that makes one of us
Personnel & Schemes
- The quarterbacks need the quarterbacks to play faster and be "more fundamentally sound." They were freshmen last year, so they'll learn. Ball security is a big point of emphasis, but it's hard to work on that without full contact. The QBs were mostly live in the spring, but you can't risk them getting hurt in fall camp. It's a relief to finally have second-year players under center. That should help them with decision-making and ball security.
- Freshman quarterbacks are a little more prepared to come in and play right away. Part of that is the increase of spread offenses in high school, and also kids playing football year-round. The coaches don't want to play Gardner just one or two plays a game to waste a redshirt but if he can help the team win, he'll see the field.
- Mike Cox and Fitzgerald Toussaint have to step up at the running back position. Vincent Smith should be 100% after his knee injury, and the timeframe has accelerated for ACL tears with modern science. (note conspicuous lack of Shaw).
- Jeremy Gallon is mostly a slot receiver, but he might have a chance to play in the backfield as he learns more. Terrance Robinson and Kelvin Grady have the same situation. If they learn quickly in August, they have a chance to get some reps at running back.
- The offensive line is closer to where Rodriguez wants it to be, in terms of their physical makeup and experience. David Molk and Steve Schilling will be the leaders on the offensive line. Though Molk was a recruit under coach Carr, he was recruited by Rodriguez at West Virginia.
- Renaldo Sagesse, Greg Banks, and Adam Patterson have been contributors. They'll need to play bigger roles this year. Will Campbell got a lot of reps this spring and got better, but he still has a lot to work on. He needs to show up to camp in shape. Mike Martin is 100% healed from his surgery. He could be the most important player to defensive success. He's the most explosive, powerful big man in the program. He wasn't fully healthy at the end of last year, which might have harmed his performance on the field.
- If Mark Moundros wins a linebacker position, he probably won't continue playing fullback. He's not just at linebacker as a gimmick, and there's a chance he'll get minutes there.
- JT Floyd had a good spring, so the coaches have some confidence in him. Mike Williams, Cameron Gordon, Justin Turner, and Vlad Emilien (who missed part of spring with injury) will also contribute. JT Turner might still take a leap, and Cam Gordon has. Some true freshman defensive backs will still play. Cullen Christian and Courtney Avery will likely contribute at corner. Ray Vinopal, Carvin Johnson, and Marvin Robinson have a chance to contribute at safety. The numbers in the secondary are good, but the depth is very inexperienced.
- The kicker position battle in August will mostly be between Brendan Gibbons and Seth Broekhuizen. Gibbons got in shape this spring, and improved. Will Hagerup should be the punter. Tom Pomarico should be the long-snapper, and Jared Van Slyke will probably be the holder on field goals. Rodriguez is much more comfortable with the returners and gunner on special teams.
- Kicking (particularly on field goals) and defensive depth are probably the biggest question marks going into the fall.
- Part of the reason for the defensive scheme change is to get guys thinking less and just playing instinctually. It won't be a West Virginia-style 3-3-5. It will actually be a lot like last year's D. The defense should be good this year, with much more available depth, and more consistency. It's insulting to the team to peg them as a squad that will have to outscore people.
- They're focusing on creating more turnovers defensively. They charted missed opportunities last year, and want to minimize those. Getting more guys to the ball should help with takeaways.
- Rodriguez and Athletic Department officials have met with attorneys to prepare for their meeting in front of the NCAA's infractions committee (August 13-15 in Seattle). There have been a couple run-throughs, including one with everyone who will be there.
- Michigan has done a good job preparing responses, and getting everyone ready for the hearing. All Rodriguez can do is be honest, and hope the committee sees his sincerity.
- As soon as Rodriguez gets on the plane to leave Seattle, his mind will be right back on two-a-days. It will be a relief to have it over with.
- Rich doesn't worry about whether his personal reputation is on the line in his meeting with the NCAA. That's something he can't waste energy on, he just gets prepared for it.
- There isn't an adversarial relationship between coaches and compliance personnel. They have a good relationship, but this process has forced a re-evaluation of some of their processes.
- The players report for camp Sunday night with a team meeting, and have their first practice Monday (August 9th). There will be a press conference following the first practice.
- Conelius Jones, Demar Dorsey, and Antonio Kinard did not end up at Michigan. Kinard and Jones might eventually make their way to Ann Arbor depending on how they perform at prep schools this fall.
