TO THE HOT TAKE CANNON
Ricky Barnum and Thomas Gordon have minor ankle injuries, Mark Moundros has a minor foot injury, and Donovan Warren has a minor knee injury. Walk-on Zach Johnson is also slightly dinged up.
Fitzgerald Toussaint is out for 2-3 weeks with a shoulder injury. With the running back depth the team has, he might end up redshirting unless he can make some serious strides when he is back healthy.
The UConn series was officially announced, and the 2013 game in Hartford will be Michigan's first on the East coast since traveling to Boston College in 1995. Playing in front of 40,000 fans is not as exciting about playing in front of 110,000, but Rodriguez doesn't worry about how many people attend away games. This will be a good opportunity for Michigan fans in New England to see the team in person. If the return game is moved to another venue (Foxboro was mentioned), Michigan wouldn't have the say, that would be on UConn.
QBs We Have:
The young guys are still learning the Michigan offense. Then next phases are learning what defenses will do, then knowing how to counter the things the defense will do. Denard and Tate aren't flustered, despite their inexperience, though Sheridan is the seasoned vet of the group. Talking to Sheridan, he says he's fully healthy from the broken leg. He's up to 220 lbs, and says he's a whole new player from last year, making quicker & better decisions.
QBs We Don't Have:
- Jason Forcier will not be playing for Michigan, as the grad school and eligibility things didn't work out. Though Rodriguez would let him be around the program, it's likely that Jason is ready to move on from the football chapter of his life.
- Greg Paulus has been named the starter at Syracuse, which doesn't surprise Rodriguez. He's a great athlete and person, and he's very intelligent as well. Rich wouldn't be surprised to see Paulus have great success.
Ryan Van Bergen Notes:
Says he's 6-6, up to 275lbs. He plays inside, also learning some 5-technique. The defensive line likes GERG - he's a front 7 coach, and he teaches players why they're doing certain things, rather than just saying "Do it because I'm the coach." Van Bergen also said there is a marked difference in guys going harder during practice this year. The offensive line is a good example, as they've been staying after practice to fine-tune things.
- GERG will be on the field for games, and Gibson moves up to the box to make room for that.
- The changes to the roughing the punter rule will not have a huge effect on Michigan's punting game, as most of their roll punts are still kicked inside the tackle box.
- Justin Turner is practicing in pads, but he's slightly behind in his conditioning.
- There won't be as much DL depth as RR would like this year, but there are only about 2 senior starters on defense, so it will improve next year.
- The corners look good with Warren, Cissoko, and Floyd, but they need a fourth to step up.
Any news regarding the possible eligibility of Jason Forcier for this upcoming season? Any idea when we might hear from the NCAA and any conjecture as to what the outcome might be? I’m guessing (based on the fact we haven’t heard anything) that this probably won’t happen.
I’d sure breathe easier with an experienced backup to the freshman tandem we are fielding.
Thanks! Best, Mark
No, not really. The elder Forcier's transferred to Michigan and applied for the semi-repealed Mundy waiver; a decision has to be coming in the next couple weeks since fall drills start in mid-August. I don't know how likely a waiver is, and neither does the athletic department. I asked Bruce Madej about it; the response: "we have not had this before so there is nothing to draw from."
As far as breathing easier… while it'll be nice to have Forcier around for multiple reasons—can't hurt Tate's adjustment to college, for one—I'd be mildly surprised if he ended up above Sheridan on the depth chart. He's had little time to learn the offense and at this point has far less D-I playing time than Sheridan. Even if he does win the third (second?) string spot, if he sees the field it will be time for serious panic.
The tight end position and the slot receiver position look as though they will have more competition and more depth this year. From early reports both Koger and Webb are some of the most athletic players on the team. Odoms will have his hands full trying to keep his starting slot position with Stokes, Roundtree, Gallon and Robinson behind him. Do believe this added depth will create changes in which formations are used. Maybe two TEs with Koger and Webb or could two slots be on the field and that the same time to make bubble screens to either side of the ball? Thanks.
You'll definitely see some formations with four wideouts and two slot guys; Rodriguez went to that frequently at West Virginia. As you note, that will prevent defenses from cheating on the bubbles and hopefully add some variety. And it might not end there. Gallon, Robinson, and Teric Jones all spent their high school careers in the backfield, and thus might be better candidates to go from the backfield to the slot or pull up to provide option pitch guys on QB runs. Gallon's got a pretty accurate arm for a 5'8" guy; I have waking dreams about Gallon pulling up to pass a la Antwaan Randle El in that Super Bowl.
