that is nice bonus change
I know that yet another retrospective/plea for patience with Rich Rodriguez is probably overkill, but after continuing to read comments to the effect that RR is “on notice” if he doesn’t turn this team around by the end of next year or, at the most generous, year 3, I couldn’t help but put these thoughts down. If you’ve had enough with this debate and want to instead focus on recruiting, UM Hoops, or playing more Literati, by all means skip this article.
Notre Dame and Nebraska, two schools that hold special places in UM’s fans spleens (Nebraska because of the MNC, Notre Dame because disliking arrogant, overly-pious Midwesterners never goes out of style). Both used to dominate college football, and yet now both are middling through a near-decade of abject mediocrity and irrelevance. And the one aspect that really stuck out to me was the diminished patience both teams have had with their head coaches, especially when said coaches are trying to install new systems or, at the very least, transition away from an ultra-conservative one currently installed.
First take a look at Nebraska – They won 3 NCs under Tom Osborne, who then retired and ushered in the Frank Solich era. Though he had some notable flameouts (against Miami in 2001, 2003 against, well, everyone at the end of the year), the guy still went 58-19 but was canned for not winning “enough.” So in comes Bill Callahan, a hot-shot NFL OC who tries to drag Nebraska into the 21st century with the introduction of the forward pass on 1st and 2nd down. With virtually no viable receivers on the team, difficult recruiting hurdles (Lincoln is a nice city, but no picnic), and an administration/fan base unaccustomed to such sweeping change, he was let go after going 27-22. Now they have Bo Pelini, who has gone 8-4 this season and, I am sure, will start hearing the cries for his removal if he continues the team’s struggles against OU, Texas, Texas Tech, Missouri, etc.
Now let’s look at Notre Dame – They won a butt load of NCs under Rockne, Leahy, and Parseghian (a butt load defined as 9), then 1 each under Devine and Holtz. Holtz retires, though, and is replaced by Bob Davie, who proceeds to go 35-25 but loses too many games against ranked opponents (even though his seasons were pretty consistent with respect to Holtz’s last few years), and Ty Willingham steps in. Bringing in a West Coast offense that many NFL players have trouble adapting to, he was given all of 3 seasons to implement this system with players previously culled for an option attack, and not surprisingly went 21-15. So then comes Charlie Weis, who is currently 28-21 in 4 seasons but who also tried to implement a completely new pro-style offense (which worked with an NFL-quality QB and at least some players recruited to play a similar style of offense) with a horrendous offensive line and a freshman quarterback who may be one of the more overrated high school “phenoms” in recent memory. In all likelihood, Weis will be gone before you finish reading this article.
Notice a theme here – a new coach comes in for a retired “legend”, and after trying to win using the old system is replaced by someone with a “hot” new system that is strikingly different from past regimes. After some initial success with a veteran team, though, fans become disillusioned and charge that this coach needs to go because his system doesn't work, even though in the most generous of circumstances it would take at least 2 years for the right types of players to be integrated into the new system. Yet, instead of employing well-rationed patience, the coaches are let go, a new coach is entrusted to step in an employ a new, “better” system, and the fan base lines up for another spin on the Carousel of Mediocrity.
So what does all of this mean for UM? I'm deathly afraid that a similar fate will befall the UM program and its faithful. Sure, UM wasn’t running the option under Carr, but the conservative pro-style offense he employed never meshed well with the spread, especially the one run by RR. Next year, this offense will either be run by a second-year player with Exploding Elbow problems or a true freshman, and the defense will suffer losses at its one consistently good area (DL). So miracles probably won’t happen. That brings us to the aforementioned 3rd Year of Judgment, and with it cries that RR's system doesn't “work” in the Big Ten, that the experiment has failed and some new coach, with some new system, should step in. Of course, that new coach, let's call him “Smes Smiles”, will step into a program with a bunch of midget WRs, a scrambling QB, and a bunch of scatter backs and try to run a pro-style offense. You see where I'm going with this? Heck, at least above-named coaches enjoyed some early success because they inherited veterans teams; RR was left with a relatively bare cupboard, especially on offense.
