"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
eeee i'm a little girl for mike barwis
Namibia loves The Victors. An intrepid emailer spent his time as an English teacher in Namibia wisely:
(There’s also mindblowing video of the kids singing “Like A Prayer”.) This email caused me to look Namibia up on Wikipedia, and now I know that only 1% of the land in the country is arable and that it wasn’t even independent until 1990 because South Africa invaded it as part of World War II. And that it’s the second most sparsely populated country on the planet behind Mongolia. Wikipedia, sometimes I hate you.
They’ll get crappier or better. I’m always looking for any sign that college football scheduling will get less insulting, and this is a good one:
Michigan's fifth meeting against Miami (Ohio) -- and third time since 2001 -- was apparently the last for the foreseeable future.
The RedHawks used to enjoy the big payday that came with a road game against a big school. But now they're trying to get schools to agree to play at home one year, with a trip to Oxford, Ohio, the next year.
Miami (NTM) has home and homes set up with Minnesota, Colorado, and Vandy, so Michigan will have to go elsewhere for its second MAC snack in future years. I expect the Eastern/Central/Western rotation will be more frequent.
As a big picture, though: when the bigger MAC programs start eschewing guarantee games for actual home and homes, that means power schools have fewer options for bodybag games, which means the prices go up, which means there’s more motivation to play a real opponent. Go Hawks.
And now, more
CRIPPLE FIGHT 2008
graphic illustration via College Game Balls
Ha. San Diego State coach Chuck Long was asked which team was better, Cal Poly or Notre Dame. The response:
"That's a tough question," Long said.
Speaking of, I used the wrong box score in yesterday’s post on the SDSU-Cal Poly game. This is the right box, and it changes the table used to this:
|Opp||Yards Gained||YPA||YPC||Yards Allowed||YPA||YPC|
|Cal Poly SLO||379||7.8||1.2||483||10.5||5.2|
So the Notre Dame offense was way, way worse than Cal Poly and only marginally better on defense; they also allowed the flaccid San Diego State run game—3.5 YPC last year against a Mountain West schedule—to rack up almost 5 YPC. ND did do a good job of holding SDSU’s dink-and-dunk pass offense to few yards after the catch.
Meanwhile in overblown LOL. The media has revisited Charlie Weis’s poindextery rant about Michigan and “their excuses and murble murble I want a deep fried deep-fried-ham sandwhich murble murble To Hell With Michigan” to an excessive degree as Cripple Fight 2008 approaches. Check it:
468 articles! Google News tends to throw a bunch of stuff that’s not quite related in there but that was a search for “Weis ‘to hell with michigan’”.
In these 468 articles there is one thing of note:
"Barwis was mad," said UM defensive end Tim Jamison.
He gets mad? I mean… like, there are differentiable levels of white-hot seething Barwis rage? Notre Dame is screwed.
I still prefer “we have not said one word about Michigan, we’ll do our talking on the field” before FBD I. Weis loves this sort of meta trash talk: we haven’t even bothered to trash talk Michigan, that’s how sad they are. We don’t make excuses except about thugs and hoodlums and service academies but boy I bet Michigan does. I won’t blame my kids but if they would just execute the gameplan we wouldn’t lose to Navy.
And he loves complete BS excuses for his jerko (that’s right, I said it: jerko) behavior:
“Anyone who’s a Michigan fan should know and understand that’s a tribute to Bo,” Weis said Tuesday. “I think that’s a very respectful comment toward coach Bo.”
I’m sure he was on the verge of tears as he murble murbled his way through the Domer red meat. Dude, at least stick to your guns if you’re going to say it. When Bo said “to hell with Notre Dame” he meant “to hell with Notre Dame,” and if you asked him for a clarification he probably would have gone Dana Jacobsen on your ass.
Also, Bo had been retired for ten years when he said the version he meant.
Actual onfield items. Rakes of Mallow has an excellent post on Notre Dame’s preferred strategy going into the M game, suggesting a lot of dink and dunk stuff that tests Michigan’s spotty underneath coverage instead of the We Pound It But Not Like That We’re Catholic (And Just Save The Pedophile Priest Jokes We’ve Heard Them) that was much discussed in the offseason. I also think this is Notre Dame’s best course of action: take the Michigan DL out of the game and force the linebackers to make a bunch of tackles/zone drops.
