at least it's not just us?
rumormongering is what the internets are for
Michigan just let in all manner of heathens to observe a couple practices, ping various coaches for information, and take in a Saturday scrimmage; naturally, this has created a ton of internet chatter. Also naturally, large portions of it conflict with other portions of it. There's a faction of super insiders on Rivals declaring Denard Robinson to be a complete disaster and one focused here proclaiming him to be Pat White—except fast! Tate Forcier is either looking like a "walk-on" or the obvious starter, and Devin Gardner is either a total n00b or Vince Young—except fast!
So… yeah. I don't know. Here's my contribution to the melee. First, a non-crippling version of the latest Inside Michigan Football featuring all quarterbacks doing something awesome:
Whenever I hear one of the freshmen speak I get annoyed at all the Dorsey stuff. Yeah, Michigan is totally turning into Jimmy Johnson's Miami.
Anyway, in addition to the posters who got bumped to the front page over the weekend, MGoBlog had a couple of sources who took in the activity late last week. Observations gleaned:
Terminology, or: The Quick And The Dead
One of the toughest things to do as a guy who tries to figure out football and communicate it as a layman is figure out what to call something. Every time I decide to call something X, well meaning folk tell me it should be Y or Z. I tend to apologetically ignore them just so things are relatively clear for readers.
However, if the coaches are all calling something one thing and it's not counter-intuitive I'll go with it. So:
- Michigan is calling the dual SS in the 3-3-5 "spur" (strongside) and "bandit" (weakside). Some 3-3-5 teams make no distinction between these guys, but it appears that Michigan will flip these guys strong and weak. This leaves the bandit as the guy who will be tested in the occasional deep half, about which more later.
- The coaches were actually calling the deep safety "strong" for a while but they've reverted to calling him "free." There are good football-related reasons for that weird nomenclature but since they're gone, whatever. I'll return to calling Cam Gordon and other guys who line up there free safeties.
- The north-south MINOR RAGE run that Michigan's used to good effect the past couple years is something I've been calling "veer," which has been the nomenclature that's drawn the most protests. Michigan calls this their "belly" series.
Spinner: dead. Quick: dead. With this jargon we will ascend to the pillars of knowledge.
My initial reaction to the Denard Robinson hype was the same as Doctor Saturday, who has lumped Tate-Denard-Devin into a list of "specious spring quarterback controversies," but both observers gave tentative, caveat-laden nods to Robinson as the starting quarterback. The difference between last year and this year is vast. That falls just short of incredible since Robinson arrived without any ability to even run the zone read. Many of his plays were Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Zone Stretches run from an empty backfield. Robinson's high school coaching amounted to nil, so it's obvious that he would have a bigger leap forward than Forcier and his years of intensive training.
Robinson is still light years away from Forcier as a passer—his ability to "see and understand the field remains limited"—but in the open field he is ludicrous and now that he's gotten the hang of the zone read he gets in that space frequently. Craig Roh on Robinson:
"I hate Denard on the football field," Roh said. "I love him outside of football, but on the football field, he's just such a nuisance. The quarterbacks here are too fast, and Denard, I just can't catch him. It's ridiculous."
Observer A, a defensively oriented guy, said "as a coordinator you watch him come around the corner on the naked boot and you say uh-oh." Another high school coach told observer B that Denard "runs into traffic just to make defenders look silly." Robinson's athleticism will force defenses to overplay that threat and open up other opportunities.
Tate Forcier remains Tate. One of Michigan's coaches praised Tate's "great strides" in his understanding of the playbook, but what you see is what you get with Forcier: accurate on the run, good scrambler, shortish, meh arm strength. Meanwhile, the undercurrent of coaching discontent with his dedication as a freshman has added another pebble:
"Maybe some of the things that happened early in the season happened a little easier for him," Rodriguez said. "It kind of felt right to him. At the end of the year, he played more like a true freshman at times. And he got banged up a little bit and his concentration wasn't as sharp.
"As coaches, it's our job to make sure he maintains that focus."
The most worrisome thing I hear about Forcier is actually a positive thing related about Gardner. Gardner sets in the pocket and has less of a tendency to start running around than either of the other two quarterbacks, which allows him to go deep more regularly. The offense is a lot of broken plays with both of the short guys. While that's obvious with Robinson, I was hoping Forcier would get more comfortable throwing in the pocket.
Despite that, it will be all but impossible to pull Forcier in favor of Robinson full time when their skill sets are so divergent; a platoon beckons.