- With a small senior class, it's important that they can be leaders. "We have enough guys in that class that they'll be vocal, and kinda take ownership moreso than the last couple years." The senior leaders know what's expected.
- Keeping agents out of the program starts with educating players and their families about the process. Players sometimes don't understand that it's selfish to take things before their eligibility is up.
- Many players haven't been in the stadium since it's been completed. They'll scrimmage there a couple time in August to get used to it. It takes getting used to new turf, and sometimes they even have to water them down.
- Rodriguez prefers to practice in warm and dry weather, so the players can get used to the heat. They want to practice just a couple times in wet weather.
- They'll plan for UConn during the month of August. They worked on it a little in the spring, and have built up "an extensive scouting report over the summer."
- For the first game, Rodriguez is making an effort to get all the former Wolverines that are currently in the NFL to come as honorary captains. They're trying to get a big group of them, as many as possible.
- It takes a few years for a program to be completely the personality of the coach. Players and coaches have to become comfortable with one another.
Notes from Rich Rodriguez at Big Ten Media Days, including a few items after he left the podium (and weren't on TV):
- He 's excited to be coaching football again (implied: instead of worrying about off-field stuff). The off-field adversity has helped the group band together. There's no way it can add any more pressure than what the coaches always feel internally.
- Nobody's happy how the past two years have gone. Fans are supportive, but asking when Michigan is going to win more. Players have taken their lumps in the past couple years, but now they're experienced, and they've taken their lumps.
- RR doesn't know much about what's been going on in the summer, but he had all 16 seniors over at his house recently, and they were saying good things about a few players here and there. They were more focused on their own goals for the season, and ready to get on the field. Nobody likes what's been happening on or off the field the past two seasons. The goal is always to win the Big Ten, and the Wolverines will be able to do that once they've earned it.
- Rodirguez leaves for Michigan's hearing in front of the NCAA August 13th. Michigan has adjusted their fall practice schedule so that RR won't miss any practices.
- The league can concern itself with divisions and alignment, Rodriguez doesn't know anything about it and is more concerned with planning how to get first downs against UConn. The more important thing is to play Ohio State every year, and he prefers that it would be on the last game of the regular season. The chance for a rematch the following week isn't as big a deal, because Michigan-Ohio State is always going to sell out, even if they played "three times a week."
- Tate and Denard have an open competition, as it was in the spring, and they're also being challenged by Devin Gardner. The staff is looking for two guys they can win with, and hopefully a third. It might take a couple games before a starter emerges from the pack - if someone becomes a sure #1 at all. Tate, like all the players, needs to be mature on and off the field, and all the quarterbacks need to do a better job taking care of the football. They were just freshmen last year, so they should be improved as sophomores. Tate is strictly a quarterback, but Denard could potentially move to other positions. He's only been at QB so far.
- At running back, Vincent Smith should be 100% by the start of fall camp. Michael Cox and Fitzgerald Toussaint are also going to play important roles at the running back position. Michael Shaw still has two more weeks of summer school left, so Rodriguez won't speculate on his eligibility for fall. [Ed: if that's his answer to a question about Shaw's eligibility, he's on a knife edge.]
- There's a common misconception out there that wide receivers don't play a big role in this offense. Darryl Stonum and Junior Hemingway are tasked with changing that, along with a few younger guys. Stonum will not face any additional discipline for violating his probation.
- The offensive line should be improved this year.
- At linebacker, Greg Robinson is the new coach. That's been his position for the majority of his career, so Rodriguez is excited to have him there. Mark Moundros moved to that position in the spring, and should be able to contribute - even if it's just with his leadership. Jonas Mouton, Craig Roh, Obi Ezeh, and Kevin Leach were also mentioned, along with Kenny Demens. Rodriguez expects 5-6 guys to compete at linebacker this fall.
- There are a couple productive guys from last year's secondary returning, but they did lose some pieces. Jordan Kovacs, Troy Woolfolk, and Mike Williams all have some experience, and JT Floyd had a great spring. Cameron Gordon hasn't played in a game yet, so they're hesitant to anoint him before he plays. He was one of the best players on the whole team this spring, however. True freshmen might have an opportunity to contribute at safety.
Other newsbits and general observations can be found on my Twitter account (@varsityblue), as well as a few notes from other coaches. I'll update this post with embedded video of Rodriguez's main presser once it's available from Big Ten Network.
