"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
- About 28 players played their first game in a Michigan uniform. A lot of them had meaningful (early-game) action on special teams. The QBs and Craig Roh (in a year, he'll be up around 250 pounds, and faster than he is now) were singled out as some of the young guys who played very well.
- The offense wasn't that bad in the second half. In the third quarter, they only had two drives, one of which had a touchdown called back for a penalty. In the fourth quarter, the offense went to chew-clock mode for much of the time.
- There were a few missed assignments both on offense and defense, but a lot of that can be attributed to first-game jitters. Rodriguez didn't want to call out his players on the long Western touchdown. It was typical first-game nerves.
- All three quarterbacks will continue to play for the next several weeks, but Tate will get the start again next week. It's not fair to compare the freshman QBs, both because they're a little different in terms of skill set, but also because Tate has had 9 extra months in the system - and has about 70% of the playbook at his disposal. Denard is not just a runner, but "He ran really fast."
- Hemingway should be good to go Saturday, Same with Moundros and Boubacar. Minor looked pretty good in pregame, but they still held him out and hope he'll be able to go Saturday. All of those injured players will be a little limited in contact drills this week. Rodriguez is going to implement a weekly injury report for the team, released on Thursdays. He would like to make this a league-wide policy.
- Carlos Brown will start Saturday unless he has a bad week of practice. "We thought he ran well, he caught the ball well, and he really protected well."
- Offensive player of the game: Junior Hemingway. Defensive player of the game: Obi Ezeh and Stevie Brown. Special Teams player of the game: Zoltan Mesko.
- The QBs carried more times (21) than Rodriguez would like in an average game. Some of that was getting Denard in there and getting him comfortable. However, Rodriguez doesn't mind his QB running if nothing's open downfield. The quarterback's 4th read on passing plays should usually be to run.
- Nevada was a top offense last year, so for Notre Dame to shut them out was impressive.
- Both teams being good increases the national tone of this week's contest: "I would hope. Michigan-Notre Dame is always going to have a national tone. It's one of the greatest rivalries there are."
- To beat Notre Dame, Michigan will have to pressure Clausen. He's too good to give him a lot of time, and has some really good targets in Tate and Floyd. Brandon Graham will be double-teamed a lot, because Notre Dame likes to max-protect.
- Adrian Witty will not attend Michigan this semester. The coaches will continue to re-recruit him for the winter or next fall.
- Schilling watched film yesterday on his day off from practice. The offensive line played a lot more physical than last year (which is something Frey emphasizes). There were many more knockdowns than in any game last year. It was nice to move the ball for first downs and touchdowns, which was hard last year.
- Craig Roh is one of the quickest D-Ends Steve has ever seen. When he gets bigger and stronger, he'll be a really good player.
- All 3 QBs are different, which forces opposing defenses to prepare for more things. Tate's a leader, and acts like he's not a freshman although he's been here only 0 months. Denard's a little quieter, but he's still just learning.
- The team has to be grounded after the win. Notre Dame is ranked, and although Western will contend for the Mac title, the Irish present a bigger opportunity to make a statement.
- Tate is young, but he's going to be a great leader. Even if the seniors disagree with him in the huddle, they'll get something worked out.
- It's good to start the year injury free, and he hopes to stay that way.
- If the offense is clicking, Carlos doesn't care whether he gets 1 carry or 20 carries. One of the great things about the college game is that there are multiple capable backs that can step in for each other.
- "We're going to be prepared for Notre Dame."
- The defense made a statement against Western by playing hard, fast, and aggressive. In the first game, it's nice to be able to be aggressive with open field tackles.
- The Notre Dame game will set the tone for the whole season. The team owes the Irish after what happened last year.
- Notre Dame likes to use play action to go deep. Donovan's looking forward to the challenge, and like the opportunity to prove himself against the best. The defense needs top be aggressive on every snap to make Notre Dame's day harder. They'll disguise coverages, but that depends on everybody knowing where the help is coming from and where the defense's weaknesses are.
