will be michigan's highest pick in a while
"Confirmation." Rodriguez was pinged at last weekend's Women's Football Academy about Dann O'Neill. The Free Press reports back:
Rodriguez confirmed that offensive lineman Dann O’Neill has left the program, but he wasn’t sure whether O’Neill will transfer to another school.
So… confirmed, eh? Which sort of implies the existence of a report that O'Neill has departed, eh? Where might this report be? I'm curious as to when a newspaper will credit something other than another newspaper for breaking a story.
- If the elder Grady gets his probation together and so forth and so on he'll remain on the team:
“He’s still working out with the guys,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve gotten the details from him and researched it a little bit . Kevin has taken care of some of (those) responsibilities, and the rest of that is up to him. If he does everything, come Aug. 9, when we start camp, he’ll rejoin us.”
FWIW, Grady's father went on WTKA and asserted that the newspaper reports of what, exactly, he didn't complete were erroneous and the slip-up was considerably more minor. I don't have strong feelings one way or the other about Grady staying on the team.
- Rodriguez said there was only one freshman in danger of not qualifying. Sam Webb asserted that Fitzgerald Toussaint was good to go, which leaves Jeremy Gallon squarely in the crosshairs of that comment. (There were rumors that Adrian Witty was also a potential casualty, but since we know Gallon has a point or two to get it's easy to infer Witty has cleared the bar. Justin Turner's situation is apparently not a big deal.)
Speaking of that Women's Academy, while it didn't turn up anything equivalent to last year's legendary squat 'n' scream…
…Rivals does have some entertaining pictures. Here's Greg Robinson not getting the spirit of the thing:
YAAAAAARGH GET WITH THE PROGRAM 70 YEAR OLD 110 POUND RETIREE. There is also this woman wearing a shirt that appears to say "SQUIRELS [sic] GONE WILD" which WTF. And yes, insane all caps man, this girl is hot. I assume she's a cheerleader given the outfit.
Busts past. I was reading the good Doctor's Auburn preview when I ran across a name from the past:
As bad as those two [Kodi Burns and Chris Todd] were, career backup Neil Caudle only got on the field for five snaps against Tennessee-Martin -- yet he left the spring in a virtual dead heat with Burns to be No. 1. If we also assume Rollison can run, his arm might be worth a flier in case of another slow start.
Caudle was at Michigan's camp at the same time as David Cone, who apparently outperformed him and another high-profile quarterback. At the time this was encouraging; now it's apparent it said more about Caudle than Cone. Take it from a guy who witnessed Todd's painfully looping throws in the flesh: if you couldn't get on the field for Auburn last year, you were bad.
Also, that Rollison guy is Tyrik, who hardcore recruitniks may remember as the guy who played opposite Shavodrick Beaver in a game televised by ESPN. He had virtually no offers—Baylor might have been his best—until very, very late, when Auburn took a flier and got a commitment. This obviously meant JUCO, but somehow the guy qualified. Many teams will be kicking themselves if Rollison lives up to the hype. And manages to stay in school.
Yes, fair enough. Conversations about Rodriguez's recruiting this year usually go something like this:
Person One: I am concerned the class is filling up with players with low ratings and unimpressive offers.
Person Two: But Rodriguez dominated doofuses in the Big East with crappy classes!
That's an expletive, ad-hominem free version of events but you get the idea. The WLA takes issue with that latter hypothesis, because it is their job to find any optimism related to Michigan football and stamp it out:
Let’s look at how WVU recruited compared to their primary competition: fellow teams in the Big East:
2002: #2 class in the Big East (includes Miami, VT, and BC)
Looking at those results, it’s difficult to argue that West Virginia suffered any tangible talent deficit to it’s fellow Big East teams. … while WVU’s classes full of two andthree-star talent seems poor when put into the context of major college football, it was actually an above-average result when put into the context of their conference.
