"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."
So I find myself in an extremely bizarre position: Michigan had a semi-public scrimmage on Saturday that I and a few hundred others attended after donating to Motts or buying the big baller seats. If you've been on the internet since Saturday you've noticed probably dozens of reports on message boards, the diaries here, other blogs, and one local radio host's (pretty inaccurate) tweets. Also there's a highlight video from the official site:
But they specifically told myself, MVictors, Scout, Rivals, and Craig Ross that "nothing was to be reported" from the scrimmage. This worked as well as you might imagine, leaving us on the sidelines as everyone with a username throws vague information around. So here's a bizarre roundup of things other people said on the internets and in my inbox that doesn't involve personal reporting. This lion is caged.
Popular sentiment holds that Denard is the man:
looks comfortable, made some nice throws, seems in charge of the O. Wouldn't want to have to tackle him.
Unless something crazy happens between now and September 4, Denard Robinson is your clear starter at quarterback. The quarterbacks weren’t live today, but Robinson still managed to carve up the second-team defense (running the first-team offense, of course) with his legs and his arm. His made good decisions with the ball and his passes were on the money, and he took a QB draw 40+ yards to the house — only Denard makes that play, and he made it look easy.
He will absolutely start as he is clearly the leader on the team. He had the most energy during warm-ups, was the first one and the fastest one doing stretch drills, and was clearly the first-team QB of the day during the 'scrimmage'. He hit a nice 23-ish yard pass on a WICKED play fake to Grady. And then ran it in for another 25 or so on a QB draw, juking a DB as he went. Enough to even get the sidelines "ooh-ing".
Prior to seeing this scrimmage I was a fan of Tate and would tell anyone who asked, that Tate would be the starter. After watching the scrimmage, D-Rob will be the starter. He was much better in the pocket, made good decisions when faced with getting rid of the ball or being sacked with loss of yards, and his exchanges were very good. Think about some of the ball fakes that Juice Williams had. D-Rob isn't there yet, but he will be.
That longish pass was the a half-roll at about 2:00 in the highlights on which Robinson pulled up and nailed Terrance Robinson between the numbers and between levels in the zone. An emailer suggested that he wouldn't have believed it possible without the spring game. Also, at the end of practice they had the team run a lap around the field four times. It's "a little tough to tell" because each position group starts from a different place on the field, but 3 of the 4 times Denard was the first player on the team to finish. (Ray Vinopal seemed to win the last one.) That's "more a measure of endurance than speed."
Robinson actually got a lot less run than the other two quarterbacks, finding himself on the bench as Forcier and Gardner (and Jack Kennedy) alternated series late; when he did get on the offense would score quickly, further depressing his reps. To me that reads like the decision is already made and they are being somewhat cautious.
Conflicting reports on Gardner and Forcier. Ace's take:
Devin Gardner, running mostly with the twos, looked at times like a seasoned veteran, but he had a couple throws — including an ugly interception to Marvin Robinson — that reminded everyone he is just a freshman. His natural ability could lead to him seeing the field this year, but I think it’s safe to say he’s probably a year away from really pushing for the starting job. Really like his poise in the pocked and running ability, however, and it would have been interesting to see what he could have done if the quarterbacks were live. Tate Forcier started with the threes but saw snaps with the ones and twos as well — he looked solid throwing the ball, but made a couple poor reads on zone running plays.
Gardner came in for a lot of praise but a trusted observer in the inbox says "Gardner made a number of bad decisions under pressure." There that Marvin Robinson interception reminiscent of the slo-mo-nooooo plays last year; observer also cited a strong tendency for Gardner to panic and chuck off his back foot when blitzers got through. He suggested that in a scrimmage with more blitzing—it was exceedingly rare—Forcier would have probably looked clearly better than Gardner. While a few folk are saying there is "NO WAY" Gardner redshirts, TO thought he was at best even with Forcier and given that should watch from the sidelines. He made more big errors than anyone else.
In drills, Tate looked best, FWIW.
Hopkins was the name on everyone's tongue after a day spent running through arm tackles and showing surprising shiftiness. He "hit the holes and was a load to take down." Trusted Observer said he had a hard time picking out Hopkins before the scrimmage, as he looked like PJ Hill in the spring but after losing ten pounds and reshaping maybe a dozen others into muscle "now looks like a tailback" instead of a moonlighting fullback.
One negative note:
I didn't think Hopkins looked as great as everyone else did. Not a diss on his play - he ran very hard - but I didn't see the world beater others did. Much like the other scrimmages, all the RBs looked good, but none really stood out. We have options in Cox and Shaw. Though V. Smith, as reported, looks great - no noticeable effects from the injury.
