What it says in the title duh. Note: other than Drake Johnson, who was obviously the inspiration for this.
Ace: Two years ago, it was hard to imagine Caris LeVert would make a list like this. After forcing John Beilein to burn his redshirt and contributing to the 2012-13 title game squad, he played an effective second banana to Nik Stauskas on a 2013-14 team that nearly made it back to the Final Four and set the (since surpassed) KenPom standard for offensive efficiency. The blueprint was there for LeVert to step into Stauskas’ role as a junior, play at or near an All-American level, lead a deep tourney run, and then face a difficult decision about whether to turn pro early.
Lucy will let him get back on the court next time, Charlie Brown. [Bryan Fuller]
Instead, Michigan struggled out of the gate in 2014-15, suffering a few humiliating defeats as the team failed to gel around LeVert, who struggled to maintain his sophomore-year efficiency. As Michigan survived a last-second, game-tying attempt by Northwestern at Crisler in mid-January, LeVert went down clutching his foot while the rest of the team celebrated. On a seemingly innocuous play, he’d suffered a season-ending injury; without him, Michigan missed the postseason, and LeVert returned to try it again his senior year.
LeVert looked fantastic, putting up All-American-level numbers as the team’s centerpiece, and Michigan made it through non-conference play with a quality win over Texas and no bad losses. LeVert was poised to lead his team to a decent NCAA seed while cementing his standing as a first-round NBA prospect. Then, in the waning moments of the conference opener at Illinois, it happened again: LeVert stepped on a defender’s foot, rolled his ankle, and came up limping.
[Continue at THE JUMP even though you don’t want to, because you know you should, even if it’s painful. If you make it to the end there are 24 minutes of Denard highlights]
This has no doubt angered many SEC coaches and Frenchmen. The number of people who have pretended not to speak English as Harbaugh increases his volume level to jet-takeoff levels must be truly prodigious. I would watch a reality show of this. "Football Coach Vacations." This is a million dollar idea.
Skate with Jack Johnson. August 1st at the Cube, for charity. MGoBlog not responsible if Jack Johnson turns you into a pylon or a bird or is just so pretty on skates that you forget how to drive. Jeff Moss will be there, too! You can find out if he is a real person or just a floating sack of anger!
Since he was officially named the Syracuse Orange offensive coordinator for 2015, Tim Lester's been a bit of a sharer. We're fine with that since it's nice to actually get updates from the football staff, especially with the honesty and candor he seems to deliver it all.
The Jayhawks would finish 1-11 in 2012, and with the roster ailing, Weis desired a quick-fix strategy for what he once famously called a “pile of crap.” In early 2013, Weis signed 16 junior-college recruits in a 25-man class. If a majority of the players hit, Weis figured, perhaps Kansas could claw to respectability in a year or two.
The move was a massive failure. By last fall, just eight of those players remained in the program. The volume of junior-college players — many of whom were borderline qualifiers and academic risks — weighed down the program. Six of those junior-college recruits — including highly touted players Marquel Combs, Kevin Short and Chris Martin — never played a down. After senior safety Isaiah Johnson transferred to South Carolina in the spring, and defensive lineman Andrew Bolton left the team this month, not one of those 16 junior-college players remains on the roster.
So here we are, two years later, and just five players remain from Kansas’ 2013 recruiting class.
This fall, Kansas has 60 scholarship players. It's a self-imposed punishment twice as bad as anything that happened to USC or Penn State. Charlie Weis is the king of "people in charge of things are just in charge of them for no reason."
Only the Weather Channel—which is now completely superfluous thanks to the internet—is suffering more. The WSJ attributes Keith Olbermann's departure to simple finances. It is not hard to trace a line from ESPN's current trend and the long-term contracts they have signed with sports leagues and find a point at which it is impossible for them to make money.
ESPN has lost enough subscribers that they have the contractual right to yank their channels from Dish's $20 Sling service. Meanwhile, they are limited in their ability to move to a Netflix/HBO model since if they introduce a stand-alone service cable providers can sell ESPN a la carte—a disaster for a channel that gets six bucks from my grandmother.
Fred Jackson was right! Sort of! Via Austin Roberts, another running back makes good after he departs Michigan:
Another “real bright spot” was running back Thomas Rawls, a 5-foot-l9, 215-pound undrafted rookie free agent out of Central Michigan.
