also duty-free guys falling over and grabbing their shins
The NIU coverage map can be found here.
Mark Hasty checks in with Pickin' On The Big Ten. Michigan-NIU prediction:
NOT QUITE THE SUBURBS OF CHICAGO 13
NOT QUITE NATIONAL CONTENDERS 34
Barry Alvarez chose... wisely. Future Wisconsin head coach Brett Bielema may be the most brilliant defensive mind in the country, if you look at the raw numbers as TAMABINPO did for the recent Roundtable, one question of which was basically "who are the best offensive and defensive minds in the country?" Kyle took a look at the top 20 scoring and yardage defenses over the past five years looking for consistency of effort and came up with Auburn, Georgia, USC, Miami, etc... but then he datamined himself a stark contrast in the directions of two defenses linked by one coach:
04TD 04SD 03TD 03SD 02TD 02SD 01TD 01SD 00TD 00SC
KState 43 84 6 8 2 1 3 7 4 17
Wisc 9 6 43 50 63 38 58 81 79 34
Bielema left Kansas State for Wisconsin after the '03 season.
Not Brett Bielema. Hopefully Charlie Weis.
I love that graph. It immediately changed my mind about a lot of things. I may have underrated Wisconsin this year. If you're interested in the future of the Big Ten, keep an eye on the Badger defense this year. They're young and have been pillaged by graduation; if Bielema does anything approaching his 2000-2004 performances, you can probably pencil Wisconsin into the top half of the Big Ten for the next 10, 20, 30 years. Bielema's only in his mid-thirties. He's got a lot of time ahead of him before he goes JoePa.
(Excellent work by TAMABINPO, as per usual. One of the best CFB blogs around.)
Drew Stanton really doesn't like Michigan.
Brief hockey note: Gajic and Werner have both signed AHL contracts. I could actually see Werner make the show someday in a limited, protected sixth-D and PP specialist role a la Marc-Andre Bergeron in Edmonton. We shall see.
Hello, mgoblog readers. Vijay from IBFC, Joey from Straight Bangin', and myself thought it would be good idea to get together and talk about the upcoming Michigan season. We each moderated a third of a conversation about Michigan football as it stands on September 2, 2005. We started with the offense, which you can find over at Straight Bangin'. I took the defense, which is below. Vijay addressed some more general questions about the state of the program and its direction which you can find over at IBFC.
Some introduction to our general personalities:
Joey: Well, from my perspective: The sky is falling, Carr is a jerk, a playoff is swell, the defensive line is the thing, and Terry Malone is overrated. Like Marlin Jackson. And I, too, am a jerk.
Vijay: From my position, I am a hopeless optimist, I think 10-1 is realistic, we'll improve enough on DL to hide some schematic and back 7 flaws and we'll win the Big 10. Carr is good enough that he shouldn't have the complaint/praise ratio he has, and the only thing I hate more than ND and playoffs is the idea of ND being in the playoffs.
Brian: I, on the other hand, choose to ignore the fact that our safeties are forced to undergo Katzenmoyerization upon matriculation, Herrmann's determination to confuse his own defense into submission, and Carr's decision to leave his nuts in a jar at home whenever he plays a road game and believe we're destined for a Weis-like run of greatness and the next 6 national championships.
Joey: Aren't we a nice triumvirate of Michigan fans?
Indeed. So there you go. That's us. And here we go:
Brian: Okay. Now to the not so sunny side of life. Michigan's D has been a lightning rod of criticism from the instant Dusty Magnum's field goal cleared the crossbar. The back seven is very green, but there's hope on the DL. The big question: is the defense going to control mobile quarterbacks?
Vijay: Okay, I'll run with this one.
Brian: Please do.
Vijay: Control, hell no, but they'll do a better job than they did last year. Last year we were simply a free meal. We will not swarm like some other teams may, but we should be able to contain a guy like Troy Smith enough that he has to make something else happen, too, to beat us. And the difference will be assignments. We had guys in the back 7 who were nowhere near where they should have been.
Joey: Against mobile QBs, I'd like to see the d-line do a better job of defining the workable space.
Vijay: Joey, elaborate please
Joey: It would be nice if a QB couldn't evade the containment and instead was forced back toward defenders.
Brian: Isn't that what happened in the OSU game? Woodley beats his blocker but holds up to keep contain, and then boom, 67 yard touchdown over Shazor.
Vijay: You know, I really think most of those big runs from Young weren't by breaking contain, they were by finding the gaps between two rushers, where an LB should be waiting. No LB. And Brian, amen. Woodley beat his man and held up. That's awful. You can't expect your SS to keep coverage for 8 seconds.
Joey: I suppose so. I guess I want to see the DEs hold their positions but make more plays. Does that make sense? It seemed like pressure from the edges didn't result in tackles. And as you've both mentioned, even when the pressure was adequate, there was no one in position to make the QB pay. So really, my answer is a hybrid. I think UM will be successful if its DEs define the space a QB has, making tackles when they can, and if the LBs can be in position when a QB goes back toward the field
Brian: Have your cake and eat it too.
Vijay: That's the "swarming thing" I was talking about. If you want Woodley flying off the edge, you have to expect him to miss a bunch of times, but at least force the QB back towards someone else. There's never anyone else there for us. How many times do you see a QB juke a DE, only to get racked up from behind by a 2nd rusher? How many times do you see that happen against Michigan. I feel the opposite. I want Woodley and JVA and whomever else just flying at the QB with no conscience. And I want our LBs behind that ready to clean up.
Joey: I think we're
getting at the same thing--people playing their assignments well--but we might be articulating it differently.
Brian: Speaking of the defensive line, I think it's the key to the entire year for the team, the one unit that will make the D if it dominates like it could. New coach, new attitude, same pretty good players. What level will they play at?
Vijay: I harp on it, but I hate youth and those guys were first year starters. They will be much improved. And having quality depth will mean the world to Gabe.
Joey: Well, I was going to originally write that good defense and winning in college football start with the defensive line. Ask Iowa, USC, and LSU. If I can defend Herrmann, a little, it would have been nice were the d-line being taught d-line things.
Vijay: Agreed, Joey.
Brian: Is Stripling going to make a difference?
Joey: Yes. He's actually taught the linemen techniques to use. They might now have a better idea about how to disengage or use an o-lineman's weight and leverage against him.
Vijay: Yes. Our d-line had no technique.
Brian: Stereo action. Okay. How much of a difference? Are Woodley and Watson All-Americans at the end of the year?
Joey: That's a subjective distinction. Woodley will be very, very good (if they let him play with his hand down). Watson can be very, very good, but he'll get tired since he's fat. I thought Woodley was very good last year. He made some mistakes, and he missed some tackles, but he's the best pass rusher and he was surprisingly effective against the run.
