"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
I’m sure by now you have all seen Brian’s startling admission from this weekend:
I know, right? But it gets even more disconcerting:
Welcome to the world of Lemme Tweet That For You, a site that allows anyone to spoof a tweet from the the Twitter user of his choice. And as you can tell, it looks pretty convincing. Apparently the site has been around for about a year, but has recently been rediscovered and has become a thing. It can’t send tweets to a user’s followers (in other words, I can’t make Heiko’s love of Twilight appear to his followers as if it came from him), but this could still cause plenty of problems for athletes. You can envision someone saying, “hey, check out this screenshot of this since-deleted tweet." And since people often delete their stupid tweets, it might seem plausible.
Or, for more advanced trolling, you can envision some fan saying to a particularly volatile college athlete, “hey, did you see what this dude tweeted about you?” The athlete then responds in kind, and before long the two are going at it, with each thinking the other started it. It’s basically the plot of The Sum of All Fears (the Tom Clancy novel, not the Ben Affleck movie that is okay as a standalone but completely ignores the entire Jack Ryan back-story).
Now all we need is a particularly volatile college athlete…
O HAI Marshall Henderson
I’m sure by now you’re all familiar with Marshall Henderson. He’s the Ole Miss junior who combines the shooting conscience of Allen Iverson, the people skills of Genghis Khan, and the personal aesthetic of Joe Dirt. He started out the NCAA tournament with a statement of questionable taste.
[after the jump]
Griffith, Dinardo, and families take in a Michigan spring practice.
The usual crew of Big Ten analysts took in one of Michigan's spring practices and coughed up the usual tweets of debatable utility. As one of the few glimpses we get into spring activities, they're reproduced below. I've edited them for readability and compressed them a bit.
1st impressions of Michigan. from yesterday's spring practice. Physically impressive group! Doing some reshuffling on the D-line will make them more athletic upfront—DE Brennen Beyer.
So WR Jerald Robinson made some nice catches. Will be a good addition to WRs Gallon & Roundtree. RBs look solid, no surprise here. Toussaint looks like he's ready to carry the load. Keep an eye on J.Hayes
Replacing Molk leadership on & off the field well be tough, Barnum & Jack Miller will give them solid options.
Secondary is a solid group, return 7 of last year's top 8. S Jarrod Wilson is going to have a chance to contribute. The linebacker group is impressive. The young pups Bolden and Ringer showed me some things vs run game.
The Beyer thing spurred this exchange from a Michigan grad who is a "Spartan diehard
jeffrdillon: Don't let UM spin fool you, position change for Beyer means he sucked at TE or current DEs suck. not to "get more athletic."
griffith: appreciate your opinion
@jeffrdillon but I'm going to go with my own tow eyes.
Beyer was a strongside linebacker last year, not a tight end, and isn't making much of a position move at all.
Saturday was a great practice in regard organization, efficiency & amount of work done—really impressive. Always different watching a staff run practice the second spring practice—looks like Brady's been there forever.
Michigan will be one of the most talented teams in B10 but you will see them get more physical in O/D line through recruiting. Back seven on defense can really run and as front catches up in future with experience/talent the D could become one of the best in the country.
One thing that was so impressive: it was practice #5. Half drills and half scrum but still got a lot done which is hard to do. [ed: no idea.]
Justice Hayes looks like he has great speed, may be in mix somewhere. Joe Bolden is an impressive young guy. Of course there is always the work of Jordan Kovacs that goes mostly unnoticed but remains one of their best players on D.
Michigan has always asked a lot from their seniors. This year Gallon/Roundtree are two great examples—need great year from them. [ed: this reads like a polite way to diss Michigan's wide receiving corps.]
Blake Countess is a returning true sophomore starter. This is the year you usually find out if he will develop into a great one. Young center Jack Miller really helps with depth at that position. Looking for a new starter.
