Notes from Al Borges's meeting with the media. I'm a master at taking pictures of him in which he looks startled.
Happy with QBs. Things are registering much faster mentally than they were at the end of spring: you can tell they worked over the summer. "I'm kinda fired up about it. We're not arrived, it only three days and we've got a long way to go. But I'm happy with the dedicated effort they've shown."
Denard's footwork is much better. They're trying to continue getting him to step up in the pocket. "It not only allows him to see a little better, but he can threaten run better once he gets underneath the rush." Denard is on schedule to be where they want him. "Because he's so athletic and he can create... now he has to understand about creating, yet don't try to do something that simply isn't there."
QB - "it's always competitive. We don't hand it to anybody. But this kid has proven he can play." The coaches have to tap that, and Gardner is proving himself as well. QBs know more now than when they left in the spring. They clearly worked in the summer.
Denard will still be running the football, with a lot of the same plays they ran last year. The power offensive style will reduce his carries, and they want to keep him healthy. The offense last year just wasn't the same when he came out of the game.
"I'm not committing to anything" in terms of number of carries for Denard. "Less" is a clear goal, but how much is still in question. Try not to get him beaten up, but want him to make plays. Not sure where the fine line is between those two. Sometimes you need to remind Denard to get out of bounds when he's running. He won't do a lot of sliding, but there are times to avoid taking punishment. "With the ball under his arms, anything can happen," so you don't want him sliding down in front of a guy he can juke past. "You coach Denard different than you coach Ryan Lindley."
Doesn't like a rotation of RBs, but "if two guys are on an equal plane, then we may do it. I'll never say never. But it's never been my preference." They'll narrow RB race down a little bit before they worry about choosing a number 1. It's tough to tell when 5 or 6 guys are dividing reps. "They know. We've made it clear" that they're competing to be 'the guy.' It's time for them to seize the moment.
Can't tell anything about who's stepping up because nobody's been tackled yet. Need to see the freshmen, too. "The kids, from understanding our protection schemes, are much better. That part of it is improved." Won't know a go-to guy until tackling comes around. You'd like to know as soon as possible who the guy is, but they're willing to wait so they make the right choice. It could take a couple scrimmages to find out what they're capable of.
"The ability to win in the open field, break tackles, make people miss, understand our protection scheme, receiving skills are a part of it too. It's not at the top of the list, but it's part of it, a guy we feel like we gan go to that can give us some of the same things Denard gave them last year and that he's going to give us this year."
3rd down backs - "everybody's got a role. Sometimes the 3rd down back is the same guy that can play on first down. Sometimes he's not." Everybody brings something to the table, and they'll use those skills.
Freshman RBs - A bit of a disadvantage because they weren't here in the spring. Young guys can play, and not have to do every part of the position. "There may a few things he can do until he completely understands what we're doing."
Some RBs run better behind a fullback. Great backs like Barry Sanders can do it both ways, but some guys have a preference. "It's a vision position. As long as you give them an opportunity to see the cuts, they can usually make the cuts."
FB - "We got a couple young guys, and then we've got Stephen Hopkins who's kind of a hybrid. He can play in there, too. John [McColgan] is as consistent a player as we have on our offense." He's not going to make amazing plays, but he's going to be consistent, give the best effort, and be tough.
Jerald Robinson - he knows what he's doing better than in spring. Has a chance to make a contribution.
WRs: "They're the same guys that played here a year ago. Junior Hemingway can go get it, Roy can go get it, Tae Odoms can go get it. Grady, we've got some speed guys." It doesn't look like the cast is affecting Odoms's play.
Michigan was more vertical in their passing structure last year, because it fit that offense. This year they'll do more short cuts. Passing routes fit what each offense was trying to accomplish. If QBs can deliver the ball accurately, the receivers will get some YAC as well.
Tight ends other than Koger: Brandon Moore has done a nice job. Still climbing, improving every day. Steve Watson is a solid payer. "Because Kog got hurt in the spring, those other guys got a lot of reps." It's too early to say if Chris Barnett is in the mix.
Lewan - "moving around good." Haven't hit, so it's hard to evaluate too much. Need to see how he understands all of what they're doing offensively, because they're firing off the ball differently. "Until we get the opportunity to play some close-quarter football, we're really not gonna know where those guys are yet. But I like what I see so far."
Having Molk and Lewan back from missing some spring helps OL cohesion. Koger considered part of that unit, too. Improved from spring.
"The only thing I've really got a bead on so far is how much more they know." The players have worked to understand the offense. They still don't know enough, but every team in America is at that point three practices in.
Going full pads on Friday: "Physicality, toughness, 'who is that back?,' have we got closer... how much have we improved since the last time we got in full pads?" See who can perform with contact.
Notes from Brady Hoke's small-group interviews on Friday.
Pregame traditions: The Victors Walk will return this year. Brady has never touched the banner (he was already on the field as an assistant), but isn't yet sure if he'll do it going forward.
Captains will be voted by the team in the third week of camp.
