Mike Lantry, 1972
Good morning, friends! I thought I’d “de-lurk” and introduce myself. I’m Dougal “Doogie” Fitzpatrick: junior accountant at a big-name firm, practicing Catholic, and . . . wait for it . . . proud alumnus of the University of Notre Dame du Lac! What’s a proud Irish member of the Fighting Irish family doing writing at a Michigan website, you ask! Great question! Let me tell you what led to this intercollegiate healing session!
A few months ago I was in the breakroom at work when something shocking happened – I was subjected to anti-Catholic bias! There I was, eating my tuna salad sandwich and thumbing through the latest issue of “First Things” when . . . it happened! I heard two of my co-workers talking about college football, and their conversation took the following anti-clerical turn:
“. . . man, Notre Dame’s football team sucks.”
I was stunned. Absolutely floored. I stumbled back towards my cubicle with nothing more than my Brooks Brothers polo, Tommy Hilfiger flat-front khakis and Kenneth Cole square-toe shoes to cover my shame. Was this, I wondered, what the poor, doomed defenders of Fort St. Elmo felt as they gave their lives to defend against the heathen Turk? What the early Christians felt as they were cast by the Romans into the Coliseum with hungry lions? What Bill Donahue feels each and every time an episode of “South Park” airs?
Yes, I nodded. Like the martyrs of old, I had been chosen to defend the Faith. And, unlike so many of those pathetic losers, I would not fail.
I immediately understood that the horrible, anti-Catholic statements of my Know-Nothing co-workers were born of nothing more than ignorance. As a result, I turned to one of the great sources of light and knowledge on the World Wide Web: ND Nation. There, amongst those unmatched scholars who have drunk deep of Aristotle, Augustine and Ara Parseghian, I sought guidance as to which non-Notre Dame websites might serve as outposts on my first, tentative steps beyond the pale; beyond the enlightened utopia, the Shangri-La of Notre Dame football, and into the savage barbarism that is everyone else. There were ruminations and considerations. One sage poster even refused to leave his ergonomic chair until a solution was found, recalling the great sacrifice of St. Simon Stylites. Finally, the word came from on high: “Cook‘s a douchebag, but he’s a smart douchebag.”
With those majestic, awe-inspiring words, I made preparations. I ritually bathed and anointed my body with precious oils, accepting the eager help of my pastor in so doing. I learned to speak plainly and cautiously, realizing that many of the infidel would lack the grasp of multisyllabic words that came so readily to one who achieved a 660 on his SAT verbal. I underwent circumcision. But fear not, my children. For I have made my way here. I shall bear the patience of the Christ himself. For like the Messiah, I come here to teach, and through this teaching to banish your affliction of bone-stupidity.
I have prayed long and hard for guidance with respect to this initial post. I have sought consultation from the blessed ND Nation and from my Opus Dei cell. After careful thought, prayer and ritual mortification, I have determined that this initial post should be guided by the spirit of ecumenism. With that in mind, I thought –what better than a short, non-controversial list of things every college football fan can agree on? So, without further adieu:
1. College football is wonderful!
2. Instant replay, when properly applied, helps make the college football experience a better one.
3. Notre Dame football is a shining beacon; a city upon a hill; His word made truth; perfection beyond anything the Lord has created, including His Son; the Alpha and Omega; His favorite creation; and if you root for anyone else you are a heretic and unbeliever, and may God have mercy on your poor, withered soul, you miserable cur.
Does anybody have anything else to offer to the list? I hope so! I can’t wait for us to learn from one another!
p.s. I’ll follow up soon with some further thoughts on why Charlie Weis deserves a seat on the Curia; how anti-Catholicism kept Ron Powlus from the five Heisman Trophies that were his by right of the holy blood that flows through that noble paladin’s veins; and why the Jews killed Jesus.
I wrote a post today detailing the Big East's new partnership with Comcast. There are a couple parallels and contrasts to the ongoing Big Ten Network saga that may be of interest to anyone who's followed the coverage of the BTN's attempts to get itself up off the ground.
