the just released schedules were a flat-out statement that the B10 doesn't believe SOS will matter in playoff selection
So I find myself in an extremely bizarre position: Michigan had a semi-public scrimmage on Saturday that I and a few hundred others attended after donating to Motts or buying the big baller seats. If you've been on the internet since Saturday you've noticed probably dozens of reports on message boards, the diaries here, other blogs, and one local radio host's (pretty inaccurate) tweets. Also there's a highlight video from the official site:
But they specifically told myself, MVictors, Scout, Rivals, and Craig Ross that "nothing was to be reported" from the scrimmage. This worked as well as you might imagine, leaving us on the sidelines as everyone with a username throws vague information around. So here's a bizarre roundup of things other people said on the internets and in my inbox that doesn't involve personal reporting. This lion is caged.
Popular sentiment holds that Denard is the man:
looks comfortable, made some nice throws, seems in charge of the O. Wouldn't want to have to tackle him.
Unless something crazy happens between now and September 4, Denard Robinson is your clear starter at quarterback. The quarterbacks weren’t live today, but Robinson still managed to carve up the second-team defense (running the first-team offense, of course) with his legs and his arm. His made good decisions with the ball and his passes were on the money, and he took a QB draw 40+ yards to the house — only Denard makes that play, and he made it look easy.
He will absolutely start as he is clearly the leader on the team. He had the most energy during warm-ups, was the first one and the fastest one doing stretch drills, and was clearly the first-team QB of the day during the 'scrimmage'. He hit a nice 23-ish yard pass on a WICKED play fake to Grady. And then ran it in for another 25 or so on a QB draw, juking a DB as he went. Enough to even get the sidelines "ooh-ing".
Prior to seeing this scrimmage I was a fan of Tate and would tell anyone who asked, that Tate would be the starter. After watching the scrimmage, D-Rob will be the starter. He was much better in the pocket, made good decisions when faced with getting rid of the ball or being sacked with loss of yards, and his exchanges were very good. Think about some of the ball fakes that Juice Williams had. D-Rob isn't there yet, but he will be.
That longish pass was the a half-roll at about 2:00 in the highlights on which Robinson pulled up and nailed Terrance Robinson between the numbers and between levels in the zone. An emailer suggested that he wouldn't have believed it possible without the spring game. Also, at the end of practice they had the team run a lap around the field four times. It's "a little tough to tell" because each position group starts from a different place on the field, but 3 of the 4 times Denard was the first player on the team to finish. (Ray Vinopal seemed to win the last one.) That's "more a measure of endurance than speed."
Robinson actually got a lot less run than the other two quarterbacks, finding himself on the bench as Forcier and Gardner (and Jack Kennedy) alternated series late; when he did get on the offense would score quickly, further depressing his reps. To me that reads like the decision is already made and they are being somewhat cautious.
Conflicting reports on Gardner and Forcier. Ace's take:
Devin Gardner, running mostly with the twos, looked at times like a seasoned veteran, but he had a couple throws — including an ugly interception to Marvin Robinson — that reminded everyone he is just a freshman. His natural ability could lead to him seeing the field this year, but I think it’s safe to say he’s probably a year away from really pushing for the starting job. Really like his poise in the pocked and running ability, however, and it would have been interesting to see what he could have done if the quarterbacks were live. Tate Forcier started with the threes but saw snaps with the ones and twos as well — he looked solid throwing the ball, but made a couple poor reads on zone running plays.
Gardner came in for a lot of praise but a trusted observer in the inbox says "Gardner made a number of bad decisions under pressure." There that Marvin Robinson interception reminiscent of the slo-mo-nooooo plays last year; observer also cited a strong tendency for Gardner to panic and chuck off his back foot when blitzers got through. He suggested that in a scrimmage with more blitzing—it was exceedingly rare—Forcier would have probably looked clearly better than Gardner. While a few folk are saying there is "NO WAY" Gardner redshirts, TO thought he was at best even with Forcier and given that should watch from the sidelines. He made more big errors than anyone else.
In drills, Tate looked best, FWIW.
