to play football, not to play trumpet
Notes from Brady Hoke's meeting with the press today.
- "Floyd won't play as much this spring because he's coming off surgery."
- "Woolfolk is getting better, but at the same time it wouldn't be very intelligent of us to have him doing a whole lot out there."
- "Kenny Demens will be a little bit limited because of the shoulder surgery he had."
- "Teric Jones is out for sure. Mike Shaw broke his hand the other day, falling on the turf and trying to catch himself. So he'll be limited on Saturday for sure," but will play with a cast after that. Teric Jones's injury is a "significant" one to his knee. It's too early to say whether he'll be out or limited in the fall.
Position changes: Will Campbell will play 3-tech. He's bounced back and forth, but has done a good job with conditioning this spring. "It would be too early for us to make any [other] changes, because we don't know what they can do anyway, to be honest with you."
There will be no update on Devin Gardner's redshirt status until his fourth year. (So stop asking about it).
MSU and OSU countdown clocks: "Those are pretty important games. And we want to think about those important games every day." Some outside his office, some down by the locker room "That's it for now, I think."
Scholarship numbers: "We should be at 84, I believe."
General Spring Notes
Spring game - "Wait until we get there and see. We'd like to play a true, competitive 'seniors draft the teams' Spring Game." Not sure if there's enough depth to do that.
Spring success: "It won't ever be a success," because here's always something that they can do better. Need to improve on field, in classroom, in community. Installation of offense, etc.
There will be a few practices open to the media this spring, but none have been determined yet.
Excited to get started. Only seen guys in conditioning and the weight room so far. Still won't see them with pads until after Monday - that's when they'll know what they have. 3 non-padded practices, including first 2 and the day of the coaches' clinic.
"We're gonna hit a lot. And then we'll see where we're at as a team." Have to get a look at the team, and at the players. If guys prove themselves, they might not hit as much to avoid injury.
"Spring is always important because I think it gives you an ability to have competition. The one thing you'll find out is this is competition on a daily basis." Even the guys who have already played need to continue to compete because other guys will step up.
First things to evaluate: attitude, effort, toughness, accountability. Everything starts with mentality and toughness. A lot of unknowns "Try and create an environment that's going to have toughness with it and effort with it and a mentality of how you play." Need to develop guys from a fundamental and technique standpoint.
Will go back to what he's done at last two stops when coming in. "It all starts there. And it's worked." Players need to learn how the practice runs, etc.
Strength and conditioning is not only to develop physically, but also develop an attitude: "No one's going to beat us. And it's an earned attitude."
The Team (The Team, The Team)
Hasn't watched a lot of film on past performances. Doesn't want preconceived notions of how guys play. You don't know how they've been coached, so you don't want a bad impression in case the coaching wasn't up to par.
Denard - "He's a kid who loves to play the game, he's hungry to play the game. There's some things at that position, because of the offense, he's going to have to get comfortable in." Mostly under center, not exclusively. Both QBs have done a good job learning the intricacies of the new O, but they still have a lot to learn. "Taking a snap from center, I know they've worked on that little bit out their on their own." Borges has enough experience to properly manage what the QBs do.
RBs - "I think right now, we've gotta see who can run the power play. Get downhill and do the things we want them to do as an offensive player." Haven't used TEs and fullbacks as much, need to develop them as well.
OL - Molk has played a lot of football, is a good player. He'll start on the first play of the spring, along with most of the guys who have played a lot. If they don't play with toughness and effort "they can always move down." Funk will find top 7-8 guys.
Some positions have guys who have played a lot of football, such as Mike Martin at DT. Need to continue improving his game even though he's played.
Hoke will coach a lot of special teams with Coach Ferrigno. Will also coach the Sam 'backer during some parts of practice. Wants to be hands-on, and can also offer something there.
Woolfolk position - "I can't answer that position question] for sure. Until we get to really watch him run around and what he can do." Right now, likely stays at corner. "Safeties, we're not bad. Corners, not as good" depth-wise.
FG kicking - "Part of it is a confidence level that guys have or don't have." Getting more reps with the expectation of doing it perfectly will help.
