Hoke was top notch at this aspect of his job.
Assorted items of possibly dubious validity that have darkened my inbox about spring practice. Are these accurate? Useful? Worth reading? Possibly not. Will at least one player who these reports suggest will be a ninja spend his career doing nothing? Yes. Will you absorb the reports voraciously anyway? Absolutely!
I'm on the record as skeptical that Denard Robinson presents a serious threat to Tate Forcier, but multiple sources here and elsewhere keep saying it looks even, or even advantage Robinson, thus far. Robinson's got a zippy arm that bests Forcier when it comes to short-range oomph and has vastly improved his accuracy. This makes him a plausible quarterback. He remains ridiculously fast, and is actually running the read option now.
Areas for improvement: throwing on the run, reading defenses—when the D deviates from its vanilla schemes Robinson has a nasty tendency to throw it directly at defenders—and pocket awareness. On long throws he still has a tendency to throw ropes that give receivers little opportunity to adjust to inaccurate balls.
There has been little chatter about Forcier, with some observers theorizing he's still dealing with the after-effects of his shoulder injury and others claiming he's totally healthy and just not progressing as fast as Robinson. That latter makes some sense, as Forcier has been exposed to high-level coaching for years. He's a lot closer to his ceiling than Robinson.
Despite all the Robinson talk, most people are hesitant to suggest he would actually start. Michigan is installing the 3-3-5 and running vanilla coverages. There's a long way to go from seeming competent in spring to being the starting quarterback. More realistic is a continued timeshare with Robinson moonlighting at other skill positions when Tate is at the helm.
Devin Gardner, meanwhile, looks like a freshman. He needs work on his mechanics, doesn't know the offense that well, and is clearly behind the two sophomores. He's running a lot of those Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Zone Stretch plays that Robinson was relegated to last year. If Denard can establish himself a viable option Gardner seems headed for a redshirt. His long term potential remains totally sweet.
It sounds like Mike Cox is the tentative leader at this point. He alternates punishing Minor RAGE runs with mental mistakes that undoubtedly have Rodriguez throwing his hat and saying he's dang-diddly-anged disappointed in the young man. Cox has the best combination of size and speed, and that uncanny balance he flashed during some of his garbage-time runs is no fluke. Caveat: Vincent Smith is sometimes suggested as the probable starter. Cox is entering his third year in the program so the mental mistakes may be a long term issue, unfortunately.
Michael Shaw is next in the pecking order, less likely to break a tackle than Cox but more likely to take something a long way. He's also been mentioned as a player who needs to work on the mental side of the game some.
Stephen Hopkins is getting the sort of reviews you expect him to: he is a horse, a load, a freight train, a moose, etc. He will run straight ahead until he falls over or he burrows into the wall in the endzone. If Cox doesn't establish himself as a short yardage back, the duties will likely fall to Hopkins.
Toussaint comes in for cursory "looked good" praise but it seems like he's trailing the relative veterans. White is probably redshirting.
Wideouts and Tight Ends
Hard to tell anything with Hemingway and Stokes out; in their absence Roy Roundtree is practicing outside and drawing mixed reviews. Drops are supposed to be an issue with everyone, but Roundtree gets more stick for it than others.
Mixed reviews on Darryl Stonum, with a couple reports citing his obvious physical superiority to the rest of the WRs and projecting a strong season. Again, hard to tell absent his most serious competition.
Roundtree may stick outside even after the injured return because Odoms, Gallon, and Robinson are all having strong springs. Robinson and Grady are taking a number of snaps in the backfield—think Darius Reynaud—and doing well with it. Both were high school tailbacks. Robinson and Gallon seem to have the inside track on punt returns.
Tight ends are the same as they were last year. It sounds like they're focusing more on the slots this year.
The interior line remains as expected: Schilling, Molk Placeholder, Omameh, with both guards coming in for regular praise and the Placeholder (Khoury, mostly) having issues snapping the ball. That's supposedly getting better.
