this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
If you had told Joe Tiller in 1997 that he would be shuffling off this Big Ten coil before the conference's other patriarch named Joe, he probably would have been surprised. "You traveled back in time to tell me that?" he'd ask. "What the hell is wrong with you? Don't you have family members to warn or large New York buildings to save or something?" And then I'd ask "wait just a second, how do you know about the World Trade Center?" and he would go "uhhhhhh..." and I'd rip his face off, Mission Impossible style, and be confronted with the horrible truth:
So, yeah. Joe Tiller isn't going to coach football anymore and it's just as well because he's a time-traveling diabeetus alien. Also he throws hissy fits when Michigan hijacks his recruits at the last second.
Purdue's going with a peaceful transition of power, naming Eastern Kentucky head coach and former Boiler assistant Danny Hope as Tiller's heir apparent. But Danny Hope is another show. The current show is the meh end of the Tiller era. After a 9-4 2003 which saw the Boilers finish second in conference, Purdue has been locked into a cycle of mediocrity:
|2004||7-5||4-4||T-5th||L 23-27 Sun Bowl|
|2006||8-6||5-3||T-4th||L 7-24 Champs Sports Bowl|
|2007||8-5||3-5||T-7th||W 51-48 Motor City Bowl|
Please note than in 2005 and 2006, Michigan and Ohio State were off the schedule. This is not a team headed in the right direction, or any direction at all, really. Only a steady stream of puffball nonconference opponents has kept Purdue in the 7-9 win territory that has seemingly been their birthright since Tiller's arrival. (Even when they went to the Rose Bowl, Purdue finished 8-4.)
It's clear that off-field progress has stalled, but the canary in the coal mine for Purdue fans has to be the increasingly shaky recruiting of the Tiller regime as it skids to its unremarkable end. This is an excerpt from an SMQ table ordering all teams in order of average recruiting rankings over the past seven years. The leftmost year is 2002, the rightmost 2007. Interesting nearby teams are included:
Wisconsin and West Virginia certainly prove that recruiting is not the be-all and end-all, but USC, Georgia, and Oklahoma are at the top of this chart and Vandy, Indiana, and Kentucky are towards the bottom: it's an important factor in your team's success.
And what does it tell us about Purdue? Joe Tiller probably should have retired a couple years ago. The Boilers had a brief window in which they could snatch top-100 talent like Selwyn Lymon and Doug Van Dyke -- to name two highly-touted-if-star-crossed examples -- away from Michigan, but in 2006 recruiting dropped off a cliff and stayed there. Purdue's 2008 class checks in at #63, slightly ahead of Middle Tennessee and well behind Baylor. The post-cliff classes are the freshmen, sophomore, and juniors now, the large bulk of the team. Aside from the one or two guys even Indiana plucks out from underneath the big guys' noses, help is not coming. What you see returning will be what you get.
As you'll see, I see dead average people.
The numbers at right are impressive until you take a cursory look at the opponents they were run up against. Purdue missed two of the Big Ten's tougher defenses in Wisconsin and Illinois and put up big numbers against a soft candy fluffy hooray nonconference schedule: Toledo, Eastern Illinois, Central Michigan (twice!), and Notre Dame.
When the big boys came calling, Purdue's offense went and hid in a corner: seven points and under 300 yards against Ohio State. Seven meaningful points and about 150 yards of offense against Michigan before the second string came in up 48-7. Twelve points and no touchdowns against Penn State (Dorien Bryant returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown).
Unsurprisingly, these were all losses. Now, a lot of teams had trouble against the three defenses listed above. Few could muster only two meaningful touchdowns across three games. There seems to be something in the Purdue offense of late that prevents it from performing against top-notch defenses. Last year the Boilers scored three points total against Wisconsin and Penn State.
What are those things? Erratic QB play combined with an offense that requires a machine-like precision to jerk its way down the field, and that was with two bonafide playmakers in Bryant and Dustin Keller. This year a lot of field goal drives are in the offing.
Rating: 3. It's rare when an ESPN pundit causes me to re-evaluate what universe I might be in, but when Mel Kiper named Curtis Painter one of the top ten prospects for the 2009 NFL draft, I reacted... poorly:
The same cannot be said for Mel Kiper's top-rated senior quarterback for the 2009 NFL draft, Missouri's Chase Dan-- wait... what? CURTIS PAINTER?
I even had me some reasons:
Painter does have one thing in common with Ryan: an underwhelming passer efficiency rating (46th last year in Joe Tiller's QB-friendly system) against a wretched schedule. Outside of the Big Ten, Purdue went up against Notre Dame, Toledo, Eastern Illinois, and Central Michigan... twice.
Indeed, Painter's rates and ratios improved only marginally as a junior:
|Year||Comp %||YPA||TD:Int||Comp %||YPA||TD:Int|
Okay, some nominal improvement in completion percentage and a significant leap in TD-Int when the nummy soft nonconference schedule is taken into account. But it came at the expense of a full yard per attempt in conference play. Purdue finished last in the conference in YPA, with only moribund Iowa coming anywhere close.
Two major caveats to the above analysis:
- Michigan and Ohio State rotated back onto the schedule.
- Purdue was the pass-wackiest team in the league, calling 380 passes (most in conference) to 235 rushes (least in conference); many of Purdue's passes are designed to be short gains that substitute for the running game. The year before Tiller experimented with a relatively (for Purdue) run-heavy option game based on Nevada's weird "Pistol" formation that saw Purdue run almost exactly as much as they passed.
When you pass more your YPA goes down. Nash Equilibrium and all that. And when Michigan and Ohio State -- 1-2 in conference pass efficiency D last year -- show up on the schedule, your YPA goes down. Still, the picture painted is of a quarterback striving for adequacy and safety. To cut interceptions, make short, easy throws. This made for progress of a sort but was totally ineffective at moving the ball against defenses that don't run into each other on crossing routes and the like.
I think Purdue fans are at least partially with me on this. Boiled Sports took the baton handed to them when ESPN rated Curtis Painter the best quarterback in the Big Ten and jogged for a bit before slowing down and replying "what, seriously?"
In his Purdue preview, Pete Fuitak over at CFN thinks aloud that Painter's not as good as Brees, but is better than Orton. Honestly at this point in his career, I'd say Painter isn't as good as Brees or KO coming into his Senior year. But, he has one more season in black and gold to become one of the best QBs in the Cradle and definitely under Tiller. For that to happen, he has to learn how to look off of the first and second receivers and definitely NEEDS to beat some teams that are real contenders for the Big Ten title. I'm not saying he can't do it, but you might be dreaming if you think he definitely will.
I'm no dreamer. A realistic goal for Painter this year: don't backslide on his junior-year numbers against a much tougher schedule that replaces some random MACrifice with Oregon and features a Notre Dame team that doesn't figure to be the worst in school history. Be okay, and leave the Heisman to someone with moxie.
Tailback & Fullback
Rating: 3. Returning seniors Korey Sheets and Jaycen Taylor weren't touted recruits and aren't likely to be first-day NFL draft picks, but they've been productive platoon-mates the past two years. JUCO transfer Taylor is the nominal starter since Sheets has a nasty tendency to put the ball on the ground. Taylor is slightly shiftier and more likely to break a tackle and head into the open field; Sheets is slightly bigger and more likely to fall forward on third and short. As you can see at right, Taylor's headshot is way more awesome and nearly J Leman-worthy.
Off The Tracks notes Purdue's long history of tailback tandems and something else that may be of note going into the season: Sheets is the only player on the roster other than Greg Orton to feature regularly in the passing game last year. He had 30 receptions; Taylor chipped in with another eleven. With massive attrition in the receiving corps and few attractive options to replace the departed production, look for those numbers to increase significantly.
Other than that, there's no reason to expect anything other than more of the same here. Running backs rarely change much over their careers; variation in performance is usually due more to circumstance than anything else. Taylor and Sheets will split carries about evenly, average a shade under 5 YPC (they both did better than this last year, but injuries held them out of some of their tougher games and the schedule ramps up considerably this year), and be wholly average.
Wide Receiver & Tight Ends
Rating: 2. Painter's top targets are mostly gone. The zippy and productive Dorien Bryant, winner of last year's Brooks Bollinger Award for excellence in eighth-year seniority, has finally shuffled off to the end of an NFL roster. Tight end Dustin Keller went to the Jets at the end of the first round of the NFL draft. Promising sophomore Selwyn Lymon was booted after picking up his second DUI in under a year. Possession receiver Jake Standeford (who, yes, is a white guy) graduated. With them they take 230 of Purdue's 369 receptions elsewhere.
The bulk of the returning catches come from two sources: running backs and senior Greg Orton (right). Orton is a 6'2" leaper with mediocre speed in the mold of former Michigan wideout Marquise Walker, not quite fast enough to be a true vertical threat but still plenty dangerous on downfield jump balls. Last year he had 67 catches for 752 yards. That's a pedestrian 11.2 YPC, and that against an extremely forgiving schedule. Something else indicative of a lack of speed: Orton's three touchdowns came against Toledo, Eastern Illinois, and Central Michigan. He'll undoubtedly be Painter's main target and catch a ton of balls; he's unlikely to provide much after the catch.