Their only issue is that they don’t really have a guy to do that: Kamara is a ponderous, very sucky receiver, Tate is a straight line burner sort, and they’re down to a freshman at TE. That freshman is an OMG shirtless recruit… we may get a heavy dose of him.
One thing we’re sure to see: a half-dozen screens, maybe more.
Very simply, ladies and gentlemen, if you think that Ohio State is in trouble against USC because of the way the Buckeyes played against Ohio, you know nothing about college football and have failed to pay attention to this sport during your lifetime.
CFN remains a place to go only if you want to kill brain cells, but now they’ve got extra pretension!
Etc.: Only Jonathan Tu could link Borges and college football. Shavodrick Beaver is going to be on ESPN2 Thursday night: there will be a CIL liveblog/chat session—and this one is going to actually happen because I will be around to make it so. 8 PM.
Fall practice started yesterday. In marked contrast to years previous there was significant access granted, with reporters allowed to attend the first 30 minutes of the practice; there was also a press conference. Also in marked contrast to years previous, this apparently happened:
I'm trying to envision Lloyd Carr chest-bumping (or, according to the Free Press, "chest-butting") the starting running back. It's not working.
News items from Rodriguez's press conference:
- Mysterious long snapper George Morales, the last recruit to commit to Lloyd Carr, was present and accounted for today. Rodriguez even clarified his status: he's on scholarship(!) and competing for the backup(!!) long snapping job. The immediate reaction is, of course, WTF. Offering a long snapper a scholarship is totally unprecedented and seems a ridiculous waste of a scholarship. More on this later.
- Kevin Grady practiced; when asked about it Rodriguez said:
He's still suspended as far as actual games, but he's practicing. He's done enough to earn his status back on the team, but he's not done enough yet to warrant playing time, if you know what I mean. There will be some playing suspension, but that's yet to be determined. But he's out there working, and he's not working with the first couple groups.
- Junior Hemingway was still in a non-contact jersey after an injury in the spring. (According to Chengelis, it will be "a few days" before he's full-go.)
- Elliot Mealer did not practice and it's "doubtful" he'll practice at all this month. A redshirt seems assured.
- Molk, Johnson, Massey, and Brown -- all of whom had issues in the spring -- are fine now.
- Brown took snaps at QB.
- Freshman linebacker Marcus Witherspoon did not practice. Sounds like this is a Clearinghouse issue that should be resolved shortly.
- Carson Butler switched to #5; Justin Feagin is now #3. (Both players are sharing with defenders; this is okay as long as they're not both on the field at the same time.)
- Three freshmen were called out as potential contributors on defense: Mike Martin, Boubacar Cissoko, and JT Floyd. On offense, anyone at a skill position was mentioned.
There have been plenty of practice impressions bandied about -- concern about the quarterbacks reigns, shocker -- but it's a half hour on the first day of fall. Practice impressions should be reserved to the truly obsessive. Like me! I watched Rivals' video($) from the practice; nothing particularly stuck out except the editor's skill at whittling down what sounded like a pretty rough outing from the quarterbacks into five minutes of accurate balls. There was this one drill Shafer was having the linebackers sidle through an obstacle course, then scoop a loose ball, presumably in an effort to turn fumbles into touchdowns.
More on Morales. Rodriguez said that he signed in February. I'm a bit skeptical -- if so, why didn't they announce it with the rest of the signings? -- but also not, because the guy is on campus, way out of shape, and snapping. For dollars. Is this guy going to occupy a scholarship slot for the next four years?
I find that hard to believe and have concocted an alternative scenario: secure in the knowledge Michigan would have spare money this year, Carr offered Morales a guaranteed year of scholarship money to get him on campus but made it clear it was a one-year thing and future years would be doled out much like they are to other walkons: if there's an open slot, some kid gets lucky. Sort of like Reed Baker's scenario.
This is all probably moot. If this picture is any indication, he's going to explode in a shower of lipids the first time he comes within 100 meters of Mike Barwis.