As for Devin Gardner, raves about his "incredible feel for the game" from QB coach Rod Smith were relayed via both observers. Other spring hype: "huge," "covers ground without seeming to move" like Vince Young and Terrelle Pryor, and… wait for it… "well ahead of both at this stage." Gardner is a "gym rat" who will happily spend all day watching film. However, he's "nowhere near" having a grasp of the offense and his throwing is erratic. When he's good, he can make deep throws with touch unlike either of the other two, but his overall accuracy lags because of the mechanical issues. His delivery isn't consistent yet. This will not be an enormous surprise to anyone who saw the difference between Camp Devin and Degraded Devin over the course of this high school football season.
This position remains a mess that will not be resolved until UConn, and frankly I'd be surprised to see a single game this year where Michigan goes exclusively with one quarterback. With two polar opposites at the spot, the nominal starter may depend on the relative strength of the opposing defense.
That's just this year. The vibe I got was that Gardner is the future of the position. Maybe not this year, but all bets are off in 2011. The position was described as "loaded," albeit young.
Running Back Battle
Zero clarity here as well. As mentioned earlier, Stephen Hopkins was impressive to Observer B; A was pretty noncommital about the tailbacks. Mike Cox has slipped for whatever reason. Observer B on Hopkins:
The guy is just a freaking monster and he breaks tackles. Now, I can’t say he can block, or knows the offense or can catch the ball. Plus, he fumbled twice (once he was hit at the handoff, on the other instance it might have been the QB’s issue). But man is he a tough tackle on the belly if he can get (even) a yard of momentum.
Shaw and Toussaint seemed like better runners than Cox, as well. This is another spot that will lack clarity until deep into fall unless Vincent Smith (who is jogging but limping badly) comes back fully healthy and establishes himself as the guy.
At fullback, Mark Moundros is playing mostly at linebacker, leaving McColgan the starting FB. He seems okay. Made a couple catches, made a couple blocks. Fullback isn't a huge priority.
Still hard to tell much of anything with two of the top three guys on the outside missing and Michigan focusing on the short stuff, but the freshman making the most of his spring is Jerald Robinson, who is "rangy" and "knows how to get his body in position." That's similar to assessments coming out of his strong summer camp performance.
Jeremy Jackson is also on par with expectations: smart, good routes, great hands, approximately as fast as a tight end. Could this be the guy who actually warrants the incessant Jason Avant comparisons I make? Miller didn't impress in the brief window provided.
Meanwhile, the guys in the slot are reputed to be extremely slippery. Terrance Robinson and Jeremy Gallon are described as "better than a pretty good Big Ten player" in Odoms as long as they're catching the ball. This is not assured: Robinson's hands were the main reason he didn't see the field last year and Observer B praised Odoms's hands while complaining about too many drops in the slot. Coaches were talking up Robinson as a potential contributor, FWIW.
Offensive line being an esoteric position, I don't have much other than the general positivity even absent David Molk. Taylor Lewan could use another 15 pounds but is still holding down left tackle. Perry Dorrestein is nicked up, which may explain the move. More than likely this is an opportunity Lewan won't pass up and Dorrestein is going to have to battle for the right tackle spot. Insert now-default Jake Long comparisons here. Lewan's not likely to be the #1 pick in the NF L draft but his career trajectory is zipping along at the most optimistic level possible.
The most encouraging thing on the line is the depth. Even with Washington and Dorrestein nicked up there's almost a solid two-deep of players who Michigan could throw on the field without panic:
Getting Molk back will give Michigan a buffer of three or four competent backup offensive linemen.
Remember last year's complaint about Michigan potentially tipping their run plays based on the position of the quarterback? This was the setup position on a zone stretch…
…and this was Michigan's belly (which this blog called "veer") series:
From the sideline shot it's pretty obvious what's going on here. QB in front of RB: north-south. QB behind RB: east-west. I'm not entirely sure a defense is going to be aware enough to make an adjustment based on this—it's a lot easier to tell when you're way far away on a sideline—but it can't help.
The coaches apparently have the same concern. They've moved away from this paradigm in favor of something they believe will disguise their intent better. What it is I don't know. It sounds like at the very least the QB is going to move late, like a split second before the snap, if not after. This strikes me as something that Debord would never do.
(FWIW: They did try to mix it up some after practicing for Illinois' zone read veer—which I think is, like, really a veer until someone corrects me on it in the next 60 seconds—but that wasn't successful and was abandoned. I wouldn't write it off entirely, FWIW. It's possible a newly capable Denard Robinson makes that crazy effective.)
