Yes, pretty much. Not to dwell on a small monkey on a Caribbean island throwing a banana that turns into a tsunami because of chaos theory and wham(!) there's a coconut in Crisler, but people are saying that Tim Hardaway's facial expression after you know, that, was priceless and perfect and they're right:
Yes, yes, free throws, yes free throws. The most shocking stat from the game to me: Michigan rebounded 76% of Wisconsin's misses, which is actually better than their very good season average of 71% (50th nationally). It seemed like Wisconsin had one possession that lasted four minutes.
Dolla dolla bill yo. Michigan is officially one of those teams that has a head coach and then a guy making almost as much as the head coach:
Michigan, according to contract obtained today, will pay Greg Mattison $750K/year with chance to make $900K if the team wins Big Ten title
That's probably triple what any Michigan assistant has ever made and makes me wonder who Michigan could have acquired a couple years back instead of Greg Robinson. A: Damn near anyone. /kicks self in face
Compher fill-in. JT Compher is one of two recent 2013 verbals for the hockey team, but unless you're Jack Johnson it's hard to get a read on how big of a get any particular 15-year-old is. But he might be kind of a big deal if his local paper is to be believed:
"He reminds me of (Vancouver Canucks MVP candidate [ed: ??? - he's 20 points behind two teammates]) Ryan Kesler , who played in the program," said Ryan Resmierski, director of player personnel for the National Team and in charge of all the youngsters in the program.
"He's a good hockey player right now, but we think with our program in Ann Arbor, we can make him an exceptional hockey player. He has a huge upside. First of all, he's an outstanding competitor. He competes every game we've seen him."
[HT: Michigan Hockey Net.]
Compher is currently the only kid on next year's NTDP U17s, getting offered a spot four months before the annual tryout camp held in March. He held early offer-type-substances from Notre Dame, Miami, and BU; there was also some chatter about the guy getting selected in the first round of the OHL draft.
BONUS: His sister is a "talented volleyball player and dancer."
Meanwhile, Michigan's other early commit from the MWEHL, Tyler Motte, has gotten the "Seat Over There" treatment from Yost Built. Motte's averaging over a point per game for Honeybaked and Tim (Not That Tim) dug up this tantalizing quote:
"He's playing like an 18- or 19-year-old, and for a '95 to do that is pretty amazing ... If he plays with Honeybaked, they're going to have the best player in the nation."
That's just one guy's enthusiasm so we don't have quite as much to go on as we do with Compher but it sounds like both are high-end gets.
Usual caveat: even guys with Johnson's hype level come up short when we're projecting so far down the line. Both Luke Moffatt and Tristin Llewellyn were hyped as first round picks when they committed and fell well short of that. (Moffatt went in the seventh round; Llewellyn didn't get drafted at all.)
The new "hard edge". Motivational whatnot ho:
The little text below says "State of Ohio High School Coaches Clinic," if you're wondering why you've never heard that before. So we've come to this, have we? Countdown clocks and quotes on the wall for Michigan State? A team that scrapes over seven wins twice a decade? /kicks self in face*
*[Not a Hoke criticism. Hoke uber alles.]
And then he stage-dove at a Whitney Houston concert. I've met Mike Spath and he's a nice guy but what in the holy hell is this?
Three years earlier, Rich Rodriguez donned a Maize and Blue hockey jersey and took a stab at Score-O – …. The student section roared with delight. That was Rodriguez's way and that didn't make it wrong but his occupation of the spotlight did offend some folks.
Flash-forward (or rewind) to Friday night. Hoke stepped onto the ice from the north entrance wearing jeans and an untucked collared blue shirt. He looked uncomfortable as the patrons rose to their feet just as he appeared a bit out of sorts at a men's basketball game a few weeks ago. Hoke probably would have retreated quickly, disappearing out of sight, but the band broke into a rendition of The Victors and Hoke was soon pumping his fists in unison with the crowd.
That has got to be the dumbest criticism ever leveled. Braves & Birds obliterates it and the thinking behind this, convincingly pointing to the repeated uninspiring, cheap hires the filthy rich Big Ten makes as a major reason they've fallen behind in the race to not get destroyed 49-7 by Alabama:
Heaven forbid that the highest-paid employee at the University of Michigan, the man up front for the winningest program in college football history actually acknowledges that he is in the spotlight! Thank goodness that we’ve hired a guy who is going to do his work in front of 110,000 paying customers and millions watching on TV, but is uncomfortable with attention. This is bound to work out well!
At the same time Dave at Maize 'n' Brew pointlessly deconstructs Rodriguez's recruiting classes in an effort to… do… something. What other than piss people off is unclear.
