I wouldn't be surprised to see Cox play. The vibes around him suggest that he didn't play because he had a Rodriguez Dog House issue. That could change with a new coach.
Spring Game Extrapolations: Offense
Nothing will ever bring home how bizarrely intense people get about spring football than Orson's annual in-depth review of Florida's spring game. It's the closest he gets to being a conventional team blogger, a straightforward piece of analysis long enough to be a Marky Mark Mangino post livened up by Orson's tendency to call things a "boiled bag of rat innards". Orson is writing about defensive tackles. It is April and college football is bored.
Michigan's got one of those this weekend and these are the things I'll be extrapolating answers from the tiniest filaments of evidence about:
Is Can Have Tailback
Michigan's tailback last year was Denard Robinson and when it wasn't Denard Robinson it was people being enraged that Vincent Smith wasn't really fast or falling down past the line of scrimmage. This year some variety of pro-style offense will be deployed; having a tailback becomes significantly less optional.
- Vincent Smith, the 5'6" Pahokeean who was the leading non-Robinson rusher last year with 601 yards. He took 136 carries to get those—4.4 per—and struggled badly against anything approximating a good defense.
- Michael Shaw. Carlos Brown 2.0 averaged a full yard per carry more than Smith mostly because he got hurt after the Bowling Green game.
- Michael Cox. The Loch Ness Monster is reputed to be a stallion of a man capable of great feats. Unfortunately he is 50-50 to run towards the correct endzone on any given play.
- Stephen Hopkins. Hopkins had some fumbling issues and only ended up with 37 carries last year but his size made him an effective lead blocker for Robinson and his rushes promised a Minor-like downhill moose down the road. We're a bit further down the road and Hopkins's new head coach loves him some moose.
- Fitzgerald Toussaint. Toussaint has been vaporware in his first two years. Maybe he can stay healthy for the next twenty seconds.
There is also The Greatest Player In The History Of The World According To Two Jacksons. Thomas Rawls enters with the sort of hype you can only get by being a generic late-rising three star coached by Fred Jackson's son and recruited by Fred Jackson. Since he didn't enroll early we won't get to test the Jacksons' theory that Thomas Rawls encompasses the power of the sun and gently warms the earth each morning.
Looking for: A somewhat lighter, faster Hopkins with a grasp of what he should do. He's probably going to be the best back on the roster and he's now in a system that loves/needs a guy like him.
Fearing: Vincent Smith looks pretty much the same and still has a lock on the top TB spot. It's plausible that Smith's injury lingered into last season—remember he tore that ACL during the OSU game, so he had well under a year to get ready—and that he'll display a lot more speed and agility two years removed from it. If that's the case then maybe he can be a decent Big Ten starter. If he's still the same guy he was last year and he's still at the top of the depth chart and he's getting a lot of carries from the I when Denard could be doing something, guh.
Will only believe three games into the season: Cox as Herschel Walker. That guy is never going to play. He's a redshirt junior and couldn't get a carry last year even when half the tailback corps was injured and the rest was Smith and freshman Hopkins. And this is at tailback, the position where you can leap into the starting lineup on day one if, say, you're a human battering ram who runs like a gazelle. The only RB in recent Michigan history to get noticeably better late in his career was Chris Perry. Everyone else was the same guy they always were.
The Roundtree Question
What do you do with the Big Ten's second leading receiver when his production was predicated on the threat of Denard Robinson running and his position only sort of exists in the platonic ideal of a MANBALL offense?
The answer to this is probably "nothing." Borges said something about running a ton of three and four wide this season. Even if that's forced it sounds like Borges is going to roll with it, especially because his best wideout seems most comfortable in the slot—kinda need to have three WRs to have a slot—and the tight ends are sparse and stone-handed. Late-era Carr teams based out of three wide even after Steve Breaston had moved on to the NFL. Borges is more of a bomber than Carrbord and just spent a couple years running one of those "West Coast" offenses that throws damn near everything out there. So… yeah, expect three wideouts.
