10/30/2010 – Michigan 31, Penn State 41 – 5-3, 1-3 Big Ten
these were the same pictures used in the very first Greg Robinson post and were named –fail1, –fail2, –fail3.
A few years back my fiancée (then girlfriend) and I had one of those conversations that draw out over two weeks. You have them when the other person's position is so bizarre and unbelievable that unlocking the reasoning behind it is important if you're going to hang around this person for a long time—because it's possible the reasoning goes something like "I'm a stabby person who stabs you in the stab places."
The argument was about the narrative of overarching, capital-P Progress that the world is or is not making. I, the engineer, pointed to various statistics that all point in the right direction. She regarded all of it as different paths to the same thing: misery for all but a few. A Foxconn factory is just a handy place to jump off, and they take even that away from you.
I don't think we ever came to a satisfactory conclusion despite the lingering threat of stabbing, but I don't think we have to anymore. Since that conversation the world's financial system exploded, the economy fell into a deep and lingering malaise that figures to last most of a decade, and Greg Robinson was hired to coordinate Michigan's defense.
The worst part has been the illusion. Actually, the worst part has been the actual progress. The worst part has been a combination of the illusion and the progress. The worst part has been a combination of the illusion and the progress and the relentless losing.
The illusion: two straight years Michigan has leapt out to a hot start only to see all the supposedly quality wins evaporate. A thrilling win over Notre Dame devalued as the Irish collapse into a heap of laughable crap. UConn goes from team on the verge of a Big East championship to a team that can't even keep its head above water in a horrible conference. Indiana is still not a surprisingly good, competitive version of Indiana. It's just Indiana. Then there is losing, and not competitively.
The actual progress: Michigan has the #1 yardage offense in the Big Ten by a huge margin. The gap between Michigan and #2 Ohio State is considerably bigger than the gap between Ohio State and #7 Iowa. The prophesied Rodriguez Leap, which did happen last year, happened again this year. Rodriguez is what he was sold as.
That progress looked like enough to get Rodriguez through 2010 into a prove-it 2011 until some walk-on shredded Michigan for 28 first-half points. If Progress means not being Minnesota, Michigan is failing. At some point last night the extremely depressing score was 31-10 and the ticker scrolled to the OSU-Minnesota game, which was also 31-10. The Gophers managed to hold Penn State to a mere 33 points and caused them to punt an astounding six times. Michigan did it twice. A comprehensive description of the ways in which Michigan's defense failed last night is impossible, but here's an attempt: Penn State scored 24 points against Kent State, 22 against Temple, 13 against Illinois, and 44 against Youngstown State… with their starting quarterback.
Youngstown State is a 3-6 I-AA team ranked 94th in total defense. They are the closest comparison to Michigan's D amongst Penn State's opponents to date.
Greg Robinson should be fired. Tomorrow, yesterday, bring in Gary Moeller, bring in anyone, don't care. He should never have been hired, just like Jay Hopson and apparently Scott Shafer. At the time of his hiring he was a decade removed from his last sustained success, fresh off driving a respectable Syracuse program into Washington State territory. As a head coach, he sounded like an idiot. His team played like he was an idiot. Michigan hired him and has gotten exactly what they deserved.
The worst part other than the illusion and the actual progress and the relentless losing is that this was obvious at the time:
Anyway: being a stunningly incompetent head coach does not necessarily mean one is a stunningly incompetent coordinator. Numbers will have to make that case. Go, numbers, go!
Year Team PassEff Rush Scoring Total 2008 Syracuse 101 101 101 101 2007 Syracuse 109 108 104 111 2006 Syracuse 81 110 72 107 2005 Syracuse 37 97 67 57 2004 Texas 31 16 18 23
I'm a little stressed out by that. Robinson walked into a good situation at Texas* and managed not to screw that up, then went to Syracuse, where he had an average defense on a horrid team (1-10), which he then proceeded to crater for the next three years. Before his brief, star-making turn at Texas—again, for doing nothing more than treading water—he presided over one of the worst defenses in the NFL, getting fired after three years. The last actual success you can plausibly attribute to Greg Robinson came during his tenure as the Denver Broncos' DC, when his defenses were top ten in the NFL and a significant aid in Denver's back-to-back championships. Since then it's been abject failure save the one year in Texas.
Now it's even more blitheringly obvious. Syracuse is 6-2 despite Doug Marrone having R-U-N-N-O-F-T huge swathes of Robinson's leftover pack of unmotivated jackaninnies and while Scott Shafer's defense has gotten bombed in a couple games and is severely overrated because of games against two terrible I-AA schools and the worst I-A school (0-9 Akron, 56-10 losers to WMU and everyone else), the last two weeks they've allowed 7 and 14 points in road games against West Virginia and Cincinnati. Neither of those teams is good at offense, but neither is Penn State.