Vijay: Well, there are only 4 All-Americans. Not sure we have 2 of the top 4 DL in the country. But they'll be All-American caliber, if you'll accept that chickening out.
Vijay: If I may change the discussion a bit: Pierre Woods ... 2003 quality, 2004 quality or somewhere in between?
Brian: (He was next, Vijay, just pretend I asked that)
Joey: In between. I feel as though he generally held his position well and strung out plays to the outside at times. I am still uncertain about what happened last year.
Vijay: No one's saying, if anyone knows.
Joey: It sounds like Woods was complacent, injured, and involved with partying off the field.
Brian: I'll throw in an answer: somewhere in between. I don't think Burgess is going to relinquish his spot. And I don't think the coaching staff will trust him to do much except pass rush.
Vijay: DE or OLB? Or both?
Joey: I like the idea of Woods at LB because his size doesn't limit his speed.
Brian: He'll play both but I doubt he sees the field against mobile quarterbacks at all. He's horrible in space.
Joey: But he was so horrible last year in space that I don't think it really works. LOL.
Vijay: So he's a go against ND and Minnesota, but no go against OSU and MSU?
Brian: Yes. Use against those two strictly limited to pass rush duties.
Joey: I worry about MLB. Who's playing there? Originally, I thought that it was gonna be the Brick. Then I read it was gonna be Harris. Then I read that Harris has been banged up.
Brian: Harris is injured again. McClintock is McClintock.
Vijay: Graham is outside all the way. Harris took the spot and McClintock moved to back up Graham, but with Harris oft-injured, McC is back at MLB.
Joey: Does McClintock make you feel confident?
Brian: In certain situations I'm comfortable with McClintock. Again, UW, Minnesota, but not against mobile QBs.
Vijay: I am quite happy with McClintock.
Joey: He is the hardest UM player to assess. Some really like him. Some think he's kind of slow.
Brian: Doesn't it bother you that he lost his job, Vijay?
Vijay: I never felt McClintock was the star of the defense, but with how horrible our entire LB corps was last year, people still kept praising Manning and Reid and never had anything nice to say about McC.
Brian: Vijay thinks "slow" means "white" to a lot of fans.
Vijay: Absolutely on the race thing. I could go on for a while there, but I'll pass.
Joey: I say "slow" meaning that he doesn't seem to get to plays in time to stop them. But most of our guys don't. I might be making that up, but I didn't think McClintock seemed especially effective. I know Vijay has studied this more than I have, though. Vijay?
Vijay: Here's my complaint, Joey. When Manning isn't there, if you blame Manning, you're a Herrmann apologist. When Reid misses the tackle, if you blame Reid, you're a Herrmann apologist. But when McClintock isn't there, it's perfectly okay to say "God, he's so slooooow ... get him off the field. Don't blame the players. How can you defend Herrmann? You're insane. And get McClintock and Massey off the field, 'cause they are so slooooow."
Joey: Well, that is partially racial. I won't deny that. I just think that all of our LBs play slow, though.
Brian: White people *are* really slow. Can't dance either.
Brian: Anyway. Shazor was Janus last year, the two-faced God who saved games and took them away. Now he's missing training camp with the Cardinals. Will the safeties be better or worse without him?
Vijay: Worse, but they'll look better because of improved DL play. How's that for a copout?
Joey: Shazor deserves a lot of blame. But so does Mundy. How many times did a team complete a pass to a WR while Mundy was arriving a step too late. Is the argument that Shazor was freelancing and leaving Mundy to play two positions?
Brian: Don't you think Shazor was the root of all evil after Purdue?
Vijay: The love of money? Are you hinting at reasons for his premature departure?
Joey: Are you saying that Shazor just didn't try?
Brian: I'm saying the dude freaked out. Total ninja flipout.
Joey: Does that fully account for Mundy?
Brian: Mundy was equally culpable. I am as hard on him as anyone.
Joey: I was mad at Shazor but I was more disappointed in Mundy. Some of that is my fault for buying into the hype he got coming out of high school, but he is a pedestrian defensive back who is routinely out of place. And he's already hurt. I think that the safeties will be about the same as last year, in totality.
Brian: So it's more of the same? Eight 60+ yard touchdowns?
Vijay: an>Nah. That's where the DL will help.
Joey: Engelmon is rumored to "be in the right place at the right time." If that's true, then we'll cut down on the big plays. If not, who knows? Vijay is right, though. A better d-line makes the entire D better. That's the whole moral of the story.
Joey: Are the cornerbacks good?
Brian: Next question: are the cornerbacks good?
Joey: Well, they'll seem good enough if QBs don't have much time.
Vijay: I am very confident we'll get at least capable cornerback play.
Brian: How so?
Vijay: Hall is very good. I think between the other guys they will find someone capable of being the #2 corner. At safety, we're looking for two distinct positions. Much tougher.
Joey: I think that Hall is good. I don't know if he's gonna be a great player, or even a leader, but I think he can cover guys for reasonable amounts of time. And like Vijay, I think someone will emerge across the field. If you believe the reports, a guy like Stewart has the physical gifts but needs to learn how to think. Experience is the best teacher. Mason seems to be decent in zone coverage, and that should be sufficient, again, if the d-line is giving QBs limited time to find receivers.
Vijay: Sears, Trent, Stewart ... all getting better reviews than our safeties.
Joey: I like Harrison as a safety, but he's a year away. If he is really put together like "they" say he is, he could be a solution at SS because he's fast.
Brian: So in summary it looks sort of like a replay of last year with a significantly improved D-line? Fair characterization?
Vijay: I think so. And hopefully less confusion in the schemes.
Brian: I'll believe that when I see it.
Joey: Yeah, especially since Marlin Jackson was so overrated.
Brian: Marlin overrated? Who what when?
Vijay: Marlin was overrated at first by people who said he was our next great Woodson-level corner. Then he was underrated by all the people who complained all the time that he was overrated.
Joey: This is my thing about Marlin: Did he ever significantly alter the outcome of a game?
Brian: That's a double-edged sword, Joey. I'll take a cornerback who is quietly effective over getting toasted by a white WR against ND cough Curry cough.
Joey: I suppose so. Some of his shortcomings, like blown coverages, weren't all on him. The d-line didn't help him.
Vijay: I can think of many, many times when guys like Whitley, Howard and the like altered the outcomes of games. Not good.
Joey: Look, I'm not saying he was bad, but he wasn't this incredible presence on defense who made plays. He wasn't a real weapon. Maybe corners like that are hard to come by, but honestly, would the UM season have been significantly different had he been hurt?
