also duty-free guys falling over and grabbing their shins
First up from my interviews with Michigan's three player representatives at Big Ten Media Days: Troy Woolfolk.
On The Question Everyone Asks First
- Denard has been out for all the voluntary activities, regardless of whether he's hurting. Tate tries to come out, but he's not as consistent with his work ethic, which has let Denard get out ahead a bit. The upshot: "I think that Tate's gonna have to do a lot of work to catch back up to Denard in camp this year."
- Troy doesn't care which position he plays, as long as he gets to stick with one or the other. Switching back and forth between safety and corner helped Troy have a more complete understanding of the defense last year, but it hurt him to not be able to concentrate on one position or the other the whole time. Now that he's exclusively a corner, he'll be able to focus on that specifically.
- At corner, there's more of a focus on speed, whereas at safety it's also about being big enough to take on running backs and tight ends.
- There are no individual goals in terms of statistics, but Troy's personal goals are to not get beat deep and not miss any open-field tackles.
- Growing up, Troy didn't really know how good a football player his dad had been. Butch didn't really talk about it much. Still, by the end of this year, Troy hopes it's "Troy Woolfolk's dad Butch" instead of "Butch Woolfolk's son Troy."
- Vance Bedford would be shocked to know that Troy is one of the most knowledgeable players on the defense. He used to give him a hard time about not paying enough attention in film, but that's changed. Troy's no longer falling asleep in film room, nor is he "texting on my phone to my friends about how I'm about to go to sleep watching film."
- The main difference in this year's defense is that it's simpler. That will be a help because a lot of young guys will be able to catch on more quickly. This year's schemes have more of a zone emphasis than man.
- It's a little difficult to switch defensive schemes so frequently. there's been a different scheme or coordinator every year Troy's been at Michigan. The players have to make an effort to forget some of the old stuff to absorb the new stuff.
- A lack of defensive depth and injuries helped undermine the defense last year, but there are no excuses for how they performed. Troy had knee and shoulder injuries last year that might have hurt.
- Stopping the ground attack will be important this year, and it's up to the big guys up front to help with that. There's enough size there to do it.
- Everyone's "All-in for Greg Robinson," so the team will band behind him and perform well on D.
- "The Team. All-in for The Team" is the rallying cry this year. The players have to play for each other, not worry about fans and other external pressures. There's also a "we can" attitude instead of a "we'll try" attitude. There are senior leaders at every position group except wide receiver. Roy Roundtree and Martavious Odoms have stepped up as the leaders there.
- This is probably the best leadership group since Troy's been on the team. They're the last group of Lloyd Carr-era players, so it means even more that they've all bought in to the new regime.
- There have been nice crowds for summer workouts. It's about the same as prior years, even though the coaching staff has been more explicit that they aren't mandatory with the NCAA stuff going on. The senior leaders have come up with some ideas to get guys to come out.
- Obi Ezeh have gotten bigger in the offseason, but they're probably faster than they were before they added the weight. They're able to run with receivers deep, too. They "look like supreme athletes out there." Troy has confidence that they'll be able to put it all together this year, and be two of the best linebackers in the nation.
- Last year, Jordan Kovacs was a surprise to everyone. He brings attitudes of calmness and confidence, which are important on defense. When Mike Williams went down in the Notre Dame game, Kovacs was a pleasant surprise.
- Courtney Avery is the only freshman corner Troy's seen. He learns fast though, and when he gets beat deep he's able to forget about it and move on to the next play.
- Cameron Gordon is confident, perhaps overconfident. He's also very physical, even though he's a former offensive player (Troy thinks they're all soft). He needs to learn a defensive mentality a bit more, but he's getting there.
- Marvin Robinson has a natural gift at safety, and he's been playing the deep safety position.
- Terrance Robinson has been good in 7-on-7 drills. He was hurt his freshman year, then wasn't quite the same as before in his redshirt freshman year. This year, he should be back to the way he was.
- Troy was able to convince himself to prepare a bit more for rivalry games, such as ND, MSU, and OSU last year. Maybe he shouldn't focus more on them (and focus the same for the other games as well), but it helps him perform well.
- The Michigan State game is a cool rivalry because it's like a state championship game.
