Mason NEEDS this, Pistons, after all you've put him through
Rich Rodriguez met with the media tonight following the first day of fall camp. If you want the full audio, you can check out MVictors, but I've pulled out the important points below. The above photo comes courtesy of Bruce Madej. Your humbe blogger is just out of the frame to the left.
- Vincent Smith, David Molk, and Mike Martin were all in practice today. The only guy who was out for the spring that's still out is Will Heininger. Smith did not seem to be favoring his knee.
- A couple guys missed some team meetings today with summer school obligations. Those were mostly freshmen, but a couple upperclassmen as well. Michael Shaw was among those guys. There are a couple days next week before summer school is completely over.
- No word on who took the first snap at QB today, but "all three guys are competing." Denard and Tate have a bit of experience, but Devin is in great shape and wants to compete. In camp, they'll limit QB contact in order to avoid injury. If a quarterback separates himself from the pack, he'll be the starter. Tate is competitive, and will work for the job. Tate, Denard, and Devin all had good moments today.
- There's enough experience and talent at running back to win some games. Vincent Smith, Michael Cox, and Fitzgerald Toussaint were singled out. Stephen Hopkins should be able to fit the "big back" role that they're losing with the graduation of Brandon Minor. Kelvin Grady is playing both slot and running back. He's a full-time football player now.
- The offensive line is bigger and stronger up front. The idea that RR offenses only want little guys is inaccurate - as long as a player can move, bigger is better. Experience will help the OL be better - and it will allow them to install more of the offense much more quickly. There was only one bad snap from the centers today.
- The offensive and defensive lines look good (RR said Will Campbell looked "OK" before saying he didn't want to answer any more questions on individuals). There were no pads today, so it's too early to say how they'll be, but they look physical up front. The young offensive line is growing up, and this should be a deeper team up front.
- Young guys (even true freshmen) will have a chance to contribute at safety and corner. It will probably be tougher for D-linemen to contribute this season - but we'll know more once they're in pads.
- Within two weeks of practice, they should have a good idea of which freshmen will be able to contribute in the fall. The first full scrimmage in two weeks is a key to that: "The pads answer a few questions." This is a fast freshman class - including the guys up front. On top of that, they didn't make any big mistakes today - they're a bright group.
- "Will Hagerup will be what we thought." He's got a powerful leg and is a good athlete. He should be the starting punter.
Team and Schemes
- The team on the whole looks to be in pretty good shape. Some players are in very good shape, some are only in OK shape, and some are not physically ready for Division-1 football. "Goal and expectation" is to get everybody in very good shape. The expectations for freshmen aren't as high from a conditioning standpoint, but they were helped by making it in for summer school. Nobody that could be considered an "impact player" would ever show up to camp out of shape. The coaches ran a conditioning test at the end of practice, and there's just a handful of guys that are not ready.
- The team will practice in pads on Friday, and Sunday will be the first 2-a-day.
- This team has the ability to be faster than last year's team. The speed will be aided by players not having to think too much. The coaches might have tried to work on schemes a little too much today, causing the players to not play quite as fast.
- It's too early to compare the overall talent level of this team to the 2008 or 2009 teams. What this team does have is more guys who can contribute, particularly on defense.
- Practice is probably the best time to be a coach. It's good to be on the field teaching guys. The team is full of guys eager to learn.
- The continuity at defensive coordinator means everyone is already used to the scheme and personality. Guys being in the program for a few years also helps: They don't have to explain the process of practice to guys, and can worry about teaching football.
- They've been fortunate to be able to grant scholarships to some walkons each year Rodriguez has been here. They have a couple extra scholarships this year, but they don't like to announce which walkons receive scholarships because it makes the other guys feel unimportant. Earning the scholarship "is not the end of your goals, it's just the start."
- You know a program is improving when you are able to play poorly and win. Michigan obviously isn't there yet.
- When asked specifically about Woolfolk's comments on Tate: "I'm glad our seniors are taking some ownership and leadership in this team. They want everyone to work as hard as they have." When asked again, RR said it's good to see the seniors take ownership of this team (which sounds to me like a sign he doesn't think Woolfolk really did anything wrong). Everyone in the program ants to succeed, and they deserve a chance to enjoy their final season.
- Rodriguez can sense the senior leadership on this team. They've had player meetings, and come over to his house as a group, etc. They will be vocal leaders (moreso than last year), and they know they have something to prove.
- There will be two permanent captains for this team, and they've been announced: OL Stephen Schilling and LB Mark Moundros. On top of that, there will be two game captains for each contest "if they're worthy, which I think we'll have."
- When asked specifically about the West Virginia notice of allegations: "I'm talking about Michigan football."
- It's the head coach's job to handle outside distractions. As for the players, "they handle what's going on in Schembechler Hall." Players worry about getting their Michigan degree and winning football games. Michigan, the football program, and RR's family form a great support system that's helping Rodriguez handle the pressure of outside distractions.