Assorted items of possibly dubious validity that have darkened my inbox about spring practice. Are these accurate? Useful? Worth reading? Possibly not. Will at least one player who these reports suggest will be a ninja spend his career doing nothing? Yes. Will you absorb the reports voraciously anyway? Absolutely!
I'm on the record as skeptical that Denard Robinson presents a serious threat to Tate Forcier, but multiple sources here and elsewhere keep saying it looks even, or even advantage Robinson, thus far. Robinson's got a zippy arm that bests Forcier when it comes to short-range oomph and has vastly improved his accuracy. This makes him a plausible quarterback. He remains ridiculously fast, and is actually running the read option now.
Areas for improvement: throwing on the run, reading defenses—when the D deviates from its vanilla schemes Robinson has a nasty tendency to throw it directly at defenders—and pocket awareness. On long throws he still has a tendency to throw ropes that give receivers little opportunity to adjust to inaccurate balls.
There has been little chatter about Forcier, with some observers theorizing he's still dealing with the after-effects of his shoulder injury and others claiming he's totally healthy and just not progressing as fast as Robinson. That latter makes some sense, as Forcier has been exposed to high-level coaching for years. He's a lot closer to his ceiling than Robinson.
Despite all the Robinson talk, most people are hesitant to suggest he would actually start. Michigan is installing the 3-3-5 and running vanilla coverages. There's a long way to go from seeming competent in spring to being the starting quarterback. More realistic is a continued timeshare with Robinson moonlighting at other skill positions when Tate is at the helm.
Devin Gardner, meanwhile, looks like a freshman. He needs work on his mechanics, doesn't know the offense that well, and is clearly behind the two sophomores. He's running a lot of those Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Zone Stretch plays that Robinson was relegated to last year. If Denard can establish himself a viable option Gardner seems headed for a redshirt. His long term potential remains totally sweet.
It sounds like Mike Cox is the tentative leader at this point. He alternates punishing Minor RAGE runs with mental mistakes that undoubtedly have Rodriguez throwing his hat and saying he's dang-diddly-anged disappointed in the young man. Cox has the best combination of size and speed, and that uncanny balance he flashed during some of his garbage-time runs is no fluke. Caveat: Vincent Smith is sometimes suggested as the probable starter. Cox is entering his third year in the program so the mental mistakes may be a long term issue, unfortunately.
Michael Shaw is next in the pecking order, less likely to break a tackle than Cox but more likely to take something a long way. He's also been mentioned as a player who needs to work on the mental side of the game some.
Stephen Hopkins is getting the sort of reviews you expect him to: he is a horse, a load, a freight train, a moose, etc. He will run straight ahead until he falls over or he burrows into the wall in the endzone. If Cox doesn't establish himself as a short yardage back, the duties will likely fall to Hopkins.
Toussaint comes in for cursory "looked good" praise but it seems like he's trailing the relative veterans. White is probably redshirting.
Wideouts and Tight Ends
Hard to tell anything with Hemingway and Stokes out; in their absence Roy Roundtree is practicing outside and drawing mixed reviews. Drops are supposed to be an issue with everyone, but Roundtree gets more stick for it than others.
Mixed reviews on Darryl Stonum, with a couple reports citing his obvious physical superiority to the rest of the WRs and projecting a strong season. Again, hard to tell absent his most serious competition.
Roundtree may stick outside even after the injured return because Odoms, Gallon, and Robinson are all having strong springs. Robinson and Grady are taking a number of snaps in the backfield—think Darius Reynaud—and doing well with it. Both were high school tailbacks. Robinson and Gallon seem to have the inside track on punt returns.
Tight ends are the same as they were last year. It sounds like they're focusing more on the slots this year.
The interior line remains as expected: Schilling, Molk Placeholder, Omameh, with both guards coming in for regular praise and the Placeholder (Khoury, mostly) having issues snapping the ball. That's supposedly getting better.
On the outside there's been some shuffling with Dorrestein and Huyge flopping left to right at times. This may be due to Taylor Lewan's (right) quick emergence. He's been called an "obvious future star" and "reminiscent of Jake Long." Reports are still conflicting on his readiness but all agree that his upside is as rapturous as the recruiting gurus promised; it seems like it's matter of time before he claims the left tackle spot. That timeframe may be September or it may be next year. The most recent move suggests the move may come sooner rather than later. Flipping Huyge to the right seems to be an effort to get Michigan's best five on the field. If I had to bet, I'd go with Lewan as the starting LT against UConn.
