is there such a thing as an etsy genuis? if so, this is it.
Summary. The Rodriguez transition as expressed by Smurfs:
That is all.
Second edition? There's been a disconnect between the recruiting buzz on incoming defensive end Jibreel Black (major talent, say mods at the usual sites) and the recruiting services who placed him on the three/four-star borderline. Michigan's coaches had been after Black from early on in his recruiting cycle and pursued him through two(!) commitments to other schools, so they seem to be on the former side.
Maybe a couple more people are sidling over there after Black's performance in the North-South Ohio All Star game:
The star of the night, however, was Jibreel Black. He was constantly in the backfield and pretty much controlled the entire second half. He’s not the biggest guy (6’2” 255) in the world, but then neither was Brandon Graham. And when pressed for what was going to happen the next time he plays in the Horseshoe as a Wolverine, Black didn’t hesitate to answer.
“I’ll be doing the same thing,” he laughed. “Pryor better watch out.”
Insert all the usual caveats about all-star games here—who knows if the kid he was going up against is even going I-A, for one—but anything that causes an observer to mention Brandon Graham in the same sentence as someone with eligibility remaining is all right by me.
Antonio Kinard had a pick six and was reputed to have played well; the other Michigan recruits didn't draw much mention except someone calling the matchup between Courtney Avery and 6'7" OSU WR signee Tyrone Williams "unfair." His quarterbacks were exceptionally good sports about it, though, and he finished with just two catches for 19 yards. Tim has more detail in a mini-Friday Night Lights post coming up later today.
It's the circle of life.
Catching up with defectors past. Penn State's quarterback situation is not so good. Kevin Newsome, who you may remember as one of the defectors in the defection-laden class of 2008, is the only scholarship quarterback on campus right now. His competition is Matt McGloin, a walk-on(!), and neither is burning up the field:
McGloin (10 of 23, 110 yards) threw two interceptions and should have had a third – a drop by new defensive back Chaz Powell – returned 90 yards for a touchdown in the first half.
Newsome, a righty with a near-sidearm throwing motion, finished 5 of 12 for 50 yards and lost 12 yards rushing. Dual threat? Not so much Saturday.
Neither is the offensive line, apparently:
To be fair, the QBs didn't have much time to set their feet. Or duck. …
“We're trying different combinations and we're trying to get the best five guys in there,'' Paterno said during a news conference right before the scrimmage.
“The tackles are a concern for us. … We're not really sure who the tackles are going to be.''
Before you go cackling to your Penn State friends, remember that 1) Penn State's defense is not Michigan's defense and 2) IIRC, the author of this article is one of those dinosaur local columnists whose schtick is relentless negativity.
However, a softened version of the snark above has been related by generally positive outlets like the PSU's Scout and Rivals sites. It's safe to say that a certain level of disquiet exists in Happy Valley. Many people are openly speculating about how JoePa is going to have to grit his teeth and start one of his two true freshmen this fall. One of them, Paul Jones, did enroll early. Whoever starts is going to be protected by a couple of converted guards at tackle.
In other spring games:
- Is it good news or bad news that MSU's game, which was an actual game, ended 17-10? I don't know. Kirk Cousin remains an effective passer. The offensive line gave up eight sacks but the starters were split across teams.
- Notre Dame beat Notre Dame 27-19, spawning a number of thread on the message board about how they were terrible and will die against us in the fall. The ND side of things is less resigned to doom. You could even call them encouraged. I think your walk-on second string QB going 18 for 30 for 223 yards, 3 TDs, and 1 INT is not so good, but as always to read too much into spring games at your peril.
Other future warrior-poets. Meanwhile on the AAU circuit, Carlton Brundidge may have developed a jumper:
Give credit to Carlton Brundidge, the kid is putting in work. The only knock on him in the past has been the lack of a consistent jump shot from three point range, but that looks to be coming along nicely. With defenders playing a sagging zone designed to stop Amir Williams, Brundidge was hitting from deep with ease. As always he still finished going to the rim off the dribble, but Brundidge really looks improved shooting the deep jumper.
UMHoops has video of Brundidge going off for 44 in last weekend's AAU tournament, in which his team made the final before falling. It's impressive even if #15 on the opposition has a dedication to defense that can be described as "hilariously lacking."
Also, AA.com's Mike Rothstein has an interview with Bacari Alexander:
Q: What was the best Globetrotter experience you had?
BA: “You don’t realize what the significance of the Globetrotter experience is until you travel abroad. When I went to Stockholm, Sweden and there was a capacity crowd in the arena to the tune of 18, 19,000 sold out, I said ‘Wow.’ You don’t realize that you’re a part of something so much bigger than yourself.”
This is all right and good. Sweden loves the quintessentially American Globetrotters. America loves Carl Hagelin. We'll call it even. Full profile coming later today.
Updating crush rates. MCalibur updates his QB fragility study, finding that 1) last year was a bad year for everyone except pocket statues and 2) there's still no statistical significance in the numbers. Note that this doesn't mean people who assert running QBs get injured more are definitely wrong:
At first blush it looks like there’s a difference in the injury rates of level 1, 2, and 0/3 but the fact of the matter is that there is insufficient evidence to support this. I actually ran hypothesis tests this time and that was the outcome (failure to reject the null hypothesis that A=B=C=D). Note that this does not mean that no difference exists, simply that there is no reason to conclude that a difference does exist. The differences observed are statistically insignificant.