On the outside there's been some shuffling with Dorrestein and Huyge flopping left to right at times. This may be due to Taylor Lewan's (right) quick emergence. He's been called an "obvious future star" and "reminiscent of Jake Long." Reports are still conflicting on his readiness but all agree that his upside is as rapturous as the recruiting gurus promised; it seems like it's matter of time before he claims the left tackle spot. That timeframe may be September or it may be next year. The most recent move suggests the move may come sooner rather than later. Flipping Huyge to the right seems to be an effort to get Michigan's best five on the field. If I had to bet, I'd go with Lewan as the starting LT against UConn.
Washington (when healthy) and Schofield have also gotten good reviews; that whole class seems to be panning out so far. Huyge and Dorrestein haven't been the subject of much chatter good or bad. With the quarterbacks focusing on shorter routes the opportunities for serious pass protection have been intermittent.
Renaldo Sagesse continues to play well. Will Campbell is huge and still working on technique issues but much better both physically and mentally; it sounds like those two will be the NT platoon. I'm pretty confident they'll be a good one. That leaves Van Bergen and Martin outside with Banks and Patterson backing up. It's hard to tell how much of the praise for each of the senior backups is real, but given how Sagesse played last year I think he can hang. Patterson and Banks I don't know about.
Specific mentions of RVB have been few and far between. Banks and Patterson are getting talked up publicly but aren't drawing a ton of hype on background.
This comes with a "just spring" warning since he was buried all of last year, but Kenny Demens is getting a significant amount of buzz and is taking some of Ezeh's snaps with the first team. The scheme change may suit him: the Casteel-style 3-3-5 doesn't need a huge MLB, just a tough guy willing to plug his face on a guard and make the nose tackle right all the time. His speed and blitzing is a good fit for the new system. He's been laying his share of thumping hits.
Other than that, it's MOTS in the linebacking corps, with Mouton and Ezeh seeming like Mouton and Ezeh. If there have been any adjustment pains for Craig Roh they haven't made it into the wide world. He seems to be doing very well. Adding 20 pounds turns him from overmatched but promising into beast, apparently. From the inbox's lips to God's ears.
The Cam Gordon hype train continues unabated, with words like "excellent," "natural," and "seems vaguely like an actual safety" getting thrown around. (Latter praise invented by me to tamp own expectations down.) ESPN's Adam Rittenberg gets in on the act:
Safety Cameron Gordon, a converted wide receiver, drew praise from Rodriguez and several players I spoke with.
Most positive reports about receivers read "hauled in pass and was disemboweled by Gordon, but held on." Caveat: all the quarterback reports indicate that Michigan is working on short stuff incessantly, so opportunities to get dragged way out of position and give up, oh, I don't know, a third and thirty-seven conversion have been limited.
With Emilien out with another injury, Brandin Hawthorne is second-team at deep safety. Rodriguez has been wary about the lack of depth there.
Troy Woolfolk is about on par where he was last year: pretty good Big Ten corner, may have a bit more upside than that as a senior. Then there's JT Floyd. He is "vastly improved." I know. I'm skeptical, too. According to Rittenberg, Woolfolk had praise for Floyd as well.
The bad news: Justin Turner gets a universal "meh," with a couple of reports indicating that a 6'2", 210-pound corner is not likely to work out and a position move is in the cards once the quartet of freshman corners hits campus in fall. One talks up James Rogers, his teammate on the second team, in favor of him. Bleah. As of now the third string corners are walk-ons so Turner continues to labor at a position it seems he doesn't have the quicks for. With Gordon developing a death grip on deep safety, Turner's best shot at playing time in the near future may be as a spur or bandit.
