I did not make this headline up
Facepalm of the last half-hour. Trey Keenan is a Texas offensive lineman with three stars, a Michigan offer, and a slightly shaky grasp of the recent past($):
Keenan admits he likes the direction that the new staff is taking the program. “I like that they’re going back to being the old Michigan and not the team that got beat by Appalachian State,” he said.
It's a good thing I set up a facepalm hotkey. Ctrl+Alt+FFFFUUU:
Dude is hardcore. Hey, look, it's the Little Brown Jug:
Just hanging out… uh… in some guy's basement on what appears to be a pool table. This would be the point at which we round up a posse and hunt down the varmit who stole our danged jug, but that would be pointless violence since some dude made a Brown Jug replica (and apparently that box) because he is hardcore. Auburn fans should try this: get some hardcore guy to make a replica of Toomer's Corner. Problem solved.
Come on, baby. Red apparently doesn't think anyone's jetting in the offseason:
Michigan coach Red Berenson said Monday he finished his postseason individual meetings with players and doesn't expect anyone to leave early for the pro ranks. The Wolverines, who advanced to the national title game, return two outstanding defensemen in junior Brandon Burlon and freshman Jon Merrill.
No quotes and frankly the Detroit News isn't an outlet that spends a lot of time on hockey, but… woo? It wouldn't be too outlandish: Merrill and Burlon are the only serious departure threats and both are Devils draftees. The Devils have a track record of leaving kids in college and have a number of D prospects a bit further along the development path than their guys at Michigan.
While it's kind of a negative that I can't think of a Michigan forward who would even think of an NHL departure at least we won't get blindsided, except of course we will.
Attention Shawn Kemp. You take any random son of an NBA star, have him commit to Michigan, and bam he's awesome:
I did not recognize Glenn “Trey” Robinson when compared to the skinny kid I watched last summer. Robinson was maybe 175 pounds soaking wet then.
Now he has a body that makes you envision a flying combo forward finishing strong on the offensive end with lock down ability defensively. Robinson did just that Friday night against Upstate. He finished at the rim, often violently, through contact.
That's the third or fourth early rave GRIII has picked up in the month or so AAU ball has been going on. In addition NBE lists Robinson at 6'8"(!), 205. Other first-hand reports like those of UMHoops think that's generous, but he's clearly bigger than he was when he committed.
Stats are bad (this time). I hate to disagree with a guy who goes back and checks out actual game film instead of talking about football players playing football, but KC Joyner has an ESPN Insider article that claims Michigan is going to have an "elite passing game"($) this year because of some shiny Denard stats that I think are silly.
Joyner splits Denard's attempts* into buckets by yardage: 11.9 YPA on throws of 11-19 yards, 16.4 YPA on throws from 20-29 yards, and 15.4 YPA on throws of more than 30 yards. These compare favorably to some guy you may have heard of:
A review of 11 of Ryan Mallett's games against SEC and bowl-level competition over the past two seasons found that the possible future first-round draft pick (and one of college football's top passers) posted an 8.2 total YPA, an 11.6 vertical YPA and a 14.6 stretch vertical YPA.
Robinson's 10 games include his three worst contests from last season with regard to passer rating (Ohio State, Michigan State, Notre Dame) and exclude his two of his three best passer rating contests (Massachusetts and Bowling Green), yet he was still able to top Mallett in all three categories.
There are a number of problems with this analysis. One: it does not account for the frequency of throws. Mallett's Hogs passed 53% percent of the time; Michigan threw on 40% of snaps. Two: Denard's throws are heavily slanted towards short stuff. The "stretch vertical" number cited by Joyner consists of just 31 attempts, which is both a sample size problem and another equilibrium issue. Three:
A large number of Denard's long touchdowns were stupidly easy because of the system that ran so much and so effectively, often with Robinson himself. You can't point to 11 completions featuring safeties going "WHAT DO I DO /explodes" and extrapolate anything approximating Mallett's production. The opportunities above simply will not exist in an under-center WCO, leaving Denard to try to do this:
I love Denard like he is a combination of my own son and Olivia Wilde but I don't think he's making throws like that. Maybe "simply will not exist" is a bit much, but the amount of pressure Denard put on opposing safeties last year—and the interceptions he threw even when given reasonable windows—prevents you from divorcing his production from his system.
I'm not saying he won't be a better QB than he was last year. I'm saying the smart bet is on a significant reduction in passer efficiency if he's operating a WCO.
*[Attempts against Michigan's Big Ten schedule, ND, and UConn. Unclear why the bowl was left out. Probably because KC Joyner doesn't like watching snuff films.]
Get this man a cereal commercial. Don't tell that to Denard, though, who says "I really like this offesne and what we're doing" in a brief TSN interview. Also:
Q: Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison says he talks a lot of trash to you. What’s going on there?
Robinson: We have that love/hate relationship. I love competing against him. Every day at practice, he says something to make you want to compete.
Q: What does he say?
Robinson: He says, ‘You can’t throw. Can’t throw.’ I know he’s teasing. I make a throw, and I’ll say something to him. Or I’ll just look over and smile at him.
Thank God for Denard—whenever you're feeling ambivalent about your connection to the program because of the Braylon Edwardses of the world just think about Denard.
Um… thanks? Believe it or not, this is Jack Nicklaus trying to say something nice about Ohio State:
"I don't know what really happened, but I'll promise you that Tressel wasn't the only one that knew what happened," Nicklaus told The Plain Dealer.
If he's right pieces of the Ohio State athletic department will be slowly descending from the troposphere for decades. (Not that he's anything other than a very famous message board poster in this department.)