Hopkins was the name on everyone's tongue after a day spent running through arm tackles and showing surprising shiftiness. He "hit the holes and was a load to take down." Trusted Observer said he had a hard time picking out Hopkins before the scrimmage, as he looked like PJ Hill in the spring but after losing ten pounds and reshaping maybe a dozen others into muscle "now looks like a tailback" instead of a moonlighting fullback.
One negative note:
I didn't think Hopkins looked as great as everyone else did. Not a diss on his play - he ran very hard - but I didn't see the world beater others did. Much like the other scrimmages, all the RBs looked good, but none really stood out. We have options in Cox and Shaw. Though V. Smith, as reported, looks great - no noticeable effects from the injury.
Ace and others also noted that Vincent Smith seems 100% healthy; you can see him dance his way down to the two in the highlights above on one of his better runs on the day. TO said it looked like he was tentatively first team with Mike Shaw second but "both those guys fumbled and I wouldn't put much stock in that."
Mike Cox continued to show that he might be the best athlete amongst the running backs, but on two separate instances he caused Rodriguez to "lose it" by cutting way back against the grain, turning a modest gain into nothing by dancing at the line of scrimmage. On one "there was a gap on the frontside but he cut all the way behind the backside tackle," losing yardage and causing RR to chew him out; on the second "RR just dropped his headset in disgust."
Toussaint did not play due to an injury.
If you're looking at playing time in this scrimmage as a signal as to which freshmen wideouts will play, your "leaders in order" are Jerald Robinson, Drew Dileo, Jeremy Jackson, Ricardo Miller, and finally DJ Williamson. Yeah, Dileo, who looked "natural fielding punts and catching the ball in drills" despite being "fricking tiny." Robinson got a lot of playing time but "dropped everything."
As for the veterans, the nominal first team was the same it was in spring with Martavious Odoms spending a lot of time outside with Darryl Stonum; Roy Roundtree was in the slot but "did not play much" probably because "they know he's the guy." In his stead Robinson and Grady got most of the playing time, with Gallon around but "not doing much." Hemingway was on the second team with Stokes.
At TE, Koger, Webb, and Moore "seemed even," with Koger suffering a frustrating drop. Robinson added one, but otherwise the starting WRs caught everything that came their way. It was mostly underneath stuff, probably because of the open nature of the scrimmage.
Not much here. Molk was in a green shirt and played only sparingly (this was "precautionary"); Khoury was his backup and there were several poor snaps, two or three of which led to drive-killing fumbles. Huyge (left) and Dorrestein (right) were tackles on the first team OL. Lewan was on the second team and played beyond the whistle to the point where he got a personal foul. TO noticed Quinton Washington struggling badly in the post-practice runs, finishing last. Someone, possibly Elliot Mealer, spent practice on the bike with a red jersey. Barnum was a second-team guard and the third-team center.
Coaches kept yelling at Schofield to keep his pad level down.
TO says he spent most of the scrimmage watching the offense and didn't have much on the D. He did note that Mike Martin finished first easily in the DL group on the runs with Will Campbell lagging behind. Ace highlighted Jibreel Black, who looks like a quick contributor. Another emailer said "Martin is a beast" and didn't get much playing time for precautionary reasons:
“Defensively, Mike Martin has had a tremendous camp. We limited him yesterday because we know what he can do, but he’s been really good and probably our most consistent defensive player since camp started.”
Campbell seemed to be on the third team. Sagesse sat out with an injury, though he was in green, not red.
It does not seem like Martin is moving, so everyone figure out who Greg Banks's backup is.
That stuff about Moundros possibly starting looks accurate:
Moundros starts in the middle, looks like he's been playing there for a while. A run stuffer certainly. Middle zone coverage? Not enough data. Ezeh also stuffed the run and took on blocks at Mouton's spot. Roh will be a beast, but given almost all of the throws were short, his pass rush didn't have time to get home.
Not much else here. Ezeh played WLB with Mouton in green. Davion Rogers is "a twig."
