"Rodrick Williams Jr.'s 10-month old, 2-foot-long savannah monitor named "Kill" gets the RB some strange looks when they go for walks together."
It’s a topic that I am sure every Michigan fan has considered heading into this fall; after a disappointing 3-9 record last year, how many wins will the Wolverine’s have in 2009? Clearly there are an innumerable # of factors that can be considered and we are months from the opener verse Western Michigan. But it’s never too early to do a logical rundown of the 2009 schedule.
9/05 Western Michigan – last year’s Broncos enjoyed a good season in the MAC, finishing 6-2 in conference play and 9-4 overall. The results in the off season was that Western gave its coach Bill Cubit a new 5 year contract on the same day they lost to Rice 38-14 in the Texas Bowl. The team had great success at home (5-0), beat Illinois at Ford Field, and earned its second consecutive bowl appearance. Overall Western welcomes back 7 starters on Offense and 3 or 4 on Defense, and starting QB Tim Hiller. All joking aside regarding the last two home opener’s, this one should be a WIN – Michigan has superior talent to limit the WMU offense and the team should be very well prepared. Michigan, 1-0
9/12 Notre Dame – Michigan has enjoyed great success against ND in the last few years, and last years rain soaked game was the perfect storm for the young Michigan team. ND returns virtually their entire offense including Clausen and Tate, and a healthy # of defensive players. This is clearly a pivotal season for Weiss esp. after last year’s – MEH season (7-6) that included an embarrassing loss to Syracuse (adv. Mich DC). ND will be coming off their own opener against a good Nevada team with a high powered offense so there can be no assumption that both teams will be 1-0. Michigan dominated the last home game between these two and there will no doubt be a Clausen/Tate v. Stevie Brown moment. I like to think this one is a tossup in the end so I will handicap it. Michigan 1.5-.5
9/19 Eastern Michigan – I would like to think that this one should go smoothly, and that with two games under our belt this team should have an idea who is under center and there should be no problem with a EMU team that went 2-6 in conference and 3-9 overall (familiar?). Michigan 2.5-.5
9/26 Indiana, Big Ten opener, fourth straight home game, and a team Michigan desperately wishes was on its 2008 schedule (1-7, 3-9). At this point, both teams will have played WMU, so we will certainly have a measuring stick leading up to this game. IU no longer has a QB controversy, as Chappell will be their leader – Kellen Lewis has switched to WR…Reports indicate that IU has a new offense referred to as the “Pistol”, which involves shotgun, the tailback BEHIND the QB, and incorporates the no-huddle. WTF? Indiana has more to overcome than even Michigan does, and this is a home game… Michigan 3.5-.5
10/03 Michigan State, definitely one to circle on the early half of the schedule and the team should certainly be motivated after last year’s loss… For the team, it will be their first game away from Ann Arbor and little brother will certainly put up a big fight after last year’s win. The Spartans (9-4, 6-2) lost QB Brian Hoyer and RB Javon Ringer, but still have seven offensive and eight defensive starters back. Dantonio has recently signaled that the starting QB race between Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol could go all the way into the 2009 season. Cousins has limited game experience as a backup last year and Nichol is a transfer from Oklahoma (from Lowell, MI). Overall this one could go either way… If you go with the logic that Michigan has better talent and should be much improved, then you can be optimistic that they should be in this game… If you think Dantonio is a good coach and is building something at MSU then you are probably pessimistic about our chances. By gameday each team will be well into the season and we will have more answers. Give it to State today, but my heart says a toss-up. Michigan 3.5-1.5
10/10 Iowa, another road game and this one is against a Big Ten team that started 3-3 last year, but finished with a string of big wins including a big one over PSU (also most of their losses were close). Returning QB in Stanzi, who with improvement could be very solid, and good LB core. Tough for Michigan but for the time being we will give it to Iowa… 3.5-2.5
10/17 Delaware State, defer to Brian’s preview around the time they were scheduled. Home game, anything but a win mid season in this one would be a complete embarrassment. 4.5-2.5.