Okay, then, but the further question is: what will Borges do with the guy? Roundtree went nuts last year when the threat of Denard Robinson sucked safeties up and saw him stunningly wide open against Notre Dame and Indiana and Illinois and several other times besides. Can Borges run what he wants to run and surround Roundtree with nothing but grass?
Looking for: Michigan safeties to fail spectacularly because they can't decide whether to take Denard or stay back. If you can't do it to Michigan safeties you can't do it to anyone.
Fearing: Borges can't evolve the system to keep ahead of defenses and get those almost free touchdowns. I'm sure he can emulate QB Lead Oh Noes but Michigan had to keep re-arranging it to prevent safeties from showing up in the wrong place at the critical moment. Borges is a smart guy but his knowledge is in another arena. I'm not sure he'll be able to create as many opportunities with Denard's legs.
Will only believe three games into the season: Jeremy Gallon on the field.
Okay, You Run Power, But How?
Michigan ran POWER last year. They didn't run it much, but they did use it as a counter to the constant stretch action. It was fairly successful as a changeup. That move was part of the shift in Michigan's offense away from a true zone read to an odd QB-as-TB thing people called "QB iso" and didn't know what to do with—the AP put him on their All-America team as a "back." Like Rodriguez coming into DeBord's already extant stretch offense, Hoke is walking into a situation where his guys have some clue about what the new stuff is.
Unfortunately, we've seen bits and pieces of power plays run from under center in the practice videos that have invariably been stuffed. This is rock hard evidence it is not a good idea. So, like, what I'm saying is that if you've got Denard Robinson and you want to run power you might as well line up in the shotgun and run it with Denard Robinson, right?
A secondary question: how serious is Hoke about his distaste for zone running? He seems like a pretty hands-off guy when it comes to the offense, but if there's one thing he's stressed on that side of the ball it's that the team "will run power" and fullbacks will have their spine compressed and whatnot. This is something of a problem because Michigan has just completed the transition away from hampeople. Mike DeBord installed a zone stretch running game in 2006 and Michigan started recruiting to it. That first class was David Molk and Mark Huyge, now redshirt seniors.
Everyone recruited since has been either a relatively light and mobile spread OL or a prototypical left tackle. The prototype will be fine in any system; guys like Molk and Omameh and Ricky Barnum might not be. If Michigan spends the offseason putting beef on the interior line it might work out… or it might give them a bunch of tweeners not particularly good at anything.
Looking for: QB power.
Fearing: RB power.
Will only believe three games into the season: Michigan guards as effective drive blockers.
It was at last year's spring game that Robinson went from a freak show who should be moved to tailback to a freak show who should be in the Heisman running. He can't improve that much again without melting anyone who watches him, Ark of the Covenant style, but he was still pretty raw last year. He had bouts of drive- and game-crippling inaccuracy; he occasionally joined the Rex Grossman "f*** it, I'm going deep" club; he was restricted to a set of limited routes that teams adapted to as the leaves turned. He should progress. How much?
Looking for: Incremental improvement.
Fearing: Uncomfortable on drops and still prone to chucking slants well behind his receivers.
Will only believe three games into the season: hopefully that Denard Robinson can do anything.
I thought the issue with Cox wasn't so much a dog-house thing, but a learning-his-assignments thing. I thought word out of practice was that he has massive amounts of physical ability, but has trouble with things like picking up blocks and learning the playbook.
If that was in fact the issue, a change in coaching staff/style might actually shake out with him stepping up. If it was an issue of mismatched teaching and learning styles before, he could turn it around, RS Junior or not.
If I remember corrctly he was in the dog house because he could not learn the plays. That speaks to a mental issue and not a specific issue with a coach.
It might be both. Rodriguez alienated a lot of players, and his judgement when it came to personnel selection was highly questionable.
Anyhow, it is possible for a new coach to fix mental errors, and I think that Cox is the best pure ball carreir of the bunch.
didn't the spread n shred require some reads by tailbacks, as opposed to the "you. go there." manball stuff we're moving towards?
if he couldn't make the reads, he wasn't going to play.
No, the spread is actually easier for RBs than the pro-style.
I wouldn't say that. In the RR offense, tailbacks have to serve as lead blockers for the QB. That's a major added responsibility (and likely contributed to their high injury toll).