Now, I'm sure there are holes with my argument. Heck, I know one already – Weis never was an HC in either college or the pros, Willingham is a horrible recruiter, Davie couldn't coach himself out of an awkward first date, Solich couldn't recruit or coach like Tom Osborne, and Callahan was an unmitigated disaster both because of the type of offense he was trying to install and his abject failure in maintaining the strength of Nebraska (its defense). And, yes, RR has already proven to be a better coach than all of these men before he even stepped into Schembechler Hall. But my point isn't that RR isn't a good coach; it is that I worry the AD and the fans won't give him the time and support necessary to really transform this program into one that can succeed. As we have seen with Nebraska and Notre Dame, a school and fan base has to be willing to accept a transition fully and without reservations, and give it proper time to take hold. If, after 4 or 5 years UM is still going 7-5, 8-4, or 9-3 and they haven't made The Leap, then by all means look in another direction. But aborting a transition, no matter how painful it may initially be, before it has a chance to occur doesn't end the pain – it just changes the source.
Is it just me…
The audio and video equipment at Michigan Stadium seems to have been left in the pre-HD era…Why is this? I took a trip to the Texas vs. Oklahoma game this year and spent four hours at the world’s largest trailer (Cotton Bowl) with one of the best “jumbotrons” I had ever seen. [So, was this game a waste of my time since the “regular season” games don’t matter anymore? As I recall Texas did win this game!] Next, I took a trip over to Tuscaloosa to see Nick Satan and Alabama. They have a top notch stadium with three HD video boards and an impeccable sound system. Texas takes the top prize with its Godzilla inspired video board down in Austin.
If you look close enough at pictures of Michigan’s video boards you can see the rabbit ears sticking out of the top right corners! With all the construction going on why not replace both endzone boards with a solid HD video screen? The area is wide open beneath for concrete pillars to support the structure and it would provide Michigan with a fantastic game time experience.
Take a look around the college football world:
Michigan: [Half of it is a fixed template for time and score!!!]
Am I asking too much for a decent replay and the ability to see the game without watching pixels tackle each other on the video board?
Someone call the W.L.A and tell them their Soviet era technology needs to go! It’s time the revolution transitions to HD.
[And I don't want to hear it's because we play in the cold/snow/north]
Devin Gardner is the quarterback for Inkster, and is looking to win a State Championship this weekend, as a junior. [Note: Inkster lost to EGR 43-24 in the state finals; this interview took place before that. –ed]
His team is obviously having a great year, but Gardner's individual stats stick out as well. He has 47 total TD's, 25 passing and 22 running, with only 6 INT's. He looks to take that success to a State Championship against East Grand Rapids. He hasn't been able to put 100% into his recruitment yet, but says he'll be able to narrow things down after his basketball season. Here's what he had to say.
TOM: What do you think has lead to your improvement from last year to this year?
DEVIN: Coach Carter helped me, he didn’t accept anything but perfection. We focused on throwing, decision making, and running. We run a mixture of a spread, the read option and pass, so it’s important to make good decisions.
TOM: What have you focused on when trying to improve?
DEVIN: I can always improve my decision making. I’m over 60% with my completion percentage, so that’s good. I just practice every play hard, so when game time comes, I know where my teams going to be. So in time it’s going to get better, and easier.
TOM: What goals do you want to accomplish for your senior year?
DEVIN: I want to win a state championship this year. Next year, I want to do the same thing. I don’t really want the individual award. If we win state then that means I did a good job.
TOM: When do you think you’ll really start to get into the recruiting process, and start to analyze schools?
DEVIN: I took a few visits, but haven’t really gotten into it yet, I’m still focused on state championships. I’m going to focus more during basketball season.
TOM: Are there already some schools that have you thinking about them?
DEVIN: Not really, all the schools are equal right now. I guess if I had to name the top right now it’s Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, those are a few that have been in contact with me.
TOM: I heard that you said Ohio State is a school you really like, what about them sticks out to you?
DEVIN: When I was younger, I didn’t pay attention to the actual football game, but my favorite color was red, and they always won. I never knew about the Michigan, Ohio state rivalry, but they’ve always been good. They just continue to win, that’s what sticks out.
TOM: So does playing early factor into your decision?
DEVIN: Possibly. Anywhere I go there’s going to be competition, but it may come into play.
TOM: What about the style of offensive scheme, will that matter?
DEVIN: It doesn’t matter, because I’m getting better at throwing so it doesn’t matter. Plays are always going to break down, so if I’m in pro I can show my athleticism. Whether it’s designed to run or not, I’ll still be able to run.