So now we're positioning Hoke as a socially anxious Fred Flintstone and pretending that Rodriguez wasn't playing Sisyphus on the recruiting trail. I really want Michigan to win but this crap saps my enthusiasm because accompanying the wins will be yet more articles about how Brady Hoke "gets it" that claim "it" to be ineffable qualities like looking sloppy and knowing the fight song instead of having an upperclass quarterback and extant secondary. I'll deal with that should the time come.
I'm sorry if this occasions more eye-rolling from people who just want to leave Rodriguez dead and in the ground. I know I should just let it slide, but I can only take so many stupid things before I blow up. Otherwise I will die.
Etc.: Steven Threet retires due to concussion issues; here's his 58-yarder against Wisconsin. Brabbs profile in AnnArbor.com; The Daily profiles Carl Hagelin. AnnArbor.com also sets a new record for most extraneous words at the beginining of a headline: "Swedish Michigan hockey captain Carl Hagelin finds a second home with Wolverines." That's five. Hot diggity SEO. /kicks self in face
Tommy Tuberville, 1/11/2010:
"We're going to air it out," Tuberville said. "We're going to keep the Air Raid. I think it's something that Tech has hit upon that gives them that identity to recruit."
Rich Rodriguez, sometime in 2008:
“We’ll adapt. I like winning too much not to adapt a little bit to our personnel.”
Brady Hoke, 1/14/2011:
"I think you'd be remiss as a coach if you don't know your personnel, and you try to implement something that maybe you're not quite ready for. There's a way to grow to it. So we're not going to try to put any square pegs in round holes."
Midway through Rich Rodriguez's first season it had become clear that Michigan was spectacularly bad at football for the first time since the 60s, and the blame started to go around. A large portion of it was directed at Rodriguez shoehorning Michigan's pro-style personnel into the spread offense, and it was all dumb. Very dumb. I wrote a post explaining how dumb this was called "The Golden Age of Tin." In brief:
- Despite having NFL talent up and down the roster Michigan was about 70th in offense in 2007. All of that talent left.
- Michigan had moved to a zone running game two years before Rodriguez arrived and he changed very little on the line.
- Four of the five starters skill position starters were freshmen who had never played in a pro-style offense. (Brandon Minor would later return from injury/discontent/quasi-suspension and play pretty well.)
- The run-pass split was almost 50-50 a year after WVU ran 70% of the time.
- The quarterbacks were bad in any system.
A couple years later, Nick Sheridan is a grad assistant, a redshirt junior version of Steven Threet has a 18-16 TD-INT ratio for a 6-6 Arizona State team, and Michigan's spread offense is one halfway decent turnover margin/defense/kicker from being awesome. Rich Rodriguez did a lot of things wrong in his time in Ann Arbor, but installing the offense he'd been running for 20 years wasn't one of them.
Because of all the things he did do wrong, however,
he's in a sad car with sad child. Al Borges is now in charge of Denard Robinson, a bunch of slot receivers, tailbacks no one except Fred Jackson thinks much of, and… well… a pretty decent set of pro-style outside receivers, tight ends, and (probably) offensive linemen.
Borges is going to do the only thing he can do with this personnel: coach a pro-style offense with a vertical passing game. This is not going to be as good for Michigan as continuity would be, but the person to blame for that is the athletic director, or Rich Rodriguez, or some of the things Rich Rodriguez did wrong. Al Borges has not spent the last 20 years figuring out how to get mileage out of quarterbacks who double as drag racers in the offseason. He's spent it saying "no, I'm not Jeffery Tambor" and passing to open up the run.
Coincidentally, the best example of what happens when you replace a Rich Rodriguez-type coach with a more passing-oriented guy is when West Virginia replaced Rich Rodriguez with Jeff Mullen. Mullen was the QB coach responsible for turning Wake Forest into a miraculously effective offense through 2007 and arrived in Morgantown promising more balance in the Mountaineer offense. He got it:
Unsurprisingly, passes got less effective as they became more frequent. The thing that dropped WVU from a national title contender to just another top 25 team was that despite rushing less, rushes also got less effective.
If you're thinking Steve Slaton's exit for the NFL may have had something to do with that, replacement Noel Devine actually rushed for 6.3 YPC. What happened? Burgeoning Wolverine Star has a table of its own that highlights the severe drop in productivity from quarterback legs that started as soon as Rodriguez left. Pat White's rushes were exactly as frequent—down to a tenth of a percentage point—as they were in 2007 but his productivity dropped alarmingly. White averaged 6.7(!) YPC under Rodriguez and just 5 under Mullen.