Etc.: Ace relates the story of his first game at Michigan Stadium. I'd play but I can't remember which game it was because I was small. The Hero Of Tiananmen Square (AKA John Pollack, king of futile Big House preservation attempts) puts out an awful book on puns featuring many awful puns. As per usual, he misses the point entirely. You should have gone to Vermont, but at least you didn't go to Iowa State. TTB outlines the 4-3 under in parts: line, linebackers, and secondary. Forward Thinking surveys the QB landscape in the aftermath of Zeke Pike's Auburn commitment. If you didn't get enough carpet-bombing of former players who have fallen back in love with Michigan football, Mets Maize is over Avignon right now.
So… that happened. As per usual, many events from the spring game are in the eye of the beholder. Is Devin Gardner's inability to find anyone open an indictment of him, an indictment of the second-team wide receivers, or… uh… like… people being covered? I know that latter seems improbable but I have seen football games in which this has happened. Whether your reaction to Saturday was "woo defense" or "ugh offense" depends on your state of mind and may oscillate wildly.
Unfortunately, there was a lot that was unambiguously bad, most of it from the quarterbacks: interceptions whistled yards over the intended receiver's head or thrown directly at linebackers, a Mallett-like plague of dropped snaps, offsides calls, etc. The general impression was more 2008 than 2010. Denard completed 5 of 14 passes for 5 YPA—2008 numbers—and ran six times for 60 yards, averaging 1 YPC after his first attempt. Insert the usual spring caveats and add a bunch more besides for small sample size and an awkward transition, but that is a far cry from the last spring game, and very little of it can be attributed to awesome defense. The QBs sucked on their own.
Here are highlight-type substances (which also feature the Most Legendary Press Conference Ever):
The official site version:
Other vague impressions:
The worst part ever. That guy who sung the anthem. I don't know why events that aren't actual football games are accompanied by some never-was with vibrato Tourette's singing the national anthem. This happened at the Big Chill, too. This is the last drip of Michigan football for five months—give me the band.
Obviously not so good. Devin Gardner was also inaccurate in drills. They have this dig route where a slot receiver works to the seam then cuts his route off 15 yards downfield and Gardner was consistently missing it. Denard missed a couple times but was obviously better. Both performed poorly in the game itself, which fine. Denard doesn't need a more practice on running plays that were beaten into his head last year, sometimes literally. If you're installing new stuff now is the time to see if it works.
HOWEVA, man… it did not seem to work. They kept running the waggle and Denard could not get anything out of it. There was a guy in his face the whole time; the resulting throws were frequently incomplete due to inaccuracy. In the video above when Hoke references a couple of "drops" the best examples the BTN can dig up are Drew Dileo almost making a spectacular one-handed stab and Darryl Stonum almost making a spectacular sideline lay-out.
Maybe in a tackle football game he can escape that contain guy on the regular, but that seems like a high variance strategy with limited upside. Option 1: beats corner guy, is on corner, has shot at running some probably not immense distance or hitting a crossing route of some variety. Option 2: second and 20. There's a reason the waggle is strictly an occasional changeup—whenever you've got the ball and are spending time with your back to the defense there's a chance something awful is going to happen, like John Navarre getting blown up in that one MSU game.
Mike Cox was the most impressive, scoring the only legitimate touchdown of the day for the offense—the second was an uncalled offensive PI that outraged Charles Woodson even if he wasn't watching it—on a 68-yard rumble through the middle of the defense. A few runs later he powered through a couple diving arm tackles for a decent gain. Notably, no coach dropped his headset in disgust without even yelling at the guy, which totally happened at last year's fall scrimmage. That was a sign Cox was going to be buried on the bench all year. Light going on? Let's hope so.
Stephen Hopkins seemed like Stephen Hopkins. Everyone else was pretty eh. Hayes and Rawls will have a shot in the fall.
With all but five Michigan receptions leaders returning there wasn't much new here, especially since the quarterbacks had such an off day. Hard to show anything when you're chasing Carvin Johnson down instead of vice-versa. A few items:
- It seems like Drew Dileo has risen to second on the slot depth chart.
- Odoms is still outside.
- Moving Ricardo Miller to tight end is a very bad sign for him. Seeing him next to the other TEs is like seeing that tiny third-string FB in the game. He just doesn't have the frame for TE, especially in a manball offense, so… what does that say about his potential future as a WR?
- The much-touted involvement of the tight ends did not materialize. I don't remember a single catch [Ed-M: Koger got one] and I think they only targeted TEs once or twice. This has been an exceptionally overblown meme anyway. Last year Michigan TEs had 20 catches. In Carr's last year they had 24. When you've got talent you throw to it; Michigan's talent is in the slot.
Michigan needs a couple big receiver recruits this year because the cavalry does not appear to be coming. Jerald Robinson may develop into a decent option but Miller's not even at the spot anymore and DJ Williamson didn't look good in drills or exist in the game; Jeremy Jackson is probably the best of all the receivers brought in last year and his upside is strictly possession.
It's all but impossible to pick out anything specific live unless you're a savant, which I'm not, so… uh… yeah. Michigan's attempts to run power didn't go so well—a follower tweeted that Michigan's guards were the equivalent of Michigan's kickers when they tried to pull. Again, with a veteran line that's got zone blocking down it's okay to work on the stuff they don't know yet. It seems foolhardy to dump that entirely and we did see a couple examples of Rodriguez's QB stretch, so let's hope the playcalling is less slanted towards the unfamiliar in fall.