Chris Barnett's relationship with Baron Flenory - "I'm not going to get into a kid's personal life. If he wants to talk about it, he can talk about it." He was mature about how he visited and went through the recruiting process.
Future recruiting: "We're making progress. We've had quite a few kids on unofficials, and will continue through the spring."
Helmet stickers - hasn't given it any further thought.
Not worried about finalizing his contract.
Relationships with players - "I think it's always evolving." It's been positive, and he has very good communication with them.
Oversigning: "I think the Big Ten's policy is probably one that everyone should be able to live with." Can't speak for other coaches, or claim they mislead kids.
The current scoreboards will be fully taken down within the next week or so, and the Athletic Department will announce around that time which company has been awarded the contract for the new scoreboards. Once they make that announcement, artist's renderings will be available. The scoreboards will be completed in August.
One topic that was brought up during your WTKA segment today regarding special teams was, "what happened to the kickoff return game?' You never addressed it during the segment, so I thought I would throw this at you.
I haven't done my Mgoresearch, but wasn't there a rule change regarding kickoff return team blocking? IIRC, the NCAA has limited the number of return team players allowed in a blocking wedge or wall.
I would have to look up video from previous seasons, but I believe U of M utilized a 3 man wall in front of the returners with Kevin Grady and others.
David is correct: the NCAA banned wedge blocking this offseason, which at least partially explains how an effective kick return game has disintegrated. If Michigan was really good at the wedge and now it's gone they're starting over. That doesn't explain why they're really bad, but does get you to average.
That lack of effectiveness and Darryl Stonum's increased importance to the offense make his removal from kick returns less annoying than it was earlier in the year. With Odoms out there's not much depth on the outside and Stonum wasn't getting any returns; it's possible that one-cut-and-go type stuff is less effective and kick returners should be shiftier guys closer to punt returners.
What do you think of Devin Gardner's expected plea for a medical redshirt? It's suspicious he's only played 1/3rd of the season and is eligible for the redshirt. If this is RichRod bending redshirt rules for an extra year of eligibility from Devin, isn't this a bad thing, like Saban's redshirts? We're not gaming the system for more scholarships, but we are gaming it for a competitive advantage, right?
The difference is that I'm sure Devin Gardner is 100% on board with getting a fifth year of eligibility. The Alabama players "encouraged" to take a medical scholarship would like to keep playing football and are being presented with an involuntary choice: transfer or medical, take your pick. I'm not too concerned about skating the edges of NCAA rules when it doesn't have a negative impact on the student-athlete the entire enterprise is supposed to support.
The timing is convenient but unless Michigan has an inordinate number of medical redshirts per year I'm not sure the NCAA would even bat an eye at a documented injury. Like, say, this:
That looks like exploitation. Michigan's pattern probably isn't that blatant, so what can you do when they say he was hurt?
Finally, concerns about looking bad to the NCAA are overblown. The worst thing that can possibly happen is the NCAA says no.
The future of defense. Many questions answered piecemeal:
One of the potential "benefits" of having so much youth on defense is that they could potentially lock down their positions for years. If that happens in any cases, can you explain whether there is any positional flexibility with this 3-3-5 alignment we're using?
Could Carvin move to FS?
Doubtful. His strengths and weaknesses make him an excellent fit for the spot he's at right now and not so much of an excellent fit at FS, where speed and raw athleticism are more important. Not that our current FS has those in buckets, but moving Johnson doesn't really solve that issue.
How is Marvin going to see the field if he's behind Kovacs? (who expected us to say something like that?)
Possibly by trying out free safety? This is the weird thing called "depth."
Could Furman or Hawthorne see the field anywhere?
Hawthorne is the third team spur behind two guys younger than him. The most likely career outcome there is special teams only. Furman is likely to move to OLB, where he'll need another year or two of seasoning before breaking through. Remember he was super raw out of HS.
Would Roh move to a true DE in this scheme or stay in this hybrid LB situation?