10/24 Penn State, this year @ home, Nick Sheridan should wear street clothes for this one. PSU will have strengths at all the key positions, and Evan Royster by this time should be having a hell of a season. They lose a lot at WR, OL, and Defense, but this is a very talented team. This game hinges on QB play and hopefully the home crowd and a fast start can assist Michigan. PSU has to be a clear favorite in this game. 4.5-3.5
10/31 Illinois, definitely an explosive offense and a road game down in Champagne. Juice is finally a Senior, but future dual threat QB Eddie McGee has been getting time in the slot, so Michigan will get a look at him either way… The Illini sucked last year, except when they roared past UofM, overall their explosive Offense is mostly intact from last year (individual yardage record by Juice at the Big House last year) and this game could end up being a barn burner. I don’t like this one unless the Offense is really clicking, but both teams are coming off poor seasons. Toss-up. Michigan 5-4
11/07 Purdue, hopefully after a good showing at Illinois this is a welcomed home game after a nice win. Michigan could have beaten Purdue last year, except for their one game offensive explosion. Joe Tiller is out the door and replaced by Danny Hope. The offense of the Drew Brees era is long gone and Purdue like Michigan has a laundry list of possible QBs. This one should be a great home game for Michigan. 6-4
11/14 Wisconsin, we stunk in the first half vs. Wisco last year, and several miracles occurred in the second half. They lose PJ Hill (John Clay may be a good enough replacement) who was falling apart and neither their offense nor defense is very spectacular (6 or so returning starters on each). If this was a home game I would figure Michigan for a great shot at victory, I have never been a Beilema fan so maybe I am being too optimistic. But I think a surging Michigan team can win this game. I won’t go too crazy though and will just leave this as a toss-up. 6.5-4.5
11/21 OSU, so many story lines… 5 game losing streak to OSU, Pryor’s first Big House Trip, a Michigan team maybe looking to be bowl eligible. OSU should be good, they return a lot of starters though they lose Laurinaitis and Jenkins on defense. Pryor who had a great frosh campaign should have some good seasoning… hate to say in but they are the conference favorite. Hold it right there… Bo beat an undefeated OSU in his first season, and according to RR’s track record, last year really shouldn’t count as much more than a long series of scrimmages. This game is the biggest of them all and there should be a lot of pride on the line after last year’s embarrassing second half. The week leading up to this game kills my work productivity even when we are the prohibitive underdog. I have to say OSU at this point, but I am hoping for a good level of optimism. 6.5-5.5
Overall I am an optimist, I think we beat either ND or MSU in the first half of the season (both are winnable) and I think we WIN at Illinois in a shootout. I am optimistic that we will be 7-5 next year. However, I think that if we find the luck we never got last year – we have a shot at 8-4, and a Max at 9-3… Our bottom I think is known, there are 4 games on the schedule that should be wins (WMU, EMU, D.State, Indiana) without much contest and that we have to win at least one other game. So 5 wins would be our basement in my opinion.
It’s early… But what are your thoughts?
Also, to my loser friend Rob who reads this blog and refuses to get a login, YOU SUCK!
So I'm back for another foray into enemy territory. I was pleasantly surprised by the (mostly) respectful reception of my diary on Shavodrick Beaver's de-commitment, so here's another. The just plain craziness of this Paulus business - and the uproar about it that's evident anywhere Michigan fans gather online - seems a propitious occasion for it.
DISCLAIMER: I'm a Buckeye fan, but one who tries to hate y'all in a friendly, rational way, if that makes any sense. I'm not here to talk shit. There are lots of reasons for this, but I'll just give you one: I'm old enough that my immersion in the rivalry started about halfway through the 10 Years' War. The worm has turned a few times since then, and if I throw "Five in a row" at any of you, I should expect a "2-10-1" to hit me in the mush. Actually, I'll give you two: this is your place, and it would be bad form for me to come in and piss all over the place.
That said, to business. I'll take the three things from the title in order.
MEH: So what? There's no question that depth at the position is a concern for Michigan right now, so ANY viable option at all that can be added - especially one that burns only one year of a scholarship in a year when a scholarship is available - is a good option. As long as you're not looking to him to save your team's season, you'd be crazy NOT to take him.
