this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Another week, another riot. We are all Greek. The cause of this one:
At the end of the book, Deren describes the scene with Lloyd Carr, the former Michigan head coach that recruited Trent to Ann Arbor, breaking the news to Trent that current head coach Rich Rodriguez did him no favors.
“Rodriguez had bad-mouthed him to every NFL scout he could,” Deren writes. “Rodriguez claimed that Morgan was lazy, he had an attitude problem and he was a big reason the Wolverines finished with a 3-9 record…”
Trent admits the words were “jarring,” and they were hard to understand given that he was so serious about his career that he actually moved in with his brother and sister-in-law and their two small children while going to Michigan. [ed: "Morgan Trent was so serious about football he decided to save on rent."]
But Trent was also worried about what Carr thought about his words showing up in the book. He talks to him, not Rodriguez. “I really like Coach Carr. He’s been very good to me,” Morgan says. “I think at first he was wondering, but I let him know it didn’t put him in a bad light. I would never do something like that to Lloyd. He’s great.” …
“I guess it was motivation,” Morgan says of the words that Deren estimates may have cost him $1 million. “(I) want to show people it was all false.”
Consider it done.
Here we go again, after one hell of a game of telephone from Rodriguez to NFL scout—at this point the story can get passed to and fro ad nauseum—to Carr to Trent to book author Deren. Rodriguez issued a denial…
“The comments attributed to me are inaccurate and absolutely ridiculous,” Rodriguez said in a statement. “I said just the opposite about Morgan Trent to NFL scouts and wish him well with the Bengals.”
…but even so, don't you kind of believe it anyway? Don't you sort of want to believe it? I believe Rodriguez told NFL scouts some version of what Deren says. I also believe that Trent was a lazy player with an attitude problem who was one of the main reasons Rodriguez's first team was a jumbled sack of cats attempting to claw in 20 different directions. Even if he didn't say it, I believe the words attributed to Rodriguez are accurate.
Trent's personal animosity towards Rodriguez has been made plain. We've previously established around here that football players are not compliance experts and the distinction between countable and non-countable hours befuddles even said experts. A former player's opinion on Michigan's we're-talking-about-stretching violations says more about his relationship with Rodriguez than anything about the violations. It's a Rorshach test. What Morgan Trent sees*:
"I'm not surprised because I know what happened, and I know what kind of rules were broken. I couldn't see how they were going to get out of that."
"Whatever steps need to be taken (to restore Michigan's winning tradition), I'm all for it. What is happening right now obviously is not working. I don't know how long they're going to let this last until changes are made."
"Coach Rod’s a good coach, and people are just trying to get him in trouble to me," Graham said.
So Morgan Trent is not disposed to give Rodriguez the benefit of the doubt when Lloyd Carr convenes a special meeting of the Anti-Rodriguez illuminati with the express purpose of revealing the dastardly secret carried about by Rich Rodriguez…
who controls the practice logs?
who puts Michigan Stadium in a bog?
weeeeee dooooooo… we do!
…that any Michigan fan could already have told you.
this happened like eight times in that game
He was not particularly good at football. He badly regressed after a promising junior season. Then when he went to the Shrine Bowl he "struggled," reinforcing the opinion of scouts "already down on him." The reason for this is now obvious: he hated the transition to Rodriguez, probably hated the coach himself, and spent a year half-assing it. The responsibility for this lies with Morgan Trent, even if he was so serious about football he lived with relatives(!). Attempts to deflect it only reinforce the very criticism (possibly) leveled by Rodriguez. It had nothing to do with the quality of the team, as Trent claims elsewhere in the article. A guy from Hillsdale went in the third round this year. The Bengals hadn't even talked to Rodriguez and still waited and waited and waited to take him.
During the very moments when Trent was doing whatever it was that made him a team cancer, Brandon Graham was turning himself into a first-round pick. We have not had any reports on what Rodriguez told NFL scouts about Brandon Graham, but dollars to donuts they were along the lines of "draft this man first overall and ask if he will adopt your kids." The reason Rich Rodriguez would say this is because of the things Brandon Graham did. You see, Rudy?