While it's possible the schedule was tougher and the team weaker after Owen Schmitt and a few others graduated, Devine's numbers suggest the most likely explanation for that huge drop is that Mullen didn't know what the hell to do with White.
So. Michigan fans wishing to protect their soul-tingly-bits would do well to regard quotes like these from Borges as gentle untruths created for public perception:
"I've been doing this for 24 years. I'm no genius and I do not pretend to be one, but I have a hell of a lot of experience with a lot of different types of quarterbacks."
But when Borges goes on to compare Robinson to Michael Vick and what he's doing with the Eagles…
"They said Michael Vick couldn't be a West Coast-style quarterback, and he's one of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL. Why? Because they put him in situations to run and throw. Denard is 6-feet tall, like Michael Vick. He can run and he can throw and make things happen. If Michael Vick can do that with the Philadelphia Eagles, why can't Denard Robinson do that at Michigan?"
…he suggests that "a lot of different types of quarterback" boil down to guys running NFL offenses with various scrambling add-ons. This is not a fluke. Borges has an array of quotes along those lines. It's also not very realistic. Vick's long and winding journey to becoming a good NFL quarterback took ten years of intensive coaching. When he was three years out of high school (like Denard will be next year) he had a 9-7 TD-INT ratio; VT ran 74% of the time. Their offense was a grab-bag of spread 'n' shred mixed with pro-style that featured a heavy dose of option and even more "Mike Vick makes one read on seven-step drop and starts running." It was pretty effective, but it was even more run-heavy than Rodriguez's Pat White days and took the most outrageously athletic player in the last two decades to make it go.
I'm not sure Denard is quite that, and if we're talking about putting Denard in positions to run or pass that just sounds like a lot of rollouts. And here's the weird thing about Robinson: the guy hates running the ball when he's not explicitly directed to. When he got to the edge this year he invariably chose to throw even when it was third and three and there wasn't a guy within six yards of him.
run run run run run nooooooo okay [ninja stuff] wooooo
Maybe that's because Michigan's offense revolved around Denard running 25 times a game and he didn't want to put any more tread on his tires, but seriously, how many times did you scream "run!" at the TV or field last year?
Maybe this will work out. Maybe Michigan will run four verticals at opponents until their safeties scream for help, whereupon Denard will be able to enact one-read-and-scramble. It would be easier to imagine this happening with Braylon Edwards on the outside, but Michigan did have some success throwing deep in the bowl game and I'm guessing Denard's going to spend most of his offseason throwing fly routes.
But if it doesn't, there's no alternative. Coaches are old and crotchety and just are who they are. They have a very specific, gradually moving corpus of knowledge and when they deviate from that performance suffers. Borges is an effective coordinator with a certain sort of offense. Without it he's probably going to be a version of Jeff Mullen. This is no one's fault, really, just like it wasn't anyone's fault three years ago when Rich Rodriguez surveyed his offensive personnel and felt the crevasse beneath him inch open for the first time.
Tommy Tuberville, 12/27/2010:
"I still believe in running the football," he said. "More than what they did in the past. That's the biggest difference. We want to be a bit more physical and be able to run the ball, which will help throwing it down the field, too."
RIP, air raid. RIP, spread 'n' shred.
BONUS: we should put together a pool for when and where the first column approvingly citing Borges's ability to adapt relative to Rodriguez by comparing their first seasons shows up. Bonus points will be awarded for the most irritatingly shallow glossing over of the difference between junior Denard Robinson with seniors around him versus freshman Threetsheridammit surrounded by fellow freshmen.
DISCLAIMER SECTION: I expect these things next year: Denard is a better thrower, turnover margin is a lot better (fourth year running, that prediction), all yardage metrics drop, scoring drops slightly from 25th but is better distributed across the schedule, FEI plummets. Improvement from the defense and, god willing, kicker will mask a drop in offensive power.
So of course it didn't work out. This piece on the rise of the spread offense comes in anticipation of tonight's spread-mad national title game and recommended by Herb Hand, a branch of the Rich Rodriguez coaching tree. In it Rodriguez is approvingly cited multiple times:
Kelly constantly visited other staffs, including Clemson, Wake Forest, Northwestern, Georgia Tech, Oregon and West Virginia. When Kelly visited West Virginia, he was most intrigued by the speed of Rodriguez's offense, Hand said.
When Hand was at Tulsa a couple years ago and watched film of a future opponent playing New Hampshire, he immediately noticed the West Virginia tempo.
