to play football, not to play trumpet
rumormongering is what the internets are for
Michigan had their first scrimmage over the weekend, and the internet was alive with reports. I've gotten a couple emails and the board had a few things I'm attempting to follow up on to determine if they're independent reports or just regurgitation. For now, a few items that seem to be reliable across the spectrum.
Will Campbell is not happening. The Nathan Brink hype was an early indication of that and reports from the scrimmage talk about him more than Campbell. It seems highly likely Ryan Van Bergen starts the year at three tech with Brink the starting SDE. According to one source Campbell is "barely playing with the twos." Maybe Rodriguez and company weren't wrong to move Campbell to offensive line last year.
Obviously, that's bad. The DL was paper thin even when Campbell was supposed to start. Now you've got a walk-on in the starting lineup and Campbell may not even be a plausible backup. At least Van Bergen is somewhere around 290—just fine for three-tech—and Brink is a redshirt sophomore. At 265 he's light for a strongside DE and as a walk-on he's probably not going to do much, but for now we can close our eyes real tight and imagine JJ Watt in a winged helmet.
Yeah… that's the stuff.
Brink appears to have beaten out a healthy, senior Will Heininger, so he's got that going for him. Van Bergen, meanwhile, often spent entire games on the field last year. He's going to have to play ironman again this year.
Fitzgerald Toussaint might be happening. The constant refrain from all practices until the Saturday scrimmage was "there is no running back, Shaw by default, Smith on third downs." Saturday the internet lit up with Toussaint-related exclamation marks.
Could this be a real thing? I think so. Toussaint had a pretty good recruiting rep and his struggles so far have been injury-related. It would be one thing if he was just buried on the depth chart behind meh competition. It's not. Even skeptics have to admit Tousssaint's high school highlights are pretty sweet:
Though his competition level was not good he has the track chops to prove that speed you see is not an illusion. He was the 60M Ohio state champ as senior in high school and put up a 10.59 100 meter. The guy can go.
He's more of a slashing zone runner than a horse to run power with, but I don't see any horses to run power with who aren't conspicuously omitted from all reports except dark mutterings about being in the doghouse and missing the WMU game via suspension. If Toussaint is the guy Borges might shrug and run a crapton of zone—it's not like the media will notice.
Roh skepticism ominous. I hope Craig Roh's sickness is the main reason he's come in for a round of "is that all there is?" from the internet, because Michigan needs him. There was one weird report that Roh was playing a three-tech in certain situations—passing downs, I'd hope. That might have been a bit garbled—possibly a three-man front with a very technical linebacker for deployment against the spread.
That's something I am 100% in favor of, BTW. Michigan never got a handle on spread teams under Herrmann and it might be a little worrying if Mattison wasn't reacting to the great trend in college football lo these many years.
Hype magnets. Freshman and new faces getting buzz include:
- WDE Frank Clark, who has been getting some first-team snaps in the passing down package. Seems like he'll be deployed as a situational rusher this year.
- WLBs Brandin Hawthorne and Desmond Morgan(?!). Hawthorne's been running with the ones in practice glimpses and there are scattered reports Morgan is also getting time there. If those are accurate, just moving Morgan to WLB when he seems much better suited for the middle is an indication neither Mike Jones or Brandon Herron is impressing and they are scrambling to fill the spot with someone, anyone. Aaigh Kellen Jones.
- WR Jeremy Gallon has made a move. I'm not sure how much room there is for him at WR since there are already two 5'9" guys ahead of him on the depth chart, though. And putting him back to return punts seems like asking for it after whatever that was last year.
- More Kenny Demens.
- Michigan's using Steve Watson as an H-back.
- Thomas Rawls has a shoulder injury.
- Courtney Avery seems to be maintaining his lead in the race to start opposite Woolfolk.
- I haven't been able to confirm this so no names, but a linebacker is reportedly not in camp and hasn't been all fall. That might be a prelude to a departure
Insider scuttlebutt espectacular scheduled Saturday. They'll have another one this weekend. This one is open to Motts donors and premium seat holders, which I'm sure Hoke loathes but sometimes dollah dollah bill y'all works in the fan's favor.
If last year is any indication there will be a flood of often-contradictory reports here and elsewhere; I'll pick through them and add impressions from the email.
First, Al Borges:
And then Greg Mattison:
Brink of the Brink. I jumped the gun yesterday by retweeting the Blade's Ryan Autullo, who reported Nathan Brink was hanging out on the first-team defensive line yesterday, and claiming this should deflate the Will Campbell hype balloon. It turns out reporters got to see a lot of stretching and not much else; the units out there were not exactly 20 minutes of solid evidence.
