"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."
troy woolfolk standup comedian
First up from my interviews with Michigan's three player representatives at Big Ten Media Days: Troy Woolfolk.
On The Question Everyone Asks First
- Denard has been out for all the voluntary activities, regardless of whether he's hurting. Tate tries to come out, but he's not as consistent with his work ethic, which has let Denard get out ahead a bit. The upshot: "I think that Tate's gonna have to do a lot of work to catch back up to Denard in camp this year."
- Troy doesn't care which position he plays, as long as he gets to stick with one or the other. Switching back and forth between safety and corner helped Troy have a more complete understanding of the defense last year, but it hurt him to not be able to concentrate on one position or the other the whole time. Now that he's exclusively a corner, he'll be able to focus on that specifically.
- At corner, there's more of a focus on speed, whereas at safety it's also about being big enough to take on running backs and tight ends.
- There are no individual goals in terms of statistics, but Troy's personal goals are to not get beat deep and not miss any open-field tackles.
- Growing up, Troy didn't really know how good a football player his dad had been. Butch didn't really talk about it much. Still, by the end of this year, Troy hopes it's "Troy Woolfolk's dad Butch" instead of "Butch Woolfolk's son Troy."
- Vance Bedford would be shocked to know that Troy is one of the most knowledgeable players on the defense. He used to give him a hard time about not paying enough attention in film, but that's changed. Troy's no longer falling asleep in film room, nor is he "texting on my phone to my friends about how I'm about to go to sleep watching film."
- The main difference in this year's defense is that it's simpler. That will be a help because a lot of young guys will be able to catch on more quickly. This year's schemes have more of a zone emphasis than man.
- It's a little difficult to switch defensive schemes so frequently. there's been a different scheme or coordinator every year Troy's been at Michigan. The players have to make an effort to forget some of the old stuff to absorb the new stuff.
- A lack of defensive depth and injuries helped undermine the defense last year, but there are no excuses for how they performed. Troy had knee and shoulder injuries last year that might have hurt.
- Stopping the ground attack will be important this year, and it's up to the big guys up front to help with that. There's enough size there to do it.
- Everyone's "All-in for Greg Robinson," so the team will band behind him and perform well on D.
- "The Team. All-in for The Team" is the rallying cry this year. The players have to play for each other, not worry about fans and other external pressures. There's also a "we can" attitude instead of a "we'll try" attitude. There are senior leaders at every position group except wide receiver. Roy Roundtree and Martavious Odoms have stepped up as the leaders there.
- This is probably the best leadership group since Troy's been on the team. They're the last group of Lloyd Carr-era players, so it means even more that they've all bought in to the new regime.
- There have been nice crowds for summer workouts. It's about the same as prior years, even though the coaching staff has been more explicit that they aren't mandatory with the NCAA stuff going on. The senior leaders have come up with some ideas to get guys to come out.
- Obi Ezeh have gotten bigger in the offseason, but they're probably faster than they were before they added the weight. They're able to run with receivers deep, too. They "look like supreme athletes out there." Troy has confidence that they'll be able to put it all together this year, and be two of the best linebackers in the nation.
- Last year, Jordan Kovacs was a surprise to everyone. He brings attitudes of calmness and confidence, which are important on defense. When Mike Williams went down in the Notre Dame game, Kovacs was a pleasant surprise.
- Courtney Avery is the only freshman corner Troy's seen. He learns fast though, and when he gets beat deep he's able to forget about it and move on to the next play.
- Cameron Gordon is confident, perhaps overconfident. He's also very physical, even though he's a former offensive player (Troy thinks they're all soft). He needs to learn a defensive mentality a bit more, but he's getting there.
- Marvin Robinson has a natural gift at safety, and he's been playing the deep safety position.
- Terrance Robinson has been good in 7-on-7 drills. He was hurt his freshman year, then wasn't quite the same as before in his redshirt freshman year. This year, he should be back to the way he was.
- Troy was able to convince himself to prepare a bit more for rivalry games, such as ND, MSU, and OSU last year. Maybe he shouldn't focus more on them (and focus the same for the other games as well), but it helps him perform well.
- The Michigan State game is a cool rivalry because it's like a state championship game.