Past him it's really dicey. Joe Whitest sounds like the perfect Purdue wide receiver, but 1) he's a black guy with dreads and 2) he's a redshirt senior JUCO transfer with one catch to his name. Senior Brandon Whittington also has one catch to his name and spent his redshirt freshman year at safety, making 15 tackles. By comparison, senior Desmond Tardy's 17 catches is a mountain of experience, but it's not good when the first comment on an Indy Star fluff piece on Tardy is this:
Man this dude fell off the map! I didn't even think he was playing anymore. But anyways, its good to hear he still there. Good luck this year!
Ouch. These are the three guys Painter cited as reasons the WR shortage was "no worry" for him.
Reinforcements are coming but they've been significantly whittled before they even reach campus. Rich Rodriguez infamously lifted Trotwood-Madison wide receiver Roy Roundtree -- according to Rivals, one of only two four-star recruits acquired by Purdue in 2008 -- from Tiller's clutches on Signing Day. Tiller would go on to rant about wizard hats and snake oil, Penn State fans would cluck disapprovingly in the face of a mountain of evidence that Penn State had no use for "gentlemen's agreements," and the internet was greatly entertained. Curtis Painter? Not so much. Adding injury to insult: leviathan (6'6") WR/TE combo Jordan Brewer failed to qualify.
The reinforcing regiment's remnants: a trio of JUCO wide receivers, one with three stars and the others with two. It appears only one had an outside offer, that from Rutgers. Aaron Valentin is that fellow's name, and he's been on campus since January. Chances are he's the #2 receiver.
It doesn't take much to be an effective Purdue wideout -- find the hole in the zone and catch the damn ball, basically -- but if there's no one who can turn five yards into fifteen that's a serious blow to Boiler hopes. A dropped ball here, a slant short of the sticks there, and Purdue's suddenly relying on Curtis Painter to be surgically precise.
Rating: 3. Purdue returns three starters, but all had offseason surgery and missed spring practice. Left tackle Sean Sester, one of the walking wounded, is getting mountains of hype -- Steele has him the #7 OT in the country, the Sporting News calls him an "unquestioned star and future pro". He's got a bulging disk in his back, however. If he's out there could be issues. The others returners are serviceable.
New right guard Justin Pierce started three games last year as a redshirt freshman when the starter went down and performed decently (I guess... Purdue's offense didn't roll over and die). Over the long haul he'll probably be pretty good; "adequate" is probably a good word to describe him this year. Center may be problematic, with a defensive lineman (Jared Zwilling) competing with senior Cory Benton.
I won't spin a web of words that makes it sound like I have any particular insight here. I believe Sester's pretty good and that it doesn't matter much in Purdue's quick-fire offense; I'm leery of a line with three starters who missed spring and may have issues that linger into the fall; I like guys who push into the lineup early in their careers like Pierce; I don't think center's hugely important, especially to Purdue. IMO: MOTS. Decent enough pass blocking with some leakiness at RT, good enough to crack open middleweight Big Ten defenses, mostly overrun by the big guys.
Much, much better statistically after two straight years of misery but with some major warning flags. Three teams from the state of Michigan put up 48 on the Boilers. Michigan with a healthy Henne, okay. Michigan State -- surprisingly, the top-scoring team in the league last year -- okay. Central Michigan? Er. Especially after playing them earlier in the year and giving up 22.
It's hard to tease out any trends from the statistics. Michigan did whatever they wanted, passing and running with equal ease. State got an excellent day from Brian Hoyer but was mediocre on the ground, averaging 3.3 YPC even when QB sacks aren't considered. Dan "I've Got" LeFevour shredded Purdue by land and air, netting over 400 yards of total offense by himself. In other games: Purdue let Indiana's Marcus Thigpen run wild, got all kinds of torched by Minnesota and Penn State's ground games, and gave up almost 400 yards passing to Notre Dame(!).
I guess what I'm saying is this: I don't believe the stats at right much. Purdue was clearly better, but they weren't good, and there's been enough attrition that further progress is questionable.
Rating: 3. Out are defensive ends Cliff Avril and Eugene Bright; back are tackles Alex Magee and Ryan Baker.
Avril capably stepped into the void created by Anthony Spencer's one-man heroics on Purdue's awful 2006 defense, racking up 6.5 sacks and 15 TFLs en route to being drafted by the Lions in the third round. (A moment of silence for his career, if you would.) Bright split time with junior Keyon Brown and had a decent season as a pass rusher.
Despite being the nominal starter, Brown -- who "enjoys sports" according to perhaps the least enlightening biographical tidbit in the history of biographical tidbits -- did nothing in particular to impress until the bowl game, when he picked up 2.5 of his 3.5 sacks on the year. As a irt sophomore stuck behind a pair of fairly productive elders there's reason to believe he'll pick his game up; "how much" is the eternally unanswerable question of season previews.
Replacing Avril will be true sophomore Ryan Kerrigan, who picked up 18 tackles as a freshman. Playing as a true freshman is usually an excellent sign for your future, but given Purdue's documented recruiting troubles he could be the best of the 50 cent prizes. A meh recruit from Muncie with mostly MAC offers (Cincinnati and Indiana were his only other BCS offers); ESPN said "he's not going to wow anyone on either side of the ball" before defaulting into platitudes about versatility and production. Even if Kerrigan is one of the guys the recruiting services overlook, he's unlikely to defy those ratings just a year after they were made. Expect him to be a major step down.
At DT, Baker (pictured) and Magee return. So does top backup Mike Neal. Baker was a highly decorated recruit and the subject of an elaborate, elongated battle between Purdue and Notre Dame. He's also a nice guy. In two years of starting, however, he hasn't made much of a difference on the field, with just 22 tackles and four TFLs last year. (He did have a good number of sacks last year.) Baker's slightly undersized at "just" 280 pounds; sometimes you can get away with that at defensive tackle but it's hard to when you're also 6'5". Leverage: Baker does not haz it.
The Sporting News claims Magee will be a "future pro"; I am not so sure. I didn't call out Purdue DTs by name in last year's UFR, but they did show up frequently. A sampling:
Kraus shoves the backside DT, then immediately releases to the second level. Long slants inside, getting in front of the DT and sort of sumo-ing him downfield. ... Kraus(+2) owns the frontside DT here, pancaking him and creating the room Hart exploits ... Boren(+1) gets control of the DT, stalemates him at the line, and seals him away from Hart ... Another cutback run for Brown keyed by the backside DT getting chopped to the ground.
There were some good plays interspersed but they mostly came when the zone scheme had Schilling attempting a tough reach block. By the time Mike Hart sprained his ankle late in the first half, he had 102 yards on 21 carries; Carlos Brown would add 64 yards on 13 more in the second half after Brandon Minor also went out with injury. And this was a decidedly poor Michigan interior line.
It's no wonder, then, that Purdue was eighth in the league in run defense, seventh in YPC. Much of the blame falls here, and the most blameless guy is off to the NFL.
Rating: 3. Before last season, Joe Tiller predicted that converted running back Anthony Heygood (pictured) would be the team's best linebacker; based on that prediction I predicted that Purdue's linebackers wouldn't be much good.
We were both right. Heygood turned in a good year, picking up 15 TFLs amongst 81 tackles and getting named honorable mention All Big Ten. Purdue's other linebackers had 14 TFLs amongst them and, with some assistance from the meh defensive tackles, contributed to Purdue's poor run defense. Dan Bick did chip in four sacks.
So it's either no big deal all these guys are gone or disturbing that no one on the team could push any of the three medicore seniors. There's little mystery as to who the replacements will be: Jason Werner will start at one outside position and Kevin Green will be the middle linebacker. Werner's a redshirt junior who spent his freshman year at safety, missed his sophomore year with a back injury, and finally got on the field last year, picking up 28 tackles as a reserve. A possible indicator of success: he won the defense's "most improved player" award in spring. He was a moderately touted recruit and got the most effusive praise of all Purdue players this spring; watch him for a possible breakout.
Green, meanwhile, could be dodgy. There's been talk of moving Heygood to the middle because Green may not be big enough to handle it. This was Brock Spack's take in spring:
"He's got to take another jump to be ready to be a full-time (middle) linebacker in this league," Spack said.
Heygood claimed Green made "lots of strides in the weight room" this offseason and all but anointed him the starter; the jury remains undecided.
Rating: 3.5. Purdue's secondary took a great leap forward from 2006, when a hodgepodge of unregarded freshmen and JUCO transfers were torched time and again. Purdue's pass efficiency defense went from 81st to 31st, and that renaissance extended to the conference schedule, where Purdue finished behind only Michigan and Ohio State.
However, the two best members of the Purdue secondary have departed. Cornerback Terrell Vinson was Purdue's leading tackler a year ago, normally a bad sign but here possibly indicative of a guy not quite good enough to handle the opponent's top receiver. Three sacks and five interceptions are good numbers to offset the tackles.
Returning at corner are David Pender, a junior baptized by fire two years ago and seven-game starter in 2007, and Royce Adams (right), another junior who's seen fire and brimstone in the sky. Though Adams appears to be moving backwards after starting 12 games as a freshman and only 5 as a sophomore, third corners still get plenty of time and he had a hand in Purdue's substantial improvement. Pender can make a similar claim.