Medicals: Teric Jones, Terry Talbott, Christian Pace are all done for their careers. Scholarship numbers: "I don't know... It's maybe 81 guys on scholarship right now.
On the #1 jersey: "They're going to have to earn it. And they're going to have to earn #2 after Vince [Smith] is gone." #1 will always be a receiver, and #2 will always be a DB.
"Football now at this level - for good or bad - is 12 months a year." It's hard not having coaching contact with the players in the summer, but he trusts they did the right work. "A guy like Denard who's played a lot of football and has a voice on our team, you give him that [summer leadership] responsibility." The strength coaches can help with workouts, but it's up to team leadership to hold guys accountable.
Strongest positions: "I think the wide receivers as a group, from what I can digest coming back, have done a good job. I think the O-line have done a good job." It's not fair to evaluate the overall talent level on the team at this point, but "I like our kids, how they've reacted to a transition." They're not a finished product at this point though. "We'll always have those discussions" about who will get serious playing time, but at the end of the day, the coordinators will get a lot of leeway, with Brady helping.
"I tell our coaches, when we start [summer camp] on the 9th, assume [the players] know nothing." They'll re-teach fundamentals to make sure everything is up to par. They didn't follow this approach following the 1997 season because they thought they could get by with three returning starters on the defensive line, and it backfired at the start of the '98 year.
Defensive line and offensive line are the two most important positions on the field. Everyone wants a great quarterback, but you can't move the ball (or stop the opponent) without winning battles up front. I think Al Borges [a QB-centric coordinator] would tell you that our offensive line has gotta be the lead for our football team."
Michigan is fortunate to have so many rivals. Lloyd did a great job handling the number of rivalry games, so Brady learned from him.
Possessing the ball, running it, and taking care of the football is an important part of team's success. "Mike Martin I'm sure would love to get zone-blocked all day long."[ed: bler.] The pro-style offense brings a different physical aspect that helps build team toughness. They need to hold onto the ball to help the defense, and the pro-style offense brings that. "We like points, don't get me wrong," they aren't going to hold the offense back from scoring, though, except in end-game situations.
Freshman contributors: "As we look at our depth, the two backs will get a chance. There's maybe some depth issues we have a little bit up front on the offensive line, there's maybe some depth issues on the defensive line." They might use freshmen to fill those roles, but he can't say which ones until he sees them play in camp.
"I think it's a shame - and I said this in my initial press conference - that we splintered or fractured, or whatever you want to call it, because that's not Michigan. We've moved forward from there." On "Michigan Man": There are just some guys who have integrity, love for Michigan, etc., that deserve the distinction.
"My expertise is not offense, and never will be. That's why we've got a great offensive staff." He meets with Borges about the offense twice a week during the season, and they discuss the offensive gameplan. "For me to go to Al and say 'we need to do this' ... that'd be a mistake." [ed: yes!]
The first thing Denard said to Brady was "Coach, I'm all-in." The value of a Michigan degree was important to his dad and him. He even said he'd help the team at another position if need be - but that didn't need to happen. Denard's speed is impressive, but his instincts and vision are great as well. "We're going to still keep some elements of what the spread gives you, because of his ability. But we're going to move to be pro-style offense, which he happens to be pretty good at that, too."
"There's no better running backs coach in the country" than Coach Jack. If they're three weeks into fall camp and there's still no starting RB emerging, then the concern will start to set in. He wasn't surprised or disappointed that nobody emerged in spring. They want to have one lead back carry the load (about 20-25 carries), and have a couple other guys help out with some carries. Stephen Hopkins can play both fullback and running back. He didn't shy away from blocking in the spring, which is encouraging. "Thomas [Rawls] is a bigger back who's got really good vision and balance and has explosion to him. Justice, I think he's got a real explosiveness to him, but also is physical enough to run over a guy."
"Kevin [Koger] I think is a guy who's on the line of scrimmage in some things we ask." There should be more tight end playing time available as well, because they'll use some bigger sets. Steve Watson has a great work ethic, and his skill set is a great complement to Koger. With so many tight ends on the roster, there will be some packages where they can get in and play FB as well, as an Aaron Shea-like position.
There are some pretty tough guys at wideout, which is where evaluations start for every position. WR blocking is crucial to creating big plays. "I think Junior has got a chance to be really a good player, I like Roy's work ethic, I like his attitude, I like Odoms's attitude. There's more guys there: Jerald Robinson has done some things that I'm a little more pleased with." He has matured, as players often do in their first couple years on campus. Junior has been doing great.
The players will weigh in at the start of fall camp. From the guys that have stopped by to talk to Hoke in his office, Taylor Lewan is 304. "By the time he's done, he'll be a 317 pound left tackle, or 320." All the other guys look pretty good. Molk is a bit bigger.
"I was talking to Bo a little bit - Pelini - and he had to build a confidence in the defense. We have to do that too, but the only way you do that is by stopping people." They still need to identify some guys who are playmakers, and put those guys in positions to succeed. That will take more than just fall camp.
