Michigan has announced its 12th opponent for the 2009 season. The Detroit News is reporting that Delaware St. will fill the remaining open spot on the schedule.
Luckily, it's not Delaware. Way too confusing with helmets. Delaware St. is a FCS school known mainly for the controversy of Delaware not scheduling them for a regular season game.
While a part of me wants to express outrage over scheduling a middling FCS team, a less indignant part of me would prefer a win by any means necessary. Western Michigan could be a tough game to open the season, and Notre Dame, in spite of horrible coaching, has solid talent. If Rodriguez can't up his win total a significant amount there will certainly be a bunch of business at Ann Arbor Torch & Pitchfork. I'm coming down on the side of this being a necessary evil and another easy $4 million for the Athletic department.
What do you guys think? Is Michigan at a point where it should try to be above the fray or should the schedule reflect the fact that this is still a rebuilding process?
There will be an informative update in a bit. There's actually a blog that covers Delaware St.'s conference. Awesome.
For reference, I was responding to this: http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/college/chi-06-morrisseyfeb06,0,596...
Your column on coaching "decommitments" really evidenced a lack of familiarity with the college game, particularly with respect to Rich Rodriguez. Your portrayal of him as a money-hungry job-hopping "villain" followed a steady drumbeat pushed by some several months ago, but was inaccurate. I have never heard that Rodriguez is the "king" of pursuing verbally committed players. What is the foundation for this statement? Joe Tiller made one very public comment about this, but this is common practice nearly everywhere, particularly in the more aggressive conferences. If you followed recruiting you would know this.
You would also know that in transition years, when a class is partially completed and there is a change of regime/scheme this is even more common, and indeed, pragmatically necessary. Kids must reassess their destination when coaches shuffle around. A player from Detroit only suited for a spread offense might have committed to a school in another time zone, but would prefer to stay in Michigan if there is a spot for him. A player in another state may have always been interested in Michigan but thought he had no chance because the old regime didn't consider him a "fit." Is it that you think these kids shouldn't be able to switch to the better place for them, or that they should have to find these opportunities doing their own research on the web?
Also, coaches usually do not pay buyouts. Not fully. You must know this. If you even casually follow the game you would know this. Rodriguez is not unusual for not immediately paying his--to do so would be the oddity. Just one year prior the same two schools had been presented with a buyout situation and sliced the penalty in half. There is always legal wrangling. It would be malpractice if an attorney did not attempt to negotiate the liquidated damages provision of a contract when the specified damages far exceed the real financial losses incurred by the breached party. This is standard. In this particular situation it became a big deal because of (understandable) anger in West Virginia. The same anger pushed scurrilous news stories (e.g. someone operating a paper-shredder must be participating in a sinister conspiracy) that produced a stereotype. You lazily relied on that stereotype as exhibit A in your column, which actually makes a reasonable argument. Unfortunately you lost credibility with me, and others who are familiar with the operations of college football, because you used such sloppy and tired examples.
Too much sports writing is written only off of someone else's headlines. It is necessary to understand the subject matter directly, particularly if you are going to use the loaded character-attacking language you employed to criticize Rodriguez ("villain," "ooze"). I hope that you are fortunate enough to never be publicly slandered based on hearsay and the popular wisdom of your rivals. And I hope you show more diligence in your research the next time you trot out an easy victim in your writing.
At the top of his press conference Rich Rodriguez basically went through the list and talked briefly about each commit. A lot of it was coach-speak and praising the high school coaches, but there was quite a bit of useful information (as opposed to Lloyd Carr press conferences, which were awesome in their own way) on most of the players. One interesting thing in general is that Rodriguez let us know who the lead recruiter was for each player, and for just about everyone from Florida it was Rod Smith. I guess that's why need a de facto third QB coach. On to the players:
Coach mentioned that the staff is really tight with Youngstown Liberty coach Jeff Whittaker. It's not that stacked of a school, but seems to produce a bit of talent on a regular basis. He said that Bell would start competing as a safety, but if he can put on enough weight, may move up to outside linebacker.
Looking at depth chart would probably tell you this too, but Rodriguez said that Campbell will play defense only and will compete for playing time right at the outset. Campbell got the instant impact tag from the coach. Will said himself that his goal is to start his freshman year. Even though he is a really funny, kind of goofy guy, I get the feeling that he's super competative; I sure as hell wouldn't want to be a RB/QB playing against Michigan in two years. Campbell is now doing the full Barwis workout and says the toughest part was the running because since the all star game he's been relaxing and "got fat."
Coach said he could play either Safety position and will probably be moved around to positions of need.
