"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."
- Brandon Minor is doubtful for Saturday. His ankle is healed, but now the shoulder is a problem. He didn't practice at all yesterday, and they're hoping he can do a little today.
- Martavious Odoms should be healthy enough to play on Saturday.
- Carlos Brown should be full-go.
- Last week's Tate/Denard issue was overplayed. Tate and Rodriguez never "argued," but the coach was giving a coachly lecture. The two QBs split snaps with the first team last week (contrary to rumors), and Tate will likely start this week, though both will play.
- Carlos Brown, Mike Shaw, and Vincent Smith are considered co-starters for Saturday at this point. Kevin Grady will get some carries as well.
- Woolfolk is at corner because there were concerns with that position. Brown's position is almost like a nickel safety, rather than a linebacker, so that's a natural fit for him.
- Brandon Smith and Mike Williams are competing in practice this week for the starting safety spot.
- Obi Ezeh and Kevin Leach are still competing for the starting linebacker spot.
- Brandon Graham and MIke Martin are the only defensive players who graded out high in the Wisconsin game.
- The season's permanent captains have been decided, but they won't be announced until tomorrow afternoon - even to the players.
- If you can't get fired up to practice and play this week, something is wrong with you. The players still need to focus that energy towards improving to win the game, not worrying about the implications of the game.
- Rodriguez has not talked to Terrelle Pryor. Still, he's a talented player, and it will be tough to simulate him in practice.
- They'll run more more 1st team v. 1st team this week, in order to practice against the best in preparation for OSU.
- The CARA reporting issue was taken care of as soon as Rodriguez found out about it. He can't say anything else about it, however, as the NCAA investigation is ongoing.
- The team had higher goals this season than scraping into a bowl game, so regardless of the outcome on Saturday, the season will be a disappointment. However, it's not discouraging for the program, and the groundwork has been laid for future success.
- Taking the ball off the coin toss against Wisconsin was one of the few times Rich has ever done it. He wanted to get on the scoreboard early, and Wisconsin's students still hadn't made it into the stadium, so he thought it would give them an advantage.
- Brandon Minor is still nicked up, but he'll go if he can. Carlos's knee is still bothering him a little bit. Vincent Smith played well, Shaw "did some good things." Backups will be ready if the starters can't go.
- "Legends are made in the Michigan-Ohio State game." Good feel for the rivalry. Doesn't take long to understand it. Don't have to coach or play here to get the intensity of it. What will it take to turn the rivalry around? Having a better team than the opponent. Emotion and passion will carry the team a little bit. The more experienced team (OSU) will be able to stem a tide of emotion. Use the big rivalry factor to help guys focus on preparation during the game. Win over OSU means something special especially for the seniors. Team has overcome a little adversity, that would be important for them. Try to accentuate the positives this week. It's an easy game to get them excited for. Our guys know it's a big challenge. You always have a chance. We have to play really well. Maybe they'll make a few mistakes.
- Hasn't heard from past Michigan coaches about the rivalry. He doesn't need to be lectured on the importance of the rivalry. He gets it. Just because he's not from Michigan doesn't mean he doesn't get it. Everyone gets it. He coaches as hard as he can in every game. Ohio State is just a whole lot more important. College football has the most intense rivalries, none more important than M-OSU. '69 team was one of the best M-OSU games. They'll be honorary captains for the game.
- A couple things different: Senior week. Practice won't be much different. There will be more in team meetings about the importance of the game, etc. Permanent team captains will be voted on this week.
- Senior class. All programs have something special for last home game. Best week of seniors' careers. Devoted 4-5 years to the university & team. Small group of seniors.
- We can play a whole lot better offensively. Defensively, we haven't been playing well. It's not a lack of effort, there are a lot of reasons. Solid on special teams. Have to make a lot of improvement on defense. Hopefully they rise to the challenge in the last game.
- Made D changes, guys played pretty well. Looking for the right combination. Defense maybe moved slower than he thought it might. Last year's team had more experience defensively. Knew we were going to be inexperienced. They might make personnel moves from offense to defense in the offseason. In next couple recruiting classes, add talent on defense.
- All coaches hate to lose. It eats at your soul. "I don't coach football, I live it." He loves what we're doing, so it eats at you to be unsuccessful. He's not used to losing, so it pretty much sucks. Each day is a new opportunity. This year or last year was the most emotionally taxing in his career. We've all fought through this thing together, and can see the light at the end of the tunnel. When the young guys lift weights, practice, etc., you can see that we're going to be back there. He likes winning too much to not evaluate everything the team does. If adjustments need to be made, they'll do it. Some of the problems are going to take longer to fix. "I feel very good about our staff." Good coaches, family men, recruiters. Scheme and stuff will be where the changes come. Personnel-wise it's tough to overcome. The players know how competitive the coaches are. As long as they're giving their best effort, that's all the coach can ask. This is a good group to coach.
