Notes from today's press conference:
- Though there have been more explosive plays from the offense in camp this year, Rodriguez said it's not necessarily because the defense has been subpar. The offensive players in camp this year have better skill sets as a group than last year's, and the execution has improved with another year in the system. It's hard to tell if big offense plays mean offense == good or defense == bad, but when they go back and look at film, they can decide whether the defensive player was playing his assignment and was beaten by a good offensive play, or if there was a blown assignment.
- In case you were doubting that Rodriguez is pretty hands-off with the defense (last year's Purdue game notwithstanding), he said he's not quite sure exactly what the defense is doing. They're teaching well, and on track to where they should be. He won't concern himself too much with the defensive side of the ball until it's time to start drawing up gameplans.
- The first group on the defense is pretty good, but they are just a couple injuries away from having a scary lack of depth.
And from the practice session:
- Last year Brian said something along the lines of "this team can only execute one new thing per game, and when the offense is fully installed, it could be pretty dangerous." This was obvious itself (what with West Virginia being 5th and 15th in total offense nationally in his last two years there, and dropping to 59th with the same talent in the first year he was gone), but there was so much evidence of this going on today. There were tons of looks that weren't even hinted at last year: Tight end lined up as an H-Back, jet motion from slots, misdirection and slots being involved in the option game as pitchmen, even a little bit of pistol. Once the offense has the full playbook at its disposal, you'll see one of the more creative offenses out there (thankfully, as this was something I didn't think was necessarily coming).
- Martavious Odoms was out (red jersey) with headaches, Mathews wore a green jersey for the first half of practice, it looked like Moundros(?) was also in a green jersey, and Barnum is still out with the same ankle injury.
- Same old story with how players look: Denard is getting good velocity on the ball, though he has a bit of accuracy work to do, Kelvin Grady looks pretty good catching the ball and moving with it after the catch, Terrence Robinson dropped a couple of passes.
And your photo gallery:
First: Tim attended the open section of the practice and posted some initial thoughts. He'll be at the 12:45 press conference as well. Meanwhile, the Big Ten Network gets unfettered access to the whole thing. Assorted highlights below. BONUS: I think this whole "everything in the world is scattered in 140-char chunks across twitter" thing is going to be rampant in the future so I inaugurated a new tag: "twitter for humans."
OH MY GOD SHOULDER PADS
Robinson "has better touch and a tighter spiral than I predicted on the long ball."
That shot of Michigan's tiny, tiny quarterbacking contingent is from the Big Ten Network, which is taking in today's practice in its entirety. They are tweeting and twitpicing and so forth and whatnot. It's all very sound-and-fury-signifying-eh-not-much, but here's a fun fact:
Why's the ceiling so high? Michigan went around and measured all the nation's indoor facilities to make sure its was the highest.
I bet one dollar that there's a closet somewhere in Schembechler Hall full of Enzyte. A locked closet.
Also, this child…
…would be very cute if he wasn't on the two deep at safety. Sad commentary on the secondary depth: some of you are checking the link to see if that's true.
You mean the tweedle-dos can be useful? Dave Revsine is also twittering up a storm. The BTN's ability to take in practices from everyone leads to interesting comparisons:
Amazing how much smaller Michigan's skill guys are than OSU and PSU. Not a positive or a negative -- just a different philosophy.… Again -- interesting to see difference in philosophy. I've seen more WR's working on blocking in 1st 20 mins than last 2 days combined
Revsine's also jumping to conclusions on one Tate Forcier:
Initial impression -- Forcier has a nice arm. Looks good. Throws well on run. Robinson a tad more inconsistent, but still fine for scheme. … It's amazing how poised and confident Forcier looks. As Howard said to me, "he has 'it'". Just has an impressive air about him.
[UPDATE: Revsine's final thought:
Tate Forcier is the PERFECT QB for the Michigan system. Good arm,very comfortable throwing on the run and good speed and scrambling ability
I have been looking forward to It ever since we lost It sometime around the Horror. More QBs:
Denard Robinson has looked accurate on short passes during team work. Clearly the #3 at this point, but obviously it's very early.
Also, Vincent Smith looks "really good" because he is "tough to catch," it's "pretty obvious" Patrick Omameh "will be able to help." Aaand if there was a twitter wishing well I'd throw 140 characters down it to make this come true:
Lot of emphasis on one on one tackling -- which was a liability for this team last year. Hard to tell from practice, but looks better.