I'd say in a pro style offense the pass protection schemes for the running backs are a bit more complicated than what they were in RR's offense.
Now give us an example of something specific that is easier in the spread.
No, it wasn't both. It was definitely that he couldn't pick up the playbook. This has been reported numerous times. Nothing else has been reported even once.
was questionable on defense, with apparently stupid defensive coaches.
There weren't really any questionable personnel selections on offense
Uhh, let's see. Nick Sheridan starting over Steven Threet? Burning Devin Gardner's redshirt to send Forcier a message? Loading up the roster with legions of 3* skill players? At least one of Rodrigeuz's former players from WVU is on the record saying that he shows favoritism towards guys that he recruits. Yes, I would say that Rodriguez exhibited highly questionable judgement with his personnel selection, on offense too. On top of that, he ran off more players from his program than any coach I have ever seen in my life. A reasonable person watching Michigan football for the last three years could conclude that if a player wasn't playing, it might not be entirely related to his ability or his attitude.
could conclude, but we're getting a lot of evidence of what an unreasonable person would conclude.
But we can't do that anymore. In 1969 there were literally no scholarship limits, so Bo could go out and bring in 50 freshmen a year if he wanted to. The coach at Michigan today doesn't have that flexibility. (If we were an SEC school, of course, it might be a different story.) We could not afford that level of attrition. If you're a coach today, you've got to convince the guys you inherit to stick around.
The only inherited players that left after RR got here that were a serious loss to us were Boren and Mallett. Given that LC had to persuade Mallett to come back after his freshman year, it's hardly the case that RM was a happy and totally dedicated Wolverine to begin with. After Mustain left Arkansas, it was inevitable that RM was going to transfer to the team he really wanted to play for in the first place. What those who continue to insist that RR "drove off" Mallett can't explain is why Mallett never publicly criticized RR after he left, in comparison to Boren, for example. RM doesn't see to have a problem with talking in other circumstances.
Of RR's recruits, Tate's departure hurt in terms of depth, but he was hardly driven off by RR—he was an academic fuckup. JT Turner's flameout is a mystery, but neither he nor Vlad Emilien could figure out that if they stuck around, they would have gotten playing time, given how bad our secondary has been.
I think the much bigger problem with RR was that he offered scholarships to too many guys who never ended up here to begin with, such as Dorsey. That's attrition, but it's certainly not due to RR "driving people off"—it's due to unwise recruiting decisions.
As Brian and others have long since detailed, it's not as though there weren't significant losses during Carr's last few years, either. We sure could have used Cobrani Mixon the last couple of years; he turned out to be a pretty decent player in Hoke's old conference.
The glaring one I can think of was McGuffie/Shaw over Minor in 2008 (and I'm pretty sure that Minor wasn't injured). Nothing else jumps out, though the yoyoing of Hopkins last year was strange.
No link or anything, but Minor was given one of those top secret Stonum-like suspensions to start that particular year.
I never understand guys saying "I think so and so is the best __" when the said better guy has barely touched the field, and there is literally nothing other than a couple practice videos and the odd carry against MAC teams to judge his goodness upon. I get that we've HEARD Cox is a great athlete, but that's not quite the same as you know, seeing his work in order to judge him. I'm not saying you're wrong necessarily, it's just where's the evidence? Kinda like your other statement that RR alienated "a lot of players... and his personnel selection was highly questionable."
Your'e right that it is a limited sample size. But I'm not guaranteeing that Cox is the starter on day 1. All I'm saying is that you can't point to him not playing the past couple of years as definitive evidence that he sucks and he's never going to play. Especially when you factor in how often Rodriguez showed both inflexibility and terrible judgement with both players and coaches during his miserable three years at Michigan.
Lewan, Molk, Omameh, Schilling, Denard, Roundtree, Odoms, etc have all had good careers and have given plenty to Michigan. You can most assuredly criticize RR for many things but you dont have to make stuff up to do so.