"I hate to ever talk about a young man because I think every time I do that they go right down in the tubes," Mattison said after yesterday's practice. "He has come out every day as tough as he can. He listens to [defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery] on every word. When he tells him to step a certain way, he tries to step a certain way. And he's really, really physical." …
"In the spring it was mentioned a number of times because his toughness stuck out like crazy," Mattison said.
The word of the day is always "physical" except when it's "toughness." It's a good sign for you when the coaches are describing you with the attributes they've been preaching nonstop since their arrival.
Is it good for Michigan? If you were under the impression Michigan wouldn't be rotating through walk-ons on its DL, no. That's been unlikely since those dual DT decommits on Signing Day two years ago, though.
Now you should brace for zing:
"Everybody's a scholarship football player to us," Mattison said. "The best 11, the best 12, the best 17, those guys are going to play."
This walk-on may be on the brink of doing that.
The other change. Is it alarming that Jibreel Black, who the coaches have been displeased with, was the other surprise first-team-ish player on the line yesterday? Probably not. An emailer relates that Craig Roh is sick. Not good but not a major problem unless it's mono.
Don't be mono, k thx.
might not be much bench time for this pair. via GBMW
Insidery scuttlebutt. Fall camps are full of temporary surprise starters as coaches test new things or dole out rewards and reprimands, so reading too much into any particular lineup is a constant threat. That said, a couple folk close to the program say Hawthorne has been playing well enough to warrant his shot at the first team. Consistency remains an issue. If Michigan can get production out of him that will be a bonus.
Other insidery nuggets: Demens has MLB locked down and is playing as well at that spot as anyone has in a while; Cam Gordon should hold off Jake Ryan for the SLB spot; Marell Evans has been a bit of disappointment.
Position switches. As media day content continues to trickle out information missed by folks moving to and fro amongst the panoply of assistants and players comes out. For example, there's a new contender at Safety Who Isn't Kovacs. Curt Mallory:
"Thomas has been playing nickel and also been playing safety. We're moving him around," Mallory said. "They will eventually [be interchangeable]. We went into it playing sides, and now as they've learned it, you can play your next best safety rather than next best strong or free. As we get closer to it we'll hone it in a bit and get guys where they best fit the defense. …
"No one's hiding. They all want to be out there, involved, competing. That's probably the most encouraging thing. If Thomas Gordon could, he'd be out there the whole time, and he's not the only one. That's good. They all want to be out there—it's a healthy thing because they are all helping one another."
I liked Gordon last year in the limited role (and limited time) he was allowed. He's dropped some weight and I'd be surprised if he wasn't the fastest guy competing to start at safety. (Furman is probably faster but no one mentions him as a threat to start this year.)
Mallory mentioned Countess, Taylor and Hollowell first amongst the freshmen corners, FWIW.
Rivals also has an article on Brennen Beyer's move to SLB. He won't be required to play this year and that sounds like a good thing:
It's a change because I haven't really played that before, but it's fun trying to learn as much as I can as fast as I can," Beyer said. … "Pass dropping, for one. I've never done that before," he said. "Playing while standing up—that's a little different."
Anyone nervous? I'm nervous. Jeff Hecklinski on the receivers:
"It was such a drastic change offensively that it really hasn't been aided [by their experience]," Hecklinski said. "We have to understand the intricacies that go along with the pro-style offense and the throwing game like we have.
"But, to their credit, they've worked hard throughout the summer. You can see a lot of good things throughout the summer. They came through and did the 7-on-7s and now we get a chance to look at them, you can see they've started to develop that timing and put things together. Now, we need to build on it, and we can hone it down to every little detail."
Practice buzz has been extremely happy with the unit as a whole despite the change; I'm guessing we see a preponderance of three-wide sets this fall. Four is a thing of the past but SDSU ran a lot of three-wide last year. With little established behind Koger at TE their other option is all I-Form.
Gallon is getting talked up, which is surprising. He was an impressive player in the Army Bowl as a recruit but couldn't find the field in an offense perhaps better suited for his talents—he mostly spent his time screwing up painfully on special teams. If he gets his act together he'd bring a YAC aspect Michigan's receivers are currently lacking. I'd bet this is more like Johnny Sears hype, though: encouragement more than accurate reporting.
Standard. More Fred Jackson: "I’ve very, very confident [in the future] because those two freshmen are good players. They are better than good. Both of them.”
