I am sure you have seen the artile, U-M’s Rodriguez wants more walk-ons... although he probably doesn't want them starting at QB again.
So, what makes a great walk-on program? Is it finding All-Conference or All-American talent? Or maybe filling needs on the roster with great “character guys” - “projects” - “late bloomers”?
The most famous walk-on is probably Daniel “RUDY” Ruettiger and his sack against Georgia Tech in 1975. So what can a new or “preferred” walk-on program mean for Michigan? <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
It seems coach Rodriguez, who was a walk-on himself at West Virginia, hopes to find a handful of players that can contribute in the future and possibly on this year’s team:
"They're going to create some competition at practice, and I would suspect in the new walk-on group, there will be three to four of them who will earn scholarships. There will be one or two who may play as soon as this year, and I'm really excited about that."
But, where do walk-ons come from?
The term usually refers to an athlete who becomes part of a team without being recruited beforehand or awarded a scholarship. Until 1977, schools were allowed to offer as many scholarships as they desired, a rule that resulted in the stockpiling of top players by major football programs. The NCAA has limited the number of scholarships since ’77: 95 from 1977-91, at 92 in 1992, 88 in 1993, and at 85 since 1994. Schools are also required by Title IX to provide an equal number of athletic scholarships to men and women; 85 football scholarships are thus, hard to even out…
Thus, teams look to walk-on players to fill out their rosters, participate as members of the scout team, and at some positions - prove their merit before being considered for a scholarship (punter, kicker, long-snapper, etc). Walk-ons also provide depth at positions that were not adequately addressed by scholarship recruits or where a team has seen losses due to injuries. However, for many players it is a chance to fulfill a dream – and it is unlikely that they will ever see meaningful playing time.
There is debate as to who benefits from scholarship limitations. Some claim that it has lead to greater parity within the system and allowed smaller programs to attract talent. While others argue that top programs get the best of both worlds: recruiting the best players and luring other talented players who are willing to enroll as preferred walk-ons.
At Michigan, a successful walk-on program should result in the attraction of players who were recruited by other programs, but would prefer to play at Michigan because of our tradition, academics, or maybe a connection they have to the Michigan family... Michigan enters this season with quite a few players in the walk-on program and hopefully some that might contribute down the line: Barker, Lindley, and several kickers. For the time being lets ignore the walk-ons that contributed to last year’s team…
Ideally a strong Michigan program can attract positions of need such as FB within our system and give our coaches a chance to find contributors in a unique way. Because of its small town makeup and tradition of 7v7 football, Nebraska has produced a lot of talent within its walk-on program over the years (Joel Makovicka, Jason Peter) – something that Barry Alvarez has attempted to recreate at Wisconsin:
The big exception to the rule was Jim Leonhard, a walk-on from tiny Tony, Wis. “He was a little safety that no one recruited,” Alvarez said. “By his second year, he was leading the Big Ten in punt returns and still wasn’t on scholarship. We got him on scholarship in a hurry after that.”
And where’s Jim Leonhard now? “In his fifth year in the NFL,” Alvarez said.
Many small town players prove to be great athletes with hard work ethic, but they receive no attention from coaches and recruiting services. Thus, the Nebraska’s program has been the benefactor of a great tradition of walk-on players – much of it is chronicled in a new documentary, Walk Ons: Husker Edge, that is available on the web this week.
Overall, I think an argument can be made already based on our recruiting in 2009-2010, that our coaches are scouting and targeting talent to fill unique needs within our defensive and offensive schemes (fullback/deathbacker/slot-ninja). Some of these players are going to be relative unknowns and others may only be lightly recruited by major programs. This combined with Michigan’s large fanbase, tradition, and strong academics – could be exactly what we need to establish a strong walk-on program.
Author's Note: Due to Demand - Info on Furrha...
-local talent from Ann Arbor Pioneer
-had ascholarship offer from GVSU, interest from some MAC schools
-decided to commit to UofM as a preferred walk-on
-info from Brian on Nader Furrha