As far as recruiting went: Pender's only other major offer was from Illinois, then in "please, God, someone come to our school" mode. Adams, on the other hand, got offers from a wide array of midlevel schools and was rumored to be on the verge of an Ohio State offer before committing to Purdue.
At safety, redshirt junior Brandon King returns. After a year of special teams and an odd sophomore year redshirt (after winning the Most Improved Player spring award, no less) he was steady and unremarkable, but that's what you want first-year starting safeties to be. Torrii Williams returns for his fourth straight year of off-field trouble and injuries. At this point projecting him to do anything between the sidelines is ludicrously optimistic, but everyone still projects him to be the starting strong safety. If it's not him it'll probably be sophomore Josh McKinley.
There's reason to be optimistic about the starting corners; lack of depth and Williams' questionable status are significant drawbacks. Though Purdue was third in the conference in pass efficiency defense last year they were closer to seventh than second, and they'll do well to hold their ground this year.
Rating: 4. 2007's best evidence that kickers are weird, weird people could be found in West Lafayette. Chris Summers went 18 for 22 a year after killing several people with errant 29-yard attempts in his 8-for-20 sophomore year. What will he do in his finale? Eh, who knows, but when in doubt go with the most recent performance.
Punter Jared Armstrong is gone; it's MGoBlog policy not to speculate on kickers who haven't seen the field due to their excessive weirdness.
Dorien Bryant's loss will be felt here as well. As noted above, he had a kick return touchdown and helped Purdue to 16th nationally in that statistic; as a punt returner he was decidedly average, however. Purdue will probably draft one of the receivers down the roster or a defensive back to take over and they'll be okay.
Assuming Summers maintains his level of performance, that alone is worthy of a 4 if you assume all other things will be basically okay.
The theory of turnover margin: it is nearly random. Teams that find themselves at one end or the other at the end of the year are highly likely to rebound towards the average. So teams towards the top will tend to be overrated and vice versa. Nonrandom factors to evaluate: quarterback experience, quarterback pressure applied and received, and odd running backs like Mike Hart who just don't fumble.
|2006||Int +||Fumb +||Sacks +||Int -||Fumb -||Sacks -|
|0.08 (51st)||14||13||2.31 (41st)||13||13||1.92 (51st)|
With a margin near zero and fairly average quarterback pressure, Purdue was unaffected by turnover luck. Painter's a year more experienced, but quarterback pressure will likely be harder to come by; expect a repeat in 2008.
Position Switch Starters
Theory of position switches: if you are starting or considering starting a guy who was playing somewhere else a year ago, that position is in trouble. There are degrees of this. When Notre Dame moved Travis Thomas, a useful backup at tailback, to linebacker and then declared him a starter, there was no way that could end well. Wisconsin's flip of LB Travis Beckum to tight end was less ominous because Wisconsin had a solid linebacking corps and Beckum hadn't established himself on that side of the ball. Michigan flipping Prescott Burgess from SLB to WLB or PSU moving Dan Connor inside don't register here: we're talking major moves that indicate a serious lack somewhere.
Anthony Heygood might move inside if Kevin Green can't handle it, and center is being contested by a defensive lineman. Nothing too serious; a couple warning flags.
Purdue is fortunate to miss the ground-and-pound offenses of Illinois and Wisconsin and will probably be a game better in the Big Ten for it.
Notre Dame 2008 figures to be considerably better than Notre Dame 2007; I don't know if anyone knows what to expect from Oregon minus Dixon, Stewart, and the host of explosive offensive players that are burned into Michigan fan retinas... but I expect they'll be considerably more talented than Purdue.
An Embarrassing Prediction, No Doubt
The defense remains moderately stiff, with a pair of senior defensive tackles backed by a suprisingly good linebacking corps and a solid secondary. Pass rush remains hard to find, keeping Purdue at a level below "great" but the unit is reminscent of the hard-nosed units earlier this decade.
Painter, meanwhile, makes a great leap forward, finding all manner of mediocre receivers to throw to, and the offense is slightly better than it was last year. It still won't be enough against the three or four beastly defenses they'll come across, and with Notre Dame on the upswing(?) and Oregon making an unwelcome appearance, 8-4 seems to be about the ceiling.
Purdue's offense isn't going to implode as long as the line returns to full health; it could be sluggish, though, if the receiving corps fails to find a secondary option behind Orton. Meanwhile, if the outside linebackers and the defensive ends fail to find a player or two the run defense could revert to the horror show it was a couple years ago; this is an especially bad time to be stiff up the middle but shaky on the edges.
5-7 is a possibility; Purdue doesn't figure to be much better than they were last year and 2-2 OOC is suddenly likely.
I'm done predicting offensive explosions from West Lafeyette and don't much believe in Curtis Painter, whose numbers last year were a mirage built on sheer repetition and wretched opponents. The massive attrition in the wide receiver corps should see Greg Orton fight double teams all year; chances are one guy will step up to be a decent secondary target.
However, Purdue had a couple guys last year that could take safe passes and turn them into big gains. While discussing the departed Dustin Keller, Boiler offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher acknowleges this may not be the case in 2008:
Dustin was a guy that made a lot of plays after the catch. We'll have to see if anybody else can do things. You don't get too many guys with that type of physical ability at that position. That means we might have to complete a couple extra passes to move down the field, but we can still move it down the field.
I don't see where the extra YPA is going to come from even if Painter's often questionable accuracy improves.
Purude's offense should be slightly better than it was last year, capable of running up big numbers against befuddled MAC teams and Minnesota but just short of utterly ineffective against defenses with real bite.
Defensively, the Purdue secondary looks to be in its best shape in a long time. There are 3-5 veterans who greatly contributed to Purdue's considerable leap forward in pass defense. The front seven, however, looks to replace four starters and has only a few plausible players to fill in the gaps. Werner looks like a good bet; the defensive ends and Green not so much. Pressure will be hard to come by and performance should dip.
The following schedule guess comes with the extreme caveat that other than Michigan and Purdue I haven't taken a hard look at anyone on it:
|9/1||Northern Colorado||Functional DNP|
|9/15||Central Michigan||Probable win|
|11/10||@ Notre Dame||Tossup|
|9/22||Penn State||Probable loss|
|9/29||@ Ohio State||Auto-loss|
|11/3||@ Iowa||Probable win|
Looks like 4-4 in the Big Ten and 3-1 outside of it: 7-5 it is for Tiller's final season. I'm rooting for a CMU rematch in the Motor City Bowl.
Here's a bonus prediction: Painter, Orton, both RBs, both DTs, Heygood, and some other guys are gone after this year and all but the fifth-year seniors will be members of the Purdue Recruiting Cliff; Danny Hope's opening year is likely to be unpleasant.
Bring your flaming knives, kid. I bring forth this earth-shattering news: Michigan's going to have a male twirler next year. His name's Nathan Maygar and he's matriculating this fall after an intensive career with the Saline Twirlettes. I'm pretty sure he's the tall one in this picture.
Also, the male one. The Twirlettes' web page notes Maygar will be the first male twirler in a while; hopefully he goes on a retreat with the guy who shows up at homecoming every year with, like, knives and flaming batons and stuff. There he will be called "grasshopper" and learn the ancient secrets of entertaining homecoming crowds.
We used to win these? Wolverine Historian brings you the 1990 Ohio State game:
Gary Moeller, a center with his entire name written on his jersey, and what sounds like be Dick Vermeil doing color.
Okay, I don't get it. I just don't get why anyone thinks the new clock rules are going to signficantly affect the game. Here's Mark Richt:
"Seven years ago, I would have been thrilled about it," Richt said. "My ambition was to play as fast as we could possibly play and run the no-huddle and get to the line of scrimmage as fast as possible and get the ball snapped in a hurry and run as many plays as possible. We were not allowed to do that.
"In my opinion, the officials in this league were more deliberate than in any league I had been. The SEC, to me, was grinding it to a halt. Now, all of a sudden, you can play as fast as you want to play."
I've seen countless references to this; only Bret Bielema dismissed the clock rules as not particularly significant.
Why does anyone think the clock rules are going to be some radical change? Under the previous rule you had to wait until the referee blew his whistle and signaled the ball ready for play before you could snap the ball. Under the current rule... you have to wait until the referee blows his whistle and signals the ball ready for play before you can snap the ball. There is no difference in how fast you can get plays off. The only difference is that you might have 28 or 24 or 21 seconds when the play is whistled ready instead of 25. Am I crazy here?
Update: Ron Zook: ""And you better be ready to run plays. No doubt, offenses that play at a quicker pace will have an advantage." WTF?
Men overboard. Penn State's booted a couple players:
Two days after ESPN ran a stinging Outside The Lines feature highlighting the recent rash of off-field problems with the Penn State football program, some housecleaning has apparently begun in Happy Valley.
Sources close to the team report to FightOnState.com that during a squad meeting Tuesday, head coach Joe Paterno announced defensive tackles Chris Baker and Phillip Taylor had been dismissed earlier in the day. According to the sources, Paterno said the dismissals were permanent.