Vijay: Yes, Joey. Awful thought, yes. With all our difficulty with big plays and big play backs, mobile Qbs, etc ... imagine if we also lost our best cover man? Purdue .
.. loss. Minnesota ... loss.
Brian: I think that's a hell yes but that's just me. Not to mention he was great in run support. Biggest hitting corner I can remember.
Joey: When he made the hit. Dude missed a fair share of tackles.
Brian: I don't remember that at all.
Joey: I don't want to be forced into a position where I have to denigrate him to seem right. I'm just saying that he wasn't as good as many say. At least, as I saw it. There were a lot of plays--in space, usually--when he would wave his arms as a guy evaded him.
Brian: Bottom line: will we lose a game (or games) because of the defense? I'm talking like score 30 and lose.
Joey: Yes. MSU.
Vijay: I don't think we'll get lit up like we did against OSU and Texas, but we may well lose a 31-30 game, and MSU is my biggest fear. If we lose to MSU, it will be on the D, because there's no way they can stop us from scoring 30.
We had some stragglers enter the preseason poll after its initial release, four in total, and since the season has officially commenced I have cut off entries and have updated the final preseason poll. We have new 'winners' of the Mr. Bold and Coulter/Krugman Awards: examine them here.
No road out of conference games! Zow!
Michigan opens against Northern Illinois, one of the better MAC teams but one breaking in a new quarterback and rather flimsy-looking on defense. Their grinding ground attack racked up 238 yards a game last year and they were narrowly nipped by BCS teams Maryland and Iowa State. A MAC-opening loss to Toldeo was their only other defeat last year. The Huskies are no joke but they appear ill-equipped to exploit Michigan's weaknesses on defense or even think about slowing down the offense. Michigan should win this going away.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Weis E. Coyote and his merry band of NCAA-approved ethnic stereotypes are next. Weird, evil things happened in South Bend last year when a bediapered Henne and a nonexistent Hart blew a 12-0 lead and lost after a series of improbable second-half turnovers. I don't know what to expect from the ND offense. Can Weis install an effective system in a few months? Is Brady Quinn any good? Can Weis transmogrify the brains of Stovall and McKnight and make them into good wide receivers? Chances are that there will be some anxious moments as our safeties and linebackers adjust to playing a non-MAC team, but I don't expect the Irish to go nuts. I do know that the Irish secondary will be wretched, its linebackers middling, and its line game and talented but thin and prone to wearing down. This should be a win, if only for Vijay's sanity.
Eastern Michigan sucks.
The road and Big Ten opener is at Camp Randall, at night. It's Barry Alvarez's last opportunity to not get pwned by the Wolverines, which causes some coach-skeptical souls to fear it, overlooking the fact that Wisconsin is singularly incapable of exploiting our defensive weaknesses and has only a couple proven offensive linemen, a questionable secondary, and John Stocco, who I think is no good at football. I doubt Wisconsin scores more than 14 without aid from turnovers, and Michigan should breach 20 easily. Road opener hex broken.
The Michigan State game is the most important of the year. It starts a set of four critical games for Michigan, the heart of the schedule. MSU was robbed of victory in Ann Arbor last year when Drew Stanton went down and Braylon Edwards went up in one of the best games in Michigan history. There will be bloodlust in East Lansing, a place where Michigan rarely plays well. This is the moment we'll find out if the mobile quarterback thing has been mitigated, but I don't expect that Michigan will need a last-gasp burst to crack ten points this year. The Spartans are coughing up defensive players left and right. They'll have one of the worst secondaries Michigan faces this year. Another shootout is coming.
Minnesota succumbed to a late game Michigan comeback for the second straight year despite being outgained vastly. Turnovers and costly defensive mistakes leading to 80-yard Maroney touchdowns kept the Gophers in it last year but they were badly outplayed overall. mgoblog is on record predicting a Gopher offensive explosion this year and thus I am somewhat apprehensive about the game. Minnesota has the tools to handle the defensive line (Eslinger and co), exploit the linebackers(Maroney), and make the safeties look foolish(Wheelwright and Ellerson). They will put in a much better offensive performance than they did a year ago. Fortunately, Minnesota's defense looks as flimsy as ever. Michigan should be able to crack 30 against them. There's an 80% chance that'll be enough.
The Penn State game will be a slugfest, but with the uncertainty at OL, RB, QB, WR, and, oh hell, FB for the Nittany Lions I don't think their offense is going to have a pulse. Michael Robinson is technically a mobile quarterback, yes, but he's more of a mobile wide receiver if you catch my drift. The losses of Lavon Chisley and Ed Johnson and questionable status of JB Paxon will probably put a dent into their formidable defense from a year ago. Michigan should win this one; the Big Ten referees WON'T LET THEM LOSE!!!
It's often said about Iowa that the Hawkeyes never beat themselves, but that's exactly what happened last year when they gifted Michigan five turnovers and found themselves in a 20 point hole by the third quarter. They probably won't be so kind this year, but I think that with an entirely new, entirely green Hawkeye defensive line Michigan is going to be able to run the ball effectively enough to win at Kinnick. It'll be heartstopping, though.
Northwestern may have been in a position to give Michigan a game before God decided to smite them. Now, down five starters, starting four new offensive linemen, and without its best player, Loren Howard, Northwestern is not going to challenge Michigan.
Ohio State is on the verge of putting the Cooper shoe on the other foot. They bottled up Hart last year and then there was that eye-clawing thing with the quarterback and the 150 yard scoring drives. A tossup largely dependent on the development of the two quarterbacks.
Keys To The Season
BAH GAWD! THE COBRA CLUTCH!
A Real American Hero.Who is Steve Stripling? He's an actual defensive line coach. Bill Sheridan coached the position until last year. Amazingly, before Sheridan's stint there at Michigan, he had never played or coached the defensive line. Stripling comes over from Michigan State and, before that, Louisville. In 2003 he cajoled a Spartan team with a line no one would confuse with the Steel Curtain to 45 sacks. 2004 was not so kind to Stripling's charges, but with Kevin Vickerson and Greg Taplin gone and Clifton Ryan battling injury Stripling had very little to work with.
This will not be the case at Michigan. He has two potential All-Americans in Lamarr Woodley and Gabe Watson, a second-team All Big Ten-type in Pat Massey, a lot of potential at the other DE spot, and an absolute ton of depth. If Stripling was the type of person prone to rubbing his hands together and cackling evilly when presented with an infallible plan for world domination, you'd be hearing (what I assume is) his deep, rumbling basso emanating from the very bowels of Fort Schembechler right now. Scattered practice reports have repeatedly mentioned Woodley's general impossibility, the major steps forward taken by Jeremy Van Alstyne, Will Johnson, and Alan Branch, and the fact that Watson is still fat and broke Jake Long. This unit has the potential to be the type of defensive line that covers up a lot of flaws in the defense behind it. It will have to do so for the Michigan defense to reclaim its lost glory. There are two returning starters in the back seven, one of which had a terrible 2004 and missed most of the fall with a possibly chronic shoulder injury (Mundy)--they need help.