Mike Martin has good movement skills, which is why they've been able to use him in different ways (along with his intelligence). That doesn't mean he is a perfect player, and they gave him some technique things to work on over the summer. Martin has the potential to be mentioned among some of the great defensive linemen at Michigan. He needs to improve using his hands.
Will Campbell has dropped 17 or 18 pounds - he was out of shape this spring. "Hopefully he doesn't eat it all back in the next 8-10 days." He has enormous potential that hasn't been realized yet. "Part of that is moving back and forth on both sides of the ball, and really finding a home. I think he's learning how to play up front, the expectations of how you have to play up front." He's had the opportunity to work with his teammates this summer, and hopefully he's taken advantage of that.
Craig Roh has matured, and has a better approach to the game now.
Jake Ryan can cause a lot of havoc on defense "because of the fanaticism that he plays with." He plays at a high level of energy, and the scheme needs to adjust to the personnel on the roster right now. "When you look at some of the different packages within a defensive scheme, I think there's some things he'll do a tremendous job with."
Kenny Demens is healthy now. He got scheme work in spring, just didn't do as much of the physical aspects because you want to be careful with shoulder injuries.
JB Fitzgerald needs to play more consistently to see significant playing time. "We'll have hopefully enough guys to have a rotation in there." They want to have guys playing hard for four quarters, which means depth is important. "He's had a really good summer, I'm sure of that."
Marell Evans did some pretty good things in spring practice, but there are some things he has to do better. "When you look at him from a guy who can be a good special teams guy for you, he fits that role. That's a big deal, because we need to play our best players on those teams also."
"I think Carvin [Johnson] had a good spring. He's a guy who is passionate and hungry and loves to play." He'll compete for a safety position. He's an intelligent competitor who likes to drop big hits. Courtney Avery had a good spring as well. "There will be a great competition between Woolfolk - because Troy'll be healthy - Courtney, JT Floyd will be healthy, and a young man named Greg Brown." Fall camp is important for Marvin Robinson, because he didn't get all 15 spring practices due to a class schedule. JT Floyd and Troy Woolfolk are both moving around fine and doing everything.
"We probably have more safeties than we do corners at this time, but it'll be fun to watch those guys compete." Corners need to learn to have a short memory if they get beaten.
Kicking will be resolved in fall camp. The young guy will be coming in (Matt Wile), but even during camp, they might not know because "kicking on State Street is different than kicking on Main Street." They won't know how guys kick in front of 113,000 fans until they get the chance. Dan Ferrigno will coach the kickers, and he's studied the fundamentals of kicking. However, they trust that the kickers are getting good advice from their external kicking coaches. "We're not settled in anywhere, honestly." There will be competition and expectations in fall camp.
Will Hagerup has an extremely good leg. "It's a weapon for you, and we want to make it part of our offensive package. From fakes and things that we might have to pooch punts." He needs to keep working on the finer points.
There are some candidates in mind for return duties, but it's too early to say who it might be.
Ohio recruiting: "There's a lot of familiarity, being from there." He's been recruiting there for 20 years. Michigan has 2 Heisman winners and plenty of great players from the state. Recruiting in the midwest is going to be an important part of the effort, but "also we're very fortunate that we're a global education." You can recruit nationally at Michigan, in addition to hitting the base areas. Georgia, Texas, Florida, California are other places to get talent. Big Ten Network is a good selling point for out-of-area kids, because it's nationally available.
Recruiting others' verbal commits: "We have a Signing Date for a reason, and that's the first Wednesday in February." In Brady's experience, the contact with soft commits has been from the kids reaching out, not the other way.
"Guys recruit well because they're honest and they work at it. Period. Michigan's not for every player. It's hard academically, and we're gonna have expectations of how you go to class."
It's tough to get junior college players into Michigan, so they won't really pursue that route. He didn't recruit JCs much at Ball State or San Diego State, either.
Jim Delaney's meeting with the Big Ten coaches on Thursday wasn't addressed specifically to Hoke and Fickell (whose schools he singled out in his speech at the podium), but to everyone, a reminder of the value of the Big Ten brand, and the importance of upholding that brand. "It's probably something that we all needed to hear to some degree. But at the same time, it's something that he felt - as the guy who leads this conference - he needed to make sure that we all were on the same page." Every conference commissioner that Hoke has encountered has taken advantage of similar opportunities. With so much change happening in the Big Ten (new coaches, new team), it was a good time.
Game day is more fun and easier with tough practices during the week. Even Hoke is hoping to have fun coaching.
It'll be a tough situation to play against San Diego State this fall, because there's a great group of kids there. They'll be a good team, with a 5th-year QB and a solid running back, and all 5 OL starters back. "Tremendous linebackers, that unit will be real solid for them." Rocky Long is a tough, no-nonsense coach.