Washington (when healthy) and Schofield have also gotten good reviews; that whole class seems to be panning out so far. Huyge and Dorrestein haven't been the subject of much chatter good or bad. With the quarterbacks focusing on shorter routes the opportunities for serious pass protection have been intermittent.
Renaldo Sagesse continues to play well. Will Campbell is huge and still working on technique issues but much better both physically and mentally; it sounds like those two will be the NT platoon. I'm pretty confident they'll be a good one. That leaves Van Bergen and Martin outside with Banks and Patterson backing up. It's hard to tell how much of the praise for each of the senior backups is real, but given how Sagesse played last year I think he can hang. Patterson and Banks I don't know about.
Specific mentions of RVB have been few and far between. Banks and Patterson are getting talked up publicly but aren't drawing a ton of hype on background.
This comes with a "just spring" warning since he was buried all of last year, but Kenny Demens is getting a significant amount of buzz and is taking some of Ezeh's snaps with the first team. The scheme change may suit him: the Casteel-style 3-3-5 doesn't need a huge MLB, just a tough guy willing to plug his face on a guard and make the nose tackle right all the time. His speed and blitzing is a good fit for the new system. He's been laying his share of thumping hits.
Other than that, it's MOTS in the linebacking corps, with Mouton and Ezeh seeming like Mouton and Ezeh. If there have been any adjustment pains for Craig Roh they haven't made it into the wide world. He seems to be doing very well. Adding 20 pounds turns him from overmatched but promising into beast, apparently. From the inbox's lips to God's ears.
The Cam Gordon hype train continues unabated, with words like "excellent," "natural," and "seems vaguely like an actual safety" getting thrown around. (Latter praise invented by me to tamp own expectations down.) ESPN's Adam Rittenberg gets in on the act:
Safety Cameron Gordon, a converted wide receiver, drew praise from Rodriguez and several players I spoke with.
Most positive reports about receivers read "hauled in pass and was disemboweled by Gordon, but held on." Caveat: all the quarterback reports indicate that Michigan is working on short stuff incessantly, so opportunities to get dragged way out of position and give up, oh, I don't know, a third and thirty-seven conversion have been limited.
With Emilien out with another injury, Brandin Hawthorne is second-team at deep safety. Rodriguez has been wary about the lack of depth there.
Troy Woolfolk is about on par where he was last year: pretty good Big Ten corner, may have a bit more upside than that as a senior. Then there's JT Floyd. He is "vastly improved." I know. I'm skeptical, too. According to Rittenberg, Woolfolk had praise for Floyd as well.
The bad news: Justin Turner gets a universal "meh," with a couple of reports indicating that a 6'2", 210-pound corner is not likely to work out and a position move is in the cards once the quartet of freshman corners hits campus in fall. One talks up James Rogers, his teammate on the second team, in favor of him. Bleah. As of now the third string corners are walk-ons so Turner continues to labor at a position it seems he doesn't have the quicks for. With Gordon developing a death grip on deep safety, Turner's best shot at playing time in the near future may be as a spur or bandit.
As far as the hybrid SSs go: Jordan Kovacs has the weakside spot (bandit) locked down. This is no surprise for anyone who saw him play there as a freshman walk-on. That box safety thing is tailor made for him. The other side is a total mess, with Mike Williams giving way to a combination of redshirt freshman Thomas Gordon and walk-on Floyd Simmons. It's unclear whether the Williams demotion is a temporary thing due to injury (Williams is in green) or a long term move to other players, but it seems like it's closer to the latter. The Hawthorne move leaves a couple of marginal players duking it out at a spot that requires dealing with a lot of blocks. Reports have neither been positive or negative. They mostly confine themselves to who's playing where. Gordon has laid a couple pops, apparently.
I wouldn't be surprised to see someone move to the spur for fall; Carvin Johnson and Marvin Robinson will have opportunities to earn immediate starting jobs.
With Will Hagerup not enrolled yet, there's not much you can tell about the punters. On the Huge Show yesterday Rodriguez said he was the most likely freshman to start (surprise!), so it sounds like there isn't anyone in camp threatening to make an Olesnavage-like move.
Placekicking, on the other hand, has everyone it's going to have and the initial reviews are seriously negative. Brendan Gibbons is reputed to have a big leg but questionable accuracy. Field goals have been something of a fire drill so far. Here's a terror-inducing Rodriguez quote:
"The kicking game is a concern simply because we've been inconsistent in practice. I couldn't tell you who our starting kicker is. It changes in 15 minutes. I don't know if that's going to be resolved until the fall. Brendan Gibbons has a strong leg, but he's been back and forth. Other special teams, we've got athletes, but the kicking and punting is not at the point where we feel comfortable."