This is a lesson David Berri could stand to learn. Still, whatever increase there might be in running quarterbacks is minimal if it exists at all:
After six years of data, the guys who run more than anyone else are 2-3% more likely to get injured than pocket throwers and the least-injured quarterbacks are guys who run a little.
Etc.: Women's tennis brings home a Big Ten title and is in the range where a national title isn't out of the possibility. Ann Arbor voids all those parking tickets from the spring game. Nebraska is now making noises about the Big Ten. So is Paul Tagliabue; his are very silly. You are now bowl eligible if you are bowl eligible.
Bubbly. AnnArbor.com catches up to a smiling Brandon Graham after his selection by the Eagles:
Rarely have I been so happy for a Michigan player. After the last two years, Graham deserves every good thing that can possibly happen to him. I hope he learns how to fly.
(Also: can I take a moment to tout how useful UFRs have been in tracking Brandon Graham's impact? I was a little worried that BG was outperforming Woodley, but there he is in the top half of the first round after the NFL saw how unblockable he is.)
Denard-o. Gerry DiNardo has lost more football games than you've ever watched, but he's still on the television so people ascend to his yurt high up in the Indiana mountains to beseech him for his wisdom. Last year his wisdom was "Denard Robinson is going to start at quarterback," which is a strong indicator as to why he's lost more football games than you've ever watched. DiNardo single criterion for choosing a starting quarterback is "is it vaguely possible this kid was named after me?" By no other measure was Robinson a plausible starter in 2009.
In 2010 things are different. Denard Robinson is still named after Dinardo, though:
"I think it has to be Denard Robinson," he said. "If you think about the way Rich Rodriguez became so successful at West Virginia it wasn't with a drop-back quarterback that threw 50 times, even though that approached worked for him some as an offensive coordinator. He wants to play the game that Denard plays, with a greater emphasis on the running attack than the passing attack. He wants to have that guy that can tuck the ball and make you miss even when the blocking isn't perfect, that can make you miss even if he misreads the read-option, and from everything I've seen, Denard Robinson is that guy.
"In college football nowadays, defenses, as much as they try to practice this, cannot tackle in space. From the earliest age, you're not coached to tackle one-on-one without help. The instruction is always about rallying to the ball and then for your defensive backs to use the sideline as their friend. But when you're stuck in a one-on-one situation, against an athlete like Denard Robinson, most of the time you're going to be left grasping for air.
"So when I see what he can do, and then I see what Forcier did last year - to me there is no comparison for where this offense wants to go."
I'm not sure he's right that Rodriguez is dedicated to running 75% of the time, but his other points are solid. The bit about defenses being unable to tackle in space could be the operational philosophy of Rodriguez's entire offensive system. Tate missed reads on the option plenty last year—most of the time, it seemed—and while he was slippery enough to evade lumbering defensive ends he wasn't fast enough to turn his frequent missed reads into anything more than a few yards. A prime example from the Illinois game:
It's possible Robinson can turn this into another couple yards, or even break something long (although probably not on this particular play). A quarterback who can get that extra couple yards is an extremely dangerous option. For all Forcier's flaws, he was an effective runner. If you cut out the copious sacks Michigan gave up last year (24 for 184 yards), he averaged 4.7 YPC. (This is slightly optimistic since Robinson probably took a couple sacks, so you may want to mentally adjust that to 4.5 or so.) A version of Denard Robinson that can run the zone read and throw well enough to keep linebackers honest will obliterate that.
Keeping the linebackers honest will take some doing, but the nice thing about being Denard Robinson is that when you go to play action, it's time to cheat like a mother for all but the best defenses. I don't think Ohio State is going to be particularly vulnerable to a raw sophomore like Robinson, but I also don't think Illinois or Purdue has much of a chance to stop him.
Merrill rising, talkin' smack. Incoming defenseman Jon Merrill saw his stock slip slightly over the course of his final year with the NTDP, but a strong U-18 tournament (where the US is obliterating all comers) has seen Merrill's stock pop up into the rarefied air of a potential top ten selection once more:
At the beginning of the tournament Gudbranson had the inside edge as the potential top defender to be selected this year, battling it out with Windsor's Cam Fowler, but the gap is closing. The play of Merrill, along with the struggles of the Gudbranson-led Canadian team, may have catapulted Merrill into that coveted position and certainly into the overall debate.
Coming into the tournament many even felt Forbort would likely be ranked and selected ahead of Merrill, and even though Forbort has looked strong, the abilities that Merrill has showcased so far during this tournament have pushed him ahead in the eyes of many scouting circles. Merrill is a tall and lanky player with a lot of room to build on his frame. He has tremendous speed and has extremely good intelligence with and around the puck. Merrill has been the kingpin of the US's powerplay and quarterbacks it tremendously well.