Okay, point taken, but counterpoints: West Virginia was most certainly at a huge talent deficit relative to Georgia and Oklahoma, and once you start getting into the area where you're pulling hairs between the #27 and #37 classes the gradation is way flatter than it is at the tippy top; West Virginia dominated a conference in which they had virtually equal talent to everyone else, and even if Michigan's class comes in a little disappointing this year it's still virtually guaranteed to be third at worst. This is coming off a horrendous year and should improve in the future. The argument that Rodriguez can take his and beat yours, then take yours and beat his, is one with significant data backing it up.
Dr. Z, out and about. I made mention of this when Paul Zimmerman suffered a series of debilitating strokes, but it bears mentioning again: Zimmerman was a formative influence on yrs truly. His crotchety, detail-obsessed, no-bullshit work was the spiritual predecessor of UFR and this blog's desire to find a number that corroborates any belief it happens to have. In my first heady years of broadband internet I absorbed every word he wrote for what was then CNNSI.com. A couple years ago I bought a used copy of "The New Thinking Man's Guide To Pro Football" and—this is unusual when it comes to sports books for me—read it.
So the stroke was pretty harsh, and it's good that Zimmerman is both alive and mobile but tragic that the strokes have left him bereft of the thing that was his stock and trade:
The e-mails suddenly stopped last autumn. Zimmerman, better known to the readers of Sports Illustrated as "Dr. Z," suffered a series of strokes that left him unable to speak or write.
There was a fundraiser for Dr. Z a few days ago that endeavors to get him in an expensive, specialized program that might restore his ability to do these things. It's at a place you might be familiar with:
The event, along with an online memorabilia auction, is expected to raise more than $125,000 to help offset the costs of a six-week immersion program at the University of Michigan. Most of the treatment, aimed at getting Zimmerman behind a keyboard again, is not covered by insurance.
Again: I hope he makes it back.
That's a zinger. As you might imagine, Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician is intimately familiar with the various nonsensical utterances of Greg Robinson and enjoys them in a fashion that has only recently ceased to be ironic. So of course it caught this gem from a long fluff piece in the Free Press:
"In his mind, [Troy Woolfolk] saw himself paddling uphill with two real good corners playing ahead of him...All of the sudden he had the opportunity to compete for a starting job and he took to it like a duck to water.”
Yes, our defensive coordinator just accused someone of paddling uphill.
Also of note is Robinson's wholly unique approach to defense. He likes aggression. Desmond Howard:
He told me he's going to have his defense as an aggressive defense, a defense that's going to keep pressure on quarterbacks so they can never get comfortable.
I can tell you that in my ten thousand years covering college football I have never heard a defensive coordinator suggest he would be anything other than a piteous mewling fraidy-cat, and this new "aggressive" mantra both thrills and frightens me, like the opportunity to make out with Paris Hilton.
But wait! There's more! Robinson's philosophical inspiration appears to be the comments section/message board on this very blog. Howard again:
Remember that little fishbowl that your teacher used to have on her desk with the goldfish in it? Imagine 11 piranhas in that thing. It's like a frenzy.
Imagine 11 "douchey" MGoBlog posters in that thing: dead quarterbacks. Opponents averaging 20 yards per game. Meticulously spelled and punctuated game recaps. Let's get to it. (NOTE TO ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT: I expect a Rose Bowl ring out of this.)
Upon this, we can all agree. This is treading dangerously close to politics, which is verboten in this place, so let this not suggest any opinion one way or the other about abortion. On this subject, I believe exactly what you believe.
But one thing we can all agree on is that Notre Dame is a strange island in the sea of time populated mostly by strange bitter short insecure impolite people and one enormous mofo who may be Sam Young but probably isn't and seems pretty cool:
Sitting president makes the gesture of providing a commencement speech, is extremely gracious and polite, and gets spittle flecked on him and booed. It's a cult, I say.
Etc.: College Game Balls gets all mathematical with nonconference schedules. The Pac-10 wins handily, and that's without considering the fact that their fourth "nonconference" game is an average Pac-10 team instead of Delaware State. The Weis-record-omission thing? Eh… overblown.
