chance of bowl: 13.6%
New shirts! The MGoStore is rocking two new shirts. One of them is pretty obvious. The other is, er… not. Click either for link:
Yes, the back of the Cone shirt says "leave ya twisted with chalk around ya body" in tribute to Cone rapping up a storm. WOOOOO. Get 'em while they last. Shoelace will be around for a bit, of course. Cone will be in our hearts forever but since it's kind of doubtful he gets a fifth year you probably want to scoop those bad boys up ASAP.
NOTE for folks who live in Ann Arbor and hate the idea of paying shipping costs: MGoShirts are available at Underground's retail space on South U. My cut there is the same as the one online, for people super concerned about the cash flow here. (This does happen.)
Outback Bowlin'. Orson Swindle would do well to avoid this vein-popping Zook special, but you're not Orson so here's the Wolverine Historian version of the 2003 Outback Bowl:
Part Two awaits in the lightbox.
I don't know if this is good or bad. Justin Turner was credited with a special teams tackle on Saturday, but that did not actually happen:
MSU corrected the official boxscore Sunday to show Jonas Mouton in on the tackle, and Turner, the No. 2-rated player in Michigan's 2009 recruiting class according to Rivals.com, remains eligible to redshirt.
So he's probably going to redshirt, and JT Floyd is going to start. Hurrah for good roster management? Boo because of thin secondary depth and the oddity of having such a highly-rated guy on a redshirt track? You make the call.
Also of indeterminate benefit. Rodriguez is going to take a look at linebackers who aren't Ezeh or Mouton (both of whom are at least making a number of good plays to go along with their terrible horrible not good ones in the UFR I've gotten to):
Yeah, every job is up for grabs every week,” Rodriguez said. “It sounds like coach speak, but our guys know they have to play at a certain level. Jonas (Mouton) and Obi (Ezeh) have played very, very hard. … I think Jonas is a very active player, and Obi has played solid, as well, but we can all play better.” …
"You take away a couple of those scramble plays, their big third and long passes, and it was a pretty solid effort,” Rodriguez said. “But you have to count those. Those are part of the whole deal. … We've got to be more consistent I think is the word in all three phases, particularly defensively."
"Player X has played very hard" is an excellent backhanded compliment. FWIW, I don't think anything will come of the starting jobs potentially coming open given Fitzgerald's shaky cameo and Leach's meh performance in the Eastern game. At least Mouton, who does appear to be blitzing a lot more recently, has guru-approved (and obvious) athletic ability. Leach doesn't.
As long as we're talking about the possibility of walk-ons busting into the starting lineup, let's highlight this bolded bit from yesterday's press conference recap:
Mike Williams wasn't 100% going into the game, but taking him out for Kovacs was a substitution issue, not an injury issue.
IE: Kovacs is just playing because the coaches think he's better. Williams got yanked quickly, too, right after he failed to get out on a short zone when Michigan was running three-deep and gave up a 15-yard hitch on Michigan State's endless drive. I didn't even think that was his fault, FWIW, as he was tasked with faking a blitz and had no chance to get out there; with Warren playing in the parking lot that play was super easy. FWIW, Kovacs has turned in a couple of impressive tackles so far. He's probably a disaster in coverage but Michigan is using him as downhill run-stuffer, something he seems capable of.
Family values, but on the tee-vee. Elliot Mealer will feature on that ESPN newsmagazine show E:60. You know, the one with jump cuts of Jeremy Schaap. Details:
Sports leader ESPN has followed the Mealer and Richer families for a year documenting how each family dealt with grief while moving ahead with their lives. On Tuesday the segment will air for the first time on ESPN and ESPN HD on a program called E:60 at 7 p.m.
"I first got contacted really early in the morning after I had just spoken at a FCA event at Napoleon High School," explained Elliott Mealer, a senior at the time of the accident that claimed two lives. "We talked it over as a family and all agreed that this could be something that could bring a positive light to the accident and everything after. As a little kid you always dream about being on ESPN and I guess in this sense it is bittersweet. I really wish I didn't have a story to tell but the fact of the matter is I do."
Worth examining, yes, I talk like Yoda for no reason mmmm.
Oh noes! You probably remember the nonstop caterwauling from Notre Dame fans in the aftermath of the referees getting Armando Allen's screen non-touchdown right. I wonder if they will take up arms and demand justice from the Big East replay officials on behalf of Washington:
That knee you see on the ground is Robert Hughes's. His entire body, and therefore the ball, is outside the endzone at this moment. This is the two point conversion that Notre Dame got to go up three, and without it they would have lost 30-28 in regulation. The lack of a review here is inexplicable. It was obvious the instant NBC cut to a replay of the play. CONSPIRACY
(Also, people: download a torrent and get a frame from that instead of taking pictures of your TV.)
Etc.: This is not Mark May pantomiming Lou Holtz performing fellatio on Jimmah, but it kind of looks like it is. Barwis porn migrates to web comics. Braves & Birds is confused about how to feel about the game Saturday.
