Every time Rich Rodriguez meets with the media, he is inundated with a thousand questions about the quarterback situation. Today was no different. Rodriguez reiterated all three quarterbacks will see some time in the opener, and the schemes may be slightly different for each signal-caller. "We have an idea in mind as far as what plays each guy runs well, which ones they execute well," he said. Denard Robinson and Nick Sheridan are unlikely to have the same portions of the playbook available to them. As far as playing time, there's nothing set in stone yet, but the staff plans to use each QB in meaningful minutes—for the first time in Rodriguez's coaching career.
While performance on the field will play a role, the staff isn't going to be quick to hook an unproductive quarterback. "It's not going to be pulling in and out based on just one play or how well they play on one play," Rodriguez said. "There could be a guy in one play then out, but it wouldn't be a constant thing."
Clearly, Rodriguez doesn't buy into the adage "If you have two quarterbacks, you have none." [Editor's note: adage says nothing about three.]
The team's first chance to play in the Big House comes this Friday. "It's not really a full scrimmage because it's not live... Getting accustomed to the stadium, where they stand on the sidelines and all that, we'll do that Friday afternoon."
- Jason Olesnavage is leading the kicker competition for now, but it won't be settled (along with the rest of the depth chart) until next Thursday.
Brandon Herron and Craig Roh are neck-and-neck to be Stevie Brown's backup at the Spinner-ish position[Editor's note: no, that ain't right. Revised bullet follows.]
- Craig Roh is Brandon Herron's backup at deathbacker.
- Brown's backups are "two true freshmen." Rodriguez didn't specify who but it's easy enough to deduct with Isaiah Bell enduring some sort of injury. The backups, then, are Brandin Hawthorne and Mike Jones.
- Michael Williams and Troy Woolfolk are physical for safeties, despite a slightly smaller stature. Williams, however, needs to remember to wrap up after going for a big hit.
- Michael Shaw has worked to improve his physical play and his ability to contribute in the passing game.
- The team is holding onto the ball better than last year, but they'll need to prove they can continue that in games.
Brian - I had two questions:
1) Come opening day, do you think the fans will boo Sheridan if and when he walks onto the field (assuming the game close)? Also, do you think RR will take this into account in his decision when allocating playing time among the QBs?
The second question is much easier to answer: no, Rodriguez isn't taking the opinion of random fans just asking for an empty water bottle to zing over their heads into account. If he is we have bigger problems than the potential a walk-on starts this year. As far as whether a hypothetical Nick Sheridan start will cause boos to rain down… I don't know. I wish I could dismiss that out of hand but after last year I can't. I don't think it would happen right away, but if Sheridan starts and they go three-and-out a few times Michigan Stadium will be 100% discontent and 30-40% booing vociferously.
However, I still think that's highly unlikely and made more so by the recent burst of Denard Robinson hype that sees folks tagging posts "not denard" when they aren't about Denard.
2) I'm not sure if this has been talked about in the blog at all but is there any concern that RR doesn't have much of a coaching tree underneath him despite being a HC for a decent amount of time? Meaning, is he just surrounding himself with friends who will remain loyal rather than talented coaches that aspire to move up the coaching ladder and can get the best out of their players. I say this because of the "fundamentals" issue you had with the Purdue UFR from last year when our corners were opening their hips towards the sidelines and basically giving up 15 yards at a clip when you mentioned that they were "coached" to do this.
I don't think Rodriguez has had much of an opportunity to grow a coaching tree. He spent seven years at West Virginia but the bulk of that time WVU was not the sort of power program that has its assistants picked off. Even when it was people were understandably waiting to see whether the spread 'n' shred was just a flash in the pan. There were only a couple years in which members of Rodriguez's staff were seriously considered for jobs. At that point Butch Jones did land the Central Michigan job. And I guess Bill Stewart is technically another branch, if one likely to be short-lived.
The circumstances conspired against Rodriguez: his teams ran an exotic base defense headed by a guy who liked West Virginia so much he stayed there when Rodriguez left. Calvin Magee is an offensive coordinator under a head coach who is widely known as an offensive innovator and playcaller. Also, he's only been an offensive coordinator for four years. If he got hired during his tenure at West Virginia whoever picked him up would be taking a huge chance on a guy without much of a track record.
Usually coaching trees sprout up from coaches in the midst of long tenures at power programs; Rodriguez will probably have one at some point. Just not yet.
I am FINALLY getting to travel up (yes I live in the horrible state below Michigan) for a game (the Indiana game to be exact) and I am wondering if you could give me any help on where would be my best bet for parking and/or what to expect in general. I have waited over 20 years to make it to a game at the Big House and instead of being completely stoked now I'm busy concerning myself with parking, the trip, etc. Any help you can offer would be extremely appreciated. I've googled it and found out that all the parking lots near the stadium are permit parking only so I'm just trying to figure out where my best option is.