UPDATE. Transcript of Rodriguez's time on the podium is available here, and the video is here
No Kinard. This has been in the wind for a couple weeks now, but it is now official:
Jeff Whittaker, the coach at Youngstown (Ohio) Liberty, said Sunday that linebacker Antonio Kinard is weighing three options for this fall, playing football at prep schools Fork Union or Hargrave military academies, or signing with a junior college in Kansas.
"He’s looking at it like it’ll be his redshirt year," Whittaker said. "It just won’t be at the university and then he’ll be able to get it in order and finish this test and get back on track coming up."
Kinard still wants to come to Michigan and will attempt to do so after a prep year. If he goes to a JUCO, he's probably out, but Michigan's taken military academy kids before, with Chris Perry the most prominent. Demar Dorsey, meanwhile, has frustratingly signed with Louisville and will be on a college campus this fall.
For what it's worth, this does leave Michigan with a couple of open scholarships if they want to get in on any USC players who might like to transfer. Rodriguez didn't make it seem likely, though:
“You got to have scholarships first to give out, and there’s got to be mutual interest and all that,” Rodriguez said. “So we’ve been concentrating on our guys. And guys that have been on campus and taking summer classes and the freshmen that we expect to come on the 26th, that’s had most of our attention.”
With USC's appeal likely to delay their penalties to the 2011 season, seniors will get their bowl game. Juniors will be told that the NCAA will repent, repeal everything, and give USC ice cream, and will buy this for reasons unknown.
The read option. Having gotten sick of the poor quality, I haven't bought NCAA in a few years now. But after Madden's sales collapsed, EA switched focus from awful new features that add nothing but sound impressive in the gaming press to an effort to actually make a playable, realistic football game. Result: increase in sales.
I'm probably not going to get it this year, either, but this actually looks sort of like a read option:
Sure, the middle linebacker took off for the other side of the field, but the blocking on the line actually looks extant and readable, which is more progress in a few months than the series has made during its entire time on this generation's consoles. They've added a lot of RR's offense to this edition and it might actually work. I follow a couple blogs that look at EA games with a jaundiced eye; if they say it's worth getting I might take the plunge.
Budget stuff. The University has submitted its annual budget to the Regents. While we'll have to wait for a real journalist to FOIA the exact details, the overall picture is unsurprising for anyone not on the "Save the Big House" organizing committee:
Total revenues for FY 2011 are budgeted to be $105.0 million and total operating expenses are budgeted at $100.3 million. The athletic department is a self-supporting unit that does not receive financial support from the University's General Fund.
With the revenues derived from the Michigan Stadium expansion, the U-M Athletic Department will realize an additional $11.0 million, taking revenues over the $100 million mark for the first time. …
"The athletic department projects a $16.1 million operating surplus for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010, and will start fiscal year 2011 with $35 million of unrestricted operating reserves," said U-M Athletic Department Chief Financial Officer Jason Winters.
Successful businessman with extensive capital and under-utilized resource creates bonus revenue. News… this is not news. Cat videos at 11.
Meanwhile, this enormous pile of money may have actual payoffs for the people providing it:
“We’re looking at some updates and enhancements to Yost - bleachers, the concession areas, the circulation space, lighting,” Brandon said. “And we’re looking at some real interesting things as it relates to the scoreboard and technology in all of our venues, including the football stadium.
“We’re in a situation where one of the things we have to attend to at some point in the future would be update the technology because there’s HD technology, bigger screens and higher resolution that our fans would really enjoy.”
Though Munn Ice Arena is a sterile environment easily raided, they do have a sweet replay board. Yost has no capability outside of cartoonish GO FIGHT WIN screens.
Penn State hockey? This seems like your usual off-the-cuff mental doodling from a newspaper columnist who just likes sayin' stuff, but this is more evidence that a Big Ten team might add hockey than has ever existed before:
There's a rumor afoot I cannot yet confirm that Penn State is looking into retrofitting the Bryce Jordan Center for hockey. I left a message for Tim Curley on Wednesday but heard nothing back. I've been told by PSU sources it would easily be an 8-figure undertaking, involving the dismantlement of the arena floor, demolition of some seats and the installation of a cooling system for the ice. That's a lot of coin.
Apparently there's a Penn State alum who just sold some acreage to Shell for a ridiculous amount of money who "has been a youth hockey coach." So this is definitely happening and is not something that Penn State's AD will privately laugh at.