As far as dual TE sets… well, I don't know. At West Virginia, Rodriguez would move Owen Schmitt around as an H-back and that was it as far as TEs went. So he's already in unexplored territory here. If I had to guess, though, I bet he tries it. He's an inveterate tinkerer and likes to mix up some I-form and whatnot to catch opponents off guard; if he's got two tight ends there will probably be a game in which we see a change-up dose of twin-TE ace sets. They can run zone stretches from that, too. I also bet that at least one of the hyped tight ends falls a little flat, causing significant separation between option A and option B and that twin TE sets never make it out of the exotics phase.
Those will feature more this year but It's another new formation I expect will emerge in the fall: a 1TE 2RB shotgun set with Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor in the same backfield. Michigan showed this in the spring game with some frequency and it promises to be difficult for opposing teams to defend as long as both seniors remain healthy.
Though we all know July is a complete and utter dead zone as far as college football is concerned, I thought of a question to occupy our time that hasn't really yet been asked. With everyone under the sun making predictions about how next season will go, no one has really considered or elaborated on what effect, if any, this season could have on the current 2010 class coaches are compiling. You, and several others, have mentioned that a 3 and 9 season caused an understandable dip in recruiting, perhaps prompting coaches to widely pursue more players (some of lower rank) while turning higher rated players off on Michigan, etc. Though rankings aren't everything.
But, if 2009 goes the way of 7 and 5 or even 6 and 6, do you see a potential increase in interest from guys either on the fence about Michigan or turned off by the Wolverine's 2008 season. Basically, can success in 2009 win over 2010 guys currently not on the board? If so, who? Or with this summer almost in the bag, are recruits starting to finalize their decisions and close the door on schools they haven't yet considered?
Eh… not much. By the time it'll be clear Michigan has improved and Rodriguez isn't a dead man walking, 99% of Michigan's targets will have already made their decision re: Michigan. For one, there won't be many slots in the class even midway through the fall. Michigan will add maybe 7 or 8 players before February, and by mid-September they'll probably have half of those guys. A competent season could collect one or two guys who might have gone elsewhere, and that effect is pretty marginal.
Where you would see a bounce is in the 2011 class.
Through The Wolverine Blog I saw a link to the Bentley image bank library at UM. I was checking out team photos from throughout the years (which is awesome) and came across this photo that appears to have the team wearing three different jerseys.
Any info on what the deal is with this? Is this just what they wore at practice back then? Would love to see some striped throwback jerseys sometime at Yost. These are nice too:
I have no answers for Gabo here, but I figure someone out there might. What's the deal with Michigan's motley collection of jerseys here? It's the Great Depression, so maybe they didn't sell enough pencils to get a unified kit. The guys on the right appear to have eaten their shirts entirely.
PROTIP: Don't do a google image search for "burst cyst." Here's a kitten instead:
I'll be in therapy the rest of the day.
Uptick. Last weekend was a big one on the AAU circuit, and recent Michigan commitment Evan Smotrycz made a statement at the Pitt Hoop Jam. ESPN's Reggie Rankin highlighted Smotrycz among a number of elite players he scouted, offering praise bordering on the effusive:
This super skilled combination forward has all the tools on the offense end of the floor. He is a perfect fit for the offensive system he will play in at Michigan. Smotrycz is a terrific 3-point shooter with NBA range. He has a quick trigger and the size to shoot over smaller defenders with ease. Smotrycz runs the lane in transition and does a great job of stretching the defense with his ability to make shots. Making plays off the dribble is also strength of Smotrycz’s. He is a very good ball handler and does a great job of creating space with scoring dribble moves that include a step back pull up jumper going to his left. He would be perfect in pick and pop situations as well. His skill set doesn’t stop with his scoring he is also a very good passer. He can drive, draw and kick in transition or in the half court where he has the ability to pass with either hand.
At 6-foot-8, 200-pounds he’s a guy that moves very well, has great touch in the paint, but most importantly is a terrific shooter. His form is flawless and he finishes it off with a high release. The New Hampton (N.H.) School standout, who showed use of both hands around the basket, is capable of putting it on the decks for a few bounces and pulling up for jumpers as well.
NEBRR also quotes Hoopscoop's Clark Francis as "very intruiged" with Smotrycz, saying he projects as "more than just a good role player at the big time level." Everyone does say he needs to add strength, FWIW.