Greg Robinson is a terrible football coach. Hiring him was literally the dumbest thing Rich Rodriguez could have done, and he did it. Hiring Jay Hopson to see him leave two years later was a terrible decision, as was whatever the fiasco was with Shafer. The rot on defense goes deeper than Robinson, though—Michigan has insisted on being "multiple" this year, to what purpose is unknown. Week after week Michigan plays teams that sit in a 4-3 with a two-deep shell and play defense adequately enough for this Michigan team to be headed for a New Year's Day Bowl; Michigan has not maintained the same system year-to-year during the Rodriguez era, largely because the leftover guys on the staff are all 3-3-5 guys and they keep insisting that these DCs who have never run the system become One of Us. Braves and Birds nailed this problem when he compared it to Tommy Tuberville's zombie offensive assistants submarining Tony Franklin and eventually Tuberville himself.
Michigan's addiction to the 3-3-5 is causing them to do the exact same thing Rodriguez rejected as dumb his first year when he installed the spread because that's what he knew how to coach—they're shoehorning a coach into a system when that coach doesn't even know how to properly align his middle linebacker. At left, Michigan's horrible defense. At right, West Virginia's excellent 2007 D:
Kenny Demens finally moved further from the LOS in the second half of the Penn State game. The supposedly attacking, slanting, different-front-making defense has been a passive heap of quivering goo coached by someone who clearly doesn't understand what the system he is running is supposed to accomplish. Robinson's been put in a terrible position, but he has no track record save blithering idiocy and there is no reason to retain him.
As for Rodriguez, well, hell. The are four games left, for one. Michigan is #4 in total yardage nationally and isn't scoring at an insane pace only because the special teams and defense have been beyond terrible. The special teams were not a problem before this year and really the only problem this year has been the kicker*, which is a thing that just happens sometimes in college. If they overhaul the defensive coaching by either bringing in an actual 3-3-5 guy like Jeff Casteel—who may be in need of a job after the season—or toss the Tuberville saboteurs overboard and bring in a Serious Man, I'd be willing to see where the Denard Robinson era ends up.
*(Willing to bet that by year's end Michigan isn't giving up any yards on an average exchange of punts; kickoff returns have been bad but that's an incredibly minor facet of the game—an average team is gaining one more yard per attempt than M.)
Change please. How many terrible decisions does Jeremy Gallon have to make before he loses his job at returning things?
Also: gararagagagargh Vincent Smith third and two. Hopkins's fumble was not his fault; Robinson put the ball in his shoulder. (I'm surprised he handed the ball off high—if Smith was in the game Robinson's handoff would have been in Smith's facemask.) Shaw can't be healthy, Cox is not healthy, Toussaint is not healthy… it's actually possible that Angry Michigan Running Back Hating God has been more wroth than Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God this year. The tailback situation is so bad that even Fred Jackson has gone no sugarcoat:
“We have to play better,” Jackson said. “Let’s call a spade a spade. We’ve got to play better. We’ve got plays there to be made and we’re not making them, I’m talking from the running back position.
“We have to play better.”
This is different from Jackson's usual approach of calling a spade a fantastical thousand-story casino in the clouds.
DerpBord. The circumstances behind hiring Greg Robinson are eerily similar to those behind the re-hire of Mike DeBord after his "no mas" faceplant at Central Michigan, down to the seemingly more competent guy being pushed out due to unconfirmed but widely speculated conflict. One dollar Robinson is assistant (to the) linebackers coach in the NFL next year.
The Ron English Effect. The next defensive coordinator (or next head coach, depending) is in line for a mega Ron English Effect, wherein some guy takes over a crew of players returning a ton of starters and looks like a genius for improving them when all he really did is not prevent his players from aging normally. In 2006, Ron English inherited Alan Branch, Lamarr Woodley, David Harris, Prescott Burgess, Shawn Crable, and Leon Hall and looked like a genius. The next year absent all those guys save Crable he was bombed into oblivion during The Horror and Post-Apocalyptic Oregon Game.
Anyway, next year's DC gets every starter back save Mouton, Rogers, and Banks, adds Troy Woolfolk, and should have a healthy Mike Martin. He could pick his teeth and look SMRT.
Martin doom. It's clear by now that Martin's injury is the dreaded high ankle sprain and we probably won't see him play effectively the rest of the season. Hurray.
Aw, hell, it's just variations of this with either equal or slightly less tolerance for Rodriguez's terrible choices on the defensive side of the ball. I do like the Hoover Street Rag saying the "shields are down." That's about right. Zook is loading his photon torpedoes.
Grant Wiley, Dee McCann, Quincy Wilson
So MGoUser fab5 found a West Virginia blog called Couch Fire Sports that had an interview with former WVU linebacker Grant Wiley—a totally unvarnished interview. The blog's managed to land almost a dozen of these interviews with former athletes and they're… blunt. A section of cornerback Dee McCann's interview:
CFS: Was WVU your first experiance with mass amounts of “white girls”?
DM: Yes it was, and I had fun.
CFS: Is it true you knocked out a younger star recruit at Hardees and sent him straight to Divison 2 ball over a very cute female athlete?
DM: NO COMMENT, Hahahaha. NO COMMENT !!!
These things have a zero BS rating, and a lot of them talk about Rich Rodriguez. The results follow.
Dee McCann [CB, JUCO, 2004-2005]:
CFS: How were the practices in the NFL compared to thoughs of Rich Fraud? Did he have you practice to many hours also?