O'Neil Swanson is a true frosh walk-on from the cradle of football, West Bloomfield, Michigan. He went to Country Day and checks in at an impressive 5-10 156 (which is exactly my height/weight).
Looks like we've got our own Paki O'Meara, though ours is less terrifyingly close to the top of the depth chart. Rothstein also mentions that Justin Turner's a little behind:
While everyone else watched M drill, turner was off on the side not in pads working on backpedaling
Minor and Mathews were in non-contact green. Minor's thing is a lingering headache (concussion?) from a car accident a few weeks ago; we'll no doubt find out what's up with Mathews at this afternoon's press conference.
- Rothstein ran down the first team offense and it was exactly as you might expect: Forcier, Minor, Koger, etc. Huyge still appears to be the leader at right tackle. Okay no big deal except at one spot…
- With Mathews out the nominal first team wide receivers were Hemingway and Savoy. We've started to hear some nice things about Savoy, but given his extremely limited production to date that says more about Stonum. The things are not nice. Hopefully this is a get-on-the-same-page sort of thing?
- Rothstein noted a couple guys in red riding bikes and then made some notable omissions from his second-team offense: Carlos Brown and Rocko Khoury. And maybe Ricky Barnum, but it's hard to tell.
- Rothstein can identify "Jock Jams" in less than three notes.
- aaarghghghgahghagargh from Birkett:
Michigan's punt returners are having problems catching (or judging) the ball. During the morning punt period, with no oncoming cover team, return men Carlos Brown, Terrence Robinson and Martavious Odoms dropped three consecutive catchable balls.
- Birkett focused on Brandon Herron quite a bit, noting he (and RVB) got the best of Ortmann and Dorrestein in a couple drills—eek left tackle—and claiming he is "primed for a big season." I might switch my twitter wishing well request to this one.
Also: maybe we will get some use out of a Grady after all. Kelvin Grady was widely expected to spend this year fastened to the bench as he reacclimated to football, but after some impressive performances (including one sweet practice catch I mentally filed as IN, 1, protection N/A—WOO FOOTBALL COMIN') in practice Rodriguez thinks he'll see the field:
"We’re not in full pads yet, but what I’ve seen in three days, Kelvin Grady’s going to play for us this year. He’s a very quick learner, he’s very coachable, he’s got ball skills. And I think we have a position that fits him perfectly in that slot."
At the very least it's another shot at a punt returner who won't fumble the ball. Here's some high school video to whet your appetite and not remind you of McGuffie in any way:
There's also a dead ringer for Javon Ringer's long one when he escaped from Shawn Crable.
We're in, and by we I mean Tim. Huzzah.
A few quick notes from today's practice. More coming this afternoon, since Rich will meet with the press at the conclusion of practice.
- If Vincent Smith is actually 5-6ish, there is no way Denard Robinson is anything taller than 5-10. Denard is overstated on the roster, but I also think Smith might be a little taller than previously thought.
- Denard didn't look too shaky during practice. I know other reports have been concerned with his throwing, but it didn't seem too bad. That doesn't mean he's the next Peyton Manning, but he's certainly capable of throwing it.
- A little bit more on this in the coming days, but it seems as though the infamous "Frozen O-line" play from the beginning of last year will be changed for 2009. [Editor's note: this was the play where no one on the offense would move except for the QB and the WRs; it was designed to pull opponents offside and prevent them from jumping the snap and only worked intermittently.] Instead of the QB floating a ball deep, he was taking a knee. This might will encourage the referees to actually make an offsides call.
- Kevin Grady was playing both fullback and tailback during practice. He lined up at fullback in the I-formation (as did Moundros).
- The most impressive player to me was Mike Cox. Especially during the "M" drill, he was running with authority, breaking a couple tackles, and using a combination of power and jukes to run it. He's not quite Brandon Minor (who did not practice), but he's definitely going to be a useful replacement when Minor moves on (or is inevitably injured during the course of the year).
- Speaking of Cox, Troy Woolfolk uncorked a big hit on him during one of the reps in the "M" drill.