Spring practice continues and there's the usual mix of unwarranted excitement and unwarranted doomsaying; that combined with the incestuous nature of the whole enterprise makes information wobbly. But wobbly is better than nothing.
A rundown of scuttlebutt received in my inbox and published elsewhere:
The conflicts start hot and heavy with Forcier, who has articles like this written about him:
"Coach Barwis, he's shown me a whole different life," Forcier said, chuckling. "But I'm getting a lot stronger, and that's a good thing."
On the field, Forcier, who is expected to compete with Nick Sheridan for the starting QB job, said one of the biggest challenges is adjusting to the snap, which he's had some trouble hanging onto during spring practices.
"It's just getting comfortable with how they snap it to you," he said. "In high school, you get these slow shotgun snaps. Here, these come back like rockets."
Yikes. There have been plenty of reports citing the usual harsh transition from college to high school, with balls zinged into linebackers' chests and hilariously arrogant attempts to reverse field resulting in 20-yard sacks.
On the other hand, multiple attendees have noted the positives to Forcier's game, especially in relation to Rodriguez's offense: he's elusive, extremely accurate on the run, and has enough zip to get the ball where it needs to go. Much of the practice time has been devoted to tougher passes—no bubble screens—and things the offense isn't good at yet, which makes them look worse than they might if they were operating with some of the easier stuff to execute.
At least that's the positive way to look at it. The other way to look at it is basically "we're going to die." One viewpoint is in relation to what happened last year—even skeptics have been very clear that the quarterback situation is vastly improved over DEATH. The other is comparing freshman Forcier to quarterbacks who are actually, like, good. The overall impression is that Forcier isn't a 9-3 QB, but neither is he a 3-9 one.
"Out of the freshman, they're all doing good, doing what I expect them to do, but Vincent Smith is showing a lot of potential. He's not backing down ... He's got real used to hitting early on. He does that very well."
"Vince, whewwwww. Vince Smith, he can move, he can run. He's out there running like the wind. He makes a lot of guys miss. I think we might be able to use him this year."
(Note the assumption in Forcier's quote there.)
"He's really come along," Rodriguez said earlier this week. "He's still confused sometimes, as all the freshmen would be, but he's shown some flashes in (Tuesday's) practice and he's a guy that's probably going to play some as a true freshman. I love his attitude, he loves playing and he's a quick learner on the field and he's got some natural ability, so I'm pretty excited about him."
This isn't wholly surprising. Smith's initially lukewarm reviews gave way to a more positive take after his impressive senior season. Though he didn't scrape his way out of the three-star ghetto, he moved way up on both major sites as they refined their rankings and Smith powered Pahokee to another state title. A couple of Florida correspondents said he was a terrific back whose ratings were held back by his size and a lack of pure white-hot speed, much like Oregon State's Jacquizz Rogers without the Name of the Year potential. (Vote for Mingo!)
Smith's got a number of veterans in front of him and isn't going to be an instant feature back with Minor looking like a beast and Brown (mostly) healthy, but it sounds like he's hopped in front of Cox and Grady and will spend this year vying against Michael Shaw to see who starts next year.
(At right: Brandon Smith tackling… uh… Brandon Smith? Is this like that A-Rod picture? Or one of those mirror universe episodes of any sci-fi show that goes on so long the writers get bored to tears with the characters?
One thing I definitely know: that's not some walk-on. Nope, it's definitely Brandon Smith in some sort of weird temporal vortex.)
This won't be surprising to anyone even vaguely familiar with Michigan football since Marcus Ray, but, yeah, argh safeties. Stevie Brown has been moved down into a nickel/OLB spot, much to the relief of everyone. This Free Press article says Brown "didn't have the impact many expected," which is a nice way of saying "had exactly the impact everyone feared." Now he's elsewhere:
"He's going to be a multipositional player for us," coach Rich Rodriguez said before practice Thursday. "Obviously, he's playing a lot of nickel back, in kind of a nickel-back situation. It's kind of a hybrid of an outside linebacker/strong safety position, which I think he's perfectly suited for."