DM: The practice hours were about the same but Coach Rods practice was more high tempo but he prepare me for the next level. …
CFS: If you could tell Rich Fraud one thing it would be … Hey Coach …
DM: THANKS FOR EVERYTHING.
Anthony Mims [CB, 2000-2005]:
CFS: How do you feel about the negative light being shed on WVU by Ex Coach Rich Rodriguez?
AM: I think it’s some BS, but not mainly on Rods part, but the NCAA. Those “violations” can be seen at any other school in the country.
CFS: If you talked to Coach Rod on the phone, you would say … Hey Coach ….
AM: I’d wish him luck on the upcoming season and thank him for everything he’s done for me.
Quincy Wilson [RB, 1999-2004]:
CFS: So is Rich Rod a dick? What are your thoughts?
QW: The whole Coach Rod thing was handled wrong on both ends. I never had a problem with Coach Rod. I think if you want to leave then fine will find a coach that bleeds blue and gold like Coach Stew.
CFS: What are your thoughts on the Super Bowl Shuffle?
QW: one of the classiest songs ever.
Vaughn Rivers [CB, 2003-2007]:
CFS: How do you feel about the negative light that is shed upon WVU with all the Rich Rodriguez drama?
VR: Alot of propaganda you know alot of behind the scenes issues the public really never knew about. Some things that never get brought to light but the loyalty of the West Virginia faithful is incomparable and I can also understand their feelings of betrayal.
CFS: If you talked to Coach Rod on the phone, what would you have to say to him? Hey Coach …
VR: I would tell him as I always have and always do, thank you for the opportunity you gave me and the work ethic you installed in us.
John Pennington [walk-on WR, 2000-2003]:
CFS: How do you feel about the negative light Rich Rodriguez has brought upon WVU with the investigations?
JP: I know Bill Stewart will do a great job handling the situation and I hope we can turn it into a positive.
Finally, Grant Wiley [LB, 2000-2003] wrote paragraphs and paragraphs, too many to replicate here. Here's a chunk:
Couch Fire Sports: First impressions of Rich Rod?
Grant Wiley: … Michigan players, fans, and alumni need to stop crying like a bunch of babies and turn on the 2007 Mountaineers so they can see their future.
I remember coming back to school after the Music City Bowl, on crutches, for our first meeting with Rich. I didn’t research him or read any of the papers so I really had no idea what to expect. I wouldn’t have known that I was Big East Rookie of the Year hadn’t it been for the trophy I was presented with. So Rich introduced the staff and very adamantly told us we were going to play like our hair was on fire or not play at all. From the start he was re-instilling the discipline I feel we needed at the time. The meeting ended and typically people were overreacting, trying to find their exit strategy, and a lot of guys were just ready to take that next step to win, coming off of destroying another SEC team.
Rich pulls me into his office and breaks me down like this. “Grant, you had a good year, and I think you are a good player. You didn’t really have to work for your position, it was kind of handed to you.” At the time I wanted to tell him to go fuck himself, but I knew what I went through to start as a freshman and the work I put in to be the best linebacker in the country. So I didn’t over react, I just took it as more motivation to prove this guy I was the best. Maybe that is what his objective was to begin with.
Wiley's "one knock" on RR was his lack of "truly genuine relationships" with the players he didn't recruit. Wiley says he's sure that's changed, but the transition at Michigan suggests it hasn't.
A second question about whether he'd rather play for RR or Bill Stewart has this section:
I loved the fact that Coach Rod’s in your face attitude was being embodied by guys I played with that naturally didn’t have that attitude, so in the end they were better players because of it. I mean the proof is in the pudding. Coach Rod wins games. No matter where he goes, he is going to win games. Coach Stew has been winning games as well. But, I don’t see the same attitude out on the field, offensively, as when Rich was in charge. You can teach technique until your blue in the face but if you don’t have that killer inside come out when you play, you won’t stand a chance.
You should probably read the whole thing; it's more insight into Rich Rodriguez's philosophy and program in a few paragraphs than we've gotten since his hire.
BONUS UNEXPECTED BEILEIN HATE. One basketball player who experienced the John Beilein era was interviewed, Drew Schiflino:
CFS – If you and Coach Beilein had a phone conversation how would it go, Hey Coach ….
DS – Hey coach you’re so fake and the biggest asshole ever, karmas a bitch … CLICK.
That's like… hanging up the phone, right? Not pulling a trigger?
UPDATE: should note that Schiflino was kicked off the team before his senior year. You could probably find some WVU football guys who did not complete their careers with unkind words for RR, too.
2007: The Disaster
I was scanning some message board or another and came across a statement about the '07 recruiting class and how it was dooming Michigan this year, so I took a look. The conclusion: holy pants, what a disaster. Here they are by position group they'd are or would be playing on this year's team, with available players bolded.
QB: Ryan Mallett is doing well… at Arkansas.
RB: Vince Helmuth transferred to Miami(Not That Miami), where he has zero carries. Avery Horn left school and was at Reedley CC in California last year. He's not there this year, but he's not anywhere else, either.