Is this… fluff? Angelique Chengelis dropped an article a few days ago that is your typical slice of profile fluff wherein someone who is involved with sports does something nice for someone else. The only surprise is who got the treatment:
On April 16, a Friday and a day before Michigan's spring football game, the team's final practice before August camp, Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez and his wife, Rita, were at Mott Children's Hospital visiting sick children, as they often do. Michigan offensive linemen Perry Dorrestein and John Ferrara also were there that day.
Rodriguez was running late for practice, as he walked through the hallway of the pediatric intensive care unit.
Dave Page was wheeling his wife to their baby's room to say goodbye. David III was dying, his organs failing, and it was only a matter of hours before he would lose his battle.
Page passed Rodriguez, who was in the middle of a conversation, in the hallway of the intensive care unit.
"All I could think to say was, 'Go, Blue' because I had my mind on other things," Page said. "And (Rodriguez) stopped, had a big ol' smile and said, 'Go, Blue.' "
It goes on from there in a fashion that's only unusual in that it's typical of these sorts of articles. Even the arrogant and unpleasant Charlie Weis got regular praise for his charity dedicated to autistic kids. (His daughter is affected.) When people end up having a lot of money they try to do nice things for other people who are less fortunate. It's not a surprise, or at least shouldn't be without two years of relentlessly negative media coverage that painted Rodriguez as a demon hick with the temerity to attempt to negotiate a buyout down.
Etc.: Hammer and Rails previews a common opponent: Notre Dame. The hockey schedule is out. MGoUser willywill9 has a conversation with a former WVU player in which Rodriguez is described as the "best coach in the country," something that happens about every three months: former WVU player flags down a guy wearing Michigan gear and praises Rodriguez apropos of nothing.
Ace from the Wolverine Blog has some gory details up about Demar Dorsey's transcripts and how they turned into his current GPA. I won't get into the exact numbers if only because I have the strong sense that doing that is a one of the few things you can actually do on a sports blog that could actually get you sued, but suffice it to say the reparations job done by LifeSkills is beyond the realm of the plausible.
I can confirm from a couple independent sources the broad outline of what Ace describes: Dorsey's application remains incomplete. As of the beginning of his senior year his path to qualification was so grim that making it automatically raises red flags about the validity of the new grades. Not that anyone was caught cheating, just that the alternative curriculum must necessarily have been less than rigorous, and the amount of improvement raises eyebrows when it's accomplished in a potentially unsupervised environment outside of a traditional high school. The facts in the post are, to my knowledge, accurate.
The decision not to admit him had nothing to do with tinfoil hat theories and everything to do with the fact that he shouldn't have been offered in the first place. In the parlance of an earlier post…
There are two ways to be qualified. One is to be qualified. The other is to be Michael Oher or Derrick Rose, in which case you are "qualified" via a string of correspondence classes and/or a sketchy test score. Michigan takes qualified guys, but when scare quotes get involved Michigan tends to go the other way. Ask new Bearcat Adrian Witty. Is Dorsey qualified or "qualified"? We don't know until he enrolls somewhere, whether it's Michigan or Florida State or a JUCO. Available evidence suggests the latter, in which case it's better if Michigan doesn't enroll him.
…Dorsey is "qualified." Michigan basically can't take him in good faith because they can't expect he will be able to keep up with the work.
Admissions is not the problem here. They are just doing what they have always been doing, except now they're dealing with some kids that previous Michigan coaches would not have tried to recruit. I did imply that in the UV and maybe by not fully rewriting a couple of sentences in the alliterative Dorsey post, which originally took a much more OUTRAGED position before I edited it, and that was incorrect. The problem here lies in more Michigan-Rodriguez culture clash stuff that would be a minor annoyance if the team had, you know, won any games.
Provost note. Ace spends a section of his post debunking the idea that Rodriguez got a sign-off on offering Dorsey from the "provost" mentioned. I think there's been a miscommunication due to an awkward sentence. The original paragraph:
This situation is the Draper/Labadie/compliance dysfunction all over again, with miscommunication between Rodriguez—who went to bat for Dorsey with a provost before signing day and got a signoff on him—and admissions replacing the lack of communication between the football administration and compliance. It's a different sclerotic artery, but the root cause is the same.