OR MAYBE GOOD: This gets back a little bit to a few of the points I made in the Beaver diary - it's entirely possible that Paulus will be able to compete with, and maybe even beat out, everybody else for the starting job this fall, because nobody has any GOOD reason right now to think that Forcier or Robinson (or Paulus, for that matter) will be able to lead your offense to success this Fall. All anybody KNOWS right now is that Sheridan = DEATH. This should be obvious to everybody no matter WHAT Forcier looked like last Saturday, given the no-QB-contact, injury-depleted-and-unsettled-personnel-on-defense nature of Spring football. Paulus was an extremely highly ranked QB prospect four years ago, and it just might be that four years of life and high-level athletic competition may have better equipped him for success than a kid eight months removed from high school. Even if that's not the case, worries about "Calista" (sorry - had to get at least one dig in) Forcier's current physical ability to survive D-1 football for a full season are seemingly well-founded, and there really cannot be any question that Paulus, sight-unseen on a college football field, would be a better backup option than DEATH (again, it must be emphasized that nothing at all can be KNOWN about Robinson's ability to succeed as Michigan's QB at this point, so he really can't be a part of anyone's calculations on this point, other than as another warm body). And if Forcier gets hurt and Robinson isn't up to the job as a freshman, then maybe Paulus CAN save your season in a way that DEATH or Cone cannot - it seems pretty clear at this point that winning the games y'all "should" win this Fall is going to depend on offensive competence, since it doesn't look like your defense is going to be all that great. So Paulus in Maize and Blue is maybe a very good thing.
BUT THE OPTICS ARE TERRIBLE: There's a lot of psychoanalyzing of Forcier's comments on this situation that I won't address or engage in, but it seems clear that he was pretty much blindsided by the whole thing, and that does not at all speak well of the coaching staff's handling of this. They had to know that some d-bag reporter would buttonhole and badger Tate as soon as the story got out and should have coached the kid up on what to say. I suppose it's possible that they did just that and Tate fucked it up, but it doesn't read that way. The concerns some of you have about the "Those Who Stay..." believers on the team resenting this kind of stuff are probably at least half right, and if I'm even half right about that then that's a problem. The last thing to say about this is that you don't have to be a Wolverine-hater to see that (even considering the meh/maybe good points I made above) this foofaraw only strengthens the perception that Michigan is a program so desperate and so much in disarray right now, that they're willing to take a QB that FUCKING DUKE's coach refused to even consider. Note that I'm not saying that this perception is correct - in fact, I think that it is not - but that it is real nonetheless. This cannot be a good thing - perception matters in big-time college football. As a Buckeye fan, I ought to know.
In the end, I think that this business is likely to be an energy-sapping distraction right on through the preseason (assuming Paulus does in fact join the team, and to a lesser but still significant degree even if he doesn't), and possibly on into the season. The silver lining, of course, is that if any of the meh/maybe good points I made above are true, then it won't matter once the real games start. I guess you're all gonna need a high tolerance for drama.
I thought I would drop a diary entry on this subject as all board entries seem to get eaten up within hours.
When this all came down I thought that it was a win win for UofM. Paulus could provide depth at worst and at most, a very good QB option for a year while Tate and/or Denard grow into it. But then as the day has worn on, I have realized that this is the exact opposite of a win win. I love RR and the new regime, but this situation does nothing but rock the ship that was just getting righted.(sp?) Just when we were getting into a groove with a QB that gave us something better than Death, and another to come in and help, RR throws a wrench into the mix. I AM ALL FOR THE DEPTH AT QB, but this is just adding another ring to the RR circus.
Tate's interview was interesting with the Daily, and I almost wonder if it was even real. He seemed a little hazy with details and that should NOT be the case with your arguable #1 QB. Things like this do not help team chemistry, assuming what we all have read and heard is true. Even if Paulus does not end up signing, it still ripples the water. If Tate doesn't know what to think, how much trust can he or the team have in RR. And save your "This is College football, grow up!" garbage, becuase this team is young and at the very least needs to be able to trust the staff.
There, I have that off my chest. I may feel that this is a slippery deal because I think Tate and Denard are more than capable, but any way you slice it, it is a distraction. Those tend to not be very positive.
Press release, yo!