Apparently in the Spring, Jason Forcier was in town and talked with Rodriguez. He basically said he'd recruit Tate for Michigan. I just can't help but wonder how different this last year would have been if Forcier hadn't transferred... Oh well. Obviously will come and compete right away for time at QB. When a reporter asked Rodriguez if he was confident that he'll end up with a really good quarterback he responded that "we'll have a really good competition." Tate says he works much more on accuracy and a quick release than arm strength. In some passing drills he claims he hit Mike Cox and Kevin Koger in the back of the head because they weren't expecting the ball to get there as quickly as it did. After his interview with the TV crews at the press conference, most reporters were surprised at how well he handled himself. He really seemed like a pro.
For some reason, I got the feeling that Rodriguez is especially excited about Gallon, but I'm probably just projecting my own excitement. Coach said he'll compete immediately at slot. Tim has made this argument that Odoms is a pretty good slot receiver, but the concept of the slot receiver may be more appealing than Odoms himself. Rodriguez also mentioned that he'll immediately be in the mix for returning kicks. Obviously, Coach didn't talk about grade issues in specifics, but he mentioned that there are about 2-3 recruits who haven't been approved by the Clearinghouse and that all of those recruits of realistic plans to follow that will allow them to qualify. Rodriguez didn't really seem to worried about grade issues.
Check out Varsity Blue throughout the day for the tidbits on the rest of recruits.
Since I'd rather not work on schoolwork right now, I decided to post a little position by position analysis of our football team for next year.
This was an utter disaster last season, but things are definitely looking up. Neither Threet nor Sheridan settled into the offense and got it moving consistently (that is, more than one game at a time). With two good new quarterbacks coming in, I think Sheridan has seen the field for the last time. I suspect that Feagin will shortly be moving to WR or CB as well. This is definitely going to be a three way competition. I expect Threet to start our first game, honestly. He has the experience edge on everybody else and I think he has the potential to be a decent Div. 1 QB. He was really hampered last season by injuries and his performances suffered greatly. I envision an offense with him at the helm running like it did against Notre Dame (minus the turnovers). But, the problem is injuries. Threet, while tall, is a little too wiry in my opinion to be able to stay healthy a full season with the offense we run. You could tell in the second half of the season he was a bit scared of being hit when he wouldn't keep the ball ever. Plus, there's all of the fumbles. He's just not used to being hit. So, while I see Threet starting, I would be surprised if he didn't end up the backup by our 3rd game or so.
That leaves the other two QBs. The good news it that we have two easier games than Utah to start out the season, which means we (HOPEFULLY) can ease in Robinson and Forcier. There is no doubt that Forcier will have an advantage because of the extra spring practices and semester, but Robinson will also see some time, I'd think. I hope one of these two will end up our starter, but you always have to remind yourself that they are just freshmen and who knows how good they are going to be. David Cone fills out the rest of the depth chart, but he's never seeing the field.
Overall, I expect an upgrade from last year at the QB position, but how much of an upgrade is unclear.
This is one position I'm not worried about AT ALL! Probably the only position. The only thing that will slow down these guys are injuries (knock on wood), but after last season I don't think it could possibly be any worse. Minor is the clear starter here. He has decent speed, very few moves, but excellent power. With the dearth of talent next season at runningback in the Big Ten, I fully expect him to be an all-conference performer (barring injuries). Backing him up are Shaw and Brown, both decent backups. Brown has shown a lot of potential but needs to avoid the injury bug. Personally, I would love to see Brown and Minor in the same backfield, one as the inside guy and the other as the outside guy, something Rich Rod loves to have (look at Schmidt/Slaton combo). Brown is also a good pass catcher, which could prove to be very useful. Shaw showed some potential early on with some good runs, even though he tailed off at the end. I feel confident in saying he can hold up his own when called on next year. Losing McGuffie will hurt next next season (2010), but for 2009, we're all but set.
Our depth after those 3 is still pretty good. Moundros is a good blocking back and a minor threat out of the backfield to catch balls. Grady, well, who knows what his deal is. Providing depth after that are: Michael Cox (redshirted last year), Teric Jones, Vincent Smith, and Fitzgerld Tooussaint. If we have an injury crisis on the magnitude of the Denver Broncos, I think we can count one of those 4 to set up and give us a viable option. In all honesty, I expect 2 of our incoming RBs to redshirt because of the depth we've got going.
RBs, barring injury crisis, should be an upgrade over last season.