- Not getting back as quickly as he'd like. Only had 1 full recruiting class. When those 18-19 year olds are 20-21, they'll look more like men. There's a group of 4-5 college head coaches he keeps in touch with for encouragement, etc.. Also the assistant coaches he's been with for a long time. Sometimes things come up that aren't in coaching 101.
- On offense, they feel a lot better than last year. Players have a better grasp of the offense. OSU will still be a huge challenge. Not showing up to hope it stays close, they want to win.
- Comparing leagues to leagues is misinformed, there's no reason that a different style of football can't be played in the Big Ten. Every league has a variety of styles, etc. Coaching the pro-style to fit the talent. Our guys that started on offense last year hadn't played in any system yet. No mattter what system you ran, they hadn't played in it. Same with defense this year. Need to recruit guys who can play at the highest level, but experience is a big player too.
- Tate - hopefully learned that you have to compete every week, continue to get better, different schmes and challenges every week. He and Denard are both very good for true freshmen. They'll get better when they have more practice time. Hopes everyone (not just tate) is committed to getting the seniors to a bowl game.
- Koger played some last year. He's played well sometimes, other games he hasn't taken the next step. He'll get better.
- Graham - doing all he can. He knows he's surrounded by inexperience. Still being a team guy and playing within the framework of the defense. Trying to free him up and use his ability.
- Kovacs is a tough guy. It's just his first year playing, so he'll keep getting better. Lack of depth gave him an opportunity.
- Boren: Doesn't do much good to go back in the past. "We pride ourselves on the closeness we have as a family." If you ask the players, they feel the closeness. Hasn't talked to Boren since he left.
- Pryor. He's done extremely well. Started games as a true freshman. Very talented. Won a lot of games. Don't really like to play him because he's a talented playmaker. Nobody on scout team can replicate him (obvs). Denard will play him a bit on scout team.
Ryan Van Bergen
- Scoring the touchdown against Wisconsin was pretty cool. He thought his days of scoring touchdowns were over after high school.
- It would mean everything to this team to beat Ohio State. Bitter taste after last year's game is still there. Want to beat OSU and get the 6th win for the seniors. Looking to stop the streak of 4-5 consecutive OSU losses. There's an external sense that Michigan doesn't stand a chance. A lot of people around the rivalry know that records mean nothing on the field.Practices will stay the same, but in the group preparation "you always do a little extra for Ohio State." Film room, etc.
- Defense is getting close, but they're still making fundamental and technical errors. They're getting better and better, but that's still not good enough. Can't lean on the offense. Mistakes this year aren't sustained drives or anything. It doesn't look better on the scoreboard, but if they can stop 4-5 plays of 60+ yards and TD, it will look a whole lot different. Guys aren't wearing out. Other teams have similar size and frequency of defensive rotation. Got away from scheming other teams, need to execute physically.
- Michigan Ohio State game has an intensity level that can't be matched in other games. It's like you're on the front line of a battle. We enjoy it, and it's great to get after it with passion.
- Never grew up an Ohio State fan. Always got chills watching the big game. "I'm a Michigan man, that's all I'm worried about right now." Roundtree born in Pahokee, big Miami fan. Miami-OSU game in '02. McGahee, etc. "Just can't go for Ohio State, don't know what it is."
- Desmond Howard, Charles Woodson. Great memories.
- Preparation started saturday after Wisconsin. Practice is going to have to pay off this week. Veterans say to go all out. You never know when it's your last play, especially against Ohio State. Have to go harder this week. Put in the hard work all season. Learn from mistakes, prepare for Saturday. Everybody's ready.
- Rodriguez toughest season. Just his second year, how the season is turning out. Roundtree and Hemingway sat together last year watching the game. "This year should be a turnaround."
- Won't have his phone on this week because he needs to stay focused.
- Big 2 weeks: It just happens. Shows the work he put in everywhere. Doesn't worry about how many balls he catches, etc., just worried about running his route. You can't back down in blocking.
- The QBs have to work with each other to improve. Tate has to do more to show what he can do.
- Same feeling against OSU every year (always do everything you can), but each year is different with his role increasing. "It'll be my last game in the Big House, I wanna go out with a win." This week, anything that's wrong has to be corrected Everyone has to be in watching film, everyone has to go hard in practice. Stevie and seniors lead by example. Getting to a bowl and beating Ohio State are linked together, so neither goal is bigger than the other, they're the same.