"You cannot relent on the tempo," Hand said. "When you first install some of this stuff, you've got to understand it's going to be very ugly early. We used to say you have to coach in short verbal blasts.
"It's not like you're going to have 35 seconds to make your point. The execution is eventually going to catch up to the speed. Now, when you combine the tempo with the execution, then it's a beautiful thing. That's where Chip and Gus are at."
And we're where we are. I think Rodriguez did have to go after the bowl game but that was with the assumption Jim Harbaugh would be the next coach. With our current situation leaning towards either Les Miles or the guy who thinks zone running is insufficient for the needs of MANBALL, I wonder how many Michigan fans are having firer's remorse as they watch the recruiting class disintegrate and Michigan seemingly poised for plan C at best. It's not like Brandon had any good options after the bowl game, but whatever this is seems like the worst possible outcome.
Michigan will have to be more patient with whoever the new guy is than they were with Rodriguez if they want to get out of the massive hole they continue to dig themselves. Hiring a spread guy to continue the transition they've started seems like the best approach—possibly a reason why Miles and his flexibility with offensive styles would be preferable to Hoke.
Part of that rift has been the alienation former players have felt from the football program. Rueben Riley, an offensive lineman from 2003 to 2006 who later played three years in the NFL, said former players have not been included in the program as they have been in the past.
“When I was around, you’d see guys like Hutch (Steve Hutchinson) come back and talk, (Gary) Moeller come back, and you could just see their passion,” he said.
“For a coach to have Lloyd Carr on campus and never have him back to talk to the team? That’s unbelievable to me.”
That is unbelievable. Almost as unbelievable as Michigan's head football coach coming under constant assault and getting nothing more than a single tepid statement of support from Carr over the course of his tenure, or various former Carr players badgering Brandon to fire Rodriguez on a near-weekly basis, or Mike Barwis's testimonial page having quotes from dozens of Michigan athletes who didn't play for Rodriguez, some of whom (like Jack Johnson) didn't even play football. Feeling "disconnected" from Michigan football is the flip side of Carr-era players largely treating Rodriguez like crap.
But wait, there's more!
Shea said it rubbed him the wrong way when Rodriguez disregarded the team’s traditional offense and installed the spread upon his arrival. He’d like to see the next coach return to running the football, playing stout defense and employing a fullback.
“And multiple tight ends,” he said.
“I think the most important thing, whoever it is, I want a guy that understands what Big Ten football is,” he said. “That’s the criteria, along with knowing the pressure that the job entails.”
This is the genesis of all the Hoke stuff, no?
Hockey bits. Michigan split with Michigan State last over the weekend thanks to a combination of stupid penalties and terrible refereeing that saw Michigan end up down 5-on-3 twice late, with State converting both times against Shawn Hunwick. Michigan's erratic offense got a few goals on Saturday and that played out much like the Big Chill did.
Just past the halfway mark it's time to start looking at RPI and the Pairwise—though the latter should be taken lightly given how much jitter it has. Michigan finds itself in a solid position, seventh in the PWR and eighth in RPI. Shockingly, if the season ended today Western Michigan(!) would probably make the tourney at 14th. With the dissolution of the CHA there's only one small-conference autoo-bid and the ECAC actually has some respect in the PWR this year so it's unlikely more than one autobid results in a team that otherwise wouldn't make it. Perpetual HE bottom-feeder Merrimack is also tenuously in the tournament, and Yale is far and away the #1 overall seed at the moment. Weird year.
Michigan also filled in another hole in its 2011 recruiting class by adding forward Phil Di Giuseppe from the Villanova Knights of the OJHL—the same league that sent Brandon Burlon and Louie Caporusso to Michigan. Yost Built has a recruiting profile on him; he's got a 14-30-45 line in 36 games and is the third-leading scorer on his team. The two guys in front of him are three years older, though, so he's obviously the best prospect his team has. He's the league's leading scorer in his age bracket. Here's Di Giuseppe throwing down:
Di Giuseppe's about a month too young for the upcoming draft so he's not on the CSB radar yet. It's hard to tell how big of a land this is for Michigan as a result. His coach provides a little scouting report:
"He is very coachable and more than willing to take advice from others," said Baker. "Phil is a very offensively gifted hockey player his speed and stick skills are second to none. He has made major improvements this year in his defensive play."
At the very least Di Giuseppe sounds like a scoring line type, though maybe not right away.
Goldilocks. If 113k was silly and 85k equally so, then this number—the final one—for Big Chill attendance seems just right:
Resolution to the attendance drama per Sara Wilcox at Guinness World Records PR: “Final number is: 104,073”
And lo, it shall stand for all time unless Michigan does this again at some point.