Maybe Beilein got on a player who was just about to blow up, as the kids say. A 6'9" small forward with diverse and sundry offensive skills sounds pretty freakin' good. ESPN's put him on their 150 watch list; it'll be interesting to see if the tourney springs him into Scout and Rivals' lists when they update. Rivals didn't actually have anyone there, BTW, so if Smotrycz ends up lower there than elsewhere that's probably why.
Elsewhere in basketball recruiting, I don't know if this guy knows anything specific about Trey Ziegler, Michigan's #1 remaining target in the 2010 class, but let's hope so:
Trey brings an impressive build to the guard position in which he operates. He might not look the part of a quick, agile guard, but he sure plays it. He had many defenders on their toes trying to cover him, and his ability to pull up for the jumper or drive the lane for the explosive dunk was something that almost seemed impossible to cover. He lacked hustle several times defensively, allowing breakaway layups from the opposition, but in his defense, did play all but two minutes of a 32 minute game Saturday afternoon. Although Michigan is the frontrunner for Zeigler now, he hasn’t yet committed and has left the door open for several Big East schools at this time.
There's also been an uptick in Detroit Country Day point guard Ray McCallum's interest in the Michigan program, though he still seems like a longshot. I'd be delighted to be 100% wrong about Beilein's recruiting chops.
Still 2010, but different. To the hockey class of that year: Jack Campbell is good. The USA U18 team just won the gold medal at the World Championships and Campbell's play is the talk of the tournament (even though the Russian goalie bizarrely made the all-tourney team despite a 5-0 thumping in the final). Western College Hockey:
I think the best thing you can say about a goalie is that his team won, and without him, they would have lost. In the semifinal against Canada, if the US is down by more than 1 goal midway through the third period, there is absolutely no chance they come back to win that game. Campbell made some great saves to keep his team in it long enough for the US powerplay to score a couple goals and steal the win.
Insert fervent prayer that the 2010 hockey class arrives on campus intact here. Campbell is establishing himself as possibly the top goalie in his draft class.
Not so fast on the not so fast. A curious report that included Michigan Stadium as one of a number of potential World Cup host sites was shot down by a second report playing Lee Corso. Now Lee Corso report has been Lee Corsoed:
"Anything we can do to support our region economically, we would very much like to do it," U-M athletic director Bill Martin said. "The timing of the event -- June, July -- would be perfect. But we'd have to build a platform up into the first 10 rows of seats to make the field wide enough."
I'm skeptical they'll actually get to host. There are 70 other potential sites, many of which wouldn't require that level of project. Erasing ten rows of seats might defeat the purpose of having such a huge stadium host, too. But there's a chance, and maybe they'd just do it for the meat-on-the-table aspect of having the biggest stadium in the country involved.
(HT: Michigan Sports Center.)
Forcier Forcier Forcier Forcier—A Snaaaaake! The Forcier "Weapon of Choice" video has been Walkenized. Ace for the win.
Speaking of Forciers, Rittenberg has more on the possible transfer of Jason back to Michigan. Apparently the "repeal" of the Mundy Rule that allowed graduated players to use their fifth year of eligibility somewhere else was something between a repeal and a, you know, non-repeal:
"Obviously, sports is going to end for me," Jason Forcier said. "You've got to accept the facts. But it doesn't change my passion for it. So if I can still be involved with it somehow, I feel like I can still participate.
"With the waiver, it would look good that I got into Michigan when I was an undergrad and I transferred to Stanford and did well there, graduated. They know it wouldn't be for a football issue."
So it appears the NCAA is making its decisions on a case-by-case basis now to prevent things like Florida pirating one of Utah's starting cornerbacks but allow transfers by players who have a legitimate academic reason to move.
Spring games don't lend themselves to narratives, so how about some bullet points? Bullet points.
Media explosion. If you missed it, there's a torrent. This would be a good moment to consider how vastly different the world is now than it was five years ago. There is a torrent of Michigan's spring game.
If you don't want to bother with that, four minutes of highlights from the Big Ten Network:
Also, Brandon Minor and his sweet beard talk to Shireen Saski: "that's like a real quarterback." Other interviews:
Photo galleries exist from the Free Press, Detroit News, Ann Arbor News, and various places on flickr: user dennisdolan3, the Daily's photostream, user snotzzz73, and Alex Karpowitsch. MVictors has photos of the locker room if you skipped the Line That Never Ends. Notice the U in "honour." Weird. Also from MVictors are alumni game photos.