The second team OL was walk-on infested with injuries to Molk (played but sparingly) and Lewan (out). They could not block the second-team DL, which contributed to Gardner's issues. Late it seemed like Mattison called off the dogs specifically so Gardner could see what it was like to not have someone breathing down his neck two seconds after the snap.
One guy I did think looked pretty good was Schofield.
All eyes were on Will Campbell and Will Campbell was all right. He got single blocked the whole day, alternating his time between pushing into the backfield to force cutbacks on unsuccessful runs, getting blocked out of rushing lanes, and (on passing downs) sitting at the LOS being the guy who looks for screens and scrambles. Unsurprisingly, reports that Campbell was "unblockable" as a three-tech turned out to be fiction—Campbell didn't beat a block all day. His contributions were limited to getting a moderate amount of penetration when single blocked on running plays. It was far from dominant; it could have been worse. I'm still pretty worried about what happens on stretch plays.
As for the other guys, RVB was out, leaving Jibreel Black and walk-on Nate Brink alternating at SDE. We know what to expect out of Martin when his ankles exist, and now he's getting moved around on passing downs. Schofield seemed to win his battle with Craig Roh, but Roh made a couple of plays on runs and looks like an honest-to-God DE these days. Kenny Wilkins was the DE who got steamrolled on the Cox TD.
Everyone's talking about Jake Ryan after his pick six and constant pressure of Gardner, but his primary opponent was a redshirt freshman walk-on not very good at blocking people. Big difference between his setup and, say, Campbell taking on the starting guards on the regular. Cam Gordon's in front of him for a reason. Ryan does appear like he'll push for time.
On the whole this unit was surprisingly decent for one starting a guy who just transferred from Hampton after not getting any PT there. Often when I'd watch Campbell he'd get kicked out of the hole way too easily, but as I braced for a big run two linebackers would roar in from the backside and swallow the play. That's what a one-gap defense does as long as you get your "run fits" right, and it seemed like they were vastly improved over last year. I'm extremely leery of the depth when your best alternative to Demens is Marell Evans, but here it seemed like the transition was going smoothly. Caveats apply: could just be the OL not being any good at what they're being asked to do.
FWIW, it was Brandon Herron getting steamrolled on the Cox TD run.
With Floyd and Woolfolk out this was also a lot of walk-ons. It's not good for Terrance Talbott to be behind Tony Anderson; Cullen Christian was also behind Anderson but was apparently injured and did not play. This will be some combination of Avery/Floyd/Woolfolk this fall unless Blake Countess shows up extremely ready. Greg Brown showed better than most expected after he spent his senior year of high school at linebacker.
As for safety, Michigan certainly looks good there. Marvin Robinson, Josh Furman, and Carvin Johnson are physically reminiscent of NFL safeties. A dollar says that perception doesn't last into the Big Ten season, but in this game they only blew two plays—the Cox TD (overrun by a very confused Robinson) and Denard's game-opening 55-yarder (Johnson was understandably outrun). Oh, and there was that hopeless Gardner bomb that should have been intercepted but ended up a completion. I think that was also Robinson, but I don't remember exactly.
So… slightly encouraging here. While Johnson's interceptions were gifts he came up and put a lick on more than one tailback who had broken to the sideline. Robinson also bombed a couple tailbacks. Furman was in position to break up a couple of Gardner deep balls and could have had an interception or two if Gardner's passes had been a little more accurate. Unfortunately, I am constitutionally incapable of not panicking about safety play even if there is evidence I shouldn't.
Will Hagerup is sophomore Zoltan: still too inconsistent but if he gets hold of one look out. He's going to hit a 70-yard punt this year. He'll also hit some 35-yard dribblers, but he's getting there.
Kickers: aigh. [Ed-M: They say
Aslan Matt Wile is on the move.]
Other Video Type Objects
Important bit on Denard: “in the real world, he'll probably run more than you saw today.”
Photo galleries abound. AnnArbor.com:
If the spring game is any indication, Mattison is not afraid to bring the heat. One of the criticisms Ravens fans levied at Mattison was that he “didn’t blitz enough.” That is something that is said about just every defensive coordinator ever, so take it for what it’s worth. Still, the concern that Michigan is going to drop back into a cover-2 and rush four is something that I’ve been somewhat afraid of. I thought the 3-3-5 was going solve that, instead it proved to be the exact opposite of an aggressive, attacking defense.
As OHHW notes, rushing four would actually be an improvement on last year. Ace predicted and wanted ugly. Point Ace. The Big House Blog wonders where Roy Roundtree went. Hoke says Michigan has a "long way to go." Mattison says he "doesn't know if [Johnson] was responsible for" his big plays, which… yeah. Photos and bits from MVictors.
It's no Nuge but it's something. Also: Daily.
So it seems a lot of people, including you, I believe, have resisted the "Denard Robinson 2011 = Michael Vick 2010" path to blind hope for the upcoming football season. I'm as hopeful as anyone else because duh, but I'm also aware that Robinson is probably too small and inaccurate at this point in his development for this to be a realistic possibility.
But what about Troy Smith? I believe that kid was around Robinson's size, but probably a little slower and had an arm that was probably a bit more accurate but not quite as strong. Do you agree that Smith (against anyone other than Michigan, against which he was a planet-devouring demigod regardless of the season you want to talk about) is a realistic/optimistic benchmark we can have in mind when projecting Robinson in 2011?
This isn't to say Robinson will be as good as Smith, only that their skill sets are comparable, as are the coaching philosophies under which they operated, and that getting some mixed bag of 2005 and 2006 Troy Smith out of the QB position would be a positive.