[Ed.: Don't forget Woolfolk's burgeoning career as a stand-up comedian. Via the message board and Joe Schad:
"When I see 'O' shaped objects I get instantly angry. I don't eat Cheerios, Froot Loops or Apple Jacks."
Notes from Rich Rodriguez at Big Ten Media Days, including a few items after he left the podium (and weren't on TV):
- He 's excited to be coaching football again (implied: instead of worrying about off-field stuff). The off-field adversity has helped the group band together. There's no way it can add any more pressure than what the coaches always feel internally.
- Nobody's happy how the past two years have gone. Fans are supportive, but asking when Michigan is going to win more. Players have taken their lumps in the past couple years, but now they're experienced, and they've taken their lumps.
- RR doesn't know much about what's been going on in the summer, but he had all 16 seniors over at his house recently, and they were saying good things about a few players here and there. They were more focused on their own goals for the season, and ready to get on the field. Nobody likes what's been happening on or off the field the past two seasons. The goal is always to win the Big Ten, and the Wolverines will be able to do that once they've earned it.
- Rodirguez leaves for Michigan's hearing in front of the NCAA August 13th. Michigan has adjusted their fall practice schedule so that RR won't miss any practices.
- The league can concern itself with divisions and alignment, Rodriguez doesn't know anything about it and is more concerned with planning how to get first downs against UConn. The more important thing is to play Ohio State every year, and he prefers that it would be on the last game of the regular season. The chance for a rematch the following week isn't as big a deal, because Michigan-Ohio State is always going to sell out, even if they played "three times a week."
- Tate and Denard have an open competition, as it was in the spring, and they're also being challenged by Devin Gardner. The staff is looking for two guys they can win with, and hopefully a third. It might take a couple games before a starter emerges from the pack - if someone becomes a sure #1 at all. Tate, like all the players, needs to be mature on and off the field, and all the quarterbacks need to do a better job taking care of the football. They were just freshmen last year, so they should be improved as sophomores. Tate is strictly a quarterback, but Denard could potentially move to other positions. He's only been at QB so far.
- At running back, Vincent Smith should be 100% by the start of fall camp. Michael Cox and Fitzgerald Toussaint are also going to play important roles at the running back position. Michael Shaw still has two more weeks of summer school left, so Rodriguez won't speculate on his eligibility for fall. [Ed: if that's his answer to a question about Shaw's eligibility, he's on a knife edge.]
- There's a common misconception out there that wide receivers don't play a big role in this offense. Darryl Stonum and Junior Hemingway are tasked with changing that, along with a few younger guys. Stonum will not face any additional discipline for violating his probation.
- The offensive line should be improved this year.
- At linebacker, Greg Robinson is the new coach. That's been his position for the majority of his career, so Rodriguez is excited to have him there. Mark Moundros moved to that position in the spring, and should be able to contribute - even if it's just with his leadership. Jonas Mouton, Craig Roh, Obi Ezeh, and Kevin Leach were also mentioned, along with Kenny Demens. Rodriguez expects 5-6 guys to compete at linebacker this fall.
- There are a couple productive guys from last year's secondary returning, but they did lose some pieces. Jordan Kovacs, Troy Woolfolk, and Mike Williams all have some experience, and JT Floyd had a great spring. Cameron Gordon hasn't played in a game yet, so they're hesitant to anoint him before he plays. He was one of the best players on the whole team this spring, however. True freshmen might have an opportunity to contribute at safety.
Other newsbits and general observations can be found on my Twitter account (@varsityblue), as well as a few notes from other coaches. I'll update this post with embedded video of Rodriguez's main presser once it's available from Big Ten Network.
UPDATE. Transcript of Rodriguez's time on the podium is available here, and the video is here
It was a surprisingly busy July day for Michigan's Athletic Department, as they opened the doors to Michigan Stadium's new premium seating areas, FieldTurf announced a new deal with the Wolverines (way to piggyback off the day's news, guys!), the official seating capacity of 109,901 was announced for the 2010 season, and Athletic Director David Brandon held a press conference to talk about the newest features of Wolverine Mecca. It's all stadium, all day.