Actually, he does seem well suited for that sort of role. Brown only got more frustrating last year when he started making the occasional sweet play to go with his free touchdown per game. Highly rated out of high school, Brown's a capital-a Athlete and seems an excellent fit for this coverage/blitz/tackle hybrid spot. An emailer reports back from the coaches' clinic:
Also there was some promising news on Stevie Brown. Greg Robinson talking about Stevie Brown said “He’s a hell of an athlete and he’s a hell of a lot better football player where we have him now (strong side LB)."
So hurray for all that.
However, moving him leaves just two returning players at the position: Mike Williams, who saw some playing time a year ago and didn't do anything of note good or bad, and redshirt freshman Brandon Smith. That's a horrifying lack of depth at a position we're all well aware can be an instant 60-yard touchdown for the opposition.
That was ominous enough. Then various reports came back that neither was starting. Longtime Michigan insider Maizeman:
Starting safeties (Thursday) were Woolfolk and Vlad. Yes, Vlad as starter. He looked, on Thursday, to be our best safety -- not even close.
Oy. That's a true freshman and a position switch starter at a position where Yards After Mundy can rack up in a hurry. When I profiled Emilien I noted he was an early enroller, an honor-roll student, and had a serious flirtation with Ohio State (which unearths functional-to-excellent unhyped safeties on a frustratingly regular basis). All of these things point to a sunny future for Emilien and I think sooner or later he'll be a good safety for Michigan. But by "sooner or later" I mean "later".
Woolfolk, meanwhile, was running at corner as of a week ago. With his departure the current two deep there is:
- Cissoko and Warren
- JT Floyd and Floyd Simmons, redshirt freshman walk-on.
Argh. It's hard to see the position switch as anything other than a condemnation of the projected starters at safety. The chatter now has Smith moving to linebacker eventually due to a lack of speed. You can see a hint of that in this Rodriguez quote:
"He has not played, he's a redshirt freshman, but he's got a lot of ability," Rodriguez said. "He's still got to get in shape to be able to play on the back end, like our safeties have to do sometimes. You've got to be able to run a lot, a whole lot, and they're still adjusting to that. But I think he's going to be able to help us in a lot of spots this year."
With Brown a senior and Smith a little ponderous for safety we might see the latter move to this hybrid spot during the year if Emilien and Woolfolk work out.
About That Defense
I got a number of emails from people smarter than me about football in regards to this 4-3/3-4 distinction; happily, none of them call me an idiot. A coach who attended the clinic a few days ago:
The report that the defense would come to resemble a 3-4 seems a little off base. After attending the Coaching Clinic and seeing the defense in action it is the same thing that you see at a lot of programs. First it is considered a 4-3 but it is a multiple 40 defense where you are going to see numerous adjustments (the same as any college program). They will slide into some 3-4 sets by dropping their Quick (strong side end speed rusher/lb hybrid) This can be called for coverage or zone blitz scheme.
The biggest improvement I believe you will see come in the form of tackling and angles. Greg Robinson has already overhauled the pursuit angles and has really stressed proper body mechanics when tackling. You could visibly notice the change in tackles and finish. Jay Hopson also commented that “Greg has really made a huge improvement to how we tackle. It’s night and day from last year.”
This sounds much like what was mentioned in What Is It. Michigan is basically going with a 4-3 that has the flexibility to drop into a 3-4 when the situation warrants it or Robinson just wants to throw a curveball. To do this you need a chunky linebacker at the standup end spot, a guy who can hold up (or penetrate) against a tackle on a run to his side, rush the passer, and credibly drop into a short zone. Shawn Crable would be an excellent fit. So would prospective recruit Will Gholston. (HINT HINT, MR. GHOLSTON.)