- He'll get in guy's faces on the other team and play tough coverage on every snap. He didn't think the pass interference calls against him on Saturday were legit - but every defensive back usually feels the same.
- Tate's enrolling early helped get him the experience he needed to start fast. "He knows that we have his back, and we know that he has ours."
- The ankle that's injured is the same one that he hurt last year. He's glad he ended up getting a medical redshirt, because otherwise it would have been a lost year. It was tough not being on the travel squad, and having to text his teammates before the game, and watch on TV.
- "I'll be ready to go on Saturday."
- The receivers have the mindset that they can win every battle on the perimeter. The offense has to make sure they know their assignments on every play.
- "Got to be out there ready to play when we play Notre Dame."
If you follow me on Twitter (@varsityblue), you probably got most of the info yesterday, but for those who don't, or who want it in a convenient format, here are the notes from yesterday's postgame press conference.
- The drama of the week heading into the game brought the team together as a family more than they already had been.
- Rodriguez told Tate that he didn't need to do too much himself. He's surrounded by athletes on the team, just get them the ball and let them make the plays.
- Tate's never gotten nervous for a game - "and I don't think I ever will."
- Tate has no Denard jealousy - in fact, playing two QBs substantially makes the Michigan team much harder for opponents to defend.
- Tate wasn't impressed by Denard's touchdown run - "I've seen him do it so many times in practice... it's typical for him to do that."
- Tate was surprised by the offense's big plays. He thought the offense would move it down the field - not get it all in one play.
- The first game against D-1 athletes didn't faze Denard. He's practiced against the guys on his own team, and knew what to expect
- Denard's athleticism makes it much harder for the opposing teams to prepare. There's even the potential to get both QBs on the field at the same time for some crazy stuff (see: Denard lined up at slot in second drive).
- Denard said college is a lot different from high school. On top of actual gameplay, the crowd was really loud.
- There's velcro on the inside of Denard's shoes to keep them on despite the lack of laces.
- As far as the QB competition, Robinson isn't too worried about who starts. He came here to compete for playing time at quarterback, and he'll continue to compete for playing time at quarterback.
- The coaches try to put a lot of pressure on the kids in practice, so that they won't get overwhelmed in games. (Hmm, sounds a bit like one Glenn Schembechler).
- There were a couple execution errors offensively, as well as too many penalties. Once those get worked out, hopefully the offensive will be able to move more consistently.
- The biggest key for Michigan's coaches in preparing for the season was to eliminate negative-yardage plays and turnovers. They did that for the most part, and they'll try to work on the penalties (which they aren't happy with, either).
- Rodriguez is still concerned with defensive depth. However, the defense looked pretty good in the first half.
- Rodriguez thanked the fans for supporting the team. In true Michigan coach fashion, he dropped the word "tremendous" about 5 times. As far as fans chanting his name, "They can say my name, but really, they're cheering for Michigan."
- Brandon Minor looked OK in warmups. He hopes Brandon can play next week, and he's confident that Junior Hemingway and Boubacar Cissoko will also be fine for next week. (Notes: From the sounds of it, Minor could have gone if the team really needed him. I think he was held out mostly as a precaution. If Cissoko isn't healthy for next week, God Help Us against Notre Dame).
- Craig Roh has a lot of talent, and should really contribute to the team this year.
- All 3 quarterbacks will continue to play (Note: I would say it's pretty clear who 1a, 1b, and 2 are at this point, though).
- The coaches knew Junior Hemingway could be this good. He showed it last year, but then got hurt and couldn't play most of the year.
- It was tough giving up the shutout in the fourth quarter. It would have sent a big statement in week 1.
- The team's been hungry all off-season to erase the bad taste from last year. The drama of the past week didn't change that, it only amplified it.
- Obi has seen Denard making crazy runs in practice, and it's good to see him do it against actual opposition. "It's not just me" that Denard can make look foolish.