U-M to hold media briefing about NCAA report
ANN ARBOR, Mich. --- The University of Michigan will hold a media briefing at 1 p.m. ET Tuesday, Feb. 23, in the Regents Room at the Fleming Administration Building regarding the NCAA report about the football program.
The briefing will include U-M President Mary Sue Coleman, incoming athletic director David Brandon and football coach Rich Rodriguez. They will take questions immediately following their statements.
In the months since the university launched its internal investigation I've heard a thousand things of dubious provenance that range from an asteroid hitting Ann Arbor to the NCAA taking away ten scholarships… from the Free Press. So I'm loathe to say anything definitively.
Here's the but you were waiting for: but I do have a couple of folk I trust who have proven themselves one step away from important people. These folk say the results of the investigation are "not expected to have major implications." They will report something on at least two issues:
- Michigan checks up on players to make sure they are in class, and has been doing this since Bo. (I know someone who's had football players as a TA and can confirm that polo-shirt wearing folk checked in on luminaries like Jake Long.) This has been going on during summer classes; apparently it is not kosher to do this.
- The "quality control" people at issue in the investigation have football coaching experience. One of them, for instance, is our new safeties/OLBs coach. Before his time at Michigan he had some stints at smaller schools. Someone testified that the QC people did not have coaching experience, which may have been an "honest mistake," which the NCAA will rule on. How could this be an honest mistake?
The people testifying weren't the gophers or anyone at the workouts. It sounds like they were people in compliance or elsewhere in the athletic department but not the football program who were either ignorant or deceitful, either of which would explain the rumors going around about heads rolling in the aftermath of the report.
I followed up but couldn't get any clarification as to whether not expecting "major implications" meant they didn't expect any major violations. A major violation can have a minimal effect, as we've seen consistently over the past decade, but any major violation would sully Michigan's to-date pristine record and create another totally awesome media avalanche. It would be just like Michigan to get hit by the NCAA for making sure its players are in class.
Again, I think the above is worth posting and is accurate. It may not be comprehensive and may be a positive spin on something nastier. We'll find out in about an hour.
We'll have a liveblog going at 1PM. Tim will be twittering as well.
A special, oddly timed recruiting bit.
So Michigan is or was in on a few highly rated California prospects, most of whom seem ticketed elsewhere at the moment. The biggest one given Michigan's immediate need at safety was CA C Sean Parker, though, and plenty of grim resignation that he was headed to USC has given way to a strange new dawn where Parker says stuff like this*:
"I'm done with visits, it's USC, Michigan and Notre Dame right now," Parker said. "My plan is still the same as it has been the whole year, wait until Signing Day and then announce. I loved my visits to Michigan and Notre Dame and I've been to USC a number of times so I don't think I need to take another visit there.
"Michigan is recruiting me the hardest right now. That was also my favorite trip and I'm very high on them. I haven't talked to Brian Kelly at Notre Dame yet but he did leave me a message and I need to call him back.
A quick Google scour turns up some Irish fans having a mild freakout about a text eliminating ND and adding Cal sent to Irish Sports Daily shortly after that. Usually a late add like Cal is not a major factor, which leaves Michigan going head to head with USC.
Normally this would be bad, but USC has commits from Robert Woods, an "athlete" who projects to safety and is the #3 player in the country, Dion Bailey, the #7 safety according to Rivals, and pulled in a full class of four and five star defensive backs last year. So their depth chart is a tiny bit more crowded than Michigan's.
So… what I'm saying is that Sean Parker looks like an increasingly strong possibility in this class. Both premium sites have recently had an uptick in their optimism about his recruitment and I got a solid-seeming (but unconfirmed!) tip that Michigan was in excellent position.
That pickup would obviously be huge. Parker is a consensus four star at a position of extreme need, top 100 to Scout and the #26 player in the country to ESPN. But please don't break out the torches and pitchforks if this optimism doesn't come to fruition. The whims of high schoolers are fickle things.
*(This article is a free ESPN Insider preview at the moment, FWIW.)
So your favorite former collegiate head coach, the guy in charge of your favorite team, one of college football's top coaches, and a guy with a meathead haircut all found themselves on the receiving end of various kinds of unfair, incorrect, or nasty-but-deserved media attention. A confusing allegorical play in four mostly unrelated acts:
It's Just A Flesh Wound
Last week on The Sporting Blog I called Bob-Stoops-to-Notre-Dame an "unkillable zombie rumor" after Stoops had to make four progressively more emphatic announcements that he wasn't going to make an unprecedented leap from a program he built into a national power to one that's been no more successful than Purdue over the last 15 years.