No, he didn't. Either Adam Rittenberg must have looked at the wrong list or Michigan's deal with Adidas includes rocket-powered rollerskates, because this did not happen:
Walking through Michigan's weight room on the way out, I stopped to check out the team-high totals for several categories. Johnson tops the bench-press chart at 500 pounds, Taylor squatted a team-best 625 pounds and cornerback Morgan Trent ran a 4.13 in the 40-yard dash.
Morgan Trent is faster than he's given credit for (this is Trent running down some guy named Percy Harvin...
... which, like, dude) but no one runs a 4.13 unless he's just been thrown off a building. It doesn't matter. I guarantee you that Michigan fans on message boards say things like "LOL Morgan Trent runs a 4.13 so you'll like never complete a pass ever" all year, and when he gets drafted NFL fans will do the same. The Apocryphal Morgan Trent 4.13 Forty is now a part of internet lore, and it will never die.
Oooh, Barwis. Snippets of Barwis porn for your delectation. One:
The numbers on the jerseys were a little bit shorter and a little bit wider under the new Adidas material. The thinner men - including defensive lineman Terrance Taylor - were a noticeable shift in the tight-fitting jerseys.
Tight end Carson Butler looks great, slimmer and stronger. He should be a major asset for Rodriguez and the new starting quarterback.
"I asked them, 'Raise your hand if you're in the best shape of your athletic careers,' and I think they all raised their hands," Rodriguez said. "All of our team is in better shape. They got through the first practice, which was pretty intense. They got through it very well. The key for us is to continue to do that. We're not in game shape, but we're in better shape than we were in the spring."
Programming note: there was a lot of negative feedback on the "Anti-Carr Team"; it appears most found it meanspirited, and I have to agree. It was fun in concept but not execution and has been discontinued. If you need a complete team, there is a diary entitled " The Game I'll Watch In Hell ."
Blog fixes. You should notice the MGoStore block is back. Click for sweet t-shirt action. Also: the "more" links in the diaries tab now lead you to something that's not totally useless. Before, they actually had worse functionality than the tabs, as they'd give you five posts without any option to see another page. Now they'll show you 25 and there's a full pager. Also, the Fanhouse links on the left sidebar are fixed.
Crankiness level: medium. Red Berenson has always been admirably straightforward about how damned ornery NHL teams picking off his best players makes him. Sometimes he's okay with it (Jack Johnson); other times he's near livid (Mike Cammalleri). The Pacioretty reaction falls in the middle:
Q: Was he frustrated with your decision?
Pacioretty: A little bit. He's very understanding. He knows I want to be a professional hockey player. Sometimes, not everyone has the same mindset for developing as a hockey player. I think there might have been a little bit of friction there, but not too much. I know he supports my goal to one day play in the NHL.
"We're disappointed that Max Pacioretty has chosen to forego his eligibility at the University of Michigan," Berenson said in a statement released by the school. "Max was certainly a positive force on our team last season. We would like to wish him well in his pursuit of his dream to play in the National Hockey League."
Eeeeeeeeeeee. Again. Okay, even I'm getting a little tired of reading about Superhero Mike Barwis. Mere days after ESPN published three separate items about the former ninja who may have assassinated Prince Moriyoshi in 1335 comes a Dennis Dodd piece. Naturally, it starts with wolves:
The pet wolves died last year. Mike Barwis had two of them which, to anyone who knows Michigan's strength and conditioning coach, is hardly a surprise.
The rest of it is per standard. Barwis makes grown men cry. Larry Foote can fly now. Player X came in a 200 pound fatty and now bends steel bars with his forearm hair. Barwis ate a baby once and crapped out Lawrence Taylor. Barwis got in a time machine, travelled back to the Indian subcontinent when it was still floating in the ocean and got the natives so fired up they threw it into Asia.
Barwis invented flour.
Also there's this quote from Threet:
"We have to scare people again," Threet said. "There used to be a certain intimidation factor. You'd see Michigan run out and touch the banner and you knew you were in for a long day. Some of that has started to go away."
Historian. The 2000 Michigan State game for your edification:
Meanwhile. The Ann Arbor News' editorial leadership has taken every possible opportunity to criticize the Michigan athletic department this summer. Meanwhile, in Lansing they're publishing 4,000 word puff pieces about the new athletic director's little league baseball coaching:
Runners stand on first and second. It's 6:33 p.m. on Monday, June 9, at a baseball field behind Chippewa Middle School in Okemos. Coach Mark Hollis gives the sign to his baserunners: double steal. As the next pitch crosses the plate, both break into a sprint.