Hoke is open to Full Cost of Attendance scholarships at Michigan, but there's a question of how far it goes. It is different from paying players, though. "I honestly don't have time to figure it out. That doesn't mean I don't care about it." It could create a bigger gap between the big and small schools. "Right or wrong, there's a division. We're fortunate because we're Michigan, with 110,000."
Hoke hasn't thought about proposals to raise minimum GPA requirements. [The interviewers tell him Bo Pelini and Kirk Ferentz said they support it, but SEC coaches were not in favor]: "I can't understand why" [Sarcastically].
Borges in detail. I referenced this interview with Borges yesterday but I didn't actually listen to it. That turned out to be a mistake because in addition to the boilerplate about turnovers Borges said a couple of interesting things. Specifically about the shotgun percentage:
We’re going to be under center about half the time, and we’ll be in shotgun more than I’ve ever run before.
That's the baseline; it will be interesting to see how that breakdown moves as the season progresses. If the under center stuff is less effective (and Borges prefaced the above quote with a fairly ominous sentence or three about how different dropping back from under center is from taking a shotgun snap) how far is Borges willing to depart from the pro-style approach?
Meanwhile, I'm a bit leery about this:
So much of what they have done here in the past is based on Denard’s ability to run, and then he would pull up and then kind of pass underneath coverage and throw the ball down the seams. They killed people with that stuff. ... A big part of our game is running the intermediate cuts and being able to be precise coming out of the breaks and learning the timing and all that. In that regard, we are different than the last staff because, although they had those routes, we just use them more. It’s going to be a little transition for them, but like Denard, our receiving corps has been very receptive to the changes.
Michigan did do a fair amount of intermediate stuff last year but a lot of it was constraint stuff built around Denard's legs that was witheringly open. When coverage gets tight I can't help but think of the Michigan State game, when Denard threw two end-zone interceptions on plays that John Navarre would have made without blinking. (The first of those was just plain wide open; the second was a slant where there was a window for a pro QB that Denard missed badly on. At the time those seemed anomalous but by the end of the year his INT rate had sunk to the Jacobian depths.)
Offseason hype is at its usual fever pitch about the transition; Grady Brooks and etc etc etc.
They put in lights for a reason. Amidst a lot of talk about branding Dave Brandon drops this about the future of night games in Ann Arbor:
Night football is so popular right now. What's the future outlook there for Michigan?
DB: We've not committed to any more night football games until we get the experience of Sept. 10. We're going to see how this goes, execute this at a high level, have it be a safe, positive experience for our fans. If it's a good experience and we execute it well and it's overall a positive night for our community and for our fans and our players and coaches, my expectations would be we would try to do a night game at least once a year. I don't know that we would necessarily go much beyond that, but to have one a year in Michigan Stadium would be a great goal.
At least he's got the hang of the first person plural these days.
I'm in favor of the occasional night game because it might let me see the Red River Shootout once before I die and I hate missing the 3:30 window so much. Just maybe not so much with the "legacy throwback" uniforms that are neither throwbacks nor part of Michigan's legacy.
Be careful what you wish for. I googled Troy Smith's violations to see whether or not Ohio State was exposed to repeat violator status because of them*, and in the process I ran across this remarkable article from a couple Septembers ago:
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Maurice Clarett and Troy Smith for Ohio State. Reggie Bush and basketball's O.J. Mayo for USC.
As the Buckeyes and Trojans prepare to meet Saturday night, they do so with recent athletic success that also includes NCAA investigations of their brightest stars.
Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor is currently the biggest name on this national stage, and it's not unreasonable to wonder what might happen with the NCAA and the most high-profile football recruit of the last several years. The NCAA has already conducted an on-campus investigation of Pryor's recruitment to Ohio State, which resulted in two minor secondary NCAA violations.
It's time for Gene Smith to say something regrettable:
"I kind of look at them as the auditors," Smith said of the NCAA. "I welcome auditors because all they do is help us do a better job ourselves."
And time for Jim Tressel to one-up that like whoah:
"Especially as an administrator and as a head coach, you always want things evaluated," Tressel said. "Because if one of Gene Smith's coaches' isn't doing something right, he needs to know. So I don't think you ever worry about that as long as you don't have anything to worry about."
*[The verdict appears to be yes even though IIRC the NCAA only issued a secondary violation after Ohio State's thorough investigation only turned up the one guy who had taken a $500 handshake. The OSU response admits they are subject to repeat violator status but only addresses the old basketball allegations in its attempt to mitigate. Troy Smith does not come up.]
Windows. Yost will uncover them as part of the renovation; they were covered because direct sunlight was bad for ice back in the day. SCIENCE(!) has taken care of it. No word about returning the Old Man's head.
Meanwhile in chaos. The Super League has named itself the "National Collegiate Hockey Conference" because the nation consists of a smattering of Midwestern states and North Dakota. This is not a very good name but their first tweet…
First @TheNCHC tweet: "We are exciting to announce the formation of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference."
…implies that it sounds really cool in Japanese and just needs a better translator.