Programming note. I've accepted the daunting task of getting up at 7AM to sit in for Sam Webb on WTKA's morning show tomorrow. I'll be on from 7-10. Wooo Mountain Dew!
Charity note. If anyone's got some spare roller hockey equipment lying around, L'Hockey Folie would like to put it to good use.
Luxury box followup! Artist's rendition of the 2025 Big House:
The Shredder explains his masterpiece:
With all the HD Jumbo screen talk(and with my boring 3rd shift) I figured I would draw it using my awesome skills. Now every one can see it. The future of the Big House. Around 2025 I am guessing. I did remove the one press box so you could see the field, so just pretend it's there. I also added seats above the HD screens and on top of the press box. Bringing the total seating to 125,000. In the year 2025 we will have be playing night games and using Maize jersey's. Welcome to the future! Great Scott!
These were not the top secret plans I referenced this morning. But they should be.
Obvious quarterback questioning. Tim's getting frustrated with the nonstop quarterback questioning at the press conferences, but none of you are going so here you go:
The art of saying nothing in 1:14. I don't think there's much chance all three QBs play equally well for anything length of time, and neither does Rodriguez, but he refuses to rule out anything. All things are possible.
Mealer okay? Elliot Mealer's shoulder was severely injured in that Christmas Eve car crash and there were some rumors that the effects of it still lingered and may be a permanent hindrance to his ability to play. Apparently that's not true:
"I've come a long ways," Mealer said. "You know, My arm is actually stronger, I think. My bad arm, so to speak, is stronger than my good arm and it's been a long ways. I still rehab it to this day, and then do a little prehab, as they call it, just to keep it loose and it helps. So it's come a long ways."
Mealer's not likely to play this year but should work himself into the playing mix in 2010.
BONUS Kevin Koger hype (the article is about Toledo-area players for M):
"Kevin Koger's had a great great offseason," said Calvin Magee, Koger's offensive coordinator and position mentor. "He's done well. He's gotten a lot stronger and a lot faster, and it's a natural progression from freshman to sophomore year.
"He's changed his body. You know, his weight's around the same. He's more lean now. So naturally, he's got more muscle on him. That allows him to be faster and he's one of those kids that committed himself to the offseason conditioning and it's going to help him a great deal."
The Revsine return. The Big Ten Network has returned from its tour of Big Ten practices and Dave Revsine has superlatives:
Best Drill: The "M" Drill at Michigan. It's the Oklahoma Drill, but with a twist. There are three layers of blocking going on – linemen going 1 on 1, then a FB or TE engaged with a LB, followed by a WR and a DB. The back with the ball then tries to run through all three levels. Very intense and really well done. …
Impact Freshman: Tate Forcier, Michigan. I think Forcier is perfect for Rodriguez's system. Throws well, particularly on the run, and he runs well. He has everything they need. Seems Rodriguez isn't quite as convinced, given his plans to play three QBs in the opener against Western Michigan, but I still think that, ultimately, Forcier will be the guy. …
Honorable Mention: Vincent Smith, Michigan. Another tiny Smith who packs some serious punch, Smith absolutely bowled over a defender in a tackling drill, then, the next time he had the ball, juked another guy out of his uniform with a great move.
All that's cool, but Michigan didn't show up on any of Revsine's top position groups, or honorable mentions. Not that you expected them to anywhere except tailback, where Revsine bizarrely goes with Michigan State as his third-place team.
You said what? Gary Barnett talked crap about Gary Moeller's substitutions. This did not end well for him.
Isn't it strange that Barnett left Northwestern for Colorado and since that event Northwestern has probably been the better program? What happened to the Buffs?
Required. Hey here's a quote by new offensive line grad assistant Cory Zirbel that contradicts those of the discontent departures and by law I must post it:
"I've had people come up to me and say, 'How can you be a part of that coaching staff?' Those people aren't true Michigan fans. ... People don't understand how I accept my role, but those people don't know.
"It's an honor. It's Michigan, always going to be Michigan. Coach Rodriguez is a great guy, presented me an opportunity, and I took it."
So there you go, family values and so forth and so on.
Coner! It took four years but someone finally mentioned David Cone in a practice recap:
Speaking of Forcier, I'm really started to warm to the way he throws the ball. It looks much better than any of the other quarterbacks. Also, David Cone has an odd throwing motion.
I think I buried the lead there.
Etc.: Herbstreit says the M-ND game is make or break for Weis, which yeah probably. GBMW has a transcript of Rodriguez's appearance on the Dan Patrick show. Michigan's replacing its media guides with online equivalents. Volleyball and women's soccer are test cases.
Programming Note: I'll be on WTKA with John U Bacon this afternoon from 4-5. WTKA streams live for those in the diaspora.