- Boren - did everything he could while he was here, he'll be the same for them. No personal vendetta, just another O-lineman.
- Pryor throwing it better this year. When the play breaks down, he's able to do things with his feet. Big guy, need to get a secure tackle on him.
- Stevie doesn't try to think about "if we lose, it's over" type stuff. Worries about preparing to win the last game. Doesn't look at beating them in terms of breaking the OSU streak, just want to beat them.
- Whenever we play very well, play together, we can shut teams down. We've shown flashes, just need to come together for 60 minutes.
- Graham provides a lot of vocal encouragement. Leads by example as well. Works as hard as he can, makes plays he's supposed to make. The team doesn't want to let Brandon down. Stevie's not vocal. You can come ask him questions, but he tries to lead by example.
- Hasn't looked at Ohio State film yet. Heard Herbstreit say that this is one of Tressel's best defenses.
- UT-A&M rivalry is the main one where Ortmann's from. The M rivalry is something he knew about, but didn't get to experience it that much.
- The preparation week for OSU his freshman year, their helmets were taped up like OSU, you can sense a different atmosphere .
- Loss= the end has been playing in everyone's mind. We've broken a lot of records and set some new ones the past couple years. Beating OSU would be a great spot to start a new record.
- It's been a while since we've beaten them. Go in with mindset that we are capable of winning. The tackling dummies with the block o are just a reminder that OSU is the biggest game every year.
- Boren - nobody has a relationship with him anymore really. Ortmann has talked to him just a couple times. They had a good relationship before. It was hard to hear him say what he did when he left. He was raised to be a Michigan fan and he loved Michigan. Had some underlying personal issues. What he said on the way out was unfair. People with their own individual reasons. Some statements have been inaccurate. They're entitled to their own opinions.
- Big difference between the OSU games and all the rest. "Growing up, you know that this is one of the biggest rivalries in college football." Big for both programs. Definitely have more intensity this week, get the guys riled up. Help the young guys understand how important this game is.
- Limit big plays. Make them earn everything that they get. Have to come out in practice, get some confidence rolling through the week. Believe in the gameplan, minimize what the opponent will do.
- At safety last couple weeks - do what the coaches ask, and what's best for team. Trying to help the team win. That was for Wisconsin, doesn't know if it will be this week as well.
- Discipline against Pryor. Tougher to stick to receivers because he might need help. Tougher to stick to receivers for longer. Posey - made some big plays with Pryor. Try to minimize that, make them earn it. Sanzenbacher started year as Pryor's go-to guy. Duron Carter is good too. Contain all three of those and the RBs.
- Little things add up and lead to opponents' big plays. Can't let that continue to occur. Have to just keep working on it. Don't let it disrupt your confidence. Confidence - if you can limit big plays, the defense has actually been solid. Hear outsiders talk about how bad the defense is. Can't let it get to you. Continue to work and get better. Do the little things.
- Is it disrespectful for Boren to go to the hated rival. "We're here and he's talking that the family values have eroded. Definitely, the family is still intact." He had to do what was best for him.
- Losing rivalry games is tough. Have to look on the bright side. Don't have anything to lose. Win this one, go to a bowl game. Something to look forward to winning this game. What's in the past is in the past, worry about what you can do in this game.
- Seen some great defenses this year - PSU, Iowa. OU has some solid guys, nobody stands out above everyone else they've seen this year.
- "I don't talk to him, I don't think about him. He doesn't come up in my daily life. I don't have to play against him on defense. I wish I could." Boren
- Tate and Denard don't need to be told things, they need to learn through intensity and preparation of teammates.
- This game is huge, last regular season game, last game of the year. It's everything. Unfinished business against OSU - haven't beaten them in 5 years. This is what we have, we're going practice hard. The context can only mean so much. Don't need a "little brother" mentality. It's Ohio State. Records mean nothing, etc. Don't need more analogies.Just prepare every day. This falls under every category - last game, bowl eligibility, OSU, etc.
- Hopefully we can get a big win, and the reality of never playing in M stadium again will kick in after the celebration.
- Scout team players go extra hard this week. Some guys that normally wouldn't be on scout team go down because they want to practice against the best.
- Omameh - nothing needs to be said to him. They'll watch film together. He'll show him what he needs to do to win. All we can ask is for him to play his heart out - and he will. As an OL, we are looking at their film to see how to attack their defense. I think we can do that.
- 70-80% underclassmen. Always great to see the young guys (tate) take leadership roles.