Also Western is so gone from the CCHA, yo:
"We've positioned ourselves, telling people the value in Western Michigan," said Beauregard, who has formed a "Why Western" campaign to sell the program to other universities and existing and potential conferences.
"We want to hear what they have to say." …
"We've had close conversations with Notre Dame," Beauregard said. "We want to follow them and be a part of what they end up doing."
Getting dragged along with ND because they're a convenient bus ride from South Bend is quite a break for a team that spent most of the last decade battling BGSU for last place in the CCHA.
Or maybe it's not a break since without Blashill the most logical landing spot for them is the cellar of the Badly Translated From Japanese Conference. Congratulations, you're Michigan Tech. If they stuck in the CCHA they'd instantly be in contention for an autobid; if they succeed in persuading the BTFJC they're worthy the next time they see the NCAA tournament the skies will be red with blood and Mel Gibson (only Mel Gibson) will have been raptured up.
The remaining CCHA teams have been trying to meet with the remnants of the WCHA, but the WCHA is trying to find room on its rolodex between "eject all tournament teams" and "blither aimlessly"; NMU would really like to hook up at some point in the future but will be washing its hair until 2013. Any day now we'll start hearing about Niagara and Robert Morris and etc.
Winner. I put out the call for someone affiliated with the program to cackle evilly about what's going down in Columbus, and Larry Foote stepped to the plate:
Foote said he expects the NCAA to come down hard on the Buckeyes, who will go before the committee on infractions in August, giving them, he said, "what they deserve."
And what would that be?
"Ten-year ban, take all the victories away, lose 100 scholarships," Foote said, clearly exaggerating. "Give that (bowl money) back and donate it to the rest of the Big Ten teams."
Helpful note on the exaggeration there. Jalen Rose is also unsurprisingly straightforward about his glee (yes, irony); Jimmy King and Brandon Graham fall into the Serious Face About Serious Issue camp.
Also Graham says he really wants see Denard develop into a drop-back passer. Who wants another 3500 words about the shotgun? I'm warning you, people who can be quoted in newspapers about Denard Robinson: I will do this.
Speaking of. Al Borges isn't exactly wrong here…
"Well, the thing we gotta do is play efficiently, Borges told Matt Shepard on WDFN-AM 1130 Detroit, "and by that I mean take care of the ball, number one, because you don't want to put your defense in bad positions, because that will get you beat faster than anything – when your opponent is playing on a short field. "That's first and foremost."
…but I have not missed the "controlling turnovers is job one" meme the last three years. I have missed non-brain-melting turnover margins, though, so maybe I should just shut up and feel the soothing coachspeak flow through me.
Not Willingham, so we've got that going for us. Brady Hoke does not look like a natural with a golf club in his hands. He looks like a bear waving a toothpick:
This is more reassuring than it should be. Also at that link: massive donor Al Glick hanging out with Carr and Hoke. He is very old and tiny.
Yes, there were two separate Michigan golfing events—the Foote quotes come from another Rose Leadership Academy fundraiser—in one weekend. Out of control.
Just a dude. This quote from Mike Martin…
"I'm a really humble guy," Martin said. "I was talking to someone and said, 'I don't look at myself as a big-time senior football player at Michigan. I look at myself as a dude playing a game.' They're like, 'You're awesome.' "
…is awesome. Get your head around that.
I hear tell that varmint convinced Kyle Kalis to commit. You're aware that Kyle Kalis committed to Michigan over the weekend*. You'll be shocked and appalled at what went down to make that happen:
I'm told that Kyle Kalis' stepdad just called into WKNR and said that Kyle is being manipulated by Hoke and his dad.
The head coach of the university of Michigan and one of Kalis's parents conspired to have him accept a scholarship offer from a school that knows who its head coach will be next year and how many scholarships it will have, whereupon his stepfather called a radio station to complain. It's going to be awkward to ask for the mashed potatoes for a while.
Kalis, meanwhile, declared it to be open season in Ohio:
"He is the type of guy I want to play for," Kalis said. "(Hoke) has an incredible amount of passion. I believe the Michigan-Ohio border is now open. I think you're going to see eight or nine guys from the state of Ohio going over to Michigan this year."
They've already got
seven nine, so that's not a huge stretch (or any at all). Five-star RB Bri'onte Dunn may or may not be next; he is either 100% committed to Ohio State or sort of committed to Ohio State or technically committed to Ohio State but actually encouraging Kalis to defect, which was a wild rumor I thought I saw somewhere but I can't track down and therefore probably isn't true.
*[Something that was on the verge of happening for a couple weeks now. That was why Tom posted the "buckle up" tweet that riled up the board. #nowitcanbetold]
Which is it? Even I think Brooks has been a little unhinged about this Ohio State stuff but he does do a service by pointing out the ever-shifting story behind Tressel's firing/resignation/retirement. May 30th:
“Jim Tressel decided to resign.”
Tressel was not told he would be fired if he didn’t quit, Gee said.
“He was not given an ultimatum.”