Troy Smith's career does give some hope that a hopeless n00b of a quarterback can develop into a lethal gunslinger. When Justin Zwick was injured midway through 2004 he was pressed into the lineup as redshirt sophomore and was somewhere between Sheridan and Forcier until he played Michigan. You don't need to be told he was insane against M: 18 rushes for 145 yards, 13 of 23 passing for 241 yards, three total touchdowns, no turnovers.
Without that game his numbers were turrible: 3.0 YPC, 6.6 YPA, 56% completion percentage. With it—and as much as we hate to admit it, that happened—his redshirt sophomore numbers were about on par with Tate Forcier as a freshman except with fewer turnovers. With the exception of TD-INT ratio, Denard was actually well ahead of him as a true sophomore, averaging almost nine yards per attempt and running for a billion yards at 6.6 yards a pop.
So if he can improve as much as Smith we're in business. The next year he blew up, completing 63% of his passes for 9.3 yards an attempt with 16 TDs and 4 INTs. He also rushed for around 600 yards on 12 carries a game.
- Smith was handing off and throwing to Santonio Holmes (first round pick), Ted Ginn (first round pick), Antonio Pittman (fourth round pick), and Anthony Gonzalez (first round pick). You can see Stonum and Roundtree getting drafted but probably not until late; Smith had a ton more talent at his disposal than Robinson will.
- Smith had the same coaches for the duration of his career.
- Smith's improvement was standard deviations above the mean, so while it's an optimistic benchmark for Denard it's not one it's reasonable to expect he'll reach.
- Smith's running ability may have opened up some passing lanes for him but nowhere near as many as Robinson's did. If you're going to de-emphasize Robinson's legs that should make it tougher to pass and easier to run.
If Smith provides an optimistic benchmark for Robinson he also provides one for Michigan's coaches: as Smith developed Ohio State's offense gradually morphed into a passing spread reminiscent of Purdue at its absolute apex. This is generally out of character for Tressel—he only brings out the spread option for Pryor in times of great need—but as Smith developed he earned enough trust from his coaches for them to play to his strengths.
Have a question for you, Sir. This is all hypothetical but I was wondering what would you think at the end of it all?
April 2011 - Coach Hoke receives email concerning Player X selling comp tickets (nevermind everyone does it, it is still illegal), Coach Hoke emails back, says he'll check into it. Now...what does Coach Hoke do? What do you hope he does? Go to Compliance? Or handle it internally?
So, he decides to handle it internally
April 2011 - Coach Hoke asks player, player denies selling tickets.
April 2011 - Send email to parents of Player X reminding them that selling comp tickets is illegal.
April 2011 - Has meeting with team reminding that comp tickets can't be sold.
June 2011 - Sends email to person who sent first email verifying that Player X did indeed sell tickets (so, he doesn't get tickets for upcoming season)
Dec 2011 - Michigan Compliance Office gets documentation that Player X did indeed sell tickets.
Dec 2011 - Player X confesses to selling tickets...Michigan self-reports and recommends 5 games for the following season (since that is the normal recommended punishment for this type of violation and the fact that the player didn't come forward).
Dec 2011 - Coach Hoke signs document that no other information was available (giving him the benefit of the doubt, since he gets several hundred emails a day and the fact that he's gone through an entire football season)
Jan 2011 - Michigan Compliance office finds emails related to ticket incident while searching for something else.
Feb 2011 - Michigan Compliance Office interviews Coach Hoke and self-reports information. Recommends 2 games hoping that Player X's suspension is reduced.
March 2011 - Player X's suspension is upheld, Coach Hoke changes his suspension to match Player X.
So, what should Michigan do with Coach Hoke? What do you want to happen to Coach Hoke if he got caught up in something he thought that he could handle internally?
I know it is all hypothetical in nature though Player X could be anyone and I imagine this event could easily come to pass, but everyday coaches make decisions, some good and some bad...but I would be interested in hearing what you would want to happen if this particular event were to go down that way.
Really enjoy your site even though I'm an Ohio State fan...as we don't quite have anything like it.
I'm not sure if that exact scenario rises to the level of a firing—which I'm guessing is the aim of the email—but that part at the top where you get a credible email from someone known to you about guys getting illegal benefits and do not immediately notify compliance is a huge deal. Maybe this is just me speaking as a Michigan fan who has lived through the great annoyance arising from a lack of communication with compliance, but I don't think so. Your compliance department is still "internal." It's not the NCAA. It's essentially on your side unless it really shouldn't be, and they need to know exactly these kinds of things. You can handle a bar fight internally. You cannot handle extra benefits internally.
There are also some key differences between the above scenario and what appears to have transpired at OSU. The hypothesized investigation-type substance where Hoke asks the player about selling tickets and gets a "no" is not sufficient in OSU's case—the original email broke lawyerly confidence to reveal a federal investigation had turned this up. The lawyer is a former OSU walk-on who has defended OSU players in court; he followed up his concern with a second credible email. That's a situation in which you can't just say "did you do this?" and be satisfied with the answer. Though we're not 100% sure on the details yet it seems like the information relayed should have been easy to confirm and only wasn't because there was strong motive not to.
I agree the form Tressel signed a few months later is one of those things that runs across your desk and you sign it because it's boilerplate. But once the investigation is underway, not telling the U or NCAA about some funny emails you responded to and even forwarded to Terrelle Pryor's sketchy "mentor" is far less plausibly innocent.