Would the Big Ten have been better off partnering with Comcast/Versus from the start, instead of bickering for a year?
Also, if you haven’t read part one which previews the offense, click below: http://mgoblog.com/diaries/2008-michigan-football-season-preview-part-1-...
To recap from part 1, here is the grading scale:
A: Obviously the best rating. Players at this position should compete for all Big Ten or be among the top players at their position in the nation.
B: Good players, but not good enough to carry or lead the team.
C: Average. Position will not likely make very many big plays and should be expected to give up a few/make mistakes.
D: Should be a significant liability to the team.
F: We are fucked.
We will have the same starting line up as last year as all starters return. This should be the strength of our defense next year (tops in the Big Ten?) as you can expect improvement from all players since all were first year starters besides Terrence Taylor.
The two starters are Terrence Taylor and Will Johnson. Taylor is a large man that takes up blockers and had a high number of tackles for a NT. While he is excellent at times even when double teamed, he needs to stop taking plays off (sounds like most skilled Michigan DTs of the recent past). With a good year and more consistent effort, he has the talent to go in the early rounds of the draft. Side note: In the beginning, he had problems with the new coaching staff, but those issues appear resolved and it sounds like he has bought into the new coaches and their intense training, which should help his effort.
Will Johnson was a solid starter, not really standing out in anyway. Expect more of the same since he is more of a motor player than a skilled one (read: he lacks talent). He is balding at the age of 22 which makes him look at least 20 years older than he actually is.
Tim Jamison and Brandon “BG” Graham are the starters at end. Jamison was a solid pass rusher and played fairly well against the run last year. He had a normal body, but had a gut that stuck out enough that he looked fat, but not as much as a Buddha belly where although you’re fat, you can at least rest your arms on it (yes, in the back of my mind I always thought it would be fun to have one). Fortunately, with the help of Barwis, he’s lost 10 lbs., looks svelte (not really sure if he does actually, but I’ve always wanted to use that word), and likely can see his penis again. Regardless, being faster and in better shape, Jamison should improve on a strong effort from last year.
Brandon Graham was a beast last season—literally (he was fat)and figuratively (he chased fleeting QBs like a madman). While this resulted in a high number of sacks and QB pressures, he struggled against the run. He is now 20 lbs. lighter and has received some of the highest praise on the team during the spring. BG should be the best player on next year’s D and will hopefully be a more all-around player. Side note: While the above players were the standard four man line, Michigan often moved BG to the tackle spot, especially on passing downs. It is unclear whether the new coaching staff will do this since he’s lost weight and the depth is not great at DE. I personally don’t think Michigan was successful at employing this formation last year, anyway.
Depth along the DL is essential as players rotate in more than most positions. There is no “can’t miss” player on the bench ready to step in if there is an injury, in my opinion. The team only has a few highly-recruited young players, but none have significant experience. Depending on who you listen to, various writers claim this or that player is ready to “step up” and “demand significant snaps,” but I don’t really know what to make of any of it; I’ve probably heard redshirt freshman Ryan Van Bergen the most since the spring. Also, DT Marques Slocum is likely going to get kicked off the team for academic reasons, hurting the depth at DT, which is unfortunate since he showed promise last year in very limited time.
Obi Ezeh (who a friend nicknamed Obi Ezeh like Sunday Morning,Chris Berman style) is the only returning starter. There has been continued discussion that he might move to the strong side, but I don’t really buy it. He played all last season here and his bigger body type is best suited inside. Anyway, Ezeh’s season started off poorly, but as the season progressed, he improved and showed glimpses that he can be a good player down the line. There are times on the field where you can tell he is thinking and therefore is slow to react. However, there are times where he had some big games as well. He was clearly still learning the position last year (played running back in HS) and I think he’ll continue to improve this year.