Ack. Cam Gordon, from reports ranging from some guy…
Vlad will hit you, but we all knew that. Cam Gordon is going to be very good, I think. Big boy. He was in position to make two great tackles, but unfortunately didn't wrapup and was pulled off the field. Later returned with the 1's. Going to take some time
…to the coach…
“Yesterday probably wasn’t his best day practice-wise, but other than that he’s had a really good camp,” Rodriguez noted.
“We were in position to make plays - I was in position - but we didn’t wrap up,” Gordon said. “I think we were all a little excited, especially us young guys to show what we could do and we had a breakdown in fundamentals. But those are easily correctable mistakes.
“Something Coach [Tony] Gibson said to me after our scrimmage was, ‘Cam, every hit doesn’t have to be a big hit.’ That’s a key for me and for all the guys. Any tackle is a good tackle. I don’t have to level somebody because in the stat book they all count the same way. I’ll get better and we’ll get better.”
…did not have a good day. Corners… not much detail. There's this:
JT Floyd looks good, Rogers looks big. Teric Jones and Christian are your 2's. Talbott and Avery don't look undersized, and don't look overwhelmed. Again, hard to judge corner play given the nature of the throws. But Christian has a way of moving that reminds one of Woodson.
If only. Floyd was pulled early, again likely as a precaution. Robinson looks good, a "big hitter and good tackler." Mike Williams spent a lot of time playing spur, not doing much of note. A push for a job or a sure starter (Thomas Gordon) getting held out of a high-contact scrimmage?
No worries at punter, where Hagerup's warmups were "just like Zoltan." The section of the practice dedicated to the punt team saw the punts "go straight" and were actually returnable. All were fielded cleanly except one fumble from Terrence Robinson. Here, too, Dileo "looked like a natural," executing a fair catch with aplomb and fielding an array of kickoffs and punts cleanly.
Field goal kicking was limited, with just two attempts. Meram missed from around 40, Gibbons hit from around 35. Kickoffs landed from the 2 to 10, which is about average these days. Kickoff coverage must be run at half speed because every one was returned to about midfield and then blown dead.
Tim will spin out posts on his experience at Media Day over the first few days of the week, but right now how about a million embeds? Oh and this from the MVictors photo gallery:
"Please stop doing that, you're making me uncomfortable."
And then there's all the video Boyz n tha Pahokee and MGoVideo put in a non-browser-crippling format:
Denard Robinson (wsgs Mike Rosenberg and Mike Rosenberg's Tiny Afro!):
Several more after the jump.
Bullets from Rich Rod's post-practice press conference today.
Dealing With Troy Woolfolk's Injury
Troy is in great shape, and he was playing well. They don't know how long Woolfolk fill be out, "I think we're still waiting on some medical results... I'm confident we've got guys to step in."
Initially, everybody's concerned for their teammate. Once they know he's ok, they're able to bounce back. Everybody's down, but "once they see him getting around, they'll bounce back."
"We'll move guys around in the secondary" to compensate for Woolfolk's injury. Some safeties had already moved to corner, but there may be some more. "With our schemes, our free safeties and our corners are in the same meeting room, so I think they probably know each other's position anyway." Asked if any WRs would move to DB: "No. Strictly defensive guys." All the young guys at DB have a chance, and now they have a sense of urgency to prepare.
Other than Woolfolk, they only have "typical camp injuries" - guys missing a practice or two because they're banged up.
"I wish we had a better way to measure." Rodriguez wishes there was an inter-squad scrimmage, because now there's no way to test yourself against somebody else. Division 1-A is the only level of football without scrimmages.
RR will know after tomorrow's practice who will miss saturday scrimmage due to injury.
In the scrimmage, they're looking for overall competition. Coaches won't be on the field for the scrimmage. Players will have to see the signs from the sidelines, which is new for the freshmen. They'll scrimmage "at least most of" the special teams Saturday. It will be an opportunity to let the player get used to the new turf.
No firm first and second teams on either side of the ball. The scrimmage on Saturday will be mixed across groups. QBs won't be live in the scrimmage.
After the scrimmage Saturday, they'll have another, smaller one midweek next week. After that, the coaches will pretty much know who's on the two-deep, who's on the travel squad, etc. They'll only run practice with two groups getting the majority of the reps at that point.