Baker was talented and prone to beating people up in mass melees -- the only player to get an assault conviction for the infamous posse incident -- and Taylor was a participant in Penn State's football's second mass beating spree. Both were part-time starters last year, but Penn State still returns Ollie Ogbu, Jared Odrick, and Abe Koroma at the position and should be fine. RUTS, now a part of Black Shoe Diaries, is peeved.
Diaries combover. Chitownblue gets more comments than any of my posts have picked up by questioning the "Rodriguez does more with less" meme, pointing out that West Virginia recruiting is at least on par with the rest of the Big East and maybe better:
None of this means that I believe the staff will be unsuccessful. What it DOES mean is that WVU wasn't doing "more with less" than the rest of the Big East - they were doing what they should have with more talent. Luckily, Michigan generally has excellent talent levels. If that is maintained - and it appears that's not a problem - then we should have continued success.
There is a listing of four-star recruits acquired by the various Big East teams: WVU has 16(?!) four-star or better players, comparable to Louisville and Pitt and significantly better than the rest of the conference.
I'm not sure I agree with Chitownblue's police work here. This was significantly higher than my tally when I tackled Rodriguez's WVU recruiting; I came up with 12 four star or better recruits, eight of those in the past two classes. Rodriguez obviously got no use from the 2008 class, and the only player from 2007 to see significant time was Noel Devine. The four guys from previous years all bombed out. Net effect: Rodriguez actually got to use one four-star or better player during his entire tenure at West Virginia. Also, West Virginia was a good Big East team even when Virginia Tech, Miami, and Boston College were around -- a commenter points out that the Big East's recruiting looks a bit less grim when those teams are considered.
WVU obviously had better talent than the rest of the conference at a couple of key positions named "wherever Pat White is" and "wherever Steve Slaton is," but the recruiting and NFL draft record doesn't indicate that WVU had better top-to-bottom talent. This was the Big East, so he wasn't exactly doing more with "less" but he was doing more with "about the same." At Michigan, he will have to do more with "more, except against Ohio State and maybe one other team a year." This is a situation I feel okay about.
Meanwhile: Blue Seoul has an excellent near-UFR of the infamous Pitt game, and Chrisgocomment points out the weirdness of the "Bryant Scholarship" Alabama has. (FTR: contains no flaming.) We should get a Bo-Mo-Llo scholarship going.
Just one observation turned daunting question. While reading the position breakdowns and the subsequent 2008 recruiting class analysis [in Hail To The Victors 2008], I found myself wondering, "what about Sam McGuffie?" You referred to him in the Running Back section of the breakdown as a potential contributor, and highlighted his infamous mix tape we have all come to love, but you did not provide the recruiting breakdown that you did to others (though you said you failed to do so with some due to earlier coverage provided, but you did not mention him in this instance).
All I am really wondering is what kind of impact will McGuffie have on the immediate impact of the team? As you pointed out, athletes are the life-blood of the Rich Rodriguez system, and he has a good amount (many true freshman) at his disposal. Still, as highly touted a recruit as he was, and the buzz that he has created along the way, I would love to see him have an impact as soon as possible.
Is he ready?
Fall practice hasn't started yet, so no one really knows. There are reports floating around claiming him to be like this awesome unstoppable squirrel-man, but what context is this in? At Big Ten Media Days, Rodriguez mentioned getting reports from seven-on-seven sessions that the players are evidently running of their own volition. (College football summer workouts have a very complex idea of free will.) If the Squirrel Man reports have any basis in reality, they're coming from pad-free skeleton passing drills in which finding "empty grass" is as easy as stepping on the field. This is also known as McGuffie Heaven.
If McGuffie wasn't tearing up seven-on-seven drills it would bode unwell; killing them is a necessary but not sufficient prerequisite to the dominance we all envision. Unfortunately, I can't find this in the archives but last year I came across video from one of McGuffie's playoff games in which he looked small, man. Like 164 pounds small, which was what he was listed at when he put up the 4.32 40 that put him on the map even before his junior year explosion. Mixtape goes here:
The skeptical insiders, few that they may be, usually cite his overwhelming tininess as a reason it'll be a while before he sees the field, and they'd definitely have a point if Lloyd Carr was still the sheriff in this town. But he's not. The Rodriguez offense doesn't care if you can move the pile or scratch out a third-and-three or even pass block much. It just wants you to find the aforementioned empty grass, then run a long way. It's kind of a glorified seven-on-seven drill.
With Kevin Grady in the doghouse and Michael Shaw listed as a wide receiver on the preliminary fall roster, McGuffie's path to the field is now significantly clearer. I doubt he'll pass either Minor or Brown, who've proven themselves far more capable than David Underwood had, but I think a year in the Noel Devine role is forthcoming. Further rationale can be had in the 2008 recruiting recap of McGuffie.
OK, so I found another question you should have asked at the Big Ten meetings...Looking through the weekly release there are four "Quality Control" coaches listed. What the hell does *that* mean?Keep up the good work,Mike
Brian,You've mentioned some of the things you'd like to ask (TE's in the new offense... OK, so thing, singular). And expressed your - and I assume everyone's - exasperation with the lack of new/serious questions coming from the traditional media. If you were gifted a sit-down with Rodriguez what would be on your list of questions, trying as much as possible to remain and football related and tilling the ground for non-redundant information?I know there's rules pertaining to talking about specific recruits, but asking about how he judges the "Southern Strategy" so far, and time/effort allocation as far as that goes, the general DE situation, how one jumps in to sell a school he himself is still learning about and how he sees those pitches changing as he gets into the job. Maybe the initial reaction he sees to the changing level of openness not usually associated with the Football program. Or posing the same question you've been getting: Can you make me not afraid about this season?
Anyway, I was wondering more what *you* had in mind as you camp out in Chicago. Granted an interview (30 min., an hour, something of decent length) what would you ask?-Colin
These are the things I had written down to ask if I got a chance:
"You have six tight ends on the roster and an offense that hasn't thrown a pass to a tight end in seven years. What are you going to do with these guys?" [asked, got a vague answer.]
"How did you initially strike upon Scott Shafer as a defensive coordinator? Were you aware of his rampant blitzing tendencies? Do you think the higher risk balances out with sacks and turnovers?" [first part asked by Tom Dienhart; exploration of how Rodriguez understands applied football mathematics left untouched.]
"You've run more than 70% of the time in the last few years at West Virginia; this has generally worked out well but when the offense bogs down it doesn't seem to have a backup option. In your ideal offense, what's the run-pass split? Is your dream quarterback more Pat White or Donovan McNabb?" [this came up quite a bit and rodriguez answered it thoroughly]
"There are three minutes left in the game and your opponent is out of time outs. You're up two. You have the ball on your opponent's 34; this is outside of your kicker's field goal range. It's fourth and four. What do you do?"
"Have you heard of David Romer? (If not, explain David Romer.) Do you think that makes sense? Do you like David Romer? Please tell me you like David Romer."
"Your recruiting has a much more Southern bent than Michigan's had previously. What's the rationale behind that? Does southern speed actually, like, exist, in your opinion? Does it worry you that Michigan's going to be picking the leftovers from instate schools?"
"Why the hell is it so hard to convince kids to leave Mississippi?" [Seriously. I want to know this.]
"If you call all the offensive plays, what's Calvin Magee's role as your offensive coordinator?"
"Are you concerned that the proliferation of the spread offense will blunt its efficiency? Do you think it's just plain superior to other offenses or is it something you'd discard if the game shifted to it too hard?'
"It's been reported that Michigan is moving to a spread punt formation. What's the advantage of that, and why have so many teams moved to it?"
"How has your recruiting changed since you've arrived at Michigan? Have you aimed at a different sort of player? Most of West Virginia's high-rated recruits had legal or academic issues; was that a product of necessity? Is there any advantage in taking guys hanging by a thread?"
"Are some high profile recruits turned off by Mike Barwis and his general promise to work you like a dog? Do you prefer a guy with a high athletic ceiling or one with crazy work ethic?"
"In last year's Rutgers game Greg Schiano consistently stunted the backside DE into a gap and blitzed off the corner. Have you seen this sort of defense before? What does it do to the spread and how do you combat it?"
"How does your offense change when the defense doesn't have to respect the QB keeper on the zone read?"
Many of these would draw vague responses designed to sort of answer the question without really answering anything, unfortunately. I think the Rutgers one might get a point-blank "no," but if it got answered that would be extremely interesting. I think the key is to ask about specific incidents or strategies and avoid the 10,000 foot view; make it as hard as possible for them to slip into generalities. That's is something that would be much easier in the immediate aftermath of games.
A couple of weeks back, you made the following comment: "And Steven Threet is not necessarily chopped liver. He was Rivals' #8 QB prospect two years ago, a four-star with a number of attractive offers. In an alternate universe where Carr is still the coach and Mallett is still around, I bet he's still your odds-on favorite to start this fall."
I found this to be a very provocative statement (about Threet potentially starting over Mallett) -- do you have anything to back this up, or was it just a hunch?
Thanks and Go Blue!