- Darryl Stonum tweaked a knee blocking during the drill. He looked to be in pain, but got up and walked off on his own power. Hopefully that means it's nothing serious.
- In other minor injury news, Fitzgerald Toussaint tweaked his left biceps, but again, it didn't appear to be too serious
Note: MGoBlog did not manage to get on the right lists in time to be notified what was going down with the first practice and presser and whatnot and thus missed it. We should be set now and better able to act as a primary source on these things. For now we round up what other people saw.
I can haz secondary? Three items of personnel interest:
- Jason Forcier has a locker but didn't practice. Michigan kind of thinks he might be eligible, then. He's not on the roster, though.
- Marell Evans did practice. There were rumors he was briefly off the roster and may be flirting with a departure
- Justin Turner and Adrian Witty did not practice, but remain on the roster and have lockers. Rodriguez thinks both will get cleared:
Still, Rodriguez remains hopeful both will be cleared to practice soon. He kept spots open for both on Michigan’s 105-man reporting roster, and both have stalls waiting in Michigan’s new locker room.
“I’m pretty optimistic and hopefully (Turner’s) will be quicker,” Rodriguez said. “But wait and see.”
Speaking of said lockers, the Daily has a photoset from the day featuring Michigan's swanky new digs. But, uh, what doesn't belong in this picture?
Flat screen TV… beautiful wood paneling… futuristic labels… chairs you wouldn't seat your grandmother on even if you didn't like her, you cad. Someone get some Aeron in there.
Throwin'. AnnArbor.com got some footage of the QBs throwing, though it was apparently taken by Michael J Fox:
Forcier's throws, unsurprisingly, look the sharpest. Despite that, uh, this was written by the Daily's Ryan Kartje:
-Nick Sheridan probably looked the most comfortable and well-refined on the field, compared to Denard and Tate. But no one is matching Tate's enthusiasm which had him jumping up and down for a good portion of the drills.
Dude, man, even if that's true I want you to lie to me. This is what I want to hear:
I won’t make any bold predictions one practice into fall camp, but after watching Michigan work out for about an hour Monday without pads, I’d give Tate Forcier the easy edge in the battle to become the Wolverines starting quarterback.
The media was allowed to watch five periods of individual work Monday, and Forcier was much crisper in passing drills than fellow freshman Denard Robinson.
Kartje also reports that Robinson is fast but rusty and tends to throw screens way too high; Birkett says the quarterbacks are small, which uh yeah they are.
Eeeeeeee. Will Campbell at the Army game…
…Will Campbell in spring…
…and Will Campbell minus an average-sized fifth grader at practice:
Campbell has taken step one away from Gabe Watson-style disappointment*.
*(Not that Watson was exactly a disappointment: two-time All Conference and a solid NFL player. But he could have been All-American.)
Er? Is there a name in the wrong spot on this list?
The rough Day 1 depth chart at receiver: Greg Matthews went ahead of Junior Hemmingway in drills at one outside spot, and LaTerryal Savoy drilled ahead of James Rogers and Darryl Stonum at the other. At the slot, Martavious Odoms was first up in drills followed by Roy Roundtree and Terrence Robinson.
"Laterryal Savoy drilled ahead of Darryl Stonum" is only explicable if they did the order by numbers of Rs, Ys, and Ls in your first name. Other reports had Stonum dropping a lot of balls, which is not good if Michigan is going to have a deep threat this year.
They're going down in a blaze of glory. Michael Rothstein's come over to AnnArbor.com from his beat covering Notre Dame football at the Fort Wayne Gazette, so his viewpoint of the two programs will be an interesting one. Like for instance here:
At Notre Dame, the only music I ever remember hearing was on Thursdays, and that was a Charlie Weis-inspired playlist of Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen with a little bit of Crank Me Up worked in last year. At Michigan, music was going throughout a bunch of the practice that the media observed, everything from Soulja Boy to some old school rock. Definitely a variety for both the players and coaches.
No wonder ND can't run the ball.