The rest of the linebackers aren’t settled yet. There are four guys currently on the team who are supposedly competing for these last two spots. Jonas Mouton started the season hurt, but never got on the field besides special teams, which was surprising since the LB play last year was questionable at best. Hopefully, this was more indicative of something other than his talent. He was highly regarded out of HS as a safety prospect, so he has good speed for the position, something important to the coaches. Also, for some reason, he just seems like he should be good.
His biggest competition for the starting WLB is Marell Evans. He was lightly regarded coming out of HS, but is also a speed guy like Mouton. He mostly played special teams and I don’t remember him playing on defense whatsoever. He’s also seen playing time at SLB where . . .
Senior Austin Panter is expected to start. Panter came to Michigan from junior college (the first in quite some time) and was expected to immediately contribute. He did, but only on special teams. The previous staff did not seem enamored with him once he got on campus, but that could have been for a number of reasons unbeknownst to me (i.e. adjustment to division 1 college, lack of effort in practice, etc.).
The last guy supposedly in contention is John Thompson, who sounds more like an accountant that a football player. He is likely getting a shot at playing more because he’s a senior rather than anything else. He played some last season (and even started a few games), but he might have been the worst player on the team who continued to play; he is just not that talented. I expect him to start the season as a backup and likely get passed up on the depth chart by some of the four incoming freshmen later in season, all of which were rated fairly high. I expect at least one to emerge and play a significant role this year. Also, given our lack of depth at DE, one might be moved there.
Both starters will be back and it will be essential for them to live up to their potential as the safeties lack experience. Morgan Trent is a converted corner, so the transition to becoming a good player took longer than most, but he played surprisingly well last season. Teams attacked the other side of the field for the most part (this might have been partly due to the lack of skill of the other corners before Warren became a reliable player). Trent should continue to develop this year. He has great size and speed, which he often relies upon to make plays. As he’s developed, he’s learned to play smarter and has given up fewer big plays.
Donavan Warren makes up the other half of arguably the best cornerback tandem in the Big Ten. Last year, he definitely showed he was a true freshman at times, especially toward the beginning of the season. However, as the season progressed, he turned into a solid corner and made every All-America freshman team. He showed that he could eventually reach the level of a Leon Hall or Ty Law as a true shut down corner. Warren has great size (and pretty much every other characteristic you would want) for the position and should continue to develop quickly as he is more skilled and younger than Trent. Other than BG, he has the most talent/upside on the defense.
If Harrison moves over to safety as expected, some of the younger CBs should expect increased playing time. The leading candidates are Troy Woolfolk and Boubacar Cissoko. Woolfolk rarely played last season, and I have not heard too much about him during the spring. Boubacar Cissoko could receive some minutes as well and could become a good player down the line, but he is shorter than you would like; I would characterize him as a feisty little pipsqueak. Short corners will always have issues to overcome, especially with taller receivers, but he appears to be a talented guy and other than height, Cissoko has all the characteristics (cocky, quick, explosive, jumping ability, etc.) that you want in a good corner.
The only upperclassman who has a chance to compete for playing time is Doug Dutch Jr. He came in as a WR with plenty of hype and has since switched positions. He hasn’t received much playing time and I don’t expect things to be different this year. If he sees the field it will be early in the season when the younger players are still learning the defense.
This position is somewhat of a concern considering that we’re replacing both starters, and that both potential candidates are inexperienced. Starting at free safety will be Steve (Stevie? I’ve seen it both ways) Brown. I supported his choice as a starter last year as he appeared to be ready (rave reviews during the spring, 4-star recruit, etc.). Unfortunately he was not. Brown was quickly replaced by Engleman and was one of the biggest reasons for the Appalachian St. loss (the other being Johnny “Mary Jane” Sears). Although he has all the physical tools, Brown struggled to diagnose plays correctly, continually taking poor angles to the ball carrier, and not properly leveraging the ball (odd for a player who supposedly had good instincts). He has again looked great in the spring and would have been the MVP (if they handed one out) of the spring game according to some. Furthermore, at the end of last season, he saw the field a few times and looked better. I think this is the year he puts it all together.