As far as the hybrid SSs go: Jordan Kovacs has the weakside spot (bandit) locked down. This is no surprise for anyone who saw him play there as a freshman walk-on. That box safety thing is tailor made for him. The other side is a total mess, with Mike Williams giving way to a combination of redshirt freshman Thomas Gordon and walk-on Floyd Simmons. It's unclear whether the Williams demotion is a temporary thing due to injury (Williams is in green) or a long term move to other players, but it seems like it's closer to the latter. The Hawthorne move leaves a couple of marginal players duking it out at a spot that requires dealing with a lot of blocks. Reports have neither been positive or negative. They mostly confine themselves to who's playing where. Gordon has laid a couple pops, apparently.
I wouldn't be surprised to see someone move to the spur for fall; Carvin Johnson and Marvin Robinson will have opportunities to earn immediate starting jobs.
With Will Hagerup not enrolled yet, there's not much you can tell about the punters. On the Huge Show yesterday Rodriguez said he was the most likely freshman to start (surprise!), so it sounds like there isn't anyone in camp threatening to make an Olesnavage-like move.
Placekicking, on the other hand, has everyone it's going to have and the initial reviews are seriously negative. Brendan Gibbons is reputed to have a big leg but questionable accuracy. Field goals have been something of a fire drill so far. Here's a terror-inducing Rodriguez quote:
"The kicking game is a concern simply because we've been inconsistent in practice. I couldn't tell you who our starting kicker is. It changes in 15 minutes. I don't know if that's going to be resolved until the fall. Brendan Gibbons has a strong leg, but he's been back and forth. Other special teams, we've got athletes, but the kicking and punting is not at the point where we feel comfortable."
- DE Will Heininger (right) has torn his ACL and will have surgery to repair it. His status for the fall is dependent on how his rehab progresses.
- Martavious Odoms, Junior Hemingway, and Je'Ron Stokes will practice a little today and will hopefully be full-go by the end of the week.
- Vlad Emilien, Jared Van Slyke, and Quinton Washington will hopefully return to practice next week.
- The guys who are out for spring (David Molk, Brandon Herron, Mike Martin, and Vincent Smith) are progressing on schedule.
- Tate and Denard are splitting reps with the first team. Rich does not care if one guy wins the job, or if he has a few guys who are ready to play. He wants to have at least two QBs ready to play. The guys understand that they're competing for the starting position.
- Tate Forcier is being challenged by the coaches this spring, with football, academics, as a student-athlete at the University. He's very competitive, and likes being challenged to improve.
- Denard has a better understanding of the offense and the passing game than he did last year (unsurprising, since this is his first spring). He still has a ways to go, but he's improving. Once he gets the QB position down, he'll learn other positions to get him on the field.
- Gardner is fun to be around, and has a high energy level. He's learning quickly, but still has a lot to improve upon. The coaches can't expect too much too soon.
- The quarterbacks are practicing full-contact to work on their ball security. Normally they'd have non-contact jerseys. Once the QBs get used to taking some hits, they'll let them wear non-contact jerseys.
- Michael Cox has had a very good spring, and Michael Shaw has had some good days and some days "where we expected more out of him." Fitzgerald Toussaint is also in the first group with them; he's gotten bigger and is getting a good grasp of the offense.
- Stephen Hopkins is a big guy, and they needed a big back to replace Minor and Grady. He has a chance to play some at big back this fall.
- Austin White has been a little banged up this spring. However, he has the talent to help the team in the future.
- Kelvin Grady and Terrence Robinson have gotten some reps at running back. Grady missed some strength work when he was practicing with the basketball team this winter, and Rodriguez would let him return to basketball this fall only if he can handle it academically, and isn't just going to sit on the end of the bench.
- There is still competition ongoing at the safety position. They don't have a comfortable 2-deep, and probably won't until fall. Vlad Emilien's injury has hurt them there.
- Cameron Gordon has had a really good spring, and that's one of the better personnel changes they've made.
- Jordan Kovacs is capable of playing any safety position.
- Some days there has been good kicking performance, sometimes not so good. The situation still isn't comfortable punting or placekicking.