- In regards to a certain report about a 2012 game against Alabama - "I believe those conversations are ongoing." When asked about what it might mean, Rodriguez remarked, "Ya'll tell me, do you think that would be fun?"
- Rodriguez would prefer that the players don't use Twitter and other social media, but if they like it, they can. It's the job of the football coaches and athletic staff to educate them, and remind them that they're not only representing themselves, but also the university.
- The phrase "winning cures all" is accurate, because it puts the attention onto the game, instead of other stuff. "Let's just limit the drama. Let's just keep the main thing the main thing."
- Rodriguez is strictly coaching this week. He'll worry about the NCAA hearing on the flight out there, and then it's back to coaching on Sunday.
- Rodriguez saw Brock Mealer walking today. When the team has their "beanie scrimmage" in the Big House, Brock will practice running through the tunnel.
- There's no real added sense of urgency to this season. Rodriguez has had a sense of urgency ever since he's been coaching - even as an assistant.
- When asked specifically about Ron English's comments from earlier this week, Rodriguez responded that they don't pigeonhole recruitable prospects on the basis of their economic status or family upbringing. Anyone you recruit must be committed on and off the field.
Notes from Rich Rodriguez at Big Ten Media Days, including a few items after he left the podium (and weren't on TV):
- He 's excited to be coaching football again (implied: instead of worrying about off-field stuff). The off-field adversity has helped the group band together. There's no way it can add any more pressure than what the coaches always feel internally.
- Nobody's happy how the past two years have gone. Fans are supportive, but asking when Michigan is going to win more. Players have taken their lumps in the past couple years, but now they're experienced, and they've taken their lumps.
- RR doesn't know much about what's been going on in the summer, but he had all 16 seniors over at his house recently, and they were saying good things about a few players here and there. They were more focused on their own goals for the season, and ready to get on the field. Nobody likes what's been happening on or off the field the past two seasons. The goal is always to win the Big Ten, and the Wolverines will be able to do that once they've earned it.
- Rodirguez leaves for Michigan's hearing in front of the NCAA August 13th. Michigan has adjusted their fall practice schedule so that RR won't miss any practices.
- The league can concern itself with divisions and alignment, Rodriguez doesn't know anything about it and is more concerned with planning how to get first downs against UConn. The more important thing is to play Ohio State every year, and he prefers that it would be on the last game of the regular season. The chance for a rematch the following week isn't as big a deal, because Michigan-Ohio State is always going to sell out, even if they played "three times a week."
- Tate and Denard have an open competition, as it was in the spring, and they're also being challenged by Devin Gardner. The staff is looking for two guys they can win with, and hopefully a third. It might take a couple games before a starter emerges from the pack - if someone becomes a sure #1 at all. Tate, like all the players, needs to be mature on and off the field, and all the quarterbacks need to do a better job taking care of the football. They were just freshmen last year, so they should be improved as sophomores. Tate is strictly a quarterback, but Denard could potentially move to other positions. He's only been at QB so far.
- At running back, Vincent Smith should be 100% by the start of fall camp. Michael Cox and Fitzgerald Toussaint are also going to play important roles at the running back position. Michael Shaw still has two more weeks of summer school left, so Rodriguez won't speculate on his eligibility for fall. [Ed: if that's his answer to a question about Shaw's eligibility, he's on a knife edge.]
- There's a common misconception out there that wide receivers don't play a big role in this offense. Darryl Stonum and Junior Hemingway are tasked with changing that, along with a few younger guys. Stonum will not face any additional discipline for violating his probation.
- The offensive line should be improved this year.
- At linebacker, Greg Robinson is the new coach. That's been his position for the majority of his career, so Rodriguez is excited to have him there. Mark Moundros moved to that position in the spring, and should be able to contribute - even if it's just with his leadership. Jonas Mouton, Craig Roh, Obi Ezeh, and Kevin Leach were also mentioned, along with Kenny Demens. Rodriguez expects 5-6 guys to compete at linebacker this fall.
- There are a couple productive guys from last year's secondary returning, but they did lose some pieces. Jordan Kovacs, Troy Woolfolk, and Mike Williams all have some experience, and JT Floyd had a great spring. Cameron Gordon hasn't played in a game yet, so they're hesitant to anoint him before he plays. He was one of the best players on the whole team this spring, however. True freshmen might have an opportunity to contribute at safety.
Other newsbits and general observations can be found on my Twitter account (@varsityblue), as well as a few notes from other coaches. I'll update this post with embedded video of Rodriguez's main presser once it's available from Big Ten Network.
UPDATE. Transcript of Rodriguez's time on the podium is available here, and the video is here
No practice report today, but Paul managed to come through with the audio from Coach Rodriguez's press conference.
- Vlad Emilien came back to practice recently, and he's full-go.
- Kevin Koger missed a couple practices last week, but he returned to practice today.
- Quinton Washington was able to scrimmage a little Saturday.
