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In December, Brian was nice enough to come to DC and do a question an event for the Washington, DCMichiganalumni group. There was a great turnout for the event. Some of this is really out of date (recruiting, New Years bowls, Lewan leaving), but some of it is still relevant.
In the off season, he is going to overhaul the blog and switch it to a magazine style layout so stories do not get lost as easily. Will also have "drill-down pages" for some of the smaller sports, softball, lacrosse, so that those sports don't get lost on the board.
Will eventually add a subscription model, the site will remain free, but subscription could offer no ads, a copy of Hail to the Victors, a tee shirt and discounts at Moe's.
Is going to do a basketball podcast in the winter, but probably not much more with the podcast. For a recruiting podcast, listen to him with Sam Webb.
When asked how much time do you spend on UFR - he just said a lot.
Said 8-4 was fine, about what people expected, keeps the momentum going on for the program. Pointed out that everyone has been worried about Denard getting hurt for 3 years and when it did, Gardnerwas able to step in. Gardnerwas much better than the coaches thought he would be - and everyone else I guess. Brian had a great line about Denard, said he will not be the best Michiganplayer of all time, but he will be a lot of people's favorite Michiganplayer.
Next year, the defense, assuming they can replace his binky, Jordan Kovacs, will be in great shape. Was impressed Quinton Washington, thinks Pipkins will back him up, although he will play a lot of downs. Thoughts Pipkins was bad this year because he lacked technique, and pointed out he got pancaked by a running back, but Brian thinks he will be really good as an upperclassman, said his faith is in part from the Heininger Certainty Principle - Heininger went from a liability to a strength on the team because of the coaching and the technique he learned. Brian believes that will be there as long as the defensive coaches are there. Brian thinks that linebacker will be a strength with three quality players in the mix. Likes Ross a lot once he bulks up.
The offense line will be the question mark next year having to start 3 freshman. But was pleasantly surprised by the development of Michael Schofield who should not be a disaster in place of Lewan. Said it says a lot about the end of Carr recruiting and Rodriguez recruiting. Thinks once all of Hoke's recruits are in place, team will be in a position to compete for national titles. The difference going forward is attrition will be for guys not getting playing time not simply leaving the team because they didn't get along with the coaches or coaching changes. Looking forward to freshman TE Jake Butt and RB DeVeon Smith (and Green if he commits). Things the pro style offense could look like Stamfordor New England. In the New Englandversion, Jake Butt and Devin Funchess play the roles of Gronk and Hernandez. Doesn't think WR will be that great. Didn't know about the redshirt for Gardner, but thought the staff should try and redshirt Morris next year, but burn it before putting Bellomy back out there, unless up 50 points, then put in Kennedy.
Thinks there will be a ten year war with Ohio- and guessed that Michiganwould go 4-6 (including this year). I asked if that meant Urban was the better coach and he said Ohiohas natural recruiting advantages and we would see.
Said we need to give the coaches (read Borges) two to three years to get their own players, switch to a pro-style offense before can accurately judge them. The worst criticisms about Borges that we have are probably not valid yet. Pointed out the most legitimate criticism was how badly the missed on Belomy and Gardner. They see both guys in practice and thought that Belomy was a legitimate option and Gardnerwas not. Noted that kicking game (save for kickers) was really bad and that the coverage was not good. Not sure why the staff has not adapted. Also questioned why they are huddling so long, thinks you lose something by taking that long, getting set and allowing the defense to sub in.
Despite the above, the staff are really highly thought of, tight-knit group. His sources said the staff was night and day compared to the coaches under Rodriguez. Really professional group of guys, great teachers.
Said the real battle will be when Mattison retires (he thought it might happen after a big ten title or Rose Bowl win), who will take the DC position. Said it probably comes down to Curt Mallory, the DB coach and Jerry Montgomery, the DL coach. Whoever is elevated, if they do a good job, would be the internal candidate to take over for Hoke in 10-12 years. Said after Bielema left is even happier about Hoke.
Bielema led to a discussion about paying coaches, Brian said it came down to priorities, Arkansas and Wisconsin have almost the same athletic department budget, but Arkansas willing to pay more, especially for assistant coaches. Wisconsin has the money chose not to. Reflection on the SEC/Big Ten - Mississippi State has 8 teams, Ohio State has 40+ including a rifle club. He also mocked the crew team having an indoor rowing facility, thought they should be outside.
Oh, Brian thinks the big ten will go winless in the bowl season.
Doesn't look good for Treadwell, but may be in good shape on Green, just because every other school fired their coach and Miamiis Miami. Thinks they might be in good shape with Conley and Dawson. If Conley commits, he might end up at WR, especially if Mike McCray's teammate, Reon Dawson, signs with Michigan. He hopes that the staff will pursue Eldridge Massington, who recently decommitted from USC. The staff wants to add a linebacker because one of the young linebackers might be leaving the program for medical reasons.
Brian loves Stauskas - even more than appears on the blog. He is also delighted that the NBA does not focus on a player with his skill set so he will be a "foundational" player for the next couple of years. Impressed with how much Hardaway changed his game during the off season. Pointed out that people have really stepped up after Douglass and Novak (the aneurysm of leadership) left. Specifically mentioned McGary as a leader of the freshman, didn't complain that he wasn't starting, went to the older players and asked what he should do. Compared McGary to a puppy.