The closest analogue to what Michigan appears to be installing is the defense of the Arizona Cardinals, who run a "4-3 under" most of the time with a weakside DE/LB they call the "predator," thereby soundly defeating Michigan's nomenclature. As hybrids go, it's hybrid-y:
…in the 4-3 “under” front, like the Cardinals use as their base defense, which looks similar to the 3-4 to the naked eye, the biggest difference is in the outside linebackers. The strong-side linebacker is still outside the tight end. But the other outside guy — the Cardinals call this player their “Predator” — is almost always rushing the passer, although the Cards will occasionally drop him into coverage to mix things up. Other differences: The nose tackle shades to the A-gap (in between the center and guard) on the tight end side, and the end on that side moves between the tackle and tight end.
explained that the 3-4 defense creates the most confusion for the offense in terms of which outside linebacker is doing what, and the standard 4-3 offers the least unpredictability. The Cardinals’ 4-3 “under” scheme is somewhere in between the two in terms of causing the offense to guess who is rushing and who is dropping.
There is one uncovered linebacker—eg, "man who must take on unblocked guard"—in the 4-3 under, which is different from the 4-3 (none) and the 3-4 (two). That's the MLB, meaning Obi Ezeh. Onus, meet third year starter who's been fairly disappointing so far. You'll be good friends all year.
Also, here's Tyler Sellhorn, who's sent in an email or two before and contributed to Doctor Saturday, on what the whole "rush end/linebacker" thing was:
The Hermann era defense was better known in its day as a 5-2. 3 DTs and 2 DEs; however, the strongside and weakside specialized by personnel, tactics, or alignment. The weakside DE was called the "drop end" an excellent deployment of a SS type player (Stevie Brown). The strongside DE was called the "rush end", think Lawrence Taylor/Derrick Thomas. Calling it a 3-4 is "sexier" because safeties and speedy big guys would be prefer to be called linebackers than defensive ends. As an offensive line coach and former lineman, I hated playing "odd" fronts (with a nose guard). The angles for your usual blocks change significantly and when the defense chooses it is easier to bring up support from the outside and from the safeties. 3-4 is more flexible in the secondary as well because linebackers can be put in coverage much easier.
IMO, I think the (very) early returns are good for GERG.
So there you go.
A Brief Summary Of My State Of Mind
Look: we're not going to be good. There is a true freshman quarterback who, while as ready as he can be, is still not ready at all. The line is probably going to be okay, but not dominant. They're installing a new defensive package and holy God is the secondary thin. They'll get some reinforcements in the fall but it's like quarterback: when you've got six highly-rated options for two spots whoever wins that job is likely to be good. When you've got two, you're hoping that both pan out, stay healthy, and stay out of trouble.
Position switch starters—one of MGoBlog's primary "uh oh" heuristics—seem likely at safety (Woolfolk), DE/spinner (Herron), LB/SS (Brown), and LG (Schilling). None of those are huge deals in and of themselves as they don't involve flipping sides of the ball, like Ferrara did last year, and generally see players moving into spots where they are faster than the opposition or just plain better suited; together that's a lot of flux. Digging out of this hole is going to be a multi-year project, and I don't mean we'll only make the Alamo this year. Notre Dame went from 3-9 to 7-6 and though they had a bigger hole to dig out of they weren't starting over at quarterback. A similar improvement seems realistic.
I am the lyrical master. This would be 100% Pure Colombian Awesome but it features Toney Clemons, who seems like a cool guy to have around, front and center and is therefore a little sad. It remains the Coner dropping knowledge, though, so its Pure Colombian Awesome percentage hovers around 98%:
Dude. Cone just smoked Brent Petway. That's Febreze, people.
Spring practice photos. Yo.
I wish I could wager on this. Michigan has a new defensive coordinator, but it's the outgoing guy with a reputation, and the stats to back it up, as a blitzing mad scientist. This does not—cannot—dissuade sportswriters, though. There's a new defensive coordinator. Who is he? Anyone. Where is he? Anywhere. The hand moves of its own accord:
I also wish I could bet that this article would state the new scheme is "more aggressive." I wish this because I like free money:
The Wolverines hope the moving parts and the more aggressive scheme generate increased pressure from players other than star end Brandon Graham, who recorded 10 of the team's 29 sacks last fall.
Hurray free money.
Cliche aside, there are a couple of interesting nuggets in the above Rittenberg piece. A pithy summary of Greg Robinson's Big Idea:
"It feels like a 3-4," Ezeh said, "but sometimes we do a 4-3 look."
