this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
troy woolfolk dumps on forcier fiasco
It's a plot device so well-worn it's hackneyed in even real life: kid on team mouths off publicly about something or another. The coach threatens castration privately; publicly he downplays the loose lips and denies the veracity of whatever claim has got the media atwitter. Hugs are shared, unity declared, and the incident forgotten.
So when Troy Woolfolk sort of called Tate Forcier a leper, but not really, to the point where he had to issue a twitter retraction, Rodriguez immediately leapt to his quarterback's defense:
"I'm glad our seniors are taking some ownership and leadership in this team. They want everyone to work as hard as they have."
And by "leapt to his quarterback's defense" I mean "obliquely agreed with Woolfolk." That's the blockquote equivalent of scratching a record, especially since he followed that up with "Tate has a lot of work to do to prove himself, and not just on the field but off the field" and deviated from his years-long obsession with finding "two guys you can win with" at quarterback, instead suggesting that if someone separates himself from the rest of the competition he will be The Guy. So much for this blog's Tate/Denard QB Voltron fever dreams, I guess.
Having one half of your hopes for a competent non-freshman quarterback damaged by that guy's seeming disinterest is bad. Worse: Rodriguez was moved to publicly declare a "handful" of players "not ready to play Division 1 football" after the first day of practice. The identities of the folk in this handful are largely unknown—please no corners please no corners—but today's premium internet chatter fingers Justin Turner—GODDAMMIT—as the most prominent member of the group. [Update: Greg Robinson on Turner: "I don't know what's going on there."] The trepidation that's built up the last year as Turner first failed to crack the worst Michigan secondary ever and then failed to beat out a guy who lost his spot in the worst Michigan secondary ever has now broken through the last frayed tendrils of hope born of his recruiting rankings; he's now solidly en route to epic bust status. "Dann O'Neill or Shawn Crable?" is a much less pleasant question to answer than "Charles Woodson or just Marlin Jackson?"
With Turner apparently 0/2 when it comes to showing up to camp with the ability to outrun Rod Smith, Michigan's corner depth chart now looks like this:
- Troy Woolfolk and JT Floyd
If you're looking for damage mitigation, cornerback is a spot at which a freshman can hypothetically cope, but after so much hammering to one position group something's got to give touchdowns in bunches.
And since today's Turner PANIC is late-breaking, it doesn't even figure in Doctor Saturday's fair and totally depressing evaluation of the state of Michigan's defense:
Tim posted the relevant quote from Troy Woolfolk about Denard's perceived lead in the QB race, and I thought that was bombshell enough, but then the Daily published the whole exchange. Since Woolfolk comes very close to calling Tate Forcier a leper in it, it set off the usual avalanche. In case anyone's living under Charlie Weis*, the full monty:
"Denard has been out there through the thick and thin and been out there all the time regardless if he's hurting," Woolfolk said. "And Tate, he tries to come out, but he's not as consistent as Denard is. And that's allowed Denard to jump a little bit ahead of Tate and I think that Tate's going to have to do a lot of work to catch back up to Denard in camp this year." …
"I personally have a lack of respect for them [players who don't show for voluntary workouts]," Woolfolk said. "The outlook on them is kind of diseased. Like you don't want to be hanging around those people because they have bad work ethic. But at the same time, it's my role to try to persuade them to come out more."
According to Woolfolk, Forcier hasn't shown up to as many workouts as he and the other seniors feel he should have, and Woolfolk said it's hurting his teammates' perception of their signal caller.
"The only reason he's not really labeled as diseased is because of the way he was able to carry the team last year before we started losing. People still trust him a little bit, but he's starting to lose that trust."
Though he quickly retracted the phrasing of those comments on his (protected) twitter account, the sentiment is clear. It matches up with the buzz we've heard since spring practice, except that the original statement had Devin Gardner as the guy who was around all the time, not Denard.
These days my sense of how important things are to the national media is warped to the point where I my first inkling that a local story is going to get splattered across blogs and whatnot nationwide is when Doctor Saturday pings me to get the peanut gallery's view on whatever Michigan item he's about to post. When this happened yesterday, he said a "senior calling out the QB is not such a great way to start the year."
I had not thought about it this way. It hadn't registered as an event to me. Four years ago I might have engaged full-on PANIC; yesterday as I searched for a response I just thought, and eventually said, "I've seen worse."
I've been through the dust bowl. Now I've got soup, and some bread, and a hat.
At the risk of seeing the entire offensive line arrested for stealing the Ambassador Bridge and both quarterbacks transfer to Arkansas, this summer has passed for tranquility compared to the last couple. From the beginning of the 2008 season to the beginning of 2009, Michigan saw Taylor Hill, Zion Babb, Jason Kates, Artis Chambers, Carson Butler, Avery Horn, Sam McGuffie, Steven Threet, Toney Clemons, Kurt Wermers, Dann O'Neill, Justin Feagin, Marrell Evans, and Vince Helmuth leave the program. Fourteen kids. From the beginning of 2009 to now they've lost Boubacar Cissoko, Brandon Smith, and Donovan Warren. Three. Michigan's Fulmer Cup count stands at zero. The worst thing that's happened this offseason is the sturm und drang about Demar Dorsey and his eventual rejection by admissions; Michigan also lost a couple of meh recruits who weren't going to do anything in this critical year.
I'd really like to have one of those corners back— make that two of those corners—but the chatter about Dorsey's legal stuff is emblematic of the summer: a lot of noise about something that doesn't really matter. Compared to the rampant attrition of the past couple years it doesn't rate. Media opinion is a lagging indicator anyway.
What I think it does mean:
- The heavily-rumored preference of the team for Denard is incontrovertible now. Steve Schilling may not have launched into anything as likely to get splashed on posts everywhere, but his statement on Robinson ("He’s definitely taken on some leadership. He’s there every day working hard. He’s been a guy that doesn’t complain. He makes you want to play for him, and he has those qualities to be a special leader and a special quarterback.") says as much or more coming from a guy on the same unit not known for saying much of anything.
- While a lot of the attention is on Tate, if Robinson is around every day earning people's trust that's more positive than it seemed in spring, when both sophomores were in the same boat when it came to work ethic relative to Gardner. Apparently one of them got the message.
- It's up to Tate to earn that trust back in fall practice, which starts in five days. While the competition has gone from obviously Tate to neck-and-neck to edge Denard, Tate still has a huge experience edge and is likely to see the field even if Robinson does win the nominal starting job. The two candidates are so different that it will make sense to play both as long as they remain close to even overall.
- Given the statements about playing banged up it's possible that Forcier's absences have legitimate reasons behind them. Those have not been communicated.
- I still expect both QBs to play early in the season.
- "Hugging it out" needs to occur; Woolfolk's tweet indicates that it should happen.
I don't think it will affect the team much; it does provide some hard evidence for the things that had been whispered all summer. The intrigue at fall camp will put the Cold War to shame.
*(Miss you, big guy. xoxo.)