Normally the start of spring practice would have been a bigger deal around here, but the basketball team's late season push and 21st-century tourney debut relegated the football team to the back burner, which is a first for this blog.
Yes, spring practice has started. Get a load of our new savior at the gun show:
Vernon Gholston's got nothing on Tate Forcier. At some point this year when Michigan is flailing about in a fashion reminiscent of well, last year, keep this image in mind and think "he's just a freshman" to yourself over and over again. Apparently Forcier spent 100% of his time getting quarterback tutoring and 0% of it picking things up and putting them down, which is all well and good until someone snaps him in half.
But, hey, the news isn't all bad. Friend of blog and practice attendee Craig Ross:
Forcier’s arm is stronger than I thought it would be. Most of the balls he threw looked pretty crisp. He looked terrific in the drills. Running right or left he puts the ball on the money. I didn’t see him throw a poor ball.
And of course there's the other guy:
I felt Nick Sheridan looked better than last year at this time.
Woo! A roundup of other items:
- Toney Clemons is gonzo. See the previous post.
- So is Andre Criswell. He'll be a grad assistant. He was a fifth year senior, so that doesn't change your scholarship projections for the 2010 class.
- Adam Patterson got his redshirt. He is now a junior, which removes a scholarship from the 2010 class and reduces the urgency at DT and DE. Michigan is still waiting on word about Kenny Demens. That should be a formality
- Mouton and Shaw aren't participating. Also, Tim McAvoy has been out with an ankle issue. Ricky Barnum has a wrist issue he's playing through.
- Steve Schilling is probably moving to guard and Patrick Omameh is legit. Intermittent friend of blog and general correspondent Craig Ross has attended some of the sections of practice open to the media and reports that the apparent first-team offensive line reads like so from left to right, with changes from last year bolded: Ortmann, Schilling, Molk, Moosman, Omameh.
Ross elaborates: "I was told by one media guy that Schilling asked for the move and so far it has worked out. RR talked briefly to the media and said that it seems likely "Schilling will stay at guard." Barnum is running at LG with the second team---or was this AM at least."
That fits with the practice buzz over the last year that had Barnum and Omameh closest to the field amongst the freshmen; you can pencil Omameh in at RG in 2010 if you want to get seriously premature.
Things That Are As Factual As Rosters Ever Get
- Anthony LaLota is pretty small. He's listed at 6'4", 235, which is not ready for primetime on the defensive line. Redshirt beckons.
- Junior Hemingway is crushing your head. 6'1", 226. Dang, man, hope you can still run.
- Vince Helmuth is on the Gabe Watson diet. Helmuth got up to 299, which probably bodes unwell for his shot at playing time. VB noted he looked "tiny for a DT," which means he'd be better served being quick instead of flabtacular. Rodriguez made a comment about his conditioning at the press conference. Sounds like he's unlikely to see the field.
- Kenny Demens seems field-ready. The roster has him at 237; at 6'1" that's pretty hefty.
- Smith: quarkback. We got ourselves another kid who can do a credible impression of Paper Mario: 5'6", 158 pound Vincent Smith. Hopefully this one doesn't get concussed into oblivion.
Position switches, or not position switches, or things that may or may not be position switches
- Brandon Hawthorne is running with the defensive backs. I said he was safety-sized, but I didn't actually expect he would be a safety. Blip or serious "what?" moment? Eh… survey says blip. Varsity Blue attended a Rodriguez presser at which the headman said Hawthorne is expected to be an outside linebacker.
This is more fuel for the fire of this spread-combating LB/S hybrid sort, FWIW.
- Ferrara is still on the OL. Given the sudden reversal in depth on the two lines—the defense has seen two starters depart and two recruits fail to sign while the offense gets six-count-em-six redshirt freshmen to play with—this may not last. But word is the coaching staff likes Ferrara's potential on offense more than they do on defense; a switch back would be an ominous indicator about the defensive line.
- Stevie Brown is sort of a linebacker. This will meet widespread joy, I'm sure, though it does beg the question "who the hell is going to play safety?"