In the end, Ohio State got to and won a BCS bowl because of Tressel's actions that kept five ineligible players on the field; the alternative was likely indefinite suspensions until the investigation was completed. It looks like a breathtakingly cynical act, and it's not just Michigan fans saying this. What's described above can plausibly be described as "mistake"—and that is what separates it from Tressel's deliberate cover-up.
I got into a conversation with one of my close friends from Michigan about something you wrote in a blog post two days ago: "There's no reason any women's basketball coach not at UConn or Tennessee should be making more than 100k. What's going to happen? Are the empty seats going to stop coming?"
My friend had forwarded it to me because he thought your comment was hilarious. It ended up leading into a much more detailed discussion on coaching salaries. Have you by chance seen the athletic department salaries? It is very interesting.
Three things stand out:
1. dominated by the football staff (though not surprising)
2. the sheer number of women's sport coaches (regardless of gender) who make over $100,000 (softball, soccer, etc.)
*3. how many comparable sports where the women's coach makes significantly more than the men's coach. for example, consider tennis (women's coach: $115k. men's coach: $94K), soccer (women's: $152K. men's: $72.5K), track (women's: $122K. men's: $82K), gymnastics (women's: $156K. men's: $91K), and cross country (women's: $103K. men's: $75K). Any thoughts as to the reason for the discrepancies? As far as I know, TItle 9 does not regulate coaching salaries. Is it explainable by length of service? Or perhaps that the men's coaches are making more through other avenues (i.e., camps, sponsorships, etc.)?
BBA '01, Lifelong Michigan Fan
A number of the discrepancies are obvious: the women's soccer coach used to run the national team; the men's coach used to run Michigan's club team. Carol Hutchins has established Michigan as a softball superpower. She's the equivalent of women's basketball coaches at UConn and Tennessee. The women's track coach is in his 27th year while the men's coach is in his second; the cross-country coaches are in year 19 and 1, respectively.
While I don't get why there's such a gap in the gymnastics salaries—women's gymnastics is consistently very good but the men won the national title last year—most of those are easily explainable by seniority or other obvious factors. My main thing is that all these salaries grate when the NCAA claims poverty prevents them from doing more for the guys who bring in the money by risking what now seems to be quite a lot. The only environment in which a gymnastics program drawing 1500 people per meet can afford to pay their head coach 100 dollars for every head in the stands is one in which administrators are like "good God, what do we do with all this money?"
your next UV title most definitely needs to come from this site: http://yes.thatcan.be/my/next/tweet/
I put in mgoblog and got this sample tweet:
MGoPost: TomVH: An Interview with the board can't get any head explodes.
I am very sorry, board, but yes.thatcan.be/my/next/tweet/ does not lie. Not that it's making a huge leap in suggesting that about a sports message board.
Nothing will ever bring home how bizarrely intense people get about spring football than Orson's annual in-depth review of Florida's spring game. It's the closest he gets to being a conventional team blogger, a straightforward piece of analysis long enough to be a Marky Mark Mangino post livened up by Orson's tendency to call things a "boiled bag of rat innards". Orson is writing about defensive tackles. It is April and college football is bored.
Michigan's got one of those this weekend and these are the things I'll be extrapolating answers from the tiniest filaments of evidence about:
Is Can Have Tailback
Michigan's tailback last year was Denard Robinson and when it wasn't Denard Robinson it was people being enraged that Vincent Smith wasn't really fast or falling down past the line of scrimmage. This year some variety of pro-style offense will be deployed; having a tailback becomes significantly less optional.
- Vincent Smith, the 5'6" Pahokeean who was the leading non-Robinson rusher last year with 601 yards. He took 136 carries to get those—4.4 per—and struggled badly against anything approximating a good defense.
- Michael Shaw. Carlos Brown 2.0 averaged a full yard per carry more than Smith mostly because he got hurt after the Bowling Green game.
- Michael Cox. The Loch Ness Monster is reputed to be a stallion of a man capable of great feats. Unfortunately he is 50-50 to run towards the correct endzone on any given play.
- Stephen Hopkins. Hopkins had some fumbling issues and only ended up with 37 carries last year but his size made him an effective lead blocker for Robinson and his rushes promised a Minor-like downhill moose down the road. We're a bit further down the road and Hopkins's new head coach loves him some moose.
- Fitzgerald Toussaint. Toussaint has been vaporware in his first two years. Maybe he can stay healthy for the next twenty seconds.
There is also The Greatest Player In The History Of The World According To Two Jacksons. Thomas Rawls enters with the sort of hype you can only get by being a generic late-rising three star coached by Fred Jackson's son and recruited by Fred Jackson. Since he didn't enroll early we won't get to test the Jacksons' theory that Thomas Rawls encompasses the power of the sun and gently warms the earth each morning.
Looking for: A somewhat lighter, faster Hopkins with a grasp of what he should do. He's probably going to be the best back on the roster and he's now in a system that loves/needs a guy like him.
Fearing: Vincent Smith looks pretty much the same and still has a lock on the top TB spot. It's plausible that Smith's injury lingered into last season—remember he tore that ACL during the OSU game, so he had well under a year to get ready—and that he'll display a lot more speed and agility two years removed from it. If that's the case then maybe he can be a decent Big Ten starter. If he's still the same guy he was last year and he's still at the top of the depth chart and he's getting a lot of carries from the I when Denard could be doing something, guh.