Well, Steve Stripling knows how to provide help. And knowing is half the battle.
Not a monkey.
Henne power. Michigan has every tool you could want on offense. Hart is a terrific workhorse back. Grady will be very hard to stop in short yardage situations. Breaston is double-digit YAC waiting to happen. Avant is a possession receiver without par in the Big Ten. Three offensive linemen and the top two tight ends return
. But it is Chad Henne who must take these tools, stick them into the Big Ten anthill, and remove a delicious feast of touchdowns and field goals. Then he can rub his belly and contentedly go "ook ook ook."
What I am trying to say stripped of the weird metaphors is: Henne will have to improve for Michigan to be a serious national championship threat. At times last year he was indecisive, inaccurate, or incapable of making the right read. He'll have to spread Braylon Edwards' 97 catches around to four or five different players, develop better touch on screens and flares, and cut down on his interceptions. If he stagnates, Michigan's offense will as well and there will be a frustrating loss... or three.
Spy vs. Spy. I may as well write it since everyone else in the universe has: mobile quarterbacks must be stopped. We're talking deep need, like send a cyborg back in time to kill the first mobile quarterback need. And then send a second cyborg back to melt down the quarterback's equipment. And then something involving a girl cyborg I can't be bothered to watch. Michigan will be opposing at least four dual threat QBs--Stanton, Basanez, Smith, and Robinson. There should be at least some reason for hope. The breakdowns of last year were the absolute worst case scenario, the hurricane Katrina of Michigan defense. The new outside linebackers are extremely fast, capable of running down most quarterbacks if they can place themselves in the correct area code before all hell breaks loose. The safeties... er. Moving on.
The coaching staff has been incapable of fixing this massive hole in their defensive gameplanning for years, but never was the need to deal with the problem so desperate. Carr has shown that he can adapt, though the changes come slowly.
This all sounds like grasping at straws, because it is.
Worst Case: Henne's development stalls. He's still pretty good but continues to misread coverages and throw interceptions. Limited by Henne, the offense sputters a bit. The defensive backfield is a disaster and. Mobile quarterbacks continue to go nuts against Michigan and the Wolverines lose at East Lansing and Iowa City, drop to 1-4 against the Buckeyes, and manage to blow another game along the way in classic Michigan fashion to go 7-4. Pitchforks and torches sell out in Ann Arbor and an angry mob chases Lloyd Carr and Jim Herrmann out of town.
Best Case: Henne makes The Leap. Woodley and Tim Jamison go nuts rushing the passer and Graham and Burgess vastly improve Michigan's terrible linebacking play. The secondary is still a bit shaky but the defensive line doesn't allow anyone to exploit it. Michigan finally figures out how to stop mobile quarterbacks. Zoltan The Inconceivable averages 55 yards net punting, and Michigan heads the Rose Bowl for a third straight year, gunning for the national championship. 11-0, bitches!
mgoblog says... I consider Scott Loeffler the coaching equivalent of Anne Sullivan after he turned John Navarre from the worst Michigan starting quarterback since 1984 (no offense, John, but that sophomore year was not pretty) into an All Big Ten player and an actual NFL draft pick. Henne will advance. People will fear him. The offense has too much talent everywhere to not be one of the nation's finest as long as the somewhat precarious offensive tackle situation works itself out. Michigan hasn't been this loaded on offense in a long, long time.
The defense should be better. Last year Michigan's defense was the worst it has had in the Bo-Mo-Llo era by a wide, statistically implausible margin. This year there is a ton to prove and question marks everywhere, but one unit that can potentially cover up a lot of flaws: the defensive line. Lamar Woodley is defensive equivalent to Henne. If he turns into a double-digit sacker and Jeremy Van Alstyne performs like the coaches think he is capable, Michigan's defense won't be enough of a liability to keep Michigan's offense from winning games...
Except once. Could be MSU, could be Iowa, could be OSU, could be Minnesota or Penn State. There are too many potential landmines for Michigan to go undefeated, but too much talent to miss the BCS. 10-1, 7-1, 1st Big Ten.
Let's get it on!
"Upon Further Review" is my play-by play opinion of football games that people are way more impressed with than they should be; I have a DVR. It records things. It's cool; we're buds.
NIU Offense / NIU Defense
ND Offense / ND Defense
EMU Offense / EMU Defense
UW Offense / UW Defense
MSU Offense / MSU Defense
Minnesota Offense / Minnesota Defense
PSU Offense / PSU Defense
Iowa Offense / Iowa Defense
Northwestern Offense / Northwestern Defense
Indiana Offense / Indiana Defense [missing, lo siento]
OSU Offense / OSU Defense
[Alamo Bowl Redacted]
Vandy Offense / Defense
Central Offense / Defense
Notre Dame Offense / Defense
Wisconsin Offense / Defense
Minnesota Offense / Defense
Michigan State Offense / Defense
Penn State Offense / Defense
Iowa Offense /Defense
Northwestern Offense / Defense
Ball State -- No Tape (ESPNU)
Indiana Offense / Defense
Ohio State Offense / "Defense"
Update 9/1: Changed KY DT Corey Peters' status to reflect the fact that Auburn leads now. Added FL RB CJ Spiller, removed DE Byron Isom, WR Chris Bell, and WR John Maddox. Linked to another Peters article and a Toryan Smith article. Linked to Antwine Perez article that claims he is down to just USC and Michigan... no LSU. Removed Myron Rolle(FSU).
Editorial Opinion FSU? Um... okay. I'd like to reference my recruit-to-English translation guide:
"Academics are extremely important to me" - I don't care about academics in the slightest.
"No, seriously, the academic reputation of a school is critical in my decision making." - My mom is in the room.
Further proof that academic reputation means nearly zero to anyone looking at a potential NFL career--and that those it really means something to go to Stanford anyway. Not that Rolle is a bad guy or FSU is a bad place to go.
Perez is widely thought to be heavily favoring USC, by the way (and it's more just a random blog's assertion). Reminding myself of the cardinal rule: Don't panic.
Okay, this is half mea culpa, half debate. First the self-loathing: this post was unfair to Tom Orr, in retrospect. I picked out two sections of a season preview and dismissed the whole thing based on a few sentences, which I hate when people do it to me. Snark got the better of me and the whole thing was kind of an asshole move. Tom's regular column for the OZone is very good.