- Watched Purdue-OSU film. It's going to take our best effort to beat them. Purdue put together a great gameplan, and we've got one this week.
- When the offense goes in, no matter the game situation, they go in to score. The defense goes in to stop them. Our job is to score and win. We want to score more than the other team. Minor's gonna play. He'll play hard and run hard. This is his last game. Concerned about his health, but he'll do what he can. "He's gonna do great, he always does."
- Block-O tackling dummies are going to be in view all week. They have been all year. Lots of motivation to beat Ohio State. "If you can't get jacked up for this one, I don't know where you've been." If he doesn't beat Ohio State, it just wasn't meant to be. "We will beat them... sooner or later. Hopefully it's this Saturday."
- Defense wants to have their best game of the year. Even if old goals weren't achieved you have to set new goals. Time to play their best. They haven't had many games where they could say they played their best and got beat. Showed effort in the last game, but Wisconsin came out with a plan to exploit their weaknesses.
- BG trying to take it in now, since he's got one last game if they don't win. Kinda sad that his college career is done. Dreamt of this moment, now it's almost gone. Realized when he was watching Lamarr Woodley with the Steelers yesterday. Woodley told him to enjoy it, because it's over in a beat. Now he's telling the new young guys the same thing.
- He doesn't want to think about his kids now, but when he eventually has them, he'll tell them he got to play in the greatest game in the country. When his kids go here, it will always be something special when they play Ohio State. Couldn't send his kids to Ohio State "I'm not Justin Boren." He's got a lot of words for Boren. "Just somebody who shouldn't have been here in the first place... We'll see him Saturday." Our front four can get the job done. Boren's got to prove he's still got it. He was good here, but isn't as good there because it's O-State. Family values thing was just an excuse for Boren because he wanted to leave. Never gave the new coaches a chance. "Some people just leave because they feel like they're better than what they is. Not trying to put that much work into it.... a lot of people get lazy and feel like it's supposed to come to them."
- BG has noticed at times that he's a really good player on a bad defense. He doesn't worry about it, and just tries to get to the ball. He wants everyone else to play with the same attitude, they don't all grow as fast as others. Go hard every day. Whoever's in his way, he'll tell them to not come his way. He's in the best shape of his life, and he'll wear the opponent down.
- "It's about to be his last, next year" for Donovan Warren. Does he know Warren plans to stay or is he just saying that?
- Graham grew as a person and was humbled this year - can't take anything for granted. Feels like he could work harder or something to achieve success. My personal goals went OK, but it's about the team. I was happy to be able to help change the game and help my team. Stuff happens for a reason.
- Seniors want to leave with a win "What's a better way than to beat O-State?"
AnnArbor.com's basketball beat writer, Mike Rothstein, was kind enough to stop by and answer a few questions about the upcoming basketball season. If you want the opportunity to ask him some questions of your own, he'll be participating in a live chat on AnnArbor.com today at noon.
1) For the first time in recent history, the Michigan Men's basketball team probably has higher expectations than the football team. Is this Michigan basketball team capable of handling the pressure of expectations?
A: I think so. Having a freshman point guard concerns me, but Darius Morris seems to be pretty mature for his age. Plus, Beilein is pretty high on him overall and believes he'll pick up his systems quickly, so that shouldn't be too much of an issue. It's an interesting question because none of these guys have been in this situation before, at least not since high school. Not being picked in the top three of the Big Ten, as odd as it sounds, might have helped because that's one less preseason accolade around this group. But the way they shook off being No. 15 in the country – in some ways, it really seemed not to matter to them – sold me that they should be OK.
2) With a more talented roster than last year's team, is it Sweet 16 or bust for this squad?
A: Perhaps, but that's the thing when it comes to the NCAA tournament. Save for four to six teams, it really is all about the draw you receive. It's why a lot of times, upsets can be predicted – Winthrop over Notre Dame in 2007, Villanova over Clemson in 2008 and Western Kentucky over Illinois last year. Those are just three examples but it all comes down to how a team is playing at the end of the year and what the first-round opponent looks like. For instance, if Michigan were matched up in the first round with a team that had a 6-11, 6-10, 6-8 front line, that would probably be a bad thing. That said, this team is certainly capable – from both talent and coaching standpoints – to make a serious run. But when it comes to March, look at that draw. The worst possible scenario for any team is to see a veteran mid-major or low major team that has been to the tournament the year before and put a scare into a high seed. Those teams often break through the next year.
3) Last year's team had vocal leadership from seniors CJ Lee and David Merritt. Those two are both gone, so is somebody going to be a vocal leader? Or is it more likely that somebody (i.e. Manny Harris and/or DeShawn Sims) simply leads by example?