Will only believe three games into the season: Cox as Herschel Walker. That guy is never going to play. He's a redshirt junior and couldn't get a carry last year even when half the tailback corps was injured and the rest was Smith and freshman Hopkins. And this is at tailback, the position where you can leap into the starting lineup on day one if, say, you're a human battering ram who runs like a gazelle. The only RB in recent Michigan history to get noticeably better late in his career was Chris Perry. Everyone else was the same guy they always were.
The Roundtree Question
What do you do with the Big Ten's second leading receiver when his production was predicated on the threat of Denard Robinson running and his position only sort of exists in the platonic ideal of a MANBALL offense?
The answer to this is probably "nothing." Borges said something about running a ton of three and four wide this season. Even if that's forced it sounds like Borges is going to roll with it, especially because his best wideout seems most comfortable in the slot—kinda need to have three WRs to have a slot—and the tight ends are sparse and stone-handed. Late-era Carr teams based out of three wide even after Steve Breaston had moved on to the NFL. Borges is more of a bomber than Carrbord and just spent a couple years running one of those "West Coast" offenses that throws damn near everything out there. So… yeah, expect three wideouts.
Okay, then, but the further question is: what will Borges do with the guy? Roundtree went nuts last year when the threat of Denard Robinson sucked safeties up and saw him stunningly wide open against Notre Dame and Indiana and Illinois and several other times besides. Can Borges run what he wants to run and surround Roundtree with nothing but grass?
Looking for: Michigan safeties to fail spectacularly because they can't decide whether to take Denard or stay back. If you can't do it to Michigan safeties you can't do it to anyone.
Fearing: Borges can't evolve the system to keep ahead of defenses and get those almost free touchdowns. I'm sure he can emulate QB Lead Oh Noes but Michigan had to keep re-arranging it to prevent safeties from showing up in the wrong place at the critical moment. Borges is a smart guy but his knowledge is in another arena. I'm not sure he'll be able to create as many opportunities with Denard's legs.
Will only believe three games into the season: Jeremy Gallon on the field.
Okay, You Run Power, But How?
Michigan ran POWER last year. They didn't run it much, but they did use it as a counter to the constant stretch action. It was fairly successful as a changeup. That move was part of the shift in Michigan's offense away from a true zone read to an odd QB-as-TB thing people called "QB iso" and didn't know what to do with—the AP put him on their All-America team as a "back." Like Rodriguez coming into DeBord's already extant stretch offense, Hoke is walking into a situation where his guys have some clue about what the new stuff is.
Unfortunately, we've seen bits and pieces of power plays run from under center in the practice videos that have invariably been stuffed. This is rock hard evidence it is not a good idea. So, like, what I'm saying is that if you've got Denard Robinson and you want to run power you might as well line up in the shotgun and run it with Denard Robinson, right?
A secondary question: how serious is Hoke about his distaste for zone running? He seems like a pretty hands-off guy when it comes to the offense, but if there's one thing he's stressed on that side of the ball it's that the team "will run power" and fullbacks will have their spine compressed and whatnot. This is something of a problem because Michigan has just completed the transition away from hampeople. Mike DeBord installed a zone stretch running game in 2006 and Michigan started recruiting to it. That first class was David Molk and Mark Huyge, now redshirt seniors.
Everyone recruited since has been either a relatively light and mobile spread OL or a prototypical left tackle. The prototype will be fine in any system; guys like Molk and Omameh and Ricky Barnum might not be. If Michigan spends the offseason putting beef on the interior line it might work out… or it might give them a bunch of tweeners not particularly good at anything.
Looking for: QB power.
Fearing: RB power.
Will only believe three games into the season: Michigan guards as effective drive blockers.
It was at last year's spring game that Robinson went from a freak show who should be moved to tailback to a freak show who should be in the Heisman running. He can't improve that much again without melting anyone who watches him, Ark of the Covenant style, but he was still pretty raw last year. He had bouts of drive- and game-crippling inaccuracy; he occasionally joined the Rex Grossman "f*** it, I'm going deep" club; he was restricted to a set of limited routes that teams adapted to as the leaves turned. He should progress. How much?
Looking for: Incremental improvement.
Fearing: Uncomfortable on drops and still prone to chucking slants well behind his receivers.
Will only believe three games into the season: hopefully that Denard Robinson can do anything.
This is the most receptive of any group he's had coming in (at all 8 or 9 stops). It would be easy to say "we were good last year" on offense, and resist changing. It's an enthusiastic group in spite of all the changes they've been asked to make. It's easy to teach them, because they've bought in.
Shotgun - used quite a bit. "We're gonna gun more than we've ever gunned." [ed: w00t.] They've run plenty of shotgun in the past, but this will be more than that. Two-tights is part of the offense, but you'll see as much shotgun as you'd see from any NFL team, and a lot of the tight end in motion.
Haven't done a whole lot of stuff this year that he's never done. "We have more QB runs, but that aside, our offense is our offense, and we're going to gear what we do to what he's capable of doing."
"[Brady] wants to establish toughness, and he wants to establish effort. And you can't talk it: you've gotta do it." Defense and offense are geared to downhill running, coming off the ball, etc. "Not that we want to turn it into 'bull elk on bull elk' on every single play."
Offense install - "We are now at install 5 today. We have 6 installs of major pieces of our offense." They'll add 'frills,' e.g. screens, 2-minute, goal line, etc. as it goes. "We've gone slower here than I have other places, because I'm trying to give Coach Funk in particular, but everybody... a chance to review and install." They'll complete install 6, and have 4 or 5 practices to review it all. "That's about 60-70%" of everything that they'll do.