Tom pulls out Hart's game by game YPC, reproduced here with some additional data:
|San Diego State:||4.8||3.4||1.4|
Those average numbers don't quite measure what I want them to since they A) include sacks, making Hart look better than he was and B) include Hart's carries, making Hart look worse than he was (in general). A is a more powerful factor than B, so mentally revise the difference downward by a little bit. A quick calculation says that .2 is a good estimation.
I wouldn't place a whole lot of emphasis on the San Diego State numbers since most of them were garnered against weak competition.
Tom's contention was that Hart "disappeared" in the final couple games, which I don't think is fair. Focusing just on the rushing stats discounts a 39-yard reception against OSU that pushed Hart's total yards in that game to an even 100. In total over the last two games of the year Hart averaged 89 yards of total offense. He didn't crush the heads of either Texas or OSU, no, but he didn't drop off the face of the earth. Tom also asserts that Hart's performance against Iowa was "average," when it was statistically quite good relative to the other teams that attempted to oppose Iowa's #5 rush defense. In fact, the overall picture is one of consistent outperformance of backs nationwide save for a strange blip against Indiana and some tough sledding against OSU.
He then takes the numbers presented above and says the following things:
Really, I don't think you can say that Michigan consistently ripped off big running games against good defenses.
I guess that depends on your definition of good and your definition of big. Certainly the Purdue game was a huge game against a very good run defense (14th nationally). Northwestern was also a huge game against an okay-to-good run defense (47th nationally and only 0.1 YPC worse than OSU). Hart had 99 against #5 Iowa, as mentioned, and 163 against a not-awful Minnesota run D. Hart did not run well against OSU, but he was adequate against Texas. That seems like a good resume to me.
This would seem to suggest that the original statement "Hart disappeared against OSU and Texas" is significantly more accurate than Brian would have you believe. If you want to make it more accurate and change it to "Hart became a very average back against most good defenses," then I think the facts would support that as well.
I think the numbers above how that Hart was consistently and significantly above average against good run defenses.
Tom then totally demolishes my claim that Hart's carries were limited by the score of the OSU game. I got nothing to dispute that. Assertion totally retracted. One point I would like to make: it's entirely possible that Michigan saw what I did when I looked at OSU's stats last year, the fact that OSU could be had in the air, and adjusted their gameplan to more heavily emphasize passing. Henne finished with 54 passing attempts, triple Hart's 18 carries, and while that has something to do with the fact that OSU limited Hart's effectiveness, I think that was part of the gameplan. Michigan's opening drive featuring two runs, seven passes, and a touchdown seems indicative of a pattern that emerges from Tom's distribution.
He responds to my assertion that Henne didn't get sacked but got knocked down a lot without any numbers. Since I don't have any of my own and confirming or disconfirming our divergent opinions would require re-watching that game, something I'm not going to do unless threatened with castration, I'm just going to let it drop.
He then tries to buttress his point on Rivas:
He (as pointed out in the article) twice missed two field goals in a game. He's good, but far from automatic.
Yes, he missed four extra points last year, but in two years of kicking for Michigan he's hit 78% of his field goal attempts, which is close to great for a collegiate kicker. "Good but far from automatic" is a far cry from "every Michigan fan holds their breath when he trots on."
In summary, sorry for being a douche, Hart roolz but OSU controlled him very well, and Rivas isn't Nugent but there's a vast continuum between "Nugent" and "suck," Rivas being perhaps 80% of the way towards Nugent.
(This is Part II of the Michigan season preview. Part I can be found here.)
|Jeremy Van Alstyne||Jr.*||Gabe Watson||Sr.||Pat Massey||Sr.*||Lamarr Woodley||Jr.|
|Tim Jamison||Fr.*||Will Johnson||Fr.*||Alan Branch||So.||Pierre Woods||Sr.*|
|Eugene Germany||Fr.||Terrance Taylor||Fr.||Marques Walton||Fr.*||Rondell Biggs||Jr.*|
This unit must fulfill its vast potential this year for Michigan to be a serious national championship contender. Last year it was somewhere between great and spectacular against the run (Last four games hello what? -ed. Those were problems outside the defensive line's control. More later) but could only manage 15 sacks. There's no excuse for production that poor when you (probably) have multiple first round picks on your roster.
This is going to end badly for you, Indiana dude.
If the defensive ends formed a post-punk band with an ironically retro name they'd be called Woodley and The Question Marks. Metaphorical band frontman Lamarr Woodley should be on the verge of a monstrous season. He flipped from defensive end to outside linebacker for last year's switch to the 3-4 defense and was a terror against the run--16 TFLs last year and a series of huge plays that had mgoblog constructing a Jobu-like shrine to Woodley in secret--but strangely disappointing rushing the passer. Woodley had only four sacks, a number that I double check every week or so just to make sure that it isn't wrong. Maligned DT Pat Massey somehow exceeded his total.
Maybe that had something to do with the fact that (now former) defensive line coach Mike Sheridan had never played or coached on either line before his brief, unsuccessful run at Michigan. Sheridan now coaches linebackers for the Giants. Steve Stripling, who's been a DL coach forever, comes in from Michigan State and has started teaching large men to do mean things. If the enigmatic insider reports coming out of the Fort are to be believed, he's having an immediate effect. The practice buzz on Woodley coming into this year is unprecedented for a Michigan defensive lineman. If allowed to put his hand down and tear into the backfield at will, Woodley has serious All-American potential. Certain wise insiders doubt Michigan will be able to enjoy his senior season--disappointing for '06 but tantalizing for '05.
The Question Marks have the potential to turn in to exclamation points if they can remain healthy. Both redshirt junior Jeremy Van Alstyne and redshirt freshman Tim Jamison have had careers largely composed of sitting on the sidelines looking pissed off in various braces and slings. Van Alstyne tore his ACL before last year, rehabbed like a madman to make a miraculous, hampered recovery midway through the year, and then got knocked out of the Rose Bowl with a different leg injury. Jamison played in the first couple games of his Michigan career and then was knocked out permanently with an injury that is still undisclosed. He's already picked up his first sling of 2005, spraining a shoulder which will force him to miss the Northern Illinois game.
So, health is obviously a question. If healthy, though, Van Alstyne and Jamison will probably be somewhere between effective and excellent. Van Alstyne is a high motor guy reported to have great leverage, but he hasn't been able to stay on the field enough for me to have an independent opinion on him. For what it's worth, Van Alstyne appears to have the full confidence of both the coaches and the insiders. Jamison experienced a meteoric rise his senior year of high school, going from relatively unknown to a top-50 player after exploding for 20 sacks. By the time Jamison showed up at the Army All-American Bowl and dominated every offensive tackle lined up opposite him, he was the consensus second best recruit in Michigan's 2004 class behind one Chad Henne. That kid worked out okay. The pair will probably platoon next year with Jamsion taking the bulk of obvious passing downs and Van Alstyne getting the rest of the snaps.