Les pun barrage avoided. The mandarins at LSU are sticking to their story that no one's talking to them about talking to Les Miles. The chancellor's version of yesterday's statement by the AD:
“No one has said anything to me,” Martin said. “But of course a lot of these things are done with agents now, behind the scenes.”
Just like LSU's recruiting. Hey-o!
It's contagious. Jennifer Hammond was patient zero in the Michigan edition of Fruitless Jon Gruden Naming but it's spreading: I have more than one account from actual sources indicating Michigan did interview him yesterday. With Gruden an interview is usually a brief conversation about how this guy makes more money than God by saying generic things on Monday Night Football, so don't get excited. I can't believe I'm actually relaying information about Gruden and Michigan but I guess if we've deployed flight tracking Gruden couldn't have been far behind.
If, like me, you've become inured to the constant Gruden-to-everywhere speculation that seems like it's been a major feature of American culture for the last fifty years you may be surprised to find out that he's a youthful 47 and could actually be plausible in a Pete Carroll sort of way.
Speaking of flights. So the winged helmet plane that touched down in Baton Rouge when Miles was in Dallas was there for all of two hours, then took off for South Carolina. What's in South Carolina? Um… well… a few days ago it was relayed to me that Lloyd Carr was in South Carolina. He supposedly has a vacation home at Hilton Head (restaurant to the stars!). The plane flew to… Hilton Head. It then went to a regional airport in Georgia, back to Hilton Head, headed out to Westchester County, and then went back to Hilton Head.
Ironically, Carr lit out for South Carolina because he was sick of people claiming he was the nefarious power behind the throne and just wanted to get away from everything and now a plane with a winged helmet painted on it is using his location as a hub. This is either
- an amazing coincidence, or
- David Brandon smoothing over Les Miles with Lloyd Carr and random incredibly wealthy NYC-based booster who is probably Stephen Ross.
Since a good source says Brandon actually is using the winged helmet plane—Dominos was a ruse!—I lean towards the latter; this seems like a fact corroborating the Les Miles buzz. I may have to apologize to Tiger Droppings.
Turns out I have less than I thought I did after reviewing items, but the remainder…
Other people are on planes. So. It's that time again:
It's not a coaching search without people tracking a plane they think might have Dave Brandon in it and pointing out that Phoenix is somewhat close to Jim Harbaugh but not too close, right, so probably they're definitely meeting in Phoenix at an Applebee's wearing big Groucho Marx noses so no one recognizes them, right?
A point in the conspiracy theorists' favor: the plane is registered to Domino's Pizza and spent the new year hanging out in Jacksonville watching Michigan get crushed by Mississippi State. Since then it's done this.
- Wednesday, 5 PM: Headed out to Latrobe, PA.
- Wednesday, 10 PM: flew from Latrobe to Chicago.
- Yesterday, 1 PM: flew from Chicago to Phoenix
What does this mean? Eh… probably that someone other than David Brandon is using the plane for purposes related to the business of Dominos. But it's a coaching search so you get Flight Aware. These are the rules.
But wait! There's more! Another plane suspiciously not registered to anything related to the University of Michigan—"Unknown Owner"—has been flying places. A reader relates its progress:
- Willow Run flight left for Miami midday 1/4 when firing "reported" but supposedly not made (Mary Sue Coleman or other agent leaving)
- Miami flight scheduled to Van Nuys, CA on 1/5 and does go, but makes previously unscheduled stop in Lubbock (?). Timing is 2 hours post firing presser. Could be to finalize plan, get gas, time up the following #3, or who knows. Only on ground 47 minutes. Arrives in Van Nuys at 5:09 pacific (Ross in tow to make help make pitch?)
- Gulfstream flight from San Jose, CA lands in Van Nuys at 5:52 pacific (Harbaugh?)
- Flight from Miami to Van Nuys leaves for Palm Springs at 5:57 (easy switchover for "Harbaugh" w/ a private aircraft) stays night there.
- Miami flight departs for home (Boca airport) at 10:05 A.M on 1/6
- Next flight out of Palm Springs at 10:11 AM is private plane to Monterrey Peninsula airport--less public than San Jose airport and 60 miles south of Palo Alto--lands at 11:03 AM
- 49ers meet w/ Harbaugh today in undisclosed location - he flies somewhere else or drives somewhere between SF and airport to meet 49ers.
This is all bats and obviously means Mike Leach is the next coach. Stop in Lubbock, people. Mike Leach.