- Steve Watson is doing okay at DE. I still think he's a longshot to contribute what with the move and all, but he's a high motor individual.
Something Not Particularly Fact-Like
You might remember defensive ends like James Hall and Juaquin Feazell—who should be referenced whenever the opportunity arises just so you can say "Juaquin Feazell" as mellifluously as possible—being listed as the "RLB" or "rush linebacker" during the heyday of Jim Herrmann's tenure at defensive coordinator. These folks were no more linebackers than your average defensive end. That nomenclature was a holdover from days when Michigan did actually have a "rush linebacker" that lived on long after Michigan had departed from the land of the hybrid 3-4.
This style of defense has worked in the Big Ten recently. You may remember Penn State deploying one of its many, many talented linebackers as a standup DE in a year when injury and malfeasance had robbed them of their standard complement of edge-rushing terrors. I think it was 2006. Though it was an ad-hoc solution to a severe personnel deficiency, at the end of the year Penn State's defense occupied its customary position near the top of the Big Ten rankings.
Word around practice is that Michigan is going to adopt something similar, with a lighter DE dubbed the "spinner" who can move around and play with his hand down or up. Or at least they're practicing it to see if it's a good idea.
Persons you might see do this: Steve Watson is practicing there along with a couple of the thicker linebackers—Evans and LaLota have been mentioned. This corresponds with other rumors to the effect that Adam Patterson and Ryan Van Bergen may end up as three-tech (i.e., penetrating) DT sorts, if not permanently than on an occasional basis.
Of course, this could all be declared a bad idea and shelved before fall until the Purdue game. But it's worth knowing.
I was just reading your early recruiting analysis on 2010, and I was curious how we are allowed to offer so many scholarships. You noted that we had 17-20 to give, yet we have offered 46 by my rough count on your board.
Are there rules by the NCAA or conferences on how many scholarships a school can offer over their limit? If we receive our 17-20 commits and we do not have any more available scholarships, do we simply have to say, "No thank you" to anyone else who is considering their previously offered scholarship? (As opposed to Alabama's method)
Scholarship offers have no legal or NCAA standing until a school faxes a letter of intent to the player on signing day. Until that time, they're just fancy letters indicating a school would like you to play for them… if they don't change their mind by the time you make up yours, and you don't throw a cherry bomb at a six-year-old, and you don't flunk out.
Usually offer letters have some language indicating this. The relevant paragraph from Michigan's offer to Tate Forcier:
This award is contingent upon the satisfactory conclusion of your junior and senior years, both academically and athletically. NCAA minimum academic standards must be satisfied and internal admissions requirements must be met. This letter remains viable until such time as NCAA rule 15.5.5 regarding squad limits (85 total) would appear to be compromised. Therefore, as a necessary consequence, grants may only be awarded based on availability.
Basically: don't flunk out and don't wait for someone else to take your spot… oh, and don't suck at sports. Until a letter of intent is signed, the school has zero obligation to the player. Which, yes, can suck for the player.
Offers get pulled all the time, and when this happens to an uncommitted prospect for whatever reason it's always uncontroversial, as it should be. The player in question hasn't promised you anything and hasn't accepted your promise. Sometimes players try to commit only to be told they can't, and sometimes this causes bad feelings. Legendary Michigan cases involve Tennessee OL Brent Trott, who never had a Michigan offer, and a Florida linebacker named Justice whose first name escapes me who tried to commit and was told the inn was full. Both of those players had time to go elsewhere, and did, but were noisily displeased for a brief time.
Where it gets touchy sometimes is when players who have issued a verbal commitment are told they no longer have an offer. Sometimes this is due to academics or extra-curricular issues: in 2008 Ohio State pulled Devoe Torrence's offer when he got in some nasty legal trouble and this year OSU safety commit Bradley McDougald was told to head elsewhere after he was caught with weed. (He ended up at Kansas.) That's legit. But sometimes kids just get their offer pulled through no fault of their own. This happened at South Carolina last year and caused a minor stink.