Ace and others also noted that Vincent Smith seems 100% healthy; you can see him dance his way down to the two in the highlights above on one of his better runs on the day. TO said it looked like he was tentatively first team with Mike Shaw second but "both those guys fumbled and I wouldn't put much stock in that."
Mike Cox continued to show that he might be the best athlete amongst the running backs, but on two separate instances he caused Rodriguez to "lose it" by cutting way back against the grain, turning a modest gain into nothing by dancing at the line of scrimmage. On one "there was a gap on the frontside but he cut all the way behind the backside tackle," losing yardage and causing RR to chew him out; on the second "RR just dropped his headset in disgust."
Toussaint did not play due to an injury.
If you're looking at playing time in this scrimmage as a signal as to which freshmen wideouts will play, your "leaders in order" are Jerald Robinson, Drew Dileo, Jeremy Jackson, Ricardo Miller, and finally DJ Williamson. Yeah, Dileo, who looked "natural fielding punts and catching the ball in drills" despite being "fricking tiny." Robinson got a lot of playing time but "dropped everything."
As for the veterans, the nominal first team was the same it was in spring with Martavious Odoms spending a lot of time outside with Darryl Stonum; Roy Roundtree was in the slot but "did not play much" probably because "they know he's the guy." In his stead Robinson and Grady got most of the playing time, with Gallon around but "not doing much." Hemingway was on the second team with Stokes.
At TE, Koger, Webb, and Moore "seemed even," with Koger suffering a frustrating drop. Robinson added one, but otherwise the starting WRs caught everything that came their way. It was mostly underneath stuff, probably because of the open nature of the scrimmage.
Not much here. Molk was in a green shirt and played only sparingly (this was "precautionary"); Khoury was his backup and there were several poor snaps, two or three of which led to drive-killing fumbles. Huyge (left) and Dorrestein (right) were tackles on the first team OL. Lewan was on the second team and played beyond the whistle to the point where he got a personal foul. TO noticed Quinton Washington struggling badly in the post-practice runs, finishing last. Someone, possibly Elliot Mealer, spent practice on the bike with a red jersey. Barnum was a second-team guard and the third-team center.
Coaches kept yelling at Schofield to keep his pad level down.
TO says he spent most of the scrimmage watching the offense and didn't have much on the D. He did note that Mike Martin finished first easily in the DL group on the runs with Will Campbell lagging behind. Ace highlighted Jibreel Black, who looks like a quick contributor. Another emailer said "Martin is a beast" and didn't get much playing time for precautionary reasons:
“Defensively, Mike Martin has had a tremendous camp. We limited him yesterday because we know what he can do, but he’s been really good and probably our most consistent defensive player since camp started.”
Campbell seemed to be on the third team. Sagesse sat out with an injury, though he was in green, not red.
It does not seem like Martin is moving, so everyone figure out who Greg Banks's backup is.
That stuff about Moundros possibly starting looks accurate:
Moundros starts in the middle, looks like he's been playing there for a while. A run stuffer certainly. Middle zone coverage? Not enough data. Ezeh also stuffed the run and took on blocks at Mouton's spot. Roh will be a beast, but given almost all of the throws were short, his pass rush didn't have time to get home.
Not much else here. Ezeh played WLB with Mouton in green. Davion Rogers is "a twig."
Ack. Cam Gordon, from reports ranging from some guy…
Vlad will hit you, but we all knew that. Cam Gordon is going to be very good, I think. Big boy. He was in position to make two great tackles, but unfortunately didn't wrapup and was pulled off the field. Later returned with the 1's. Going to take some time
…to the coach…
“Yesterday probably wasn’t his best day practice-wise, but other than that he’s had a really good camp,” Rodriguez noted.
“We were in position to make plays - I was in position - but we didn’t wrap up,” Gordon said. “I think we were all a little excited, especially us young guys to show what we could do and we had a breakdown in fundamentals. But those are easily correctable mistakes.
“Something Coach [Tony] Gibson said to me after our scrimmage was, ‘Cam, every hit doesn’t have to be a big hit.’ That’s a key for me and for all the guys. Any tackle is a good tackle. I don’t have to level somebody because in the stat book they all count the same way. I’ll get better and we’ll get better.”
…did not have a good day. Corners… not much detail. There's this:
JT Floyd looks good, Rogers looks big. Teric Jones and Christian are your 2's. Talbott and Avery don't look undersized, and don't look overwhelmed. Again, hard to judge corner play given the nature of the throws. But Christian has a way of moving that reminds one of Woodson.