- Will Hagerup with arrive in the fall and will compete with Seth Broekhuizen for the starting punter spot in the fall.
- There is no starting kicker yet, as the best performer is different every day. That situation won't be resolved until fall. Brendon Gibbons has a strong leg, but he's been back-and-forth.
- The snapping and coverage units look good, and they have the athletes to contribute there.
- "We'll have a better team, and I expect us to have a good team, yes." This spring practice is much, much better than two years ago, and is a little better than last year.
- Chemistry - The leadership can come from not only the 12-man senior class, but also some underclassmen who can be leaders.
- Thursday, Friday, and Saturday is the annual coaching clinic. Thursday will be a practice in just shorts, and Saturday will be a full-scale scrimmage. This is the most important scrimmage of the spring.
- There has probably been more talk about the changes to the defense than there have actually been changes. They did a lot of multiple-front stuff last year, and Greg Robinson is trying to best fit the scheme to Michigan's personnel. They're trying to find the right combination of simplicity for the player to learn and the flexibility they'd like from the defense.
- Regarding Demar Dorsey, Rodriguez said "If anything changes with any of our signees, I'll let ya'll know if anything happens with that."
After Rich was done speaking, the media got a chance to watch a couple periods of practice. My observations from that:
- Injured guys running inside Glick Fieldhouse: Mike Martin, Vincent Smith, Brandon Herron.
- Red Shirts (no contact): Quinton Washington, Zac Johnson, Vladimir Emilien.
- Green Shirts (limited contact): Devin Gardner, Austin White, Je'Ron Stokes, Junior Hemingway, Karl Tech, Martavious Odoms.
- Mark Moundros only practiced with the linebackers.
- Adam Braithwaite quote of the day: "We're gonna be the best-tackling team in America."
- Visitors to practice: former Michigan QB Rick Leach, former WVU running back Avon Cobourne, the leading rusher in West Virginia history and current Montreal Alouette.
A roundup of Spring Practice happenings, all of which should be taken only somewhat seriously. Steve Breaston was "Black Jesus" before he even set foot on Michigan Stadium turf. Patrick Omameh was instantly the star of Michigan's six-member line class despite his status as the least-heralded of any of them. Meanwhile, the warnings about future Bronco Dann O'Neill were immediate. On the other hand, Grady Brooks was supposed to be a ninja and Kevin Grady a ball of knives. Practice rumblings seem to have the same predictive power as recruiting rankings: far from infallible but equally far from useless.
Erm, so… yeah. I will believe this two to three years after I see it but apparently Denard Robinson is running with the ones a lot and looks "radically improved," according to one emailer. Forcier seems to have struggled in comparison. I'm a little leery of spring practice reports at all times and that goes triple when it comes to using a few spring practices to overrule what we saw in twelve games last year. The improvement Robinson would have to undergo—and the lack thereof from Forcier—to be a viable threat to start is vast. I'm filing this under "motivational tactic" for now. Jon Chait is on the "it could happen" side of the fence.
By all accounts, Gardner is considerably behind the two sophomores. If Denard is a capable QB this year his redshirt seems assured.
BONUS: here is Robinson running a long way, albeit with aid from crappy walk-on tackling.
I don't usually do this, but when you've spent a lot of time extracting the superfluous bits from AnnArbor.com's SEO-friendly headlines, this brings out your inner thirteen year old:
running backMike Cox closely this spring
Past the middle school bits is the picture of an emerging running back in Michigan's five-way spring derby. His high school coach hints at some of the practice reports coming from the usual sources:
“He’s tough as nails,” Driscoll said. “He’s very tough and they’re going to have a hard time with him because he’s a big guy that’s really fast. That’s the trouble. He’ll hit you, too. He’s not going to back down from anybody.”
Everyone else comes in for sporadic praise and criticism. There's no consensus on who might be emerging as a tentative (and largely ceremonial starter). Probably the biggest news is a lack of all-encompassing Fitzgerald Toussaint hype.