In those cases there are no official repercussions but the PR hit is usually enough to keep schools in line. For one, South Carolina is never getting a kid from that high school again.
As to Michigan: if three quarterback recruits decide they want to commit tomorrow… well, Michigan will take them. Bad example. But if hypothetical eager QB #4 rings up Rich Rodriguez, Rodriguez is going to have to say "sorry." A commitment is a mutual thing, albeit one with no legal standing whatsoever.
I'm originally from Minnesota, and I still listen to the MN local radio. One morning show is a big fan of Denard Span, an up an coming player for the Twins. They created this bit, which also seems appropriate for the Michigan faithful who are excited for Denard Robinson. Enjoy!
Download, if you are so inclined (right click and "save as")
1) I predict that song makes an appearance during football liveblogging at some point this year.
2) When that song went to to the Betty Ford Center and came out the other end "Let's Get It Started" and was deployed as the theme song of the NBA Playoffs, was it the most impressive/ridiculous corporate rehab ever? I, being of sound mind and distance from preteens, had never heard the original ("Let's Get Retarded," an ode to pot*/alcohol) and it seemed like a perfect prefab song from a major label crapband. Then I find it's about basically the opposite of starting anything, it's about killing your brain. The mind boggles.
2a) Who would have thought that three or so years later that song would stand out as clearly the best and most appropriate NBA Playoffs theme song yet? Tom Petty? What?
*(Windows Live Writer has an auto-substitute list you can set up. IE: whenever I type recruiting board it points at the recruiting board automatically, or Varsity Blue or MVictors or, uh, Threetsheridammit chart. So that's why that. I would have deleted it but for the lulz.)
And how about an update on the last mailbag:
The Shegoses are from Flint. Matt and Duke ( I think) are the referees, I can't remember if Duke is the nickname for Mark Shegos or if Mark is a separate 3rd Shegos. For what it's worth, my uncle knows them and they are all very nice. They've been involved with hockey for time out of mind, although in my humble opinion, nice though they may be, they've never been the best officials. I think I heard the Shegos chant for the first time in the early 90's- anyway, it is definitely tongue in cheek. We did NOT actually want Shegos. Here's some fun Shegos opinions from a Sparty blog a few years back, where they also assert that "You can't drink all day if you don't start in the morning."
The North Dakota playoff game at Yost in 1998 saw two Michigan goals waved off (I think both in the second period), inciting the crowd to a state of near-riotousness. They were not as bad as the ones which happened this year because at least they were judgment calls, but they did bring the crowd into a frenzied state. By the way, I was sitting right behind the Michigan penalty box for that game and Bobby Hayes used words I did not know when describing the officials- and I was living in South Quad at the time, I knew LOTS of fun words.
For people who don't mind being adventurous about Frozen Four tickets, I was one of those who bought way too many a few years back when all those WCHA teams played in Columbus. Ok, I get it, WCHA in Columbus, but demand was none. At least for that event, I can confirm that they were much less than face value. I stood outside trying to sell the tickets for like 3 hours and eventually was trying to give them away and couldn't. I think those willing to be patient can get tickets for a few dollars each, especially if your game is the late game.
On the Frozen Four thing, which I promise is advice for the entire universe and not an implication that Michigan will make it to DC, or, for that matter, not sack the program tomorrow: an excellent strategy if you're the late game is to camp outside the building after the early game ends; disgusted fans of the losing team will be exiting and selling at cheapo prices. Problem: last year there was no opportunity to do this because the semifinals were one ticket.
As to the Shegos brothers, the response received about them was totally outstanding. Some, like Jack, thought it was a sarcastic Shegos-oriented insult. Some thought there was one Shegos who was definitively better than the other Shegos and he was the one being chanted for at all times. And some thought it was an actual desire for a referee who wasn't Mark Wilkins (or, more cynically, attended Michigan, which at least one Shegos did). All of which adds up to a cheer that thousands of people are doing over a decade with completely different ideas of why they're chanting it.