A: It's funny you ask this because it was one of the first things I noticed about this team once I was around them for more than 10 minutes. Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims are the leaders on the court and will have to lead by example. Both are working on the vocal parts of being a leader and Harris told me he has gotten on guys in practice and in the summer workouts led by the players. But the guy who stands out to me as the vocal guy is Zack Novak. He has a lot of respect in Michigan's locker room and both Harris and Sims have said he's part of that leadership core. When I watched one of the track workouts before the season, Novak was literally encouraging almost everyone. He'd pick up Ben Cronin, who was still returning from injury, after a set and he'd cheer Anthony Wright – who was coming off his own injury – as he crossed the finish line. Sims and Harris will lead, but Novak is really a hidden key there.
4) Which players are expected to contribute this year that the average Michigan fan might not know from last year?
A: Tough to say since a year ago I was watching a highly-ranked team drop into the NIT (more on that Notre Dame team in one of the later questions). But I'm really high on Ben Cronin if for no other reason than should he put it together by midseason he gives Michigan a different look than the Wolverines have had, and that is a legitimate 7-footer. I think you're going to see great leaps in play from Novak and a more consistent effort from Laval Lucas-Perry now that he's had another summer in Ann Arbor. Also, Matt Vogrich is a deadly shooter. It might take him a little while to find his rhythm in college – he has to adjust to bigger, stronger defenders, a faster pace and a slightly deeper three-point line – but he's going to be an asset by season's end. Zack Gibson has also appeared to have more consistency so far. If he can even come close to resembling Kevin Pittsnogle – and that's not an easy thing to do – for this Michigan team, that could be really dangerous.
5) Which player that did play a big role last year is most-improved for this season?
A: I hinted at it earlier, but I really believe it is Novak. You could even argue Manny Harris here because pro scouts have really raved about him and he feels like he's more consistent, but Novak got rid of some of the excess bad weight he was carrying. He's a dirty-work player who can also shoot it well. In some ways, his game reminds me of Purdue's Chris Kramer in how he does the little things and is a very good glue guy, although Kramer is a better defender. Darius Morris is the X-factor on this team, but if Novak becomes a consistent third scoring option behind Harris and Sims, that will bode well for Michigan.
6) John Beilein has never taken a team past the Elite Eight. Can a team running his system make it all the way?
A: That's a really, really good question. Some of his past teams, I think that answer would be no. But I think the Final Four is possible and then from there, you never know. Remember, that West Virginia team that went to the Elite Eight was probably a basket or two in regulation away from beating Louisville and heading to the Final Four. It wasn't like they ran out of gas until perhaps the overtime of the Elite Eight game. While I don't think Beilein would say this, I believe this team has the chance to be more athletic and versatile than that team. If Manny Harris can stay healthy, having him and Darius Morris driving to the basket will create holes for shooters. Defensively, as long as the combination of man-to-man and 1-3-1 is humming along they'll have a shot in most games. Beilein is a heck of a game-day coach and in the tournament, those types of coaches usually are the ones that end up in the Final Four.
7) Is Michigan poised to make a major run at Michigan State as the instate power?
A: Not yet. Not as long as Tom Izzo and Michigan State keep reaching Final Fours with relative consistency. The Spartans have been to more Final Fours recently than any program in the country. Recruits, until Michigan shows consistency with reaching and advancing in the NCAA tournament, want to play for Izzo. What Michigan can likely hope for in the next few years, if Beilein continues on his current trajectory, is a situation similar to what things look like in the states of Kentucky, North Carolina and at least until recently, Indiana. Two programs considered among the Top 15-20 in the country almost annually with alternating turns at the top. Michigan has a ways to go to reach that point again consistently still but it's not unheard of. The past tradition is there.
8) What needs to happen for Michigan to make a run at the conference title?
A: Going back to the previous question, I'm not sure that they have enough firepower or depth to get there. Michigan State is an awfully good team this year. I ranked them No. 2 on my AP ballot in the preseason. Purdue, while I'm reserving complete judgment until I see a healthy Robbie Hummel for a few games, is right on par with them. Barring injuries, those are likely your top two. No reason to think Michigan couldn't finish third. I have them as the third-highest Big Ten team on my AP ballot and I voted them third in the Big Ten media poll.