Brandon Harrison played nickel last season and was a quasi-starter in the sense that we often deployed 5 DBs to combat the spread offense. While his season did not start well (like many on last year’s defense), he eventually became a reliable player at that spot. His ability to read and stop screens was his biggest strength. He even learned and improved on his blitzing capabilities. Before, he just tried to run really fast, often out-running the play. Last year he realized the goal was to aim for the person with the ball, and more positive results followed. Harrison is now being considered for the strong safety spot (he is really a corner/safety tweener who has seen limited time here in the past, I believe his freshman year). I personally think he’s better suited as a nickel back since he is short, fast, and strong. This allows him to match up better with slot receivers and help support the run better than most at his position. If he does become a safety, I would not be surprised to see him slide over to the nickel spot and another safety be brought in when teams try to spread Michigan out (this assumes that the backup safeties are at least as good as the backup CBs which may not be the case).
Another player competing for playing time is Charles Stewart. He moved to safety (where he is a better fit) since he failed as a corner. Overall, he’s not very talented and I don’t really trust former 3-star players who take till their redshirt senior year to compete for playing time, especially ones without injuries as an excuse. Some have brought up that he could see time as a nickel cornerback, but I like him even less at that position. Pushing him for playing time at safety are more talented players, such as Artis Chambers and Michael Williams (both freshmen last year). They should be able to pass him on the depth chart early in the season, if not before. Chambers enrolled early to begin playing with the team, but was ruled ineligible for the year after playing 4 games on special teams. Michael Williams was the more highly touted of the two, but was redshirted. The chance of them seeing the field this year is likely contingent upon the player starting ahead of them; Chambers is a SS and Williams is better suited as a FS.
By returning our entire DL and CBs, all talented players, these units can be expected to be among the best in the Big Ten. However, there are questions as to whether the LBs can make the necessary plays that the DL sets up, and also if the safeties can hold up as the last line of defense. I think the LB play should be sufficient and will improve as the season progresses and the safeties will be solid, but they may be the cause of a big play or two per game. Furthermore, we lose leadership on defense by the graduation of players like Crable and Adams, but this happens every year and others will step up. Overall, Michigan should have a strong defense that will (hopefully) carry it through the early part of the season until the offense comes around.
K. C. Lopata, although he lacks any range whatsoever, will continue to kick and be accurate inside the 40. Hopefully, Rich Rod will be more aggressive on forth down than Carr so that Lopata won’t have to kick from long distance. Bryan Wright will continue to handle kickoffs.
Zoltan will average 75 yards a punt on kicks he doesn’t drop inside the 20 yard line. The team plans to employ directional punting, which should prevent instances like last year when Zoltan kicked it perfectly inside the 20, but since our kick coverage sucked, it would eventually bounce into the end zone.
Three games down, eight to go to get to the Horseshoe unbeaten. Here's the first game that really is going to take some convincing.
Wisconsin -- Sept. 27, TBA
With a young offense and a new system, Michigan would benefit from three or four bye weeks during the season. Unfortunately, they only get one. The week before playing Wisconsin isn't a bad time to have it though. A week off will give the defense some time to rest and the offense a chance to fix up some early season problems and implement some new quirks. The bad news? Wisconsin also has a week off before traveling to Ann Arbor. So what gives Michigan a fighting chance against a team most will have in the top 15-20 coming into the season?
- History- UM is 48-12-1 against UW, and is 16-1 in the last 17 contests at Michigan Stadium.
- No passing game for Wisconsin- It's the same question every season for the Badgers: who will play quarterback? Tyler Donovan stepped up last season, but he is gone, leaving two inexperienced signal callers to battle it out. The Badgers also are without a big-name receiver.
- No pass defense either- Jack Ikegwuonu left for the NFL after last season. Two newcomers fill the corner positions, and both missed spring ball.
- Special teams- Lopata and Space Emperor Mesko give Michigan an edge against most teams in the kicking department.
- Rich Rodriguez- This is the game where we some major innovation in the offense.