But wait! There's actual information possibly worth reading! So… as mentioned the sudden reversal in the Harbaugh story now lends some credence to the old acquaintances/teammates from yesterday who were predicting Harbaugh to Michigan in the face of the Twitter army. I'm still a little leery that the only thing out there other than this site that says M-to-Harbaugh isn't dead is John Elway's random opinions on the radio, but…
- Solid source says Harbaugh and Brandon will speak today. There is a separate, extremely fuzzy and probably untrue rumor that it's happening in Phoenix.
- Another says Ross spent most of his time with Harbaugh badgering him about taking the Michigan job, not making him richer than Stephen Ross, and that Michigan is "still in the game" but Andrew Luck's dastardly desire to get a degree isn't helping.
As of 1:30 PM on Friday 1/7, there seems to be a chance.
Hat. Despite my antipathy for Miles—it's a sign of the fanbase's vast desperation that people are trying to talk themselves into the guy—I'm duty-bound to report that a southern correspondent reports that LSU fans are rumbling about losing Miles shortly after the Tigers play A&M tonight. These are fuzzy indeed.
There is also a random thread on Tiger Droppings saying players think Miles is gone as well because in private he's been "much more melancholy," which what the hell does that mean?
I've repeatedly stated the reasons Miles makes no sense—repeat "he will be sixty in three years" if nothing else works for you—and there's an element of wishful thinking around the reports since losing Miles to Michigan would resolve the great idiot/genius debate surrounding him.
Hoke. Endorsed by Jason Whitlock.
Patterson: door not exactly closed. This seems like a guy who will at least listen:
"No, I haven't been contacted," Patterson told 105.3-The Fan. "I've got a great job here.
"TCU has a chance to be maybe the No. 2 or No. 1 team (next season), depending on what poll, in the nation. Maybe we are one of those people (elite programs) now. That's what I've been trying to build the program to get to. Michigan has a great tradition and is a great university. I'll cross that bridge when I get there."
Someone talk to him, yes? I mean, seriously. Someone contact him.
This is what I currently believe is going on, tenuously. Extreme caveat: this is nuts.
Seriously, people, the Jim Harbaugh boat has sailed. The latest awesome conspiracy theory is that Miami is going to bid Harbaugh up into the stratosphere so the 49ers hire someone else. Then Stephen Ross is going to say "whoops I apparently still have this Sparano guy around" and cackle his way to Ann Arbor with a contrite Harbaugh in tow. This is truly an awesome conspiracy theory. It's not happening:
Ross had dialogue with University of Michigan officials to ensure that he would not be competing for Harbaugh's services with his alma mater, sources said. Ross, who is one of Michigan's largest benefactors, was assured by a Michigan official that Harbaugh was not reciprocating interest in the college's now-vacant head coaching position.
"But that's what they want you to think!" Yes. Yes, that. Apparently we don't have to rename the school of business The Jerk Store, so we've got that going for us. That and nothing else.
…Unless it hasn't (but it probably has). I do have some stuff in the inbox second-hand from Harbaugh friends that says he's "likely to be coach by the end of the week" and that in mid-December he was asking people close to him in Ann Arbor about schools and whatnot. Given everything public—most prominently Dave Brandon all but screaming "JIM HARBAUGH WILL NOT BE COACHING MICHIGAN NEXT YEAR" during the press conference—I think the former is inaccurate but it does cite something I've heard from a reliable source: that the big issue was always going to be the amount of Harbaugh's buyout for the NFL in case he wanted to pull a Spurrier at some point. So there's at least some credence there.
The latter would indicate that Harbaugh did indeed change course recently, thus spurring the somewhat bitter/smarmy "NFL challenge" routine from Brandon yesterday and potentially explaining why we're at sea three weeks from Signing Day. An established source says "something terrible happened in the last two days"—those being Monday and Tuesday—that caused Rodriguez to go from 100% gone to possibly back if he can assure Brandon things are going in the right direction back to gone. Terrible thing seems likely to be Harbaugh backing out, no?
FWIW, that last source is still holding out hope that Brandon and Harbaugh can work something out. Dim hope, but hope.
Les Miles? Do I need to say this about a grass-eating nutcase pushing 60 who can't count to 85? In case I do: Les Miles should not be happening.
Yes, I have a crazy fourth-hand rumor that one of the assistant's wives says "Hoke and Miles" are the current the focus, but even the emailer says he's not sure why on earth a just-fired-assistant's wife would know that. Welcome to a coaching search. I also have a second-hand source saying someone you've heard of lists him as one of three main candidates along with Hoke and…
One mid-major P may be in play. An emailer from outside the Michigan fanbase who I've known a while is connected to one of those firms that conducts coaching searches and relates that Boise State's Chris Petersen "doesn't even return exploratory phone calls"—which is probably why he's never rumored to be a candidate anywhere outside of blogger lists. You can write him off if you haven't already.