Michigan is using several players in a hybrid defensive end-linebacker role, including junior Marell Evans, sophomore Brandon Herron, sophomore Steve Watson and freshman Anthony LaLota, an early enrollee. Senior Stevie Brown, who started all 12 games at safety last season, is being used as a safety/strongside linebacker.
Robinson calls the hybrid the "quick" or "spinner," because you have to have a slightly goofy name for any nonstandard position in your defense. If it comes off and they can get production out of the spot, it's a lot less frightening to consider a defensive line of Graham/Martin/RVB with Patterson/Campbell/Sagesse/Banks backups than taking one of those backups and throwing them into the starting lineup.
Then your problem is getting production out of a true freshman, a guy who lost his job last season, a guy who's never seen the field, and a tight end, all of whom have never played this position before. Which good luck with that.
Rumors flyin'. It's Tuesday, so it's time for more Darryl Stonum transfer rumors. These have been debunked by someone close to the situation: Stonum. His myspace page issued a bulletin:
I'M NOT GOING ANYWHERE!!!
People are speculating 24/7 and I just want to let you know I'm a Michigan Man!! This is where I want to be and I'm truly buying into Coach Rod's system. I know I will be something special on the field and I want to prove that here at Michigan. I love this program and you best believe that.
Or, at least, several people on message boards all over the place have replicated that; Stonum's profile is set as private and I'm not on the myspace.
Fly, fly, fly! Denard Robinson was named the second fastest recruit in all the land by Rivals sometime last year. Rivals was right:
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 eclipsed the state standard for this year set by Byrd, a junior at Ida Baker, and it is the second-fastest high school time in the nation, according to Dyestat Elite 100 rankings.
Even better is Robinson's reaction to his smokin' hot time:
''I was kind of disappointed in myself to run a 10.44, but I will accept that.''
Robinson plans on running a 10.3 by states. By the time he arrives on campus he'll be from the future.
One more time to the well. This Kampfer thing appears to be over, and I'm still pissed and you should be too. In all likelihood, Steve Kampfer is going to have to skate against the two guys who did this to him next year. Those games are going to be kegs of gunpowder, and Kampfer is going to cringe any time he turns his back. Michigan-Michigan State games for the foreseeable future are going to be reffed into oblivion and still be ugly hack-fests.
Allowing those two to return significantly increases the chances of a second ugly incident in the future. The CCHA failed to meet the bare minimum level of acceptability: lifetime bans against Michigan for both players. The punishment doesn't impact the program or the player in any significant way. We'll all get to see the reward next year. As simply as possible: an incident like this should have repercussions that last longer than the last third of an already-lost season.
As for the two main "blame Michigan!" memes floating out there:
- There's a reason swearing exists, and it's for moments like Saturday. Look: I don't do the penalty box cheer because Red asked everyone not to, and whenever a "F ND" or "F the Buckeyes" chant gets started at any Michigan sporting event I want to find the gel-haired New Jersey frat boys responsible for that travesty and put them back on the boat to Guidoville. Swearing like that is a substitute for being clever, and I hate it.
But the FYS cheer on Saturday was the right emotion at the right time, A ringing loud expression of contempt and disgust was the appropriate reaction. Sometimes "fuck you" is the only appropriate sentiment.
- No, Steve Kampfer's dad shouldn't have "handled it better" or whatever. If you think this, you are probably a robot. Check for a dipstick in your back.
Mendacious, brah. Coming in a distant second to the actions on the ice in repulsiveness has been the reaction of Michigan State's various media organs.
- The official site's mendacious game recap mentions the assault as something spurred by Chris Summers' goal.
- Some necklace-wearing, short-bus-riding, thin-letter-receiving State News knob says "everyone's to blame," which instead of linking to I'll just point at the one two three Michigan blogs that have already taken him apart.