They told me you had a pizza, Vince.
Michigan will have a deep and talented set of defensive tackles. The headliner is senior Gabe Watson, a mountain range in a helmet who demands a double team on every play. Watson isn't much of a pass rusher but he was the key component of Michigan's fabulous interior run defense. Even when he takes plays off he holds his ground against a blocker or two. He was accused of wearing down towards the end of the year, but I don't buy it. Watson was simply not as useful against the spread offenses and mobile quarterbacks of MSU, Northwestern, OSU, and Texas. He helped Michigan shut Cedric Benson off; that's his job. Asking him to track down Vince Young is like asking the Death Star to knit.
However, Watson does have intensity issues. He's not a motor-running wildman and he has an easygoing personality that Neanderthal-type fans find uncomfortable. It's probably true that a motivated, fiery Watson would be the nation's most dominant defensive tackle by a country mile, but that's not going to happen this year: Watson will probably underachieve relative to his talent. He'll still be one of the best DTs in the country.
The starter beside Woodley will be fifth year senior Pat Massey. Massey has been unfairly maligned by Michigan fans largely because he let Texas quarterback Vince Young escape from what looked to be a sure sack in the Rose Bowl. Young popped out of Massey's grasp and turned what would have been a fourth down field goal attempt into yet another frustrating touchdown run. Had he brought Young to the ground, Michigan probably wins the Rose Bowl, he finishes with six sacks from what's essentially an interior line position (DE in the 3-4), and he becomes something of a folk hero. He did not. Despite that, he does not deserve the dogging many Michigan fans have given him. Massey isn't a superhero but he was and is a useful player alongside Watson, honorable mention All-Big Ten a year ago.
Alan New Mexico
The situation behind the starters is much like that at wide receiver, where there is a lot of highly-regarded talent that hasn't gotten the opportunity to prove itself on the field yet. Some players will bust or disappoint, but there are enough talented bodies to assume that two or three will become stars. The most likely to achieve stardom is sophomore Alan Branch. Branch saw meaningful time as a true freshman last year and showed great power and athleticism. He's extraordinarily agile for his 330 pounds and registered two sacks in his limited time, as many a Watson had all year. He will probably see almost as many snaps as the two starters.
Three freshmen will rotate in behind Branch, Watson, and Massey. Will Johnson, who redshirted, is finally healthy after tearing his ACL right before his senior year of high school. He leapt directly onto the two-deep behind Watson after rece
iving a good bit of preseason buzz. He will contribute. Terrance Taylor is a 6'0", 290 pound fireplug who was a three time state champion powerlifter, a state champion in wrestling, and led Muskegon to the state title. It might take him a year to get his technique down, but he's probably the strongest player on the team already, and his relatively compact build should mean that he can get great leverage under the pads of taller offensive linemen. If all goes well, Taylor should develop into a penetrating terror a la Iowa's Jonathan Babineaux. The third freshman, Marques Walton, was lightly regarded in high school and may not be much more than a role player in the long run.
|Chris Graham||So.||David Harris||R.Jr.||Prescott Burgess||Jr.|
|Scott McClintock||R.Sr.||John Thompson||R.Fr.||Shawn Crable||R.So.|
This position group is the second biggest question mark on the team after the safeties. The three projected starters--all seniors--have fallen by the wayside. Pierre Woods fell off the face of the earth last year and was shifted back to defensive end. Lawrence Reid was forced to retire because of a degenerative neck injury. Scott McClintock just plain got beat out. In their place steps forward a group of players with a ton of athleticism and vanishingly little experience. Now Michigan has to teach them how to run around like chickens with their heads still attached.
Sophomore WLB Chris Graham has been generating hype since he stepped onto a Michigan practice field. It's always dangerous to buy into such hype, as about half the time the player in question fizzles away into nothing, but mgoblog is buying this particular variety. Consider: the hype on Graham started not because he was pressed into service a la David Underwood. Rather, it welled up naturally even though he appeared to be at least two years away from serious playing time. Michigan moved 5-star Prescott Burgess to the strong side because there wasn't any way he was going to beat out Graham. Those are two powerful indicators that Graham is a serious talent, "Ian Gold after you punched his momma," as I said before.
Graham doesn't have ideal size. He is listed at 5'11" but mgoblog thinks that's probably closer to 5'9". What he does have is speed, speed, speed, and the ability to lay a hammer blow on people when he arrives. His teammates have nicknamed him "The Brick" both for his chiseled physique and the fact that when he hits you, that's what you go down like. As a first year starter with wild speed, though, he is probably going to overpursue on a regular basis. Misdirection and play action, have long befuddled Michigan linebackers and there's no reason to think that Graham won't fall prey to the same disease. His first year starting will be a mix of good and bad.
Redshirt junior David Harris and fifth-year senior Scott McClintock will split time at middle linebacker. Harris had won the job two years ago but suffered an ACL tear before the start of the 2003 season. As a result, he' hardly played. You can look at Harris running neck and neck with McClintock as a positive or a negative. Personally, I think McClintock is all right. He's not a playmaker but he tackles well and seems to have a clue in zone coverage, which sets him apart from every other linebacker who took the field last year. Harris pushing him to the bench means that the coaching staff is willing to give a player who has little experience the nod over a senior who would normally have an unholy death grip on the position, which is not a vote of confidence in McClintock. The fact that neither player has asserted himself has to be a concern, especially since Harris is dinged up again. Average production from this spot would be great.
Two big recruits from the class of 2003 will split time at strongside linebacker. Converted safety Prescott Burgess, a junior, will probably get the bulk of the playing time. Burgess has waited in the wings for two years, adjusting to his new position. He and Lamarr Woodley were the only two Wolverines to have noticeably good games against Vince Young and Co. in the Rose Bowl. Burgess is a superior athlete and is the best hope for a breakout star on the defense (discounting Woodley, who is already well known). If he can maintain his level of play from the Rose Bowl this unit immediately looks much more solid.
And then there's the strange, sad story of senior Pierre Woods, second team All Big Ten two years ago and AWOL one year ago. Woods was expected to become the next star Michigan linebacker but a series of nagging injuries and undisclosed off-field issues combined to severely limit his playing time. The playing time he did receive was squandered. Woods rarely had an idea where he was going or what to do when he got there. He apparently has his head on straight this year, possibly sensing that he's got the NFL beckoning if he repeats his sophomore year performance. Carr has been talking him up, claiming that he's going to be a major contributor, but the DE and SAM spots are very crowded. It'll be tough for him to make a major impact and I doubt Carr will particularly relish the prospect of sending him out to combat mobile quarterbacks after last year's debacles. Obviously a return to form would be most welcome.