TOM: Have you started building any relationships with coaches?
DEVIN: I talk to a lot of coaches, everyone that’s offered me. Most of the coaches talk about my family, and how I’m doing in school, they all are trying to build personal relationship.
TOM: Lately, there’s been some comparison with yourself and Robert Bolden, what do you bring to the field that he doesn’t? What sets you apart from the quarterbacks in your class?
DEVIN: I’m more athletic, and I’ve got great speed. My determination, I just want to win. I can’t speak for them, but I know I’m going to do whatever it takes to win. There are also a lot of athletes, not just quarterbacks, and I’m a quarterback that’s athletic.
TOM: Have you gotten to take any unofficial visits to any schools yet?
DEVIN: Yea, I went to Notre Dame, Bowling Green, Toledo, Michigan, MSU, and Ohio State for the Nike camp.
TOM: As a quarterback, how do you decide what school is really best for you?
DEVIN: That’s the toughest part, because that’s the most important decision of my life. My mom, brother, and coach Carter talk about what school is best. Ultimately it’s my decision, but they’ll help.
TOM: Do you want to try to go where any of your teammates go?
DEVIN: It would be nice if they could, but I want them to go where is best for them. That would be selfish of me. I tell coaches about them, because they work hard. From my class we have a really good wide receiver, Jonathon Taylor.
TOM: A question that a lot of people having been asking is about Michigan’s losing season. Can you weigh in on it? From a recruits point of view, how does this season, and the losing record factor in?
DEVIN: It really doesn’t bother me that much, because I saw Michigan last year, and it was totally different. They haven’t gotten their players yet. I can see the system will work, it’s just not working because the players aren’t doing the right things, or plays are breaking down. Once they get the right players, and the others used to it, they’ll be good.
TOM: Have you developed any relationships with other recruits yet?
DEVIN: Yea, Austin White, Nick Hill, we met at the Notre Dame game, Jeremy Jackson, Ricardo Miller, Robert Bolden, and Joe Boyster.
Author's note: This was originally written as a response to a board question on why Notre Dame has such success recruiting, even when a Brontosaurus is running the show. If you read it there already, congratulations.
My grandpa's favorite joke (like he would slide it in whenever he could) was whenever someone mentioned Shakespeare, he'd say "you mean Bill Shakespeare, the quarterback at Notre Dame?" Yes, the Domers had a QB named William Shakespeare back in the day.
In that day, however, that was probably the least exotic name on the ND squad, at least according to the sensibilities of what constituted a majority of Americans. Back then, an Irish name was treated by many Americans with a similar contempt that is shown today for some African language-inspired names for blacks.
Even a generation later, in Detroit, and other big cities, it was common for the Jewish boys like my father and the Catholic (mostly Irish, Italian and Polish) kids to be living in the same neighborhoods. However, each group generally segregated themselves, and had distinct sets of stereotypes.
The Catholics, it was said, were the rough-and-tumble guys. They're the ones who'd as soon knock you down as speak to you. They were the toughs. They were the bigs.
These are all century+old stereotypes, of course. But they were powerful, well-known stereotypes that persisted well into my parents' generation, a time when being Catholic still meant being not mainstream.
It's hard to imagine today, but Catholics, and Irish Catholics in particular, were in much the same position then as African Americans are today, i.e. they had the presidency, but they were still somewhat marginalized, still the victims of prejudice from holdouts of different times.
Teenagers of any persuasion are known identity seekers. As such, they tend to latch on to stereotypes, even going so far as to transform themselves to meet them. If society said a Catholic boy at a boarding school in LaPorte, Ind., was going to be a tough guy (according to one such fella*), that kid would make himself a tough guy.
Football loves tough guys.
Being a football tough guy is something you can learn. Not everyone with athletic prowess can play, or chooses to play football. Mentality is a big part of the game. As with any sport, early commitment to the game is a big part of success.
On the day Jack Kennedy was sworn into office, it was Catholic boys who were filling the rosters of college football programs well beyond their statistical population footprint. It was Catholic boys who were being told when they were teens that toughness was their ticket out.
It was during that period, from my grandpa's childhood through my father's, that Notre Dame built itself into a premier program. For all that time, its lifeblood was these Catholic boys. At a time when many Catholic Americans had few ways out of a predestined life in the working class, playing football for Notre Dame was the pinnacle of many of these boys' dreams.