"Get there!" Hollis barks, and both do with ease.
It is, after all, little league baseball.
Michigan State's athletic department is consistently in the red, features a football team one point above the APR's minimum, and has a coach that provided more ammunition to Michigan fans in one year than John L Smith did over his entire tenure. Also his last recruiting class sucked. (This one? Pretty good so far.) But the rush to lionize is on.
Diaries of note. A number of good things in the Diaries: gsimmons85 tackles press coverage as Shafer will apply it:
You wont see a lot of straight jam technique, rather the press is an inside shade, outside foot back, inviting the fade (michigan corners will know how to play the fade better than any other corners int he country) then on the snap of the ball, they execute what is called a shadow technique. Shafer describes it as imagining that the sun is setting behind the offensive player, and the defender gives ground, with short shuffle steps, and tries to stay in the shadow as long as possible. Forcing the offensive player to make the first move, makes it harder to get a corner off balance with a missed jam.
Simmons is a high school defensive coordinator who's used Shafer's schemes for the past four years and is very complimentary of his stuff over on his home blog Three And Out.
Meanwhile, Blue Seoul interrogates the Barwis hype. In doing so he accidentally stumbles over some interesting numbers about fourth quarter swings. Over the last five years:
Michigan was outscored in the 4th quarter 19 freaking times. 6 of those were 4th quarter collapses where we lost the lead, and 4 of them were double digit 4th quarter leads. WVU was outscored in the 4th 21 times, BUT ONLY 1 RESULTED IN A LOST LEAD. One! One freaking game did they lose in the 4th quarter. ... Conversely, WVU only won 7 games in the 2nd half, 2 of those in the 4th. Michigan won 7 games in the 2nd half, but 9 in the 4th.
I cosign the proffered explanation:
I think this has more to do with coaching. Lloyd would sit on a lead, lose the third quarter and then open up a bit to win in the end. Whereas with RR he doesn't hold back. He's either going to beat you and put you away in the first half, or just trail for the entire game.
(There's probably an element of luck in there, too.) An interesting thing about the Rodriguez offense as it was constructed at West Virginia: you can't turn off the "scoring offense." Michigan could grind into the line a few times, throw on third down, avoid risky plays, etc, etc. West Virginia could try to do that, and Pat White would rip off a 50 yard run or something. The downside to this is the lack of comebacks: WVU had one kickass dimension, but if you shut that dimension off you were going to win.
I don't think this is the ideal for Rodriguez, but when you've got Pat White -- especially as a freshman and sophomore -- that's just what you've got. It would have been interesting to see if Rodriguez added more passing to the WVU offense with a senior quarterback, as Carr always did.
- QB Waggle continues his excellent series on Michigan players in the NFL. (Note the use of bold for headers and italics for subheaders to break the text up into nice readable chunks.)
- Dex of the WLA concludes the Kevin Grady adventure.
- Keegan provides his own Slocum eulogy; There is more at the WLA.
The Worldwide Leader in Eeeeeeeee. ESPN dumped a massive amount of Barwis hype on the internet yesterday. Bruce Feldman:
Barwis is a 190-pound Philly area native with the kind of presence that scares grown men. Football players, many outweighing Barwis by 100 pounds, speak in awe of the guy like he's some sort of Chuck Norris figure. His reputation, which quickly turned him into an internet star among Wolverine fans, is indeed larger than life. "I think he had a freakin' pet wolf at home," says [former WVU RB Kay-Jay] Harris. "Now, c'mon, who has a pet wolf?"
Cobourne, the veteran of the workout group, says he's noticed a dramatic difference in the athletes, using Foote, an established NFL guy, as his prime example.
"I saw Foote come in at the beginning, and he'd try and lollygag a little," says Cobourne. "And Mike's like 'Look, that ain't how we do it here.' Foote wasn't used to it. But now he's going right through it. These guys see what they're getting from it, 'Man, I was never explosive like this before. Wow this is really working for me.'"
Who has stood out to you so far in the program?