Redshirt sophomore Shawn Crable was another top-100 recruit who hasn't lived up to his clippings yet (sensing a theme?). At 6'6", 235, he's an OLB/DE tweener who will probably see time at both positions this year. Carr publicly stated he wanted to see more from Crable, which is usually a motivational ploy which indicates that a player is teetering close to doghouse status. Crable has to find a position before he sees a lot of playing time. SAM seems full up this year, but expect to see him as a blitzer or designated pass rusher on passing downs with some frequency.
John Thompson is an unheralded recruit from the decrepit Detroit Public School league who barely scraped past the NCAA clearinghouse last year. He's a year or two away from serious contribution but will start seeing special teams time this year. Freshman Brandon Logan will probably redshirt.
|Leon Hall||Jr.||Ryan Mundy||Jr.||Brandent Engelmon||So.*||Charles Stewart||Fr.*|
|Grant Mason||Sr.*||Willis Barringer||Jr.*||Jamar Adams||So.||Morgan Trent||Fr.*|
|Darnell Hood||Jr.*||Brandon Harrison||Fr.||Anton Campbell||Jr.*||Johnny Sears||Fr.|
Lather, rinse, DO NOT REPEAT
Much will be made about the departure of two All Americans from the Wolverine secondary, but many Michigan fans will only miss one, cornerback Marlin Jackson. Strong safety Ernest Shazor mad
e game-saving plays against Minnesota and Purdue but was a major reason why Michigan's defense imploded down the stretch. See right, multiply by six.
Michigan has one proven quantity in the secondary, junior Leon Hall. Hall, a lock to be Michigan's number one corner, is following Michigan's designated path to stardom at the position: emerge from nowhere as a freshman and act as a nickleback, wrest the starting job away from its holder as a sophomore, get everyone's hopes up, gather major media attention, and then mildly disappoint. Hall's not going to be an All-American but should press for All Big Ten Honors--he's probably on a level with Jeremy LeSeuer's senior year. Michigan's problem is that Hall may end up irrelevant as teams pepper the other side of the field, going after the other starter or the nickelback, whoever they might be. The leading candidates for those spots are senior Grant Mason and redshirt freshman Charles Stewart. Mason transferred from Stanford and served as the dime back a year ago. Stewart, obviously, hasn't seen the field.
You can repeat this one if you like.
Converted wide receiver Morgan Trent, also a redshirt freshman, is also going to see the field. Michigan fans cling to the fact that Trent beat Ted Ginn in a high school track meet, which proves he's much better than Ginn. Or maybe not. Trent is really fast, but it will take some time for him to adjust to CB. Freshmen Johnny Sears and Chris Richards need a year in college to get acclimated but due to the severe need at the position one of them will be forced to play.
Questions abound at safety, as they have since the departure of Marcus Ray in 1997. Michigan's safety play has been consistently bad ever since. Junior Ryan Mundy looked like a future star in his first couple games at free safety but as the year wore on it became clear that his angles and tackling were terrible. Many of the yards Michigan State racked up in the first half of the first, ominous defensive debacle last year were "yards after Mundy"--a term coined by an inventive Rivals poster and a stat mgoblog will be tracking this year. He has good size and range for a free safety but his mental game was lacking last year. It wasn't just Shazor that was responsible for the huge number of long touchdowns the Michigan defense gave up.
Mundy missed some practice this fall with a shoulder injury that nagged him last year, opening a door to junior Willis Barringer, who started a few games as a freshman when then-safety Marlin Jackson was injured but was reduced to an afterthought last year. He was listed as the starter on the first two deep released by the school this year, but will only see the field if Mundy can't go.
Sophomores Brandent Engelmon and Jamar Adams are battling to replace Shazor. Adams is a physically imposing safety who looks like he hits like a ton of bricks. Unfortunately, last year he was just a little off and whiffed like a ton of bricks. Sleeper Engelmon was snatched from Kentucky at the last minute two years ago and appears to have the inside track on the job. Small but smart is Englemon, and the Michigan coaches have seen out of position. They don't like out of position.
True freshman Brandon Harrison was moved from cornerback after a few fall practices, which is been regarded ominously in this space. Harrison is small (5'9") but a good hitter and frickin' fast. Moving him away from cornerback, an area of obvious need, in favor of safety implies that the coaching staff has some severe reservations about the quality of the players at the position.
Defense in Summary
Portions of the defense were very good last year but the lack of pass rush, the inability of the linebackers to correctly position themselves, and the tendency of the safeties to give up huge plays were problems all year. The four straight games at the end featuring mobile quarterbacks were a matchup nightmare for a defense that was somewhere between good and great against teams ill-equipped to exploit the inability of the linebackers and safeties to operate in space like Minnesota and Purdue. That's what passes as good news.
The bad news is that the book on beating the Michigan defense has been written and rewritten by now and seemingly every team outside of Minnesota and Wisconsin is moving to exploit that vulnerability. The linebacker and safeties are going to be tested with the same plays they failed to stop last year until they step up and say "no more." The linebackers have probably received a talent upgrade but Graham, Harris, Crable, and even Burgess are all very green. Mundy has to improve drastically, and the Harrison move implies bad things for the coaches' confidence in Engelmon. There are major concerns here.
Expect something similar to last year's rollercoaster. There are teams that Michigan is going to smash in the face and dominate. Attempting to run between the tackles is going to be futile. The corners will be decent to good and that combined with what should be a fierce pass rush will make dropback passers only sporadically effective. Play action and mistakes by the safeties may open up some big plays against but driving the length of the field with a conventional offense is going to be very difficult. Mobile quarterbacks will still be a major issue, but I believe they won't be pure nuclear holocaust like 2004. Graham and Burgess are very athletic, the kind of guys who can chase down the Smiths and Youngs of the world, and though Jim Herrmann is widely reviled by Michigan fans, he's not a gibbering moron: the staff has spent a huge chunk of its offseason preparation addressing the issue. There should be improvement. The season hinges on how significant that improvement is.
Fly, my pretties. Fly!
Rating: 5. Steve Breaston. What, you want more? Christ. Watch the Rose Bowl or any game during BJ's freshman year. He's up there next to Harmon for a reason.
There is the aforementioned injury concern with Breaston, but even if he goes down Michigan has a multitude of options behind him. Leon Hall returned a punt for a touchdown. Grant Mason nearly scored on a kick return. It's doubtful Michigan will risk any of its critical cornerbacks in situation that one of the million wide receivers could deal with. Expect to see Doug Dutch or Mario Manningham sub in for Breaston if needed.