Thus, the school at South Bend for two generations had a direct pipeline of premier football tough guys all across the United States.
The ND national recruiting model later became modern recruiting. But by nature of getting there first, ND still has the inside track on many traditional high school football programs which themselves were built on the backs of Catholic boys. The halls of St. Thomas Aquinas et al. all across the country are filled with photos of star alumni in their golden domes. ND is as much an institution in these schools as the fight song.
They no longer have the automatic draw, especially as Catholics in this country have, for the most part, completed their transition from margins to mainstream, meaning some oncologist of our generation might have, in a different time, made a fine defensive tackle for Notre Dame.
Today, it's African Americans still in transition from the margins to the mainstream, still fighting vestigial and institutionalized disadvantages, and thus more open in their teenage years to the kind of commitment needed to succeed in sports. And likewise, college football programs around the country have benefited from filling their rosters with today's tough kids, who learn life's tough lessons early in Pahokee and show up to play football with a hardness few kids in Birmingham could ever imagine.
And likewise, schools ideally situated to bring these kids in are today's rising powers. Meanwhile, the traditional powers maintain their institutional advantages for bringing in the creme de la creme.
College football will prosper in talent so long as American teenagers feed themselves to it. The only thing that changes is which teens decide to take that plunge. As our society continues its slow march of integration, the faces of those teens and the name on the back of the jersey will likewise change. But if that name be Hernandez, Williams, Mienkewitz, O'Malley, Dimatello, Klausen, Levine, or as Anglo-Saxon as William Shakespeare, he's still, essentially, the same boy.
*Chief Justice John G. Roberts, who once thought playing for Notre Dame was about as high as any man could go.
This is not a rant or a rave about the state of the program just some ramblings on the WVU game.
Friday I suffered through the offensive slugfest that was Pitt vs. West Virginia. I think I watched to simply gain some sort of confidence for our offense next year. Instead I came away less than impressed. I believe WV finished with about 300 total yards and 15 points. I saw many of the same plays that Michigan "tried" to run. Noel Devine and Pat White both RRod system guys couldn't get anything going. The offense was full of short yard dink and dunk plays with the occasional QB scramble for his life that netted a nice gain and if I remember correctly 1 td. I guess my point well I really don't have one I suppose. Did anyone else watch this game? Any impressions for next season. Take it easy on me I'm a long time listner first time caller here. Just looking for some opinions. I'm not bailing out on my team or anything but I would like to get some feedback on what I saw from the WVU offense.
Still must admit it's nice to see notre dame getting blown out.
Well, the family has been fed and is out the door and things are starting to get quiet, so I thought I'd start thinking about Michigan Football - 2009.
Just like heading into this season of uncertainty, there seems like there is a wide chasm of opinions regarding what can be expected from the Wolverines gridders next season. I don't think anyone expects them to be in the national championship game, but I also don't think they will be the 10th best team in the Big 10 next year, despite what Eric Lacy predicted in the DetNews this week.
Most observers that I've read feel that 6-6 is reasonable progress next year. However, as one poster aptly stated, when you've got Eastern, Western, and likely the Little Sister's of the Poor filling out your non-conference schedule, will 6 wins really be that much progress?
That's why I would think that 6-6 would be the worst Michigan fans should expect next year. The team returns every offensive starter. Although, as those funny (ha) newspaper previews usually point out with poor teams, is that a good thing? Absolutely it is. I think all Michigan fans can agree that the offense stunk this year, but I also think it did improve as the year went along. The offensive line was a sieve at the beginning of the year, but actually started opening up some holes by the end of the season. Brandon Minor became a beast this season and I'm excited to have him back next year.
We all know the quarterback play this season was absolutely atrocious. So, it can only get better, right? If Steven Threet, who now would have a full year in the system is the starter, you figure it would have to be incrementally better. And if one of the freshmen can come in and beat Threet out, then you'd have to think that it could be even better than that.
As others have pointed out, there may be 2 new offensive line starters (Omameh and Barnum seem to be the names most mentioned). All the skill guys are back, plus T-Rob and Junior Hemingway, who were waylayed by injuries.
Will the offense make us forget about Henne, Hart and Company? No, but I don't see why the offense can't improve dramatically - more times where they played like the 2nd half against Wisconsin and 1st half against Illinois and less times like they played in the 1st half against Wisconsin and all game versus Toledo.