- JR Hemingway practiced with limited contact today, as did Je'Ron Stokes.
- Renaldo Sagesse has been out for a couple weeks. They've moved some other guys to interior DL to help account for him and Mike Martin both being out.
- David Molk is running, and taking part in some of the non-contact drills. He should be ready to go for summer workouts. He's ahead of schedule with his rehab.
Spring Game and More
- The Spring Game is a real scrimmage, and hopefully a nice crowd will turn out and make the young guys nervous to get it out of their systems. The previous scrimmages were at least as important to the players for learning, however.
- This time, guys are going to have to correct mistakes on their own instead of relying on the coaches to help them after each play.
- Some of the proven guys coming off injuries will be held out a bit on Saturday. They'll only play a few series. There will be a game-like environment for everyone who's healthy. There are too many injuries to play a full game, but they should be able to do it in the future.
More after the jump.
As expected, Michigan basketball guard Manny Harris has elected to forego his senior season with the Wolverines to declare himself eligible for the NBA Draft. Press release quotes from Manny Harris and coach John Beilein:
"After long discussions with the U-M staff and my family and friends, I have decided to pursue my dream of professional basketball and leave U-M early for the NBA," said Harris. "It is important for me to thank the University of Michigan, Coach Beilein and his staff, my teammates, my professors, as well as all those in the athletic department who have helped me over the last three years. My growth as a person and player wouldn't have been possible without them.
"I will always appreciate the college game and what it has done for me, but playing professional basketball has always been a goal and I feel it is the best time to pursue that. I will always be a Michigan Wolverine at heart and bleed Maize and Blue forever."
"Manny believes it is his time to move on to the NBA and we fully support him," said U-M coach John Beilein. "It was a tough decision for him and we are prepared to assist him in every way we can as he begins this new chapter in his life. Manny has assured us he plans on successfully finishing this semester, which would put him in a position to graduate from Michigan with just one more academic year."
"In three short years, Manny has compiled outstanding career numbers in points, rebounds, assists and steals -- milestones many very good players do not reach during a four-year career. I have many fond memories of Manny's time at Michigan. He has been clutch in so many big wins we certainly will miss him however we wish him nothing but the best in his professional basketball career and beyond."
That's mostly boilerplate, obviously. A few notes from the press conference, with bonus DeShawn Sims material as well:
- Regarding his draft stock: "I believe the work you put in is what you get out." He's not worried about his projections for the draft, and will simply work hard to achieve his dream of playing in the NBA. If that means he has to play in Europe or the D-League first, he's willing to do so.
- Harris plans to hire an agent, and will not be able to return to Michigan next season. He will keep working out with Michigan's coaches and strength staff to prepare for the NBA.
- Manny said it's very hard to leave Michigan, but at the end of the day you've got to make a decision. He consulted AAU coaches, old high school coaches, and family and friends.
- Manny stressed that his relationship with Coach Beilein is good (despite butting heads with him a few times this year), and he will always support the program and Michigan. Playing the 3 position at Michigan is "a great experience," and he would encourage any talented guard to come play at Michigan. Beilein's probably happy about that, as he said, "If there's a kid out there who will help us replace Manny, we'll recruit him."
- For all Manny did for this team, Beilein pointed out that it's his clutch free throw shooting that the team might miss the most.
- DeShawn Sims said that Manny feels like he's been around longer than his three years, because he's had to bear so much responsibility from the beginning.
- DeShawn will definitely attend the Portsmouth Invitational. He's working out in Ann Arbor with Michigan's coaches and Manny to prepare for the NBA.
- Sims said that next year's team will be improved because the players will understand the system, and chemistry will be improved. He noted that poor chemistry might have been the source of some of Michigan's troubles this season.
Coach Rodriguez briefly talked to the media at halftime of the basketball game against Iowa (Michigan leads 29-17 at the half). Relevant notes from coach:
- Michigan is looking to sign 26-28 recruits in the class of 2010.
- Rodriguez talked to a few coaches about Michigan's open linebackers coaching position at the coaches' meetings a couple weeks ago. They won't worry about hiring somebody until after Signing Day, but should have the new coach hired within a week of that date.
- All the players who have had offseason surgery (Mike Martin, Vincent Smith, et al) are progressing on pace with their rehab. They'll still be out for spring, but should be ready to play in the fall.
- As long as Kelvin Grady can manage his academics with playing basketball, Rodriguez has no problem with him re-joining John Beilein's squad. There shouldn't be too much interference between football spring practice and the basketball season, but if there is, the coaches will let him continue playing basketball.
- In spring practice, the slots and running backs are overlapping duties a bit, because many of the guys who play slot are used to the running back position from their high school days.
- The coaches are still trying to find guys who can help on defense. Cameron Gordon is one guy who is looking at a potential switch to the other side of the ball.
Rodriguez will have a formal press conference on Wednesday for the signing of the Class of 2010. More details on MGoBlog's Signing Day coverage coming later.
- 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.