At QB, Rodriguez always had at least two guys get almost the same number of reps - "even when I've had a clear-cut starter". All three guys are getting equal reps. That'll taper down after the scrimmage.
QBs probably won't be live all camp. As long as they are practicing with good fundamentals, and taking care of the ball, they won't go live.
Tate - He's had a pretty good camp. He's really gotten better. He's been challenged, so far he's responded well. He's a little bigger and stronger. Tate has worked. Some of the guys that have been challenged - guys who have ability and need it. Tate and "a couple other guys" have responded to the challenge. When they know there's competition, they're more motivated.
All three guys at QB are getting better. It's possible that Devin could win the job. Is it likely he could win the job? "Possible? Likely? Possible's a better word." He came in behind because of experience, but he's competing to win it.
There's an ongoing battle at running back. The top guy won't be settled, they're hoping for two or three guys ready for the UConn game.
Jon Bills has been with the team through camp, serving as a student assistant coach. His halo should be coming off in the next few days.
The competition at tackle is going well. "I've really been pleased with Perry Dorrestein, and Mark Huyge, they're veterans. They've come back and played pretty well. And the two young guys, Taylor Lewan and Mike Schofield are competing right there with them."
Craig Roh "is moving around well; he's in good shape... He's carrying the extra weight pretty well."
Mark Moundros is in contention for a starting linebacker spot. Obi Ezeh, Kenny Demens, JB Fitzgerald, Kevin Leach, and Moundros can all play multiple LB positions. Rodriguez has "really been pleased" with Obi Ezeh. Jonas Mouton has been a little banged up. "They're in really good shape."
Kickers have done better, and been pretty good last two days. Will Hagerup has punted well, as has Seth Broekhuizen. Justin Meram (the soccer player) says he can throw it, too. Rodriguez isn't excited to find out.
Leadership And Wings
"Our senior class is doing a great job with leadership." The team was shown a video the other day with the history of Michigan's program, then the seniors presented some team goals. Seniors came up with the goals, and Rodriguez gave a few tips to help them achieve those goals. The goals are pretty common, there are higher expectations at Michigan, and everyone should start the year competing for a championship. "We've got ambitious guys, and they're working toward that end."
It's critical for seniors to take a leadership role. Off the field, in the locker room, around campus, etc. "When a senior's getting on you about something, don't take it personal." They're doing it for your own good and the team's good. Fear of offending someone sometimes makes seniors afraid to speak out.
We've had good leadership each of the past couple years. Guys didn't really know what coaches wanted the first year. Last year's guys were good leaders (Zoltan, Brandon Graham), but they might not have been as vocal all the time.
Have to push to practice at a championship level during camp. The team has a good attitude. There are moments when practice goes well, at other times the team is ragged. The afternoon practices of two-a-days are when guys are really tired. Guys know when they're not practicing at a high level.
Does Tate have his wings back? "Yes, they got it back today. Yes they did. There's the story for you." Why now? "We wanted to see some consistency a few days in a row." This was the first time he's done something like this.
Most encouraged that the players like to work. Nobody's late for practice or meetings, everybody's attentive. "I Love their attitude, and I love their work ethic, and that's the start."
Ball security - really good so far. A couple interceptions, tipped passes or bad decisions, but there hasn't been a fumble in the past couple days. Throwing it well, good at taking care of the ball.
In the past, the coaches have tried to simplify the offense, has that changed this year? Haven't yet put more in this year. Installation really slowed down this week. We'll have to do more to get ready for UConn.
Summer school is mostly over, though a couple guys might be taking a final tomorrow. Freshmen finished, which is nice because school has been making them miss meetings. Rodriguez is anxious to see how they can progress when football is their only focus.
Grades will come out in a week or so, and we'll know the eligibility status of upperclassmen then (obvious Shaw leading question).
Rodriguez has certain things he puts on lists to get done, and they're right on track to meet those goals. "We've really made progress. I think we're right on track." The scrimmage will tell a lot about where they are.
Rodriguez got one of the first copies of Jon Falk's new book. He hasn't read the whole thing yet. "He's got a lot of stories to tell, and he's an icon, and everybody loves big Jon."