I personally think Cox is the best RB on the team, but a lot of that is based on the way he moves. I like the way he cuts, the way he breaks tackles, his balance, etc. It doesn't necessarily depend on the level of competition, the yards he gains, etc. The kid flat-out runs hard, and in my opinion, a 6'0", 215 lb. guy with decent skills who runs hard is probably going to be better than a 5'6", 180 lb. guy with decent skills who runs hard. I will never question Smith's attitude, but his size and skills leave something to be desired.
and strong as an ox, but you can't remember which play you're running or what your blocking assignment is, you're NOT a better RB than a dependable guy with 1/4 your physical ability.
If Cox was the best RB on the team, he would have played more in his career. Period. There is more to being the best player than having the physical potential to be the best player.
I don't trust Rich Rodriguez to put the best players on the field, so I'll wait until Cox's career is done, thank you very much. I have a hard time believing that Smith is the best RB on the team, so something probably has to give.
you don't trust RR's judgement. You're saying his judgement is so bad that you trust your evaluation (based on next to nothing) over his evaluation (based on literally years of seeing Cox in practice, face to face).
Do you know how ridiculous that sounds?
I do not care if DustomaticGXC thinks it sounds ridiculous. That's my opinion, whether you like it or not. Coaches aren't always right, and that particular coach went 15-22 and got very little production from most of his running backs. He's not above reproach.
that you have a lot of experience with players and football overall as a coach, but your argument about size and speed is not always a given fact. The reason I say this, is some of our best running backs in Michigan history have not been your prototypical large fast guys. Jamie Morris was a great runner that did not have great size. Mike Hart is slow and small, yet has some amazing vision, runs low, keeps his legs moving, and I think, has one of the best initial bursts of speed that helped land him number 1 all time in yards.
I also think it's unfair to say 15-22 means RR doesn't understand running back talent. He has had some great running backs elsewhere (Slaton, Devine) and he kept the running backs coach we've had for forever. I honestly believe that if Cox wasn't playing, it was because he wasn't doing something right.
This doesn't mean he can't take over, but I am still a little pessimistic of our back situation. Personally I like Shaw and Hopkins.
No, it's not always a given fact. But at big schools, the running back should usually either be big or fast. Smith is neither. Cox might not be a blazer, but he is fairly big.
I agree that Cox must have done something that prevented him getting on the field, but that doesn't mean Rodriguez was right in putting Smith out there most of the time.
that Smith did not look great last year. I was very disappointed many times when he went down on little shoelace tackles. But your assertation that big schools must have big backs goes against my argument about Hart and Morris. I also think that RR showed that he played the best back when he had the chance. I think he would have loved to run Minor for the entire time he was there if it wasn't for injuries. Like I said, he has had a lot of successful years of great backs.
Cox might be good, but I don't rate backs on size and speed alone. To me, the best backs have little nuances that make them special. Running low to make direct hits hard, quick bursts when the see the hole, hitting the hole, and always keeping your legs moving. These are things that Barry Sanders excelled at, and Mike Hart did well at.
Just to compare, I think Minor and Carlos Brown were similar sizes, with Brown having better speed. However, I think Minor had an it factor that made him a better running back that broke tackles and created things on the field.
Based on the running backs last year, I'm not sure if there is anyone who has it, although like I said, I personally like Hopkins and Shaw at the moment.
I didn't say that big schools MUST have big backs. I said that's the norm. And yes, there are exceptions like Hart and Morris. But the reason you have to point out a back from 2004-2007 and then jump all the way back to the '80's to find another good, small back at Michigan is that they're not all that common. It's rare that a 5'8" guy is a great running back. Not impossible, but rare.
Minor was 10-15 lbs. bigger than Brown.
As you said, Smith doesn't really have that "it" factor like Morris and Hart. He also doesn't have great speed. And he's tiny. So he can catch the ball and he's a willing blocker, which are both good qualities. But I'm not sure they trump the skills that other backs bring/brought to the table.
That not all small backs are good, and that Smith isn't great, but my overall second point is that this does not speak well for Cox.
RR has proven to have played decent backs (Slaton, Devine, Minor). The fact that last year he put out Smith over Cox, tells me Cox doesn't have it either. I'm going with Brian here in thinking that hopefully the freshman will be "the guy". I believe that last spring/summer/fall you were high on Touissant until the injury(ies). I'm guessing the coaching staff was too, and they ended up settling with the other backs. I'm guessing he hasn't regained his explosiveness.