Wide Receiver And Tight End
With Junior Hemingway and Je'Ron Stokes out there's not much on the outside and Roy Roundtree has moved there intermittently in sets with Martavious Odoms and Jeremy Gallon at slot. When the outside guys return, Michigan will have three or four slots they'd like to work into the lineup.
Here's Odoms answering some questions:
Odoms remains an endearingly terrible interview, but the mention of more two-slot formations is something to pay attention to. Tight ends, like Toussaint, have been largely absent from the spring buzz thus far.
Jerald Robinson has been the most impressive freshman so far, but the outside receivers have been plagued by drops. Kelvin Grady has evaporated, for what that's worth.
On the offensive line, Schilling and Molk stand out to AnnArbor.com, which is not something I feel spectacular about since 1) Schilling is an established quantity entering his fourth year as a starter and 2) Molk is injured and not practicing.
Patrick Omameh is staying at guard for now, though I'm still holding out hope they shift him outside and let Ricky Barnum and Quinton Washington fight to the death for the spot. Four guys competing at tackle, two of them redshirt freshman and two of them upperclassmen who struggled badly in pass protection last year, is a sketchy situation. That has not come to pass, nor has either freshman pushed through into the nominal starting lineup.
I'm a little leery of a strapping 6'3", 208 pound kid who spent the brief duration of his Michigan career to date at wide receiver being the starting deep safety, but with Vlad Emilien out with a minor injury it's Cam Gordon who is the front-runner in the 2010 Grady Brooks Memorial Spring Hype Award chase. He comes in for mention by Rodriguez during a speech at a local football coaches' convention:
"Defensively, guys that have been impressive the last week or so, Kenny Demens, Cam Gordon, Craig Roh’s had a couple good days. Renaldo Sagesse, we were teasing him, Thursday he had the best practice since I’ve been here. I asked him what he ate for breakfast. I didn’t know if it was Canadian bacon or something, but he’s had a terrific spring."
It has been Gordon this, Gordon that at deep safety. This may be largely due to a lack of bodies. Justin Turner is practicing at cornerback, Vlad Emilien is injured, and the three guys who played the spot last year are either box safeties (Williams, Kovacs) or corners (Woolfolk). It's gotten to the point where Brandin Hawthorne, who was a high school defensive end (albeit a tiny one), is splitting time back there.
On the defensive line there's been a consistent stream of positives about virtually everyone. Sagesse, Campbell, and Banks all came in for specific praise from Robinson at today's press conference. Even longtime non-entity Adam Patterson is getting some praise at the defensive end spot he and Greg Banks are keeping warm for Mike Martin. Perhaps the biggest news is the Sagesse praise. If Sagesse is a legit option at DT, Michigan doesn't have to think about sliding Martin inside to platoon with Campbell. I think he will be. I like him in UFRs last year.
Demens, meanwhile, has been the only linebacker to get a fair share of practice hype. Ezeh and Mouton have not been mentioned; Roh comes in for praise as a 250 pound outside linebacker but that's not a surprise. I'm not sure what to make of that: Demens was behind a walk-on last year and didn't see the field even when Michigan was rotating their linebackers so they could yell at them better. His only appearances were on special teams and Michigan's goal line package. Maybe he's a guy who is aided significantly by the move to the 3-3-5? If his issues were mental this defense allows you to do a lot of blitzing and play downhill.
And then there's corner, where Justin Turner still lags behind JT Floyd. No offense to Floyd, but I think that gives everyone hives. Even if Demar Dorsey comes in and is lights out as a true freshman, he's a true freshman and having a hyped guy like Turner struggle to break into the starting lineup in a secondary this chaotic is not a good sign.
Also, Craig Roh coughs and answers questions:
(Odoms, Roh HT: The Michigan Faithful.)