If by "anything to back this up" you mean anything more than the avalanche of insider rumblings and tips that came in over the course of the fall, no. I wrote this in February and still believe it to be true:
About every week I got an email from someone on campus who had seen the kid getting high or trashed. Some talked to him; all who did came away with the opinion that the guy didn't care about anything. Sources inside the program confirmed multiple times that Mallett had a major attitude problem, something that was so pervasive that it even worked it way into one of the local newspapers. The dissent was evident on the sidelines during the disastrous Wisconsin game, when Mario Manningham bitched him out on the sidelines, or during Mallett's disastrous stint in the Illinois game, when Carr bitched him out for two solid minutes.
In October I wrote this based on multiple sources:
The situation here is precarious; without a major attitude adjustment things could be very sketchy at quarterback next year.
I have heard it far and wide and so many times from so many sources that the conclusion is indisputable: Ryan Mallett is the reason Ryan Mallett transferred, no matter what Ryan Mallett's mom -- no doubt the least biased source around -- says.
Mallett was in such deep conflict with Carr and his performance onfield was so miserable that the "experience" gained was a net deficit. Barring a 180 wherein Mallett got "on the same page" with Carr -- always a possibility when you're dealing with a 18-year old kid -- is he going to go with the kid he hates and doesn't play well or the kid he likes and hasn't, like, thrown a ball backwards to Carson Butler?
Update 7/28: Added LA DT Dequinta Jones as a commit. Linked to articles on OH OL Marcus Hall, FL QB Eugene Smith, VA QB Kevin Newsome (another), notes on MN WR Bryce McNeal and Newsome, CA QB Tate Forcier, AR CB Darius Winston, SC DEs Chris Bonds and Sam Montgomery, NV DE Keenan Graham, TN CB Marsalis Teague, SC DE Chris Bonds, TX K Anthony Fera (Some links via VB).
Removed NC WR Jheranie Boyd (dropped us), TX OL Nick Ash (Nebraska).
Also: Jim Stefani's got some thoughts on Michigan's class to date.
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting board lives here.
As per usual: quarterbacks. This hit the front page late last week, but it's worth repeating: VA QB Kevin Newsome said something other than "no comment" about his recruiting and it was reassuring:
"I'm committed to Michigan," Newsome said. "Me and Bryce McNeal were going around bragging how we're going to beat Randall Carroll, who's going to USC, Cierre Wood, who's going to Notre Dame. We were bragging about things like that."
Doubly reassuring was the wave of praise that followed Newsome's appearance. Newsome, of course, started the recruiting year in the top 20 players at both sites and has dropped steadily since. Josh Helmholdt's operative theory on why Newsome's performance dipped after the Army All American junior combine that got him rated a five-star player:
In January, at the U.S. Army combine in San Antonio, the 6-foot-3, 217-pound Newsome was sensational throwing the football. He showed off his strong arm and displayed exceptional accuracy while throwing a very catchable ball. The one question that lingered after his performance in San Antonio, however, was the length of his delivery.
Newsome worked on shorten his delivery about the same time he started running track for his high school this spring (Newsome won the 2008 Virginia Class AAA state title in the 110-meter hurdles for Western Branch with a time of 14.15 seconds). For a few weekends, he was able to get away from his track team to compete at two Elite 11 camp qualifiers, but the rust in his arm showed.
The adjustment period appears to be over. Rivals guy Jeremy Crabtree (same article):
"Kevin was dramatically improved from what we saw of him in our events this spring and summer," Crabtree noted. "He talked about being able to be more focused on football and not worried about track and he started working on a lot of the little things on his own.
"He just showed great work ethic and it was impressive to watch as you left the field on Sunday and he was still out there throwing balls at targets by himself. The kid wants to get better and already has gotten better. It's going to be interesting to see where he will be when he's able to get focused on football 24/7."
Meanwhile, CA QB Tate Forcier continues to narrow his focus, eliminating schools as they pick up quarterback commitments:
"I've got a solid six," Forcier said. "Right now it is Michigan, Oregon, Penn State, Florida, Washington State and New Mexico."
(I've got ten bucks that says New Mexico is not the choice.) There's no leader, technically, but which school on the list has two QB commits and a seemingly impervious spot in his top five?
"That's possible, but I think I might take a few officials. It could get done within the first few weeks of the season, maybe even before," Forcier said. "I know one of my officials will definitely be Michigan. One's probably going to be a Florida one and probably Penn State."
The timing here is bad. The above article indicates that Forcier, like Newsome, plans a January enrollment at the school of his choice; this space had previously asserted that Forcier's apparent willingness to wait provided Michigan an excellent backup plan in the event of a Newsome decommit. If he's enrolling early that's off the table.
Would Michigan even take a commit from Forcier at this point? They're clearly still recruiting him. Whether that's as a precaution or as a potential third quarterback in the class is murky. I've made my position clear: no offense to Forcier, but Newsome is a linebacker-sized honor roll student, class president, and state hurdles champion who's had little if any quality coaching thus far and is transferring to a prep school, then enrolling early. He has massive upside and is working feverishly to make that upside come to fruition. He's okay with Shavodrick Beaver coming in with him, which will give Michigan at least four viable options next fall.
If I'm choosing between Newsome and Forcier with the slight possibility Newsome doesn't decommit, give me Newsome. Michigan shouldn't risk his commitment.
Oh, and: FL QB Eugene Smith had us in his top five recently, though he's backed off of the idea of a top five altogether now. Whee!
As for MN WR Bryce McNeal, The Top Gun camp giveth security and the Top Gun camp taketh it away:
McNeal says he's still "100 percent committed" to the Wolverines, but he plans to keep a close eye on how first-year coach Rich Rodriguez runs his version of the spread offense. McNeal also said he plans to take his official visits just to be sure.
"I can't wait (to see Michigan's offense)," McNeal said. "It's going to be a big deal for me. I'm 100 percent on my commitment and everything, but I'm still going to take my officials to make sure I'm certain. If they come out and just pound that ball, I'm going to have to think about some things."
Florida, Oklahoma, Clemson, and Louisville are hypothetically on the docket. McNeal also showed well at the Top Gun camp, landing in Crabtree's top 11 players at the camp:
McNeal spent most of the camp on the sideline with a tweaked hamstring, but when he was out there Saturday and Sunday, he showed more than enough to explain why he's ranked among the nation's elite receivers. A tall and athletic prospect, McNeal - a Michigan commitment - had some of the softest hands in the camp. He also ran crisp routes. He was having a heck of a camp before the injury, and Michigan fans should be excited about his progress.
Sounds like his ranking is secure.
Kickers are about to or have actually gotten offers, depending on who you listen to. The Old Coach put out a story indicating TX K Anthony Fera had picked up a Michigan offer; there's also this kid in Florida named Brendan Gibbons. Sounds like Michigan is going to offer both and take the first one to commit, which should yield a kicker by mid-August.
Michigan is set this year with Kicking Competency Lopata returning for a final year, but after his departure they'll have only an assortment of walkons and recruited kicker Bryan Wright. Michigan's willingness to offer a scholarship kicker when he's got two years of eligibility left should tell you all you need to know about their opinion of his performance to date. Assuming Michigan picks up either Fera or Gibbons and the new guy ends up starting, Wright's unlikely to get a fifth year.
Defensive ends. With Lousiana defensive linemen DeQuinta Jones hitting the LSU camp at 305 and seemingly establishing himself a defensive tackle, Michigan needs them, and how.
It looks like you can scratch off NV DE Keenan Graham, who the LA Times reports will take an official to UCLA and that "Virginia Tech could end up being one of the only other schools that Graham visits" before he commits. SC DE Sam Montgomery is "expected to stay in state" according to ESPN, but Michigan will get an official.
More happily, SC DE Chris Bonds will set an official visit to Michigan; his other trips will be to Alabama, USC, Notre Dame, and Tennessee. He's a big fish.
AR CB Darius Winston decommitted from Arkansas a few weeks ago and named Michigan his leader. Unfortunately, he's backed off that assertion:
"I have been just quiet about everything," Winston said. "I just don't really have a top school right now. I'm just open and focusing on my season."
Despite his decommit from the Razorbacks, Winston attended the most recent Arkansas camp; he also plans stops at Ole Miss and LSU. Michigan should still get an official.
I'm not too excited about anyone from Glenville listing Michigan, but this on OH OL Marcus Hall might be worth mentioning:
For some time, Ohio State, Illinois and USC were atop Hall's list. That has changed. "Illinois, Ohio State, Florida State and Michigan, those four are all pretty even at top right now."
Ohio State was the prohibitive favorite, but with 24 commitments and a few guys in a holding pattern the Buckeyes may run out of slots; Hall may also look at the depth chart and decide to go somewhere he won't be stuck behind a couple five stars.
I am left uncertain how to react. I would call for Matt's jersey to be retired, only we don't assign numbered uniforms in the blogosphere. I would put my meager talents as a songwriter to use in penning a Don McLeanesque paean, but, although the site is coming to an end, Buddy Holly will continue to cut albums, as it were, so such a dirge would be excessive.
SMQ himself erroneously headlines the departure announcement "SMQ Sells Out," probably because he and I and most of the leading vanguard of getting-towards-30 college football bloggers came of age in the Nirvana era, when "selling out" went from changing who you were for money to being paid, period. SMQ is not selling out by the former definition; we should welcome the latter.