WR: Junior Hemingway is a starter. Zion Babb landed at a JUCO after getting the boot and was supposed to transfer to Colorado but didn't make it. Toney Clemons did make it to CU; he's their second-leading receiver with 18 catches for 219 yards.
OL: David Molk is going to be a four-year starter. Mark Huyge is the first guy off the bench at either tackle position and started all of last year.
TE: Martell Webb is a co-starter with Kevin Koger and has been a four-year contributor but not a star.
DL: Ryan Van Bergen is an above-average Big Ten player. Renaldo Sagesse is a backup who gets spot snaps. Steve Watson moved from TE to DE and is this year's David Cone.
LB: JUCO Austin Panter is out of eligibility. Marell Evans transferred to I-AA Hampton. Brandon Herron is Craig Roh's backup when he's healthy.
DB: James Rogers is a very bad starter. Donovan Warren was a multi-year starter who made a bad decision to leave for the NFL. Michael Williams is buried on the depth chart and headed for a medical hardship because of concussions. Artis Chambers transferred to Ball State but is not on the roster. Troy Woolfolk's ankle exploded.
Total contributors from the redshirt junior/senior class
WR: 1, Hemingway.
OL: 2, Molk and Huyge.
TE: 1, Webb.
DL: 2, Van Bergen and Sagesse.
LB: 1, Herron.
DB: 1, Rogers. (Woolfolk was a success but would displace Rogers from this list if healthy.)
Of the guys who are gone, exactly two contribute to a I-A team: Mallett and Clemons. That's like six genuinely good football players out of 20 (Mallett, Hemingway, Molk, RVB, Warren, Woolfolk). That is not a successful recruiting class.
2008: The Divide
2008, divided into Rodriguez and Carr sections. JT Floyd and Brandon Smith committed post-RR but had Michigan as their leader for so long before that they are categorized as Carr guys. The two decommits aren't considered, but Wienke is a third-stringer at Iowa and TE Christian Wilson has eight catches in his career at UNC.
The Rodriguez dossier
QB: Justin "Win At All Costs" Feagin got in trouble and is gone.
RB: Michael Shaw is probably the starting tailback if healthy.
WR: Terrence Robinson is a marginal contributor. Martavious Odoms and Roy Roundtree are productive starters when healthy.
OL: Patrick Omameh is starting as a redshirt sophomore. Ricky Barnum is the primary backup at guard and should be a two-year starter.
LB: Taylor Hill transferred two weeks after arriving. He is a productive player at I-AA Youngstown State.
Six of eight guys are still around with five of them looking like successes, pending Barnum moving into the lineup next year.
The Carr dossier
RB: Mike Cox is fourth string behind Shaw and younger folks. Sam McGuffie got concussed three times in his freshman year and transferred to Rice, where he's their leading rusher.
WR: Darryl Stonum is a starter.
TE: Kevin Koger is a co-starter with Webb; Brandon Moore is still on the team but has not seen meaningful snaps.
OL: Dann O'Neill transferred to WMU, where he is a starter. Kurt Wermers transferred to Ball State after flunking out and complaining about how RR was bringing in people who "weren't his kind of crowd." Rocko Khoury is Molk's backup and did okay against Iowa. Elliot Mealer looks like a career backup at guard.
DL: Mike Martin is awesome.
LB: Marcus Witherspoon never enrolled because of a Clearinghouse issue. Kenny Demens just got his first start and looked pretty good. JB Fitzgerald has been buried behind Mouton and then Roh.
DB: Brandon Smith was too slow to play DB, didn't want to play linebacker, transferred to Temple, and promptly washed out. Boubacar Cissoko got pulled from the starting lineup for performance reasons, was kicked off the team, and saw his life spiral out of control. JT Floyd is in the starting lineup by necessity.
Ten of sixteen guys are still around with… uh. Stonum, Koger, and Martin are obvious successes. Demens and Floyd are contributors. Fitzgerald, Cox, Moore, Khoury and Mealer are looking like either career backups or meh senior starters on par with Greg Banks, though in Khoury's case he's locked behind a very good player.
This isn't a Yet Another Defense Of Rich Rodriguez post, it's Yet Another Roster Implosion Explanation post. (All right: some of both.)
In retrospect the #12 2007 class was overrated. Vastly so.
At the time the line was about the two hyped five stars and the "high upside" guys behind them who were underrated by the services and so forth and so on. The two five stars mostly lived up to that hype, but Mallett did it at Arkansas because of the coaching transition* and Warren took off for the NFL because he thought he was still that good. Meanwhile, the high upside guys mostly can't play football. Even if everyone from the class was still around Michigan would be suffering. Save Mallett, no one who left would see the field. Maybe Artis Chambers would provide some help in the secondary, but he moved to linebacker before his transfer and washed out at Ball State—it's hard to see him displacing Kovacs.
It should have been obvious that recruiting was going in the toilet when Michigan made two desperate reaches at linebacker, grabbing a JUCO guy and a two-star with one other offer(Temple), then made a desperate reach to get a second offensive lineman in the class. But three different groups are proving that subscription models can work on the internet because hope is impervious to reason.
Michigan bounced back in 2008, but a lot of that was the late Rodriguez additions. One man's listing of the top ten recruits in that class, Rodriguez guys bolded:
- Mike Martin
- Patrick Omameh
- Roy Roundtree
- Martavious Odoms
- Kevin Koger
- Michael Shaw
- Darryl Stonum
- Kenny Demens
- Ricky Barnum
- Rocko Khoury
RR's strike rate on 2008 recruits was considerably higher than Carr's, as Michigan seemed like a magnet for overrated guys. Witherspoon, Cissoko, Smith, O'Neill, McGuffie, Fitzgerald, Moore, and Stonum have all under-performed relative to expectations, with only Martin exceeding them. You can make a case that coaching has something to do with it but I believe evaluations are a major factor. From time to time a guy who knows an NFL scout relays his impressions (this year's theme: "Michigan has nothing on defense except for Martin. Who is this Rogers guy?") and from day one this guy said O'Neill was way too stiff and would not work out. Similarly, it's hard to imagine just what position Brandon Smith was going to play in the Big Ten.
Class of 2008 departures who might see the field this year are… well… Cissoko? Definite nos: Wermers, O'Neill, Feagin. Very probable nos: Hill (OLB; would not beat out Mouton or Roh), Witherspoon (could not find the field at Rutgers and washed out), and Smith (like Cam Gordon except worse).
So. Michigan's 2007 class was a disaster and attrition from it did not matter save Warren's early NFL entry. The two thirds of Michigan's 2008 class acquired by Carr was appreciably better but still not so good; Rodriguez's late additions brought it up to something approximating an average Michigan recruiting class when it comes to on-field success.
(By the way: Rodriguez's second class is looking divergent as hell. Massive nuclear strikes at QB and OL, yet another disaster of a DB class—Witty, Emilien, and Turner are all gone and Mike Jones is a linebacker.)
Notes from Rich Rodriguez's Monday meeting with the press.
Denard - "Running-wise, everything's fine. We limited his throwing... Talking to the training staff, he should be able to do everything this week." The bye week helped him get healthy: "Denard can tolerate a lot of pain, but his issue with the last game wasn't the knee, but more the shoulder. He needed some rest, and he got that last weekend."
Martin, Molk, Shaw should all be good. "Mike and David Molk are... they should be good. Mike Shaw should be good as well."
Toussaint - "He did a little bit more last week, but the trainers think he'll be able to go." Not sure whether he'll contribute a lot, because that depends on how the RBs practice this week.
Gardner - "He's doing well. His back has been a little sore, so he's been a little limited." RR couldn't answer whether he'll try to earn a medical redshirt this season, and be a redshirt freshman next year.
Position Moves and the Bye Week
Will Campbell moved to guard, took to OL pretty well. See if he sticks after the first couple days this week. "Personality? I guess that's kind of an interesting way to put it... When we recruited him, I thought 'this is a big guy who can move a bit'" and could play either side of the ball. Will brought it up a bit earlier this year, but coaches wanted to wait for the open date.
"We're still a little thin [at defensive tackle] at times. We're playing around with Quinton Washington helping there a little bit on the defensive side." There's not a lot of time to let guys get established at a new position in just one week.
These position moves aren't permanent yet, they'll see how it goes this week.
Ricky Barnum is #3 guard, which allowed Washington to try DT. He can play all the offensive line positions.
Other moves - nothing substantive. Safeties should be able to play both S positions, Corners both CB positions.
"I think we've identified the guys we think are ready to play. We've gotta get them more ready." Not trying to mix in more new young guys during the bye week. Don't want to slow down the maturing process of some of the young guys, either.
"If anybody on our team could be a great field goal kicker, we'd have already found them and they'd be doing it." Hagerup was a pretty good high school kicker, but he wasn't as good as the other guys in fall camp. Kickers need to work on consistency.
"I'd hope that they have fresh legs a little bit after a couple days off." Enthusiasm may have been lacking in practice a bit, and that will hopefully be back. Coming off a bye, guys are usually more excited to be on the field. "I would think that our guys would be excited to get back out there and play a game."
Did defensive fundamentals improve in the last week? "I hope so. That certainly was our intent, to get better fundamentally." Getting off blocks was a bigger emphasis than working on tackling, which can get guys hurt.
Watched a lot of CFB Saturday, did some PSU prep. Yesterday watched his son play Pop Warner.
PSU healthier now. "Offensively, they've got what's probably gonna be their all-time leading rusher. Rob Bolden is a very talented guy." They have a lot of youth that will improve over the season.
Preparing for 3 different quarterbacks isn't a huge deal. They'll run mostly the same offense no matter who's in there. "We may see all three, I don't know." PSU might run a bit more with Newsome in there.
PSU defense - "They've had a shell of what they wanted to play with because of injuries." They're getting healthy now. Their defensive staff does a great job, and they'll play well against MICH.