On the other hand, there is a "sense that the TCU boys were finally ready to move on," though this was before they got the Big East bid. There is obviously a vast chasm between this and Michigan actually talking to Patterson and company, but the aforementioned person you've heard of says Patterson is the third name on the list.
Fitzgerald buzz continues to seem real. If you were listening to WTKA this morning you heard Craig Ross cite a couple of sources within the department saying Michigan was going to look at Fitzgerald, which makes something like a half-dozen independent corroborations that Michigan is interested. This is not on par with the Hoke stuff but it's obvious people would be pushing Hoke because of their personal relationship with him even if San Diego State had gone 0-12 this year. Fitzgerald does not have any in-house friends.
As to the question hanging over any discussion of Fitzgerald—will he leave Northwestern?—a second-hand source says Northwestern has a wealthy alum willing to fork over serious cash to keep him. However, while in the past personal conversations with Fitzgerald led the source to believe he would "never" leave Northwestern, recently that stance has softened and "he can't say that anymore." Still… that's going to be a tough guy to pull. Money won't be the reason Fitz leaves if he does.
There's a decent chance Scot Loeffler returns. Loeffler may or may not be out of a job in the aftermath of Florida's coaching search. Even if he's still the QB coach in Gainesville if the new coach wants him he will come back to Ann Arbor. This would make the recruitment of FL QB Jeff Driskel (who is kind of good) interesting. Since Loeffler is one of two Carr assistants to actually land comparable jobs at other schools (Eric Campbell is the WR coach at Iowa) and he's still carrying around that ability to recruit awesome quarterbacks anyone with pro-style inclinations should definitely hire him.
Mike Barwis may be staying long-term. Unlike everyone else who got the broom, Mike Barwis was kept on as S&C coach, "really likes Michigan," and may retain that job if someone amenable to keeping him is hired. Hoke might keep him; Miles—who seems incredibly implausible—would not.
Keeping Barwis would go a long way towards minimizing transfers, FWIW.
Dave Brandon did a good job with the players yesterday. Reports from the meeting with the players are reassuring after what was a very wobbly press conference. One anonymous player: "It was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders." It sounded like there were plans bigger than "one of the usual suspects," but if it was a usual suspect it would be because he's earned the job.
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All right, to recap what you've probably already read: Fox and the Free Press jumped the proverbial gun and there has been no official word that Rodriguez is done for yet. Insert condescending clucking about legacy media's insatiable desire to be first at the expense of being right. The 7 PM meeting tonight has been moved to 4 tomorrow.
What does it mean? Eh… probably not much. Sources very close to the AD are incredibly tight-lipped and most of the information out there is coming from outside the department (or, if within the department, may not be that close to the decision-making process), but if we've learned one thing it's that no decisions will ever be made.
Except they probably will. The massive favorite in the rumormongering is none other than Brady Hoke, which goddammit. I'm not writing things about it now because all of it could or would get thrown back in my face in the event Brady Hoke is not a complete failure but rest assured I'm thinking all of them and how.
Items you probably haven't read elsewhere yet:
- A parent of a Michigan player had a chance run-in with John Saunders, Craig James, and some other ESPN folk who said Harbaugh is "still in it," for whatever that means.
- Players are shooting the news(?) back and forth to each other on twitter. Whether they're all basing it off apparently not-quite-founded news reports or they've got something more to go on is unknown.
- Excellent source that provided the Hoke "not an option" quote has been forced to backtrack, unfortunately, and says he is "in play potentially" now even if he wasn't on the list of viable candidates to start. Also an announcement of the new guy is "likely within 24 hours," but no idea on his end as to who that might be. As always this stuff shifts with the wind so take it for what it's worth.
I still cling to the belief that Michigan would not look at a 53-year-old with one decent season and one undefeated MAC campaign (undefeated until Ball State played Buffalo in the championship game, anyway, and then imploded against Tulsa, and then the mighty foundation Hoke had wrought imploded in a pile of balsawood splinters) after Indiana and Minnesota had both said "thanks, but no thanks" to the same guy, let alone make him their head coach. Especially if the inane rumor that Hoke's first hire is going to be his brother—we've had plenty of virtual nepotism already without the real thing intruding—is true and blah blah blah.
Unfortunately, I don't have much information and am relying on the common sense and logical deduction that have
served me so well mocked and haunted me the last three years. I promise you this: if Brady Hoke is actually hired small children should not read the site for a week following because every other word will be swearing. This is in no way a joke.