Big picture: M will be one of most talented, well-coached teams in the Big Ten and challenge for a trip to Indy on way to Rose along with MSU and Nebraska.
Dinardo's taste in television is not as advanced as Griffith's:
What a day - we get to watch Purdue (Sprinng Tour stop 5) practice and come home and watch Smash. Wow
He's also got a half-dozen tweets about Mad Men, to be fair.
UPDATE: Dinardo was a little more elaborate talking to Angelique Chengelis:
"Even good teams can screw up a practice, but theirs really was well done, well-organized," he said. "I really did think it was a great practice. It was efficient. I think they got a lot done in their fifth practice.
"There's not a bad coach on this staff. I think Brady is really good. He knows his strengths and doesn't try to coach everybody. He'll coach the defensive line, he'll coach the defense, but he's comfortable with his role and he's very good at his role."
The Big Ten Network stopped by a Michigan practice and did their usual suite of impressions that may or may not mean anything. They totally could mean something and it's the preseason so you'll jump on the barest morsel of information, so here they are.
This year the quantity and quality of the observations are significantly reduced, FWIW. Last year there was a fourth guy (Griffith, I think) tweeting stuff and it seemed like they got more information out of it. UPDATE: Okay, Griffith was there. He updated later than everyone else; I've added them in.
Players Of Note
Robinson is the one guy who can beat you. D Gardner is also really impressive. D Morgan, Q Washington stood out among young defenders.
Hurrah positive Quinton Washington mention. Also, leave Desmond Morgan alone: he is not a fullback yet.
UM Prac - Good day today Smith,Gallon,Cox,Countess,Grady,Shaw,Wilkins,Ash,Black,Schofield , Washington,Lewan,Watson,Koger,Eddins
Okay, that's like half the team, including Steve Watson—who is never going to play—doghouse member Kenny Wilkins, and walk-on (and not even the hyped walk-on) Chris Eddins. At least you see Washington there too.
@BTN_Michigan Other freshman that will see playing time CB Blake Countess, CB Raymon Taylor, LB Desmond Morgan, DE Brennen Beyer
There Is No Running Back
Borges said he hasn't had a clear stand-out at RB. Wants to try to find one - but he hasn't emerged. Lots of options there, though.
UM Practice - No veteran running back has really separated himself from the pack. Rawls has had a great camp and may be in the mix.
Mattison talked about decision to leave Ravens - said he loves developing kids - taking them from freshman yr to making the NFL.
Just leaving Michigan practice. The staff is really impressive - a lot of teaching and a lot of feedback in the practice.
Pro Style Transition Promises And Fear
Borges made it clear he is going to try to utilize all of D Robinson's skills - even if it means running stuff that he doesn't typically run
UM Prac -Integrating two different off may be much more difficult than I first thought. It's will be a challenge and interesting to watch
That's ominous. Grab-baggin' it?
UM Prac - Regardless of what the Michigan O will look like Denard looks like a vet and has great body language. He was a lot of fun on set
Gerry DiNardo Doesn't Actually Watch Football Games
UM Prac-Teams in the B1G that run the ball the best do a certain blocking drill. UM did it today - entire team playing with better leverage
This isn't entirely clear but his previous tweet is about how practice is very different so the implication is that Michigan did not do this blocking drill a year ago. Michigan led the league in YPC one year ago even though they played with turrible leverage and ran like 70% of the time.
UPDATE: there's a story that makes this clear, with Griffith talking about this same mysterious drill:
"One of the things I hadn’t seen in a (Michigan) practice recently is when you see one of the best running teams in the league and the drills they do; I saw those drills at Michigan. That’s an indication they’re going in the right direction.”
This quote will be fun when Michigan's YPC drops by a yard this year. I mean, no one thinks Rodriguez didn't need to go but the least you can give the guy is he knows how to put together a rushing offense.
Gerry DiNardo Puts Together Lists Of Words
UM Prac - Defense will improve significantly - because of offense scheme, coaching emphasis, simplicity, different packages, and pressure.
