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.
With Rodriguez ramping up the media restrictions in the wake of the Jihad and the Daily publishing details of that edge pitch play they debuted against Iowa, glimpses from within Michigan's early practices have been rare. This has ticked off the Blade guy, but come on Blade guy, what do you expect? Rodriguez tried.
Anyway, the Big Ten Network has stopped by and the twitters are lighting up with 140-character bursts of potentially useful information. They are collected below, organized by position and theme. I won't link to each individual tweet but they can be found at @BTNDaveRevsine and @BTNBrentsBlog (by Brent Yarina).
Based on today - tough call on QB situation. All 3 have had some good moments. DR clearly improved as a passer. [Revsine]
Devin Gardner can't put a pass in the wrong place here early on. Rapid fire drill, he's on the money with everything. [Yarina]
Gardner definitely looks like he could get snaps. He's very impressive, but Denard has improved as a passer quite a bit. [Yarina]
It's one day, but #Michigan looks good. If I was making choice, I'd split snaps between Robinson and Gardner. DG is good. [Yarina]
Denard Robinson looks like a completely different passer. Add the threat of pass to his running ability, and #Michigan could give d's fits. [Yarina]
He [Tate] was banged up today. But emergence of Gardner and Denard's improved passing don't help. [Yarina]
UPDATE: one more from Revsine, responding to MVictors about a QB question:
I would definitely say Gardner is in convo - impressive kid. G&H seem to think Robinson is the best of the 3. Tough call.
The Mystery Of The Wingless Helmets
Yarina posted this picture:
You'll note that Forcier's helmet is plain blue, sans wings. A twitter guy named GoBlueNColumbus (ouch) caught this and started pinging Yarina with questions:
The #Michigan people told us not to read anything into the lack of wings on some helmets. [Yarina]
Didn't pay too much attention [to who didn't have them], to be honest. As far as big names go, though, he was the only one I noticed. [Yarina]
Meanwhile, Rodriguez after the first practice on the "handful" of guys not prepared to play football:
"If they don't [improve their conditioning] they will not have the opportunity to wear the winged helmet on Sept. 4 [in season opener against Connecticut]," Rodriguez said.
Dollars to donuts the plain helmets are a motivational device and that Forcier's absence at offseason workouts has put him in the bad group. They didn't accidentally hand last year's starting quarterback a plain helmet. [UPDATE: Maybe they did? A Countdown to Kickoff video shows Tate in the regular helmet.]
Michigan's facebook page has a set of 20 photos that does not reveal anyone else in the bad group but do show Koger, who had been rumored to be in the handful, in possession of wings.
Various Individuals Mentioned
At Michigan's practice. Love the "M" drill - runner trying to get thru 3 levels of blocking. Saw good moments from Michael Cox & W Campbell [Revsine]
Great energy in 1 on 1 tackle drill. Vlad Emilien just had a big time hit. Sweet move earlier out of Terrance Robinson. [Revsine]
Vladimir Emilien just made a bone-crushing hit on a 1-on-1 drill. The entire defense celebrated the hit. [Yarina]
Good team drill going on right now. Jeremy Jackson looks like he could help at WR. D Robinson clicking nicely with the short stuff. [Revsine]
Marvin Robinson, Brandin Hawthorne and Courtney Avery among the others who had good moments [Revsine]
Gerry and Howard both impressed with Jibreel Black. DiNardo also likes the way Patrick Omameh has looked today. [Revsine]
Loss of Mesko is obviously a concern, but the frehman Hagerup has really boomed a few [Revsine]
One thing's for sure: #Michigan coaches are very intense and vocal. [Yarina]
Mike Martin on difference between this year's defense: "I think we're a lot closer." [Yarina]
Take it for what you will. I'll update this with any subsequent information.
It's a plot device so well-worn it's hackneyed in even real life: kid on team mouths off publicly about something or another. The coach threatens castration privately; publicly he downplays the loose lips and denies the veracity of whatever claim has got the media atwitter. Hugs are shared, unity declared, and the incident forgotten.
So when Troy Woolfolk sort of called Tate Forcier a leper, but not really, to the point where he had to issue a twitter retraction, Rodriguez immediately leapt to his quarterback's defense:
"I'm glad our seniors are taking some ownership and leadership in this team. They want everyone to work as hard as they have."
And by "leapt to his quarterback's defense" I mean "obliquely agreed with Woolfolk." That's the blockquote equivalent of scratching a record, especially since he followed that up with "Tate has a lot of work to do to prove himself, and not just on the field but off the field" and deviated from his years-long obsession with finding "two guys you can win with" at quarterback, instead suggesting that if someone separates himself from the rest of the competition he will be The Guy. So much for this blog's Tate/Denard QB Voltron fever dreams, I guess.
Having one half of your hopes for a competent non-freshman quarterback damaged by that guy's seeming disinterest is bad. Worse: Rodriguez was moved to publicly declare a "handful" of players "not ready to play Division 1 football" after the first day of practice. The identities of the folk in this handful are largely unknown—please no corners please no corners—but today's premium internet chatter fingers Justin Turner—GODDAMMIT—as the most prominent member of the group. [Update: Greg Robinson on Turner: "I don't know what's going on there."] The trepidation that's built up the last year as Turner first failed to crack the worst Michigan secondary ever and then failed to beat out a guy who lost his spot in the worst Michigan secondary ever has now broken through the last frayed tendrils of hope born of his recruiting rankings; he's now solidly en route to epic bust status. "Dann O'Neill or Shawn Crable?" is a much less pleasant question to answer than "Charles Woodson or just Marlin Jackson?"
With Turner apparently 0/2 when it comes to showing up to camp with the ability to outrun Rod Smith, Michigan's corner depth chart now looks like this:
- Troy Woolfolk and JT Floyd
If you're looking for damage mitigation, cornerback is a spot at which a freshman can hypothetically cope, but after so much hammering to one position group something's got to give touchdowns in bunches.
And since today's Turner PANIC is late-breaking, it doesn't even figure in Doctor Saturday's fair and totally depressing evaluation of the state of Michigan's defense: