"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."
"There's a certain level of confidence and composure he brings to the court," said sophomore forward Aubrey Dawkins, who played the bulk of his minutes as a freshman while LeVert sat on the end of the bench in a sweat suit. "When you know you have a player like that on your team of that caliber, it's just like, we're in his hands and he can do a lot of things for this team. It's a comfort. It's nice."
"I just really wanted to see him in a game and I loved what I saw," Beilein said. "He was active. He's got a motor. He's got some things he's got to work on. He doesn't have the strength to (play) the way he'd like to in the Big Ten yet, but that's what we're going to work on in-between (games) without inhibiting his ability to play the next game."
Rich Rodriguez met with the press prior to practice today, discussing preparations for the Gator Bowl. I'll update with video when it's ready to go. For the record, I saw two recruits of note at the practice - 2011 MI CB Raymon Taylor and 2012 MI LB Hunter Matt. Justice Hayes tweeted that he would be there, but he must have arrived after I left for the basketball game.
The guys who are out for the whole season (Martavious Odoms, Mike Jones, et al) aren't going to play in the bowl game. Some of them are practicing with limited contact though. Devin Gardner will seek a medical redshirt, and that process will begin immediately following the bowl game. Tae Odoms got injured too late in the year to apply for a medical redshirt.
Darryl Stonum, Junior Hemingway, and Denard Robinson should all be fully healthy. Je'Ron Stokes is close, though he didn't practice with full contact today. Vincent Smith, Michael Shaw, Stephen Hopkins, and (are you sitting down?) Fitzgerald Toussaint[Ed-M: Now pitching for Detroit, Joel Zumaya...] are all healthy.
The kicking game is still being worked out. The competition is between Brendan Gibbons, Seth Broekhuizen, and Kris Pauloski. It's hard to evaluate them, because "they kick like champions in here." Indoors, they haven't had any trouble. Hopefully, they'll practice outside once in Ann Arbor before traveling to Jacksonville.
Grades won't be posted until about Christmas. The staff doesn't know yet if any players will miss the bowl game due to academic issues, but they don't anticipate that anyone will have trouble. "I think guys are working hard at it. I expect a really good semester academically."
The team has been mostly having a spring practice-type practice schedule. They've focused a little bit on Mississippi State, but they'll mostly worry about that once they get to Florida. With the game on a Saturday, they should have a normal game week schedule in Jacksonville.
Today was a physical practice with full tackling. The guys need to get a chance to have some physical play in the long layoff.
The team has practice the morning of the 22nd, then players go home for Christmas. On the 26th, the team will fly charter down to Jacksonville. Some players will join the team down there instead of coming back to Ann Arbor first. There's a practice the afternoon of the 26th.
Rich's staff evaluations will come after the bowl game. He is always evaluating coordinators and position coaches, offering suggestions, etc.
The Will Campbell/Quinton Washington swap will stick as a permanent change.
Coach Rod had a few chances to watch Mississippi State during the season. "Watching how aggressive their defense is, they bring a lot of different pressures, they're very aggressive, blitzing-wise, very athletic defensively. Offensively, they're similar to us in some respects. They'll probably run in between the tackles more because they've got a bigger quarterback."
The Bulldogs played well much of the year, and impressed in their wins, but also some of their losses. "They probably did the best job of anybody all year against Cam Newton and Auburn. I think by far they did the best job defensively against him."
Everybody's spread is a little bit different, but it's possible to learn what Mississippi State might do against Denard by seeing what they did against Cam Newton. There's been a lot of time for the team to prepare some new things, however.
Jeremy Gallon is simulating Chris Relf in practice. "He's a good runner; they have a good runner at quarterback."
After practice ended today, the assistant coaches hit the road recruiting. The contact period ends after the weekend, and the staff has done a good job balancing bowl preparation with recruiting. There should be 19-20 recruits in the class. It's "a little bit of a fluid situation," but Rich expects 2-4 recruits to enroll early.
The staff combats negative recruiting about their job status by focusing on their relationships with the recruits. "They feel comfortable with our coaches and what we're telling them, and obviously the school."
"You don't know until the first Wednesday in February exactly what your class is gonna entail, and you probably don't really know for another year or two how that class is gonna turn out." There's too much focus in the media on recruiting classes before we know how good the players will be in college."
Denard's "legs seem fresher." He also had a lingering shoulder problem later in the year, and "I think his arm feels a lot better as well."
Since many of Michigan's players haven't played in a bowl game before, the upperclassmen have the responsibility of making sure the young guys understand how to handle a bowl game, and how to prepare for one. "We've talked about - quite a bit, I'll remind them at the beginning of every day - about keeping the main thing, which is going down there to win the game."
Michigan's players from Florida are excited that their families will be able to come see them play (though most have been to a game in the Big House). Everybody gets six tickets so a lot of those guys are trying to get the extras that their teammates won't use.
Sometimes it feels like Rich has been coaching at Michigan for a long time, and sometimes it feels like time has just flown by. He can see the progress in individual players and the program on the whole. Guys like Kevin Koger, Patrick Omameh, Steve Schilling, and David Molk are extensions of the coaching staff.
Practice was open to the media today because Rich wanted the opportunity to give some access before going down to Jacksonville. "I wanted to see if y'all had any questions - especially in a positive manner."
Several young guys who are redshirting have caught Rich's eye during practices. Josh Furman "a big safety/outside linebacker... He looks like he's going to be a real good player." Defensive line standouts: "Richard Ash and some of those guys look like they're going to be good in the future as well."
Rich had been mostly unaware of the "controversy" surrounding the Big Ten division names. "I guess I should know which one is ours." He likes using the past greats to name the conference awards.
With all the attention on recruiting and negative press swirling around the D (both of which are deserved) I almost forgot about the guys redshirting. It would be more then helpful to the D if these guys could contribute quality minutes next year with the loss of Mouton.