"We'll keep them pretty busy" the morning of the PSU game. They'll have a walkthrough, go for a walk with their position coaches, etc. "The hard part - and I'm sure the players feel the same way - is waiting around all day." Night game - "It's a great atmosphere, the crowd is into it, the band plays music, they pipe in music. The night game, they have all day to tailgate, so they're in pretty good spirits."
Nobody will be around as long as Bowden was and JoePa is, because it's a different era now. "I don't know if Joe's record will ever be touched." Paterno knows about his own health, and he's giving the same effort he always has. "What he's done over the years has been remarkable, and so has his staff."
Should the Wolverines play a 2-QB system? "Denard's our starter. There's no controversy or anything like that." He may have "pressed the issue" too much on a couple plays in the last few games, feeling the pressure to make a big play. "He's just a second-year player, and he's going to make more mistakes going forward. The issue is minimizing them." QBs pressure on them because of the defense? "I think they do it naturally because we've had some success offensively, so if we're not scoring on every possession, it's disappointing."
Played poorly in the two losses, but there were positives: moved the ball, but couldn't finish drives, played some pretty good defense, but not enough to get the stops. "You learn: why did we lose? and correct the mistakes." Try to build on the positives, learn from the negatives. "If we just take care of the ball better than the last couple games, even with some of our other issues, we're right there at the end of the game."
Every week is critical. "One thing we want to be sure is that we have consistency in our approach." Tweak practices with focus, etc., but want to maintain the same routine and intensity. "We're gonna play as hard as we can every time... We're playing and they're keeping score, so we're going to play as hard as we can."
What do you think about fans demanding a certain numbers of wins? "I'm not listening." Worries about things he can control.
RR on Cam Newton: "What they do in their spread and ours is somewhat similar and somewhat different." Remembers watching him as a young guy at Florida. He's done a great job improving since then.
Helmet to Helmet - Any time you lead with the crown of your helmet, high or low, should be a penalty. Runners and blockers shouldn't be able to use the crowns of their helmet either.
Notes from Rich Rodriguez's Monday meeting with the press.
Mike Martin and David Molk sprained ankles [Ed: PANIC!!!!], but both both should be fine [Ed: Cease PANIC]. Martavious Odoms broke his foot, no word on how long he's out other than "extended." James Rogers's injury against MSU was just cramps.
Carvin Johnson was a bit physically limited this past week, and his knee brace has been a hindrance. He'll be a bit better this week. "I don't know when he can take that brace off - I'm sure he wants to take it off today - but the trainers and doctors will determine that.
Shaw was still a little less than 100% against MSU. He should be 100% this week.
Toussaint - Won't be able to play this week. Rotator cuff injury, doesn't need surgery but does need rest. "I don't think it's mental at all. It's just bad luck." Reminds him of Brandon Minor.
Teaching Moments - "Probably we have a lot more teaching moments than I'd like, for sure, out of that ballgame." Team was just off in execution. State had something to do with that, but some were their own mistakes. D - "Our young guys are gonna make mistakes, but we've gotta get better fundamentally." Need to remember fundamentals, not just game prep, etc.
Didn't think there were more designed handoffs than there were earlier in the year. "They were playing us a certain way in the beginning, so there were probably more runs for the backs."
Dropped passes, a couple missed reads from Denard. Can't do that against a good opponent. More dropped passes in that game than there probably was the rest of the season.
Did MSU try new things to confuse Denard? "No. Not that I've seen and that we saw on film."
MSU D - "They've got good players; they played well. They moved their front some and they brought their safeties down. I thought they tackled pretty well and broke on the ball well."
Great support at the University, friends, family, colleagues. "Everybody wants the same thing here," and nobody's happy with a loss. "We lost to Michigan State, what, you wanna hang me off the building now? I mean, there might be a few people who want to do that, but that's the same people that probably wanted to do that after the first five games too, they just weren't saying it publicly."
After Denard's picks, RR talked to him about what he saw, and he got on the phone to coach Magee - but they do that on good plays as well.
"We didn't execute as well. They had something to do with that and we had something to do with that as well." Moving the ball on the ground.
Mixing up defensive personnel - "In the secondary, our only change is more freshmen playing... ready or not, here they are." Mike Jones would have played a lot at linebacker if he wasn't out for the season. "We'll see what happens this week in practice" as far as personnel changes at linebacker - need more production.
Denard very competitive, may have been pressing too much. "This is his first year as a starter... in all reality, he should be a redshirt freshman but he he had to play some last year. We're not going to panic." He's made tremendous strides from last year, and he'll be even better in the next couple years.
Younger guys typically aren't team leaders, but Denard is one still. "I'm not overly concerned with guys taking charge in the locker room and all that." Only need to worry about weak leadership when effort and focus wane, which hasn't been an issue.
Cullen Christian, Courtney Avery, and Terrence Talbott would be redshirting if there were enough numbers: "No question." They've been forced into duty this year and are growing up. "To play this many true freshmen on defense at this level, it doesn't happen very often."
"Some of the issues we have aren't gonna get solved overnight. We've just gotta minimize them the best we can, so we can still win ballgames."