Etc.: Perry Dorrestein may have a gig waiting for him at the Milwaukee police department. Maize 'n' Brew spends a lot of time fisking Michael Rosenberg, which like… what's the point? Section 1 will love it, at least.
Let's make a deal.
Saturday Michigan takes on Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl and Sunday something may or may not happen involving the throttling of an infant Denard Robinson in his cradle and the tears and lamentation that may or may not result. That would hypothetically also mean the reign of terror Greg Robinson's hair and the zombie minion that goes by the name of Greg Robinson would be over. The city of Ann Arbor emerging from its cocoon of upper middle class ennui to shoot AK47s in the air would at least partially offset the tragic, still hypothetical loss of baby Denard. I have taken too long on this bit.
Two days later Jim Harbaugh and his Stanford Cardinal take on Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. After he may or may not be destined for Michigan or the 49ers or the moon. The latest from Harbaugh is reminiscent of one Brian Kelly last year:
"I only talk about the job I have now," Harbaugh said when asked if he or his representatives had spoken to the 49ers about their coaching vacancy.
He acknowledged having a "dual focus"—
--on his team, which will play Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl on Monday, and on his daughter, Katherine, who was born just before Christmas.
Aw, come on, Harbaugh.
So what's going to happen? I still don't know. No one does. Last time on this show I said I didn't have anything solid and probably wouldn't because of the nature of the "search" but that the mystical aura wasn't looking so hot:
I'm not inclined to put much in the widespread chatter that had RR out the door after the OSU game and seems to be continuing since its sourcing seems to be pissed-off-you-guys folk clearly unhappy with the state of the program taking small interactions and interpreting them as they desire. However, the vibe I'm getting from other people who seem to be on the fence about what to do—or at least close to it—also makes it seem unlikely Rodriguez is back. Emphasis on all the qualifying words in the previous sentence, please. I've got nothing solid because no one does.
I also said that Brady Hoke would be named Michigan's coach over my dead body and the last semblance of sanity in the universe but that wasn't based on inside information. It was more a "has everybody gone CRAZY!?!" moment, and if the threat of Hoke didn't linger in the air I'd apologize for it. As it is I'm on the battlements with an axe* waiting to behead anyone who pops up and says "my name is Buh—." Bill Parcells is duly warned.
With less that a week left before the month of limbo is over, I haven't received anything that pushes my opinion much one way or the other. To reiterate, that's:
- There is a nonzero chance Rodriguez is fired, otherwise there would have been an announcement.
- Schools do not start coaching searches on January 2nd.
- There's only one guy out there that could plausibly be socked away or all but in time for Michigan to have a reasonable finish in recruiting and could justify yet more chaos in a program that is pointed in the right direction, even if vaguely.
So it's Rodriguez or Harbaugh and we'll probably know the day after the Orange Bowl. With all due respect to people who would argue otherwise, it makes no sense to fire Rodriguez in January if you do not have a coach lined up immediately. Since the list of people other than Harbaugh who Michigan could install within a week reads "Buh—[blood theatrically spraying from neck]" your alternatives are between rushing someone through without pause for consideration—which worked out so well last time—or dragging the search almost up to Signing Day, leaving your recruiting class a smoking crater and possibly dooming the next guy, who will forever be Not Jim Harbaugh, to repeat the cycle.
I have heard some things that push me more towards Harbaugh:
- Some connected guys at Cal email that Tedford is aiming to poach Harbaugh's OL coach since he has "agreed to go elsewhere already" as of the 17th of December. Caveat: the Cal rumor mill bears no animus towards Rodriguez but would love to see Harbaugh anywhere but Stanford, so as things get passed down the chain they get more certain.
- A player who split his career between RR/Carr years tells an emailer that Harbaugh will be installed on the fifth. Caveat: why the hell would some former player know?
- An emailer who reports things second hand but has been reliable in the past suggests that Mary Sue Coleman isn't a big fan of Rodriguez, which isn't much of anything to go on but just adds to the pile.
- Media people I talk to generally say the best thing is probably to give him one more year but that they don't expect he'll get it. Also not much of anything but vibe.
The only thing pointing the other way is the generally sunny disposition coming from within Schembechler Hall, but with recruits the coaches are saying they've got no idea what's going on but if they're still around after the bowl they'll still be around forever, or something to that effect. That's a hard sale right there.
If I was 55-45 Harbaugh a month ago I'm 65-35 Harbaugh now. I wish I could be more certain and wouldn't make the decision I think is likely if I was king of the world, but that's life. We'll know soon enough.