Another position I feel pretty good about. Greg Matthews, for better or for worse is our number one. He's got great hands but isn't much of a deep threat compared to truly elite receivers. He fits the mould of a Jason Avant-type receiver. Not going to beat many people downfield, but he’ll make nearly every catch and make a few great ones. Odoms showed some promise last year in the slot and should improve his drops and fumbling problems. He’s an effective receiver on the bubble screens, which even though they are the bane of my existence when I watch college football, can be effective for us.
After that, the depth is a little more questionable. Kevin Koger did well as a TE last year, especially for a freshman, and he’ll contribute on offense for sure. The other outside receiver is a question mark for us. I think it’s going to be a battle between Daryl Stonum and Toney Clemons. Neither looked great last year but they are big and can stretch the field. Junior Hemingway is a question mark; he’s showed promise when he’s played and he’ll be in the mix as well. Je’ron Stokes will also look to pencil his name in as the starter. I suspect all 4 of these guys will see time at the beginning of the season with one or two eventually taking over the spot.
Filling out the receiver position are a bunch of slot guys including Gallon and Robinson. I would expect Gallon to challenge for playing time, but Odoms probably has his spot on lockdown for now. Other players who probably won’t be used are Roundtree, Savoy and Rogers.
This is a position where we could possibly survive an injury crisis. I like our overall depth even if the starting 3 aren’t top class proven talent yet. We should improve.
I won’t even go into much detail on how awful we were. The offensive line definitely improved as the season went on, which is nice to see. We were decimated by people leaving and injuries, which left us with an undersized center, a defensive lineman playing guard and a multitude of other problems. Now, the good news: there are tons of freshmen vying for playing time for next season. We have 6 freshmen from year on the roster, and I expect 5 of them to be on the two-deep. The question is going to be how much weight they will all put on, because almost all of them were undersized coming in.
Despite me just laying into Molk and Ferrera just now, they both showed promise on the line. The line noticeably improved with the addition of Ferrera and Molk, despite being a bit smallish for a top notch O-lineman, improved as the season went on. He’s going to be very valuable the next 3 years as the nimble center who gets to the second level and keys our running game. Think Tom Nalen of the Denver Broncos. Hopefully his strength will improve. Stephen Schilling is somewhat of a headscratcher. He had a subpar freshman season, improved this season, but not as much as we needed. There is no doubting his talent; Lloyd Carr called him one of the best athletes he’s ever seen. I expect him to improve by leaps and bounds. I feel that those 3 spots are pretty well nailed down. The rest of the spots are up for grabs between guys like Moosman, Ortmann and the 6 freshmen from last year. Adding into the mix are 3 very solid recruits in Schofield, Washington and Lewan. Washington is probably the only one with the size to compete right away, but you never know at this position.
There is no way we won’t improve on the offensive line after being so dire last year. Good news is that we let up fewer sacks than the year before with a worse quarterback and had a higher yard per carry. Even though those numbers are very suspect, it’s a good sign for next year. Except a big jump in yards per carry and fewer sacks with a better scrambling quarterback. Plus, the Big Ten defensive line talent is going to be a little down, which is never a bad thing.
I’ve been pretty positive about the team so far, mostly because I’m happy with the depth we have the position and I’m confident someone will step up. Really, it can’t get much worse for the offense. I wish I could say the same thing for the defense. Yes, they were awful last year. But, I look at the defense and wonder where the talent is at certain positions.
One thing I’m relatively confident about is our defensive ends. That’s because of Brandon Graham, who is becoming my new man crush on the football team. If he goes down, then I’m afraid about what will happen. Here are the names at defensive end after Graham: Ryan Van Bergen (gulp), Greg Banks (who?), Tim North, Adam Patterson, Anthony LaLota (recruit), Craig Roh (recruit). If someone can find me talent there, there’s a candy bar in it for you. Van Bergen saw some playing time, so at least he has some experience under his belt. I’m praying that either LaLota or Roh will have an impact, but my hopes aren’t high (how many freshman D-Lineman have an impact? Very few). If Graham goes down, we’re screwed with a capital S-C-R-E-W-E-D. But, despite all of that, Graham is awesome and I think we can find someone to be serviceable at the other position.
Defensive Tackle is another story altogether. The only player we have coming back with significant experience is Mike Martin. In fact, I believe he’s the only scholarship defensive tackle we have coming back with any experience. Taylor and Johnson graduate. Gulp. Sagesse, well, who knows? Will Campbell is the only DT recruit. We are paper thin here and who knows how great Campbell will be. Martin looked good last year, but I’m pessimistic about how he will fare as an every down DT. We’re going to have to rely on those two and then a position switcher from either DE or OL for depth. Not good.
Our defensive line was the only highlight of our team last season and it’s probably going to be the lowlight of our team this season. Not good. Definite downgrade and a big downgrade here.