[Ed.: Don't forget Woolfolk's burgeoning career as a stand-up comedian. Via the message board and Joe Schad:
"When I see 'O' shaped objects I get instantly angry. I don't eat Cheerios, Froot Loops or Apple Jacks."
A Thing About Denard And Tate
The new official picture of "Denard Robinson is made of dilithium." Via MVictors.
Yet more on the quarterback situation because that's all anyone is talking about: it seems to me like the correct stance to take in the aftermath of Denard going 9/11 for 191 yards and three touchdowns in the air is to declare Game On. But only that.
I've seen a ton about how Denard is just a better fit for Michigan's offense and Rodriguez has wanted Pat White 2.0 since he got here and Tate is doomed because of the zone read and basically disintegrated over the course of the season and is probably going to transfer as he is destined to by his genetic heritage. I've also seen a lot of people saying "now wait just a minute" to the Forcier doomsayers, and I'm with them:
- Forcier had a midseason lull but two of his best games of the season came against Purdue and Wisconsin. Against UW he was 20 for 26; against Purdue he was a lot closer to 50% but suffered a ton of drops. His trajectory is not straight down. He even looked good against Ohio State when not offering up one of his hair-pulling, soul-destroying turnovers.
- Forcier's main problem on the zone read was making good decisions or fakes. These were made more difficult by the defense focusing on the run game because Forcier's ability to make decisions in the pocket was limited. He pulled the ball way too much, didn't let the fake "ride" a la Juice Williams, and faced down a defensive end as a result. He then juked this guy 80% of the time and picked up positive yardage. If the defense is sufficiently focused on the tailback and Forcier develops his fakes as much as Denard develops his passing, he can be an effective zone read alternative.
- Last year's offensive line was very shaky on the right side, which led to a lot of justified scrambles.
Tate is not out of it by any means, and since the two quarterbacks are so different it looks like the backup will get a large number of snaps anyway.
What the spring game (and spring in general) did was stand the horse race on its nose. Robinson looked better on Saturday. He looked better in the clinic scrimmage, when he was live and splitting first team reps with Forcier. He looked better over the entirety of spring, which is the reason he was afforded the easy matchup Saturday. One 97-yard touchdown to Roy Roundtree might not mean much, but 15 practices does.
The ones-vs-twos is a big deal, but maybe not as big a deal as the few remaining Denard skeptics—still clinging tight to that Betamax stock—have made it. Last year Robinson was having a Man vs Himself battle. Seeing him develop to the point where you need to see a Man vs Man conflict is immense. Hopefully by this time next year we're sending him off to fight Icelandic volcanoes.
Running Backs Are Indeterminate
Another source of persistent unexpressed disagreement in the last couple days: a steady pessimism about Michigan's tailback situation. I haven't seen anyone say "hey how about that run defense"; the assumption is a lack of big runs from the tailbacks means Michigan is going to be putting out some crappy tailbacks next year. I don't think that's necessarily true. Vincent Smith had a tantalizing cameo last year, and he did nothing of note in the spring game. A few carries here or there isn't a whole lot to draw conclusions about, and even so there were a couple of nice runs from Cox.
Michigan isn't going to have the best back in the conference or anything but they've got enough of a stable to have a good running game. And what would a discussion of the tailbacks be without Fred Jackson proclaiming something the best ever?
“I think I’ve got the best blocking tandem, I didn’t say running back tandem, but best blocking tandem I’ve had,” Jackson said. “I’ve got three or four guys that based on the pictures and movies, how you want to see it done. It’s more than I’ve ever had at one time.”
Never change, Fred.
Hell I if know. I'm planning something resembling a UFR and will be able to tell you more after that, but probably not that much with Martin and Woolfolk out and the first-teamers going up against second-string offensive lineman and not blitzing and etc. etc. etc. It's clear this isn't going to be a vintage unit. Latest hint from Woolfolk:
"We're mostly just focusing on zones, which is easier than playing man," said Woolfolk. "But I would like to go back to doing more man coverage and stuff. It's easier, but pertaining to the players we have on defense, that probably makes it easier for us to play. Keeping it simple allows us to play more instead of thinking too much and slowing down. It allows us to react and get to the ball faster."
My hope for the defense is something relatively stout against the run and functional enough in the secondary to force opponents into long drives if they want to score. Average would be fine.