A third-place finish will garner an NCAA berth and considering the depth of the Big Ten this year, likely a pretty high seed. But to answer your question, I think they'd need to pretty much win out at home in the league and pick off a few of the tougher games (Wisconsin, Purdue, Michigan State, Ohio State, Minnesota) on the road. Staying healthy is also going to be key. Michigan, while they have a nine-to-10 man rotation, can't afford to have one of its Top 4 guys (Harris, Sims and Novak along with Morris being the likely point guard) go down. The depth just isn't completely there yet. When I did my preseason prognosticating, I said Michigan would be 11-7 in the Big Ten. While I don't think that'll be enough to win the league, it'll be enough for the tournament.
9) What circumstances would lead to Michigan missing the NCAA Tournament?
A: An long-term injury to a key player (Harris, Sims, Novak, Morris) would be a killer. But providing Michigan stays healthy, remember earlier when I said I'd discuss Notre Dame's season last year, this is where it goes. Notre Dame, if you remember, was tabbed to be a potential Final Four team in the preseason after a second-round showing in the NCAA tournament a year earlier. They were a veteran team, didn't really lose a lot (other than current NBA D-Leaguer Rob Kurz) and had two stars returning in Luke Harangody and Kyle McAlarney. This year's Michigan team is somewhat veteran, didn't lose a ton (although C.J. Lee and David Merritt were big from a leadership standpoint) and have two returning stars in Harris and Sims. But the Big East last year – like the Big Ten this year – was stacked with a ton of talent and depth. You knew going in there were going to be one or two teams in the Big East that got swallowed by the league. There ended up being two that were ranked in the Top 10 at some point in the year and ended up in the NIT. Notre Dame was one. Georgetown was the other.
I get the same feeling about the Big Ten this year, where one of the projected Top 7 or 8 will just get crushed by the power of the league. Michigan's non-conference schedule should be strong enough (Old Spice, at Utah, at Kansas, BC, UConn) where barring an epic collapse in the Big Ten the Wolverines should be in for sure if they win a couple of those games. But there's a stretch of games that could be a confidence killer (it's what happened to Notre Dame and to a lesser extent, Georgetown) in the midst of the conference slate. Notre Dame lost 7 straight (six to Top 25 teams) which killed NCAA tournament hopes. Starting with Indiana at home on Jan. 14, the Wolverines then have Connecticut at home followed by at Wisconsin and at Purdue. Then they come home to play Michigan State. Those five games, in that order, represent the toughest stretch of the season and one that could send most teams in the country spiraling. Get through that and Michigan should be OK. Go 0-fer and then it becomes a bit dicey.
Predict: Michigan's final record: 21-9 regular season, 11-7 Big Ten
Michigan's team MVP: Manny Harris (although it wouldn't stun me if DeShawn Sims won it)
Michigan's Post-season Result: No. 5 seed NCAA Tournament, Sweet 16
The Big Ten Champion: Michigan State (regular season); Purdue (conference tourney)
Number of Big Ten teams in the NCAA tournament: 7
The final score of Michigan's first game on Saturday: Michigan 82, Northern Michigan 61.
- Injuries: Brandon Minor's ankle injury is ongoing, and now he has a bruised shoulder as well. Junior Hemingway has a back bruise and was limited against Purdue. Martavious Odoms is still day-to-day, he hasn't progressed that well. Perry Dorrestein is getting better. Carlos was limited against Purdue because he missed the week of practice with tendinitis.
- Personnel notes: Brandon Minor gives the team a completely different dimension because he is able to break tackles and run downhill. Without him, the offense isn't as good. Patrick Omameh played pretty well, especially for his first start. He has some technical things to improve, but he played hard and was physical. Tate had a few missed reads and bad decisions, but didn't play poorly. JB Fitzgerald graded out OK. Rich doesn't know who will start on defense this week,because nobody on the defense graded out at a championship level. Olesnavage should be fine mentally - it was his first extra point miss of the year. Brandon Smith is moving around trying to find a position. He's at safety now, though his future might be at linebacker. The coaches wanted to get Denard in the game more, but didn't want to disrupt Tate's rhythm.
- The defense plays well in practice, but seems to be clueless in games. For players to think that is "disheartening" for Rodriguez. He thinks the lay well, but for a few big mistakes. On both big pass plays (excluding the one to the RB, I assume), the player in man coverage just let his eyes get off his man for a second.
- The offense didn't seem to be that different from first to second half. Purdue made a couple adjustments, and there were some execution errors, but other than that it wasn't bad. The second half collapses of late have been a result of just needing to play better. There isn't a lot of time at halftime to attribute the difference to "halftime adjustments." The team needs to mature mentally and show resiliency. They should be mentally mature enough at this point in the season. Rich was more disappointed with the resiliency against Illinios than he was this week.
- Purdue's onside kick was a very good call and executed to perfection. Michigan needs to be more prepared for that.