He's already a DE (mostly) against conventional teams. Michigan is a 4-3 or 3-4 base against conventional pro-style sets and Roh puts his hand down more often than not. So the question is really "will Roh play DE against spread teams next year?" That depends on how Jibreel Black, JB Fitzgerald, Brandon Herron, and other OLB/DEs (Wilkins, Paskorz, Furman) develop. I think the ideal situation sees Roh add another 10-15 pounds over the offseason to hit 265—he's listed at 6'5"—and becoming a full-time DE. Before Herron went down Michigan was using him as a 3-3-5 DE to good effect against Notre Dame, and we've all seen him struggle in space against Indiana.
Roh will probably remain a hybrid against pro-style teams, playing clunky LB when Michigan drops into the 3-3-5.
Could Cam Gordon move down to another spot?
If you can find a suitable replacement at free safety, but who's that? Kovacs? No. Floyd? Really bad tackler. Vinopal's made a lot of hay out of one play against Bowling Green but remains a true freshman as well. Ideally he'd move down to spur or bandit (or even OLB) but unless Michigan snags someone ready to start at FS from day one it's hard to see him relocate.
That's why the recruit I'd most like to get in February is JUCO safety Byron Moore, who qualified out of high school and transferred away from USC after a redshirt season to get playing time and scout out a new destination not being cratered by NCAA sanctions. As a big time recruit two years removed from high school with a year of PT under his belt, Moore is the closest thing to a quick fix at FS Michigan will ever have.
But wait, there's Woolfolk, right? Well a bit more on him later.
How do you see the open positions being filled in 2011 on defense to see if there's hope? I assume Jones and Demens will be the LB (backed up by Ryan, Bell, and any freshmen)
Yes, though Jones might field a challenge from parts unknown. It's hard to see anyone displacing Demens if only because there almost literally isn't anyone behind him on the depth chart at the moment.
I assume Black will be the DE (backed up by Heninger and the RS-Freshmen)
Yes, unless they go with Roh there—Black will find plenty of PT platooning—and Herron/Fitzgerald at the other OLB spot. With the lack of depth at DT that might be a way to spot Martin with RVB from time to time, as well.
Does Woolfolk automatically go back to corner or deep safety? I assume corner, but with the time Avery and Talbott are getting could he be better served protecting the deep ball?
Up in the air, something that will be decided based on the potential acquisition of Moore, Gordon's play the rest of the season, and how things work out in spring. Right now I'd say corner since Michigan plays a ton of cover three and none of the freshmen looks like they should be starting next year. Even if one of them develops quickly you'd like to have some depth at corner for nickel and dime packages.
And then there's this:
I liken the "Angry M hating God" to Yukon Cornelius and Hermey Scrivello from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
For instance, the M defense is the Bumble, ready to devour talking reindeer and #1 wide receivers accross the land. Then Yukon and Hermey show up unexpectedly and ruin everything. They rip out your teeth (Woolfolk) and force you to do stupid shit like hang Christmas ornaments or run only zone because you have lost the only thing that instilled fear in your opponent.
Our defense is the Bumble without teeth. Right now our pass defense is being shoved off a cliff every week until we grow new teeth or we realize we have claws to gouge the eyes of our opponent. I'm just sayin'.
I have nothing to add.
OUT (0% PLAY)
Ferrara, John Hand
Johnson, Carvin Knee
Van Slyke, Jared Clavicle
Toussaint, Fitzgerald Knee
Woolfolk, Troy Ankle
DOUBTFUL (25% PLAY)
Hemingway, Junior Hamstring
PROBABLE (75% PLAY)
Van Slyke and Woolfolk are out for the year, so no surprises there, and Ferrara was unlikely to contribute. We had a pretty good idea Carvin Johnson was going to be out for 3-6 weeks, so that's not a surprise, though he may be more valuable to the defense than his -4 in this week's UFR might indicate. Toussaint was a "maybe" earlier in the week, so hopefully he'll be back to get a few touches against UMass and Bowling Green before the Big Ten schedule gets going.
As for the two guys who are varying degrees of "maybe," this is a reversal from Rodriguez's statements earlier in the week. If either can go, they'd be good additions to the receiving corps, but there is enough depth at the position (at least with Odoms on the outside and maybe a couple more 2-TE sets) that they'll only go if they're really needed.
Previously: The story, the secondary, the linebackers, the defensive line, the quarterbacks, the running backs, the receivers, the offensive line, special teams, the conference, offensive questions answered(?).