If only. Floyd was pulled early, again likely as a precaution. Robinson looks good, a "big hitter and good tackler." Mike Williams spent a lot of time playing spur, not doing much of note. A push for a job or a sure starter (Thomas Gordon) getting held out of a high-contact scrimmage?
No worries at punter, where Hagerup's warmups were "just like Zoltan." The section of the practice dedicated to the punt team saw the punts "go straight" and were actually returnable. All were fielded cleanly except one fumble from Terrence Robinson. Here, too, Dileo "looked like a natural," executing a fair catch with aplomb and fielding an array of kickoffs and punts cleanly.
Field goal kicking was limited, with just two attempts. Meram missed from around 40, Gibbons hit from around 35. Kickoffs landed from the 2 to 10, which is about average these days. Kickoff coverage must be run at half speed because every one was returned to about midfield and then blown dead.
Tim will spin out posts on his experience at Media Day over the first few days of the week, but right now how about a million embeds? Oh and this from the MVictors photo gallery:
"Please stop doing that, you're making me uncomfortable."
And then there's all the video Boyz n tha Pahokee and MGoVideo put in a non-browser-crippling format:
Denard Robinson (wsgs Mike Rosenberg and Mike Rosenberg's Tiny Afro!):
Several more after the jump.
With Rodriguez ramping up the media restrictions in the wake of the Jihad and the Daily publishing details of that edge pitch play they debuted against Iowa, glimpses from within Michigan's early practices have been rare. This has ticked off the Blade guy, but come on Blade guy, what do you expect? Rodriguez tried.
Anyway, the Big Ten Network has stopped by and the twitters are lighting up with 140-character bursts of potentially useful information. They are collected below, organized by position and theme. I won't link to each individual tweet but they can be found at @BTNDaveRevsine and @BTNBrentsBlog (by Brent Yarina).
Based on today - tough call on QB situation. All 3 have had some good moments. DR clearly improved as a passer. [Revsine]
Devin Gardner can't put a pass in the wrong place here early on. Rapid fire drill, he's on the money with everything. [Yarina]
Gardner definitely looks like he could get snaps. He's very impressive, but Denard has improved as a passer quite a bit. [Yarina]
It's one day, but #Michigan looks good. If I was making choice, I'd split snaps between Robinson and Gardner. DG is good. [Yarina]
Denard Robinson looks like a completely different passer. Add the threat of pass to his running ability, and #Michigan could give d's fits. [Yarina]
He [Tate] was banged up today. But emergence of Gardner and Denard's improved passing don't help. [Yarina]
UPDATE: one more from Revsine, responding to MVictors about a QB question:
I would definitely say Gardner is in convo - impressive kid. G&H seem to think Robinson is the best of the 3. Tough call.
The Mystery Of The Wingless Helmets
Yarina posted this picture:
You'll note that Forcier's helmet is plain blue, sans wings. A twitter guy named GoBlueNColumbus (ouch) caught this and started pinging Yarina with questions:
The #Michigan people told us not to read anything into the lack of wings on some helmets. [Yarina]
Didn't pay too much attention [to who didn't have them], to be honest. As far as big names go, though, he was the only one I noticed. [Yarina]
Meanwhile, Rodriguez after the first practice on the "handful" of guys not prepared to play football:
"If they don't [improve their conditioning] they will not have the opportunity to wear the winged helmet on Sept. 4 [in season opener against Connecticut]," Rodriguez said.
Dollars to donuts the plain helmets are a motivational device and that Forcier's absence at offseason workouts has put him in the bad group. They didn't accidentally hand last year's starting quarterback a plain helmet. [UPDATE: Maybe they did? A Countdown to Kickoff video shows Tate in the regular helmet.]
Michigan's facebook page has a set of 20 photos that does not reveal anyone else in the bad group but do show Koger, who had been rumored to be in the handful, in possession of wings.
Various Individuals Mentioned
At Michigan's practice. Love the "M" drill - runner trying to get thru 3 levels of blocking. Saw good moments from Michael Cox & W Campbell [Revsine]
Great energy in 1 on 1 tackle drill. Vlad Emilien just had a big time hit. Sweet move earlier out of Terrance Robinson. [Revsine]
Vladimir Emilien just made a bone-crushing hit on a 1-on-1 drill. The entire defense celebrated the hit. [Yarina]
Good team drill going on right now. Jeremy Jackson looks like he could help at WR. D Robinson clicking nicely with the short stuff. [Revsine]
Marvin Robinson, Brandin Hawthorne and Courtney Avery among the others who had good moments [Revsine]
Gerry and Howard both impressed with Jibreel Black. DiNardo also likes the way Patrick Omameh has looked today. [Revsine]
Loss of Mesko is obviously a concern, but the frehman Hagerup has really boomed a few [Revsine]
One thing's for sure: #Michigan coaches are very intense and vocal. [Yarina]
Mike Martin on difference between this year's defense: "I think we're a lot closer." [Yarina]
Take it for what you will. I'll update this with any subsequent information.