So this happened. Will MS Paint ever go too far? If it hasn't already, it won't ever get there:
If you think that's impressive or, more likely, disturbing you should see user LongLiveBo's collection of these that now goes six deep. "Barwis Beach" is a favorite. I hope LLB is a hobo or student, because if he's not his job is really, really boring.
Bzzzt. Mark Snyder got the defensive coordinator job at South Florida, which takes him off Michigan's list for their linebackers opening. He also talked to reporters, including this here site's Tim Sullivan, about the position at halftime of the UConn game. Birkett has a quote currently open in my tabs so we'll go with that:
“Still talking to guys,” Rodriguez said Sunday at halftime of the Michigan-UConn basketball game. “I may do it in a week or 2, I may do it after signing day.”
Hiring a guy right now does not seem like a huge priority. If it was going to get done before signing day it probably would have gotten done at the coaches meetings.
The new name. And since all Michigan coaching news involves the Bulls in some way, the new name on the list is recently departed USF linebackers coach David Blackwell. He's talked with Michigan about the job:
Linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator David Blackwell has had contact with Michigan about its linebackers job.
Blackwell was officially given his walking papers and is looking for a new gig. As you can see in the table below, Blackwell has extensive experience as a linebackers coach.
That's twelve straight years Blackwell's been coaching the position, eight years as a recruiting coordinator, and one year as the increasingly popular "co-defensive coordinator." His bio has a bunch of accomplishments that are debatably his—it's hard to assign credit or blame to a single position coach, but it is true that Clemson was a consistently excellent defensive team with Blackwell coaching and his departure was because Tommy Bowden got axed, not because he just wasn't hacking it.
Also, if some people are concerned that this might be a sort of crony hire, that's hard to see. Rodriguez was long gone from Clemson by the time Blackwell showed up and whatever weird USF connection he's got going appears totally coincidental since Blackwell only got one year with the Bulls before Jim Leavitt had to choke a walk-on. Rodriguez's familiarity with Blackwell is limited to coaching against his Pitt team for three years early in his tenure at West Virginia and whatever contact he maintained with Tommy Bowden's staff at Clemson. This is not a guy Rodriguez goes way back with.
In Blackwell's single season at USF the Bulls finished 49th in rushing defense, 25th in pass defense, 24th in total defense, and 19th in scoring D. However, some of USF hilariously weak non-conference opponents had something to do with that. Wofford, Western Kentucky, Charleston Southern are two I-AA teams and a team (WKU) that was a I-AA three years ago. Also, those numbers are a slight step back from the previous year, when USF was 10th in rushing D and 11th in total D against a tougher slate of opponents.
In games against actual competition, USF gave up 7 to an explosive Florida State outfit and 19 to West Virginia but 34 to Cincinnati, 41 to Pitt, 31 to Rutgers, 31 to Miami, and 29 to UConn in losses. Not all of those numbers are as bad as that, though. Like Michigan in 2008, USF's defense was crushed once Matt Grothe went out and ridiculously erratic BJ Daniels came in. Daniels seemingly went three-and-out or threw a 70-yard touchdown on every drive, so there were a lot of opportunities for opponents to score.
Also, one year is not a good sample size.
Blackwell also has a twitter. It tends towards multiple exclamation points and was last updated in August.
Brief, unavoidably homoerotic interlude. So this picture of Denard Robinson at his track meet—which MGoBlog covered in detail—has been floating around the internets:
1. Daaaaang. I bet he can punch through a cow.
2. It looks like Denard got a temporary case of Greg Oden disease there, eh? (The one that makes you look old, not the one that makes you have a series of increasingly terrible injuries that cause people to compare you to Sam Bowie.)
3. Pretty sure the big bald white dude in the background is OL coach Greg Frey.
As long as we're talking about Robinson, Devin Gardner finally getting the piece of paper he needed from Inkster and enrolling at Michigan for spring practice opens up a world of possibilities at quarterback. Everyone's got their opinion on this—I've been getting emails about it since Gardner committed—and here's mine. Assumptions:
- Gardner will almost certainly not be better than Tate Forcier this fall. If Michigan gives a freshman quarterback extensive playing time for a third straight year it is bad, Rodriguez-firin' type news.