- Notre Dame has a good QB and good offensive threats. Though most of the focus in practice to this point has been on Western, they'll jump straight into Notre Dame prep. The coaches will have a good gameplan against the Irish.
- It feels good to be healthy. It almost feels weird, like he's starting over again. It feels good to be out there with the team.
- It feels good to start the year putting the team's best foot forward.
- The offense is much better this year, because everyone is on the same page, and everyone knows what to do now.
- Hemingway himself says he could have played in the second half if needed. Sitting in the second frame was precautionary, and he'll be fine to go against Notre Dame.
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.
Martavious Odoms, Greg Mathews, Carson Butler's Meathead Lawyer, and Carson Butler
Though you could somewhat reasonably grade this position "incomplete," the preseason sunniness…
Despite the early departures of Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington to the NFL, Michigan has stockpiled a considerable amount of talent at wide receiver and tight end and the dropoff shouldn’t be severe. There will be a dropoff, though, as no one on the roster save maybe Darryl Stonum can hope to replicate Manningham’s explosive deep routes, and Stonum is just a freshman.
…was obviously too sunny. Greg Mathews starred as Jason Avant 2.0:
The upside here is Jason Avant, a reliable guy on a variety of short routes with outstanding hands and the strength to get off a jam. (We haven't actually seen the outstanding hands, yet, as Mathews has been reliable but unspectacular in the catching-stuff category, but Avant's reliability was only a theory before Braylon left.)
Toney Clemons, Junior Hemingway, and Darryl Stonum were all mentioned on the outside. This was wrong as hell:
Normally the most optimistic projection for Stonum’s freshman year would be something similar to that turned in by Mario Manningham—27 catches, 433 yards, 6 touchdowns—but the early enrollment should help him see the field earlier and more frequently. Forty or even fifty catches is not out of the question.
No, this did not happen. I didn't fall for the LaTerryal-Savoy-is-starting bait, though, saying "the bet here is that once Hemingway’s injury and Stonum’s inexperience subside so will Savoy’s prominence on the depth chart."
In the slot, Martavious Odoms was declared the man. This was not a tough call since Michigan had zero other oompa-loompas on the team with functioning appendages. The praise came in on the high side:
Unlike many guys Odoms' size, he's always been a receiver, and few players can claim to have the extensive in-game experience he has. Practice reports have been universally positive, praising his hands, toughness, silky-smooth moves and ability to make the first tackler miss. I go back to what a Floridian high school football veteran and Friend of Blog told me unprompted when Odoms committed:
He's a tough SOB. Small cat, really tough, will remind you of Steve Smith. Very, very fast. I'm a huge Martavious Odoms fan, you'll love him.
Watch out for him; this is one of those guys you see named “Moss” playing for Miami and think to yourself "goddamn why can't we ever have kids like that?" Practice reports are very encouraging; he sounds like a Steve Breaston if Breaston had been a natural-born receiver. He’s listed as the starter in the slot for Utah. You will see plenty of him.
At tight end, Carson Butler was declared to have "the potential to be ridiculously good as long as he’s not asked to block anyone ever" and the preview basically threw up its hands:
I have no idea what to expect out of Butler this year. He could be an All-American caliber performer (he’s unlikely to get enough catches to be an actual All-American) in a contract year for him. He could lose his job in week two.
It was door #2 for Butler. Backup Mike Massey got a thorough "meh":
In three years of sporadic onfield action, Massey hasn’t done much except almost make a couple of spectacular catches. He was the tentative starter last year until the injury in the Northwestern game. He seems totally average, a guy who will catch the balls he should and make most of the blocks he should but excel in no way whatsoever.
Kevin Koger, meanwhile, was declared likely to receive "a smattering of snaps in preparation for a starting job next year."
Well, that happened, I guess
It's hard to judge this group on their own merits when balls were so often whizzed (or floated) well over their heads and a series of wide receiver screens against Minnesota qualified as the most competent series of passes over the whole season. Receivers without quarterbacks are ornaments, and the stats bear this out.