Rating: 4. Junior Garrett Rivas quietly had an excellent year if you leave aside a strange early-season tendency to miss extra points (four in total). He made 19 of 24 field goal attempts after hitting 9 of 12 as a freshman, establishing himself as a reliable kicker with slightly less than desirable range--Rivas' maximum is around 47-48 yards. Anything over 42 seems to just squeeze over the bar. But over the bar they go.
Punter Adam Finley has graduated, paving the way for Zoltan "The Inconceivable" Mesko. Regular readers of this blog already know about the young man and his Heisman aspirations, but let us recount the tale. He committed at Michigan's camp after averaging 48 yards a kick with 4.5 seconds of hangtime, and then kicked the hell out of everything at the Army All-American bowl... practices. In the game he shanked one and boomed one. He's competing with two walkons, Ross Ryan (who will kick off) and Mark Spencer. Ryan is rumored to have won the job, which makes me look very dumb but probably implies that Mesko's huge leg is a bit of a loose cannon.
Bonus! Coverage Teams
Rating: 2. Michigan has long struggled to contain punt returns. That ugly Finley net is much indebted to Ted Ginn, Ryne Robinson, and their ilk's continued success against the fairly inept Michigan punt coverage units. Predicting improvement here goes against a lot of recent history, but there should be some hope. Brandon Harrison is going to be one of the gunners and he seems perfectly suited to the job, an agile guy who (reportedly) can wrap up returners and is fast Fast FAST. If he can beat the jam at the line, he could go a long way towards neutralizing punt returners. He can't look worse than Braylon Edwards did trying to tackle Ginn.
Last year's kick coverage was actually pretty good. There weren't many (if any, I can't remember off the top of my head) big returns. Opponents usually settled for the 20 or 25 yard line despite Michigan's inability to get any touchbacks off of kickoffs.
Special Teams in Summary
Should actually be a net strength, a gasp-worthy assertion given the disasters of 2003. A healthy Breaston is one of the country's finest returners. There is a multitude of good options behind him. Rivas is efficient and generally reliable, no Nugent, but one of the Big Ten's better kickers. Kickoff coverage was very good last year.
Punting could be a bit of an issue. Shockingly and depressingly, Zoltan The Inconceivable may not have won the starting job at punter. He's been very inconsistent in the various All-Star games he's been in and the Rivals clips show alternating 5-second hangtime boomers and shanks. All practice reports are glowing, but there's a major difference between sitting there and smashing one and repeating that process under duress. There might be some wobbly times here, especially given Michigan's historic tendency for punt coverage slapstick.
I still expect Michigan to significantly outperform their opponents in the return game as a whole and be on a par when it comes to field goals. Ted Ginn looms, though. Looms real good.
Continue to Part III.
As a former copy editor (a strictly amateur school type thing) I realize that by naming this thing mgoblog I've created a severe annoyance by creating a proper noun that's all lowercase and therefore confusing as hell. People are going to capitalize this, as is their right. However, if you care to get it "right," the way to do it is this: MGoBlog or Mgoblog. Whichever. I occasionally see "MGOblog" like MGO is an acronym of some sort. It isn't. It's "M Go Blog." "M Go Blue" is a common thing to see on signs, license plates, or official athletics sites around Michigan. It's a play on words.
Yes, this is totally, unbelievably anal. I abase myself.
File under "duh": "Shanahan says drafting Clarett a 'mistake'"
Mandel Credibility Check: August 10: OMG MICHIGAN IS OVERRATED. August 30: Michigan #8, a whopping four slots lower than their AP ranking. Note that there was no column from Mandel on how unbelievably overrated LSU was, despite placing them six slots lower in his AP ballot than the general consensus. (Speaking of overrated, chalk another one up for the excessive Buckeye optimism: #2 per Mandel.)
It's dead, Jim.
"Court Jesters" my ass. The aforementioned is an oft-applied backhanded compliment to EDSBS when the complimenter wants to dismiss something Orson and Stranko have said but not address the actual point. Well, their interesting, non-fanboy interview count stands at two, which is two more than anyone else (save Fanblogs, possibly). The latest is a conversation with NYT/RJYH impresario Warren St. John that illuminates both sides of the EDSBS coin. You've got your court jesteration:
OS: Now for the James Lipton portion of the program. In a fight to the finish, who wins, you or a bobcat?
WSJ: I crush the bobcat.
And then you've got your smart, trenchant stuff:
OS: You actually met Bear Bryant. Our grandfather was a part-time drinking buddy of Bryant'Â’s, and our father met him when he was a kid. Both of you say what an imposing, charismatic presence he was. Before it gets too far gone in the mists of time, what do you think was so compelling about the man?
WSJ: Partly it was his size--Âhe was a really big guy and he had this expressive face. He had this stentorian voice, this rattle-the-floorboards voice. But mainly, it was because he played such a big role in the cultural life of Alabamans, and their sense of self-esteem. And the more fans of other teams hated him, the more it justified our liking him.
Jesters they may be, but there's a good dash of the Infinite in their Jest. RTWT!
Wolverines all over. The Washington Post continues its Michigan love-in with an article from wtraveledlled staffer Robin Wright describing the many and varied alumni he has met on his globe-traipsing. All love the football. Wright may have topped the Warren St. John call-home-from-Columbia bit:
Michigan's rivalries also span the globe. While covering the black uprising in South Africa, Associated Press bureau chief Larry Heinzerling, an Ohio State alum, and I took a break one Saturday to call the press box at Michigan's stadium (the largest in the world, I pointed out to him every year) to find out the score.
Yes, yes, there's all that apartheid (<-- spelled right first try!) and stuff. But what's the damned score? And, hey, Uncle Grambo is a Wolverine fan! "Baby got backfield," declares Grambo. Right! Also, Straight Bangin' is back with authorita, describing his gameday ritual, a boisterous combination of pure spine-mangling terror, beer, and swearing that I saw coming several miles away. I understand where he's coming from, being a violent swearer myself--an unfortunately profane tactic of mine is to suggest that I am going to forcibly sodomize whatever children particular baleful referees happen to possess. I have not yet thrown something dangerously heavy at television. Just pillows. And once a dog, but it was a small dog.*
*(Just kidding PETA... unless you were thinking of one of those naked-hot-chicks protests at my house, in which case I ate the dog after it hit the TV.)
I missed this earlier but Jim Carty turned in a shameless puff piece on Jim Herrmann. Yeah, Jim Carty is the guy who mere months ago bitched out Lloyd Carr publicly and purported to Ask Tough Questions. Yeah, I compared him to Corky from Life Goes On. Pick a stance, Carty.