Tim posted the relevant quote from Troy Woolfolk about Denard's perceived lead in the QB race, and I thought that was bombshell enough, but then the Daily published the whole exchange. Since Woolfolk comes very close to calling Tate Forcier a leper in it, it set off the usual avalanche. In case anyone's living under Charlie Weis*, the full monty:
"Denard has been out there through the thick and thin and been out there all the time regardless if he's hurting," Woolfolk said. "And Tate, he tries to come out, but he's not as consistent as Denard is. And that's allowed Denard to jump a little bit ahead of Tate and I think that Tate's going to have to do a lot of work to catch back up to Denard in camp this year." …
"I personally have a lack of respect for them [players who don't show for voluntary workouts]," Woolfolk said. "The outlook on them is kind of diseased. Like you don't want to be hanging around those people because they have bad work ethic. But at the same time, it's my role to try to persuade them to come out more."
According to Woolfolk, Forcier hasn't shown up to as many workouts as he and the other seniors feel he should have, and Woolfolk said it's hurting his teammates' perception of their signal caller.
"The only reason he's not really labeled as diseased is because of the way he was able to carry the team last year before we started losing. People still trust him a little bit, but he's starting to lose that trust."
Though he quickly retracted the phrasing of those comments on his (protected) twitter account, the sentiment is clear. It matches up with the buzz we've heard since spring practice, except that the original statement had Devin Gardner as the guy who was around all the time, not Denard.
These days my sense of how important things are to the national media is warped to the point where I my first inkling that a local story is going to get splattered across blogs and whatnot nationwide is when Doctor Saturday pings me to get the peanut gallery's view on whatever Michigan item he's about to post. When this happened yesterday, he said a "senior calling out the QB is not such a great way to start the year."
I had not thought about it this way. It hadn't registered as an event to me. Four years ago I might have engaged full-on PANIC; yesterday as I searched for a response I just thought, and eventually said, "I've seen worse."
I've been through the dust bowl. Now I've got soup, and some bread, and a hat.
At the risk of seeing the entire offensive line arrested for stealing the Ambassador Bridge and both quarterbacks transfer to Arkansas, this summer has passed for tranquility compared to the last couple. From the beginning of the 2008 season to the beginning of 2009, Michigan saw Taylor Hill, Zion Babb, Jason Kates, Artis Chambers, Carson Butler, Avery Horn, Sam McGuffie, Steven Threet, Toney Clemons, Kurt Wermers, Dann O'Neill, Justin Feagin, Marrell Evans, and Vince Helmuth leave the program. Fourteen kids. From the beginning of 2009 to now they've lost Boubacar Cissoko, Brandon Smith, and Donovan Warren. Three. Michigan's Fulmer Cup count stands at zero. The worst thing that's happened this offseason is the sturm und drang about Demar Dorsey and his eventual rejection by admissions; Michigan also lost a couple of meh recruits who weren't going to do anything in this critical year.
I'd really like to have one of those corners back— make that two of those corners—but the chatter about Dorsey's legal stuff is emblematic of the summer: a lot of noise about something that doesn't really matter. Compared to the rampant attrition of the past couple years it doesn't rate. Media opinion is a lagging indicator anyway.
What I think it does mean:
- The heavily-rumored preference of the team for Denard is incontrovertible now. Steve Schilling may not have launched into anything as likely to get splashed on posts everywhere, but his statement on Robinson ("He’s definitely taken on some leadership. He’s there every day working hard. He’s been a guy that doesn’t complain. He makes you want to play for him, and he has those qualities to be a special leader and a special quarterback.") says as much or more coming from a guy on the same unit not known for saying much of anything.
- While a lot of the attention is on Tate, if Robinson is around every day earning people's trust that's more positive than it seemed in spring, when both sophomores were in the same boat when it came to work ethic relative to Gardner. Apparently one of them got the message.