In case the Forcier Transfer tweet going all Keyser Soze five minutes after it was posted…
…was not indication enough, Tom got in touch with Tate's dad, who laughed the rumors off:
Mike Forcier, Tate's dad, laughed at the transfer rumors. Said they aren't true, and he wouldn't support it anyways.
This tweet is still up.
Melanie Collins, meanwhile, has mastered the art of 21st century apologizing by admitting nothing, claiming her righteousness, and blathering insane nonsense:
Twitter is an outlet to post thoughts, provoke conversation & share info I'm hearing. I never once said there was any truth to Forcier rumor
No truth, just from a "very reliable source." This flies if your bio says you're a pathological liar. Collins's does not, unfortunately. Wait a minute… AH-HA! CAUGHT YOU RED HANDED, I DID.
I probably shouldn't have posted anything on a rumor that seemed specious enough to cloak it in the skepticism/fatalism I did, but I figured since she was and is a Big Ten Network "personality" that it was worth posting. Sorry about that. On a side note: message board folk should drop it since the chatter has degenerated into "I would do her so hard and then put her in an apron so she can make me a sandwich which is all women are good for help me I've never touched one." Don't post anything your mother doesn't want to read. Or my mother.
And Kelvin Grady has the last word:
NEVER A DULL MOMENT #period
UPDATE: Professional hottie's tweet has disappeared. You can safely ignore the below, I think.
Um… so this person…
…has a twitter that says this:
Very reliable source telling me Tate Forcier requested a transfer from #Michigan this AM. NOT yet confirmed, will update as I know more.
I'd link it but I'm getting fail whales and am suffused with an overwhelming ennui.
Not to disparage smoking hot bikini models or anything, but I'd probably take Mike Rothstein's word over hers. Then again she has done some sideline work for the Big Ten Network—the entire reason this is credible enough to bother with—and Rothstein is not banging out strenuous denials and this is Michigan post-Bo so it's probably true and all she left out its that he's hiring someone to bash Denard's knee in, Tonya Harding style.
Check the klaxon wiring, will you? The absence of Tate Forcier from the most recent Countdown to Kickoff video has been noticed and is causing consternation. Also it is spawning somewhat sad hypotheses that this is a brilliant tactic to confuse and alarm our enemies. My guess is either that they didn't want to put a guy with a solid blue helmet in the clips, thus spawning yet more speculation about solid blue helmets, or that Tate's minor injury (as reported by the BTN when they were at practice) had him down with the third team and they didn't want to spawn speculation about Tate as a third string option. They spawned the exact same speculation in a different way instead.
A couple of other bits Burgeoning Wolverine Star has gleaned from minute analysis of the countdown to kickoff videos:
- Mark Moundros has been running with the ones a lot in practice. His presence on the starting defense is really beginning to worry me. Then again Obi Ezeh has always worried me.
- Vincent Smith appears to be running with the twos and Fitzgerald Toussaint appears to be taking a lot of snaps with the starting offense.
I'm not sure how much either of those means, but Moundros winning the MLB job would be concerning, not so much because of what it says about Ezeh but what it might say about Kenny Demens, JB Fitzgerald, and the rest of the scholarship linebackers who have disappointed thus far in their careers.
Meanwhile in countdown to kickoff, here's Taylor Lewan and Craig Roh working on their vaudville routine:
Team, team, team. A debate settled: Bo Schembechler deployed the famous "The Team, The Team, The Team" speech prior to the 1984 season.
Bar bets resolved all around. Now: if Rodriguez is going to deploy "The Team" in his tweets can we get him to say "those who stay will be champions"? I have literally been waiting for this since he was introduced at halftime of the Ohio State game.
Ve vant the money. Great graph from the Daily Cardinal showing the television money (Lebowksi) landscape as of now:
Though tiny now, the Pac-10 is going to vastly increase those tiny circles when their contract expires in 2011. In a realm of ever-expanding cable options even the ACC was able to leverage their free agency into a massive increase in revenues. A Pac-10 plus Colorado and Utah is going to see their raw numbers shoot up. Same with the Big 12 when their contracts expire. That's one reason the much-hyped SEC ESPN contract was overblown: when you're locked in that long the contract is shiny up front but by the end of it looks ragged. The BTN is excepted because the conference owns half of it and gets a revenue share, so that 112 million now won't be 112 in 2031. The SEC's deals will still be 150 and 55 in 2023. Not to imply that's terrible or anything.