Previously: S Vlad Emilien, S Thomas Gordon, CB Justin Turner, CB Adrian Witty, LB Isaiah Bell, LB Mike Jones, LB Brandin Hawthorne, DT Will Campbell, DE Anthony LaLota, DE Craig Roh, OL Michael Schofield, OL Taylor Lewan, OL Quinton Washington, WR Cameron Gordon, WR Je'Ron Stokes, WR Jeremy Gallon, RB Teric Jones, RB Vincent Smith, and RB Fitzgerald Toussaint.
|Deerfield Beach, Florida - 6'0" 180
|Scout||4*, #16 CB, #159 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #14 ATH, #188 overall|
|ESPN||81, #7 ATH, #101 overall|
|Others||#187 to TAKKLE.|
|Other Suitors||Florida, Georgia, Kansas State, West Virginia|
|Mailbag question answered.|
|Notes||Teammate of Witty. Nicknamed "Shoelace".|
Yeah, I said it: Pat White. "You may remember me from such players as" is supposed to be an indicator of the type of player Michigan will get if the kid pans out and not a prediction of same, but invoking the Great White Bolt is a heavy burden in any case. That goes double when the other quarterback options are another true freshman and That Darkness We Do Not Consider.
But it's hard to avoid the comparison when the player in question does this…
Deerfield Beach's Denard Robinson got the near-perfect start he needed, motored down the straightaway and won the 100 meters in a personal-best 10.44 seconds at the BCAA Track Championships at Coral Springs on Saturday.
Robinson's personal-best … is the second-fastest high school time in the nation, according to Dyestat Elite 100 rankings.
…and says this afterwards…
'' I was kind of disappointed in myself to run a 10.44, but I will accept that,'' Robinson said.
…and is this according to SoFLAFootball…
Best athlete in Florida may move to WR or CB in college
…and has a tag on this blog called "Denard Robinson is made of dilithium." (He'd later finish third in the state finals after a poor start. The guy who won broke the state record.) Even Tate Forcier's mom knows what's up:
On National Signing Day in February, early-enrollee Tate Forcier couldn’t even remember Denard Robinson’s name. All he knew was what his mom had explained over the phone earlier that day: the Wolverines signed another dual-threat quarterback, and he is really fast.
His FAKE 40 time, as you might imagine, is outstandingly so: he ran a 4.33 at Florida's "Friday Night Lights" camp, which is probably generous but was also the fastest time anyone turned in at a loaded event. That was no fluke, either. At an early Scout combine he put up a 4.39, and was named the best QB in attendance. He even had a FAKE 100 time, a Free Press-reported 10.28 (now paywalled) that The Diag, sadly, debunked.
All of this is very impressive, and his coach is over the moon about the kid:
"Oh my god, Michigan is going to get an explosive, explosive quarterback," Taylor said. "He's a leader, he pushes his will to win on others. I've never seen a kid so competitive."
Here's another version of that quote:
''I don't think people realize how fast he is,'' Taylor said. ``He has so many gears. You have great quarterbacks who can kill you with their arm, and you have great running backs who can kill you with their speed. He has both. He's just spectacular, explosive.
``He's a game-changing kid. I'll guarantee you he will play on Sundays.''
And his athletic director chips in:
"He held everybody to such a high standard," said Vinnie Tozzi, Deerfield Beach's athletic director. "If people weren't giving 110 percent, he would not be satisfied. He would will his team to want to win."
Add Robinson to the growing list of Michigan recruits about whom those sorts of statements are uttered. Rodriguez is pushing his charges far harder than Carr did towards the end of his career—remember Alex Mitchell being begged to return to the team at a waddling 350?—and recruiting the sorts of players who will endure the Barwis long-term.
Other colleges came calling, and major ones: Robinson claimed 30 offers before narrowing it down, including Georgia, Ohio State, and large sections of the SEC. Michigan's main competition for Robinson was Florida, who offered early—they were actually the first—and held out the (possibly slightly fanciful) promise of a shot at quarterback. Other major offers came from teams recruiting him as a wide receiver or defensive back. Similarities to White are duly noted, and questions about his ability to stick at quarterback raised.
For its part, ESPN thinks he's got a real shot:
Robinson is just a flat out playmaker in every sense of the word and he will surprise you with his production in the passing game. If he were taller, there is no doubt he would be a serious QB prospect, but his overall skills will likely land him somewhere else. Has a quick, live arm and is very effective in the short and intermediate areas of the field. … He is scary when the initial play breaks down--has supreme quickness, burst and acceleration and has a knack for pulling a rabbit out of his hat when he gets in trouble. Throws extremely well on the move, especially to his right. … However, at times Robinson will try and make too much happen and force things a little. His height limits his vision and he will leave the pocket and may scramble too much at times because he knows he has a chance to make something happen if out of the pocket. When not in the shotgun, he struggles to see the whole field and work through progressions.