This has been taken to imply that Rodriguez had gotten some sort of sign off from admissions; unfortunately I was trying to express the opposite. When Rodriguez was clearing Dorsey with part of the university—something that did indeed happen, though it might not have been a "provost"—it was about his checkered past and not his checkered transcript. It was the failure of both parties not to explore the kid's academic background sufficiently, or of Rodriguez not to understand that Michigan is not West Virginia in these matters*, that left Dorsey and Michigan in the position they are today, where Michigan looks stupid coming and going and Dorsey's left to find a new home in the middle of June. That is essentially identical to the CARA form fiasco.
Everything in that post remains accurate except for the aforementioned shot at admissions, which basically had no choice when it came to their decision. Michigan should not have offered Dorsey, what happened to him was unfair, and it's another symptom of an athletic department that needs to operationalize some processes stat.
But who do we blame? As per usual, many people can take the hit. Rodriguez is one. Without knowledge of what he's been told is kosher and what he's been told is not—and how strenuously—how much is a guy working from assumptions built up after ten years at Clemson and WVU and how much is pure stubbornness from a guy who should know better isn't clear. If there is someone on the staff who is supposed to be in contact with admissions and know which guys are borderline and which are no way—and I honestly don't know if there is one—then it falls on that person. If there isn't then there should be, and I expect that there will be.
Even if it is all Rodriguez's fault, I don't think this is a major issue if Dorsey isn't a critically needed recruit who created a media circus. He's just another Quinton Woods, albeit one that Michigan should have known better than to take.
*(No moral superiority implied.)
Jon Bills update. Fullback/linebacker Mark Moundros, his brother Kirk, and fellow-walk on Jon Bills were in a serious car accident over the weekend, and while the Moundros brothers are "fine" according to their mother, Bills is set to undergo surgery today. According to a source close to the situation, the surgery will be an effort to repair a damaged vertebra. The situation is "very serious" but Bills has escaped worst-case scenarios to date. If you are of the praying inclination, keep Bills in your thoughts.
Alcohol didn't have anything to do with the crash, FWIW.
They've evolved. Surely this is not paint.
User TR Saunders is "still debating whether or not to add a scythe," and also claims the above is actually paint, which is… like… whoah. He uses source pictures; even so I fear him.
Steeleinfo, corrected. Phil Steel lists Michigan 72nd nationally in terms of experience on the two deep via a system in which senior starters are worth 3 points, backups 2.5, junior starters 2, backups 1.5, etc etc etc. That is not as disturbing as you might think. Michigan is tied with Penn State and West Virginia, teams that are going into the year hoping for something a little sexier than the Insight Bowl.
Yay? Nay. The reason Michigan's numbers are not hugely terrifying is that Steele's numbers are wrong. He mentions that two-deep changes since publication are not accounted for but swapping Lewan in for Dorrestein doesn't account for the differences, as he credits Michigan with six senior starters and six backups. That's not accurate:
- Senior starters: Schilling, Ezeh, Mouton, Woolfolk, Banks (for now)
- Senior backups: Sagesse, Webb, Dorrestein, Rogers.
He's not counting redshirt juniors as seniors because if that's the case he'd add Hemingway, Molk, Huyge, and RVB in and come out with eight senior-ish starters.
By my count, Michigan's numbers* this year:
In Steele's system this comes out to 50 points. This is good for 118th nationally, better than only New Mexico and BYU. There might be some systemic overestimation going on, but probably not enough to get Michigan back towards the middle of the pack. You may resume rocking back and forth about the safety depth chart.
Somewhat more encouraging: my off the cuff calculations see Michigan rise to 70 points next year, which is 1) probably optimistic since there is always some level of attrition and 2) would be good for 37th this year.
*(Note: I used Shaw and Smith as the two deep at RB, which is the maximum experience you can wrangle out of it. You could pick up another point or two by putting Fitzgerald on the two-deep instead of Demens or Mike Jones and trying to count Adam Patterson somehow, but since guys like Rogers and Floyd Simmons should fall out once the freshmen arrive, this is actually a more experienced two deep than we are likely to see against UConn. Most schools can say that right now, so we won't use projections. The point: this is not finagled.)