1. What is it?
I keep trying to reconcile quotes like this from Rich Rodriguez…
How have some of the guys responded to the new 3-3-5?
“It is not a true 3-3-5. Again, there is as much as we were doing last year as there is new stuff from the spring. We’ve tried to keep things a little simpler, added a few new things simply because of the youth on defense and we need to play a little faster. ”
…with views of the defense in spring and fall in which Craig Roh hardly ever plays with his hand down. A quick review of Devin Gardner's time in the spring game—which I picked since it was mostly against the first team defense shows 17 snaps on which there's a three man line (a couple of these do have Roh as a standup DE, FWIW) and just six on which he is in a three-point stance, two of those plays where the offense is backed up on their own goal line and the D is expecting a run. In more open play the ratio is a striking 17/21. It certainly looks like Craig Roh is a linebacker who moonlights at defensive end a la Shawn Crable. It looks like a 3-3-5.
Maybe that's an artifact of playing a spread offense and in games against beefy, power-heavy teams Michigan will go to more of a traditional look, but I don't think that'll happen either. Michigan deployed a formation USC calls "Double Eagle" more and more as the year wore on, debuting it against Iowa and deploying it extensively against Ohio State:
This was responsible for Michigan's excellent interior run defense when Ohio State did it's usual DAVE SMASH plays. It was also fundamentally unsound when OSU went unbalanced, but hopefully they fixed that. Either way, only Ohio State has the ability to run it down your throat and switch to a spread n shred—the other beef machine teams in the Big Ten feature pocket passing QBs.
With Ryan Van Bergen and the Sagesse/Banks platoon at defensive end, Michigan's line is four guys who would or could be 4-3 defensive tackles. It seems natural to tuck people inside and and run this thing you've clearly been installing for over a year.
The verdict: it's a 3-3-5 base with four-man lines a "multiple" look Michigan will run for a curveball. The coaches can say it's not a "true" 3-3-5, but to everyone but a football coach it will look like one. Craig Roh is a linebacker, mostly, and Jordan Kovacs is a tiny linebacker. I expect three-man lines to be present on 60-70% of Michigan's snaps this year.
2. Why is the personnel still so doomy?
This is not actually a surprise. The ugly bit about Misopogon's Decimated Defense series—other than all of it—was how little matters were scheduled to improve this year:
…last year was very thin – one or two guys recruited at each level. All told, 11 recruits, meaning if everybody played up to their hype (which never ever happens), we would have had an upperclassman team with some really good players and some really mediocre players. This year, there's a little more play but it's not all that different. Specifically, the tradeoff in upperclass talent is a likely Brandon Graham (6.1) and Renaldo Sagesse (5.6) for two likely Ryan Van Bergens (5.8) and an Obi Ezeh (5.5).
Straight-up, it's probably not a difference, meaning the performance level that Michigan's defense gets from its upperclassmen in 2010 will probably be about what it got from its upperclassmen in 2009. It is still well below that of Ohio State, and like last year, is drawing from a significantly smaller but significantly more talented pool than Michigan State.
Put another way by diarist Jokewood in November:
Comparing Michigan's defensive upperclassmen not only to Ohio State, Penn State, and Notre Dame, but to the rest of the conference as well...
Ohio State - 22
Northwestern - 21
Indiana - 19
Illinois - 19
Michigan State - 19
Penn State - 19
Iowa - 18
Wisconsin - 18
Minnesota - 17
Purdue - 15
Notre Dame - 15
Michigan - 12
The rest of the Big Ten averages 50% more upperclassmen on defense. We are dead last in the conference by a wide margin in terms of experienced defensive players.
Michigan's number in 2010 was scheduled to be a still really crappy 14 before Brandon Smith transferred (and subsequently washed out at Temple), Donovan Warren entered the draft, and Troy Woolfolk exploded. Michigan is down to 11 upperclass defenders, 12 if you count James Rogers, 13 if you count Steve Watson. They've gone nowhere.
The sudden fall attrition has hurt matters, especially since it's been concentrated at the position at which Michigan was most vulnerable, but this was always going to happen.