Michigan is his system, and the spring game's heavy reliance on the rollout should help Robinson segue well into collegiate quarterbacking despite that height thing. Both of Michigan's quarterbacks are relatively short, and Rodriguez will design around that. So: promise but only after some polish. His, numbers say the same thing. Allow myself to quote myself in mailbag post on this site:
But then you've got the passing stats:
Key Statistics... completed 100-of-231 passes for 1,809 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior ...
There's a big, big gap between those numbers and Forcier's. That's a 43% completion rate. I know that high school passing is often a whole lot of bombing downfield (18 yards per completion!), but those numbers say "project" to me.
ESPN's point about throwing on the move is obvious in Robinson's highlight video, which if you do nothing else you should skip to the three minute mark and watch him do a bunch of crazy stuff that will get him killed in college but worked out okay in high school:
Robinson rolled out a lot, and seemed effective doing it, though the throws you see above were obviously interspersed with a fair number of turfed balls or, like, the hopeless long loopers that appear to be Robinson's default option when shorter options are covered and running lanes aren't apparent.
Oddly, Robinson's rushing yards weren't spectacular. He had only 538, which was fewer than Forcier had, though Forcier wasn't going up against big schools in Florida at Scripps Ranch. Does this indicate a Drew Tate Forcier-like tendency to run around in the backfield and then launch it deep? A couple of throws above and that yards per completion number indicate "yes", but he also breaks contain several times and takes off and those are just highlights so maybe he got sacked a lot for ridiculous yardage after running around like a headless chicken and I guess what I'm trying to say is we just don't know, dude.
We just have to go on the universal heavy panting about this guy's ability to outrun a cheetah in a Porsche strapped to a jet engine and dropped out of a plane. Which, like, okay.
Why Pat White? Obvs.
Etc.: Signing day video.
Guru Reliability: High. Prominent player at a well-scouted high school and the rankings all land in the same area.
General Excitement Level: Slightly under high. Yes, he has huge upside but he is also a project and will require a lot of coaching up if he's to be effective at quarterback.
Projection: Even if Robinson doesn't pan out Michigan won't be moving him for at least two years and doesn't have the quarterback depth to redshirt anyone this year, so at the very least you'll see him reprise the Feagin role from last year's Minnesota game except with a definite possibility he'll throw. Going forward it'll be a battle between his electric athleticism and Forcier's polish, with Forcier having the obvious early edge because of his spring enrollment.
And by "ate" I mean "popped a little rubbery thing in my mouth, made a face, spit it out, spent a good two minutes trying to cut it into pieces, gave up, and looked it up on Google where I was horrified to find out it was a barnacle oh and by the way Wikipedia says they taste like 'rubber dipped in ammonia.'"
Softballin'. Michigan's perpetually successful softball team won the Big Ten this year and gets to host a regional. They're the #5 overall seed. Details:
Michigan is joined by regional No. 2 seed Notre Dame, No. 3 seed Cleveland State and No. 4 seed Miami (Ohio) in the double-elimination event. Michigan opens regional play against Miami [Of Ohio (Not That Miami Of Ohio) –ed] on Friday (May 15) at 7 p.m. following the Notre Dame and Cleveland State opener, which begins at 4:30 p.m.
Five to ten bucks gets you in for the day each of the three days; weather is supposed to be gorgeous.
(HT: Michigan Sports Center.)
Grinding it out. The Realests have a new project called "Lost Lettermen" wherein they track down college stars of yesteryear and let you know what they're up to. Marcus Ray is trying to break into coaching:
Being a GA is tough because of the grind and the low pay. Especially being 32 with a family. I really miss my family. They still live in Columbus, because I did not want my wife to relocate without the proper security. She is the backbone of our family. It will be a rewarding experience in the end though. I break down opponent's game film, recruit high school players, create scouting reports, as well as coach the safeties. Last season I didn't do as much hands on coaching, but as a result of some changes on our staff, I have become more like a position coach.
