"He makes it really easy on you as a coach because he has tremendous football instincts," Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh said. "Things come really naturally to him. He doesn't have to see things too many times. He has a good sense for how things should look and feel, and he's a tough, physical guy."
One of the things that struck me in the article was these asides inserted to make it seem like Michigan's happy-go-lucky freshmen didn't know just how oppressed they were:
“It’s crazy,” said Hawthorne, who was not complaining about his coaches and was apparently unaware of the time-limit rules. … Stokes was not complaining. Like Hawthorne, he apparently was unaware of the rules.
Of course they don't know the rules. Neither do any of the (unnecessarily anonymous) sources. All the folk who played under Carr knew was that there was some limit; they had no idea what counted towards the limit. For an example, here's Toney Clemons:
"The allegations are true," Clemons said. "Nothing is fabricated or exaggerated in that story. I was there on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. or 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. depending on if guys needed treatment. You were there daylight to nighttime."
Now let me launch into a diatribe about reporters and their lack of critical thinking skills. You are faced with an accusation that Rich Rodriguez didn't skirt NCAA regulations but rode roughshod over them. Presumably he's been doing this for eight years without anyone noticing that he was more than doubling the NCAA's maximum requirements. Do you A) think "wait a minute, there's a disconnect worth thinking about here" or B) uncritically accept the allegation and start screaming hysterically? If you picked B, congratulations, you can have a low-paid job in a rapidly evaporating industry.
"On Sunday, it was lifting, film, dinner and practice," Clemons told Schad. "I usually got out around 10:20. I truly don't want to be associated with the program back there. But I am going to help benefit my teammates back there by speaking and giving testimony."
Here are various items that are non-countable activities according to the NCAA:
a. Training-table or competition-related meals;
b. Physical rehabilitation;
c. Dressing, showering or taping; …
h. Medical examinations or treatments; …
m. Voluntary individual workouts, provided these workouts are not required or supervised by coaching staff members, except that such activities may be monitored for safety purposes or conducted by the institution's strength and conditioning personnel who have department wide duties.
o. The provision of videotapes to a student-athlete by an institution's coach that include a personalized message and athletically related information (e.g., discussion of plays, general workout programs, lectures on strategy related to the sport), provided the viewing of the videotape by the student-athlete is voluntary;
p. Use of an institution's athletics facilities (which may be reserved) during the academic year or summer by student-athletes, provided the activities are not supervised by or held at the direction of any member of an institution's coaching staff.
I am willing to wager many amounts of money that the Sunday lifting was of the variety that fits the NCAA's definition of voluntary, as was the film. The rehab/examinations/dinner and any downtime in between practice and film and other activities definitely don't count. At no point has anyone in the media even broached this possibility. It has not occurred to them. Some of them specifically omit it because it conflicts with their aims*; some are just professional parrots.
When Michigan releases its compliance information, Michigan will check in at four hours of countable activity on Sunday. If they're over at all it will be by a small amount. I bet a dollar.
*(Mostly the aim is to make their story seem awesomer and justify the expense. Rosenberg and his publicly-professed hatred of Rodriguez are another matter.)
I am the lyrical master. This would be 100% Pure Colombian Awesome but it features Toney Clemons, who seems like a cool guy to have around, front and center and is therefore a little sad. It remains the Coner dropping knowledge, though, so its Pure Colombian Awesome percentage hovers around 98%:
Dude. Cone just smoked Brent Petway. That's Febreze, people.
Spring practice photos. Yo.
I wish I could wager on this. Michigan has a new defensive coordinator, but it's the outgoing guy with a reputation, and the stats to back it up, as a blitzing mad scientist. This does not—cannot—dissuade sportswriters, though. There's a new defensive coordinator. Who is he? Anyone. Where is he? Anywhere. The hand moves of its own accord:
I also wish I could bet that this article would state the new scheme is "more aggressive." I wish this because I like free money:
The Wolverines hope the moving parts and the more aggressive scheme generate increased pressure from players other than star end Brandon Graham, who recorded 10 of the team's 29 sacks last fall.
Hurray free money.
Cliche aside, there are a couple of interesting nuggets in the above Rittenberg piece. A pithy summary of Greg Robinson's Big Idea:
"It feels like a 3-4," Ezeh said, "but sometimes we do a 4-3 look."
Michigan is using several players in a hybrid defensive end-linebacker role, including junior Marell Evans, sophomore Brandon Herron, sophomore Steve Watson and freshman Anthony LaLota, an early enrollee. Senior Stevie Brown, who started all 12 games at safety last season, is being used as a safety/strongside linebacker.
Robinson calls the hybrid the "quick" or "spinner," because you have to have a slightly goofy name for any nonstandard position in your defense. If it comes off and they can get production out of the spot, it's a lot less frightening to consider a defensive line of Graham/Martin/RVB with Patterson/Campbell/Sagesse/Banks backups than taking one of those backups and throwing them into the starting lineup.
Then your problem is getting production out of a true freshman, a guy who lost his job last season, a guy who's never seen the field, and a tight end, all of whom have never played this position before. Which good luck with that.
Rumors flyin'. It's Tuesday, so it's time for more Darryl Stonum transfer rumors. These have been debunked by someone close to the situation: Stonum. His myspace page issued a bulletin:
I'M NOT GOING ANYWHERE!!!
People are speculating 24/7 and I just want to let you know I'm a Michigan Man!! This is where I want to be and I'm truly buying into Coach Rod's system. I know I will be something special on the field and I want to prove that here at Michigan. I love this program and you best believe that.
Or, at least, several people on message boards all over the place have replicated that; Stonum's profile is set as private and I'm not on the myspace.
Fly, fly, fly! Denard Robinson was named the second fastest recruit in all the land by Rivals sometime last year. Rivals was right:
Deerfield Beach's Denard Robinson got the near-perfect start he needed, motored down the straightaway and won the 100 meters in a personal-best 10.44 seconds at the BCAA Track Championships at Coral Springs on Saturday.
Robinson's personal-best eclipsed the state standard for this year set by Byrd, a junior at Ida Baker, and it is the second-fastest high school time in the nation, according to Dyestat Elite 100 rankings.
Even better is Robinson's reaction to his smokin' hot time:
''I was kind of disappointed in myself to run a 10.44, but I will accept that.''
Robinson plans on running a 10.3 by states. By the time he arrives on campus he'll be from the future.
The writing was on the wall for a while on this one, and recent reports that Toney Clemons wasn't at spring practice were the clincher. He's out:
"I had a long talk with (Rodriguez) and he wasn't too happy with me leaving," Clemons said. "I just don't want to play in a spread offense. This is best for me as an athlete."
Clemons had 12 catches last year as he was shoehorned into the slot behind Martavious Odoms; that move boded unwell. Clemons, at 6'3", is not your typical slot and Michigan was struggling to get production outside.
Michigan will go with Greg Mathews, Darryl Stonum, and Junior Hemingway on the outside; Odoms returns and will be joined by freshmen Terrance Robinson, who redshirted last year, and Jeremy Gallon.
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.