AWFUL BONUS: If there is a change you can go start the Denard transfer watch at DEFCON 2, since Robinson knows what he is—the Big Ten offensive player of the year as a sophomore at quarterback—and where he fits. How screwed up is a program that manages to get both Ryan Mallett and Denard Robinson to transfer away from certain starting QB jobs in the course of three years?
This hasn't happened yet. Breathe. I am talking to myself mostly.
*(To avoid a Tucker Carlson moment let me clarify: I am not going to cut Brady Hoke or anyone's head off with an axe.)
RC Slocum, man about town. This doesn't have anything to do with anything but here's Joe Paterno doing the limbo:
Sort of, anyway. I don't think you're supposed to go that way. Paterno probably thinks going backwards is a Hun affectation. Also prepare for the OBC to burn himself into your retinas:
These are from a recently unearthed cache of photos of former Texas A&M coach RC Slocum that features both Gorbachev and Mathew McConaughey, although not in the same picture. Barking Carnival theorizes that Slocum is the most interesting man in the world, and it's hard to disagree. Gorby!
OTL on oversigning. ESPN's put out what's hopefully part one of an extensive series of interviews with college athletes who have been screwed out of scholarships and swept under the rug. It's LSU again:
So Les Miles…
- Runs a program that oversigns and cuts players who don't seem useful.
- Doesn't bother to tell players they've been cut in a face to face meeting.
- Relies on someone else to send a letter to the kid.
- Refuses to meet with the kid after he's received the bad news.
- Baldly lies about the kid at media day.
Then Elliot Porter shows up and says he had to be a man about getting cut by Miles, demonstrating more maturity than his erstwhile head coach. Unfortunately for those of us making huge "Please Be Our DC, Randy" signs for the bowl game, Randy Shannon's rep as an awesome dude also takes a huge hit.
Not to beat this dead horse for the thousandth time, but this is some bullshit right here and should be a major target for reform. ESPN's doing the Lord's work, and I hope they continue.
The inevitable redshirt. To reiterate something from Tim's presser recap, Devin Gardner's back problems held him out of the last eight games and have set him up to take a (surprise!) redshirt this season:
“His back has been better, and he’s been able to do most of the stuff today,” Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said Saturday.
Should a medical redshirt be granted, Gardner would, in theory, have two years to hold the starting quarterback job. Denard Robinson is penciled in as the starter through the 2012 season.
Yes, the nature and timing of Gardner's injury is unbelievably convenient, but if they've got documentation they've got it and the NCAA will have to grant Gardner his redshirt. We should all go back and undo the Great Gardner Non-Redshirt Infighting, since it looks like Michigan's going to have its cake and eat it too… unless Rodriguez gets fired and everyone transfers and we're starting Jack Kennedy next year.
Gwaltney in repose. A Bruce Feldman article on well-travelled former blue chip recruit Jason Gwaltney, who I remember openly campaigning for Rivals to raise his ranking as just another message board plebe, has a random quote about Rich Rodriguez($):
He says he did learn how to practice full-speed from his days at WVU. "They chiseled that into my brain," he said. "Coach [Rich] Rodriguez instilled something in me. I still owe that man a lot."
Gwaltney ended up at a D-III HBCU in New Jersey and is in an upcoming all-star game with fellow spectacular flameout Fred Rouse. His brother Scooter Berry was an afterthought throw-in but developed into an All Big East defensive lineman as Gwaltney toured the lower divisions of college football, so he's got an obvious what-could-have-been in his own family.
Hello Georgia? After UGA's athletic director was pulled over for DUI with a girl in the passenger seat and her panties in is lap, UGA has a new athletic director. His first scheduling actions were cancelling games against actual opponents that the old guy had put in place, so it seemed like Georgia's brief glastnost period wherein they were prepared to end their infamous policy of never leaving the South was over. This, then, is a surprise:
Preliminary discussions have taken place with Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Penn State about the prospect of one or more of them scheduling a home-and-home series with Georgia in the future, UGA athletics director Greg McGarity confirmed to Dawgs247.
“We’d love to do a home-and-home with a Big Ten or Midwestern school that has a rich tradition,” McGarity said. “We’re going to work as hard as we can to make that happen.
“Hopefully, within the next year, we’ll be able to have something in writing.”
Georgia and Clemson have a series that extends until 2014, so any series would have to wait until at least then. McGarity says the series would be "way down the road" so one school or the other would have plenty of time to cancel it.