Elsewhere in Steeleology, Jamiemac has assembled a JAMPACKED Big Ten overview. Steele's projections are more optimistic than many to date, although that might be because he has significantly underestimated how young they are. This would be a positive step if it came true:
Regarding the Wolverines, he has them tying with the Spartans for fifth place in the league. Generally speaking, he’s optimistic about their chances and Rodriguez doing enough to keep his job. He doesn't have a whole lot of Michigan players on any of his top-4 All Big 10 teams. But however he manages his predictions, it must like the sum of Michigan’s parts. On his Big 10 page, he mentions that three of his nine ratings call for a 6-2 Big 10 season. More revealing is that on page 22 where he lists Michigan among his top-12 likely surprise teams for the year, he writes a stunning admission: “One of my nine sets of power rating has them going 11-0 before the Ohio State game.” I want those power ratings. I want to roll them up in joints and smoke them all summer long. More realistically might be 4-4 or 5-3 in the league for the Wolverines, but I’m going to dream about those ratings anyway.
Jamie then asks if Michigan fans want Notre Dame to be good. The answer to that is "no." That goes double for this year.
Indecision for the win. AnnArbor.com picks up on a polling website that's answered the question I get asked all the time about the general opinion of the fanbase towards Rodriguez. It's mostly "ask again later":
Of those polled, Rodriguez had a 20 percent favorable rating, 26 percent unfavorable rating with 54 percent undecided.
However, when those same people were asked if they'd like to see Rodriguez replaced as Michigan's coach, 51 percent said they'd like to see him continue. 20 percent wanted him replaced and 29 percent were undecided.
54% saying "eh, don't know yet" seems like an impressively high number given the last two years.
Some of the breakouts in the full report are bizarre and fascinating. Self described liberal voters have a 9% favorability rating for Rodriguez; conservatives are at 13%. Rodriguez pulls the vast majority of his support from moderates, who are 33%-22% in favor.
Meanwhile, my pet theory that Rodriguez drew most of his support from the younger graduates and was totally hated by old Bo folks—which I have told a dozen podcasts—is completely wrong. The rate at which people think Rodriguez deserves another year increases monotonically as people age:
|Favorable||Unfavorable||Not sure||Keep||Dump||Not sure|
|18 to 29||23||39||37||35||39||26|
|30 to 45||11||27||62||38||22||40|
|46 to 65||18||29||53||51||18||31|
I have no clever explanations for that. Later today I'll put up the same questions on the blog to see what this place thinks; results should be interesting.
[UPDATE: An emailer points out that the breakouts by age here are beyond insignificant: of the 890 respondents, 20 were Michigan fans under 30. Nevermind this last bit.]
Jackson goodbye. The departure of assistant coach Mike Jackson for Purdue has apparently moved from rumor-in-name-only to actual news now that folk like Angelique Chengelis are mentioning it on the twitters. This has caused a great deal of alarm on the premium sites, but from people who know Jackson personally and use him for information. Proclamations of doom… eh… whatever. If Carlton Brundidge sticks around, which it seems like he will, the impact will be minimal. Proclamations of Jackson's recruiting skillz fail to mention that Michigan hasn't landed a single recruit that had major offers from other programs—Smotrcyz blew up after he committed.
Is it going to get worse with someone new?
Well, he can do that thing. Widely unregarded WR recruit DJ Williamson is one of Michigan's least-heralded recruits, a guy with two stars on Scout and not much more in the way of praise elsewhere. However, he is real fast. He won the state championship in the 100 M dash as a junior and doubled that feat over the weekend by winning the 100 and 200. His 10.64 100 could have been better if he didn't pull up for some Usain Bolt action at the end:
Williamson pulled out a W, presumably to rep Warren Harding. With three receivers from this class already on campus, Williamson is a holy lock to be redshirted but if he can develop some that speed promises something better than his recruiting rankings do.
Etc.: Annual Izzo-to-NBA mild panic begins, this time starting MSU alum and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert as the guy angling for Izzo. Way uncool. Izzo, for his part, texts a swear back at a local reporter asking for comment. Jamiemac comes in for the Six Zero profiling.
Published reaction to the Day of Slight Reckoning has mostly fallen into two camps. One focuses on how the prideful block M has been brought low; addressing that is left for another post. The second shrugs at the end result, adds it to the ever-growing pile to strikes against Rodriguez, and quickly segues into a discussion of Rodriguez's presence on the proverbial hot seat, which is deemed hot indeed. Unlike last year, when a smattering of dips said Rodriguez was in danger of losing his job, there's no denying the reality of it: there are 2010 football seasons that end with Rodriguez getting run out of town on a rail.