Apologies for poor photo quality, as cellphone shots will have to stand in for the out-of-commission pro camera. If it's higher-quality shots you want, UMTailgate can hook you up. Firstly, I was surprised how many people showed up to the event in the first place, many of them decked out in their gameday garb. Pioneer's lot was mostly filled up in the late morning.
Athletic Director Dave Brandon said that the structures will help keep crowd noise in the stadium, a welcome (but by no means novel anymore) idea to Michigan fans. He said that sound engineers estimated a 30% increase in volume at the 50-yard line, but to get more concrete data, they'll test the sound early in the year.
Another note about the structures themselves is the classic look. Brandon noted that the aesthetic fit with the rest of athletic campus (seen at right from the fourth floor of the East structure) makes the look perfect for Michigan.
Adding these structures also helped Michigan provide a variety of gameday experiences for fans with different preferences. Those who want to sit in traditional bleachers can continue to do so, but there are also options for those who want - and can afford - to sit in chairback seats, club seats, or suites.
Suites And Seats
The suites themselves looked exactly like the one Brian and I toured last summer, except now there are lots of them. The ones on the corners also get good views of campus or the golf course, as well as looking down on the crowd (insert The Hero Of Tiananmen Square-ism here):
Of the 81 total suites, only 20 are available at this time. Approximately 60% of the suites have been purchased by individuals or small groups, and 40% are for corporate customers. Associate Athletic Director for Development Joe Parker said that is a pretty good reservation number, and he does not anticipate single-game suite rentals becoming an option to fill them all.
When other schools have added premium seating, and even when Michigan added it at Yost Ice Arena, 100% occupancy hasn't been reached until the third year. Michigan should have all 81 suites committed by then.
I know lots of MGoBloggers are interested in the behind-the-scenes media access stuff, so here's a shot of the new press box. It's a decided improvement over the old one, to say the least:
There's another row on the left there, and the ceilings are a good 15-20 feet high. In addition, AD Dave Brandon (jokingly) promised that the media will have better food options this season.
At this point, capital gifts and suite/club seat reservations have paid for the $226 million of the renovations(!). The rest of the way, these income sources should be positive cashflow for the Athletic Department. Though he didn't have exact numbers, Parker said that the premium seating areas will increase the profitability of each home game in the future.
Inside the stadium, the 2009 Michigan/Notre Dame game was displayed on the scoreboards as the fans made their way through the new premium seating areas in the East Side structure. Those scoreboards might not be long for this world, according to Dave Brandon. The Athletic Department is already discussing further expansion of the stadium, but the scoreboards are going to be the next part of the stadium improved.
Brandon said he hopes that the existing architecture of the scoreboards can be maintained (speculation - so as to not waste money when stadium expansion forces them to move within a few years?), but it's time for them to be upgraded. The Athletic Department will explore all possible revenue streams to pay for that project, though there are currently no plans for in-stadium advertising.
Ed: Tom scored an interview with Ryan LaMarre, the recently-departed star of the baseball team. LaMarre was drafted in the second round by the Reds and just signed, giving up his senior year of eligibility. In his first game in the minors he stole three bases(!).
TOM: Let’s go back to high school to start. What sports did you play, and when did you know that baseball was the sport you’d go with?
RYAN: I played baseball, football, and hockey for Lumen Christi in Jackson. Probably at the end of my sophomore year of baseball is when I knew. I took an unofficial visit to Michigan at the end of that year. That was really when it started clicking that I would have to seriously start playing summer baseball, and try to get to that next level.
TOM: What made you decide on Michigan? I’m assuming there were other schools calling.
RYAN: It was probably coach Maloney, first and foremost. I had a couple other schools lined up that I wanted to look at. I actually had an official visit scheduled to North Carolina the week before my senior season started. Coach Maloney found that out, and he came in on an in home visit. He told me where he saw me fitting in, and sold the program really well. I never ended up taking the visit to North Carolina, and committed to Michigan.
TOM: Did you have a particular game that stood out to you at Michigan?
RYAN: Coming into this year, it was hosting the regional; the game against Arizona. The atmosphere, and the importance of the game, it was a pretty cool experience. The last couple years haven’t been as successful as we would’ve liked. The northwestern game, though, when we cam back from 13 runs. That was the most exciting game I’ve ever been a part of.