Would Michigan be interested? I'd hope so. Dave Brandon's already set up a neutral site matchup with Alabama that's slightly cool but also thousands of miles from either campus in a generic, if swanky, corporate stadium. From a fan's perspective having a home and home with Georgia is way cooler than a one-off in Dallas. From a financial perspective not so much—Michigan's getting a home game's worth of revenue from the Jerryworld game—but money isn't everything and Michigan needs something to spruce up the schedule in years when Nebraska, Ohio State, and Notre Dame are all road games. Of course, "sprucing up" the schedule in those years means "making it brutal," so maybe not.
Would they be more interested than the other three schools listed? Probably not. I'd bet Michigan is the least likely of the four to actually land a series with Georgia. Because of their Notre Dame series they have to work in games against actual opponents where they can; Penn State and Ohio State don't have any annual commitments and Notre Dame has to fill twelve games every year.
Limbo update, or backdate, or whatever. Yesterday Tom's recruiting post quoted Darian Cooper saying Tony Dews told him Michigan coaches would "know January first" whether they'd be around next year. Recent commitment Desmond Morgan was told something similar with more confidence but something less than rock-hard certainty:
“I’ve talked with coach Rodriguez and the rest of the coaches and they’re pretty confident he’s going to be there after the season,” Morgan said. “I’m pretty confident as well. No matter what happens, Michigan’s a great football program.”
So that's Morgan and Countess in the boat no matter what. Picking up two commits during this time of uncertainty is a nice insurance policy against the uphill battle a January coaching change would see the new guy fight.
Bang-bang. Soony Saad's been called in to the U20 team, whereupon he scored in a dismantling of Canada and essentially announced he'd be back for 2011:
Philadelphia Union striker McInerney scored in the 50th minute while Saad also notched an impressive 25-yard half-volley score in the 34th.
It's nothing new for Saad, one of the top strikers of the ball in the country, who helped lead unsung Michigan to the College Cup as he was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year. "It was nice being in camp. It was kind of a tough adjustment coming off the college season," he said.
When the subject turned to the College Cup, where the Wolverines suffered a semifinal loss to eventual champion Akron, Saad declined to comment.
"Not until we win the College Cup next season," he said.
The usual disclaimers apply.
Etc.: Zac Ciullo comes in for an extensive profile in the News. Random New Yorker poem about Michigan. Jason King drops some positive fluff about the basketball team along the same lines as my column but with far fewer references to the DOS command line. Might want to update that photo, though.
Actual News, Injuries
Practice schedule: They'll start Friday afternoon, go Saturday morning, and have 4-5 practices in between payers' finals the following week. First 4-5 practices working on "our own things." Need that fundamental work - and it would be good because the teams play similar offensive styles. Start putting in a gameplan end of next week. They'll have 11-12 practices in Ann Arbor, and 4-5 at the bowl site. Practices: benefit to get some fundamental work in. Lots of guys getting first bowl game, exciting for them.
The guys who are out for the year, like Martavious Odoms, Van Slyke, and Mike Jones, probably won't be available for the game, but they might be able to practice. "We're hoping that Van Slyke and Mike Jones will be able to do some things in practice... just to get them back working a bit will be good."
Lots of players beat up, including Denard. From the BGSU game, he hasn't been 100%. Having time off from football will heal him up. "Probably the best he's felt since the first couple games." His fingers are fine, he should be 100% by first practice. JR Hemingway should be fine, Darryl Stonum will be pretty healthy. Guys who were banged up for last few games should be OK, including Mike Martin and Jonas Mouton.
Defensive position changes: Putting Roh back down on the line helped, some of the personnel moves were by necessity with injuries. "Some of the others coming back healthy, we may be able to lock guys in there." Some coaches experiment with position changes during bowl practices, but Michigan may not be in a position to do that with the practice schedule.
Open competition among kickers starting in Friday practice. "We'll address that in recruiting as well," but he's more worried about the guys getting the confidence to perform in a game. Will Hagerup is back, and will make the bowl trip.
Michigan will wear Blue uniforms in the bowl, Mississippi State will wear white (H/T: @MVictors).
On Mississippi State
Rich has had no chance to look at MSU film this year, but he watched them on TV a couple times. He knows Mullen a bit and is familiar with the spread, he knows a couple defensive players from past recruiting. They run some spread principles, so Michigan will practice with some "good-on-good" (offense starters v. defense starters) to get ready.
Knows they did well against Auburn (though he hasn't had a chance to watch that game), and it should be a good football game. The SEC had lots of options for the Gator bowl, and the final selection depended heavily on the outcome of the league championship game.