3. Is there any way the secondary is not a giant flaming disaster area?
The solitary hope is that Michigan was so bad at safety last year that even though they've lost two competent cornerbacks and replaced them with green players they will improve simply by playing bend-don't-break and forcing opponents to put together touchdown drives instead of touchdown plays. That could make the secondary a rickety cart balanced on the edge of a volcano, which sounds pretty good right about now.
How realistic is that? Somewhat, actually. After last season, Jon Chait had a post at the Wolverine with evidence the Woolfolk move backfired badly:
Michigan played six games with Woolfolk at safety -- Western Michigan, Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, Indiana, Michigan State, and Ohio State. (I'm ignoring the Delaware State game because the competition level was so abnormal.) Michigan played five games with Woolfolk at cornerback, which forced Michael Williams into the starting lineup and Jordan Kovacs to move out of his more comfortable position. In those five games, Michigan played Iowa, Penn State, Purdue, Illinois and Wisconsin.
You can probably figure out where I'm going with this. In the six Woolfolk-at-safety games, Michigan's opponents gained 380 yards per game. Those six opponents averaged 374 yards on the season overall, which means that Michigan allowed its opponents to gain just a bit more than they did against the remainder of their schedule. This is a poor result, though not an absolutely horrendous one.
But in the five Woolfolk-at-corner games, Michigan gave up 445 yards per game, against opponents who gained 382 yards per game on the season overall. That is a horrendous result. That is a sieve of a defense.
The scoring numbers are even more stark: Michigan went from giving up 23 points a game to 37. Is it really possible that bringing in Mike Williams and moving Jordan Kovacs deep resulted in two extra touchdowns ceded per game?
Well… not quite. The Woolfolk-at-safety games include two MAC opponents, three approximately .500 teams, and Ohio State. The Woolfolk-elsewhere games are much tougher on average because the bulk of the MAC stats were racked up against other MAC teams. If you hack those out this is what it looks like:
|Opponent||Ydg||Scoring||M Ydg||M Score|
[Note: MSU's overtime period was removed to keep everything even.]
Against teams that didn't play a segregated, much easier schedule Michigan was about 20 yards worse than average in yardage and even on scoring. So moving Woolfolk only cost Michigan about 40 yards and nine points a game. That still overstates the effect since MSU did score a touchdown in their overtime period and Ohio State was Tresselballin' it like a mofo, only putting Pryor in the shotgun once Michigan became vaguely threatening. So let's knock our estimate down to 30 yards a game.
What's thirty yards a game in terms of national averages? Kind of a big deal. Michigan would have leapt from 82nd in total defense to 57th—basically average—if they'd just maintained their Woolfolk-at-safety pace.
Plugging the enormous hole at safety would be great, but even if you make the reasonable assumption that Gordon/Kovacs/Robinson is going to be way better than Williams/Kovacs, the massive downgrade at corner means you're probably just treading water. Treading horrible, polluted, razor-blade-filled, despair-laden water.
4. GERG: Brilliant? Terrible? What's Going On?
Punt. Punt punt punt. I have a tendency to get bitchy about coordinators doing things I see as strategically weird and slammed Scott Shafer over the course of the '08 UFRs for transparently nonsensical decisions like hardly ever playing senior nickelback Brandon Harrison (even against spread teams! In favor of Johnny Thompson!) and pulling one of his senior defensive tackles on downs like third and one. The end result:
The picture painted by the above is, in retrospect, one of huge incompetence. Last year Michigan regularly removed functional veteran players in favor of crappy ones that made no sense given the down and distance situations or the offense on the field, and those things only got fixed (-ish) once Shafer was removed from the decision-making process. It's not like the position guys covered themselves in glory with that 3-3-5 against Purdue but at least they pulled their heads out of their butts afterwards and put in the defense Michigan should have been running from day one against spread teams.
I didn't find that kind of complaining much when I went back over the UFRs for '09. The worst thing I found was after the Penn State game:
Why are you such a grump? Iowa put up 30 points and 367 yards of offense to Penn State's 35 and 396 , and Michigan managed to escape that game with way better numbers.