MB: They're all progressing to great magnitudes. If you're looking for an example, at 287 pounds, Brandon Graham did 315 pounds on the bench press. We cut him all the way down to 250 and then brought him back up to 269. At 269 today, he did 475 for two (repetitions) on the bench. That's pretty good. Everybody's increasing across the board. They've come a tremendously long way from learning exercises in the winter as freshmen, to being incredibly strong and functional with those exercises by the time the summer ends.
1) I can't believe Brandon Graham was nearly 300 pounds last year. 2) Schwing. 3) Three is also "schwing."
Four is probably "schwing," too. There's an article in Hail To The Victors 2008 that's all about defensive coordinator Scott Shafer and his propensity to blitz from sun up to sun down. This is nothing unique: every new defensive coordinator since the dawn of time has been accompanied by a retinue of articles proclaiming the New Era of Aggressive Aggression GRRR AGGRESSION. But in Shafer's case, well...
The defense will have four goals.
1) Stop the Run.
2) Get to the Quarterback, and then hit him in the mouth.
3) Get to the back-up Quarterback.
4. Intercept the football/create turnovers and score if possible.
In Shafer's final year at Western Michigan, the Broncos led the nation in sacks; in year one at Stanford the Cardinal went from 111th to 11th. GBMW's coachBT also says Michigan will deploy a lot of press coverage. It's everybody's defensive coordinator wet dream... hopefully it works.
I'm going down in a fields of glory. This thing is on Hulu. It's a little schlocky, but it's easy to embed.
Um? I linked the Blue Ribbon preview of Notre Dame on mgolicious a couple days ago, but would like to bring it to your attention again so I can highlight this sentence:
The schedule is unusually tame, with only a home game against Michigan and road encounter at USC to end the season standing out as nearly impossible wins.
If only that was true.
Sidenote: this doesn't quite live up to last year's Blue Ribbon ND preview, which was put together by crackheads.
Etc.: The Comcast-BTN deal has been reported as "long term", but how long? Ten years. Meanwhile: commenter Blake theorizes that Michigan was so successful against Penn State because it was playing an older, crankier version of itself; JokishTacopants analyzes the OL with an assist from Phil Steele. Did you know we're 118th in returning OL starts? Probably not. Were you happier before you knew that? Probably.
(BTW, a suggestion to diarists: Use bold somewhat liberally and take advantage of the bulleting options available in the text editor; it'll make your posts easier to read.)
Programming note: the first-string laptop is currently undergoing repairs, so content might be a little limited over the next couple days. There is a timeshare going on with the second-string laptop.
Sigh. Most of the pain caused by the Horror has been dulled by the passage of time. You could even make a case that since it precipitated a chain of events that saw Rich Rodriguez hired as head coach, the damn thing was actually a net benefit. But the wound is still raw enough for this to sting:
(Big here if you want to see the thing in all its damnable glory.) At least it's not on the top of the ring, I guess. Also, #$&*.
Convenient. Just as the more excitable variety of Ohio State fan was ready to bring forth the proclamations of a Great Fall for Michigan's ethics under Rich Rodriguez, who held a gun to Kevin Grady's head as Grady feebly protested his 35th jagerbomb of the night, comes another disciplinary incident for wayward son Eugene Clifford:
According to police, Clifford hit two Holy Grail employees who were trying to break up a fight early Friday at the Corryville tavern.
He's got two misdemeanor assault charges pending and has in all likelihood seen his last day at Ohio State. (Clifford has a number of other disciplinary incidents on his record.) Glass houses and all that.
But... right. I linked this on the sidebar earlier, but it deserves some additional discussion: holy crap, Grady was loaded. Wikipedia says the .281 he blew was somewhere between "confusion" and "stupor" and just a few beers away from "coma"; this is not a garden variety DUI. Drew Sharp, of course, says "off with his head" so he can later write a column about lawlessness when Rodriguez shows a shred of common sense and doesn't boot a guy with no previous incidents of misbehavior aside from minor traffic violations. Mmmm: cheap hits.
What to do? A .281 is beyond the point at which you can reasonably claim a lack of judgment... or it's beyond the point where you can reasonably claim anything but a lack of judgment since, you know, all he could do when presented with the charges was drool. There has been plenty of internet speculation about a drinking problem since .281 is the kind of BAC that knocks out mortal livers, though wags have pointed out that if Grady was binging like this on a regular basis and getting through Barwis workouts he's some sort of superhero, probably Duffman. In any case, Grady should be put on notice and forced to Barwis his way back onto the team a la Adrian Arrington; I'd be disappointed to see him before the Big Ten schedule.