Programming Note: I'll be on WTKA with John U Bacon this afternoon from 4-5. WTKA streams live for those in the diaspora.
It wasn't a total head implosion weekend. Lost in the dual frustrations from hockey and basketball was the baseball team's strong start: 4-0 against an array of Big East teams (and, oddly, Purdue), including two walk-off wins to open the season. Formerlyanonymous is now blogging up a storm about the baseball team at Varsity Blue; his article on the weekend is probably the most detailed recap of a Michigan baseball weekend ever written(!).
Michigan is in Jacksonville Wednesday through Sunday taking on a wide array of meh-sounding teams: North Florida, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Jacksonville, and Akron. Their major opportunity to get some committee-impressing nonconference wins comes in mid-March when Michigan goes to Arizona for a three-game series.
Hello again, Elliot. Elliot Mealer's unfortunate life story has made him perhaps the most-chronicled anonymous redshirt freshman offensive linemen ever(!). His local paper has a story on him, and this one deviates from the usual fluff and goes for a couple of interesting quotes:
"The speed of the game is just incredibly different from high school," reflected Mealer. "I talked to guys who I had played with at Wauseon and told them about the first time I faced speed in practice. I was playing left tackle against Tim Jamison (2008 starting defensive end). He comes at me and in high school you are taught to get your hands on him and move, but he slapped my hands down before I ever got them up. The next thing I realize I'm on the ground asking what happened and he's sacking the quarterback."
There's also a story about John Thompson crushing Mealer backwards, causing him to wonder if he'd been concussed; it's a step up from the usual stuff you get in these things.
One downer: it sounds like Mealer's on-field future may have been damaged by the car crash.
For Mealer, the challenge is restoring lost shoulder strength which may never return.
"The team has been doing a lot of upper arm strengthening in the weight room, but I'm not allowed to start that until after spring break (Feb. 20-28)," said Mealer. "At that time, I will start out with two to three days of upper body strength training and I'm not sure how long that will last, but it could last my whole career just to stay on top of it."
Mealer was a top-250 sort who certainly projected to playing time; with lingering effects from the injury he won't be in the conversation to start this year, at the very least.
…Rodriguez is in danger of falling behind in the spread offense arms race in terms of sophistication. I discussed that phenomena with Purdue as a pass-first spread team over the last decade, but it's of a slightly different order with Michigan. In the spread's nascent days, the spread-to-run innovators included Rodriguez and Kevin Wilson and Randy Walker at Northwestern, with Urban Meyer following shortly after. Wilson is now at OU and of course Meyer is at Florida. Compare their offenses with Rodriguez's: there's not much difference from a run-game standpoint (though Meyer and OU mix up their sets a bit more and use more tight-ends now), but the passing games have seen a wide departure. Wilson now uses what Chuck Long put in at OU, with some schematic residue lingering from Mike Leach and Mark Mangino, while Meyer, along with Dan Mullen and Mike Sanford, assembled a pro-style one-back approach gleaned from John L. Smith and Scott Linehan from Louisville and Joe Tiller and Jim Chaney from Purdue. I can't say I'm a huge fan of Meyer's passing game, but it's definitely more sophisticated than what Rodriguez has going on.
But Rodriguez is a bright guy and his passing game originally derived from (though is a long way now) the old run and shoot. So you'd think he could remedy this. Yet with nothing but true freshman, that evolution will have to wait. The longer they wait, however, the farther behind they fall.
This is more of a restated concern than a new one, and it's worth pointing out that the situation Rodriguez inherited last year was not conducive demonstrating any sort of great leap forward in passing sophistication. The larger issue is that Rodriguez, scrambling to do a thousand different things to reshape the Michigan football program, is probably not spending a lot of time keeping ahead of the game. It's all conjecture until walk-ons have been banished from the depth chart, but it's worth keeping an eye on.