Well, at least we have experience coming back here. Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton have both showed potential playing LB. Ezeh is seemingly the bane of mgoblog’s existence, but I rate him slightly better than Brian does. He makes tackles, which is valuable to a defense, especially one that has a tendency to miss tackles in Michigan’s defense. Mouton is a pretty good tackler and a decent LB to have in coverage. He’s the faster of the two. I’m only putting those two down as starters because the college game has shifted to where it is extremely unusual to see 3 LBs on the field at the same time on defense. Plus, we are playing a lot spread teams, which will further limit the amount of time 3 LBs are on the field. So, my salient point really is that I feel good about our 2 starting linebackers. They are both young and have a lot of experience under their belts. They will both improve, and I actually feel very good about how they’ll stack up next season.
Here’s the problem: depth. We have a decent amount of bodies, but the talent is decidedly lacking. Let’s throw some names: Brandon Herron, Marell Evans, Kenny Demens, and J.B. Fitzgerald. If you are suddenly looking for cover you have the same feeling I do. Our recruits are decent but nothing to write home about it looks like: Isaiah Bell and Brandin Hawthorne. Similar to the defensive ends, what is going to happen if Ezeh or Mouton go down? We can’t afford an injury crisis at this position at all. Otherwise we’ll be throwing a lot of unproven and inexperienced players out at linebacker.
The verdict is an upgrade barring injury. Hope very hard for no injuries.
If the last two positions didn’t scare you enough about the defense, here comes the worst of the bunch. We return Donovan Warren (okay) and Stevie Brown (OH GOD NO!!!!!) from one of the worst secondaries in the Big Ten. I like Warren a lot. He didn’t perform quite to my expectations last season, but he’ll improve. I can see him as a shutdown corner who can match up with the best of the Big Ten on the corner.
I could write pages on Stevie Brown. About 75% of the time when there was a big play against our pass defense, he was at fault. There is no doubting his physical skills, but there is a lot doubt surrounding his mental attributes. That is, does Stevie Brown have a brain somewhere in that skull of his? Who knows? But I feel pretty confident in saying that he will continue to be the Achilles heel of our defense. I am holding out some hope that he could possibly blossom into a elite performer, but I really doubt it.
After those two players, there is NOTHING. Boubacar Cissoko is awesome, mostly because we can again do the Stevie Breaston squeeze (note: Breast and Boob in the names), but was pretty below average when he played against Purdue and State. His coverage abilities seem to be decent, but he is not a good run supporter and when he gets beat, there’s a tendency for the play to go a LONG way. I’m praying he’ll improve, and I’m more confident that he’ll improve more than Stevie Brown.
Continuing the theme of nothing is the rest of the players here. Michael Williams, Brandon Smith, Troy Woolfork are the players that are probably at least somewhat on your radar for defensive back. Plus, Vlad the Impaler (awesome nickname), Justin Turner, Mike Jones and Adrian Witty come in as recruits. Vlad and Turner look like good recruits, but I doubt Vlad adds much this season unless Brown, Smith and Williams are DIRE (which is possible) because he’s coming off a knee injury. Turner might add something because we’re weak, but I’d much prefer Woolfork to step up or something. After this, we’ve got a bunch of players nobody has ever heard of.
Okay, don’t jump. It can’t get any worse than last season, right? Charles Stewart is finally gone. However, Greg Robinson isn’t a strong Xs and Os guy and his weakness has always been pass defense. Crap. Honestly, I have zero expectations on our defensive backs. Yeah, we have some players with potential, but I could count on one finger the defensive back I feel comfortable with (Warren). Even though we could possibly be better in secondary, I’m not holding out much hope.
We will definitely be worse in the secondary than last year … and that’s saying something.
One great thing about the team last year was that we improved in special teams. More of a function of how bad we were in 2007 on special teams, though (which is what I’m hoping for on defense this year). KC Lopata was solid but nothing special. Our kickoffs were again, solid but nothing special. The candidates at kicker are Brandon Wright, random walkon or Brendan Gibbons. I lean towards Wright handling kickoff duties and Gibbons handling FGs, unless Gibbons turns out to have a great leg. I think probably a slight downgrade, if anything, at the kicker position.
Only one thing to say about the Punter. Zoltan Mesko. No problem here.
Returns were an adventure last year. When Odoms didn’t drop the ball, he was a decent punt returner. Cissoko was solid (when he held onto the ball) on kickoff returns. I think we’ll see an improvement with Odoms learning how to hold onto the ball and probably someone stepping up. We could really use a spark in our return game. Breaston has been a huge loss here ever since he left.