Merrill will jump into Michigan's top four on day one and I'm betting he'll be on the top powerplay and top pairing by midseason at the latest. He was also interviewed by McKeen's, and because he's going to play in college he was asked to justify his existence. He did so with aplomb:
I think a lot of guys make the argument that the CHL (Canadian Hockey League) is the most similar to the NHL in style of play, and you play a lot of games, and things like that, but you’ve got to look at it from my perspective. I’m 18 years old. If I went and played in the CHL, there’s 15 and 16-year-olds, 17-year-olds, in the league. There’s top-end 18 and 19-year-old guys, too, but if you go to college, everyone’s older than you. I’m a freshman in a bigger, stronger, faster game, and you get up for every game, because you only play 35, 40 games, or whatever it is. Every game is a big game. Whereas in the CHL, you’re playing in Sudbury on a Tuesday night, and how do you get up for that, you know?
Tuesdays in Sudbury is a best-seller by Bizzaro Canadian Mitch Albom, but not a particularly attractive option compared to playing outdoors in front of one million people, give or take nine hundred thousand.
Nothing on Moffatt, unfortunately. He has just one assist for a rampant USA. The U18s are the last opportunity to put it out there for NHL scouts and he's not drawing a whole lot of notice. Hopefully he'll slide in comfortably—a mid-round NHL draft pick is usually a good player—but an instant impact is unlikely.
Side note: please don't read anything about Jack Campbell. It will make you sad.
(Interview HT: Michigan Hockey Net.)
About the one million people. Sales for Cold War II have been ridiculous so far:
General ticket sales began Wednesday, netting 14,700 purchases by 4 p.m., according to an athletic department spokesman. When added to the that seats have already been sold or committed to by season-ticket holders, former players and other groups, officials announced Wednesday that close to 80,000 tickets have already been sold.
"This has just taken off. You knew it would when you have something this special at the Big House - the first time ever, maybe the only time ever," Berenson said in a statement. " Everybody wants to be there. I think we'll be sold out before we know it. It'll be a tough ticket to buy."
With the original Cold War still the all-time hockey attendance record, the question at this point is not if this December's game will break it, but if the record shatters with enough force to match the destructive power of a bear dropping a bomb into a volcano.
Probably not. But it will be close, yo.
Cancer, again. Chris Perry's arrest was a family thing in which something went down with a cousin, possibly because Perry's mom is terminally ill with the cancer she was battling when Perry played at Michigan. Irene Perry is the main reason Chris didn't transfer a couple years into his career. Best wishes, for whatever that's worth, to the Perry family.
A Thing About Denard And Tate
The new official picture of "Denard Robinson is made of dilithium." Via MVictors.
Yet more on the quarterback situation because that's all anyone is talking about: it seems to me like the correct stance to take in the aftermath of Denard going 9/11 for 191 yards and three touchdowns in the air is to declare Game On. But only that.
I've seen a ton about how Denard is just a better fit for Michigan's offense and Rodriguez has wanted Pat White 2.0 since he got here and Tate is doomed because of the zone read and basically disintegrated over the course of the season and is probably going to transfer as he is destined to by his genetic heritage. I've also seen a lot of people saying "now wait just a minute" to the Forcier doomsayers, and I'm with them:
- Forcier had a midseason lull but two of his best games of the season came against Purdue and Wisconsin. Against UW he was 20 for 26; against Purdue he was a lot closer to 50% but suffered a ton of drops. His trajectory is not straight down. He even looked good against Ohio State when not offering up one of his hair-pulling, soul-destroying turnovers.
- Forcier's main problem on the zone read was making good decisions or fakes. These were made more difficult by the defense focusing on the run game because Forcier's ability to make decisions in the pocket was limited. He pulled the ball way too much, didn't let the fake "ride" a la Juice Williams, and faced down a defensive end as a result. He then juked this guy 80% of the time and picked up positive yardage. If the defense is sufficiently focused on the tailback and Forcier develops his fakes as much as Denard develops his passing, he can be an effective zone read alternative.
- Last year's offensive line was very shaky on the right side, which led to a lot of justified scrambles.
Tate is not out of it by any means, and since the two quarterbacks are so different it looks like the backup will get a large number of snaps anyway.
What the spring game (and spring in general) did was stand the horse race on its nose. Robinson looked better on Saturday. He looked better in the clinic scrimmage, when he was live and splitting first team reps with Forcier. He looked better over the entirety of spring, which is the reason he was afforded the easy matchup Saturday. One 97-yard touchdown to Roy Roundtree might not mean much, but 15 practices does.
The ones-vs-twos is a big deal, but maybe not as big a deal as the few remaining Denard skeptics—still clinging tight to that Betamax stock—have made it. Last year Robinson was having a Man vs Himself battle. Seeing him develop to the point where you need to see a Man vs Man conflict is immense. Hopefully by this time next year we're sending him off to fight Icelandic volcanoes.
Running Backs Are Indeterminate
Another source of persistent unexpressed disagreement in the last couple days: a steady pessimism about Michigan's tailback situation. I haven't seen anyone say "hey how about that run defense"; the assumption is a lack of big runs from the tailbacks means Michigan is going to be putting out some crappy tailbacks next year. I don't think that's necessarily true. Vincent Smith had a tantalizing cameo last year, and he did nothing of note in the spring game. A few carries here or there isn't a whole lot to draw conclusions about, and even so there were a couple of nice runs from Cox.