In the past, lots of coaches came to visit WVU to learn the offense, especially after the Sugar Bowl. Florida (and Mullen) traded ideas with Rich at West Virginia, but both offensive staffs have tweaked their schemes since then. PSU and OSU were among the teams who learned at West Virginia, so Rich was worried he might have shared a bit too much when he came to Michigan (jokingly).
Cowbells: WVU played against Mississippi State a few years back, and is thus familiar with that school's "more cowbell!" tradition. They (RR's WVU) rang cowbells all week in practice. Somebody at WVU called this week to offer up all the cowbells they still have. "Our guys will hear them in practice here the next few weeks."
About Mullen's comments on Denard: "Maybe he forgot about the Auburn game."
The experience of practicing in another big city for a big game helps the payers grow. The added practices help too. Freshmen, redshirt frosh, sophs, who need work should be improved.
Evaluation process/job security: "You have to understand what Dave's position is with all his coaches." He has to worry about doing his job. "There's always obstacles in recruiting," so it could hurt a bit. "We'll maybe have to work hard in January to close with some guys, but we've had to do that before." He's met with Brandon throughout the year to talk about football, etc.
"The progress has been slow, but it has been progress... There's a lot of areas that we can get better quickly, and that's gonna take the next step." Going to a bowl will help with that a bit, because they get practice time, and get to grow together as a team and program.
On reactions to the Groban song: "Everybody's gonna have opinions on things, and that's fine." Emotional state: "Every coach has their own personality. I've probably always been emotional at our senior banquets." Has always felt close to players, and this senior class. "I thought the crowd was really appreciative of our senior class."
Feel in coaching limbo?: "It's a unique situation, and you deal with it the best you can." Recruiting is going well, they'll sign 18-20 guys, and are exicted about the guys who are interested. "We tell them we plan on being here and being their coach, and telling them all the positive things about the school and the football program." Recruits can come watch practices if they're open to public, some local recruits in Florida might swing by. More important for recruiting is getting your name in the paper, and giving Florida-based M players play close to home.
Exciting to become bowl eligible, guys got excited again to be in a Jan 1 bowl, Florida guys were excited to be playing down there. "Staying together for another 2-3 weeks as a football family" will be good. "It's somewhat of a reward of course, you want them to enjoy themselves... you've got to remember that the main thing is to go down there and win the game." More prestige to playing in a New Year's Day bowl, "I think the bowl system is so neat for the programs and for the fans..." likes some aspects of the bowls vs. a playoff.
Familiar with the Gator Bowl. They do good stuff with fans, Rodriguez has been there within the past 4 years. At WVU, the team stayed out at Sawgrass, this year they'll stay downtown. Terrific venue, exciting for players and fans. "They do as good a job as anybody in the country." Gator Bowl as a player: "That was almost 30 years ago." Played FSU in a night game. Fell into a puddle of mud on kick coverage. Was cold for the rest of the half, because he was only on special teams.
Will look at past gameplans for bowl games. Doesn't want to try to do too much. The Georgia gameplan for the Sugar Bowl was a very simple one, because they didn't want guys to worry about big-game jitters, etc. "We have to make sure we don't try to do too much, in actuality probably do less." All coaches go into the bowl game - or any game whatever it is - thinking "this has gotta be the game." There's always pressure to win though, and they'll do their thing coaching.
Coach's poll ballot: "The two teams clearly had outstanding seasons... TCU is phenomenal, they're every bit as worthy of talking in the same conversation with Auburn and Oregon." Those top two played tougher schedules, so he voted them 1 and 2. RR will vote on conference lines a bit as well. Most coaches think their league is a bit better, even their team a bit. Part of the allure of college football is that there's a lot to talk about with rankings and such.
Denard being Offensive POY but not All-Big Ten: "I don't know if that's happened before. How can you be player of the year, but not good enough to be first team?" May serve as some motivation for Denard going into next year. It was a great year for QBs in the Big Ten.
Roundtree's mindset after drops: "He had a couple, but he had a couple big plays, too." Really proud of his year still, didn't realize how close to 1000 yards he was.
Gator Bowl Chairman Steve Tremel
Pleased with opportunity to officially invite Michigan. "To have a team like the University of Michigan represented there is just fabulous." It's been since 1991 that M has been there, so the Gator Bowl is excited.
MSU (not that MSU) is ranked 20th by the AP, and Michigan is a great program and team, so it makes for an exciting matchup.
"I promise this is not the weather you'll see on New Year's Day."
"Good morning. I would like to formally accept." Heard late afternoon yesterday, and accepted "with great enthusiasm." Gator bowl representatives have been working hard, and he's excited to work through everything with them.
Excited to play a top-20 team on New Year's Day.
Brandon did not take questions from the media.