How many are there? It will come as no surprise to anyone who's read this blog for a long time that I believe there are (and should be) considerably fewer than the popular conception does. Heck, I (and Dave from Maize 'n' Brew) just managed to convince Doug Gillett of this. For the last year and a half this space has been advocating radical patience.
For an example what seems to be the conventional wisdom, Bruce Feldman has a piece($) in which he repeatedly asks for much more than I think is reasonable for RR to deliver next year:
This is still Michigan, growing pains or not. This isn't a normal rebuilding job. Going 8-4 may not even be a strong enough sign that Michigan is rocketing back to the top and all of this tumult in the previous two years were worth it. …
Again, 8-4 might not be enough. Michigan needs to go back to winning like Michigan used to. Now.
Similarly, Dan Wetzel declares that setting the bar at a return to a bowl game is "incredibly low."
I had a twitter conversation with Feldman about this assertion a couple days ago. During that one of the tweets hit my main account—forgot the "d"—and thus the Facebooks, where it drew a chorus of raspberries because I asserted that going from 5-7 to 7-5 whilst replacing Baby Seal U with UConn would be "significant" progress. (It's since been pointed out that Michigan is playing a I-AA team next year so they're replacing with Eastern Michigan with UConn, but it's not like there's much difference between EMU and a horrible HBCU except when it comes to the entertainment provided by the marching band.) Patience is running low.
I know it's my role as the crazy fan blogger to demand the head of the coach when he fails to live up to my crazy expectations, but if we're seriously talking about an 8-4 regular season "not being enough" for Rodriguez to get a year four Michigan should have just fired him already. If this ends up being an 8-4 team the Mathlete's luck chart will have Michigan considerably on the happy side of the ledger.
- Aforementioned schedule upgrade.
- In games against non-baby-seals last year, Michigan was outgained 410-353 on average. They did not outgain any BCS opponent other than Purdue.
- The two-deep at safety, which covers three spots, has two walk-ons and zero upperclassmen. The corner depth is horrifying, as well.
- The quarterback depth chart also features zero upperclassmen.
- The scholarship breakdown looks like so: 11 seniors, 13 juniors, 20 sophomores, and 39 freshmen. The defense as a whole remains extremely young relative to competition:
The 2009 and 2010 classes make up about half of each unit for our rivals; for us it's about 75 percent..
- Only four seniors project as starters.
"This is still Michigan" is demonstrably false. Even in year three this remains a desperately young team with major holes in the secondary and no upperclass quarterbacks. Rodriguez's responsibility for the state of the state of the roster is limited to the absence of Terrelle Pryor, or any marginally acceptable option at quarterback from his first two months on the job, and a couple of would-be-sophomores Rodriguez did not add to the end of his first full recruiting class. You can wave your hands and say "Michigan! Rabble rabble rabble!" all you want but if you dressed these guys up like Generic State University people would expect them to go .500.
Progress is mandatory, but firing a guy because he's not healing lepers is unwise. This is a team that deserved to go 3-9 in 2008 and had four non-freshman defensive backs on the roster last year. Rebuilding from that is not a short-term operation. We've been through why this happened many times before; suffice it to say Rodriguez's margin of error to prevent a wholesale cratering was infinitesimal.
Later in Feldman's piece he says Rodriguez is an "excellent coach" and "proven winner" who "knows how to develop talent and motivate players." If this is the case—and everything in his coaching tenure before Michigan suggests so—why shouldn't Michigan give him the benefit of the doubt? They are not going to hire a coach with two BCS wins to his name next offseason. Patience is warranted. One year now (to be clear: 2011) has the potential to pay off with a 20-year stretch of success. While recruiting has suffered Michigan's classes are well within the range where Michigan can expect to compete for Big Ten championships when it is not operating with literally half the upperclassmen of its primary rivals.
My personal measuring stick for Rodriguez: yardage parity and a winning record. I would be displeased with 7-6 but willing to grit my teeth and give Rodriguez a shot in 2011, when he will return both specialists, every starter on offense save Steve Schilling and all but three starters on defense. That will seem exceptionally kind to many, I know, but literally no coach in the country could take the leftovers after Mallett's transfer and do anything other than flail as Rodriguez has.
2008 was a complete waste. To me, this is year two for Rodriguez, and 2011 is when I expect rubber to meet road.