I think it was that all the stuff Penn State was doing came so easy. The Zug touchdowns, the Quarless touchdown, all the long handoffs: all of those plays required nothing more than Penn State not screwing up with wide open receivers. To Clark's credit, he hit all those guys. He then laughed about the primitive defense that Michigan was running, and on review I totally agree: Michigan telegraphed their now-predictable third and long redzone blitzes and got killed. They showed the long handoff was there and got killed. They put Obi Ezeh in man coverage on the edge against Evan Royster and got killed.
That's what the big minus in RPS is there for: I think Robinson got owned by Penn State's offensive brain trust (which is Galen Hall, not Jaypa). This game was slightly reminiscent of the Purdue game a year ago where Michigan switched to a new system and got their brains beaten in by it.
This was mitigated by the situation, obviously:
I don't know. I am sort of mad at Robinson for making it easy by not breaking tendencies with two weeks to prepare. But when you've got Kovacs as your deep safety, what can you do? Kid's smart and can be an effective player in the box but obviously lacks the athleticism to be a deep safety in the Big Ten.
Tactical complaining is absent in other UFRs, though if I'd actually manned up and done the Ohio State one I would have cited the Buckeye Football Analysis link above, in which the guy said he was surprised at how fundamentally unsound Michigan's scheme was, as another negative.
On the other hand, I've been pumping up GERG's work with Roh and Brown constantly and citing his move to linebackers coach as an indication the rest of the staff thinks he's the best option to undo the damage wrought over the past couple years. And, really, what can you do when you're handed the material he was given last year? This has been documented incessantly: given the personnel situation it is totally unsurprising Michigan's defense cratered last year.
So I punt. I'll be looking at the development of Roh and Mouton and seeing if the defense can get off the mat somewhat despite facing down a personnel situation that isn't much better, if it's better at all, than last year's. We'll have a much better idea about Greg Robinson in November.
There were many complaints when I started the preview series off with the secondary and linebackers. People were depressed. They found me depressing. Someone posted something on the message board wondering if I was okay. People of Earth: it is not my fault the back seven on defense is depressing. It just is.
Is there hope? Is there anything resembling it? Maybe. After the Iowa game this is how I diagnosed the D:
On the podcast this week I called the defense "competition-invariant": they have talent and do well when they use it but when they make an error it is so huge that even Indiana can exploit it ruthlessly, so the defense kind of plays the same against everyone.
Maybe GERG can reduce that tendency. Maybe Cam Gordon will 1-0-1 the season. Maybe the linebackers will get less frustrating, and maybe Michigan will give up an annoying number of long drives but not so many awful, really short ones. But here's the greater-thans and less-thans:
- Junior Mike Martin > Mike Martin
- Sophomore Craig Roh >> freshman Craig Roh
- Senior Jonas Mouton with competent coaching > Junior Jonas Mouton with headless chicken tendencies.
- Sophomore Kovacs >> freshman Kovacs/Williams/Smith
- Cam Gordon > Kovacs/Woolfolk/Williams
- Mark Moundros/Obi Ezeh == Obi Ezeh
- Ryan Van Bergen <<< Brandon Graham
- Sagesse/Banks < Ryan Van Bergen
- Carvin Johnson < Stevie Brown
- JT Floyd << Donovan Warren
- Whoever < Woolfolk/Cissoko/Floyd
It's going to be rough. Tony Gibson:
"If we get any more simple, I don't know what we're going to be able to do," Gibson said. "We can't just play one coverage and do that kind of thing.
"These other teams we're playing, they have scholarship kids. They're not going to say, 'OK, Michigan's young back there, we're not going to throw at them.'
I actually think the defense will improve simply by virtue of having some continuity and knowledge of the players, but not by much. Shootouts beckon.
Last Year's Stupid Predictions
- I didn't do any for some reason, and that was the best prediction of all.
This Year's Stupid Predictions
- Fumbles recovered double to ten.
- The secondary is actually better than last year's secondary because long touchdowns are less frequent. It will still be very bad.
- Mouton is much better, leads the team in TFLs and sacks, and is still incredibly frustrating.
- Mike Martin is great and should get first-team Big Ten recognition, though he probably won't.
- Mark Moundros holds on to the starting MLB job all season.
- Michigan manages a modest improvement in yards allowed, getting up to the 60-70 range nationally.
Notes from Coach Rod's Wednesday presser.