Now, there are a disturbing number of people who look at the Rich Rodriguez inkblot and see big pointy teeth. One major reason for this is that Rodriguez appears to be much harder on his players than Lloyd Carr. It's the very tippy top of the peak of hypocrisy for any Bo-venerating Michigan fan to look down on Rodriguez for this (his failure to resemble Bo in the win column is another matter). Part of that veneration is accepting the idea that being a coach often involves being very harsh to people who aren't living up to your expectations.
I wish that Rodriguez had managed to enter more smoothly but don't really blame him for the massive culture clash no one from fans to players to athletic director anticipated. He has a track record.
To be perfectly blunt and enraging to the denizens of the comments who get enraged when people pop on here and say dumb MLive-type things about departed players, I do blame Trent. Michigan is not going to be in good shape if Rich Rodriguez leaves after this year, and Trent would clearly like to see that happen and is operating either without a care as to how his inability to suck it up affects the program or with the express intent of getting rid of Rodriguez. Loyalty to the institution does not occur to him. It appears that correcting the record is so important to him that he's willing to sell out his alma mater to refute allegations that may not have actually happened and no one knew about. In doing so he's convinced me that the potentially fictional and definitely obscure allegations are true.
So… congratulations Morgan. You've invented a variant on the Streisand Effect.
As for Carr, he gave explicit permission to Trent to sell Rodriguez out in this book:
But Trent was also worried about what Carr thought about his words showing up in the book. He talks to him, not Rodriguez. “I really like Coach Carr. He’s been very good to me,” Morgan says. “I think at first he was wondering, but I let him know it didn’t put him in a bad light. I would never do something like that to Lloyd. He’s great.”
No, just Rodriguez. Any question as so whether or not there is a major rift between the two coaches is now gone. If there wasn't, Carr would have talked to Rodriguez about it. He would have gotten some clarification or a denial or something, and he wouldn't have presented it to Trent in the fashion he did. If he didn't do that, he would have told Trent to shut up when given the opportunity.
If there is really a New Era of Accountability in the athletic department, Carr and David Brandon should have a come-to-Jesus meeting in which Brandon does a lot of screaming. Trent is a pissed-off kid who was working for a scholarship. Carr is supposedly a program icon and an athletic department employee. Michigan shouldn't be paying someone who is actively working against the interests of the athletic department. It's obvious that Carr could have helped smooth things over with any number of players but chose not to, chose to exacerbate things in certain situations. He could have been of help during the transition; he was the opposite.
Through it all, Rodriguez just grits his teeth and asks if you've heard his Lion King joke. I shudder at the tell-all book that will inevitably follow a Rodriguez canning.
*(meta: I had to link to a mgoboard message board post instead of the News because the News shoved their story behind a paywall a month after they posted it. No one is ever going to pay for that article. Go newspapers.)
Talkin'. I'd actually scheduled this podcast appearance at The Solid Verbal last week and the kids over there just happened to hit the news cycle jackpot. So, yeah, there's a podcast of me talking to Ty and Dan about the shoe that just dropped, Tate Forcier, the future of the program, and Admiral Ackbar.
One clarification: I was just talking extemporaneously about a question I hadn't thought about before when I mentioned that I thought Rich Rodriguez probably had an idea of what was going on with the quality control assistants. After some more research, I think that's erroneous since one of the charges is a "failure to monitor" on Rodriguez's part. "Failure to monitor" appears to be something that precludes Rodriguez knowing about the violations.
Click for go:
The upshot. This is not changing until we know what happens in 2010:
At least no one will ask this until—aw, who am I kidding.
Obligatory item in which I offer an opinion about virtually everyone acting stupid. First, Brandon Graham:
Former Wolverine Brandon Graham said he didn't experience any of the alleged violations during his time at Michigan and that the NCAA report shouldn't sour anyone's view on Rodriguez.
"Coach Rod’s a good coach, and people are just trying to get him in trouble to me," Graham said.
The obvious contrast is with Morgan Trent, who sold out the program in a statement. One: now we have a pretty good explanation for why Trent is a successful NFL player but basically sucked at Michigan. He did not like the program change and didn't put in full effort. Two: while people going "lol Trent you suck" are not covering themselves in glory, you can dump Trent in with those guys in a barrel of people I don't want to get a beer with.
