt they got short shrift.
Harrison, the safety, was among them. Then last weekend on Senior Day, his parents were late getting to Michigan Stadium from Dayton because of traffic from an accident. So instead of having Harrison take the field unescorted, Rodriguez accompanied him.
"He didn't really need to do that," Harrison said. "I see him in a whole different way. I used to look at him as just my head coach. Now I look at him as if it's a different type of bond."
I don't know about other Michigan fans, but I felt better about our coach after reading this article. There has been a lot of debate about the so called "family values" at Michigan under Rodriguez, but the values noted above are the right ones in my opinion.
Five days before an undefeated Michigan team played undefeated Ohio State two years ago, a reporter asked Bo if he ever did anything special to prepare for OSU. Just a few days before his death, Bo shouted his answer, "EVERY DAY!"
Two years later, Michigan has just lost its 8th game for the first time in 129 years of playing football, it's Ohio State week again, and the media assembled in the Junge Family Champions Center are begging Coach Rodriguez to give them a headline like "Rodriguez embraces rivalry". What do they get instead? The Button Story. That's right, he's got a button right there on his desk. It says "Beat OSU" so he can never forget. Because he has a button. On his desk. Next to the phone. A button. Awesome?
Why not make up a story that he was down in Toledo for a meeting with his lawyer when he ran out of gas and him and Barwis had to push his car all the way to the Michigan state line to avoid buying gas in Ohio? Or just admit what everyone else on campus besides him seems to know, that this is, was and will always be the biggest game on our schedule?
This is an actual quote from Monday's presser:
"You ever see the movie [The] Lion King?" Rodriguez began. "That monkey hits the lion over the head, and the monkey says what did you do that for? Doesn't matter, it's in the past."
What? The monkey asks himself why he hit the lion? Why is it so hard to keep the monkey and the lion straight after 10 months of practicing this same line in front of the same reporters? Can you imagine that moment when he was there with Rita and the kids watching a cartoon and he learned something so important and meaningful about football and life? I can't wait until Coach Rodriguez wins 10 national championships in a row starting in 2010 and Coach Carr has to go out and try to rent that movie on Betamax.
Coach Carr wasn't nearly as accessible or open as Coach Rodriguez has been with the media but he did have a system that worked: scowl for no reason, tremendous Bo story, tremendous Kipling quote, scowl again, Bo, Yost, Churchill, scowl, Bo, Brown Jug, Bo, scowl, Woody, Bo, scowl, repeat. I know most people are disappointed with our record, bracing themselves for another loss to OSU or worried about transfers but sometimes I just miss Lloyd, the man.
Rumors are flying about the potential transfers of three more players at the end of this 2008 season. This comes on the heels of two of the most notorious transfers in recent memory, Ryan Mallett and Justin Boren.
Sam McGuffie, RB. McGuffie sent his letter of intent late on signing day 2008. He was a strong Michigan commit during his senior year, but that faded as time passed. He was apparently enamored with the Cal Bears on signing day and unsure of whether to go ahead with his Michigan commitment or sign with Cal. He stuck with the Wolverines. Even before signing day, Michigan fans touted him as the Wolverines' next great running back. Many guessed that he would be the starting running back at the beginning of his freshman season, leaping in front of returning players like Carlos Brown, Brandon Minor, and Kevin Grady. Indeed, he started the year as the #1 running back, taking advantage of untimely injuries to Minor and Brown. In the second game of the year, he gained 178 yards against Notre Dame in the rain and garnered even more support from fans. However, due to a lack of power, the improving health of Minor, and a concussion against MSU, the majority of the touches were given to Minor, who seized the opportunity. I expected Minor to start from the beginning and was disappointed when he lost what I thought should have been his job. Minor's fumbles were a drawback, but he also had big-play potential. As the season has progressed, though, it is interesting to see the blind fervor with which Michigan fans have rooted for McGuffie. In my mind, he will undoubtedly be a good college running back...someday. But entering the Ohio State game, he sits fourth in yards per carry with 4.1; he is behind Michael Shaw (5.8 ypc), Minor (5.2), and Brown (4.6). Perhaps that is due to the poor offensive line play early in the season, but it is an interesting stat nonetheless. I have an uneasy feeling that a significant portion of McGuffie's following is due to his race. His high school stats and highlight videos are truly remarkable, but other gifted running backs in recent memory (Darrell Scott and Noel Devine come to mind) haven't received the same level of national acclaim coming out of high school. I also find it interesting that Michigan message boards have reflected panic in the fan base even though McGuffie might not even be the best back in his class (I'm talking about you, Michael Shaw). McGuffie had late doubts about coming to Michigan but stayed; Shaw had been committed to Penn State but realized Michigan was the better place. Would we be hearing the same uproar if Shaw were transferring instead of McGuffie? According to a reliable source on this board, McGuffie had asked to switch positions to slot receiver, which I found interesting because I had suggested that he move to slot receiver in my post-Toledo diary. Maybe he's homesick, maybe he's upset about his playing time, maybe he doesn't think he can cut it as a Big Ten running back. Regardless, I doubt Michigan's team will suffer greatly due to his loss. There is plenty of talent left, either currently on the team (Minor, Brown, Shaw) or in the class of 2009 (Teric Jones, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Jeremy Gallon, Vincent Smith).