Offense should be a lot better with improvement on the O-Line and at quarterback. Defense is going to be down a notch with losses on our defensive line and secondary. Special Teams will improve.
What’s the outlook, then? Well, it could literally anywhere. Rich Rod has a good track record of improvement in the second season at a school, but there are a lot of things working against improvement. One MAJOR thing working for us is that the Big Ten is going to be a lot less talented next season. Ohio State has lost a ton on both sides of the ball. Penn State should still be pretty good, but other than that, almost every school has lost talent everywhere. Maybe Minnesota will be better. That’s a huge plus for us. I’m excited for next season to see what our offense will look like with an experience offensive line and a real quarterback.
Before you read this, please spare the standard flame responses what would usually be written in the comments about the legitimacy of this story. I can’t prove any of it. I am simply a recorder to this event and I have no further information beyond what I wrote below. Since this conversation happened right next to me, I guess it becomes fair game to repeat. I was not paying attention until a few words jumped out “national signing day”, it was just such odd timing.
I was sitting the back cubicle area in the Admiral’s Club today in O’Hare catching up on emails, scanning mgoblog and rivals for updates while waiting for my flight connection. There is a guy immediately behind me and to my left who starts phone conversation while he is shutting down his laptop. Obviously, I did not hear the person on the other end speaking.
“blah, blah, blah” [I am tuning him out at this point] “I didn’t want to call you until signing day was over”
“yeah… Scott was asking me about Denard, but I didn’t want to say anything to him since I knew the situation…. I just didn’t want to talk about it… he was recruiting him pretty hard… Loeffler and Gibson about came to blows on that one trip down to Florida… … it worked out ok in the end… yeah… well Luginbill has that thing with Rod… yeah, he loved Lloyd, their relationship went back almost 30 years… when he was coaching there… he wouldn’t even speak to us that the All-Star game and we always got along… I don’t know all the specifics”
And the guy walked off. I didn’t follow him or ask him who he was since he was on the phone. Not even sure if he was a Michigan guy. It was all very strange. Take what you want from it, I just found it very interesting.
The Freep's Mike Brudenell gives MSU the advantage in recruiting this year, because Dantonio's 2009 class is "Made in Michigan."
He goes on to describe how Dantonio recruits:
"He's filling his needs with kids who really want to play, know something about the history of the school and represent the region. "
It is logic like this why newspapers are struggling.
How does Brudenell know that UofM's players are any less hungry to play football or know anything less about their school's football history? A lot of out of state recruits say that they were a UofM fan growing up and thus would know traditions of the school. Michigan has a big time program and people outside of our state borders know many of the traditions and history behind the program. This isn't MSU. So 2 of 3 of his reasons have been debunked as pure assumptions with no evidence provided by him to back it up.
This only leaves his idea that MSU has a better class, because MSU has kids who represent the region.
Perhaps CMU has a better class than UofM too, since it has more in state kids that are hungry, know the history, and are homegrown. Maybe we could trade classes with CMU so we can compete against MSU!
Why should we care what states our players come from as long as we get some Michigan players when we need to? Should Rodriquez get the kids who fit his system or try and get a roster with a kid from every single one of the 83 counties in Michigan to best represent our lovely state? Ultimately, they all represent their school when they commit. How many of you were disappointed when a Wolverine from Ohio won the Heisman? My guess is only bitter rivals would answer that they were. Michigan is not a traditionally talent rich state, we may have to head out of state at times to get a championsip roster with our system.
He goes on to say:
"For me, it's quite simple. I’d rather watch a kid from Ypsi score a touchdown over someone from West Palm Beach. How about you?"
No, I would rather watch a UofM player score a touchdown than someone from another team. And perhaps UofM can score more touchdowns with getting the best talent for the system, regardless of what state they are from.
I wonder if this guy would applaud MSU when Daughtery got NCAA violations in order to entice southerners to come up north and play in the late 50's and early 60's.
Finally he is misleading about where the recruiting classes finished ranked nationally. He says: "Rivals.com ranks MSU’s class of 2009 16th in the nation, while it rates U-M seventh. Tom Lemming (CBS College Sports) ranks U-M 10th, while Tom Luginbill (Scouts Inc./ESPN) has MSU at the same spot." That implies that MSU is 10th in the ESPN's Luginbill's rankings. MSU is not ranked at all, he only ranks the top-25.
This illogical article isn't even suited for a high school newspaper. It would make as much sense for me to praise UofM's class as better than MSU's, merely because we bring in more out of state people to a state that has a declining population. Sure there can be benefits to recruiting your local area, but this guy fails to mention any.