So do the comments on the UFR receiverchart.
No drops; few opportunities to do so. One good catch from Koger.
Mostly fine, with no routine drops. Not many opportunities.
An okay day, with the one big drop from Stonum that would have provided Michigan a (likely meaningless) touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Not much to go around, really, with the 0/2 in Clemons' 2 category the biggest issues. It's hard to blame Clemons for either, really, but I think Avant makes those catches. Or Mathews, actually.
You get the idea. Not enough data so I make big.
In the slot, the job was Odoms' as soon as Robinson went down. He quickly proved to be Michigan's most versatile and reliable receiver, catching a wide variety of bubble screens and having good success on wheel routes until opponents figured out that that was about the only thing Michigan's passing game had going for them. He still ran a bunch of routes that weren't quite right and dropped a few balls, most notably in the horrible frigid pounding death rain that suffused all things during the Northwestern game. That game also featured a series of increasingly spectacular Odoms fumbles.
Those fumbles and his general absence during the Ohio State game have soured many folks on Odoms going forward; projections that Robinson or incoming recruit Jeremy Gallon will wrest the job away are common on the internets, but Odoms is going to have a lot of experience on both those guys, both of whom were primarily high school quarterbacks. He remains the heavy favorite to be the top slot guy this fall.
On the outside, Mathews was a constant and basically lived up to expectations. In tough conditions against Notre Dame he came through with a couple excellent catches and was a razor-thin review away from a circus catch touchdown. Later against Minnesota there was this note:
Also note that Mathews is the only guy to have hauled in any "1s" so far this year (other than Butler, who no longer plays offense); he's the guy with the hands.
He's not electric and he doesn't dust people by five yards but most programs would be perfectly happy to have him as their possession go-to guy.
As for the other guy on the outside, well… Clemons ended up Odoms' backup in the slot because of the Robinson injury. Hemingway had a promising start but was shut down by mono on top of his shoulder and ankle injuries. (Yes, this blog has considered changing Angry Michigan Safety Hating God's name to Angry Junior Hemingway Hating God.) Stonum was a starter much of the year but dropped a lot of balls, picked up a DUI arrest, and was generally disappointing. The real answer to "who is Michigan's second outside receiver?" was "nobody." If pressed further you'd have to go with Stonum's 14 catches and one touchdown.
At tight end, Butler quickly played himself out of the starting job, moved to defense midway through the season, was rumored to have challenged Rodriguez to a fight, and "entered the NFL draft," by which we mean "was basically kicked off the team." If Butler has a future in doing athletic-type things, it's as a heel professional wrestler. Just ask cruiserweight champion That Kid Who Wants To Borrow An Iron.
Also, poor Mike Massey. It's not like he ever did anything positive in his time on the field, but whenever he had the opportunity someone else had to go and screw it up:
[Against Northwestern] Mike Massey was targeted three times, all of them uncatchable. This is the Golden Law of Mike Massey: whenever he is open for a touchdown, the ball will be overthrown. Mike Massey could be open by ten yards against OSU and the quarterback will throw it so high it hits a bird.
Massey's career expired with nary a catch his final year. He has a future as a stockbroker or something, I guess, so it's not too bad.
Your unexpected King of the Royal Tight End Rumble was actually Kevin Koger, who reeled in… uh… six catches. But one of those was a touchdown, so that's cool.
2009, And Beyond
Despite a bevy of transfer rumors, the whole gang is scheduled to return in 2009. Greg Mathews is what he is: a quality possession receiver who's not going to stretch many defenses. Mathews in a nutshell:
That's one-on-one press coverage against a crappy Minnesota cornerback. He gets very little separation, forcing him to make a spectacular catch, which he does. Ideally he'd be a #2 receiver on a good team; on this one it looks like there is no true #1.