So, that's everything. Including "offensive scheme." Also including both "simplicity" and "different packages." I wouldn't be surprised if DiNardo believes that few possessions == good defense. He is very old and a terrible football coach. It seems like DiNardo hated Rodriguez; before he even got to practice he was talking about how you have to run the I-form to play defense.
UM Prac- No surprise prac was much different than recent past.More emphasis on Kick Game (Brady coached it),emphasis on D (Brady coached it)
Our defensive head coach coached the defense. Last year our offensive head coach coached the offense. This year Brady Hoke, who knows jack about kicking, is looking at the people kicking the ball.
WTF, Gerry DiNardo?
UM Prac-defending I form w/o a dynamic TB & no designed QB run plays is a problem.OSU has done it the last 3 yrs. & struggled vs the best D.
Either DiNardo meant "O" at the end or he meant "running" at the beginning. It seems like the former from the context, which means he thinks Michigan running the I-Form is dumb, except it makes the defense better… except it makes the offense worse… this is how you have a losing record at LSU.
Bubbly. AnnArbor.com catches up to a smiling Brandon Graham after his selection by the Eagles:
Rarely have I been so happy for a Michigan player. After the last two years, Graham deserves every good thing that can possibly happen to him. I hope he learns how to fly.
(Also: can I take a moment to tout how useful UFRs have been in tracking Brandon Graham's impact? I was a little worried that BG was outperforming Woodley, but there he is in the top half of the first round after the NFL saw how unblockable he is.)
Denard-o. Gerry DiNardo has lost more football games than you've ever watched, but he's still on the television so people ascend to his yurt high up in the Indiana mountains to beseech him for his wisdom. Last year his wisdom was "Denard Robinson is going to start at quarterback," which is a strong indicator as to why he's lost more football games than you've ever watched. DiNardo single criterion for choosing a starting quarterback is "is it vaguely possible this kid was named after me?" By no other measure was Robinson a plausible starter in 2009.
In 2010 things are different. Denard Robinson is still named after Dinardo, though:
"I think it has to be Denard Robinson," he said. "If you think about the way Rich Rodriguez became so successful at West Virginia it wasn't with a drop-back quarterback that threw 50 times, even though that approached worked for him some as an offensive coordinator. He wants to play the game that Denard plays, with a greater emphasis on the running attack than the passing attack. He wants to have that guy that can tuck the ball and make you miss even when the blocking isn't perfect, that can make you miss even if he misreads the read-option, and from everything I've seen, Denard Robinson is that guy.
"In college football nowadays, defenses, as much as they try to practice this, cannot tackle in space. From the earliest age, you're not coached to tackle one-on-one without help. The instruction is always about rallying to the ball and then for your defensive backs to use the sideline as their friend. But when you're stuck in a one-on-one situation, against an athlete like Denard Robinson, most of the time you're going to be left grasping for air.
"So when I see what he can do, and then I see what Forcier did last year - to me there is no comparison for where this offense wants to go."
I'm not sure he's right that Rodriguez is dedicated to running 75% of the time, but his other points are solid. The bit about defenses being unable to tackle in space could be the operational philosophy of Rodriguez's entire offensive system. Tate missed reads on the option plenty last year—most of the time, it seemed—and while he was slippery enough to evade lumbering defensive ends he wasn't fast enough to turn his frequent missed reads into anything more than a few yards. A prime example from the Illinois game:
It's possible Robinson can turn this into another couple yards, or even break something long (although probably not on this particular play). A quarterback who can get that extra couple yards is an extremely dangerous option. For all Forcier's flaws, he was an effective runner. If you cut out the copious sacks Michigan gave up last year (24 for 184 yards), he averaged 4.7 YPC. (This is slightly optimistic since Robinson probably took a couple sacks, so you may want to mentally adjust that to 4.5 or so.) A version of Denard Robinson that can run the zone read and throw well enough to keep linebackers honest will obliterate that.