Michigan isn't going to have the best back in the conference or anything but they've got enough of a stable to have a good running game. And what would a discussion of the tailbacks be without Fred Jackson proclaiming something the best ever?
“I think I’ve got the best blocking tandem, I didn’t say running back tandem, but best blocking tandem I’ve had,” Jackson said. “I’ve got three or four guys that based on the pictures and movies, how you want to see it done. It’s more than I’ve ever had at one time.”
Never change, Fred.
Hell I if know. I'm planning something resembling a UFR and will be able to tell you more after that, but probably not that much with Martin and Woolfolk out and the first-teamers going up against second-string offensive lineman and not blitzing and etc. etc. etc. It's clear this isn't going to be a vintage unit. Latest hint from Woolfolk:
"We're mostly just focusing on zones, which is easier than playing man," said Woolfolk. "But I would like to go back to doing more man coverage and stuff. It's easier, but pertaining to the players we have on defense, that probably makes it easier for us to play. Keeping it simple allows us to play more instead of thinking too much and slowing down. It allows us to react and get to the ball faster."
My hope for the defense is something relatively stout against the run and functional enough in the secondary to force opponents into long drives if they want to score. Average would be fine.
Video Of All Varieties
Highlights and errata:
Here's an ebullient Denard Robinson in the locker room:
"Ebullient" as defined by answers.com: "zestfully enthusiastic." There's plenty more in a diary from Boyz in the Pahokee. TYT has posted an SD torrent; MGoVideo is planning an HD one tomorrow. There is also a browser-crippling version of the latest Inside Michigan Football.
A zillion photographs
If you want more photographs than are crammed into this post, boy howdy are you in luck. AnnArbor.com has a flickr set, as does the Daily. MVictors and Maize and Blue Nation also file photoposts. MnBN found the letters from the top of the press box:
They're outside sections 2 and 44. It's too bad they couldn't find someplace a little more prominent, but at least they're still around. Also… isn't the S the wrong way?
Quarterback Stuff From Teammates
"He’s really been working on his technique," Roundtree said. "All the quarterbacks have, but Denard has really been working on his technique, his touch on the ball instead of throwing it so hard. And this year it shows so far what he did."
More Roundtreee on Robinson:
Roundtree said Saturday actually was Robinson's "second-best" practice of the spring.
"Last scrimmage (a week ago), he did really well," Roundtree said.
Thus both clinic observers giving the starting QB nod to Denard after that scrimmage. Of note: that was not a strictly ones-vs-twos setup like the spring game. In that scrimmage both Tate and Denard got extensive reps with the first team against various first and second team defenses, and Roundtree thought he did better than he did on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Van Bergen's full LAZERZ quote:
"I think Denard has probably made the most progression. I think he's developed a whole new aspect of his game as far as making great reads and making great throws.
"His throws are on lasers now. He's not throwing balls up for grabs. He's putting them right on receivers, and I think the fact he can scramble while looking downfield is really something that's helped him because last year when he pulled it down, he was going to run. But this year, he's got his eyes downfield, and they're making even bigger plays. He's dangerous. I think he's probably made the most progression, but I think they've all done really good things."
In the future, Denard Robinson will still be made of dilithium; his arm will be made of lasers.
There were plenty of folks who sat out Saturday with injuries of some varieties, including five or six possible starters. The good news is that only walk-on DE Will Heininger will see his injury last into the season. There had been some uncertainty about Vincent Smith but the latest on him is that he should be "fully recovered by preseason camp." If that holds up he's probably your opening-day starter barring a summer renaissance from the rest of the depth chart.
The rest of the injuries range from minor dings to stuff that happened a long time ago horrific bone breaks that just provide an opportunity to work on your standup. Troy Woolfolk's comedic alter-ego:
"I’m going to introduce you all to something," Woolfolk said. "Y’all know me, myself, Troy, but I have a split personality named T-Wolf. When I’m on the field, T-Wolf comes out. T-Wolf doesn’t know how to cry, that’s only a trait that Troy does. Right now, this is Troy. T-Wolf, he’s crazy and I can’t bring him out all the time, I only let him come out on the field. T-Wolf doesn’t have that ability to cry, so that would never happen."
Knock on wood and all that but sounds like everyone should be ready to go for summer conditioning. The most damaged Wolverine may actually be RB coach Fred Jackson, who got stepped on by Kevin Koger. Maybe:
"Supposedly, I'm the one who broke his foot - supposedly, though," Koger said. "It was a 86 on film, but there's no name on the back (of the jersey). So it could have been any 86."
Purdue's spring game saw the Boiler debut of Miami transfer and presumptive starting quarterback Robert Marve. Marve was meh:
Robert Marve talked about "putting on a show" for the fans. Quite simply, he didn't...But how could he with this format? He threw a couple of good balls (for instance, a long pump and go to Cortez Smith for the longest TD of the game), showed the burst of speed that Hope had bragged about...but never got into rhythm for multiple reasons...and just plain missed on quite a few throws. But, he does have an arm.
Iowa's spring game was a Carr special: sparsely attended and no different than a usual practice. Ohio State offensive line is in flux and Pryor didn't have a great day statistically but Buckeye Football Analysis is pretty sanguine about things.