Zion Babb, WR. Depth is somewhat of a concern at wide receiver, but Babb's 3-star pedigree didn't exactly excite the fanbase. Babb is a player with good speed and athleticism; there have also been rumors that he doesn't work very hard and dogs it at practice. If those rumors are true, it's no wonder Babb found himself behind players like James Rogers and perennial benchwarmer Laterryal Savoy. With young, emerging players like Junior Hemingway, Darryl Stonum, Martavious Odoms, and Toney Clemons, it's not a surprise that Babb wants to take his talents elsewhere. His athleticism might serve him well with different coaches and with more opportunities to make plays in game situations. I would not be surprised to see him have a successful career elsewhere.
Artis Chambers, S. Chambers entered Michigan in the class of 2007 and earned immediate playing time on special teams. Unfortunately, a record keeping error was made that negated his eligibility for the remainder of his freshman year. The Rodriguez regime seemed less excited about Chambers's abilities and relegated him to the bench for most of the 2008 season. Chambers was ineffective early in the season as a strong safety/weakside linebacker hybrid and hadn't played much since that experiment failed. This is a blow to the safety depth chart for Michigan, which loses two safeties this year (Brandon Harrison and Charles Stewart). As it currently stands, the 2009 Michigan team will have junior Steve Brown, redshirt sophomore Michael Williams, redshirt freshman Brandon Smith, redshirt freshman JT Floyd (who may be a corner instead), and an influx of true freshman safeties (Isaiah Bell, Mike Jones, Justin Turner, perhaps Vlad Emilien, some of whom may be destined for corner or linebacker). Even though Chambers probably would have been buried on the depth chart by Mouton at WILL, Brown at SS, and Williams at FS, he could have provided depth in case of injury or underperformance. I doubt Chambers will be a star anywhere, although I wish him luck. He stuck through the transition and has obviously decided he doesn't fit with these coaches. That's much more than I can say for...
Justin Boren, G. The son of former Michigan linebacker Mike Boren, Justin came in and played sparingly as a true freshman in 2006. He started at left guard and blocked a Minnesota defender out of the back of the end zone in 2007, one of the coolest plays I've seen. Rumors flew about why he decided to transfer to Ohio State in the spring of 2008. His reasoning was that the Rodriguez staff represented a loss of family values. Some said that the coaches cussed too much. Others suggested that he didn't like the Barwis workouts. The most feasible rumor I heard - although I have no assurance of its voracity - was that Lloyd Carr had promised to offer a scholarship to Justin's younger brother Zach, a fullback/linebacker/defensive end type, who would be graduating high school in 2009. Rodriguez and his staff deemed the younger Boren unworthy of a scholarship offer, which upset the Borens. This could explain the "lack of family values" that Boren mentioned to the press. Justin Boren subsequently became a Buckeye and Zach is an OSU commit as well. In Justin's stead, Michigan plays a guy who was a defensive tackle at the beginning of the season.