Keeping the linebackers honest will take some doing, but the nice thing about being Denard Robinson is that when you go to play action, it's time to cheat like a mother for all but the best defenses. I don't think Ohio State is going to be particularly vulnerable to a raw sophomore like Robinson, but I also don't think Illinois or Purdue has much of a chance to stop him.
Merrill rising, talkin' smack. Incoming defenseman Jon Merrill saw his stock slip slightly over the course of his final year with the NTDP, but a strong U-18 tournament (where the US is obliterating all comers) has seen Merrill's stock pop up into the rarefied air of a potential top ten selection once more:
At the beginning of the tournament Gudbranson had the inside edge as the potential top defender to be selected this year, battling it out with Windsor's Cam Fowler, but the gap is closing. The play of Merrill, along with the struggles of the Gudbranson-led Canadian team, may have catapulted Merrill into that coveted position and certainly into the overall debate.
Coming into the tournament many even felt Forbort would likely be ranked and selected ahead of Merrill, and even though Forbort has looked strong, the abilities that Merrill has showcased so far during this tournament have pushed him ahead in the eyes of many scouting circles. Merrill is a tall and lanky player with a lot of room to build on his frame. He has tremendous speed and has extremely good intelligence with and around the puck. Merrill has been the kingpin of the US's powerplay and quarterbacks it tremendously well.
Merrill will jump into Michigan's top four on day one and I'm betting he'll be on the top powerplay and top pairing by midseason at the latest. He was also interviewed by McKeen's, and because he's going to play in college he was asked to justify his existence. He did so with aplomb:
I think a lot of guys make the argument that the CHL (Canadian Hockey League) is the most similar to the NHL in style of play, and you play a lot of games, and things like that, but you’ve got to look at it from my perspective. I’m 18 years old. If I went and played in the CHL, there’s 15 and 16-year-olds, 17-year-olds, in the league. There’s top-end 18 and 19-year-old guys, too, but if you go to college, everyone’s older than you. I’m a freshman in a bigger, stronger, faster game, and you get up for every game, because you only play 35, 40 games, or whatever it is. Every game is a big game. Whereas in the CHL, you’re playing in Sudbury on a Tuesday night, and how do you get up for that, you know?
Tuesdays in Sudbury is a best-seller by Bizzaro Canadian Mitch Albom, but not a particularly attractive option compared to playing outdoors in front of one million people, give or take nine hundred thousand.
Nothing on Moffatt, unfortunately. He has just one assist for a rampant USA. The U18s are the last opportunity to put it out there for NHL scouts and he's not drawing a whole lot of notice. Hopefully he'll slide in comfortably—a mid-round NHL draft pick is usually a good player—but an instant impact is unlikely.
Side note: please don't read anything about Jack Campbell. It will make you sad.
(Interview HT: Michigan Hockey Net.)
About the one million people. Sales for Cold War II have been ridiculous so far:
General ticket sales began Wednesday, netting 14,700 purchases by 4 p.m., according to an athletic department spokesman. When added to the that seats have already been sold or committed to by season-ticket holders, former players and other groups, officials announced Wednesday that close to 80,000 tickets have already been sold.
"This has just taken off. You knew it would when you have something this special at the Big House - the first time ever, maybe the only time ever," Berenson said in a statement. " Everybody wants to be there. I think we'll be sold out before we know it. It'll be a tough ticket to buy."
With the original Cold War still the all-time hockey attendance record, the question at this point is not if this December's game will break it, but if the record shatters with enough force to match the destructive power of a bear dropping a bomb into a volcano.
Probably not. But it will be close, yo.
Cancer, again. Chris Perry's arrest was a family thing in which something went down with a cousin, possibly because Perry's mom is terminally ill with the cancer she was battling when Perry played at Michigan. Irene Perry is the main reason Chris didn't transfer a couple years into his career. Best wishes, for whatever that's worth, to the Perry family.