My other point is that I think size can be overated with backs. There is a lot more to a special back vs a servicable back. I want the special back and don't believe Cox is it.
Rodriguez kept Minor on the bench too much in 2008 and played McGuffie/Shaw instead. He again put an undersized guy on the field too frequently in 2009 and 2010.
I was/am high on Toussaint. I still think he'll be good when healthy (well...*if* healthy).
I'm not saying Cox is a special back. I just want to point that out. I'm not saying he's a 1st round pick in the making. I just think he's BETTER than Smith, which is also a title I would give to most of the backs on the roster.
you don't think injuries exist.
Magnus I have no problem with your opinion, but this is the wrong school to be dissing running backs because they are small.
Jamie Morris and Mike Hart
I can here you now in 2004. Get this Mike Hart off the field. Give me my Max Martin. Jerome Jackson is the best RB on the team period get him his touches.
Yes, those are the exceptions. Just like when people say "Tall quarterbacks are better" and someone says "Nuh-uh because of Drew Brees!" Mike Hart (small-ish and slow) was a very good running back, but Brandon Minor was big, Chris Perry was big and fast, Anthony Thomas was big and kind of fast, Biakabutuka was big and fast, Wheatley was big and fast, Power was good sized and fast, etc.
Hoke at April 13 presser: Mike Cox hasn't practiced as much because he has a class during Tuesday practice time "so that doesn't help him."
After acting like an a** on Twitter (or maybe it was Facebook) after RR left, repeated reports from practice he doesn't know the plays, and now not being smart enoug to schedule his classes at a time other than practice time, I don't have much faith in Mike Cox's maturity and judgment.
It's disappointing, b/c he seems to have some real physical skills and we really need a stud RB, but he looks destined to be a non-contributor.
I'm hoping the practice/class criticism is a joke.
Typically classes for the Winter semester are scheduled at the end of the Fall semester. Richard Jonathon Rodriguez was still the head coach when they would have registered for classes this semester. Hoke didn't even come in until January when classes were already underway, how on earth were the players supposed to schedule around Hoke's spring practice schedule when he was still the head coach of SDSU? There are a few slackjaws on Scout that can't get this through their thick skulls and bitch and moan every single time a report says that Marvin Robinson, Mike Cox, etc miss a Tuesday afternoon practice due to class. Shit happens when you have to schedule your classes without knowing the future practice schedule.
Anyone know if the Spring Game will be streaming on BTN's website? They had an option last year to pay to watch it online, but it's not listed on their schedule of upcoming streaming events.
[Insert obligatory fist-shaking about the Big Ten Footprint.]
I also note WTKA is broadcasting, but implication is local radio only and not audio-streamed on line for those of us who shake our fists from a distance.
At their webpage whatever is on the air at the moment?
That's the logical answer, but I'm not sure that's the real answer. Sometimes when I go to the website in the morning they're clearly rebroadcasting something from the night before (which I can tell because references to times and dates are off).
Also, the page was just loading for forever during Saturday night's NC hockey game, so perhaps expect similar slow/not working performance during the spring game.
I'm also curious about the streaming video. I'd rather not have to go to a bar at noon on Saturday but I will.
I emailed BTN to ask if it will be available. They have other spring games listed on the schedule, just not Michigan's, so hopefully it was just an oversight. I'll let everyone know when/if I hear back.
I am fairly positive that BTN is having a live telecast if that helps. However, I realize not everyone lives in the BTN TV market.
Nope, doesn't help
Yeah, I checked mgoblue.com and they have it listed as being televised on BTN. But I was in the same boat last year, not having BTN. It streamed on bigtennetwork.com for like $5 or something. I just don't see anything on their website right now saying they'll have it.
I posted this on the board, also: I heard back from BTN. They won't be streaming the spring game because they're televising it. I'm a little confused, because I believe it was televised last year, but it was still available online. Oh well. Sorry fellas.
Thanks for following up. Looks like I'm headed to the bar today.