Ryan Mallett, QB. Mallett came to U of M from Texarkana High School as the quarterback savior, a 6'7" gunslinger with a supersonic rocket attached to his right shoulder. He played fairly well as a true freshman in 2007 when senior Chad Henne got hurt; everyone in Wolverineland expected Mallett to be the next great QB. It was a match made in Heaven. Except Lloyd Carr decided to retire, Michigan hired a read option coach, and Mallett didn't think NFL scouts were big fans of the read option. He headed off to Arkansas as soon as Rodriguez was hired. Meanwhile, Michigan's passing game has been anemic with redshirt freshman Steve Threet and walk-on sophomore Nick Sheridan. Mallett would have had a couple reliable targets in Greg Mathews and Martavious Odoms, plus a couple big-play guys in Stonum and Hemingway. But the two best receiver options for 2008 - Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington - headed off to the NFL. I'm guessing Michigan's passing game would be more efficient and more dangerous with Mallett at the helm, but considering he only completed 49% of his passes as a freshman and he is probably less mobile than either Threet or Sheridan, I doubt his presence would have made much of an impact on Michigan's current 3-8 record in 2008. Still, if my plans for the future entailed playing in the NFL, I would probably also shy away from a guy whose biggest quarterback success story was Shaun King; then again, Arkansas's best QB in recent memory is a cokehead wide receiver for the Jaguars, so maybe Mallett figured, "If I'm going to be a failure, I might as well fail close to home."
So like everyone else I have been really dissapointed by the results on the field this season and hearing the news about McGuffie only makes it worse! But I am more dissappointed at how quickly everyone is to blame RR in both of these matters. I am sure McGuffie isn't going to be the last to leave either and I'm RR will get even more heat because of it; deservedly so...maybe, maybe not. So I decided to some some research on past attrition and I think it plays a big part in our on field performance. Before you are quick to judge RR take a look at the stats below and realize that maybe we should be pointing the finger at the past staff before we jump all over RR.
I took a look at our recruiting classes starting from 2005 until now. I used 2005 as a starting point as that years freshmen class would now be seniors. I left out Manningham as he left early for the NFL and shouldn't be counted as it was not the coaches fault. *** it should be noted that all of our classes from 2005 on were Top 10 classes and for the most part were tops in the Big 10.
-2005 23 commitments of which only 11 are left! Do the math and the equates to only 47% of the class being left...hardly RR's fault!
-2006 We had 19 commitments of which 14 are still left.
-2007 Michigan brought in 20 guys of which 19 are still on the team.
-2008 U of M had 24 commitments with 22 of those still play (this does not include McGuffie and Chambers as hopefully the jury is still out on them)
-All total that equates to 66 out of a total of 86 commitments throughout that time period or 76%.
-So basically 1 out of every 4 guys brought on campus from 2005 on are no longer playing.
That is terrible and I believe a huge reason why we are having such a bad year. You can't really argue that this is RR's fault. Brian has documented several times that RR wasn't left with a very good team and it is really no wonder why we suck. He is doing his best with an average team at best with almost no seniors left from its original class.
The numbers above clearly show that attrition was a problem with Lloyd as well and is big reason why we are where we are. Give him time to bring in his guys and see how many of them stick around before you jump on his ass blaming him for guys leaving when he didn't recruit them in the 1st place. Again, Brian has documented his success at other stops but also documented that is take a little while. Let's give him that...
These has been the longest of seasons for us diehard Michigan fans. The news today of additional players opting to leave the program comes at strange time in that we're in the last week of the season and usually players don't make the decision to leave mid-year or this late in the year. Some people choose to see this as a further indictment of the current staff, but I think it's just a continuation of the process required to build a program.