Other contenders on the outside are Stonum, who did not have a Manningham-esque freshman campaign, Hemingway, Clemons, and possibly James Rogers or a freshman. At this point most hopes are pinned on Hemingway, who looked like the sort of explosive leaper who can catch himself some downfield jump balls, and by God Michigan can throw a downfield jump ball with the best of 'em. The other hope is that Stonum gets a lot better and fast. At this point I don't think much is expected from Clemons or Rogers. Joining the fun this year is redshirt freshman Roy Roundtree, who's supposed to be a twig-sized version of Mathews.
In the slot, Odoms returns. He'll be joined by Robinson and Jeremy Gallon, the Apopka single-wing quarterback and star of Army All-American practices. Having multiple slot threats should improve performance from the spot, as in four-wide packages two can show up at the same time, forcing the defense to defend against screens on both side of the field. If Odoms is hurt or not performing someone can step in for him.
At tight end, Koger returns and should/may/could have help from redshirt sophomore Martell Webb, who played some as a true freshman before wholly disappearing last year, and redshirt freshman Brandon Moore, who could end up anything from a hulking 6'6" receiver to an offensive tackle.
Everyone returns, so production should be better, but unless Stonum takes a great leap forward or Gallon is just ridiculous it looks like a corps closer to the just-okay 2005 unit, which had Avant and Breaston but no real deep threat.
Accidental news. Buried in a local-kid-does-good article on Junior Hemingway was this significant piece of news:
Hemingway, who was red-shirted this past season after suffering an acromioclavicular (AC) joint sprain in his shoulder and then getting sick is looking forward to helping Michigan overcome a dismal 3-9 campaign this past season.
A month or so ago I noted a change in the redshirting rules that would allow Hemingway to claim a his; without that change he would have been SOL.
Yes, please. Rich Rodriguez is probably in favor of this piece of legislation coming to college football conferences around the country:
The American Football Coaches Association has forwarded a proposal for an early signing day for college football recruits and it wil [sic] be reviewed by conference commissioners this Thursday.
"We're looking for an early signing day in the third week of December," Rob Ianello, Notre Dame assistant and head of the AFCA FBS Assistant Coaches Committee, said at the coaches convention in Nashville. "There are more than 1,000 verbal committments [sic] right now, and about 15 per school. Why not sign them? Is it a reservation or a committment [sic]? What we're seeing is oversigning and late switches. An earlier signing day would also be cost effective."
Not sure what an early signing period would do to stem oversigning, which South Carolina and North Carolina are now enthusiastically participating in, but Ianello's point on some "commitments" being more like reservations and not, you know, mutual is well made. I don't think there can be a whole lot of complaint about the date proposed, as it's not all that early: virtually all coaching switches will have taken place by that time.
Also, Joe Schad needs one of those red-squiggly spell-check things.
Mid-CSB. The NHL Central Scouting Bureau's midseason rankings are out and a number of future Wolverines are listed:
- NTDP forward Chris Brown is #29
- NTDP forward Kevin Lynch is #83
- NTDP forward AJ Treais is #205
- USHL defenseman Lee Moffie is #210 (last).
The CSB produces separate lists for North American and European skaters, so mentally add about 50% to everyone's ranking for their projected draft slot. Brown looks like a solid second-rounder, Lynch should go in the middle rounds, and Treais and Moffie are likely to go undrafted.
Departures of note. A host of early departures and transfers have gone down; these have been noted on the sidebar, but a recap of the departed:
- Draft: Wisconsin RB PJ Hill, Ohio State RB Beanie Wells, PSU DE Aaron Maybin (maybe)
- Transfer: Iowa QB Jake Christensen
A few more Penn State and Ohio State players are expected to declare before the January 15th deadline.
There is also everyone's favorite: a Notre Dame player leaving school for "personal reasons" but expected to return after those personal reasons get some flimsy grades at a JUCO. This time it's sophomore CB Gary Gray.