It has now graduated to Black Knight status, though:
Saturday's edition of the Chicago Sun Times reported that multiple sources told the newspaper on Friday that "Stoops hasn't said 'no' to Notre Dame."
This was an interesting take on the words "I will be at Oklahoma. Any reporting to the contrary is completely unfounded." Technically, the words "wild elephants could not drag me to South Bend" are not in that statement. That, however, doesn't make it any less definitive. "I will be at Oklahoma." End of story. Unless you're the Sun-Times and you're bound and determined to keep after the dumb rumor you're almost singlehandedly responsible for perpetrating in the mainstream media.
Bob Stoops on saying no to Notre Dame:
"For the third, and hopefully final time, let me again state that I will continue to be the coach at Oklahoma. I appreciate the history and tradition of Notre Dame. I also appreciate the history and tradition of Oklahoma, and I have been part of building that tradition here.
"I work for a wonderful president (David Boren) and athletic director (Joe Castiglione), who have created an incredible work environment at OU. There haven't been any plans for a meeting or negotiations with Notre Dame and there will not be. Any reporting to that fact is completely erroneous. I will not be the next coach at Notre Dame."
This is how plains Indians must have felt after the United States broke yet another treaty with them, right?
Checking Is For Commies
Fake email that started minor Bielema-to-ND meme that would probably still be going on if ND sites hadn't posted the reveal.
All right, lolmsm and all that. But Stoops isn't the only guy batting away meritless rumors about his involvement with Notre Dame:
UW athletic director Barry Alvarez, who's with the team in Hawaii, said Friday morning that he has no knowledge of any interest on Notre Dame's part in speaking with Bielema.
"I haven't heard anything," Alvarez said when reached on his cell phone. "He hasn't said anything to me, and nobody's called me for permission."
Bret Bielema? No offense to a guy coming off a bounce-back year any Michigan fan would kill to have, but NDNation would have a meetup just to kill and eat each other if Bielema became head coach there. And, lo, the faintly plausible rumor was created whole cloth by one guy emailing a disreputable web site that just posts whatever crap someone sends in:
2. Friend composes a very short, but specific email: I used to work in the athletic department at Notre Dame (a lie), and I have heard that Jack Swarbrick is interested in Bret Bielema, the head coach at the University of Wisconsin. This was at 6:56pm last evening. The email is sent from a free gmail account. There is no other email sent from friend, no attempt to "sell" the rumor beyond the initial communication, and nothing else to back up his credibility.
3. Meanwhile, friend has another buddy randomly tweet a few times about the Bielema rumors, and goes to bed.
4. FootballCoachScoop does not reply to the email. FootballCoachScoop does not ask any followup questions. FootballCoachScoop, to friend's knowledge, makes no attempt to verify emailer's bona fides in any way.
5. The next morning, FootballCoachScoop runs the rumor almost verbatim. Friend chuckles and shares the development with a few friends.
This expands, getting picked up by "the Examiner," which is like a Bleacher Report that people haven't figured out is almost always garbage yet, then hit rumor first, accuracy later College Football Talk—an offshoot of Mike Florio's Pro Football Talk—and poor Rittenberg's Big Ten blog before the hoax was widely known. (BGS had actually already posted it.)
Your blogger has a couple emails in his inbox that might be innocent but look pretty hoax-y declaring that Rich Rodriguez will be fired the Monday after the Ohio State game, by the way.
This Direct Quote Is Out Of Context
Meanwhile, Charlie Weis ceased speaking to the media in the final days of his regime. I get this. If I was a head coach who knew his head would be on a platter in a matter of weeks, I wouldn't waste my time with a bunch of tedious questions about what went wrong. I might even call a special press event type substance with five hand-picked media members, and I might even go all FootballCoachScoop on tales of Pete Carroll's mysterious grad student affair:
Q: Is it frustrating to Pete Carroll, for example, portrayed in one way...
CW: Let me ask you this question: You guys know about things that go on in different places. Was I living with a grad student in Malibu, or was I living with my wife in my house? You could bet that if I were living with a grad student here in South Bend, it would be national news. He's doing it in Malibu and it's not national news. What's the difference? I don't understand. Why is it okay for one guy to do things like that, but for for me, I'm scrutinized when I swear. I'm sorry for swearing; absolve my sins.