- The decision to go for it on fourth down was never reconsidered. It wasn't an issue of whether the coaches thought they could score again if they kicked the field goal, but a matter of stopping Purdue to get the ball back.
- Against Wisconsin, the team needs to just play. Don't worry about outside factors (though bowl eligibility may be motivation), or the surroundings just play football. They're a big physical team, and Clay will definitely be the biggest back that the defense has seen all year.
- There are only 70 or 71 recruited scholarship players on the roster this year. It will take 2-3 recruiting classes to get the numbers up, and have the ability to let younger guys wait their turn. Players like Justin Turner and Thomas Gordon will be good players in the future.
- Boise State never approached Michigan about playing each other in 2010. Rodriguez thinks the schedule is probably set for the next couple years, but Boise is a possibility 4-5 years down the road.
- His decomitment from Purdue gave the Boilermaker players a lot to talk about all day. They were constantly talking to him, but he's not a talker, and didn't respond. Torri Williams was his recruiting host for Purdue, and Roundtree broke Williams's tackle on his touchdown reception.
- Martavious Odoms is a helpful teammate to Roundtree. They get to go against each other as competition in practice, but that doesn't mean Odoms won't give Roy tips on how to improve his game.
- Roundtree's strength and conditioning has come a long way since he first arrived. He was a laughingstock when he first arrived, but now his teammates appreciate how far he's come.
- Tate is just a freshman, so ups and downs are to be expected. He's currently on a bit of a down cycle, but will be ready for Wisconsin.
- Feels pretty healthy. His shoulder should be fine. The knee injury was just a slight twist, he'll wear a sleeve but no brace over it for the rest of the season. He expected to get a little banged up during the season, especially because his body isn't fully developed yet.
- Past games are in the past, and the team can't worry about them anymore. They need to focus on the future, and beat Wisconsin to get the seniors to a bowl game. Lots of the seniors are from Jason's class, so Tate knows them.
- The second half letdowns have been partially because the team comes out flat. There's no real explanation for it, but it's visible on film. They are pumped at the start of the game, but the leaders need to remind everyone to do the same for the second half.
- The defense is playing well, except for a couple critical mistakes. The offense hasn't helped at times, putting them in bad situations with turnovers. Having a new defensive coordinator makes it hard for them to achieve consistency.
- Tate feels he's been making too many freshman mistakes. He can't do that and expect the team to still win. The game has finally started slowing down for him (he noticed it against Illinois). He just needs to not make mistakes and get the ball to his athletes.
- The second half struggles shouldn't be an indication that the defense isn't good. Sometimes people are just pressing too hard to make things happen. He's not sure if the deficiencies are mental or physical. Sometimes, when the opposing offense has success, it feels like the defense didn't prepare well, even though Troy knows that's not the case. they just need to focus and get it done.
- Greg Robinson is a calm coach, and he's been successful in a bunch of places. Troy feels like last year's defense was bad because the schemes simply weren't working. This year, it's a good defense with too many execution errors at times.
- With a young defense, Obi Ezeh and Donovan Warren are the players who will get on guys when they make a mistake. Warren is a very passionate player, though it usually isn't displayed like it was on Saturday unless things are going very well or very poorly.
- Going to a bowl would be an accomplishment for this team. If they don't go to a bowl, they can't be too disappointed with their progress, because they've still improved the record from last year. Goal #1 is to beat Ohio State, and they want to beat Wisconsin as well. Troy can't wait to get into the atmosphere of Camp Randall and play.
The press conference started of with a 20-minute presentation about Rich Rodriguez sponsoring a child-safety initiative, which sports writers are apparently supposed to care about. Once the actual football talkin' began, there were a few tidbits.
- Injuries: There were no new ones coming out of Illinois, except Greg Banks has sprained his foot. Brandon Minor's injury is expected to limit him through the remainder of the season.
- Purdue is probably a better team than their record. They lost a couple of close games early, and they still have a lot of talent and experience. They start 16 seniors. They looked bad against Wisconsin, but that was partially an abnormally bad game for them, as well as a great game played by Wisconsin.
- Rich Rodriguez is more impatient than any fan could be about the progress of the team. He thought success might come a little quicker, but when he arrived in Ann Arbor and saw what he had to work with, he knew the process would be a little longer. Building a championship-caliber program will take some time. Michigan has had to play more freshmen than he'd hoped over the past two years, and it's likely that will continue next year as well.
- This team has been inconsistent all year, whether it is at home or on the road. The road environment hasn't seemed to rattle the players. They just can't play inconsistently and expect to win. A bad half can't lead to widespread issues across the team.