Juxtaposition. I've always thought of Gregg Doyel as a Christopher Hitchens for sports, except with severe brain damage where Hitchens keeps his cigarettes and vast hatred of the Catholic church. This is a pretty awesome demonstration of that idea:
This game will be sensational, that’s all I know. But the arrogant assumption that Florida’s defense will be the difference makes me giggle.
Because the truth is, the difference really could be Florida’s defense.
After it gets its ass kicked by the best offense in college football history.
Florida, of course, got its ass kicked to the tune of 14 points.
Is Doyel stupid enough deploy those one-sentence paragraphs following that shot at an "arrogant assumption" without it being an attention-getting schtick? Eh… no. Doyel, more than any other sportswriter I've had the misfortune to stumble across, seems to glory in the hatred of all things.
So, yeah, Boston College fans should cower at this bad boy:
So stop the bellyaching about civil liberties and Boston College's intolerance and poor little Jagodzinski's rights and boo and hoo. Stop it right now. If you've already bitched to someone, you sound ridiculous. Shut your mouth and don't make that mistake again. If you've not bitched about it, consider yourself fortunate. It's not too late to change your mind, or in lieu of that, it's not too late to just sit this one out. Shut up. Keep your opinion to yourself.
Because you're wrong.
Jagodzinski was wrong.
This is the problem with legacy media on the internet: when you attack a ridiculous strawman like "people are whining about Jeff Jagodzinski's civil rights" without so much as a single link an example, you look like an idiot. You confirm that by following your ridiculous strawman with those two beauty one-sentence paragraphs, and you chisel it in stone if you marshal these two examples as evidence:
Florida bent over while Billy Donovan flirted with NBA jobs, took the Orlando Magic job, and then changed his mind and came back to school. Apparently he had it pretty good in a beautiful college town where he had won back-to-back national championships. Who knew?
Florida is… uh… 14-2 at the moment.
Louisville bent over while Bobby Petrino batted eyes at every school that could find his phone number -- and then, after redoing his contract and giving him every little thing his heart could desire, Louisville watched him leave for the Atlanta Falcons.
…and Agrokrag, his replacement, is 11-13. In Petrino's final season at Louisville—which AD Gregg Doyel would never have given him—the Cardinals were… uh… 12-1 and won the Orange Bowl. Not so much on the good examples there.
Update 11/30: Wooo! It's back. With the long delay just assume a lot of changes. I've removed a whole host of guys who have committed elsewhere or fallen off the radar and added a separate host, including FL CB Doug Wiggins, OH LBs LeBron Daniel and Jermale Hines, TX LB Brandon Herron, KS LB Austin Panter, CA DT Da'John Harris, and VA CB Cris Hill.
Updates on: AL ATH Marquis Maze, CA RB Curtis Shaw (Michgan and Washington lead), CA CB Michael Williams (still deciding between Michigan and ND), MI FB Vince Helmuth (early enroll), Junior Hemingway (tough mofo, 73 catches for 938 yards and 13 touchdowns, team plays for state championship tonight).
Editorial Opinion: The board is totally reshaped. The most notable change is at linebacker, where Michigan appears to be scrambling. They've got offers out to a number of three stars who are considering teams like Nebraska and Wisconsin and Iowa, certainly not shabby but also not OSU or USC or Florida. They've also started expressing an interesting in a couple JUCOs, which is unprecedented. The last JUCO at Michigan was Russell Shaw almost ten years ago.
The best prospect out there is probably Cleveland Glenville's Jermale Hines -- yes, that is the den of iniquity run by Ted Ginn, Sr. His recruitment looks simple: if OSU offers, he'll go to OSU. If they don't, he'll go to Michigan. He's got a low ACT score, which makes OSU and their dangerously low APR leery. Michigan and its shiny high score can take chances on kids like Hines because they have built a buffer with good academic performance. So, like, hope his ACT score doesn't go up. Recruting... it's faaaaantastic!