Pleasantries dispensed, away we go:
Most encouraging development: The general existence of Tate Forcier. Forcier chucked one pass into a linebacker's pads but other than that was worlds better than anything Michigan's seen at quarterback since Lloyd Carr rode out of the Citrus Bowl on the shoulders of his team. Forcier was as advertised: quick and scrambly in the pocket, accurate on the run, worryingly small, &c.
He's not going to be great but his slipperiness and ability to operate out of a moving pocket—which should simplify reads, mitigate whatever issues his lack of height brings, and prevent his head from being taken off—should allow him to be effective without having total command of the playbook. Early competence beckons with the possibility for more down the road.
As always, you take intrasquad scrimmages seriously at your peril, but let's discount the effect of the defense and just look at the opportunities presented:
- Roy Roundtree bursts open deep and Forcier hits him between the numbers for a touchdown.
- Roundtree works free on a slant, upon which Forcier hits him between the numbers, on time.
- Forcier throws an okay fade to Mathews, which he brings down.
There was one overthrown screen and the shoulda-been interception, but other than that he was dead on. Unofficial stats had him 11/14 for 130 or so yards. That's worlds different from last year's spring game, in which both quarterbacks threw multiple interceptions to legends like Artis Chambers and everyone started panicking in earnest about what fall would bring. Forcier's first excursion as Michigan's quarterback could not have been more reassuring.
The final word goes to Greg Mathews:
"The fans were cheering his name before the game, and I said, 'Don't get nervous, Tate,' and he said, 'I'm not nervous. There's some times he gets confused out there, but he's a high school senior. But his poise is definitely what stands out about him. His command when we huddle up, or on the sideline, he's focused in practices instead of goofing around."
A close second most encouraging development: Insert praise about Lloyd Carr here but, man, am I glad Rodriguez has done a 180 on the spring game. That felt like an event. It was fun, and though the 50k reported seemed a little generous—I and most around me thought it was 40k—it was probably about four times the number who attended Carr's last spring game. The line to see the locker room snaked all the way around Crisler and might have impeded traffic on Main.
Least encouraging development: Stevie Brown put a stake through the now annual "this is Stevie's year!" meme by getting juked out his jock by the Coner. Coner has mad flow, and since he was a 6'5" option QB with all the mobility of John Navarre in high school he must have a wicked option fake, but… yeesh, man. At least we're going into the fall with our eyes open.
A close second least encouraging development: the second-team offense, led by the aforementioned Coner, drove the field for touchdowns a couple times despite Cone amply demonstrating why anyone who talks about him starts his paragraph with "Cone is a terrific human being." They did this against the first team defense. Yerk.
This isn't totally unexpected. When the second team running backs are Grady and Brown and Vincent Smith and the second team defensive line includes 5'7", 249 pound Dominic Ware, the talent is not exactly balanced. Once Van Bergen went out with a knee injury (it's minor; six weeks and he'll be fine) the first team defense was missing four sure starters to injury (RVB, Warren, Martin, and Mouton) and using another sparingly to prevent injury (Brandon Graham), putting further pressure on that lack of depth. Said lack of depth is severe, though, and Michigan looks like it will be facing huge dropoffs from the first to second team if they can't remain unusually healthy next year.
What it is. Staying with the defense, the projection about the new scheme was that it would look like a 4-3 with a standup defensive end, and this was for the most part true. Like the spread 'n' shred they're going to look pretty limited early, what with the lack of talent and the missing starters and the new alignment, but GSimmons picked out even, under, and 3-4 fronts even this early. Also picked out: very bad linebacker play from walk-ons.
Obviously. Martavious Odoms fumbled Michigan's first punt return attempt of 2009.
Ok, Carlos, now it's time to pull a hamstring. Tantalize us one last time, Carlos Brown. For old time's sake.
I was going to fret about the defense on this play and then I was like "oh those guys are all walk-ons." So, yeah, if walk-ons play they will not be good. This lesson you have already burned into your brain, so we'll skip the rehash.
A first depth chart bitch of the year. Junior Hemingway, stuck on the second team, had ample opportunity to prove he has nice body control and hands by flagging down a number of Coner ducks. Meanwhile, Darryl Stonum made one spectacular leaping grab… and dropped a screen right in his hands. I'm betting Hemingway emerges as the #2 outside receiver early.