A poster attempted to ferret out what's going on with UConn but didn't come up with much outside of the usual "is this good or bad" stuff.
As always: exploit your kid for youtube fame and I post.
Get used to it, Denard?
I'll try to figure out some more stuff after the replay at 8 but for now, things I noticed. They are mostly about offensive skill position players, because I'm a person.
Denard! Denard! Denard! Disclaimer: It was all ones versus twos and whatnot, so Denard took the starting offense against a motley collection of walk-ons and Tate took a bunch of freshmen up against the first team defense. The playing field was far from level.
That said, holy crap. Robinson looks like a quarterback now. A running quarterback with rudimentary passing abilities, but a quarterback. There were zone reads and screens and rollout passes and a number of zippy seams that hit players between the numbers. When the offense broke down, Robinson made the concept of "pursuit angles" humorous. Putting him on the edge, as suggested by the coaches' clinic tea leaves, puts the defense in a bind. His throws were all on a line but they were accurate aside from a couple mediocre bubble screens. There were multiple times where I was thinking "just run why don't youuuu runnnnn" and he zipped a pass in for a first down or touchdown.
How close to Forcier's passing does Robinson have to get if he's going to start? If Forcier can't set up in the pocket and throw on rhythm, how far apart are they now? It'll be an interesting summer for both guys. Right now it looks like edge Denard.
As for Forcier: Hemingway's absence and the sparing use of Stokes saddled Tate with a couple of true freshmen at wideout, so it's hard to tell whether or not the helter-skelter offense Tate was running was just Tate doing what he does or the receivers screwing up the rhythm of the offense. Wild guess: some of both. Tate also fumbled (again) and chucked a pass that Mike Jones should have picked off. Robinson didn't have anything close to a turnover.
Meanwhile, Devin Gardner looked raw as hell, fumbling snaps, scrambling into trouble, and reverting to that ugly shotput motion whenever he was forced to throw on the run. He looked like a freshman, which is okay because he is a freshman. However, the torrent of spring hype that suggested Gardner would probably not redshirt because he would be Michigan's best quarterback by UConn… eh, not so much. Maybe it was just a bad day. Even if it was an off day, Robinson showed enough to relegate Gardner to the bench for the first couple games and hopefully his whole freshman year.
Gardner did show the his deep touch on a third and long seam to Odoms that was laid in perfectly. Odoms dropped it.
Flipside of all those seams. The concerns about things like four verticals expressed in the Coaches' Clinic Tea Leaves were amply demonstrated. Virtually all of Michigan's big yardage plays that weren't Robinson teleporting from place to place came on seams right up the hashes. Michigan's got to get that fixed.
Vlad… em? Vlad Emilien was wearing a knee brace of some sort so it's likely he's not 100%, but he got dusted by Roy Roundtree (who we last saw getting tracked down on a similar play) on Robinson's 97-yard touchdown. Roundtree tacked on five yards by the time they hit the endzone. Meanwhile, Teric Jones made up most of the ground. Thankfully, not all of it. Roundtree getting tackled at the one on that would have been a dark omen.
Further adventures in Justin Turner worry. It's one thing to be behind JT Floyd, who did look considerably more confident on the short stuff Michigan was trying to his side, but with Woolfolk out with a minor injury it was James Rogers who moved up to the ones. A position move beckons.
Tailback clarity. Nil. There weren't a whole lot of big plays from the tailbacks. Mike Cox had a nice touchdown and Stephen Hopkins lived up to his rep as a thunderous runner who should find himself staring down third and short most of the year. Austin White is headed for a redshirt. Cox, Toussaint, and Shaw are all in a blender.
Defense thoughts. I did what everyone does and watched the ball more than anything, so I don't have a ton of useful stuff on the D yet. I thought Van Bergen looked like he'll be a pretty good defensive end, maybe all conference level. When Floyd came up on the short stuff he tackled solidly. Most of the stuff in the middle happened against the second team defense.
I did notice the bandit playing deep off the LOS frequently when Michigan went to the spread; Kovacs in deep coverage is going to be a scary issue all year.
We have field goal problems? I expected the placekicking to be a circus given the grim reports from spring, but other than a couple of misfires off of poor snaps from the backup longsnapper the two guys at the top of the depth chart looked solid.
Punter, meanwhile… it's Hagerup's job. If Hagerup tears an ACL it might be Tate Forcier's job. Spring started with speculation of a Robinson position move, but now it seems that Forcier moving (or, rather, pulling double duty) is a more realistic possibility. Not that either are particularly realistic.
Zeigler: no. This won't be news but anyone who hasn't seen it already should know that Trey Zeigler is headed to Central to play for his dad, which I find a deeply immoral decision that places family above my favorite sports team. In obviously related news, Isaiah Sykes is going to be on campus this weekend. Hopefully his transcripts are not a bloody mess of entrails.
Michigan's also going after Iowa decommit Cody Larson, a 6'9" 230 pound guy with a number of Big Ten schools after him; he could probably contribute more quickly than Jon Horford and his little pencil arms.
Side note: the NCAA has legalized "talking" to recruits when they're hanging around your campus. This is a win for common sense in general and Michigan in particular, since Michigan was guaranteed to be adhering to this rule as strictly as you possibly can and other schools… weren't.