Second best according to the gurus would be KS JUCO Austin Panter, a speedy and large middle linebacker who played for the tiniest of tiny high schools and decided to go JUCO for development and publicity reasons more than academic concerns. He's a good student and a likely offeree when he comes on his official visit this weekend.
Then you've got a mass of indistinguishable three stars I won't be excited about until I talk myself into it after they commit: Brandon Herron from Texas, Ronnie St. Fleur from Florida, and LeBron Daniel, also from Glenville.
Good news/bad news on Marquis Maze. He's missed the last six games with an injury (bad) and visited Tennessee (good, since he came back still committed and that shows serious interest on the part of UT).
Michigan's continued interest in CA RB Curtis Shaw is puzzling with 16 commitments already locked up with at least one pure running back, Avery Horn, committed and two high-profile guys in the last class. Maybe Shaw or Horn is a potential DB?
The picture at OL is clearing up. The only guys being consistently mentioned are AZ OG Javorio Burkes, NY OT John Elliot, and OK OT Matt Romine. All three are kind of big deals -- latter two top 100, Burkes a top 250 to Rivals -- and are geniunely interested. Romine's down to ND, M, and Oklahoma. Elliot has a selection of academically rigorous eastern schools that are a little light in football tradition (Rutgers, UVA, BC), West Virginia, and Michigan.
There is also the matter of Michigan's most recent commitment, Grand Rapids CC OT Mark Huyge, who Michigan snatched from the clutches of directional Michigan schools with an offer. This set off alarm bells, but it's longstanding MGoBlog opinion that OL is the weirdest of all positions to rank and Huyge is a sleeper in the traditional sense. A year ago, he weighed 220 pounds (you'll have to scroll down). An impresssive camp and similarly impressive senior film -- now at 280! -- resulted in an offer. It's a reach, sure, but not a huge one. Pun not intended. It's not even pronounced like that. His coach extols his virtues in this MLive article:
"Where Mark made his impression was last summer at the Michigan camp," Catholic Central coach Tom Passinault said. "The coaches were actually watching the pass rushers, but they saw him on the offensive line and they were surprised that he was from Michigan. They like his frame at 6-6 and they like his versatility. Their linemen move around a lot and Mark is good on his feet.
No one's evaluated him... it'll be interesting to see what he gets rated if/when ESPN gets around to him.
At corner, Michael Williams has visited ND and Michigan and could decide at any time. Remember, Michael: Notre Dame hates America. Delightfully-named Doug Wiggins is kind of a big deal and is down to Georgia and Michigan. Remember, Doug: Notre Dame hates America. Also you should come to Michigan.
OMG shirtless defensive ends Everson Griffen and Martez Wilson have suddenly refound their interest in Michigan. Griffen's down to USC and Michigan, though USC is widely hailed as the lockiest of all locky locks here; Wilson suddenly shifted course, dissed ND (woo!), and declared Illinois, OSU, and Michigan his leaders. There have been crazy rumbles he wants to play wide receiver instead of defensive end and ND getting back into it and Illinois leading and generally just all sorts of wack stuff. So whatever. Pants. Wilson is the guy Brent Musberger claimed was going to Ann Arbor during the USC-ND game-type substance, for what that's worth. Moments later he claimed that the road to Glendale was paved with Trojans. So he was probably wasted.
Scholarship stuff: we have sixteen commitments and nineteen available scholarships. The latter number is sure to go up due to transfers (Doug Dutch is a good bet, for one) and a couple of guys not coming back, whether it's because they're leaving early for the NFL draft or they're not contributors. I would guess a class from 22-25.
The remaining commitments will probably break down like this:
- 0 or 1 RBs. Probably 0.
- 1 or 2 OL.
- 2-3 DL
- 2-3 LB
- 2 CB
Did I miss anything? I put recruiting on the backburner during the season and probably have some holes. Keith or whoever... corrections/omissi ons/missing tea leaves?