TOM: There were rumors from the start that you maybe had a plan of playing at Michigan for three years, then leaving. Is that true?
RYAN: I had heard that I had a chance to get picked up out of high school, and once I committed to Michigan I told everyone that’s what I wanted to do. It’s definitely something that I worked on everyday, because it was a dream for me to play in the majors. IF I had to stay at Michigan another year, there wouldn’t have been a problem either. It was a tough decision, leaving those guys, that was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make. The Reds made an offer that I couldn’t really turn down. I’m happy with how things have turned out.
[Ed: remainder after the jump.]
[Editor's note: Somehow this video featuring Dorsey's been on Youtube since March and no one noticed it. It's a profile put together by LifeSkills, an "alternative high school opportunity for at-risk and drop-out youth providing a unique academic model and a proven record of success." It's one of a few promotional videos put together by the company (another couple feature folks who aren't athletes) and should be viewed with that in mind.
On to Tom.]
As everyone knows, Demar Dorsey's situation with Michigan is in limbo. I was granted an interview with Demar. Since he and his family have been refusing to talk to the media I promised Demar that this interview would be a simple Q&A to leave no room for interpretation.
TOM: Do you read everything that's been in the media about you?
DEMAR: Yeah, I've seen most of the articles. The media didn't really make me upset, because I know the truth about me. It made my parents upset, because once I announced I was going to Michigan, that's when all these articles started coming out. I had to change my number, so no one could get a hold of me.
TOM: That's pretty big for a football recruit to have to go through that. What kind of affect did that have on you and your family?
DEMAR: We just got together and said don't let anything affect you, and just move on. I've been trying to do everything I can to move forward.
TOM: Have those reports affected your perception of Michigan, or its fans?
DEMAR: No, I chose Michigan for a reason, and I would love to be up there. Everybody is always telling me how much they want me up there, and that they're supporting me. My cousin, Denard [Robinson], has been telling me how much love they're showing me.
TOM: So, where are you at with Michigan?
DEMAR: Right now, I'm still signed under my letter of intent, so I can't do anything yet until I hear back from them. They told me that they don't think I can get in with admissions about two weeks ago, or a week ago, but they weren't sure. They had been checking on my grades earlier in the year, and I was on top of it. When I got home one day, my parents said that they were sending back my letter of intent. They were sending me a release form. I'm not sure what that means, or if it means I'm officially not in. I think because I signed a letter of intent, if I wanted to open up my recruitment, I would have to send that back to them. If I can't get in from the admissions, then I have to send that back. My mom said we need to do that, so we have to send it out tomorrow, and we'll go from there. I have the ACT score, and I have the core, so we're just waiting to hear what happens. I haven't heard anything from the coaches yet.
TOM: What's next from here? What do you do if you can't get in to Michigan?
DEMAR: If I can't get in, I'll re-open my recruitment. I have a couple schools that I'm thinking of, I don't want to name names yet. I'll just wait to see what happens.
Tim's best effort at a transcript of the press conference. All answers are paraphrases.
Brandon: Relief comes from the fact that it's all out there. Made the notice of allegations public within 24 hours of receiving it—same story here. Lot of pages, lots of detail, documents speak for themselves—what happened, why, how they plan to deal with it.
Who's to blame for the situation?
Brandon: I take full responsibility for issues across the athletic department. Sloppy handling of information. Failures in checks and balances as well as through the chain of command. No single person to blame.
Probation is expected. Do you anticipate that? What would probation mean to the program?
Brandon: We have identified probation as a self-imposed sanction. 2 years is appropriate. No additional sanction, but a significant amount of reporting to the NCAA over the duration. Puts the program under the microscope.
Will there be any other discipline against the individuals other than a letter of discipline?
Brandon: One guy [Herron] was terminated for lack of integrity in the process. Everyone else will receive a reprimand in the file. They didn't perform duties to the appropriate level, causing the violations.
Should the NCAA define exactly what S&C and QC should do?
Brandon: When the smoke clears, a bunch of topics need to be discussed. Can improve job descriptions in NCAA rule. We misunderstood between compliance and NCAA re: interpretation of those rules. We can work with them to tighten up those definitions - what is and isn't permissible. Not a criticism of the rules, but we can see where we interpreted it wrong and make the improvements.