- Even the State News' editorial on the situation, which comes down pretty hard, attempts to paint Kampfer's clean open-ice check as "charging," which like it wasn't. (It also says "U-M hockey fans are known for scripting some of the most brutal and pointed chants in college sports"—which, like, is that a compliment?)
- And multiple people have reported in that some guy on Lansing radio kept focusing on that bad word from above, calling for continuous bench minors to be called on Michigan until it stops.
All of this is "yes… but" stuff. There is no "but" here.
And… okay. With that, I'm done until there's more news to talk about. I've said my bit three or four times now. Yost Built has an extensive recap of everything if you missed anything; the Daily has some more quotes from Kampfer himself.
Something about hockey but not that. The NHL has provided an $8.5 million developmental grant to USA hockey for the first time, which USA hockey will use to beef up the USHL and the NTDP, train referees (free bananas!), and implement some sort of hyper-elite AAA program. WCH has the details. I'm most interested in getting the USHL up to par with the CHL—and by PPG conversion measures the USHL either isn't far off or is right there—so that potential college hockey players aren't tempted to defect for developmental reasons.
Martavious! An article on Florida recruit Nu'keese Richardson takes a Michigan-relevant diversion:
The Blue Devils decided Richardson was a better fit for receiver. Richardson disagreed. He thought about quitting. Then Martavious Odoms stepped in. Odoms, then a junior and now a Michigan Wolverine, spent the summer before the season working with Richardson, teaching him the position.
“Martavious can adjust to a football in the air better than anyone I have ever seen. Nu’Keese has adapted to that as well,” coach Thompson said. “It’s just amazing. You see the ball in the air and you think, ‘You know, how is he going to contort his body? How’s he going to adjust to the ball?’ And somehow, some way, he gets it.”
Odoms also introduced Richardson to the art of the “crack-back.” A crack-back occurs when a receiver charges toward the middle of the field and removes an unsuspecting linebacker from his cleats.
We saw hints of that this year on those wheel routes; I think once Odoms gets used to playing when his leetle body is cold we're going to see him perform very well. A lot of people are touting Gallon or Robinson in the slot, but Odoms is going to prove hard to displace.
GERG! MGoBlue quotes from new DC Greg Robinson's first press conference have been repackaged and placed into newspaper stories already, but whateva I do what I want. Items of note:
- Scheme agnosticism. "There will be times that we will use that style where we can kick down and use a four-man front and there will be times where we are going to look like a three-man front. It's really the utilization of people and trying to take advantage of their strengths."
- Gregism #1? Robinson was asked what his top priority was, given a laundry list of options, and responded: "I think it's all of those things." Greg Robinson's TOP PRIORITY: all things. Things that are not Greg Robinson's TOP PRIORITY: no things.
- I don't even know what this means. "I will be coaching players, and I don't plan to be walking around. I've done a little of that and I didn't like it. And I won't be walking. I will be running."
- Field or booth? "I will be on the field."
Robinson plans on coaching a position, BTW, but doesn't know which one.
Etc.: A bunch of aerial photos of the stadium construction.
On first glimpse the idea of hiring a man who says things like "it can maybe snowball into something that can catch fire" after he cratered a traditionally respectable-or-better program seems pretty dumb. I said so myself. But Rodriguez done did it anyway, so it's time to talk ourselves into it, or at least try to.
A Syracuse-oriented reader opines:
As a member of the Orange Nation, I can state that the Greg Robinson years were hard and lean. In part, that was due to a growing talent deficit that Pasqualoni left behind. Coach P's numbers look impressive until one takes into account the fact that SU went into a pretty serious decline after Donovan McNabb graduated. He was running on empty by the time he left.As for Robinson, his teams proved to be maddeningly inconsistent and just plain bad. By all accounts, he was a decent guy. His players never quit on him. But he was not up to the head coaching task. As a DC in the college game, he might be better judged by his last 2 years at SU (when, I think, he handled most of the defensive coordinator's job) and his 1 year at Texas. SU's defense improved the past two years but was still pretty bad.Would he fare better with others handling the recruiting and with a better talent pool at Michigan? Probably. Would he be much different from Jim Hermann or Ron English? Who's to say?Coming from the Big East, he and Rich Rod might have an affinity that would work at Michigan. But that seems a pretty risky move for a team that just went 3-9 and had its worst defensive season in program history. . . .