(Side note: yes, Grady drives a 2007 Denali. Yes, his father is loaded. He got in trouble with the MSHAA for offering free housing to high school athletes so they could transfer to East Grand Rapids; he can afford a nice car for his kid.)
Gratuitous-tube. 1991 MSU-Michigan from WolverineHistorian:
EEEEE. Speaking of Barwis:
Taylor has made a number of adjustments in the off-season, including his training. He claimed he returned from the Capital One Bowl in January weighing 327 pounds. Now, thanks to Michigan's intense workout regime, he's below 304 and plans to be at 295 by Aug. 4 when twice-a-day practices begin.
The last time he recalls weighing 295? Sometime early in his days at Muskegon.
Asked if he'll be "cut," Taylor relented.
"I'm going to be lean," he said, laughing, knowing what his 6-foot frame can handle. "I know doing that, being more flexible, doing the things they want and improving in the areas I can improve in, all working together, it's a blessing I stayed here and we got (strength coach) Mike Barwis."
Taylor was heavily rumoured to be a reluctant participant in the new conditioning regime, spending most of the spring behind John Ferrara. If this fluffy nougat piece is an accurate representation of the current situation, that would be a major boost. There's a diary with some Barwis links for your edification.
Jerseybits. The big reveal of the home jerseys drifted through the internet a few days ago, but I misinterpreted the results. Readers point out that what Phil Callihan and myself thought were block Ms on the sleeves are numbers. The angle of the shot was deceptive; MPride08 provides another angle:
This is a replica, FWIW. There has been some worry that the names have been taken off the jerseys because none of the example shots have nameplates, but since these are for sale they can't have player names on them.
Your war what? Braylon:
The 25-year-old Browns receiver's ensemble was carefully designed, he says, to show he's professional and fun. Even his fragrance, Bond No. 9, serves a higher purpose. "It's my war cologne," he says. "It's a strong, masculine scent. I wear it when I'm trying to show confidence or be dominant."
Do what you will with this information. I plan on sitting in a chair with my mouth agape for 23 minutes and 16 seconds.
Etc.: Free Press article interviews Tony Dews, clarifies that James Rogers is indeed a wide receiver.
When you're a blogger, stupid post ideas flit through your mind on a daily basis: "college football programs as cheeses!" or "4,000 words on the construction of authority and why it's still weird when people ask me questions." One of the very stupidest ideas I ever had was a recent one: "I will present myself as a guinea pig and go through a Barwis workout."
I said it was stupid.
Any lingering thought I might actually attempt to go through with this idea -- no doubt futile because Michigan's athletic department remains highly leery of the internet -- was crushed, maimed, and then hurled bodily into a trash can by Spencer Hall's (or Orson Swindle's or maybe SpencerOrson Hall-Swindle's) two-day odyssey of pain. The process looked a lot like this:
That was after nine minutes. Add a significant amount of hair, subtract three minutes, and add some dangling organs I have forcibly ejected from my body and are currently being nipped at by Barwis Wolves and you have the probable result of Worst Idea Ever. So thanks for that, Mr. Hall-Swindle. I owe you a beer and maybe a kidney.
After day one Orson dropped this into his Curious Index and I immediately thought of Barwis:
The mode of thinking this morning after talking with the trainers I'm "working" with (read: being maimed by) is that the only possible reason any discrepancy might exist between the SEC and the Big Ten is talent development. That's it: not schemes, not odious theories involving weather, nothing but the training they receive and the varying emphases different programs build into their training programs. We're brewing up a piece on this at SN, but in short think of player development in college football as one exaggerated episode of Top Chef: when everyone's working with the same produce, how you cut it up and prep it makes all the difference at the margins.
This is unremarkable, since "eeee Barwis" has replaced "sex" as the thing I think about every ten seconds as mandated by crappy stories in the "Lifestyle" section of your rapidly imploding local paper. But it turns out Orson was also allowing his thoughts to linger over Michigan's new S&C demon:
Bringing us to the future, a.k.a. the West Virginia/Michigan training program. I mentioned Michigan's superb record against the SEC above; now consider how well Michigan did using training techniques from the 1970s, as it did until this year's complete revamping of the training program.