This all sounds pretty good, but at the same time, it's a very rosy preview. The history of the series is essentially out the window with a new coach for Michigan and a new-ish coach for Wisconsin, both of whom have installed different offenses (Bielema has moved Wisconsin to a more balanced attack, integrating the passing game more).
Wisconsin's lack of a prominent quarterback is nothing new for them and the wide receivers may not need to be great with one of the best tight ends in the country, Travis Beckum, picking up the slack. Plus, the lack of a passing attack is compensated with a killer running game. PJ Hill is back for what seems like his 100th season (only a junior!) and the reserves are no slouches either. The offensive line should be very Gittleson-y, averaging around 315 lbs., with most starters returning.
The cornerback position is a concern, but the safeties are coming back, including Big Ten INT leader from last season Shane Carter. They also return six of the front seven.
In the special teams department, the Badgers return David Gilreath, a sophomore that led the conference in yards per punt return last season.
While Rodriguez should benefit from the week off, Bielema will have his defense more ready than any of the first three teams on Michigan's schedule, with extra time to break down some film.
So what wins out? Will the straight off the farm 'Sconnies overpower the trimmer, quicker Wolverines? Will Michigan be able to get to the edge and use their speed? Well, both answers are probably "yes," but this is about telling you why Michigan will win, not making predictions.
This one will be a battle, a close one, a burner of barns. The crowd can really make the difference here; if UM can ride some momentum coming out of South Bend, Michigan fans will be frenzied after the week off and ready to push Rich Rod to his first Big Ten win.
Wisconsin is a team to be feared on the schedule, but an inexperienced quarterback playing his first Big Ten game in the Big House bodes well for Michigan. It will be big plays that win the day as Michigan goes 4-0, all but ensuring the bowl streak stays alive!
So there's a lot of worry about the quarterback situation next year. About how our best prospect is Georgia Tech transfer Steven Threet, who has yet to throw a pass in college football and would probably trip over himself if he tried to take off running. And about how the only dual threat quarterbacks we have for next year are walk-on Nick Sheridan and incoming 3-star freshman Justin Feagin. While one of these three lucky fellas will probably walk onto that football field as a starter next year, I for one would like to take a look at two other players on the Michigan team that just might be better prospects.
RB Carlos Brown - Mr. Brown played quarterback and running back at his Heard County High School. He completed 27 of 52 passes for 541 yards, and even practiced a bit as quarterback as a freshman at Michigan. And just as important, he's a proven runner who racked up 100-yard games against Illinois and Minnesota last year, even while splitting time with Brandon Minor! He's 6 feet tall, only 2 inches shorter than Henne. He is a true dual-threat option: a quick, proven runner who can heave the ball when necessary. More details here: http://thosewhostaywillbechampions.blogspot.com/2008/01/should-carlos-brown-switch-to-qb.html.
Incoming DB Brandon Smith - Again, played quarterback in High School in New Brunswick, NJ. His highlights on YouTube show more passing than DB play (http://youtube.com/watch?v=Wv3BrV6Uis4). He is 6-3, great height for a QB, and runs a 4.5 according to rivals. He passed for over 1000 yards both junior and senior years in high school, and rushed for another 800 his senior year. This guy is a real-deal quarterback, and I wouldn't be surprised if he's given a serious shot at handling the offense when he gets on campus.
Today is SEC media day. All the SEC coaches are meeting at the Winfrey Hotel in Birmingham. Apparently everyone wants a picture of Tim Tebow -- the cameramen, I hear, are like paparazzi waiting for a pic of Angelina Jolie.
I just heard an intervie with Urban Meyer. The radio guys who interviewed him asked questions like "have you ever seen a conference with this much brain power stalking the sidelines," and "can it still be fun to coach in this conference, with such an intense and obviously supeior group of teams with such incredibly superior talent" etc. Unbelievably self-congratulatory.
But I wonder, for real, if the SEC is really that superior a conference. Would anyone take LSU over USC right now, for example? Or Florida over Texas?