I'm not the best person to ask because I just go to the same place I always go, but whenever I go on the road I find the best idea is to just suck it up and give someone some money. You'll find that every lawn within a mile of the stadium will allow you to park on it for a nominal fee, and usually this will provide ample tailgating space for your needs. If you're just a small group and don't mind shelling out $40, the golf course is widely regarded as one of the nicest tailgating spaces in the Big Ten.
Head to the stadium an hour before the game to catch the warmups and band; you can bring in bottled water; you are advised to hit the bathroom beforehand.
As for postgame activities: there's not much close to the stadium. If you've got your car somewhere you can leave it your best bet is to walk to main street and head north, whereupon you will strike the restaurant/bar heart of Ann Arbor. Suggestions: Prickly Pear and Middle Kingdom, which are just north of William. If you go to Prickly Pear be advised that though buffalo meat sounds like a good idea, it's not. If you're staying overnight go to Angelo's in the morning and get something with hollandaise on it.
Rich Rodriguez (video available from MGoBlue here).
- The coaching staff has a pretty good idea where they are at this point in the preparation for the season. They aren't ready to play a game yet (who in the country really is), but the staff is confident that they'll be able to get ready for WMU in the next two weeks.
- More players have bought in to the system than had at this time last year. It's not that the players weren't trying to buy in last year, they just now know what is expected of them, and the coaches know more about what each player is capable of.
- The 2nd-year jump may be partially attributable to the fact that a lot of young players have gotten time in the first year of his coaching tenure. Last year's team was very inexperienced offensively, which led to some of the struggles. He feels good about the progress this year's team has made, but he also felt the same way last year.
- Last year must be used as a learning experience. They know what players they have, and how to get the program from where it is to where they want it to be. It's not happening as fast as he wants, but the path from point A to point B is now visible. Within the next two recruiting classes, the roster should be built up to where they want it to be. For now, early playing time is a big draw for recruits.
On Saturday's scrimmage (MGoBlue notes):
- There were both explosive offensive plays and also some defensive stops. Part of the inconsistency has to do with a lack of depth.
- All 3 QBs took reps with the first team, though Sheridan was the first guy out there (not necessarily the best, mind you). The guys have different skill sets, but all will learn the whole offense.
- The QB situation should be settled by the first game, but probably not long before it. Note: The "all 3 QBs will take snaps" AP article floating around is really disingenuous. The only time Rodriguez mentioned such a thing was a joke that all 3 would play at the same time. While it wouldn't surprise me if all three guys took some snaps against Western, this current talk is really much ado about nothing.
- It's hard to tell where your team is when you're playing only your offense against your defense. Rodriguez reiterated his desire to have a preseason scrimmage.
- Rodriguez likes to be able to play 20-22 guys on defense, but he's not sure if they have enough depth this year to be able to do that.
- The LBs at the top of the depth chart are good, there is just very little depth. Ezeh, Mouton, Demens, and Stevie Brown are pretty good, but the remaining depth is almost all freshmen.
- Jason Olesnavage and Brendan Gibbons are leading the pack at kicker. Bryan Wright and a freshman walk-on (apologies, as I didn't catch the name. I believe it was Kris Pauloski) are behind the first two.
- He's not worried about establishing one running back. The best guys will play, and the offense needs at least 3 guys.
- Odoms and Mathews are looking to be the primary punt returners, with Cissoko the main man on kickoff returns. Some freshmen are involved in the battles, and simply catching the ball would be an improvement from last year.
- Warren, Cissoko, Floyd, Teric Jones, and JT Turner are the main corners, with walkon Tony Anderson behind them. There isn't great depth there. Still no word on whether Witty will get in (note: this isn't a good sign, most likely).
- Koger and Webb are both much better than they were last year. They should see some increased passes coming their way.
- The Offensive line has stayed healthy, which is a huge improvement over last year. There's a bit of a battle at right tackle, and David Moosman can back up Molk at center. All three freshman OLs (Lewan, Schofield, Washington) will eventually be outstanding players for Michigan.
Greg Robinson has a good plan and lots of experience. He understands what certain players are and are not capable of. The team will play against a variety of different offenses, so being able to defend both power teams and spread teams is important. And what a better transition to...
- The decision to come to Michigan was an easy one - "It's Michigan." He and his wife have felt comfortable from the beginning.
- The 4-3 Under is similar to the USC system, but there are some different tactics used than Pete Carroll's squad does. Robinson's scheme has more of a 2-deep flavor, while USC typically has a single-safety or 3-deep scheme. While Carroll is developing more Cover-2 elements, it all depends on what the opponent will try to do.
- Stevie Brown will be able to match physical play just fine, despite being a former safety. He's also an advantage when the field is spread.