(Fun story that's been floating around college football circles: Under the former management, Michigan linemen, in order to gain weight, were allegedly told to "eat a whole pizza" at night. [not alleged; directly stated by Pat Massey, the lineman in question, to Brent Musberger. -ed] I'm amazed they didn't flounder like sick race horses on Saturdays. [Uh... some did. -ed] Also: no squats. The most basic fundamental move in weight lifting simply did not exist in their machine-dominated training program.)
Michigan is now busy reprogramming its players to play in the 21st century, demanding speed at every position (yes, even for pizza-mobbing offensive linemen) and totally rebuilding their talent development system.
Two thoughts crossed my mind as we finished drills: One, that not vomiting on day one represented a substantial accomplishment for a squishy blogger; and two, that if Michigan did as well as it did with old training methods, the possibilities for the Wolverines under a newer, speed-obsessed regime remain both frightening and limitless.
Mike Barwis went from a respected but obscure S&C coach at West Virginia to the head of a cult he had no hand in creating. He is the highest paid and probably the most famous trainer in the country. There is an "eeee I'm a little girl for Mike Barwis" tag on this blog, and it is only half-sarcastic. Can he possibly live up to the hype?
First, we should establish that this comment from Swindle's personal torturer...
"In terms of players we see for the combine, the best-conditioned and prepared athletes by conference come in this order: the SEC, the Big 12, the Pac-10 is just a little bit under that, and then the Big Ten brings up the rear."
...has not actually translated to any notable superiority on the field. This is Michigan's problem with "southern speed":
|1/1/2008||vs.||Florida (9-4)||W||41||35||@ Orlando, FL||Capital One Bowl|
|1/1/2003||vs.||Florida (8-5)||W||38||30||@ Tampa, FL||Outback Bowl|
|1/1/2002||vs.||Tennessee (11-2)||L||17||45||@ Orlando, FL||Citrus Bowl|
|1/1/2001||vs.||Auburn (9-4)||W||31||28||@ Orlando, FL||Citrus Bowl|
|1/1/2000||vs.||Alabama (10-3)||W||35||34||@ Miami, FL||Orange Bowl|
|1/1/1999||vs.||Arkansas (9-3)||W||45||31||@ Orlando, FL||Citrus Bowl|
|1/1/1997||vs.||Alabama (10-3)||L||14||17||@ Tampa, FL||Outback Bowl|
|1/1/1991||vs.||Mississippi (9-3)||W||35||3||@ Jacksonville, FL||Gator Bowl|
...oops. Add up all the bowl games the two sides have played against each other in the last eleven* years and the SEC is ahead 15 to 14 with most of the damage being done against Ohio State, 0-4 in that timespan and 0-7 since '91. Clearly, being fast -- if SEC teams actually are, which is debatable -- is not a magic ticket.
On the other hand: holy hell did West Virginia look fast, and with functionally zero four-star or better recruits. Under Rodriguez, West Virginia outperformed its recruiting rankings every year, assembling team after team somewhere between good and great without the benefit of more than one or two guys a year with any shot in the NFL. Barwis had a hand in that just like Gittleson had a hand in Gabe Watson's failure to live up to his potential.
The thing that excites about the transition is the sheer gulf between Gittleson, Carr, Debord, et al., who were all decent enough in their time but by 2007 were reduced to shoving an unmotivated, out of shape Alex Mitchell onto the field against Ohio State, and the Rodriguez/Barwis regime, where Mitchell would be laughed off the team. It's not so much the new training techniques that excite but the demand that team members participate in offseason workouts even you're a starter and Daddy has a landscaping business. The offseason is optional: so is playing time.
Over time, everything in your program is shaped by the attitude you bring. Michigan recruits are committing in the full knowledge Barwis is going to kill them, and they are eager to be killed. In time, this will manifest itself and the only things separating Michigan from national title games will be blind luck and Jim Tressel.
*(eleven is a weird number that looks carefully chosen to conceal difficulty, but I'm just using Jim Delany's stupid letter from last year, which pointed out that the teams were dead even over the preceding decade, and going from there.)