Ray was going to be a Michigan GA until Carr's retirement; he guarantees he'll be one of the hottest DB coaches on the market this year and hopes to latch on at a MAC school.
THIS IS A TERRIBLE LETDOWN. Denard Robinson finished third in Florida's state 100 championships. See for yourself, and marvel a bit at the internet:
To be fair, Robinson got beat by a guy who smoked the Florida state record. And he got off to a terrible start. I think we should revoke his scholarship. Or maybe shoot him.*
*(KIDDING, Mrs. Robinson! Kidding!)
Way to focus. Someday I hope to meet the man who writes Free Press headlines and call him a nasty name. (I'm leaning towards "obtuse twit" at the moment.) Darius Morris and Matt Vogrich participated in an all-star game called the "Academic All-American Classic". To get in you have to have a 3.0 GPA, which while not stellar is less depressing than most high major prospects. Michigan has two kids smart enough and good enough to be in this meaningless game. They had the usual amount of fun that is had at meaningless all star games. The Free Press headline?
U-M recruits hotdog in final game
Here's a tiny nofollowed link you shouldn't click on.
He strikes again! Speaking of Free Press Headline guy, he translated this noncommital statement from once and future transfer Steven Threet…
Threet said he has no indication what will happen in fall camp but figures the tipping point will be decision-making, which gives Sheridan a chance to play.
"I feel like Tate has a good opportunity coming in early with the extra reps in the spring and that should be beneficial," he said. "But Nick does a good job of executing the offense the way they want it to be run. People may point out the physical things Tate or Denard may have at a physical advantage, but a lot of time at quarterback in this system comes down to decision-making."
…into "Threet gives starting nod to Sheridan." To me that quote is a standard boilerplate "Both teams played hard" answer. Nine of ten obtuse twits evidently disagree.
I can't seriously believe Sheridan executes the offense the way the coaches want it to be run…
…unless Threet means they've given that side of the ball a cigarette and a blindfold. Sheridan's decision-making last year was not a strong suit. Remember the desperate, insane heave that was intercepted late in the first half against Utah and proved to be the margin of victory? Even in Sheridan's opus to date—the reasonable performance against Minnesota—he threw two first-half passes that definitely should have been intercepted. Why am I even spending time on this? The chances Sheridan takes a snap over a healthy Forcier are 0.001%. Seriously, people.
(HT: Doctor Saturday.)
In the spirit. It's OT season on the message board, so it may as well leak in here. Some guy at the Chicago Tribune "gorged himself" in Ann Arbor for three days and reported back with rapturous praise. Unfortunately, the restaurants visited consisted of…
- Cafe Zola, where he eats Zingerman's challah
- Sweetwater's, where he has coffee
- Monahan's, a place owned by a guy who used to be a partner at Zingerman's
- Zingerman's… again
- Zingerman's Bakehouse
- Blimpy Burger
- Dominicks, where he has a $21.40 jug o' drink
- Zingerman's Roadhouse
- Zingerman's Roadhouse… again
- Zingerman's Creamery
- The Dexter Cider Mill
- Zingerman's Roadhouse… again again
There is the slightest hint of a pattern here. Seven of the twelve places food is consumed are Zingerman's owned and nine are at least vaguely affiliated. This isn't a newspaper article, it's an advertisement.
I don't have the antipathy for Zingerman's that my girlfriend—who once flew into what can only be described as a conniption fit after seeing a Zingerman's catalogue that huffily advertised "Indonesian" cinnamon when 1) that's not actually cinnamon, but cassia, and 2) it's cheaper and widely regarded as inferior—does*, but I do think it's overrated based on reputation. Just like, I'm sorry to say, Blimpy Burger, which is certainly not "cheaper than food." The motto should be "where the yelling makes up for fries softer than Sam McGuffie's head, except not really."
There are plenty of awesome restaurants in town (Logan, Eve, Red Hawk, various sushi huts, Seoul Garden if you like dangerously authentic Korean, Angelo's if you like hollandaise sauce and you're a commie if you don't, and, hell, NYPD sells a killer slice) as long as you avoid Main Street; this guy went to exactly zero of them. And it's not like he was going the cheap route. Look at all the Zs above. I give this a FAIL.
*(Her take: "Assholes like this are why Zingerman's exists." Did I tell you?)