Trent is symptomatic of the problems resulting from the vast culture change Rodriguez brought with him, and each former Carr guy who just can't get over the change who goes out the door or transfers before their time is one more scholarship not being wasted. Trent doesn't know anything about the exact specifics of what GAs and QC assistants are allowed to do and didn't know that stretching time was CARA. He's just talking out of his ass because he dislikes RR, and I hereby excommunicate him.
Additional random takes. Some other takes I missed yesterday. ESPN's Adam Rittenberg:
Michigan will be hit with some penalties, and "major violations" are possible. But these allegations don't seem to be overly extreme, despite some harsh language in the report. Michigan could be hit with probation or scholarship losses, and it will need to be more careful on these issues going forward. I'll repeat what I've said all along: Rich Rodriguez's fate ultimately comes down to whether or not he wins games, not what the NCAA decides in August.
The Detroit News's John Niyo:
In the end, I'd guess a quality-control staffer probably will lose his job, and changes surely are in store for the compliance department. Beyond that, maybe not much more than institutional embarrassment, which is no small price to pay at Michigan.
But the real change better start with Rodriguez, who has to know the new athletic director, while offering his support privately and publicly, also is reserving final judgment.
The difference between the two papers is kind of amazing, isn't it?
Recent interviewee Compliance Guy also has a post at his home base. It's measured:
Many of Michigan’s violations involve slippery territory. Hire enough noncoaching staff members, give them enough coaching-like responsibilities, and leave them with student-athletes and these violations are bound to happen. It might sound incredulous that the coaches didn’t consider stretching and warm-up to be CARA, but other preventive measures like training room activities are not included. …
Michigan is likely not facing the same level of sanctions as USC. In addition to the absence of a lack of institutional control allegation, Michigan’s excess CARA was not the “two to three times” or “nine hour days” that the players originally alleged.
I would expect a hodgepodge of significant but not devastating penalties including reduced CARA limits (either through a shorter season or reduced hourly limits), reductions in coaching staff members, recruiting restrictions, and reductions in financial aid. That Michigan is a repeat violator might only mean a longer probation of three to four years rather than the minimum of two.
"Reductions in financial aid" means scholarship losses, but more on that in a bit.
Section With Nothing To Do With You-Know-What
So I've got all these tabs that have just… lingered since about Monday night when minor amounts of hell broke loose. Here they are.
Eeee Brandon? Dave Brandon gets a fairly massive profile in USA Today, complete with video. Random quote pulled out:
"This feels to me like just such an appropriate next step. It's leadership, but a different kind of leadership," said Brandon, 57, discussing the impending move during an interview at Domino's headquarters, a few miles from the university's main campus. "This has provided me with an opportunity to connect with a place that has been incredibly important to my life."
Seems to me that this type of progressive thought would suit a fan base like Duke’s — intelligent fans with a successful program — really well. Are you aware of any fan bases that are particularly attuned to it?
Well, it’s more anecdotal, and it’s drawing a distinction between bloggers and actual fans who I hear from. But obviously, I hear a lot from Duke and North Carolina, both because those are great combinations of A. successful programs and B. smart fan bases. I definitely hear a lot from that region of North Carolina. I think the key might be smart and impassioned fan bases, even more than successful programs, because I would also point to a community like Michigan, which has had next to nothing in the way of recent success. I hear a lot from Michigan fans — however improbably, they definitely are hip to this stuff.
Excellent work, Michigan internets. Say anything you want about us, but by God we know when to divide.
Justin Turner doom mitigation. AnnArbor.com article on Justin Turner got lost in the shuffle. In it are some reasons Turner didn't play last year that mitgate your (read: my) panic that he might not live up to his massive recruiting reputation, which would be a disaster:
“He wasn’t here in the summer lifting and going to class and doing all those things, so it’s really a few months,” Gibson said.
Once Turner got settled, he showed why he was such a well-regarded recruit.
Gibson said Turner split time between the scout team and regular defense by midseason, and coaches salivated at the thought of getting him in the rotation.