Park Ridge, Ill. – The Big Ten Conference office released the game times and television plans for 14 home football contests today to appear during prime time on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 or the Big Ten Network. At least one Big Ten contest will be featured during prime time in the first two weeks of non-conference play and on the first six Saturdays of conference action. The prime-time schedule will include three games each for Illinois, Indiana and Iowa and a pair of outings each for Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State and Penn State.
The non-conference home schedule will hit prime time with three contests the opening week of the year, beginning with a Thursday night matchup between Indiana and Eastern Kentucky to kick off the 2009 campaign on Sept. 3 at 8 p.m. ET on the Big Ten Network. Two prime-time tilts will be featured on the opening Saturday, Sept. 5, with Illinois facing Missouri at 3:40 p.m. ET on ESPN and Wisconsin hosting Northern Illinois at 7 p.m. ET on the Big Ten Network.
The second Saturday of non-conference play will be highlighted by a rematch between four-time defending Big Ten Champion Ohio State and USC, a game the Trojans won last year at home. The Buckeyes and Trojans will square off at Ohio Stadium on Sept. 12 at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. The Big Ten Network will also feature a pair of contests to kick off at 7 p.m. ET the same night, including Illinois hosting Illinois State and Minnesota taking on Air Force in the first game at the Gophers’ new TCF Bank Stadium.
The Big Ten schedule begins on Saturday, Sept. 26, with Iowa hitting the road to face reigning Big Ten Champion Penn State, after the Nittany Lions shared last year’s title with Ohio State. The Iowa-Penn State contest will be played at 8 p.m. ET on ABC or ESPN. The conference’s final non-conference prime-time game will also take place that night when Purdue hosts Notre Dame at 8 p.m. ET on ABC or ESPN.
The month of October will feature six prime-time outings, including four games on the Big Ten Network, one contest on ABC or ESPN and another matchup on ESPN or ESPN2. The complete prime-time schedule for the 2009 campaign appears below.
The Big Ten will hold the 2009 Football Media Days and 38th annual Kickoff Luncheon on Monday and Tuesday, July 27-28, at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, featuring all 11 head coaches and some of the conference’s top returning players. The 114th season of Big Ten football kicks off beginning with every team in action on Sept. 3 or 5.
2009 BIG TEN PRIME-TIME FOOTBALL GAMES
Sept. 3 Eastern Kentucky at INDIANA, 8 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
Sept. 5 Missouri vs. ILLINOIS, 3:40 p.m. ET, ESPN
Northern Illinois at WISCONSIN, 7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
Sept. 12 Illinois State at ILLINOIS, 7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
Air Force at MINNESOTA, 7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
USC at OHIO STATE, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Sept. 26 IOWA at PENN STATE, 8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN
Notre Dame at PURDUE, 8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN
Oct. 3 OHIO STATE at INDIANA, 7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
Oct. 10 MICHIGAN at IOWA, 8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN
Oct. 17 ILLINOIS at INDIANA, 7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
Oct. 24 IOWA at MICHIGAN STATE, 7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
Oct. 31 MICHIGAN STATE at MINNESOTA, 8 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
PENN STATE at NORTHWESTERN, 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN2
Good day to you all. I've been forced to write some thoughts into the Diaries. Forced because we have now gone 5 days without some of the riviting thoughts that this readership develops so cleverly on a daily basis.
Where is the great Jamiemac, or Meeechigan Dan. I miss TomVH, and I even miss... wait for it.. THE KNOWLEDGE. 14 weeks now without a post from THE KNOWLEDGE. Just because you wiffed at air on the DC doesn't mean there isn't still a place at Mgoblog for you. We celebrate victories, and forget defeats, so you are welcomed back. (Aren't we 10-2-1 against Ohio State recently?)
As great as Brian is he knows and we know that you are all part of the lifeline of information and analysis that makes this website great. And coming from a guy who sits in a dead end job in AZ, wearing sunscreen to prevent sunburn even at night. I need you guys to continue to bring your revelations daily! So take up the flag and run with it.
Good day, and God Bless.
Forcier looked unbelievable in the video I saw. While he is toothpick thick he sure can dot the i. Can't wait to see Denard though, and that Ginn Jr. Speed he is going to bring to Michigan.