Tate Forcier: mildly dinged. Forcier was spotted in a boot. Angelique Chengelis says it's a minor ankle sprain, the boot is precautionary, and Forcier is expected to practice today. Carry on with your panic about other matters.
You are all geniuses. There is a website that measures the overall stupidity of any particular account's twitter followers. It is called Stupid Fight. It thinks you, the MGoBlog readership, can assemble cars with your minds:
Suck on that, Stephen Hawking. (Also owned: Eleven Warriors, Black Heart Gold Pants, EDSBS, and Doctor Saturday.) When TSB colleague Chris Littman ran a bunch of folks yesterday, MGoBlog came out with a dazzlingly low score of 3. Someone must have posted something about American Idol today. No matter: you are America's only hope.
I’m basing this purely on the drills but Denard looks solid tossing the ball. Ins, outs, slants, deep – anyway you want it. Will be watching to see how he throws into coverage but I’m buying that RR’s got a decision to make next season. … More of what I saw last week, but Gardner’s arm just isn’t on par with Forcier and Robinson right now.
That's based on a couple quick glimpses from the open sections of practice, so take it somewhat lightly but that's another tentative, caveat-laden vote for Robinson. In certain situations.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez is talking up the safeties on the Big Ten conference call:
"What we found more than anything else," he said during his Big Ten teleconference, "was a couple of guys, defensively, in the back end. … I feel better about it now than I did a few weeks ago."
MLive has the whole thing if you want to hear more Gardner panting.
Welcome to 2001. You know, I thought it was weird that the SEC didn't have high definition televisions in their replay booths. How hard is it to get a television in the press box? You tell me. These games are live. Stick a DirecTV dish on top of the stadium and maybe you won't make six soul-crippling errors a season.
DVSport, Inc., the leader in state-of-the-art high definition (HD) sports replay technology, announced today its new contract with the Big Ten Conference to upgrade all DVSport Standard Definition (SD) replay systems in the Big Ten to DVSport HD Replay™ systems for the start of the 2010 football season. As part of the agreement, DVSport will also provide its SD replay systems to the Mid-American Conference (MAC).
Guh. It's not like this is important to anyone.
Patience? Anyone? I'm about ready to proclaim any and all former players' opinions of Rich Rodriguez to be not worth bothering with, whether they're good or bad. A couple of old Michigan players have knocked Rodriguez in the past couple days, and it annoys me. Amani Toomer:
I don’t think the spread offense has worked that well in the Big Ten. I think Ohio State runs a version of it successfully, but not the straight zone read of Rich Rodriguez. One problem I have with Rich Rodriguez is this. He comes into a situation and he tries to put his system in. And I always thought the main point about being a coach, was going into a situation, seeing the players you have, and adjusting your system to your players to fit the talent. That’s what Lou Holtz was good at, but he comes in there and tries to adjust the players to his system. And to me that is not a sign of a good coach
Toomer had issues with Lloyd Carr for whatever reason. He just beefs with everyone. Someone send him a link to The Golden Age of Tin and a valium. There is so much wrong in that statement that I've already shot down; I'm tired of it. But I do love this radio guys' follow up to Toomer's comment:
That year with Chad Henne, Mike Hart, Jake Long, players that you would kill for to run a pro offense. There are so few schools that can get those guys. But to go against those principles and make the system easier on the lineman and not utilize the tremendous wide receiver talent that you guys have had at Michigan just boggles my mind.
Behold the stunning ignorance of the average talk radio robot: Henne, Hart, and Long were gone. So were Adrian Arrington and Mario Manningham. The offensive line in 2008 was a wonky mish-mash with maybe seven halfway plausible bodies, one of whom was a guard that had been a defensive linemen just weeks before the season. I don't know why I bother disputing this stuff. It's self-evidently not the work of someone who cares whether he sounds like an idiot or not.
Meanwhile, Dhani Jones "blasted" Rich Rodriguez on Jim Rome:
"I'm not cool with him. I'm at my wits end right now. I mean, you can't come in and explain that you're going to do all this, and then your first year? Terrible. Second year? Alright -- but then terrible. You have to be able to change something if you're really going to make a statement. You have to do it within the first two years, and this is his third."
If you're inclined you can annoy the moderator at Jones's "livechat" on Saturday with questions about why he can't have a little patience that won't get through.
None of this helps. Dave Brandon is an adult and won't be swayed by talk radio, so all speaking out like that does is provide another PR hit against the program. It's juvenile. Suck it up and wait until this year is over.
Michigan Hockey Summer came early. For those unfamiliar, "Michigan Hockey Summer" refers to the hockey team's uncanny ability to have painful, unexpected departures in between the end of one season and the beginning of the next. Michigan sort of had its MHS midseason, when Robbie Czarnik left and Jack Campbell didn't sign over the course of a week. Having already paid their debt to the hockey gods, it sounds like Michigan will escape this summer unscathed. An AnnArbor.com article on Carl Hagelin and Louie Caporusso certainly seems to kill any idea either would sign:
"We want to be the leaders on this team and we want to lead our team to the championship," Caporusso said this week. "We're going to take that responsibility and we're fine with that. That's the position you want to be in. You want people to count on you.