At this point I would diverge, though, since attempting to take something off the internet is pointless and once you say stuff it's impossible, and a little dishonest, to try to take it back. Weis said it and he meant it and if it was supposed to be off the record that's only 5% less of a nasty move. He's then put this thing in the heads of five people off the record and set Pete Carroll's Grad Student on the same path as Rich Rodriguez's Impregnated Cheerleader, a zombie meme that lives in dark corners and emerges every time School X has a problem with Coach Y.
This One Really Is Out Of Context
I didn't mention the "Rich Rodriguez doesn't care about black people" moment from the bust in anticipation that a fuller picture of the comments would come out. WTKA's Ira Weintraub mentioned via email that Rodriguez's faux pas was a reference to an earlier speech by a regent. And lo, Dave Birkett provides:
Regent White talked earlier about, uh, it’s really kind of ironic that the New Orleans Saints overcome the hurricane a few years back. And I used to live in New Orleans, coached there for a couple years (at Tulane), and I know how devastated that city (was) and how they overcome and rebuilt their stadium, rebuilt their program from the ground up. And we’ve had a few hurricanes of our own. And we had a big hurricane in August and it kind of hit us like a ton of bricks. But you had 120 young men and a bunch of people on staff say this is not going to tear our program apart. In fact, it’ll do just the opposite, bring us together.
So, yeah, I wish Michigan had a coach that didn't misuse the world "ironic" and am pretty sure at some point in his life Rich Rodriguez has used the word "literal" to emphasize a literally untrue assertion. But Rodriguez is making a nod at one of the regents' Michael Scott impersonation and then riffing on it extemporaneously in a fashion that probably seemed unwise to him as the words were coming out of his mouth. (This has happened to me, plenty.) No one bothered to mention it except one of the two freakin' guys who wrote the piece Rodriguez is referring to, and that guy removed important context that would have taken one sentence to provide. Too good to clarify, I guess.
As for how much this matters, TSB colleague Andy Hutchins provides the right comparison:
These comments may actually match Nick Saban's penchant for grabbing Pearl Harbor and September 11th as metaphors for tragedy, what with Rodriguez talking about the human cost of Katrina purely in the prism of football, but it's less outrageous than it is ineloquent.
What difference does it make? It makes none.
I don't really have one. I just had all this media stuff in my open tabs.
I do think there's some common theme here about partial information being evil: Stoops rumors are utterly baseless but go out of control so much that Stoops has to issue five separate denials of varying strengths, Bielema is momentarily implicated in the ND coaching search and only the hoax reveal keeps him from being hounded further, Weis throws a nasty rumor into the pool that will stick with Carroll forever, and Rodriguez's comments are removed from their context by a guy with a stake in public opinion of Rodriguez. In the one instance where the comments are a full transcript of the words spoken, the speaker's problem is that his comments were not elided from the record and leaked as a whisper campaign.
I guess the thrust is this: I don't believe Weis's retraction for a second because his response to it was to have the offending passage excised from the Rivals transcript instead of demanding that the context be irrefutably provided by one of the guys who was taping the conversation. The evidence is there. Release it. Similarly, Rodriguez's inelegant statement was made to look worse by the omission of information. The Sun-Times failed to clarify just why they thought Bob Stoops was going to be Notre Dame's next head coach at any point; by now they owe the public a detailed explanation of why they kept beating the drum long after any sane organization would have stopped. And Coach Scoop Unsubstantiated Football Site just posts unconfirmed stuff without any attempt to confirm or clarify the origins of the rumors, and doesn't even respond when hoaxed.
Because they're just "rumors," right? You can term whatever you want a rumor and be free from judgment when that rumor fails to come true.
My advice to internet publishers is be as honest and transparent as possible, and people will give you the benefit of the doubt as long as you show good judgment over the long haul. This philosophy has been in place at MGoBlog for as long as it's been around. The first bit of news the site ever originated was a report that Morgan Trent had broken his hand and would miss the Minnesota game in 2006, which Rivals snarkily dismissed in premium content, causing me to post a retraction. When several people reiterated that no, seriously, Morgan Trent's hand was broken, I posted the chain of events and provided enough information for readers to judge for themselves with some guidance—I believe me. Morgan Trent's hand was indeed broken, and I've tried to follow that template ever since. That managed to get this site through the coaching search and Sam McGuffie's Cuban Transfer Crisis stronger. I don't think you can say that about the Sun-Times above.
My advice to consumers of information on the internet is to look for this sort of transparency in the things you trust, and look dimly on anyone who would misrepresent information, intentionally or not, and refuse to apologize or clarify when called on it.