Talent issues on D - "We're not as talented maybe as we'd like to be or we're gonna be." It's not just about recruiting, but also development - 4-5 true freshmen in the secondary, plus Carvin Johnson, Jibreel Black. They haven't had a chance to be developed yet. "Our development part with them and development of them in the weight room, and the development of them learning the system in college football and everything that goes on with that" can't happen until spring.
Team is resolved after a loss - their focus has been good, they'll be resilient and move forward instead of dwelling. Sometimes younger guys can move on quicker. No new leaders develop after a loss like this. "I'm not too much worried about that. I'm worried about them fixing what we need to fix and executing better."
"We've gotta be able to be patient." Don't want to press too much if they aren't having immediate success on offense. Need to remember to take care of the ball and make better decisions. "You've gotta be more decisive in your execution, and not try to force things."
Talks with defensive coaches about schemes, and a bit of fundamentals. "I'm obviously a lot more involved with the offense." Doesn't want to get spread too thin with all three phases of the ball. The coaches are frustrated that they aren't making the progress they want, but there are little signs of improvement.
Scheme has been simplified as much as possible to help the young guys. "If you're too simple, they'll find a way to go against you." You have to be more multiple. Iowa is one of the few teams that's able to beat you using mostly one defensive scheme.
Recruiting class to develop needs "We feel that's going really well." Particularly on defense: "This recruiting class will help us get those numbers... to that end." There's another 9-10-11 spots in the recruiting class, looking at positions where they're lacking depth.
Recruiting - Last couple classes were negatively impacted by drama around the program, but the coaches did a great job. "There's a lot of negative recruiting that goes on - and we've got a great thing to sell - but you've still got to fight it and our coaches have done a good job."
Doesn't want his coaches to fight fire with fire in negative recruiting "I'd rather just sell all the good things we have here." Will compare things like schemes, but doesn't talk negatively about other institutions. "It's not as bad in our league, in the Big Ten, than it is in other leagues."
"Sometimes you have a guy that comes into your program and he's on scholarship and maybe he didn't turn out to be as good or able to play at the level you want, but he does everything else right. You're not gonna boot him off your team for that reason."
Iowa has a veteran D, they have had two weeks to get ready for M. They're a great defense. "Their front four is as good as anybody's in the country." They'll occasionally blitz, but they don't need to in order to get pressure.
"Big physical team, Stanzi's an experienced guy, they've got some really explosive wide receivers. They're very good, and I think they're a top ten team in the country."
"We've got two really good tight ends in Webb and Koger. They're experienced guys." They've been playing well. "Their toughest challenge [blocking] comes this week" against Adrian Clayborn and the rest of Iowa's front.
In addition to game prep, the bye week will be used a lot to work fundamentals, particularly with young guys. This will be a normal week of game prep for Iowa.
Will watch film of last year's game against Iowa. Iowa has had two weeks to prepare though, and gotten a head start on preparation.
Will Iowa's run game mean more 4-man fronts? "We've got the ability to do that. We've done that a bit in every game." The key is to still be able to get off blocks, no matter how many linemen you have.
Notes from Rich Rodriguez's Monday meeting with the press.
- Shaw "should be OK to do everything."
- Toussaint day-to-day with shoulder.
- Banks: "Little calf issue." Defense played a lot of plays, so he'll need rest. Should be fine.
- Brandon Herron is OK.
Downfield throws for Denard? "He's missing three out of every ten. That's not bad." The couple deep misses Saturday were maybe rushed a bit, but he's been doing well.
"No matter who your quarterback is, you worry about him staying healthy" regardless of what type of offense you run. "I have the same concern every week as far as hoping the guys stay healthy. But you've gotta play the game." "He'll be a little limited [in Monday practice]. Just because he's been running so much. You want him 100% on Saturday."
Denard comeback - "There's no panic." Going to a no-huddle for the 2-minute drill isn't a change from regular offensive pace. Denard made a nice throw to Junior, Hemingway made a nice play on it. Offense is executing with a lot of confidence. They practice the 2-minute drill a couple times a week.
Denard has learned a lot since last year. He's just running the offense (he couldn't do all that last year). He has the capability to bust 10-yard runs for 50 or 60.
Offensive line - "As a group, whoever the five is out there, there's another level we can get to."
Dorrestein - "Perry has been really solid. He's a veteran guy, he knows the offense."
Taylor Lewan penalty: "From what I see... his left foot got tangled up as he was stepping over a pile... I didn't see it on film, maybe they saw something I didn't see." The scrum afterward was no big deal, the officials broke it up.
Field goals: "We were close to it in the last game. We were gonna center the ball for a game-winning field goal" [Ed: ...but you try keeping Denard from an end-zone he can see]. RR would rather score TDs, and fortunately the offense has been good at doing so. "There's gonna come a point in time where we've gotta make field goals" to win the game. They have guys who will be able to do it.
Hagerup has played a bit better. "He had a couple good punts, and he seemed composed, so hopefully the little nervousness is out of the way."
Woolfolk - "I saw him last week, he's still got a big old cast." He's doing upper-body work. Hard for him and Mike Jones to not be able to play because they're competitive guys. Woolfolk should be 100% next year after rehab.