That's directly contradicted by OSU's response, which pats itself on the back over and over again for "seeking and accepting" Tressel's resignation, as well as planning to ban Tressel from recruiting for a year—but not bothering to announce or, you know, actually do it.
The school also praises itself for self-reporting when the legal department found the Tressel emails as they responded to a FOIA—without someone else asking for information they never would have found the violation.
Etc.: Touch The Banner interviews Jack Miller. Some complicated calculations about Brady Hoke's record being more than meets the eye. Five stars appear next to Greg Mattison's name. NEEDS MOAR STARS. WVU linebacker Branko Busick charged with armed robbery. The weapon: his name. Also his dad had a short career as a WWF heel with an epic mustache in the mid-90s. (HT: DocSat)
Presidential band. Via MVictors, the Michigan Marching band performing for Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan:
Not an endorsement of politics, etc.
Oversigning movement? Braves and Birds's post on the two schools who should be on the warpath about oversigning (Florida and Georgia) has already proven wicked prescient and it continues to do so:
"You've got 20 spaces but you've still signed 25. Well, you can bring them in during the summer, work them and let your strength staff work with them, and decide which ones you like the best. The other five, you can tell them, 'Hey, we know we signed you, we expect you to come in, but we don't have space for you, we're sorry, but you have to leave and come back in January.'"
After a brief pause, Richt gave his feelings on that particular tactic.
"I think that's an awful thing to do," Richt said. "It's nothing that we have ever done since we've been at Georgia."
Get The Picture pulls out another section of that story that suggests Richt believes there's going to be change in the near future:
“Almost every year there have been guys in our class in that gray shirt situation. Normally, we say you don’t have to tell anybody, just sign on Signing Day and the chances of you coming in with your class, no one’s going to know the difference, which I don’t think is dishonest with the way things are,” Richt said. “So we’ve signed guys knowing that the class is full and asked if they could come in January, but every time we’ve done that, there’s been a space and they came in with their class.”
But those rules might be about to change.
According to Richt, the SEC and the NCAA is changing the rules “just as rapidly as they can to keep it from happening in the future.”
The most obvious change you could make is to require the financial aid offered in return for an LOI applicable in fall. You could still grayshirt, but you wouldn't get to use the letter of intent to lock the kid in. If he gets a better offer he can take it. Insert the usual spiel about how the LOI is mostly a one-way street.
Oversigning would be a lot tougher if you couldn't receive a letter of intent without an existing spot. "Extra" players would know where they stood and head elsewhere before they got a dorm room. It wouldn't be perfect but it would be better.
The divisional alignment exuded balance. But the league’s creation of permanent cross-divisional opponents did not. Based on the current eight-game league schedule, some teams have obvious advantages over others. For instance, Michigan State will play Indiana — which had the most losses over the 17-year period — every year and Ohio State four times over 10 years. Michigan, however, will play Ohio State — which had the most wins over the 17-year period — every year and Indiana four times over 10 years. Wisconsin’s cross-divisional rival (Minnesota) hasn’t even tied for a Big Ten title since 1967, while Penn State’s cross-divisional rival (Nebraska) has won three national titles in the last 17.
Meanwhile, Michigan won't play Wisconsin for four years. Incoming freshmen who don't redshirt won't ever have the privilege of staring down a wild boar in a helmet. I know Athletic Director X now has to have seven home games a year because of vastly increased costs that are totally not optional at all or offset by ballooning TV contracts, but long-term thinking should dictate a ninth conference game for competitive equity and various other things.
I'm not sure if I can get behind author Scott Dochterman's suggestion that the ninth game be another protected crossover game that attempts to balance schedules by giving each team a traditionally strong and traditionally crappy protected rival. Michigan would get either Illinois or Indiana on a permanent basis, which means they'd still miss PSU and Wisconsin 50% of the time.
On the other hand, he lays out a conference schedule that looks almost totally balanced. Here's Michigan's:
- Divisional opponents: Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern
- Permanent cross-divisional opponent: Ohio State (1)
- Second permanent cross-divisional opponent: Illinois (2)
- First cycle: Penn State (1), Indiana (2)
- Second cycle: Wisconsin (1), Purdue (2)
Everyone else's is about right. Do you want more frequent games against interesting teams or an almost totally fair schedule?
In the meantime the first divisional tiebreaker should be the conference record of your opponents from the other division.
Groan. The usual: recent Michigan alumni say things, people facepalm. Whether it's Brian Griese saying Michigan "lacked effort" under Rodriguez, to which I say…
…this is a process many were involved in, or Morgan Trent saying Michigan didn't take Michigan State seriously, every time a former player is quoted somewhere I have to delve deeper into the google image search for facepalm. This last one was bad enough that Jerel Worthy blew up on twitter about it and all you can say is, "yeah, pretty much."
Morgan Trent! When the guy who about singlehandedly lost the 2006 OSU game is saying there's a "real program" now the disease has reached its terminal stage.