This may be more than anyone cares to read on the subject, but I thought the Board post from earlier this afternoon re: Rodriguez wanting less fat on the lineman raised an interesting topic worthy of a serious response.
First, I think the poster was correct that Rodriguez wants lineman that do not carry much body fat. I recall last year in his first spring he said (paraphrasing) "by summer even the O-linemen will want to take their shirts off, which is unusual."
Second, I think the poster was also correct that his desire to have O-lineman without much "extra" body mass is atypical. Not, mind you, that other coaches want fat, fat, and more fat, or don't care about being in shape. But fat is still generally forgiven, and mass (in good, neutral, or bad forms) is still generally praised on the offensive line. When I played offensive line (~10 yrs ago) coaches at both the HS and college level definitely felt the more weight the better. Recall that the number of 300 lbers used to be a status symbol, and that good lines would be ogled for their average weight. (This is still largely true) Why does our coach depart from this?
I think Rodriguez wants leaner linemen because
a) they will be better conditioned, and have a lesser drop-off in form and concentration as games progress, and
b) they will be quicker, helping them to reach-block and sprint out to second and third-level defenders in the stretch zone blocking schemes his offense employs
There is always some concern that if you are too light you will be susceptible to the bull rush. Molk toes this line; sometimes teams can back him up a bit.
But from my perspective, offensive lineman don't usually get beat because they get pushed around--they get beat because they get run around. In other words, the typical lineman is a lumbering guy who can make a DB go splat if he can ever make square contact, and he can easily hold ground against a straight up bull rush; but the second level guy can usually dance around him, and occasionally a quick D-lineman will speed rush around him or a blitzer will shoot his gap before he can slide. I think Rodriguez' ideal lineman is a bit quicker for having less weight, and the idea is that his increased quickness will allow him to make contact at the second level more often and protect more lateral space at the line of scrimmage.
And I think Rodriguez has a great view on this. Let a leaner guy put his helmet (more often) on the linebacker or safety. Let him keep up with a speed rusher a little better.
The vulnerability--that an interior D-lineman will drive his man into the offensive backfield--is not as pronounced in Rodriguez' offense. His quarterbacks do not take a 5 or 7 step drop and can see a collapsing pocket happen more quickly. They frequently are delivering the ball quickly, and swinging it outside the tackle-to-tackle box. In short, the ball moves quickly, and often sideways, and this makes a well-formed pocket less critical. And on those quick lateral passes our smallish center is not merely excused for not holding the pocket--he's trying to sprint over to the sideline to find a linebacker flowing toward the play so he can put a facemask on his pads and sweep him out to the sideline. When we have 3 or 4 quick lineman getting over to that area of the field on those quick screens it will be a nightmare for defenses. I think RR has dreams of Barnum making it over from the opposite-side Guard position to blow up DBs on that play. (or maybe only I have them?) Losing weight and building lean muscle mass is definitely a key part of getting to the point where our lineman have the speed to "get in the way" of tacklers up field, across the field, etc.
If you want one clear example of what athletic, downfield blocking from O-lineman can do, watch McGuffie's screen pass TD v. Notre Dame. That's how it should work. In theory, of course, if you can suck in 4-5 pass rushers and deliver the ball properly, your screen gives you 9 blockers (11 - ball carrier and QB) against 6-7 tacklers. Why does 9 v. 6-7 not always deliver a TD? Because the big guys have a hard time getting to, and locking up, a target several yards down the field. It is tough. But when we are sending 9 athletic guys down the field on plays like that, well...it will be fun to watch. So; I for one hope we continue to slice fat from the line and recruit backfield burners.
On a final note, people have said that Rodriguez' kind of lineman is not an "NFL" type but I think in truth the NFL is moving more toward Omamehs than Borens. Certainly at Tackle. (This is especially true at left tackle, but notice that even if he plays RT scouts want to see Andre Smith cut his fat.) I think he is actually (rightly) selling both current and potential UM lineman on the notion that every year the NFL will want its lineman quicker and leaner. A big stomach is not a good thing, and I think is no longer even a neutral thing. I think our approach is forward-thinking and right on the money.
Seantrel, I hope you're reading--we'll have you burying guys 30 yards down the field, with a body you can take to the swimming pool.