"That's pressure, but pressure leads to excitement."
If those guys come back, which sounds more than likely, the next most likely guy to go is Brandon Burlon, a Devils draftee, and Chris Brown, a Coyotes draftee. Neither is likely to go given those franchises' history with collegians.
Knock on wood, salt, ladder, etc.
Missed an "in before" opportunity. WCH took in the OHL 1 vs 2 matchup in Plymouth en route to the Frozen Four and commented that he didn't think the level of play was particularly high and that an OHL team would probably fare about as well as the USNTDP against college opponents, and I thought "how long before some nearly illiterate CHL fan calls WCH a 'looser'?" Turns out it's approximately eight hours, most of which came between 1 and 8 AM:
You are so full of s--- it scares me…….most OHL teams would hammer the usa u 18 team,Id like to see them play the Windsor,Barrie,Missy,Kitchner,
What is it with major junior that makes defenders so pissy? Whenever I bring up something like "the USHL is on par by the numbers" or "the CHL education package is basically a scam" I get a number of emails in the inbox that amount to long-winded nuh-uhs with zero supporting evidence. It's vastly out of proportion given the tiny number of people who care about hockey period, let alone college and major junior.
Etc.: The Mathlete breaks out the most valuable defensive players last year. Surprise! Brandon Graham is a landslide #1. RVB is the top returner. GQ asks "Do Football Writers Really Know Their Xs and Os?" Attn GQ: no. I don't know my Xs and Os that well and I've been trying for five years.
Michigan just let in all manner of heathens to observe a couple practices, ping various coaches for information, and take in a Saturday scrimmage; naturally, this has created a ton of internet chatter. Also naturally, large portions of it conflict with other portions of it. There's a faction of super insiders on Rivals declaring Denard Robinson to be a complete disaster and one focused here proclaiming him to be Pat White—except fast! Tate Forcier is either looking like a "walk-on" or the obvious starter, and Devin Gardner is either a total n00b or Vince Young—except fast!
So… yeah. I don't know. Here's my contribution to the melee. First, a non-crippling version of the latest Inside Michigan Football featuring all quarterbacks doing something awesome:
Whenever I hear one of the freshmen speak I get annoyed at all the Dorsey stuff. Yeah, Michigan is totally turning into Jimmy Johnson's Miami.
Anyway, in addition to the posters who got bumped to the front page over the weekend, MGoBlog had a couple of sources who took in the activity late last week. Observations gleaned:
Terminology, or: The Quick And The Dead
One of the toughest things to do as a guy who tries to figure out football and communicate it as a layman is figure out what to call something. Every time I decide to call something X, well meaning folk tell me it should be Y or Z. I tend to apologetically ignore them just so things are relatively clear for readers.
However, if the coaches are all calling something one thing and it's not counter-intuitive I'll go with it. So:
- Michigan is calling the dual SS in the 3-3-5 "spur" (strongside) and "bandit" (weakside). Some 3-3-5 teams make no distinction between these guys, but it appears that Michigan will flip these guys strong and weak. This leaves the bandit as the guy who will be tested in the occasional deep half, about which more later.
- The coaches were actually calling the deep safety "strong" for a while but they've reverted to calling him "free." There are good football-related reasons for that weird nomenclature but since they're gone, whatever. I'll return to calling Cam Gordon and other guys who line up there free safeties.
- The north-south MINOR RAGE run that Michigan's used to good effect the past couple years is something I've been calling "veer," which has been the nomenclature that's drawn the most protests. Michigan calls this their "belly" series.
Spinner: dead. Quick: dead. With this jargon we will ascend to the pillars of knowledge.
My initial reaction to the Denard Robinson hype was the same as Doctor Saturday, who has lumped Tate-Denard-Devin into a list of "specious spring quarterback controversies," but both observers gave tentative, caveat-laden nods to Robinson as the starting quarterback. The difference between last year and this year is vast. That falls just short of incredible since Robinson arrived without any ability to even run the zone read. Many of his plays were Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Zone Stretches run from an empty backfield. Robinson's high school coaching amounted to nil, so it's obvious that he would have a bigger leap forward than Forcier and his years of intensive training.
Robinson is still light years away from Forcier as a passer—his ability to "see and understand the field remains limited"—but in the open field he is ludicrous and now that he's gotten the hang of the zone read he gets in that space frequently. Craig Roh on Robinson:
"I hate Denard on the football field," Roh said. "I love him outside of football, but on the football field, he's just such a nuisance. The quarterbacks here are too fast, and Denard, I just can't catch him. It's ridiculous."
Observer A, a defensively oriented guy, said "as a coordinator you watch him come around the corner on the naked boot and you say uh-oh." Another high school coach told observer B that Denard "runs into traffic just to make defenders look silly." Robinson's athleticism will force defenses to overplay that threat and open up other opportunities.
Tate Forcier remains Tate. One of Michigan's coaches praised Tate's "great strides" in his understanding of the playbook, but what you see is what you get with Forcier: accurate on the run, good scrambler, shortish, meh arm strength. Meanwhile, the undercurrent of coaching discontent with his dedication as a freshman has added another pebble:
"Maybe some of the things that happened early in the season happened a little easier for him," Rodriguez said. "It kind of felt right to him. At the end of the year, he played more like a true freshman at times. And he got banged up a little bit and his concentration wasn't as sharp.