I've got a pretty good idea where he's headed, a month or so ago I got pinged by an old associate in search of recommendations for a national, full-time college football blogger and feverishly recommended him. I assume that everyone else contacted responded in a similar fashion, and further assume he got the gig. I won't spoil the surprise, but rest assured that SMQ is going to a place where he will be compensated for his words and -- this is important -- be forced to post many more of them. He will not be turned into a drone that asks coaches how they feel about OSU's national title losses. This is a win-win.
Proposal. Tim Tebow went to Thailand, stole a baby, and did a Heisman pose in front of cameras, but he was evidently beat to it by this guy:
Seeing a civilian do this gave me an idea: all college football blogs that deign to have the sort of "about" page that contains a picture should find a baby and stiffarm the hell out of someone imaginary. Crocs optional. I am working on baby acquisition. Temporary baby acquisition.
We're hunting witches. Here's the Outside the Lines piece on Penn State's outburst of bad behavior in recent years:
Except for the "To Catch A Predator" tone of the voiceover, that seemed pretty fair: mention of the high graduation rates and acknowledgement of how many charges actually resulted in convictions, something that the list flying around the internet failed to do. (They should have ommitted Austin Scott's rape charges, as those never even made trial.)
The numbers are still high, though, and Paterno's combative, dismissive interactions with ESPN Chris Hansen were embarrassing. More embarassing: the interviews with the guys who live in the apartment where Anthony Scirrotto's posse rode rougshod over random engineering students, and the general reaction of the university ("clean up the stadium!") and local police force ("one guy gets a misdemeanor assault beef!") to what sounds like a situation that warranted far more.
Depth chartin'. I haven't seen this anywhere else, but Varsity Blue claims to have a copy of the first official depth chart. Interesting items[update: commenters point out this is just the same thing that was release immediately after spring. Oh well]:
- Starting SLB is listed as Austin Panter. SLB is Mouton or Evans, MLB Ezeh or Thompson.
- Strong safety is Harrison or Stewart.
- OL from left to right: Ortmann, McAvoy, Moosman, Zirbel, Schilling.
- Hemingway the other starter at outside receiver; Clemons listed as the starter in the slot (no freshmen yet: Jim Potempa is his backup.)
More detail over at VB.
Bill Martin (Ann Arbor, MI) steered his Great Lakes 70 Stripes to three first place finishes in three races in IRC Class 1 on Sunday to grab first place in the Rolex US-IRC National Championship. Martin wins the second annual championship trophy and much more, a specially engraved Rolex Steel and Platinum Yacht-Master timepiece.
'I've finally won a national championship,' Martin said when told of his win. 'My wife has a national championship in the Cal 25 Class seven years ago. We're finally even.'
Martin attributed his three bullets on the last day to excellent crew work and to Bruce Nelson, his tactician for the regatta. 'We had impeccable crew work throughout the regatta and especially in the three final races. Every sail selection was perfect. We hit every lay line perfectly. Bruce and the crew were spot on for the series.'
At least it was all worth it in the end, I guess: one Rolex and one Rich Rodriguez later, everyone's happy. Except West Virginia, obviously.
Okay, I did get two questions answered. One: I asked Illinois center Ryan McDonald about J Leman's American flag tie. Had he seen the picture? Yes. Does he just wear that thing? "Every time I see him with a tie it's in an American flag tie." But he apparently didn't wear it to the wedding. "If you're in a tux, you can't pull that off."
J Leman picture goes here.
The other: I did get my question about the number of tight ends on the roster off. Rodriguez responded "well, now that's not entirely true, we threw to Owen Schmitt quite a bit and sometimes he lined up at tight end," at which point I gave him an "aw, come on" kind of beaten-down puppy dog look and he went into a spiel about how at Michigan they have the sort of tight ends they've never had at West Virginia and how they're looking to use them. I asked further about what was the rationale for having them split into the slot when traditionally slot receivers in the spread are 5'8" electron guys.
Rodriguez: "You want to look for mismatches part of what we're experimenting with that with the tight ends. If they can prove to be a mismatch on the field we'll use them; if they can't, they won't."
This was not as revelatory as I hoped, but it wasn't about how he feels about leadership, man.
Clarification: The stuff about Michigan hating children by ducking out of Lamarr Woodley's golf this is a miscommunication and they'll be there next year.
Observation: Curtis Painter has an unbelievable amount of product in his hair.
Theme: Rich Rodriguez would like you to know he's not married to running 70% of the time. This came up at various times as people came in and out, most artfully asking if he was stupid enough to run Steven Threet 30 times a game but all polite like. Rodriguez: "We've been pigeonholed as a club that runs. We have to have enough flexibility to go a couple different ways. You see one spread and it's not like another spread. The spread you can go a lot of different ways."
Later, he was asked about recruiting and segued in to this bit: "We don't have to have Pat White. Pat's a special guy but you can get a guy who can move a little bit and be accurate, we'll go with that." There was a followup about that and Rodriguez made an interesting point: "We're practicing the same plays when Shawn King is the quarterback and Pat White, we just call them differently. In practice we don't focus on one or the other. In the game we were calling what's working."
Stonum. "Stonum is five months ahead of him because he got there five months ahead." Stonum's chances of playing are better because he enrolled early.
Zinger. Much was made about this "apostles" bit that Rodriguez has going on; at one point Rodriguez clarified the deal: "We've always had a group of leaders; we let the players pick. Sometimes it's as simple as picking pregame music. It's not like we're making major decisions. They're making suggestions."
Angelique Chengelis then got off a pretty good one: "there's only one Jesus Christ." Rodriguez, thankfully, did not claim that happiness for himself.
Thing that makes HULK SMASH: IF YOU START A QUESTION WITH "IT'S A CLICHE, BUT" DO NOT ASK THAT QUESTION.
This would be slightly interesting if I knew who Rodriguez was talking about: "He looks stronger. He's done a great job according to Mike and looks like he has as far as getting stronger across the board; he's got a terrific attitude."
Pick your favorite player. That's who he's talking about.
On recruiting: "We trust our own judgments... recruiting rankings are a little overblown but not always. Would I take a roster full of five star guys? I would, if they have the right attitude."
"I think we can go anywhere in the country. Our base areas: Michigan, surrounding states, also an emphasis in Florida. Fortunately for us we think we've got enough of a brand name to at least give us a shot. Some of it is system-oriented, but a lot of it is just the player and attitude all coaches want in athletes."
Observation: no one wants to talk to Purdue LB Anthony Heygood.
Boilerplate: "The thing i like about camp is that it's all football from morning to night. In the spring guys have classes and all that and they've got responsibilities and the like. We'll certainly know our guys better at the end of August. I will know our team a whole lot better after 30 days."
Minor HULK SMASH moment: At this point the Dis-paaatch guy actually asks the us against the world question, which is always "do you think the team is adopting an "us against the world" mentality?" Rodriguez says "no."
Weird: Players vote on captains before the last regular season game.
Opinion on something that's not that interesting. Rodriguez was asked about this movement towards national officiating crews instead of conference-affiliated ones: "National officiating crews are a good idea; just want the games to be consistently called. The attempt to go national is an attempt to be more consistent." He also said he hadn't noticed much of a difference between conferences in bowl games and such.
Joke about referees: "I used to yell at them a lot when I was younger, but then I figured out they aren't going to change the call so I stopped."
Carlos Brown gon' take some snaps, probably. Carlos Brown was brought up; Rodriguez dubbed him a "wildcard" because he missed so much of spring when he sliced his finger open. This led into a good question from someone who I couldn't identify: "how many guys will touch the ball at quarterback this year." Rodriguez repeated the question with an arched eyebrow, paused, and then exclaimed "good question! I set the over-under: 20"
Then he said this: "we've got to be creative, moreso now than we might have to in the future."
My take-home: hello, Wildcat.
Also, on Feagin: he has to "make his mark in the first two weeks" and will be "given everything he can handle mentally."
How do you feel about the Big Ten perception Ohio State blah? "If you want to change that perception, you've got to win."
Oops. The past few years there were a lot of schools visiting West Virginia, but not ones that he thought he'd play. Including... uh... Ohio State.
The last bit in this quote is reassuring for me, though: "There's no patents on schemes. We never give them everything. Like we never tell people why we call this play in a certain situation. They bring us stuff here, We try to get smarter every year, learn some things from people all the time."
Theme: The other side of "salty language." Talking points from Morgan Trent and Tim Jamison when asked about how Rodriguez was different from Carr. Trent: "he's a little more intense, a little more vocal. He wants it to be chaotic environment in practice so we're ready during the game." Jamison: "He brings a lot of energy, it's great for us. He's not going to pat you on the butt. He demands greatness of you. You need to get better every day. You need to get ready to compete."
Tim Jamison: "I don't think anyone else is going to leave. I think everyone else is ready, confident, and has brought into the program. We're just working out hard, watching TV, hearing about how bad Michigan is going to be. I'm not going to brag on what we're going to do, but we're excited to go into training camp."
Stock answer. Jamison on defending the spread better this year because Michigan has a spread: "As the year went on we got better at it but we can't help but get better at it this year."
