this is still michigan
Todd Howard came to Michigan in 1998, following the national championship season. We both grew up in the same middle class suburb (Southfield) before moving to more affluent ones. But he was a highly recruited scholarship athlete who played cornerback for four years on the Michigan football team, while I was sort-of recruited journalism student who played guitar on a couch at the Michigan Daily.
Todd now coaches defensive backs in his post-Southfield hometown of Bolingbrook. We've developed a recent friendship over M football obsession, and some heated disagreements, plus wives pregnant at the same time. His perspective is one of a guy who came to Michigan and had it made clear upon arrival that no player is bigger than the program. His perspective is also one of a player who played in an era when "getting your bell rung" was common, "shaking off the cobwebs" was routine, and everybody "saw" a few more snaps than they actually played. But he's also a modern high school coach with responsibility for player safety, and a defensive back who believes inside routes should be punishable by death.
He agreed to let me share a thing he wrote on Facebook and some bits from our text message marathon last night.
From the texts:
- Supports Hoke, says he's a good coach and the right coach for Michigan.
- Players always play hurt.
- Doesn't know what's going on in the administration and can't affect it.
- Want people thinking long-term: Michigan will be great again. Supports people speaking out, but turning away disgusts him.
- Every effort should be made to show the players they're supported, including showing up to games and cheering for them and not distracting the coaches further.
The Facebook open letter to fans:
Dear Michigan "Fans"...I really couldn't have said it any better myself. You took success for granted. 8 win seasons became the norm and you got comfortable. You never saw the hard work and late hours put in behind those brick walls of Shembechler. The lack of sleep, barely being able to drag yourself to class, minor addictions to pain killers, while fighting to remain academically eligible. PLAYING through injuries most of you couldn't make it up a flight of stairs with. The coaches preparation every week from sun up to sun UP, sacrificing valuable time with their own families so the BEST team possible could take the field on Saturday.
Now your "favorite" team is going through some adversity and look at you! Look at how you respond. Are you a Michigan FAN because it's convenient? Sure, every one loves a winner...if that's the case take your allegiance down I-96.
It's so easy for you to call for Hoke's job. You've never met him, never had a beer with him, never seen him COACH! Only interviews and cutaways on Saturday. If you think you want to win, multiple that by 100 and MAYBE you'll attain the same passion he has for football and an equivalent compassion for his players.
My brothers and myself are Michigan MEN, not FANS! So to read some of your comments and rants is a little disheartening. Is this how you would've ridiculed us had we not been as successful? Would you not inbox us autograph requests?
When you're team is up, cheer! When you're team is down, cheer LOUDER! When your team wins, congratulate them. When your team loses, sympathize and have pride in the fact they gave everything they could. That's a TRUE fan...but instead you're spoiled. It's a privilege to cheer for Michigan. It's a privilege to sit in the Big House...not an obligation. "The Expectation is for the POSITION!" Back to yours!!!
/adjusts Michigan hat
...as you were. HAIL!
[My rebuttal, after the jump.]
Now seven practices in, the kids are "learning more with each practice." They're bringing energy to practice, but need to sustain that throughout to show they can compete late in games and in the season.
The team is healthy, and there's lots of competition
Two-a-days start tomorrow. The adversity of two-a-days can "teach you about who the leaders will be on the team."
On padded practice: "guys are willing, wanting." Need to see consistency between the morning and afternoon practices. Will be in full pads for 3 days of two-a-days this week. Guys are anxious to establish themselves. Want to prove to coaches and teammates how they've progressed since spring.
On kicker Matt Wile: "Obviously he's a San Diego guy. His dad was one of our orthopaedics at San Diego State." Lance Ortega was his kicking coach, the staff knew him. Matt is a 5th generation Michigan grad.
"He's doing well. I think this is a big stage. That mental part of going out there, until you get on Main Street and have 110,000, you've gotta see where the guy's at." He can do a good job coaching himself with fundamentals, etc. Doing punting, KOs, and FGs right now. "I'd be very comfortable" having a true freshman handle those duties.
On running backs: The young guys missed some time finishing up summer school. Rawls is talented, has done a good job. Backfield is unsettled. Need to show consistency from practice to practice. "We'd like to have one guy who could tote it 25 times." Maybe a couple situational guys, 7-10 carries for a secondary back.
"Our base run play will be the power play, and that's no secret." Denard's talents, and opposing defenses wil adjust what they do. 10-15 snaps running for Denard. "The objective is to win, and we've gotta do what it takes to help Michigan and this team win." He's fitting into the offensive system. "We're fortunate enough that he has some other things that he brings to the table."
Denard is a great kid. "Leadership qualities really start to stick out more and more [for upperclassmen]. That's what I've liked that he's done in camp."
On rooming, Koger: "Seniors are rooming with freshmen. Part of that is to get to know them. Set the example, set the expectation." Koger extensively praised for his demeanor and selflessness, the sacrifice he'll give for this team. "He's a tremendous guy. I'm talking about things not on the football field."
The offense question again: "You've got a system that you wanna run, but you're not going to be putting a square peg into a round hole either." Al Borges has a coaching pedigree that proves he can adapt to different personnel. He'll get playmakers the ball. "At the end of the day, we've still gotta block up front, and knock people off the football."
On Mattison: great coach, great integrity. Builds great relationships with players. "He's coached a lot of football, coached a lot of guys. He brings so much from a knowledge standpoint."
On captains: "They won't get picked for 2 more weeks. The team will vote."
On countdown clocks: "Those are important football games. Those are big rivalries."
On the defense and standouts: "I don't think we've played to the standard that's going to be acceptable, to this point. We need to be more physical at the point of attack."
"Tom Gordon has had a good summer. Kovacs has really taken ownership." Kovacs is one of the guys who shows urgency in getting to the football. Kenny Demens also mentioned as a standout. Nathan Brink shows toughness as a DT/DE. JB Fitzgerald: "you talk about another guy who stands out as far as his leadership goes, and selflessness."
On the two-deep: They'll start penciling that in by the end of the week. "We're gonna scimmage pretty good in six days on Saturday. We'll put them in a lot of situations and see how they respond."
On Woolfolk: Troy Woolfolk has progressed well. Has taken some senior ownership of the team. Had a minor hamstring injury yesterday, there's enough competition at that position that they could afford to rest him and be cautious. JT Floyd and Courtney Avery competing at CB. "We don't have the greatest competition everywhere. I wish we did, because that makes us better."
On McColgan: a tough guy. "When you look at it, he's one of the true fullback bodies that you have." TEs will get a chance to play H-back as well.
On this still being Michigan [tremendous van river]: "I think I've made this comment before: This is Michigan. There won't be any excuses. If we don't win the Big Ten Championship, we've failed these kids, as coaches."
On the offensive line: Elliott Mealer: "He's competing." The rest of the guys: "Our left side of our line with Taylor back, and I think Ricky Barnum's done a nice job. Molk's back." Omameh at right guard. "Patrick and Elliott and Mike Schofield and Huyge - I think that's great competition."
On the backfield again: "I think there's some guys back there who can do it. All of them have shown signs of being able to run the ball like we'd like."