Stonum KO returns. "It's been a little bit frustrating." Haven't come close to breaking one. The blocking isn't quite there at times, but Darryl has the ability to do that. "Boy would it be a good time to do that."
"We have not had an opportunity to return a lot of punts."
"I don't think you have to blitz all the time to have an aggressive mentality defensively." You get on your heels a bit when you've been giving up a lot of first downs. "We didn't make some key stops. Some of it was mental, and some of it was physical." The D is a little limited because they don't want to confuse younger guys.
Offensively, can make more in-game adjustments because of experience. On Defense, more limited in that regard. Can make some adjustments, but not as many. The D has improved in some respects. "There's some moments on defense where we've gotten a little better, but there's also some things we've not gotten better yet, and it's going to take some time." In a tough situation with a lack of experienced depth. Need to force more 3-and-outs and turnovers.
"You always want to play a little bit better. We've battled; it's not like the guys aren't trying." Injuries and other issues are mitigating factors. "We're 5-0, and as much troubles as we've had, I don't want to belabor the fact." When they've gotten sacks from Martin or others, the opposing offense has been able to convert on long-yardage, which is frustrating.
Michigan D stats? "You can learn some stuff from statistics. I don't have to look at them to know where our problems are." Some of the problems can't be solved overnight.
Worried about defense wearing down? "Our defense was playing too much and our offense wasn't on the field at all." Doesn't alter the offensive approach, but wants the defense to play as fast as they can. "We've just got to try to play better, and get a few stops."
Were there defensive changes with Martin at DE and Floyd at S? "It was more of a defensive package thing we're trying to do." Put guys in different positions to have some success. Martin and Floyd are experienced players, put them where they can make plays.
"Our numbers defensively were way down." That's trending toward the positive, but they need to help the young guys out with their schemes.
The team learns from winning close games. "You can develop a habit of expecting to experience that same thing again." Blowing the lead in the ND game, the guys never panicked to come back. Same thing with the win on Saturday.
Special teams have been average, need to improve there as well.
Better TO margin this season is offensive experience, guys maturing, and knowing how to take care of the ball. It's been a big point of emphasis for the team.
Tackled pretty well, defended IU's wildcat pretty well. "We don't want to give up 35 points to anybody, but they have some talented players, and they did a nice job pitching and catching."
"They're all big, but this one's bigger. I mean, the rivalry games are always bigger." The more you win, the more is at stake. Both teams undefeated. "A rivalry has enough significance." Not thinking about revenge, what matters is what's happening right now.
Doesn't worry about point spreads "Usually the home team gets a few points anyway."
In-state rivalry is a bigger deal "We recruit against each other, and a lot of our players know their players." "I know they talk about it quite a bit, but so do we." "I don't blame the fans for thinking that, because they're not coaching. They've got more time to think about it."
"It's just as important to me and I think all my players as it is to them. They've just won the last two games." Anything to the contrary is just talk. No countdown clock to a given game, just to the next game. "Trust me, we talk about it quite a bit. It's very very very important to us." For the rivalry, "Anything that we do, I would keep internally.. there's always things you do for rivalry games that make it a little bit unique."
Different parts of the fanbase emphasize different rivalries. In-state might be more intense, but you're not going to try harder just because it's a rivalry; you're always trying your hardest. "It's one of the biggest games we play every year."
"I'm sure Mark [Dantonio], his health is the most important thing." He'll do everything that the doctors allow him to do. RR would do the same "Most of the time, you're going to listen to the doctor." As much as you like to compete, have to worry about yourself. "Having a health issue at any time, whether you're a coach or not, is a tough thing to go through." Tough in-season too, because you want to be out there and compete every day. Nobody talks about the health of assistants "You've gotta remind your staff to do that" - watch their health.
MSU's defense is "the most experienced for sure. Presents some challenges. They've got a very good defense." Michigan has to execute well.
"I think Cousins is an outstanding player." Cousins was a great QB last year, and "he's even playing better this year." Can run, throw, is a great leader. "Defensively, we've got some things we've got to fix."
MSU runs the same schemes with all their backs; they're interchangeable parts. "You've still gotta have guys get off blocks and make tackles... If you do that, you'll have a better defense."
MSU's offense has "Great balance, no question. They have the ability to come downhill at you and pound away. And they're very good at play-action."
Might try to keep the ball away from KeShawn Martin. MSU will try to be confusing on kickoffs. "He wants to take every ball back."
"I don't have any expectations" of a shootout. The intensity will be there. "If we can squeeze more people in there, this would probably be the week that it would happen."
MSU Defense - "They got good players, they've got a good team." They'll tackle well and take away parts of the offense. "We're gonna have to execute. That's a key, no matter what." MSU has good team speed, MICH can't do too much dancing around. "I think you've gotta stay within your scheme." MSU can't just use Greg Jones to shadow Denard, because it's not within their usual scheme. "If you don't block him or attempt to block him, he's gonna make a lot of tackles."
M and MSU undefeated adds national interest. "The more you win, the more is at stake."
This game and recruiting - "It may make an impact on one or two guys." Most recruits don't look at one game, or even the season, they look at the whole package.