“I love his style of running,” Carroll said. “He’s really a head-knocker. He really goes after guys and when you guys get to see him put the pads on you’ll see how physical of a runner he is. He had play after play in college of just smacking people and running and breaking tackles and all that. He showed very good feet, he caught the ball well, he’s going to be a very-willing blocker.”
All of those came against Purdue or at CMU. Remember when Michigan's running game was so good it got their running backs drafted too early? Those were different times right there. By the end Jackson was stealing money. And various beverages. Holding him over on coaching staff after coaching staff was a major sign of the complacency that overtook the program over the past decade.
Gary Danielson was not right and has never been right. Gary Danielson is pretty good at looking at one specific play and telling you what happened on it. Once you get any more abstract, he turns into a parody of sports commentary. The latest example is Danielson fretting that the SEC is going to lose its way because it might try to score some points.
“The big advantage the SEC had against other conferences was they were the most physical, NFL-like conference there was,” he said. “If they try to morph too much into becoming a fantasy league, they are going to cede their position as the toughest and best conference in college football.”
"Fantasy league." Gary Danielson saying that after Urban Meyer, who was rather successful in the SEC, blew Alabama to bits with his third string QB is a top ten "Is Gary Danielson Having A Stroke?" moment.
Dodgeball got heated. Denard and Devin talk to Isaiah Hole at the A4 camp:
Battle status. Still no commitment, apparently planning on taking what would be his final official visit to either UConn or Kentucky, door with Michigan may remain open. Jarron Cumberland's visit did not result in a commit($) and there is no public mention of an offer, but Sam Webb says that things went very well and that you shouldn't read much into that.
NunesMagician.com was told earlier today that the official visit went "very well," but Jim Boeheim did not receive a commitment. …
As each day goes by, Syracuse fans should feel less optimistic. The staff has been on the 5-star New Jersey native since his freshman year. He has visited the campus multiple times, but is still tentative to pull the trigger.
This is kind of how I feel about Jonathan Jones, the Florida linebacker who seems like he's been on the verge of a commit for months now.
In any case, Duke is not getting involved again, Syracuse doesn't seem like a particularly appealing destination for Battle for whatever reason (a good one: they are down a quarter of their scholarships for as long as Battle will be in college), and UConn is currently in the American. If he does visit Kentucky that blows up the "distance is the main factor" thing.
Maybe the door is still open? If not it sounds like Cumberland will be in the class pretty soon.
*[The name of this is a long story involving a bad quarterback.]
Bonjour pronto. That's French, right? Alpaca-outta-nowhere commit Benjamin St-Juste is Canadian, and if we've learned anything from South Park it's that Canada's a little bit different than the United States. One of the differences is that Canadian high school is apparently as long as you want it to be.
People were talking about St-Juste as 2016 or 2017 commit yesterday; today Tim Sullivan notes that there's a chance he could come in this fall($), as he's around 18—the usual age you enter college. I think there will be room, and the corner depth is going to be iffy after this year so you may as well.
An accomplished student throughout his high school career at Cooper City High School outside Fort Lauderdale, Florida, most of Weaver's courses are of the advanced-placement or honors variety. Meaning his grade-point average can soar above the customary 4.0, if he's able to push it that high.
During his sophomore year, he had it up to a 4.6. But as a junior, a simple misdirection had him aggravated.
Weaver enrolled in an AP computer science class as a junior. He knew it'd be a challenge, but figured he'd be able to hang. And then things got started.
"It turned out to be a class that was basically for kids who did Java coding at home for fun," Weaver chuckles. "So, yeah, it was tough."
Mr. Weaver, this is my advice to you: if you ever see "LISP" on a course description, run like hell. This is my advice to all people. Emeril! Run like hell if you ever see this:
Now there will be a computer science hipster in the comments talking about how LISP is really elegant because of closures. I apologize in advance.
Anyway, you probably don't come here so I can dump on obscure programming languages. A little more on Weaver:
he appeared at Michigan's satellite camp stop in south Florida with some hope and not much else. At best, Weaver figured he could catch the attention of a Big Ten school. At worst, he knew he'd leave the event a better football player.
It was a win-win, he figured.
And, as is often the case in the classroom, he was right.