What kind of football will people see out of Michigan? American football. Ha. Jamison: "You're going to see a team that's very conditioned, very physical, anxious. We're anxious to see what we're going to do as well."
Awww, Lloyd Carr. Jamison, laughing: "The Brown Jug is the only rivalry Carr broke down from start to finish. From the beginning to the end, every year."
7/25/2008 - Dienhart 1, MGoBlog 0 - Pwned
So I'm sitting in the "media workroom" here at Big Ten Media days after the two hour-period this morning when all the coaches and players sit at different tables and answer questions posted by print and radio media. Some guy in his late twenties with close-cropped hair sat at the next table, prompting the bearded old hand next to me to ask: "totally overwhelmed yet?"
"Not really," he responded.
"Just so much information" was the reply, and then the old hand lapsed into thoughtful silence.
These are the fruits of my labors, the sum total of information I have to bring to you based on my penetrating questions that I envisioned would stun the people I questioned into mute appreciation of my knowledge before offering clear, concise descriptions of exactly what I wanted to know:
"I'm not going to tell you."
"I'm not going to answer that question."
"We strive for balance."
Other people did manage to get off queries that were answered interestingly, but very few. For a prolonged period, I sat at the table Rich Rodriguez was condemned to and tried to get one of the above-mentioned Penetrating Questions in but was constantly cut off by two adversaries I began referring to in my head (and notes) as Enormous Forehead Guy and Smarmy Young Journo, who would leap in at the perfect moment with a question of incredible uselessness like "who do you think has more pressure on them, the players or the coaches?" and then nod sagely as Rodriguez spun out his answer. In this case: "it's equal" was followed by few meandering sentences that served to completely rebuke the very idea of the question in the politest way possible.
This did not occur to the adversaries. I am communing with football, Enormous Forehead appeared to think. This is great stuff. SYJ looked on very seriously indeed, as if Rodriguez's answer to this purposeless question was a papal edict on an ethical matter of exceeding complexity. The force at which my eyes rolled back into my head threatened whiplash; fortunately everyone was fixated on Rodriguez and my lack of professionalism went unremarked upon. (And what better way to get away with it than post it on your blog? Mooohahaha!)
It was at this point my tolerance snapped. I'd like to say I stood and gave a thunderous edict that completely changed journalism forever. I didn't. Instead I typed this into my notes:
"who has more pressure, the players or the coaches?" I WANT TO DIE. I AM SITTING TWO FEET FROM RICH RODRIGUEZ AND CAN'T GET A QUESTION IN AND MORONS OF MORONLAND ARE MORONING MY TIME AWAY FUUUUUUCK
I was stressed! I felt much better, though.
It was at this point that Tom Dienhart, who I've considered a dolt ever since he penned a really awful column that chastized an imaginary avatar of Michigan fandom he dubbed "Boy Blue" or "Blue Boy" or something like that, [turns out it was "Big Blue Boy" -- even worse -ed] asked a simple question about how Scott Shafer came to the attention of Rich Rodriguez. Rodriguez said "hey, Tom," shook Deinhart's hand, commented negatively upon his Spartan green Rivals.com polo, and spoke. Thus spake the pope (the following is a paraphrase, not a quote):
I first looked into Scott when he was at I was at West Virginia and we were playing Maryland; Shafer was at Northern Illinois when they beat Maryland and Alabama, which is a big accomplishment when you're Northern Illinois. It wasn't necessarily just the schemes but how hard and aggressive they played. Then I saw what he did at Stanford, beating USC. He's a good fit for what we want to do.
This is pretty interesting, and it led into an entertaining anecdote about Shafer talking to his wife Missy, who asked "you aren't going to be changing jobs again, are you?" (Shafer had, at this point, been at three schools in four years.) Shafer downplayed the idea, headed off to a coaching convention, and immediately got a phone call from Rich Rodriguez.
Meanwhile, I'm just sitting around fuming. My notes before the paraphrase above: "Scott Shafer. Dienhart just asks my question." I have been owned.
Why am I here? Have I gotten anything useful out of this at all, or would my time have been better spent in the Batcave (read: mother's basement) pounding out a preview of Minnesota or something? I have absolutely no better handle on how Michigan will do this year. I don't even have the barest smidge of news to bring you: the two pieces of actual news I've heard have been common knowledge on the internet for a month. I couldn't get anyone to say anything even remotely interesting. I'm pretty sure Travis Beckum thinks I have Down's Syndrome. A rousing success, this is not.
The one saving grace is going back to that Dienhart piece, though, which remains as putrescent as it was when I hammered it a couple years ago. It's really bad: shallow thinking, lame jokes, no justification for any of its premises. Theory: being a good beatwriter/interviewer-guy and being a good opinion merchant are not just unrelated skills but are somewhere near mutually exclusive. I spend my time combing the internet for any piece of novel information I can find, reviewing games and compiling stats, reasoning out things I think about football and compiling evidence to justify my beliefs.
Beatwriters try to eke out interesting responses from interview adversaries. They're believers in the holy grail of access, which necessitates thinking on an entirely different level. It's not real unless it comes from your access, so only things that people say are real. (And often they're deliberately not saying anything.) Take just about any newspaper article or radio piece or anything, really, reported in the objective style favored by the media these past 50 years:
- THING is controversial.
- "THING is great, I love thing" says person X.
- But group Y says THING has PROPERTY OR EFFECT that is negative.
- "I hate THING, think of the children" says person Z from Group Y.
- But person X of group W disagrees.
- "I disagree," says person X.
- Ain't it a funny old world?
This is just about the complete opposite of critical thinking. There is a skill in it; it is not my skill, and my skill is not theirs.
I did transcribe some stuff of debatable utility; that's coming up.
They didn't boot me. I even got a nice shiny pass and everything. I didn't get off any questions to Rich Rodriguez, because god knows he's got to answer stuff about West Virginia and Justin Boren sixty thousand times, but I did ask Joe Paterno what he thought about an early signing period, mostly because the poor guy was about to ninja-kick the next guy who prefaced a question about his potential retirement in some way that implied he would never, ever ask aboout his potential retirement.
I took notes both on Rich Rodriguez's 15 minutes and the INCREDIBLY FRUSTRATING post-interview scrum afterwards.
Like this, only with dumb questions about West Virginia
ONLY SLIGHTLY STALE NEWS: Not that you expected any different, but Rodriguez confirmed that Slocum was off the team. Dispiritingly for would-be lionizers (guilty), he said that it was "academic and other reasons... he did not do the things he had to to remain on the team."
Also, someone wedged a question in about the academic status of the recruits and Rodriguez responded that everyone was good to go. I think this was already known, but confirmation can't hurt. Boubacar Cissoko was reputed to be the player at greatest risk.
Now, onto people asking about West Virginia and my increasing apoplexy.
RICH RODRIGUEZ is excited to be here. Great start. Hopes to meet some of y'all for the first time... little bit of drama for the last seven months he would like to clear up. Has great respect for players, coaches, and the league itself. He's excited to be here. He's been waiting all summer on his new "snake oil concoction" to provide him... uh. (Yeah, kinda wish he didn't say that. )
References the strength staff, getting guys into shape. Transition from a football standpoint is as seamless as he could have expected. Lot of young hungry players getting significant playing time. Pleased with the way the staff came together. Weird emphasis on "re-hired" instead of "retained"... maybe it's an anti-nepotism crusade. No one skates by on rep under Rodriguez, I guess. Thumbs up.
"Very young" on offense... lost some of the best players who've ever played offense at Michigan. One starter returning up front. Deeper on D, you know all this. Players embracing the challenges they've had. Has he said football yet? Don't think so. He just said "ball game" in a southern accent, so if he was going to he would have done it there.
Guys are buying in. End of opening statement
Columbus Dispatch asks about the drama over the seven months... was there one thing that rankled you? "After a while... it's like just stand in line." So many things that weren't true. The only one that really bothered was a question about family values -- they take the most pride in that. "There's no one who's going to have a closer, more familial bond than us."
USA Today lady asks about the lawsuit. Any regrets? He'll address it now so they don't have to address it for 13-14 years. He'd like to move on, in the past, disappointed in certain things. Still hewing to this "the truth will come out" stuff that I really wish he'd quit.
Is anyone going to ask about football? Screw this. I am. [note: I tried. I was going to ask "you have six tight ends on the roster and and offense that hasn't used the tight end in seven years. What do you do with all those guys?" but they didn't get around to me.]
USA Today references the Rosenberg article: "It's been said this embarrassing for the university and for you personally, how do you feel?" Blah. Etc. Rodriguez has already dismissed this USA Today lady has the gumption to follow up with another thrust. This is also batted aside in the same fashion anyone who's paid the slightest attention to Michigan in the last seven months can recite by heart.
Ooh, Daily Iowan asks about the S&C change. Diplomatic answer: "Any time there's a transition or a change, everyone wants to compare the difference; sometimes that's unfair. There's no one perfect way to do things. It's just a little different. Barwis is one of the best in the country, but I'm biased." "Pro players who didn't even know Mike now train with him diligently and bought in." "Our players have seen the change in their bodies."