As long as we're on receiver depth chart stuff: Terrance Robinson was also as advertised, quick but with a significant case of the dropsies. Odoms didn't feature much, leaving much of the work in the slot to Roy Roundtree, who looked excellent, sure handed and good with his routes. His rep is as a fearless possession receiver lacking in the speed, so I don't know if we'll see a whole lot of deep seams unless he has the good fortune to be going up against walk-ons in Big Ten play, but a reliable receiver is a reliable receiver.
Also, if Roundtree doesn't already have a nickname…
Roundtree had difficulty focusing on passes this Spring because he had trouble seeing the ball. The U-M staff ordered him contact lenses, which arrived just in time for the spring game. Roy put them in and then put on a show for the Michigan faithful, making big plays and catching a handful of touchdown passes, including a big 60-yard touchdown from Forcier.
"All Spring ball my coaches have been asking me when I'll get my contacts, when I'll get my contacts," laughed Roundtree. "I got my contacts today. I couldn't see the long balls in practice, but today I saw them just fine."
…he should be "Wild Thing". Rodriguez on this impossibility:
"In the first half of the spring, he was struggling catching some balls, and then we looked at him, and he'd squint at you," Rodriguez said Saturday.
"That was the first sign, 'You'd better get your eyes checked.' The doctor said he didn't know how he was walking a straight line."
How does a guy go an entire year at Michigan before anyone realizes he can't see? This is symptomatic of the chaos that went on last year. Deeply symptomatic.
Either that or Roundtree was afraid Carson Butler would give him a wedgie and leave him hanging on a bathroom hook.
Overly-optimistic post-spring chatter. (HT: Dr. Saturday.) I didn't watch Mark Huyge enough to confirm this for myself—and, honestly, I'm an amateur who needs to go over running plays a half-dozen times before I can form an opinion on who did what right—but the general opinion on his play was hugely (HA!) positive. Even without the benefit of tape review I can say this: if Huyge has surged in front of Perry Dorrestein, who was functional last year, and the much-hyped Patrick Omameh that bodes well for his future and for Michigan's line.
With the influx of the redshirt freshmen, maturation of John Ferrara, and healthy return of Huyge there are now a lot of lottery tickets on the line and chances are the guy who lays claim to the right tackle spot is going to be pretty good, at least eventually. This is a situation more akin to Chad Henne beating out Clayton Richard and Matt Gutierrez (sort of; labrum and all that) than Nick Sheridan beating out Steven Threet and No One.
Vincent Smith, on the other hand, was pretty easy to evaluate since he's a running back. He looked small and darty, tougher to tackle than you might imagine but not an instant impact sort. Smith has flashed Mike Hart's crazy ability to defy tackling in practice; too bad he didn't have some crazy spinning run for the crowd to ooh and aw at.
Vlad Emilien is the safety taking a poor angle and trailing Carlos Brown all the way to the endzone in the video above, but, again, people seem highly encouraged by his play. I've had Michigan safety skepticism beaten into me by Angry Michigan Safety Hating God and will remain skeptical until such time as I can't anymore.
Walk-on quarterback Jack Kennedy is so obscure that he sported a regular contact jersey and was used as cannon fodder repeatedly, but… uh… he looked way better than Cone.
The incoming and signed. Denard Robinson made his way up to check out the competition:
"I came up just for the spring game," Robinson said. "I wanted to see the game and the fans and stuff. It's good. It's got me speechless."
That article has an outstandingly FAKE 40 time for Robinson: 4.38. Justin Turner, Isaiah Bell, and Brendan Gibbons also stopped by to see the festivities.
The incoming but unsigned. This will get more coverage tomorrow in Tuesday Recruitin', but the recruiting weekend was a successful one. Thumping Texas back Stephen Hopkins committed. Four star Miami offensive lineman Torrian Wilson left saying Michigan was his leader. So did FL S Marvin Robinson. Unconfirmed chatter on MI CB Dior Mathis and—surprise!—presumed Spartan and MI RB Austin White was also highly positive.
Also hanging around was another Forcier: Jason, MGoBlog's favorite backup quarterback of all time. He's graduating from Stanford and plans to enroll in grad school at Michigan. Presumably he'll try to get on the football team, but he's only got one year of eligibility left and will have to jump through—or, more accurately, create—the proper NCAA hoops if he's going to be able to participate. If you recall Ryan Mundy's immediate playing time after his fifth-year transfer to West Virginia, also recall that the NCAA immediately repealed that rule after Florida pirated one of Utah's starting cornerbacks. He'll have to apply for some super secret waiver, which I don't think he'll get.