Further evidence Beilein is scouting ninja. Rivals has put up their first 2012 basketball rankings and Michigan commit Glenn Robinson III, who was relatively unheralded when he committed, comes in 50th. Nick Stauskas is 89th. Rivals puts a ton of emphasis on AAU, which GRIII is currently tearing up and Stauskas sitting out with a knee issue. Another of the raves becoming de riguer:
Glenn Robinson III (2012): I hadn’t seen the 6-6 Robinson since last summer. Wow. He looks a lot different. He has really filled out since last July, adding about 25 pounds of muscle. He still has that nice 15- to 18-foot shot, but his explosiveness getting to the basket has raised his game to another level. Robinson drove the middle of the lane in a game Sunday and dunked over another guard with authority. The quote of the weekend from that player: “If I knew that was Glenn Robinson, I wouldn’t have tried to block it.” From the couple games I saw, Robinson is very deserving talent-wise of his spot as a core player on the Junior All-Star team.
Robinson AAU teammate Mitch McGary is #5(!), and now we've got an open scholarship so that's totally happening. He vaguely mentioned us at Inside The Hall. Happening.
UMHoops has more scouting video of Robinson, BTW.
Borges: win. Do you know what you want your offensive coordinator to sound like? An IT guy:
"What we want to keep, what we want to throw out, what we may want to add," said Borges, who added he probably won't install much more of the playbook during preseason camp in August. "(We're) trouble-shooting the offense and trying to accommodate the personnel, and now we have a little data to do it. Before spring we didn't know what of our offense our kids could run. Now we've got a much better feel."
Unfortunately the spring game implied the answer to "what can our kids run?" is "nothing you want to"; fortunately Borges seems a lot more flexible than Rodriguez or Michigan past. Proof will be in the pudding. The Saturday Pudding.
Open season. Mike Spath has an interesting column at the Wolverine about Mel Pearson's change of heart. Pearson, long thought the heir apparent to Red Berenson, turned down a ton of overtures over the years but has now left for Michigan Tech. Tech is his alma mater, yes, but it's also the most downtrodden program in the country. Others may be worse year in, year out, but none of those teams spend their year getting their face stomped by the WCHA. It's a depressing job.
Why is Pearson taking it? Maybe because that heir apparent thing is no longer very apparent:
"Here is an opportunity, if you want to get head-coaching experience, if you want that on your resume whether you're looking at my job or any job down the road, here's your chance," Berenson said. "I don't know what David Brandon's criteria will be someday but I suspect head-coaching experience is important."
And it is important. How important? Two different sources have said Pearson (or Powers) will face a mountain of an uphill climb if they don't have head-coaching experience on their resume. One of the sources even saying, "No way Brandon hires a guy that has never been responsible for an entire program. Especially with the way he wants to market the hockey team going forward."
Pearson goes from a shoo-in to a longshot, as Spath has been making noises about Michigan hiring literally anyone they want in the college hockey world with a few limited exceptions (program icons like York, Parker, Umile, and that's about it). If Pearson wants the job he's going to have to be a head coach somewhere.
For a relaxing time, make it a contrast between Michigan's direction with its hockey hire and Michigan State's.
Etc.: Former PSU Austin Scott thinks the dismissed rape charge against him was conspiracy. MSU instate recruiting freakout makes the mainstream media. Never addressed in these sorts of articles is what it means when two schools both go after the same players and they all go to one. Softball is hosting a regional this weekend. First game is Friday at eight against Western. Get there early—it won't last long. Zach Hyman, a big time hockey recruit has decommitted from Princeton in the wake of Guy Gadowsky's hire at Penn State and is looking at Michigan along with a few other schools. He would be a major help next year.
The second half of Craig Ross's recap of the coaching clinic.
Borges and the Offense
Borges, unlike Mattison, obsessed over last year’s tape. This makes sense since the O was pretty effective for much of the year, and he wanted to evaluate what he had (particularly on the OL) to see what changes they might need to make. He noted (in a presser) that he felt that the zone blocking from RR’s tenure wasn’t a lot different from the style he prefers, but then said that they wouldn’t do a ton of zone. It is a part of the offense, but it sounds like it is like power was last year—a changeup. Borges has a lot more problems than Mattison even though we assume offense is going to be much better than the defense, because he actually has something that asks him to adapt.
Hoke made it clear that the “signature play” (their words, more than a couple of times) would be “power.” This is often out of a 21 package [ed: 2 RB, 1 TE—usually a standard I-form] with the FB kicking out/protecting the edge and the play being run through the A gap, with the backside guard pulling through the gap. Here’s what it looks like. The diagrams below were created by Borges when he was OC at Auburn and are found in Bill Mallory’s (and Don Nehlen’s) book Football Offenses and Plays:
[ed: Here's an excellent Smart Football primer. Also here is another diagram. Key player is the guy just to the left of the X representing the center:
That's actually a counter play that the Steelers used for a 75-yard touchdown in a Super Bowl a few years back. It's not "A-gap"—A gap would go right next to the center.