The end of spring and fall camp are different beasts. In fall, you have to figure out your starters, and get them ready to play, then focus on your first opponent. "Right now, it's just an audition." They'll have a depth chart out of spring "Like anything else, it'll be in pencil."
Defense - "I very seldom comment on the defense other than to say 'Greg Mattison is as good a defensive coach as you're ever gonna get, and he will get every ounce out of those kids.'"
There's always pressure to succeed, whether or not you have talent. "If you're gonna have pressure, it's better to have talent."
"Michigan is a special place. The walls talk to you here. You walk down the hall and you can feel it... I coached at Auburn where football was a big deal, and I loved Auburn. This is a little different."
Denard and Devin both excited about the change. Doing some "next-level oriented" things, and that's attractive to QBs. More effective in this offense? "We want to pose a balanced distribution of the ball in an aggressive style." The tailbacks will be more involved. That will sacrifice numbers for the QB, but he might be able to throw more effectively with a power running game. He also poses a threat in the passing game as a runner with his scrambling.
Drop mechanics are toughest for Denard - even though he was a dropback QB in high school. With footwork issues - the biggest change - he has really grasped that concept well. "He's still a work in progress, but he's done very well."
"You run for yards but you pass for miles," though Denard is a better checkdown as a runner than throwing to a checkdown receiver might be. "Make plays, and let the good lord make miracles." They want him to use good judgement, but they'll let the kid run. "You have to give him a chance to do what he does."
Who compares to Denard? "Michael Vick is similar. Yeah, he's the first one that comes to mind." Most comparable with speed and passing ability.
Anticipation throws: "That is what he's been doing very well." Good on timing routes and throwing before the breaks. "The guy's an accurate passer... When they guy's open, he's gonna hit him more often than not. When he isn't open open, [Denard] has a way to create... A good passing game, the ball's delivered as the receiver comes open in a manner and fashion that allows the receiver to run with the ball once he catches it."
Denard reading defenses: "He's a pretty good decision-maker." His struggles are more within the offense, not making reads. "He's not hitting defenders in the chest with the ball."
No designed QB runs in last year's SDSU offense, but with Denard's ability, they'll go back to Cade McNown plays, for example, when Borges did have designed QB runs. "More people are going to touch the ball, yet he is going to be the focal point of the offense." If he's more effective running than the backs, he'll be used more as a runner.
Denard came out of 10 games last year with injury, SDSU's Ryan Lindley didn't come out of a single game last year. If giving the RB the ball a bit more keeps Denard healthy, then that's good. The tailbacks have to be worthy of those carries.
"He poses the threat of a quarterback draw every play." Scrambling - "If you understand the footwork of our offense, that comes naturally." The guards set the depth of the pocket, and the tackles set the width. With only 4 rushers against 5 linemen, there should be scrambling lanes if necessary. "Certain quarterbacks will run 5 or 6 yards, he may run 55 yards." They tell Denard "don't turn down wide open receivers, but if they fall off, run like hell."
Devin competition - "Devin is formidable." He does some really good things. Has some of the same traits as Denard, but is a taller prototype with pocket passer height. Can work inside the pocket more easily, but he obviously isn't as fast as Denard. "You play or somebody replaces you. It's that simple." At this point, Denard is the starter, and there's no reason to believe he won't be in the fall - even though Devin is pushing him. "They're competing and I love it."
Planned playing time for backup QBs? "I would never say never, but it's never been my approach." Borges doesn't really believe in putting the backup in for a series every game or something.
"I've been happy with our tailbacks... We've had flashes of excellence from all of them, and [picking a starter]'s not a decision we have to make today." For one back to stand out, he'll have to be a complete player. "Block and protection, run the football, be consistent. The guy who demonstrates the most consistency is the guy who's gonna play."
"Vince Smith is a pure football player, I mean in every sense. He's coachable, tough, not real big obviously but I've had guys his size be very effective... Vince has a good football IQ. You tell him something, he understands what you're talking about, and he'll do it."
"Michael Cox has done some very nice things."
Michael Shaw just came back to padded practices (from a broken hand) and he's made some nice plays.
Who can be downhill RBs - "All of them really... Cox has done it, Shaw came back the other day and he did it, Stephen Hopkins is just that kind of runner, period." Hopkins is a lot like Atlanta RB Michael Turner. He is a hybrid RB/FB, and has done some nice things.
McColgan has done a great job leading the way for the backs. Not gonna show up in the scoresheet, but helps the running game.
"I think Roy's had a really good spring. All them, really. We've had some nice catches." Roundtree has been very consistent. Junior Hemingway is moving well, and has great range. Darryl Stonum has also played well. "Jeff Hecklinski does a nice job with those guys. He'll coach those suckers up." They're running more intermediate cut routes in this offense. "We throw it down the field a lot, but more intermediate cuts."
Gallon and Dileo, et al, role has not changed a whole lot. Odoms and Roundtree have played inside and outside. "We're not a spread team, but you're gonna see we're in 3 and 4 wides a lot now."
TE position is similar to the FB - not heavily featured in the recent past, but they're catching more balls than they've caught in the past. "I'm a tight end guy."
Brandon Moore has been very effective. Steve Watson caught a TD pass the other day. "Steve's fired up."
"We've got some good people there, and I think when it's all said and done we'll be pretty good there." They will recruit tight ends heavily going forward.
Injuries on the offensive line haven't affected installation too much. "We found a way to get 5 of them out there, and they haven't done a bad job." Some guys are having to learn multiple positions.
Lewan could be a good football player - needs to add weight, and work on some fundamental technique issues. He has the talent for a bright future.