Video Of All Varieties
Highlights and errata:
Here's an ebullient Denard Robinson in the locker room:
"Ebullient" as defined by answers.com: "zestfully enthusiastic." There's plenty more in a diary from Boyz in the Pahokee. TYT has posted an SD torrent; MGoVideo is planning an HD one tomorrow. There is also a browser-crippling version of the latest Inside Michigan Football.
A zillion photographs
If you want more photographs than are crammed into this post, boy howdy are you in luck. AnnArbor.com has a flickr set, as does the Daily. MVictors and Maize and Blue Nation also file photoposts. MnBN found the letters from the top of the press box:
They're outside sections 2 and 44. It's too bad they couldn't find someplace a little more prominent, but at least they're still around. Also… isn't the S the wrong way?
Quarterback Stuff From Teammates
"He’s really been working on his technique," Roundtree said. "All the quarterbacks have, but Denard has really been working on his technique, his touch on the ball instead of throwing it so hard. And this year it shows so far what he did."
More Roundtreee on Robinson:
Roundtree said Saturday actually was Robinson's "second-best" practice of the spring.
"Last scrimmage (a week ago), he did really well," Roundtree said.
Thus both clinic observers giving the starting QB nod to Denard after that scrimmage. Of note: that was not a strictly ones-vs-twos setup like the spring game. In that scrimmage both Tate and Denard got extensive reps with the first team against various first and second team defenses, and Roundtree thought he did better than he did on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Van Bergen's full LAZERZ quote:
"I think Denard has probably made the most progression. I think he's developed a whole new aspect of his game as far as making great reads and making great throws.
"His throws are on lasers now. He's not throwing balls up for grabs. He's putting them right on receivers, and I think the fact he can scramble while looking downfield is really something that's helped him because last year when he pulled it down, he was going to run. But this year, he's got his eyes downfield, and they're making even bigger plays. He's dangerous. I think he's probably made the most progression, but I think they've all done really good things."
In the future, Denard Robinson will still be made of dilithium; his arm will be made of lasers.
There were plenty of folks who sat out Saturday with injuries of some varieties, including five or six possible starters. The good news is that only walk-on DE Will Heininger will see his injury last into the season. There had been some uncertainty about Vincent Smith but the latest on him is that he should be "fully recovered by preseason camp." If that holds up he's probably your opening-day starter barring a summer renaissance from the rest of the depth chart.
The rest of the injuries range from minor dings to stuff that happened a long time ago horrific bone breaks that just provide an opportunity to work on your standup. Troy Woolfolk's comedic alter-ego:
"I’m going to introduce you all to something," Woolfolk said. "Y’all know me, myself, Troy, but I have a split personality named T-Wolf. When I’m on the field, T-Wolf comes out. T-Wolf doesn’t know how to cry, that’s only a trait that Troy does. Right now, this is Troy. T-Wolf, he’s crazy and I can’t bring him out all the time, I only let him come out on the field. T-Wolf doesn’t have that ability to cry, so that would never happen."
Knock on wood and all that but sounds like everyone should be ready to go for summer conditioning. The most damaged Wolverine may actually be RB coach Fred Jackson, who got stepped on by Kevin Koger. Maybe:
"Supposedly, I'm the one who broke his foot - supposedly, though," Koger said. "It was a 86 on film, but there's no name on the back (of the jersey). So it could have been any 86."
Purdue's spring game saw the Boiler debut of Miami transfer and presumptive starting quarterback Robert Marve. Marve was meh:
Robert Marve talked about "putting on a show" for the fans. Quite simply, he didn't...But how could he with this format? He threw a couple of good balls (for instance, a long pump and go to Cortez Smith for the longest TD of the game), showed the burst of speed that Hope had bragged about...but never got into rhythm for multiple reasons...and just plain missed on quite a few throws. But, he does have an arm.
Iowa's spring game was a Carr special: sparsely attended and no different than a usual practice. Ohio State offensive line is in flux and Pryor didn't have a great day statistically but Buckeye Football Analysis is pretty sanguine about things.
A poster attempted to ferret out what's going on with UConn but didn't come up with much outside of the usual "is this good or bad" stuff.
As always: exploit your kid for youtube fame and I post.