I'm hoping this is more of a Pat White effect than a Rich Rodriguez one; West Virginia's passing offense of late didn't look sophisticated because 1) it didn't have to be and 2) it didn't play into White's strengths. Even if White did well at the combine keep in mind that Rodriguez was deploying the guy as a freshman/sophomore/junior, so the bulk of his recent forays into passing games were with a wobbly underclass jet engine; risk would be stupid in a situation like that. Tate Forcier, the most accurate passer EVER, figures to change that equation significantly.
More attrition? Buried in this recruiting chat from Josh Helmholdt is an interesting bit of speculation:
The WR position was a disappointment this past year, so I certainly understand the need to recruit as many WR's as possible. Also, the depth at the slot WR position is shallow and could get even thinner before the freshmen come in next year.
That points squarely the departure of a slot receiver currently on the team. Martavious Odoms was Michigan's leading receiver a year ago and has two teammates joining him, so it's unlikely to be him. Terrance Robinson is a redshirt freshman who didn't play because of injury. Rodriguez recruited him to play in the slot, too. He's probably going to stick around and try to earn playing time. There's only one other guy on the roster who played in the slot last year: Toney Clemons. There have been erratic transfer rumors about Clemons for months now, but never anything concrete. This is also not concrete, obviously, but Helmholdt doesn't just say things without sourcing.
Guess it didn't go good. You might recall the stunningly annoying/developmentally disabled Notre Dame fan/future player standing behind yrs truly at the ND-M game at Yost; if so, know that I and a few others have concluded that that fan must have been Cam Fowler simply because he was too tall to be any of the other USNTDP kids committed to ND for next year. At one point Fowler jawed that if his grades went "good" he'd be playing for ND next year.
2010 NHL draft stud Cam Fowler of the U.S. under-18 squad has de-committed from Notre Dame. This is the first step toward an official announcement of his signing with the Ontario Hockey League's Windsor Spitfires.
Algebra and geography and, you know, like, stuff did not go good, I guess. That's a major blow to ND; Fowler may have trouble spelling his name but is widely regarded a top-ten NHL draft pick.
Ha. I love this verdict to tiny little bits:
A Washtenaw County jury today found former Wolverine Marlin Jackson was defamed by a fellow student who falsely accused him of assault with a bottle at an off-campus party in 2003. The six-member panel also awarded Jackson, a defensive back with the Indianapolis Colts, $225,000 in damages --roughly the equivalent of a draft slot in the NFL, said his attorney, Ellis Freatman.
One Shahin Farokhrany—who certainly looks like an eminently punchable douchebag—sued Jackson for ten million dollars after accusing him of striking him with a bottle. Evidently this did not occur, and now EPD Farokhrany is on the hook for a cool two hundred grand plus attorney's costs. Score one for Jackson.
Croosh the Illini. I haven't embedded a Wolverine Historian video in a while, so here's ten minutes of Michigan beating Illinois 38-14 in 1995:
Speaking of. The JCCW says a prayer for beatwriters:
It's flattering, but the ironic truth is that I leach (not unfairly, but still) off the work of Auburn's beat writers 10,000 times more than I'm sure they leach from me. The number of times Messrs. Woodbery, Goldberg, Tate, Bitter, and Brietzke have felt the need to link to me can still be counted on one hand. … Without those guys, the JCCW doesn't have any news to report, no breaking stories to react to, no quotes to parse. At that point it's all Rumor and Speculation, and while there's always ways to dig through the topsoil of Rumor and Speculation to get to the truth buried underneath, it's not an easy or particularly fun process. Beat writers, in my view, are an essential set of cogs in this great big machine we call Being an Auburn Fan.
Which is why it always makes my skin crawl a bit when I see bloggers celebrating the death of the newspaper.
While newspapers are imploding in spectacular fashion you're not going to see them disappear of the map entirely.