Next question is about Pryor going elsewhere, transfer of "Ryan Mallette" and that's not a typo, that's how this guy said it. "Steve Threet has a lot of talent, Nick Sheridan did a great job, Justin Feagin... whenever you lose a recruit it's disappointing." One minute left. Not going to get a question off.
Oh MY GOD: Big Ten's bad rap on speed and athleticism question. "The perception is just that: perception. Great speed in our league." What a dillweed, last question was guaranteed to be answered with standard boilerplate.
No wait, there's one more question: Bucknuts.com asks about rivalry games and how he can turn around the Ohio State series. Is anyone going to ask anything that can possibly yield insight? Oooh zing: "I'm not the kind of coach who has a countdown to a particular game, just the next one." He immediately backs out of what looks like a Dantonio rip. "I've heard "just win the Ohio State game and we'll be happy." I don't believe that."
And one final one: what's Kevin Grady's status? Good job, GR Press guy. You get a ninja star. Suspended from the team, no longer working out with the team, still attending classes. He has to do certain things to get back on the team. There will be some playing time penalties, and he's on a strict watch.
POST INTERVIEW SCRUM TIME
Rodriguez has been surrounded and is being asked exclusively about WVU and lawsuit and snake oil and family values and Rodriguez is fending that stuff off, including highly skeptical questioning about the necessity of "salty" language from someone I can't see but is very probably a thousand years old. He does mention Slocum is off the team for academic and other reasons.
Walk-on program is building up. Everyone is qualified and through the clearinghouse. Barwis says players are really excited, gone from "how hard it is" to excited at his progress.
This bit's actually interesting: there's a handful of players they call "the apostles" who the players pick as their leaders for the class; Rodriguez meets with them regularly to communicate with them with other players. 20(!) guys, normally 10-12. Anyone can talk to Rodriguez but these guys are sort of quasi-captains and act as the voice of the player during regular meetings, the last one a BBQ at Rodriguez's house.
Thinks M outside the top 3 is "reality;" look at who we've lost." But you're waiting for it, aren't you? You know some sort of pithy statement abut how rankings are not important is coming. Rich Rodriguez is a coach. He has it in his blood. Here you go: "Last I checked where you ranked wasn't worth a first down."
Ignorant about the jersey number thing -- no #1 btw. "One thing we're not going to do is be fake." All the players who played for me 10 years or 15 years still come back. He knows most of these coaches already from "apparel contracts" and "retreats."
More image stuff. Rodriguez hauls out the "One guy left, 99 stayed" and then in the middle of another WVU question says, a little plaintively, "I just changed jobs." Then he's whisked away to do interviews for television, where he'll no doubt be asked all the same questions and die a little inside.
Meanwhile, I missed lunch.
Hopefully I'll get more interesting stuff tomorrow, when the players do table interviews. I hope to ask the Illinois guys about how awesome J Leman was.
I'm in Chicago. I'm going to go to the Big Ten Media Hootenanny and see if I get kicked out or stabbed or something. If I don't I hope to ask Joe Tiller "if there's a gentleman's agreement amongst Big Ten teams not to recruit each other's verbal commitments, how did Michigan State commit Garrett Bushong end up signing with Purdue?"
After his head explodes I'll try to get up a post in the afternoon.
For now, links and such.
Adieu. Michigan's put out the fall roster; Marques Slocum is not on it. There are no other unexpected departures.
No. I don't know the female t-shirt model's name. Or her phone number.
What? Speaking of Tiller, I ran across this article from a few days ago in a Wyoming paper on the Big Ten's most walrusy coach:
"But since I've announced my retirement, it's amazing to me how many people come up and thank me and say they're appreciative. I'm thinking, 'Where were they a year ago when the bloggers were nailing me for losing to Michigan in Ann Arbor?'"
No offense to the two burgeoning Purdue blogs Off The Tracks and Boiled Sports, but they were probably sitting around being totally unaware of the internet firestorm raging inside their computers, just like the great majority of Michigan fans assume you had heat stroke you said "great game from Tacopants today."
Is this a good deal? Alabama and Clemson are opening the season in Atlanta. Kudos to them; the trend of moving football games off campus is far less annoying than the one in which no one plays anyone. But I wonder if it's worth it:
Alabama and Clemson will reportedly earn nearly $2 million apiece for their season-opening matchup in Atlanta.
Quick calculation suggests that $4 million divided by 90k (the approximate capacity of Bryant-Denny) is about 44 bucks, and we know that on average SEC tickets go for well more than that. So why not just have a home-and-home?
Diaries. SpartanNation drops in and gives us a taste of what we have coming; it's ugly. Chrisgocomment provides some further perspective on Carr's career. And wolvrine32 lists Michigan Commandments that Rich Rodriguez is enjoined to follow.
I still believe Kirk Ferentz was someone's first choice to be Michigan's next head coach. We'll never know, but the preponderance of rumormongering from here and elsewhere is hard to deny absent any contradictory hypotheses.
From a neutral perspective, Ferentz was a weird first option. He was successful... three years ago. Because of that rapidly receding success he was paid six kazillion dollars a year. And he was way ethical if you ignore the spate of questionable characters he recruited over the past few years and the housing scam he ran with his son.
But by God, he looked like an honest man. Nice jaw. Appealing salt-and-pepper hair. Aura of calm politeness at all times. Super hot daughters and strapping lad sons. People began to question his performance, but most of the opinion directed at Iowa's extended run of Facebook terrorism was meta-criticism: "isn't it weird no one's giving Iowa heat"?
Ladies and gentlemen: heat. This Iowa stuff that's gone down? Heavy. In sum:
- Cedric Everson (remember him?) and Abe Satterfield allegedly have nonconsensual sex with another Iowa athlete.
- The university suspends and eventually boots Everson and Satterfield, but pressures the victim into handling it "in house," allows Everson to move in with his girlfriend(!) three doors down from the victim, and generally appears to have no inclination towards actually doing something until the victim files formal charges.
- Some recruit is chased by eight cops whilst naked, racking up Iowa's 634th arrest in the last three years.
The mother of the victim was so incensed she released a scathing letter originally sent to Iowa eight months after she originally sent it. This is the money quote:
"University of Iowa's character was non-existent. It is disappointing to say the very least," the alleged victim's mother said in a phone interview. "We were told the school will take care of it. We will keep it in house. We will be swift. We will be just, and you don't have to worry about it."
And this is the money quote about Kirk Ferentz, Michigan's probable first choice coach in November:
Speaking of dorm rooms, the alleged assault occurred in a "ghost room," registered to a third player but unoccupied. After the incident, according to affadavits obtained by the Press-Citizen, Ferentz ordered the player to reoccupy the room, and a different player moved into the room as well. The room was never secured, evidence was never gathered from it, and the incoming players cleaned all the mess from the alleged assault. [mess including a used condom and sheets with an "orangish-reddish" substance on them -ed]
When I read the Press-Citizen article the first time around I thought it was a case of university bureaucracy exhibiting spectacular stupidity, not malice. This is not. It certainly appears like the behavior of the athletic department -- keep it "in house" because Iowa's got a first class prison right next to the chem building, throw away the evidence contained in the ghost room, keep it vague in the media -- was mostly concerned with whether or not they could salvage the careers of two defensive backs.
Black Heart, Gold Pants has been calling for mass resignations, and I'm not quite there. But Kirk Ferentz is alleged to have instructed two football players to
destroy evidence in a rape case involving another football player occupy a room he knew was a crime scene. [Update: clarification; Ferentz probably didn't say "you go destroy that evidence"; he did tell someone to move into a room that he knew would be of police interest.] If that turns out to be true (since that information is based on affadavits given by the players who moved into the room, that's highly likely), Ferentz immediately sets up shop one level above Dave Bliss in coaching hell.
We've heard an awful lot about Rich Rodriguez's lack of character this offseason because he changed jobs, tried to reduce his buyout, and said some silly things about the truth coming out. This was despite a seven-year run without a hint of NCAA sanctions and repeated weak showings in the Fulmer Cup. Meanwhile, Iowa is imploding and it took the most serious allegations leveled at a college head coach since the Bliss incident for anyone to notice. If you hadn't listened to Kirk Ferentz and Rich Rodriguez, hadn't seen pictures of their wives, couldn't hear their accents, this would all be terribly mysterious.
But we have and it's not. The whispered accusation about Rodriguez -- he's a hillbilly -- is true. He shops at Costco and is only interested in Rudyard Kipling if he's 17 years old and benches 400 pounds. He makes goofy jokes at press conferences and occasionally says things you wish he hadn't. He does not inspire third-party confidence like Bo or even Lloyd did. He is not a titanic figure astride the globe, molding young men into little Academic All-American Adonises. He is resolutely, publicly human, full of venal sins. He is impossible to truly adore in the way college football fanbases wish to adore their proxy father figures. He punctures the "Michigan Man" myth every day. He, like Zaphod Beeblebrox, is just this guy, you know?
And, like, okay. I'm nearly 30. I have a father. I just want someone who will win football games and not utterly disgust me when the scales fall from my eyes and the preposterous lie is exposed for all to see. I prefer my heroes poor and uncertain of their future, anyway.