The defense is a different story. They were supposed to keep us in games this year while the offense meshed. Needless to say, that theory didn't quite work out. There were lots of theories - including being on the field too much, too much inexperience at key spots (safety and linebacker being the main two), overrated talent, and just plain bad coaching. The defense ended up being, statistically, one of the worst (if not the worst) in Michigan history. I don't think anyone expected that. And even with the loss of 3 very good senior linemen, I don't see why this unit can't be much improved next year.
Let's flash back to 1997 - the defense was coming off a meh 1996 season, but it had an excellent pass rusher (Glen Steele) and an excellent corner (what was his name, #2, I think) coming back and that defense ended up being pretty good. Assuming that Brandon Graham returns (may be a big assumption, but all I've read seems to indicate he's leaning on coming back) and that Donovan Warren plays like he did late in the season rather than early in the season, we have 2 pretty nice building blocks for next year's defense. I don't want to compare them to the 1997 defense (oh wait, I think I already did), but this defense should be better. Warren and Cissoko at the corners; Mike Martin, Brandon Graham, Van Bergen, and maybe big Will Campbell up front; Obi and Mouton at linebacker, with maybe JB Fitzgerald. The position of concern continues to be safety. I liked Mike Williams when he played this year, and I'm praying that Brandon Smith is a beast - assuming he beats out Stevie Brown.
As mentioned, assuming that Bill Martin schedules some directional school for our last open non-conference date (rather than say, Boise State or BYU), we'd have all four non-conference games at home with a slate of WMU, EMU, Other Directional School and Notre Dame. No offense to WMU, who is a very good MAC team and will have their solid QB back, but Michigan has a realistic shot to be 4-0 in those non-conference games, at worst, 3-1. ND will be better, but hey, they weren't very good this year and I think most Michigan fans thought that we played pretty well against them this year, if it wasn't for all of them dang turnovers.
The conference schedule has Indiana, Purdue, Penn State and Ohio State at home. I don't think it's crazy to think that they beat Indiana and Purdue. They could lose to both Penn State and Ohio State, but hey, those teams lose quite a bit of talent. PSU loses 3 off of it's O-line and some defensive stalwarts. If C. Wells leaves the Bucks for less money in the NFL, that really hurts them. Their offense really revolves around him and would put a lot more pressure on Pryor without Wells back there. Their defense loses 2 good linebackers and their best corner. Clearly they'll still have more talent back than Michigan, but is the gap as wide as it was say when MSU was beating us in basketball by 50? I don't think so. Let's say 2-2 is realistic for the home conference schedule, and 3-1 is possible.
The road conference schedule includes Michigan State, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. This could be brutal. Iowa was better than anticipated this season. You know their D always plays hard, but they found a serviceable QB in Stanzi and a very good runner in Greene. I think both return. I think that may be the most difficult of the road contests. Illinois is Illinois. They are a meh team, but hey, they blew us out this season and Juice is back. If we can contain him, we can win. If we can't, well, we won't (pretty simple eh - if we score more points than them, we can win....). Wisconsin will be who they always are - and they'll be wanting to give us payback. They are a team I like playing because their style usually keeps opponents in the game. It's certainly a toss up. Lastly, the Sparties. They should be pretty good next year, but they will be breaking in a new QB and a new RB. Ringer was that offense this year, and I'm not sure they have anyone on their current roster who can replace him. That means likely a freshman RB (Baker?) and an inexperienced QB. Hmmm. The road record could be anywhere from 0-4 to 3-1. I think we lose to Iowa for sure, but the other 3 are toss ups. They are all on the road, so 1-3 is very possible, but 2-2 is not unrealistic.
Thus, in my "worst case" scenario, I think we'd be 3-1 non-conference, 2-2 home conference and 1-3 road conference. That's 6-6 (hell, we lost to Toledo this year, so worst case could be 0-12!). Best case: 4-0; 3-1; 2-2. That's 9-3.
So, I've done nothing here, other than waste space and come up with a range that everyone else basically has. Very good. Nice job. Thanks for reading. Sorry you can't get this time in your life back to do something more productive.
Well, time to focus on hockey and basketball now. Will the baseball team be any good this year? What about softball? I need something positive to root for this season. GO BLUE!