“If we’d have got him in earlier last year with the NCAA stuff, I think he’d have played a little bit,” Gibson said. “He’s a good-looking kid. There’s a lot of guys I’m anxious to see back there, but he’s one that sticks out.”
If Turner and Devin Gardner are on the field at the same time during the spring game, I'm watching Turner. That's how important he is for the program. The article mentions a possibility that Turner could end up at safety if that's the thing that seems to make the most sense, FWIW.
There is also praise for JT Floyd, but I tend to file that under the Johnny Sears rule: you talk up whoever you've got in the vague hope confidence can carry them despite your lyin' eyes.
Walkin' on. Good article in the Grand Rapids Press on walk-ons, though it misidentifies what a grayshirt is*. It highlights a physically imposing offensive tackle from Forest Hills Central who joins Baquer Sayed as Michigan preferred walk-ons who picked M over MAC offers. Meet Kristian Mateus:
It’s not the same because of the scholarship, but everybody is treated as the same player at Michigan,” said the 6-foot-8, 285-pound offensive lineman. “I feel good about that.”It’s not the same because of the scholarship, but everybody is treated as the same player at Michigan,” said the 6-foot-8, 285-pound offensive lineman. “I feel good about that.”
“Coach (Rich) Rodriguez was a walk-on himself, so he has made a commitment to make a walk-on feel as comfortable as possible,” Mateus said. “I was recruited by Michigan, took a visit there, went to camp there last summer, and it’s the place I want to be.”
Mateus had a Central Michigan offer and interest from Western Michigan and… Notre Dame? Probably not that latter but in any case sometimes you get weird breakout offensive linemen and having a MAC prospect walk-on is a non-trivial chance at a contributor.
*(Article erroneously states that a grayshirt is an early enrollee a la Devin Gardner, Ricardo Miller, and company. Those folk are usually termed early enrollees. Grayshirts are the opposite: instead of accelerating and skipping their last semester of high school, a grayshirt (usually) signs a LOI and then waits an extra semester to join the team. Sometimes they enroll, sometimes they don't. They're not on scholarship if they do.)
Etc.: I plan on front-paging these when all hell is not breaking loose, but here's FA's recap of baseball's first weekend. There is a research-heavy argument about recruiting rankings going on in the diaries. Do they matter? Not really, definitely at Michigan, only when five stars are around.
So, yeah, the 3-3-5 stack was sort of a spectacular failure. Not so much against the run, as Michigan did a decent job against Korey Sheets, but against the pass. Michigan allowed 266 yards—7.8 YPA—to a third string quarterback on a 2-6 team. That is epic failure.
Why did this happen? Well, IMO, the stack had a a major part in it. Here's a typical presnap alignment:
The thing to note is the one deep safety. This is Donovan Warren. With one deep safety the corners are basically on an island; they won't get much deep help from Warren on a sideline route. Fades and fly routes are going to be left up to the corner to defend.
Michigan, then, often sees itself play a cover-three susceptible to little hitches and out-cuts. Here's a closeup of Morgan Trent on one of many, many ten-yard outs that Purdue will find wide open all day:
We've just started the route. Greg Orton is going to run directly at Trent.
Trent is turning his hips inside and looking at the quarterback.
Here we see Orton reaching Trent, with Trent turned completely away from him, not even looking at him.
Orton begins his break with Trent facing 180 degrees the wrong way.
Orton now has two yards of separation and Trent is still facing the wrong way.
The perspective on this makes it difficult to tell, but this is wide open for ten yards.
Here's the video:
Michigan's corners have been coached to do this. Trent would do it all day, and Boubacar Cissoko did it on the long Orton completion down the sideline. This coverage style covers that extremely well and the only thing that made that a completion was a perfectly thrown ball, some bad luck on Cissoko's part not to knock it down, and a great catch by Orton.
However, every wide open hitch or out was because of it, too. It's completely impossible to flip your hips around 180 degrees that quickly, impossible to do anything but tackle after a first down. So Michigan provided this n00b quarterback with the easiest reads in the history of reads most of the day, and ended up paying for it.