"We're a downhill running team." Their scheme is geared to O-line getting off the ball and being aggressive. "We're in a 3-point stance and we're gonna do our best to move whoever's in front of us." It's different playing from the shotgun every snap.
Practice Photos and Video
right via flickr user bre pettis
You've often mentioned how a single elimination hockey tournament is a poor indicator of who the best team is, due to the randomness that exists in hockey. There is one sport where the randomness of the winner is considerably higher - baseball. And college baseball deals with this by making the tournament, and the college world series, double elimination tournament up until the championship.
Do you think a double elimination tournament could work for NCAA hockey, or if not for the frozen four, at least for the regionals? Each regional would still fit nicely into a weekend, rather than needing to spread out over two weeks if it were a 3 game series at each round. As hockey is poised for a potentially cataclysmic change tomorrow, the time for changing the tournament would be now as well.
Double elimination doesn't work for hockey because it's just too many games. A first-round loser could hypothetically play five games if they reach the final and win the first game, and how are you going to fit that into three days? Even if you decide the final is one and done (presumably playing this exhausted team is advantage enough) you've still got a situation where someone's playing twice in a day. That's not feasible.
The thing that makes the most sense is to go back to the old best two-of-three series. Have two rounds of those and have a Frozen Four. Downsides: it takes a week longer and some schools don't control their rinks, making reservations awkward. Upside: massively more revenue and it looks like people care about college hockey.
Something like this may be coming. As mentioned this morning, the NCAA has not announced regional sites past next year. Last May this was apparently the hot idea:
Under the most popular proposal, the tournament would stay as a 16-team field, but the first round would be a best-of-three series played at the venue of the higher seed.
The eight teams advancing to the quarterfinals would play at one of two super regional sites. The quarterfinals would be one-game shots with a trip to the Frozen Four on the line. The Frozen Four would not change.
That manages to be only slightly better than the current system since you know you're going to this random "super regional" site to watch your team play once. There seems to be no reason not to play another campus series other than a desire to pretend you're a bigger deal than your are.
If hockey is truly insistent on having regionals, let's format them like the first round of the World Cup or Olympic hockey: everyone plays each other and the top two teams move on. That would force teams to play three straight days but without overtime everyone's on a level playing field. That should help attendance since you know you'll get to see your team play three times.
The biggest issue with that format is scheduling the last day. In the World Cup the last group games are simultaneous because there are situations in which teams can assure themselves advancement by walking around for 90 minutes and tying. You couldn't do that at a regional. I think if you're flexible with the final day's schedule you could avoid that by making the teams who are in that advantageous position play first, though.
More money, more reason to travel, and less randomness—it's better than the current setup. The tournament could start out with groups, have a campus weekend, and then have a Frozen Four.
If NCAA determines that OSU must vacate last year football wins, does that mean RichRod went 1-2 vs. OSU?
No. A vacated game never happened—unless you lost, I guess—so officially he'd be 0-2.
After reading your thoughtful post about Webber, I couldn't help but think about why, despite everything, I always loved the guy. Just to try to explain what it was like: The Fab 5 era has many of the elements of the last few years of Michigan football, except they were magnified. First, there was the culture clash. Fisher's coaching style, the new players, all of it received a very similar reception, but unlike RR he had the '89 national championship for protection. And of course the culture clash was magnified because it was not only a matter of a culture clash within the university but on a national level. Think of it as the culture clash times five.
Then there was the electrifying style of play. Every moment of every game at Crisler, you were just sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for something amazing to happen. Not just dunks, although people often forget just how incredible not only Webber but Jimmy's ups were. But an unreal block, an impossible pass, a quick as lightening steal. The only thing I can really compare it to in my life of watching sports was watching Denard last year. You were just sitting there with visceral sense of anticipation, knowing you just might witness something amazing. But now imagine if Denard and Rich Rod had taken us to a national championship game -- or two in a row -- and I think that will give you some sense of how it felt to be a student at Michigan in that era and why we simply can't not love those guys. We all knew those players personalities, their faces, their styles of play. It was something close to watching five Denards.
There was obviously a culture clash with Rodriguez's program as a whole but Denard isn't a part of that because Denard is the nicest kid in the history of the universe. I've been going to basketball and hockey games for years and when other athletes show up, they do so in a big group, come late, and leave early. This extends even to nonentities like the tennis team. They signed some autographs at Yost earlier this season and then watched a portion of the second period in seats directly behind mine, then took off.
Denard went to the DEATH TO BACKBOARDS Wisconsin game. He wasn't there with teammates (unless Drew Dileo was there—everyone around him was an average-sized white guy), stayed for the whole thing, and when handed a random maize T-shirt he put it over his futuristic Annie Lennox jacket. You can throw that on the pile of evidence that contains every press conference he's ever attended and every touchdown he's ever kneeled after.
But the larger point is good. Michigan swung away from its baseline attitude in the aftermath of the '89 championship because it won a lot for a brief period of time, and then when it won less and got the program in trouble they reacted by hiring Tommy Amaker and John Beilein. Even more telling was only after Amaker left for Harvard that people started complaining about his recruiting practices.
A lot of people have pointed at that reaction as the Fab Five's doing, but it's really just Michigan returning to its equilibrium state after being knocked out of it briefly. The same thing happened with Rodriguez except it didn't take nearly as long because there weren't any of those win things. At some point in the future Michigan will have a coach with a different idea of what football looks like*, and he'll be tolerated as long as he wins, and then eventually he won't win and Michigan will return to its equilibrium state.
*[Possibly a distant, Humans Are Dead future, granted.]