Given the current vectors a couple of these guys will end up locked behind paywalls, but there's always going to be at least one free beatwriter sort; failing that you're going to see athletic departments get involved with the dissemination of information. How many articles about Steven Threet's transfer do you need? Before the internet the answer was "as many as there are newspapers"; now the answer is "one." Not one two three four five six and probably more that I can't be bothered to turn up right now. Unless said writer has some sort of special inside relationship with the program or coaches, as Angelique Chengelis did with Lloyd Carr, their work is completely redundant with everyone else out there, with limited exceptions. And since in Michigan's case those exceptions seem to be limited to the student newspaper unearthing more actual information than the professionals, let's not get too worked up over the imminent departure of some random guy writing the same exact stories as some other random guy at another news organization.
A beatwriter is important, and the one or two or three folks best qualified will see it through. The rest of them have a future in PR; their departure will be felt by no one. Kids, if you're angling to write about sports for a living don't make the vast bulk of your writing a commodity replicable by anyone with an editor. Pretend you're going to be asked to justify your existence, Onion-style, every week.
Do we have expectations? The good doctor has been wondering about Michigan with frequency of late, and his latest runs down the list of true freshman quarterbacks deployed at power programs with an eye towards the Forcier/Robinson pairing that will, ready or not, be thrust into the Michigan QB job come fall. The results are predictably grim, with no team on the list finishing with fewer than three losses and several cratering spectacularly:
A quick check of the successful teams reveals things like Beanie Wells and Braylon Edwards and Darren McFadden and Knowshown Moreno, and while Michigan isn't as bereft of talent as Baylor they aren't exactly sprouting obvious top ten draft picks from every available orifice.
DocSat ends on a grim note:
In the wake of last year's Chernobyl-like meltdown, .500 and a middling bowl game with a true freshman starter who eventually solidifies himself as a long-term answer might suit Michigan just fine. If you compare the Wolverines to the handiest available precedent, Notre Dame's rebound campaign last year, that's as far as the Irish bounced off their 3-9 disaster, and that was with a sophomore with a full season under his belt and the world at his feet as a recruit. Forcier is very, very reminiscent of a less-hyped, more athletic Jimmy Clausen, another relatively polished California kid preceded by in the big-time college ranks by his older brother. Unlike Charlie Weis, though, who was coming off a pair of BCS bowl bids in his first two seasons in South Bend, Rich Rodriguez can't really afford another mulligan.
I was basically with him up until the final sentence, which suggests that expectations for Charlie Weis' fourth year were softer than they will be for Rodriguez's second, something which might be true if Rodriguez had the same sort of head coaching resume Weis did: none. The BCS bowl bids Weis picked up his first two years may have bought him some time; shouldn't the BCS bowl bids Rodriguez acquired at West Virginia afford him the same sort of leniency?
Walkin' on. The Big House Blog has been rounding up various kids who have accepted preferred walk-on spots. There are a couple of linemen unlikely to ever see the field, but fullback Calvin Smith seems pretty relevant given Mark Moundros and Owen Schmitt and so on and so forth:
Smith, who played his senior year of high school at Joliet Catholic Academy after three years at Providence Catholic, has accepted an invitation to attend the University of Michigan as a preferred walk-on.
Michigan's coach, Rich Rodriguez, was at West Virginia through the 2007 season. He brought Schmitt on board as a walkon. Schmitt, now a rugged 6-foot-2, 247 pounder, earned a scholarship and, eventually, the opportunity to hear his name called on draft day.
So why not the 6-2, 235 Smith?
Michigan is going to need a fullback after Moundros graduates this year, and with Vince Helmuth currently trying to scratch out a living as a defensive tackle Smith looks to have the inside track. More walk-ons will join him, but Rodriguez isn't going to recruit anyone to be the heir apparent:
"There's only true fullback at Michigan now," Smith said. "Coach Rodriguez said all his fullbacks start out as walkons. But he has had 30 walkons total in five years who eventually were on scholarship.
Etc.: Ticket prices decline slightly; a diarist interviews TX DT Jay Guy but cannot forestall him from committing to Cal, unfortunately. Deadspin, which jumped the shark about six seconds after Leitch left, is now taking body blows from the internet for being wantonly retarded.