Conveniently for the Big Ten fan, the Machiavellian point of view lines up with the one that's good for the players: you want D-I football to be as expensive as possible for the participants, with an emphasis on required spending on student-athletes.
While we're talking money. The Sports Business Journal has a paywalled article on what the Big Ten will do with its contracts now that Nebraska's on the way, but they put some interesting numbers in the intro…
The Big Ten Conference is preparing to auction the TV rights to its new football championship game, a move that industry insiders say could fetch $15 million to $20 million a year. The conference also plans to reopen its current deal with ESPN to account for the addition of Nebraska…
…which will push them even farther into the lead. Maybe Minnesota and Illinois will actually hire some one real this time around? Gary Pinkel, Gary Patterson, Charlie Strong, etc?
Swing low, Iowa. I've been thinking this for a while and now I'll dare mention it because a couple other outlets have broached the same thing: isn't Iowa due for a recession after their debt-fueled 2009? The lasting image of Iowa's Orange Bowl-winning season isn't Adrian Clayborn turning something into a damp red smear* but an Indiana pass pinging off four separate players before landing Charmin-soft in the hands of Tyler Sash.
Now it can be told on a list of teams most likely to regress this year:
The Hawkeyes had a great record last year, but they weren't dominant. They beat Northern Iowa and Arkansas State by a combined four points. They nearly lost to Michigan and Michigan State. In 2010, they get every tough team in the Big Ten while missing Illinois and Purdue. Iowa State usually plays them tough regardless, and they go to Arizona. It's not going to be an explosive team, and the schedule is tough.
That's Team Speed Kills and it's admittedly hazy, but the point about NIU, Arkansas State, Michigan (guh), Michigan State, and that omitted Indiana game is well-taken: Iowa was 89th in total offense last year. That is not often the recipe for a top-ten team, especially when the top-ten defense lost about half its starters and is still deploying a walk-on at safety.
In 2008, Iowa had the best running back in the nation and the best defense in the Big Ten, but lost four of five games decided by three points or less and had to settle for a nice consolation prize in the Outback Bowl. In 2009, a less impressive team on paper turned those close games, winning four of five by three points or less and landing the program's highest AP poll finish since 1960.
That was despite dropping from second in the conference in scoring offense in '08 to tenth in '09, as well as dropping to tenth in rushing and total offense, and from ninth nationally to 34th against the run on defense. The only difference was the uncanny knack for rallying the troops when tied or trailing going into the fourth quarter, which Stanzi and Co. pulled off five times in as many attempts against Northern Iowa (down 13-10 at the start of the fourth), Penn State (down 10-5), Wisconsin (10-10), Michigan State (down 6-3) and Indiana (down 24-14).
…but only after pointing out his 56% completion rate and meh efficiency ratings. Meanwhile, those fourth quarter comebacks scream regression unless you think Stanzi is some Rick Six** prone version of John Elway chafing under Dan Reeves. I don't think Iowa will be bad, exactly, but I'd be less surprised by the Hawkeyes finishing fifth in the Big Ten than second.
*(Adrian Clayborn: I say this with the utmost respect possible OH GOD NO—)
**(I see you, stpaulhawkeye. "Rick Six" is brilliant.)
Wha? Sid Hartman is like a billion years old and whenever I read something from him he seems confused so take this stuff FWIW:
Delany didn't see the Big Ten going to nine conference games in football in the near future, but one thing that might force that move is the big-money schools having to pay to attract nonconference opponents.
Since Delany just gave the first day of Big Ten Media Days whatever slight usefulness it had by bluntly declaring a nine-game conference schedule on the way, by "near future" Hartman probably means 2013. Then again, he's old enough where that does seem like a far off place. I wouldn't pay it any mind given Delany's previous statements.