- Brandon Graham has a future playing in the NFL, and Mike Martin is a physically gifted player. When his fundamentals develop, he'll only get better. Depth on the DL, however, needs to develop - a process that started in the offseason.
- JR Hemingway will probably be one of the best big-play guys this year, so not having him last year was a big blow.
- Je'Ron Stokes will start out as an outside receiver - not a slot.
- The wideout group practices their blocking technique as much as they do any other aspect of playing the position. They block as often as they catch or run routes.
- Coach Frey doesn't like setting concrete expectations. They pigeonhole you into a ceiling, and give an excuse to stop pushing yourself once you hit the expectation.
- Players are more comfortable in the system this year than they were last year. There is more competition, which allows everyone to push themselves.
- Steve Schilling is a good player and person. He moved to guard to help the team, because they needed him more at that position.
- Players are more comfortable in the system this year than they were last year. There is more competition, which allows everyone to push themselves.
- Mark Huyge had a good camp last year, but got hurt and missed 5-6 weeks of the season. That helps explain his seemingly-sudden emergence as a factor at tackle.
- All the redshirt freshmen are athletic, and hard workers. The mental game might be the hardest part, as they have to learn that making mistakes is OK as long as you understand and correct the issue.
Information from the players will be coming up later this week.
As I'm sure most Michigan fans know by now, tomorrow is the team's annual fan day. Fans will have the opportunity to meet the players, get autographs (one per trip through the line, mind you), and this year, see the inside of the Al Glick Fieldhouse as they wait in line for an autograph from fearless leader. Anyway, MGoBlue drops the details:
The event is free and open to the public. Fans will be allowed to enter the autograph area starting at 12:30 p.m. Parking will be available in the Blue Lot surrounding Crisler Arena. Fans can enter the area through the southwest entrance (just over the railroad tracks) or through the northeast entrance (main softball entrance)...
Michigan players will be signing autographs inside Al Glick Field House and Oosterbaan Fieldhouse. Coach Rodriguez will be signing autographs inside Glick Field House, near the entrance to Schembechler Hall. There will be inflatable items and games for kids on the outdoor practice field.
Sounds like much more of an event than in past years (and if you followed my writings at Varsity Blue, you know I'm very much in favor of this), and should be a fun time for fans who can make it out. It's also the first chance to purchase the "All-in for Michigan" towel, pictured above:
Towels purchased at Fan Day are $5. Towels will be sold for $6.99 after Fan Day at the M Go Blue Shop, The M-Den, Moe Sport Shops, Dunham’s Sporting Goods, Dicks Sporting Goods, area Meijer stores, and The Pizza House on U-M’s campus. A portion of the proceeds from each towel will benefit the campaign to build a new University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Women’s Hospital.
I encourage any Michigan fans who have the opportunity to attend this event tomorrow afternoon.
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.
This is not absolutely confirmed, as I didn't even think to ask about it, but the new jerseys are practice jerseys only. The home uniform will not be changing, and I don't think the away ones will either.
A couple quick things from Rodriguez's post-practice presser:
- Brandon Minor, though he was limited today, is just about healthy. He should practice full-go tomorrow, and if not, definitely at the next practice (Monday).
- Toussaint's injury is a shoulder or bicep problem, but nothing serious. Still, from the way Rodriguez talked about him, Fitz might be heading for a redshirt this year (lots of RBs, only need to play the ones who are ready).
- Still no word on Jason Forcier's status in joining the team. They believe they'll hear any time now.
- Hemingway is going to be an important player for the offense - it sounds like he might even be the #2 split end.
- Stokes is going to start out at outside receiver - there was no mention of slot for him.
- Roy Roundtree, on the other hand, will play both inside and outside receiver positions.
- About 10 true freshmen will probably be contributors this year. Though he didn't mention anyone by name at that time, expect Will Campbell, Vlad Emilien, Vincent Smith, and Je'Ron Stokes to be among them.
- Stevie Brown said the defense is improving a lot under new coordinator Greg "GERG" Robinson (duh).
- They work a ton on fundamentals and especially tackling.
- Teric Jones is pretty impressive at corner (he had a pick yesterday) despite being new to the position
- Dave Molk says that the offensive line really came together over the course of last year, and his becoming comfortable with making calls from the center position was a big part of that.
- The QB situation is much better this year than last because now there are 3 viable options.
- Mike Martin (who Dave has to battle in practice) is "one strong bastard."
- Carlos Brown feels as healthy as he has in a very long time.
- Denard is a fast kid, but he and Carlos haven't settled who is faster. Carlos is just glad that Denard is on his team.
...and speaking of Denard, Carlos also mentioned that the segment of practice that was closed to the media involved some scrimmaging. Denard apparently broke off a pretty big run during that segment. You should be able to catch it on tonight's Big Ten Network special. Tune into BTN at 10PM to check it out. You may even be pleasantly surprised at the crew's impression of the 2009 Wolverines.