As noted in the above-linked MGoBlog post, Robinson's last two years at Syracuse were pretty atrocious, and the evidence from his brief Texas posting (via Varsity Blue) does not suggest competence above and beyond:
|Year||Total D||Rush D||Pass D||Scoring D|
That's about par for the course at a school that regularly out-talents all but one or two opponents a year. A couple commenters noted that my dismissal of his year at Texas was a bit harsh since a guy who turns in a really good defense when blessed with more talent than his competition is likely to find it nice and comfy at Michigan.
Point taken. Texas fans seem to remember Robinson fondly, at least. Various posts in highly positive thread on Hornfans:
He is a good guy and a good pick-up for UM. … I thought he improved our D when he was here. … Good hire. Our D definitely improved while he was here, and no doubt he was helped a lot by Tomey. I loved Robinson's sideline demeanor. That. as much as anything else, reminded me how great it is to have fired up coaches roaming the sidelines. … I think he will do a great job at Michigan.
Also Texas coaches and players. Angelique gets fawning quotes from Mack Brown…
"They're (U-M) getting one of the best defensive coordinators in the country," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "Greg's a high-energy, creative, hard-working guy who has had success at both the NFL and collegiate levels. He's a veteran coach with a wealth of knowledge who the players really respond to."
…and Derrick Johnson, Texas' horrifying, bolo-punching linebacker demon from that 2004 team:
"He's a players' coach who is very patient with his players and works well with everyone," Johnson said. "He knows how to get his point across about what he expects and has you prepared for everything on game day. ... He was great for Texas."
HOWEVA, the defense Robinson inherited was pretty good and he held it at that level for a year. He didn't build anything up or (probably) have to coach anything up and that data point seems less relevant than the three disastrous years at Kansas City that preceded it or the four disastrous ones at Syracuse that followed it. Longtime college DC Carl Reese preceded Robinson and this guy followed him…
…suffice it to say that being Texas' defensive coordinator isn't the hardest job in the world. (Side note: Texas had better hope like hell the current guy is a bit better in the head job than the two men who preceded him.)
This table, on the other hand, was totally omitted from the first go-round on Robinson:
|Year||Total D||Rush D||Pass D||Scoring D|
After a ramp-up year that's (almost) four consecutive years in the top ten in total defense in the NFL. At the very least that indicates some level of competence.
So… what do we have? A guy who performs with talent and doesn't without it. Yeah, Greg Robinson and every other coach on the planet. This causes Orson Swindle, writing as someone named "Spencer Hall," to muse on fate at TSN:
Greg Robinson, fired Kansas City defensive coordinator, former Texas coordinator, and complete failure of a head coach at Syracuse, is firmly at fate's mercy now: he's the new defensive coordinator at Michigan, a move that has some Michigan fans near seppuku and others merely sighing and shrugging their shoulders. It would be very, very easy to pronounce this as a stillborn HR move from the start, a mistake taking a flyer on a guy who while good when surrounded by obvious, glaring talent -- see his successful stint in 2004 at Texas -- can be very, very bad, as anyone who saw his work at Syracuse can attest.
The whole fate thing weighs heavily on any Michigan fan contemplating Mallett or Pryor or the circumstances that led to David Cone being one of two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster. If Rodriguez had walked into a viable dual-threat quarterback, or even just a viable single-threat one, his still toddling regime at Michigan would be far less precarious. Michigan's hope here is that Robinson was a product of his circumstances, and while he may be very, very poor at assembling advantageous circumstances for himself that won't be a problem where the four-stars flow in from the sea.
Orson, for his part, says that Michigan's "considerable talent on defense"—er?—combines with the mediocrity of the Big Ten and provides "good odds for a happy outcome." I'm less certain, but since I have a good friend who hired that guy on a coin above I'm very familiar with the process that gets you to "hey, this isn't so bad!"