It wasn't a total head implosion weekend. Lost in the dual frustrations from hockey and basketball was the baseball team's strong start: 4-0 against an array of Big East teams (and, oddly, Purdue), including two walk-off wins to open the season. Formerlyanonymous is now blogging up a storm about the baseball team at Varsity Blue; his article on the weekend is probably the most detailed recap of a Michigan baseball weekend ever written(!).
Michigan is in Jacksonville Wednesday through Sunday taking on a wide array of meh-sounding teams: North Florida, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Jacksonville, and Akron. Their major opportunity to get some committee-impressing nonconference wins comes in mid-March when Michigan goes to Arizona for a three-game series.
Hello again, Elliot. Elliot Mealer's unfortunate life story has made him perhaps the most-chronicled anonymous redshirt freshman offensive linemen ever(!). His local paper has a story on him, and this one deviates from the usual fluff and goes for a couple of interesting quotes:
"The speed of the game is just incredibly different from high school," reflected Mealer. "I talked to guys who I had played with at Wauseon and told them about the first time I faced speed in practice. I was playing left tackle against Tim Jamison (2008 starting defensive end). He comes at me and in high school you are taught to get your hands on him and move, but he slapped my hands down before I ever got them up. The next thing I realize I'm on the ground asking what happened and he's sacking the quarterback."
There's also a story about John Thompson crushing Mealer backwards, causing him to wonder if he'd been concussed; it's a step up from the usual stuff you get in these things.
One downer: it sounds like Mealer's on-field future may have been damaged by the car crash.
For Mealer, the challenge is restoring lost shoulder strength which may never return.
"The team has been doing a lot of upper arm strengthening in the weight room, but I'm not allowed to start that until after spring break (Feb. 20-28)," said Mealer. "At that time, I will start out with two to three days of upper body strength training and I'm not sure how long that will last, but it could last my whole career just to stay on top of it."
Mealer was a top-250 sort who certainly projected to playing time; with lingering effects from the injury he won't be in the conversation to start this year, at the very least.
…Rodriguez is in danger of falling behind in the spread offense arms race in terms of sophistication. I discussed that phenomena with Purdue as a pass-first spread team over the last decade, but it's of a slightly different order with Michigan. In the spread's nascent days, the spread-to-run innovators included Rodriguez and Kevin Wilson and Randy Walker at Northwestern, with Urban Meyer following shortly after. Wilson is now at OU and of course Meyer is at Florida. Compare their offenses with Rodriguez's: there's not much difference from a run-game standpoint (though Meyer and OU mix up their sets a bit more and use more tight-ends now), but the passing games have seen a wide departure. Wilson now uses what Chuck Long put in at OU, with some schematic residue lingering from Mike Leach and Mark Mangino, while Meyer, along with Dan Mullen and Mike Sanford, assembled a pro-style one-back approach gleaned from John L. Smith and Scott Linehan from Louisville and Joe Tiller and Jim Chaney from Purdue. I can't say I'm a huge fan of Meyer's passing game, but it's definitely more sophisticated than what Rodriguez has going on.
But Rodriguez is a bright guy and his passing game originally derived from (though is a long way now) the old run and shoot. So you'd think he could remedy this. Yet with nothing but true freshman, that evolution will have to wait. The longer they wait, however, the farther behind they fall.
This is more of a restated concern than a new one, and it's worth pointing out that the situation Rodriguez inherited last year was not conducive demonstrating any sort of great leap forward in passing sophistication. The larger issue is that Rodriguez, scrambling to do a thousand different things to reshape the Michigan football program, is probably not spending a lot of time keeping ahead of the game. It's all conjecture until walk-ons have been banished from the depth chart, but it's worth keeping an eye on.
I'm hoping this is more of a Pat White effect than a Rich Rodriguez one; West Virginia's passing offense of late didn't look sophisticated because 1) it didn't have to be and 2) it didn't play into White's strengths. Even if White did well at the combine keep in mind that Rodriguez was deploying the guy as a freshman/sophomore/junior, so the bulk of his recent forays into passing games were with a wobbly underclass jet engine; risk would be stupid in a situation like that. Tate Forcier, the most accurate passer EVER, figures to change that equation significantly.
More attrition? Buried in this recruiting chat from Josh Helmholdt is an interesting bit of speculation:
The WR position was a disappointment this past year, so I certainly understand the need to recruit as many WR's as possible. Also, the depth at the slot WR position is shallow and could get even thinner before the freshmen come in next year.
That points squarely the departure of a slot receiver currently on the team. Martavious Odoms was Michigan's leading receiver a year ago and has two teammates joining him, so it's unlikely to be him. Terrance Robinson is a redshirt freshman who didn't play because of injury. Rodriguez recruited him to play in the slot, too. He's probably going to stick around and try to earn playing time. There's only one other guy on the roster who played in the slot last year: Toney Clemons. There have been erratic transfer rumors about Clemons for months now, but never anything concrete. This is also not concrete, obviously, but Helmholdt doesn't just say things without sourcing.