- It's up to Tate to earn that trust back in fall practice, which starts in five days. While the competition has gone from obviously Tate to neck-and-neck to edge Denard, Tate still has a huge experience edge and is likely to see the field even if Robinson does win the nominal starting job. The two candidates are so different that it will make sense to play both as long as they remain close to even overall.
- Given the statements about playing banged up it's possible that Forcier's absences have legitimate reasons behind them. Those have not been communicated.
- I still expect both QBs to play early in the season.
- "Hugging it out" needs to occur; Woolfolk's tweet indicates that it should happen.
I don't think it will affect the team much; it does provide some hard evidence for the things that had been whispered all summer. The intrigue at fall camp will put the Cold War to shame.
*(Miss you, big guy. xoxo.)
Thanks to three exceptionally useful videos put out by MGoVideo now you can take in the performances of all three Michigan quarterbacks during the spring game in about 15 minutes. Bonus points for the awesome audio selections.
Standard caveats about spring apply, but it's still amazing to watch Denard's development.
CEASE PANIC ONCE MORE. See, I do learn: the most recent twitter panic was a report from Devin Gardner that Denard Robinson had cut off his dreads, and I refrained from having requesting mass panic. MGoUser Raback Omaba stakes his hard-earned Dorsey-commit rep on this report that takes us down from DEFCON 2:
Reports of him shorning them and sporting a "lil boosie fade" were premature. Denard merely trimmed his dreads and styled them differently. However he maintains his trademark Denard Robinson dreadlocks. He did not get a fade, his dreads are still there. Significant amounts of dilithium remains hanging from his head, perhaps more effective than before. Let's worry about football now rather than carry on about hairstyles of future Heisman winners. Move on. Denard still has dreads
He has a fade and dreads? The magic of Denard is ever-expanding.
RESUME PANIC. These aren't happening but the asked-for horrifying new jersey mockups have arrived and are terrible enough to cause you to run around screaming:
These will happen someday, probably when we're flying around in jet cars and pushing a button at our jobs. You know, when Denard Robinson doesn't seem fast.
Jihadexpansion update. Mary Sue Coleman talked to a bunch of alumni at a function in Boston recently that a couple of MGoUsers report back from. Some small amount of detail on the second-to-last event in the NCAA whatnot:
Pres. Coleman stated that UM will be announcing its self-imposed sanctions by the end of the month. She indicated that there was cross communication between the coaching staff and the compliance people. The coaching staff thought they'd been given the green light, whereas the compliance people thought that a different question was being asked. She said that unlike reported in some places, at best the overage amount would amount to roughly 2 hours a week. She also predicted that many football programs across the US will be dropping compliance people to avoid danger of giving "coaching advice."
A later post in the thread gives the 24th as the date on which Michigan will send back the report and announce whatever they're self-imposing. If it's in line with previous violations of this nature Michigan will have to give back the hour overages two-to-one and may have to forgo the use of a coach for some period of time. Assorted minor items will be tacked on; the guess here is that no scholarship penalties will result except possibly a single one this year that's more symbolic than anything—Michigan won't be able to get up past 84 this year anyway.
An old guarantee. MGoVideo gets in on the WH gig by providing a youtube embed of the 1986 edition of The Game featuring Jim Harbaugh's famous guarantee:
Stick around afterwards for a quarterback comparison that Harbaugh dominates on completion percentage not not looking like Sloth.
Upset machine. Michigan alum Mike Cammalleri is rocking Eastern Conference heavyweights as the Montreal Canadiens go on the NHL's annual Cinderella playoff run, and putting his name amongst some of the sport's all-time greats in the process:
With seven goals in a seven-game series victory over the defending Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, Cammalleri equaled a team record for tallies in a single playoff series shared by Maurice (Rocket) Richard (1944 and 1958), Jean Beliveau (1956), Bernard (Boom Boom) Geoffrion (1957), Guy Lafleur (1975) and Marcel Bonin (1959)�all of them but Bonin long established members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
How's that for company?
Impressive, rhetorical question guy. Impressive indeed. Here's Cammalleri's seventh and final goal of the Pens series, the eventual game-winner:
(HT: South Bend Wolverine, who we all feel for deeply.)
After a scary injury last year that saw Bree Evans lie motionless on the ground after a home-plate collision in an exhibition game against State, she's returned to the field hale, hearty, and hitting. She's now batting .365 as a sophomore, second-best on the team. The official site has deployed its feature machine in response:
The softball team is now 44-6, 16-1 in the conference, and is cruising towards another top seed in the NCAA tournament. This weekend's regular season finale at Iowa will be televised live by the BTN at 6 on Friday and 4 on Saturday.