Many say that the program was decent shape after last season and the outcome of this season is more attributable to the new staff and their perceived shortcomings, but I think it goes much deeper than that. What is changing about the program more than the offesive and defensive philosophies is the mental make up of the players in the program itself. If one had the pleasure to know both Bo and Lloyd, they would know that Bo and Lloyd were as different as two people can be. Bo was as tenacious and demanding as any football coach I have ever known, but after he left coaching, he was potrayed as this lovable grandfather figure who had a snappy wit and penchant for telling great stories. The man was as intense as any person ever was on the football field and he recruited his type of players. Lloyd was fiery and he was competitive, but he was more reserved and introspective than most men you'd think coached college football. His demeanor was that of a banker more than a football coach at times. There is no right or wrong to their personalities or their style of coaching, but there was a distinct difference. When Bo recruited a kid to play for Michigan, he cared less about 40 times and squat numbers than he did about the fire in the person and the mentality of the player. The culmination of the recruiting process with Bo was the one on one with him in his office where he fired off questions that would make the toughest HR person in the world squirm in their seats. He basically threw Chris Spielman out of his office in disgust after Spielman showed up with torn jeans and snuff in his lip and acting like it was Bo who should be in awe of him. Lloyd was effective in recruiting, but his approach was much different in that he sold Michigan to recruits and their parents whereas Bo sold greatness and there is a difference. People who relentlessly strive for greatness have a certain mental make-up and that is what Bo sought. In today's game with the limited number of scholarships, Lloyd had a tougher road to travel and may not have had the luxury of evaluating the mental aspect of all of his recruits that way Bo did.
With that said, I think the process that Rich Rod has embarked on is one to restore the mental toughness of the players who play for Michigan. There is a process of building a program at all levels of football and the process is virtually the same. Rich Rod has to find the type of players that fit his philosophy, which has less to do with the workings of a spread offense than it does with their mental make-up. Rich Rod from what I can tell is an intense coach and he wants a certain type of athlete in his program. If you've seen the images of the facilities lately, you'll notice every wall has a sign hanging. Every sign is a challenge to the players to be great. "Those Who Stay..." is about striving for greatness and I think these new signs are also a call for people to strive for greatness. Look at Owen Schmitt for example, here is a guy who looks more like the guy driving the Budweiser truck than a football player. A guy who played Divsion III football beause he did not have the athletic pedigree to warrant offers from bigger schools, but the one thing not recorded on any film or any scouting report is the person's willingness to defy the measurables due to their desire to be great. Owen Schmitt was not afraid to strive for greatness and he found a coach who wasn't afraid to let him try. Yes, we've had some great players like Mike Hart that did the same, but Mike Hart was more the exception than the rule, IMO.
Sam McGuffie is an excellent athlete and with more experience, he'll be a good RB, but if he doesn't want to be at Michigan for whatever the reason, then it's better that he leaves the program. I don't like anyone leaving Michigan, but I certainly understand all of the factors that can affect a young man. I wish him well. Rich Rod has to find men that want to be here and want to be great. He has yet to have that opportunity here at Michigan except for the last few weeks of last year's recruiting class. I think RR will need at least 3 years to get this program built the way he wants it to be built with the type of players that he wants. Let's give him that time and keep our expectations realistic going forward.
I am not happy about the season, but it is easier for me to understand because I have played and coached football for almost 20 years and I understand to some small degree what RR faces. He needs to stay the course and keep building his program despite all the criticism and second-guessing that we as fans tend to offer. I am not giving him a free pass, which is currently the most popular accusation on the message boards, but rather I am tempering my expectations of him due to the state of the program. Once he gets two of his recruiting classes into the program(last's years was the continuation of LCs class) then my expectations will be raised back to the level of greatness. I think mental toughness will again be a focal point of the program. I think Rich Rod will recruit his players and you'll see the attrition curbed greatly as his players will have the same mental make-up as their head coach. There aren't guru ratings that measures those sort of things in recruits, so you'll have to trust that RR knows what he's looking for; how else does a school with the occassional 4 star player beat a team always in the top 5 of recruting in a BCS game?
I will not discredit the nay-sayers as they have the right to be upset and disgruntled about the season. They have the right to voice their opinions about the coaches, players, and sky falling, but don't count me amongst them insomuch as I see the process unfolding before me. At this point, people are saying we should be seeing the improvement on the field, so these coaches must be terrible, but I don't think that is where we are in the process. We are still in the infantile stages of the process. We have yet to get to the point where we can get RR's players on the field to compete. By this time next year, the nay-sayers will have pitchfork in hand as I think we're still in the .500 range give or take a lucky break or two. The process takes time and there are no shortcuts to do it right. For every player that leaves, there is another opportunity to fill that scholarship with a player with the attributes RR wants and that's not a bad thing; even if that person cannot leap over tall safeties in a single bound.
Have faith my friends and understand that greatness is not something one achieves in 10 months no matter how much we wish it to happen.