- Redshirting Gardner is best for both him and the program unless Gardner plays a lot better than he did at the UA game and in the state finals. That throwing motion degraded over the course of the year to the point where he was really pushing the ball; he needs probably a solid year of coaching to go back to the zippy delivery he developed over the summer.
- Robinson didn't even run the zone read last year and is so far behind Tate that once there are other options at quarterback it makes sense to get Robinson's athleticism on the field in any way possible.
So. Tate starts, Gardner is groomed as the backup quarterback but not put on the field unless circumstances demand it. I just can't see a few plays late in blowouts being more helpful for Gardner and the program than a fifth year. If Tate gets dinged for a series or two, Robinson is the guy. If he's out for an extended period, it's time to put in Gardner (and pray). Robinson evolves into a slash player that takes some wildcat-type snaps at quarterback and also functions as a slot receiver/tailback. Michigan should also look at having him return kicks.
Cone, mad flow, nothing new here. Via TomVH, David "Febreze" Cone's latest masterpiece:
(Someone needs to unescape their text.)
This is why you don't hire your head coach as an assistant. I think most people thought West Virginia was in a little bit of trouble when Doc Holliday got snatched up by Marshall, but probably not this much trouble:
Didn't he say that he would not go after Florida commits when he came here as an assistant?
After his "racist" comments while at NC State I never thought I could forgive him. I got over it and accepted him with open arms. After this, I hope he is never welcomed back at WVU.
Hide the trash cans if he comes to the Civic Center on Wednesday.
That was after Holliday swooped in and snake oiled two West Virginia commits away from the 'Eers, so West Virginia fans are probably even more pissed off now that WR Darius Millines pulled the same trick. Add in Richard Ash and Davion Rogers defecting to Michigan and it's been a suboptimal recruiting year in WVU. They're losing recruits like Tennessee did in the aftermath of the Kiffin fiasco… so who's the head coach there anyway?
The other angle: dude, Doc Holliday is some sort of ninja snake charmer if he can get recruits to bail on a consistently top 25 team in a BCS conference for a mediocre CUSA team in the same state.
Etc. Underground Printing is featured at AnnArbor.com. I'm quoted about our relationship, which is working out great. Baseball picked up a commitment from the top player in Illinois. Teric Jones is moving back to offense for spring. Orson goes curling and loves it. In three months he will be Canadian. West Virginians search for Rich Rodriguez vastly more often than people in Ann Arbor.
Also: water wet.
One Denard Xavier Robinson is not only a quarterback for the University of Michigan football team, but a scary-fast dude who runs track for the Wolverines as well. Today (seriously, less than an hour ago), Denard raced in the 60 meter dash against Ohio State WITH HIS SHOES UNTIED OMG. I'll let the video speak for itself:
He's the be-dreadlocked dude in the 4th lane, winning the race in a time of 6.81 seconds.
The meet was packed, and I'm sure much of the excitement was about Denard's performance this afternoon. Nearly every Michigan football coach and about half the team was in attendance, along with some football recruits, in addition to members of various other Michigan teams (shout out to women's basketball, who stood right near me). Paul also got some pics:
Sorry if some of them are blurry, he's just too fast for any shutter speed.
On Jared Odrick's odd Big Ten DPOY victory:
Conferences, be they high school or college, have stupid political bylaws that determine all-conference teams (i.e. conference champs get to name 3 players to 1st team, 2 players to second team). The head scratchers like "Odrick: B11DPOTY" are usually negotiated settlements between coaches/SIDs (if you put my player up or vote for my player, i'll vote for yours) or actually written into the bylaws (i.e. your team is first in points against, you get to name B11DPOTY). Normally, those types of things result in a clear shake out. Sometimes when the margins are not obvious or the bylaws don't work out nice...the solutions are political (AKA stupid looking).