Huh. Tom Dienhart's taken his "get anonymous coaches to say bitchy stuff" act on to Rivals, this time breaking down the pending SEC championship game. You probably don't care much about the particulars, but I found this section pretty interesting given that much-loved former Michigan QB coach Scot Loeffler was just put in charge of the Tebow Child:
QUARTERBACK: Our staff thought Tim Tebow has gotten worse as a quarterback from last year to this year. Everyone talks about his mechanics and dropping the football; he drops it lower this year and has worse mechanics. I don't know what it is. He's still making throws and doing some things, but he just doesn't seem comfortable back there. I don't know if it's because of the concussion or what. But teams are making him sit in the pocket longer and throw the football, and sometimes he gets a little skittish back there.
Probably doesn't mean much given Loeffler's extended, wildly successful tenure at Michigan, but I found it interesting.
Is that your final answer? The internet would be a far less chaotic and rumor-stricken place if folks followed one guideline when citing inside information: never link to a place for the first time, or link to a place you've never heard of, because it's got a hot rumor.
Why do I mention this? Because of this:
Brian Kelly will be next Notre Dame football coach
Cincinnati coach to take helm of Fighting Irish, sources reveal to IrishCentral
Brian Kelly will be the next head football coach at the University of Notre Dame, informed sources tell IrishCentral.
The source, who is a well-informed person of influence at Notre Dame, says the Cincinnati coach is the preferred choice for the job, and that he is expected to eventually sign a deal.
Kelly is expected to see out the season with his Bowl Championship Series-bound team, and then report for duty at South Bend.
There is no there there. Kelly is "expected" to "eventually" be the coach by some random guy. By this standard, Michigan is currently coached by Kirk Ferentz, Greg Schiano, and Rich Rodriguez. This site has no track record—it started in March. It talked to one guy who says Kelly is the eventual choice in a month, which in coaching search years is sometime after the Sun engulfs the Earth. And it spreads like wildfire. Why this dubious rumor and not others? Other than the newspaper website template—a rinky-dink version of one—I got nothin'.
Kelly, for his part, was less wishy-washy about staying at Cincinnati on the radio than he was at a press conference yesterday:
“I’m staying, man. I’m staying,” Kelly said on the show. “Why would I go? It’s always about staying, first. First and foremost."
No, I don't believe him either. Unfortunately.
Very modern. Greg Dooley has an interview with Angelique Chengelis up at GBW, and as a guy who runs a college football poll I found this snapshot of the AP poll's assemblage interesting:
MVictors: When you say ‘send in’, do you submit an online form or do you email something in like a Word document or a spreadsheet or something?
Angelique: I just send in an email, ranking the teams 1-25. I have a couple different email addresses that I send it to and that’s what I’ve always done. You’d think it’d be more formal, wouldn’t you?
PREWB! Yes, obligated to mention that after unusual stonewalling on the part of the local police department, eight Spartans were "indefinitely" suspended, including starters BJ Cunningham, Mark Dell, and Chris Rucker for the 2009 Posse Roundup & Engineer/Woman Beatdown. Rucker's a cornerback and in the state of Michigan all members of the secondary not named Woolfolk or Warren are interchangeably horrible, but Cunningham and Dell are excellent receivers. BONUS: there are five more guys yet to be identified—Rob Parker thinks they're all Kirk Cousins.
KJ at The Only Colors wants everyone gone permanently, but that seems steep if the kids in question didn't get violent themselves. They might have tagged along for laughs and saw Glenn Winston go all Grimsrud on them (clip NSF kiddies):
Mark Dell might just have some mechanical engineer's brain all over his car. While you have to expect that when you go anywhere with Winston, I guess, anyone without a prior incident shouldn't necessarily see their career end if the tape shows them to be largely innocent. Hefty suspensions lasting past the Michigan game next year are mandatory, though.
The thing about this thing is: I thought that giving Winston the relative slap on the wrist (essentially a four-game suspension) he got for an act far worse than many that see players drummed out of school entirely—see poor Larry Harrison—was a mistake at the time, as did a lot of other people including Spartan fans. If you want to give Dantonio the benefit of the doubt, fine. Coaches have a lot more information in these situations than we do. I find the irony of his pride before the fall delicious, though, and reserve the right to whoop it up after two years in which Michigan's coach has been portrayed as an inbred hick with no ethics.
Etc.: Phil Brabbs is dyeing his hair blue before it all falls out. DOMINATE. Rivals goes stunningly in depth with a geographic breakdown of recruiting stars and NFL draftees.