The QB battle is close. The coaches haven't been able to taper down who gets snaps. As long as they get better every day, you can be pleased with the progress. Everybody is too worried about who the starting QB is. The second team gets almost as many reps as the first team.
Any of the three are capable of starting right now, but he wants them to play at a high level. "If they're able to do that and execute the offense, then all three will play." Will keep QB choice quiet for competitive reasons. QBs will know Friday night (before game). Nobody else will know until kickoff at 3:36 Saturday.
No particular RB (or two) has stepped to the forefront. The position gets banged up in camp, which limits development. "We have some talent there, we'll be OK." The top 2-3 guys will play. Certain guys run certain plays better, so they'll get in the game for that play.
Fitzgerald Toussaint practiced yesterday, but not today. He's had a neck stinger, now his knee is sore. He'll be banged up a couple days, but might practice friday. Michael Shaw is still taking "the class," working hard at it. He's been spending half of his time practicing, and half of his time studying.
The offensive line is "not set as far as starters, but I think set as far as, you know who the 8-9-10 guys that are gonna be in the rotation will be." RR feels better about up front than the past couple years. He would like to play at least 8 offensive linemen (5 starters, backup C, G, T), depending on how they're performing and the tempo of the game. He would love to have two whole groups at line.
Improvement on defense has to come from several places. One guy can't replace Brandon Graham by himself. "The thing I probably feel the best about our defense is that we have a bigger pool of guys I think are going to be playing. That's going to allow us to have a little more depth, do a few more things defensively." If a couple guys (Mike Martin, Jonas Mouton, and JT Floyd in particular) have a big year, it'll offset some of the losses.
Will Campbell wasn't in great shape when camp started. He's been playing himself into shape. Mike Martin and Adam Patterson are at NG, "if he wants to play he's gotta compete." Rodriguez wants senior Sagesse, Banks, and Patterson, to have their best years. They're having good camps. "Of course you've got Mike Martin up front too who's had an outstanding camp. I think he can have a great year at noseguard for us."
Moundros may be the starter at middle linebacker. Right now he's taking a lot of reps. Mark has at least seen the field, which gives him experience (even if it's at a different position). He has intangibles. He needs to learn technique and system, but he was able to do that mostly in the spring. He's made very few mental errors for being new to the position.
There are some potential answers in the secondary. "Coming from freshman class. "It's kind of scary when you think about true freshmen playing in the secondary, but there's some talent there." They're progressing well now that summer class is over and they can focus on football. 4-5 true freshman DBs will play this year.
Cam Gordon - "He didn't play as well as he had played in any other practice in the scrimmage," but he's had a good camp and the staff feels good about him.
JT Floyd will start at corner on one side. Other corner might be Jame Rogers, "this is the best football he's played," or young guys. Have to keep it simple for the youngsters.
Nothing's new at kicker; it's inconsistent day-to-day. Most days have been encouraging - yesterday was not one of those days. They've been practicing on the new turf in the stadium. It's unlikely that different kickers will be used depending on distance of the kick.
Yesterday was a scrimmage. The last three quarters of practice, only players, officials, and Rodriguez were on the field. Did every special team and offense v. defense. "Glad we did it, but we've gotta do it again." They'll do it again friday, less intense, and maybe a little tomorrow. "With so many young guys, especially on defense playing, we've gotta try to get them used to what it's going to be like in a game where there aren't coaches standing behind them or on the side of them telling them what to do." It's a different atmosphere then practice, with signaling plays, etc.
Troy Woolfolk had surgery yesterday. "Everything went well with the surgery. Certainly it looks like he's lost for the season." No reason why he can't be 100% next year, and Rodriguez thinks he wants to come back for a 5th year. "It's his decision, of course, but Troy loves football."
Have a good grasp on what the team can do. "Certainly offensively, we have a pretty good idea of where our strengths are. And I think defensively too, even with the young guys, it probably takes them a little bit longer to determine a young guy because they have not done it in a game." Some guys plays better in a game, some play too nervous.
Started installing for UConn at the beginning of camp. "Starting really yesterday, and certainly today, and a lot tomorrow and Friday, will be a lot of UConn installation in all three phases."
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."