"As coaches, it's our job to make sure he maintains that focus."
The most worrisome thing I hear about Forcier is actually a positive thing related about Gardner. Gardner sets in the pocket and has less of a tendency to start running around than either of the other two quarterbacks, which allows him to go deep more regularly. The offense is a lot of broken plays with both of the short guys. While that's obvious with Robinson, I was hoping Forcier would get more comfortable throwing in the pocket.
Despite that, it will be all but impossible to pull Forcier in favor of Robinson full time when their skill sets are so divergent; a platoon beckons.
As for Devin Gardner, raves about his "incredible feel for the game" from QB coach Rod Smith were relayed via both observers. Other spring hype: "huge," "covers ground without seeming to move" like Vince Young and Terrelle Pryor, and… wait for it… "well ahead of both at this stage." Gardner is a "gym rat" who will happily spend all day watching film. However, he's "nowhere near" having a grasp of the offense and his throwing is erratic. When he's good, he can make deep throws with touch unlike either of the other two, but his overall accuracy lags because of the mechanical issues. His delivery isn't consistent yet. This will not be an enormous surprise to anyone who saw the difference between Camp Devin and Degraded Devin over the course of this high school football season.
This position remains a mess that will not be resolved until UConn, and frankly I'd be surprised to see a single game this year where Michigan goes exclusively with one quarterback. With two polar opposites at the spot, the nominal starter may depend on the relative strength of the opposing defense.
That's just this year. The vibe I got was that Gardner is the future of the position. Maybe not this year, but all bets are off in 2011. The position was described as "loaded," albeit young.
Running Back Battle
Zero clarity here as well. As mentioned earlier, Stephen Hopkins was impressive to Observer B; A was pretty noncommital about the tailbacks. Mike Cox has slipped for whatever reason. Observer B on Hopkins:
The guy is just a freaking monster and he breaks tackles. Now, I can’t say he can block, or knows the offense or can catch the ball. Plus, he fumbled twice (once he was hit at the handoff, on the other instance it might have been the QB’s issue). But man is he a tough tackle on the belly if he can get (even) a yard of momentum.
Shaw and Toussaint seemed like better runners than Cox, as well. This is another spot that will lack clarity until deep into fall unless Vincent Smith (who is jogging but limping badly) comes back fully healthy and establishes himself as the guy.
At fullback, Mark Moundros is playing mostly at linebacker, leaving McColgan the starting FB. He seems okay. Made a couple catches, made a couple blocks. Fullback isn't a huge priority.
Still hard to tell much of anything with two of the top three guys on the outside missing and Michigan focusing on the short stuff, but the freshman making the most of his spring is Jerald Robinson, who is "rangy" and "knows how to get his body in position." That's similar to assessments coming out of his strong summer camp performance.
Jeremy Jackson is also on par with expectations: smart, good routes, great hands, approximately as fast as a tight end. Could this be the guy who actually warrants the incessant Jason Avant comparisons I make? Miller didn't impress in the brief window provided.
Meanwhile, the guys in the slot are reputed to be extremely slippery. Terrance Robinson and Jeremy Gallon are described as "better than a pretty good Big Ten player" in Odoms as long as they're catching the ball. This is not assured: Robinson's hands were the main reason he didn't see the field last year and Observer B praised Odoms's hands while complaining about too many drops in the slot. Coaches were talking up Robinson as a potential contributor, FWIW.
Offensive line being an esoteric position, I don't have much other than the general positivity even absent David Molk. Taylor Lewan could use another 15 pounds but is still holding down left tackle. Perry Dorrestein is nicked up, which may explain the move. More than likely this is an opportunity Lewan won't pass up and Dorrestein is going to have to battle for the right tackle spot. Insert now-default Jake Long comparisons here. Lewan's not likely to be the #1 pick in the NF L draft but his career trajectory is zipping along at the most optimistic level possible.
The most encouraging thing on the line is the depth. Even with Washington and Dorrestein nicked up there's almost a solid two-deep of players who Michigan could throw on the field without panic:
Getting Molk back will give Michigan a buffer of three or four competent backup offensive linemen.
Remember last year's complaint about Michigan potentially tipping their run plays based on the position of the quarterback? This was the setup position on a zone stretch…
…and this was Michigan's belly (which this blog called "veer") series:
From the sideline shot it's pretty obvious what's going on here. QB in front of RB: north-south. QB behind RB: east-west. I'm not entirely sure a defense is going to be aware enough to make an adjustment based on this—it's a lot easier to tell when you're way far away on a sideline—but it can't help.
The coaches apparently have the same concern. They've moved away from this paradigm in favor of something they believe will disguise their intent better. What it is I don't know. It sounds like at the very least the QB is going to move late, like a split second before the snap, if not after. This strikes me as something that Debord would never do.
(FWIW: They did try to mix it up some after practicing for Illinois' zone read veer—which I think is, like, really a veer until someone corrects me on it in the next 60 seconds—but that wasn't successful and was abandoned. I wouldn't write it off entirely, FWIW. It's possible a newly capable Denard Robinson makes that crazy effective.)