P.S. Is there hope for the defense to get better next year? Do you think Lloyd realized how bad the defense was going to be? and got out?
Odrick was just named first-team All America, too. Brandon Graham got jacked, not that there's any surprise in that.
As to the PS questions: yes, but not very good, probably yes he realized things weren't going to go swimmingly once he left, and no, that had nothing to do with his departure.
It seems as though most of the time Denard is in at quarterback, he is deployed in an otherwise empty backfield. This means that he either passes (infrequently) or runs. Any thoughts on why there is rarely a running back in the backfield with him. This means a read option is out the window. You would think that with his speed that this might be an effective attack. Is he having trouble making the reads in practice?
Two possibilities: Denard can't make the reads, or Michigan thinks he'll be more effective with the field more spread out. I don't get it, personally: Rodriguez broke out the zone read with Pat White early in his career.
That lack of zone read, more than anything else, makes me think Robinson is eventually destined to move to a Percy Harvin-esque slash WR/RB role. He's not running a run-crazy version of the base offense, he's running a no-decision, extremely predictable high school offense. Is there any way he advances enough without the benefit of a redshirt year to pass up Forcier or even Gardner, who's plenty familiar with the zone read in high school?
I think the answer to Denard Robinson is to give him a QB package but start the transition in earnest this offseason. Next year it's Tate and you try to redshirt Gardner, using Robinson as an all-purpose player.
Can we/should we take some comfort in looking at Oklahoma this year? They have an entrenched, top-tier coach, who is indisputably good at coaching in a big time conference. I haven’t looked at their roster, but I think its safe to assume they don’t have Michigan’s youth and under-scholarship issues. They were number two preseason, and when their quarterback goes down and have to play a freshmen, they’re 7-5.
(This email started under the premise that OU finished 6-6, which made the comparison better. I just realized that they finished 7-5, and literally crushed almost all the opponents in victory, and were close in every loss.)
Still, is the comparison valid? Take a national title contender, and put in a freshmen qb, and you are now a middling 7-5. Michigan has only freshmen qbs and 10 other glaring problems and ends up 5-7. Isn’t this actually par or slightly above? This whole thing is a full year longer than everyone expected. Last year was a black hole and this past season was year 1.
Well… no. As the emailer noted, despite their crappy record Oklahoma is an entirely different level from Michigan this year. Their peripheral stats show a team that's snakebit. Michigan's show a team that's just bad. We don't need to hack down to complicated statistical measures to do so:
|Pass Efficiency Defense||10||75|
Oklahoma's nonconference schedule included Miami (That Miami) and BYU, a Baby Seal U—Matt Guiterrez alma mater Idaho State—and bad CUSA team Tulsa, so the overall schedule is probably about as challenging as Michigan's. And there is no comparison. Michigan is better at three things: net punting, rushing offense, and kickoff returns. They are vastly worse in all of the big categories.
This is the flipside of pointing to Georgia Tech and declaring that it's easy to show up and contend for a conference championship in year two. Record isn't everything. Michigan's peripherals this year were really, really terrible; they indicate a team that is going to have to put in yet more time rebuilding. Oklahoma's probably going to leap back to BCS quality next year.
Comparisons to other programs who have struggled through mediocre years or other coaches who have struggled through an opening two seasons as poor as that of Rodriguez don't strike me as relevant. Michigan is in the midst of a unique, wrenching transition from 40 years of one thing to something almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. They started a walk-on quarterback. Three walk-ons played extensively on defense this year, one of them a freshman starter at safety. There are no meaningful comparisons; we just have to grit our teeth and hope it works out.
I agree with the timeline proposed by the emailer: Michigan is a full year behind schedule because of a combination of things. After the Utah game I said the program was under construction and would be finished in 2010; now that is fanciful. Obviously.