- Players get too tight sometimes, and worry about making mistakes. Brandon Graham is one of the few guys who doesn't do that. He just gets after and plays. Even if he makes a mistake, he is able to play at a high level. Kevin Leach graded out the highest of any Michigan defensive player, but Obi is still in the mix for playing time. Vladimir Emilien is not currently in the mix for more playing time, but he has a chance to be in the near future.
- Rodriguez re-thinks the play-calling at the goal line, but only because it's impossible not to.
- Mark Ortmann's "punch" was reviewed by Rodriguez with Ortmann. He thinks it was open-hand, and more to push Corey Liuget away than to strike him. There should be no additional punishment for Ortmann. In other offensive line news, Patrick Omameh will probably get more reps this week, as well as Ricky Barnum. Perry Dorrestein has a slight back tweak.
- Winning the Purdue game is important for the program. The players deserve a reward game for all of their hard work, and the coaches would really like to have an extra set of practices for preparation for the future.
- The team needs to stay focused and worry about the upcoming game, rather than the past.
- There have been some missed opportunities and guys not playing up to their ability, but they can't overthink. If guys start to underperform or go into a shell, it's up to their teammates to pick them back up.
- Warren likes playing press coverage, but the scheme doesn't always call for it. He needs to do what will help the other 10 guys on the field attain success as well (reading between the lines: there aren't any safeties capable of providing deep help, so GERG is hamstrung with what he can ask the corners to do).
- The first month of the season was good for the offensive line, but they seem to have taken a step back. Not being able to punch in four tries from the 1 yard line was particularly frustrating.
- The offensive line has plenty of talent, and they should be able to uphold a high standard despite losing David Molk.
- The plane ride back after a loss is pretty depressing. Everyone is frustrated and just wants to get back into the win column.
- The Purdue game is important because it will clinch a bowl game. In his ongoing "vocal leader" role, Graham's going to explain the importance of the Purdue game to his teammates today. He sometimes plans what he's going to say, but a lot of the time he just lets it flow.
- Sometimes guys try to do too much and make plays that aren't their responsibility. When guys don't stay disciplined, that's when the big plays happen for the opponent. The goal line stand may have caused a lot of defensive players to think they needed to step up, but maybe they did more than they were supposed to. It hurt for the offense to be in the red zone so many times and not score touchdowns.
- The defense has to keep working to force more turnovers.
- This team is different from last year's because everyone is more in tune with the coaches. It will keep improving as everyone buys into the vision next year.
Cissoko and the defensive backfield
- Boubacar violated team rules, and Rich Rodriguez simply enforced Boubacar's decisions by removing him from the team. Players know that's it's a privilege to play on the team, not a right.
- It wasn't explicitly asked, but Rodriguez's tone made it seem at times as though the window was still open for Cissoko to be reinstated. However, he said that they would help him try to get his career back on track at another institution, with no mention of a potential return. Further inquiries received the "let's talk about guys who play for Michigan" response.
- Despite losing Cissoko, Justin Turner is still on track to redshirt this year, and he's practicing exclusively at cornerback. Troy Woolfolk will stay at corner full-time, and James Rogers has moved to the position (which we knew a few weeks ago). JT Floyd is starting to get healthy again.
- Defensive back is still an area of concern for the team, but at this point, it will have to be addressed through recruiting.
- Brandon Minor practiced very little yesterday. That is related to the ongoing ankle sprain, not the bruised heel from Saturday's game.
- Odoms didn't practice yesterday, but he responded well to treatment, and is expected to practice today.
- Junior Hemingway practiced full contact yesterday.
- Tate mentioned that his shoulder was a little sore following the PSU game. However, he's fully healthy and will practice this whole week.
- It's better to have 2-3 backs that can carry the load than having to rely on one guy and being in trouble if he goes down. Minor's injury is part of the reason there has been so much rotation at RB.
- Greg Mathews had his best game against Penn State, and has been playing well overall lately. He's usually a quiet guy, but has been a more vocal leader in practice this week. RR speculates that may be due to seeing his career coming to an end.
- Carlos Brown was put at kick return to have two explosive options, and prevent teams from being able to just kick away from Stonum. He will stay on kick return.
- Odoms was removed from punt return only because of injury. When healthy, he will probably go back there.
- Despite having two different styles of QB, Illinois won't change their schemes too much on Saturday. They'll still have a spread offense, but probably run a little more with Juice, because he has a lot of running ability.
- The team's focus has been good all season. Even when they don't play well in games, it isn't due to a lack of focus or preparation.
- Kevin Leach and JB Fitzgerald got a little more playing time at linebacker on Saturday than they had been. That will probably continue.