Brian is very excited about this team - final four caliber - but also the direction of the program. Sees the strength of the team on offense, hard to double team guys when there are so many offensive weapons. Thinks the weakness is on defense, young team, not great shot-blockers, slow on rotations. Going to lose Big Ten games, like to Indianabecause of defensive liabilities.
Brian is very impressed with Beilein, including his ability to change up his style, moving from a 1-3-1to man, adapting to the team's strengths, like more alley-oops this year. Says Beilein reminds him of a chemistry teacher - compared him to Walter White on the first episode of Breaking Bad without the meth or cancer. Also very high on the assistants, including Bacari Alexander and LaVall Jordan. Thinks that they could be head coaching material, but will probably stay to see how this group of players develop.
Odds and Ends
Brian was depressed and didn't want to talk about hockey, said real chance they will miss the NCAAs. Not sure why, the team has talent. Did say the goal keepers we not to blame as much you might think. Was asked a question about Red if he was going to be pushed out, said that Red was the Hockey Bo, could stay as long as he wanted, but would step away if it came to that.
Brian is not a fan of expansion, and did a straw poll with 80% of the audience against it. His ideal expansion plan would be to go to 20 and have everyone that joined in 1990 or later be in the other division and he could forget about them. He also doesn't think the big ten people really have a clue, both for the future of television and how the conference should be aligned. Brian thought the future was a la carte with only the true fans paying for football on cable, and grandma watching matlock on netflix. If that is the case, Rutgers, even though they are in NYC, doesn't make a lot of sense, they do not have a passionate fan base. Brian noted that Louisville is in a much smaller media market, but they are the only game in town and have a huge fan base.
For alignment, Brian pointed out there is a major problem with Michigan and Ohio in different divisions - if they are playing for the big ten title the week following the Game, do they play as hard, do they not show the whole bag of tricks, or rest starters? Would be a de facto division championship if they were in the division.
Regarding Dave Brandon, he said that the Hoke hire was great, but everything else is reducing the program and the experience. Said that he doesn't want to see a Lions game at Michigan Stadium, that Michigan is unique and Brandon is turning it into something generic. Would tell him not to make Michigan into pizza if he could talk to him. He pointed out that we do not watch college sports because it is the best product that is the pros, but there is something special about college sports.
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That law office has a nice setup. Huge screens. Good job whoever wrangled that together.
Thanks to the DC alumni chapter and Brian for making it out.
I appreciate Brian's description of DB. A couple years ago, I went to a lions game in which we obliterated san diago and despite it being "exciting", I was bored as hell. I wanted to leave at halftime. The crowd wasn't into it, there were no chants and they played a bunch of stupid/obnoxious pop songs to try to liven the place up. I could go to a blowout game against indy at the Big House and still have a great time because of the uniqueness. DB's changes on gameday have really made it less interesting and I hope he doesn't alter it permanently.
That's a very good description of the meeting highlights. You are correct that he did a quick poll to see how many people liked the expansion and that the majority indicated no. What I would have loved to have seen is a second question to that same group asking them if they'd buy tickets to a Michigan-Maryland football game in 2014 held at Byrd Stadium or Fedex Field. I suspect if he did that, everyone in the room would have raised their hands.
I go to perhaps one Michigan game a year in Ann Arbor since I live in the DC area and I've been going to them since I was a freshman in 1978. To be frank with you, the core experiences of a UM game really haven't changed for me, so all this angst that people (including Brian) bring up about changes David Brandon has brought ring hollow to me.
Goodness knows the stadium's improved greatly over these last 35 years! I remember chain link fence surrounding it, the old press box and not having enough rest rooms. It was certainly a functional stadium, but it lacked any real amenities (and enough restrooms). I think that groundkeeper's house was still on the grounds in 1978 as well. The scoreboard was fine, but absolutely nothing compared to what we have today. And, of course, the luxury boxes are a big change (and I've been in them--they're first class) not only to the stadium's interior, but to its exterior presence as well.
But what else has really changed? The band still plays "The Victors". The team still runs under the Banner. The uniforms have changed a bit to keep up with the times but the helmet is still one of the most recognizable in college football. There are still no permanent ads in the stadium. People still do the Wave and the cheerleaders still shout "Go Blue!". I could do without some of the rawk music, but it's not as deafening as pro events. The halftime shows are pretty much the same, not to mention the pregame ceremonies. I suppose there are more Michigan-oriented promotions (free T-shirts!), but it doesn't ruin the larger experience for me.
So while I may see some of the generic elements to a game day in Ann Arbor, there's still plenty there to keep it unique.
One think I would say to David Brandon is this though. If Michgian ever does add more seating to the south side of the stadium, I hope the tickets there are put in a price range that would make it more affordable for families to come to these games. They could be a modern day version of bleachers, but more importantly, it'd open up the Michigan game experience to youngsters who might not normally be in a position to attend because it's too costly.
If we add UVA to MD and Penn State, life is good for us in DC. That's 3 teams that can be done in a day trip, all in our projected division. Rutgers could be doable as well.
Every year, you can go to "local" Michigan game, or even two.