This won't be entirely unfamiliar. Michigan pulled guys last year. This Picture Pages covers a "down G" play—like power but with the playside guard pulling outside of the TE/tackle. Here's the C and frontside guard pulling against Indiana:
Here's an actual backside G pull on a power inverted read veer pickle sandwich (or something… Rodriguez's run game forced me to figure out/invent lingo every week):
Plenty of college spread teams use power. Here's seven minutes of it:
Yes, I am slightly obsessed with this. Also whenever this topic comes up I hear EA Kirk Herbstreit's disembodied head say "he used POWER… he used POWER… he used POWER." I'll stop now since this editorial aside is turning into its own post.]
Ideally, the back is reading the WILL who will be spilling over to the playside once he determines he has no gap responsibility on his side. If the Will pursues hard the back can even cut back to the weakside of the formation. Borges has said that they won't be in 21 and 22 personnel running power 14 times a game, but Hoke had a slightly varied message.
This Spring, power for the most part sucked against the #1 D, but it is clear that this is their primary running play. They run the Wildcat in a similar fashion. That has pretty much not been very good either.
The Borges article in the above book remains vital. My guess is he is still using slice plays: the slice pass, the naked boot and the wide zone. Funk says he has run the power for 25 years (he doesn’t seem that old) but he likes to run some zone also. He says, a la Landry, Bo and Lombardi, that they like to practice power more than it is used in games so that “the kids have seen everything a defense can throw at you and they are always prepared—we want to get to where they are always comfortable in blocking the play, regardless of defense.” Funk also said they will “never check to power” but they might check out of it.
On a personal level, Hoke has an extremely high regard for Funk. He implied that SDSU wasn’t very tough or fundamentally sound in 2009 but by 2010 Funk had created a different deal. Hoke says that Funk is the best OL coach in the country and, I have to admit, he is incredibly impressive.
At this point I don’t know what to think. I thought the offense was sketchy in the Saturday scrimmage. I thought offense was sketchy in the spring game. OK, Molk didn’t play a lot. Lewan didn’t play at all. These are two of our top three guys on the line. In both events the O was still working on reps as much as anything else. But I didn’t think either QB looked comfortable in this offense. Did the offense, really, look any better than the offense with Steve Threet in Year One of the Years of Complete Implosion? And, weren’t we running against the personnel that was the worst D in History last year? Well, everything has morphed. Wasn’t the D playing against a pretty damned good O from last year? Uh, yeah, except it was running a completely different system. [ed: DUCK!]
My sense/conclusion, though it is more mist than light, is that the D has truly improved. Part is experience. Part is growth by the younger guys, the natural progression. Part is Mattison and the HC’s focus on defense, not offense. Part is a scheme that gets guys in the right places. My sense/conclusion is also that the offense will decline, perhaps massively. Now, it is early. But doesn’t it feel like, as RR in Year One, that we are pounding a lot of square pegs into round holes? Doesn’t it feel like we have taken the best weapon in college football and hamstrung him? I can’t be right.
Place kicking remains a debacle. I have watched this a lot. These guys just can’t do it. If the frosh (Wile) isn’t the starter this fall we are (again) in trouble. Think four downs—not that I have any problem with that on just about any place on the field. But if you ain’t playing four downs from down 1—different deal. And, since no one but Pulaski High School is, well, we gotta get better here.
Hagerup, of course, isn’t a problem. He should be a better punter than last year and he was competent last year. He gets great hang time and doesn’t chunk them often. [Ed-M: provided whatever kept him out of the bowl is now behind him]
Punt returns: The coaches have tried a different idea re: training. Instead of hassling and bumping the returner (something I thought would have worked pretty well) the coaches are turning them around pre-punt and then forcing them to find the ball in the air, post punt. Another drill has them catching the punt with another ball tucked in one arm. Seems to be working or, at least, I didn’t see Junior, Dileo or Gallon drop one. Even when being turned around or holding another ball. Better than last spring. I will predict improvement here, for whatever reason, or only because it can’t continue.
KOs and returns I haven’t witnessed. Or, if I did, it wasn’t much and it didn’t register.
As an abstraction I could not (and still don’t) believe the offensive transition will go well in the short term. Now, Borges seems a very sharp guy. I have no concerns about his intelligence, experience or ability. His OL coach, Darrel Funk, is awesome: off the charts smart and personable. He seems less obsessed than Hoke about smashmouth football. He wants to be physical, but concedes that spreads are viable. He reminds me of Carr. Carr wasn’t a believer in zone blocking but was willing to be convinced and DeBo (plus Alex Gibbs) were able to convince him. Funk seems confident in his ability to teach any style. I am convinced he could teach anything, also.
I have zero issue with the hiring of this group. I am impressed. They stress that they never belittle or embarrass a player. Criticisms are constructive and positive. But they are more classical football guys who have inherited a lot of spread offense pieces. In this, I don’t see 2011 as much different than 2008. Lotsa round offensive pegs in square holes. In the long run, I have no doubt that Hoke will put high quality football on the field. But this might be three years away.