How do you avoid this becoming a distraction again?
Rodriguez: Players and staff stayed focused through the investigation last year, which started mid-season. This ongoing case shouldn't affect players at all. They're excited about the upcoming season, and it's a relief to get it over with. Shouldn't distract.
Recommending as a punishment that they lose more practice time. What if the NCAA says it's not good enough? What if NCAA says recruiting or postseason restrictions? Would that surprise or upset?
Brandon: More thorough review will indicate that the sanctions include a little more. Terminated the individual who had the integrity problem, reprimanding those involved, removing QC staff, and prohibiting QC from sitting on coaching meetings, etc., for a year. We believe based on the advice and precedents, we've matched up the consequences with the content of the violations. NCAA has the ultimate authority, and we'll speak in front of them in August.
NCAA says Rich fostered an atmosphere of non-compliance. Why do you disagree?
Brandon: Strongly disagree. Internal investigation showed that's not the case. Compliance group says this is one of the most open coaching staffs. They had the ability to access whatever they wanted. Rich and crew made no effort to hide anything from the compliance staff. Rich understands following the rules, and has a history of doing so.
Provision in Rich's contract that says he could be terminated. Why hasn't he been fired?
Brandon: COULD be cause for termination. I don't think the violations that occurred are significant enough. Said in February that he wouldn't be fired, and the investigation didn't change their mind on it. We don't believe termination is appropriate under these circumstances.
The NCAA looks to take each violation on its merit, and respond accordingly. The people we've retained said that's right to do.
What if NCAA says scholarship or recruiting violations?
Brandon: every case with Reductions in scholarships or coaches, or postseason bans, has stemmed from serious lack of institutional control or a competitive advantage. The NCAA can disagree if they want, and we'll have our day in front of them.
What were the precedents? [Ed.: Jesus. "Can you do my research for me?"]
Brandon: You can piece it together from various other cases.
How much has this investigation cost?
Brandon: I have no clue. It's not relevant. Did what we had to do to protect our interests and employees.
Is the M image tarnished?
Brandon: There's nothing good about any of this stuff. It's unfortunate. Our history and tradition is out there for the world to see. We'll let our integrity continue to stand as it has. We made mistakes, but we're being transparent, accountable, and doing something about it.
Who was responsible for crafting the response?
Rodriguez: My counsel and the University worked very closely. I was obligated to give an individual response. We'll continue to work closely, correcting the issues that we need to correct. We'll get together to prepare for the meeting with the infractions committee. Everyone that was interviewed has been forthright and accommodating.
Do you now have a chance to focus on football?
Rodriguez: This is not the only thing I've been working on. Issues within the program and my response have been time-consuming. Moving on from this (knowing what the investigation entails). It's important to be transparent, and this shows that.
What did you want to get across in your response?
Rodriguez: No one main point. Wanted to present the details from the investigation. We go in front of the committee, and have to explain what happened, the response lays the groundwork for that. There will be more questions we have to answer. My response details what I needed to explain, where communication broke down, and where we can improve.
No evidence of disregarding student-athlete welfare?
Brandon: Super important. There was innuendo about that we were mistreating players—to the level of abuse—which wasn't true. None of that was the case, and there was nothing in the practice time issue that endangered welfare of student athletes.
Rodriguez: That was the most important issue for me. We've always looked out for student athletes, and will continue to do so. The investigation made clear that the student athletes never felt endangered - and never will. Rodriguez enjoys developing student-athletes.
How is extra hours not interpreted as a competitive advantage?
Brandon: Not counting stretching as warmup is a violation. It's still a significant leap of logic to call that a competitive advantage. The amount of time that went over could not be perceived as a competitive advantage.
Was it a new coach issue?
Brandon: We had a whole new coaching staff, with a whole new routine. Most of the people in administration have been around for a long time. There was a combination of many factors. We will never have lower-end chain of command people having discussions about things, without reporting it up the chain of command. We're going to handle any issues at the senior levels.
What was it like to have the school defend the charge against you?
Rodriguez: there have been mistakes made at various times by various people, and I've had to answer for it. Talking about an atmosphere of non-compliance is a serious allegation, and my response and the school's response indicate we don't think that's the case.