"The main reason I went to the camp was because I saw Michigan coaches would be there. I saw it as an opportunity, figured I'd do my best to put my best foot forward and do everything I could to get noticed," Weaver says. "I figured at least it'd be something where I could get better. I was going to go out there and do my best. If I showed well, then they'd notice me. If not, then maybe it wasn't meant to be.
"But I went knowing I'd get better one way or another. And it all worked out."
At 6'5", 245, Weaver is one of the infinite DE/TE prospects Michigan will bring in as long as Harbaugh's around. We probably won't know where he sticks until he's a junior.
Next year will not be the year. Northwestern's never been to the NCAA tournament. This is their nonconference schedule:
A tourney, road games against VT and DePaul, and then garbage.
They do get two of UNC/KState/Mizzou in their tourney. If that even helps much:
Last year's RPI of Northwestern's 2015-16 OOC slate: Two of 11, 100 & 218. Also: 196, 197, 228, 243, 265, 270, 292, 299, 326, 333, 345,
Brutal. And this is a team that returns everyone except oft-injured senior JerShon Cobb and little-used Dave Sobolewski; they've got a senior version of Alex Olah and Tre Demps. This is the kind of Northwestern team that could possibly maybe put themselves on the bubble. But if they are, they're going to be crushed by their own schedule.
Tonight! Or rather this afternoon. Evening? What is 5PM anyway? Ace is stopping by Tisch Hall to talk about his experience as a history major who made his way in the world. He's "ventured into the real world with remarkable success!" in fact.
Free dinner, too. And some other non-Ace persons you've never heard of like… uh… one of the co-founders of Zingerman's. Wow. Should have done history.
Gardner journey'd. It is bleakly appropriate that they took him to his now-closed high school.
"I had extensions," Keady tells me, at which point I put the phone down and started throwing up. OK, not really. But still. Extensions?
"Well sure," he says. "Men were just starting to get extensions, so why not?"
I've never known a man who had hair extensions.
"Now you do," Keady says.
Keady had twice-weekly appointments to keep is his 'do on the cutting edge of late night hair replacement commercials at $300 a pop. He is willing to admit this in a newspaper, so he is a better, more extended man than I.
Also, Keady's shotgun wedding sounds like it claimed all present, including said combover:
"Kelvin Sampson gave the bride away. The best man was Bruce Weber. He was the flower girl, too."
"It took me two weeks to figure out how the door to my office works," continued Beckman. "That's how hard the academics are at Illinois."
AN ILLINI FAN VISITS TIM BECKMAN'S OFFICE
a short play in one act
FAN examines DOOR. FAN turns to BECKMAN.
FAN: "This is a normal door."
BECKMAN: "Cleverly disguised as a trick door!"
FAN: "THIS IS A REAL UNIVERSITY. WE INVENTED THE INTERNET BROWSER, YOU KNOW."
BECKMAN: "Real tricky doors, too."
FAN: /burns degree
How you dismantle Michigan State. SBN's Ian Boyd takes a look at a clobberin' MSU hasn't experienced since… well, Oregon. But not for a long time before that. OSU used a similar playbook:
They attacked the Spartan outside linebackers for playing the edge against the run:
The announcers highlighted the route combination but ignored the play action component that made the play a one-on-one matchup, where a missed tackle meant total breakdown. With pop and play-action elements attached to basic run plays, the Buckeyes are able to make the passing game simple for Barrett.
The play of his receivers has been huge as well. He never had to make a read on that throw, staring down his intended target. The sam linebacker is sucked in by the run action, leaving the safety and corner to account for the two receivers without help. The slot receiver runs a post route that the safety follows, which leaves the corner on an island playing press coverage against the outside receiver. Michael Thomas beats the corner with the inside move, and that's all she wrote.
The Buckeyes ended up getting the ball again before halftime and once again dialed up play action off zone slice.
This time, Ohio State caught the Spartans in a blown coverage. MSU uncharacteristically mixed a single-deep safety coverage on a non-blitz, and free safety Kurtis Drummond failed to get over the top in time to stop the deep post to the speedy Devin Smith.
The result of all this was Ohio State gaining 89% of available yards. Against Michigan State. Without Braxton Miller, Carlos Hyde, and four of last year's OL.
Some people are so bad at being people. Like Spaghetti O's tweeting about Pearl Harbor, here comes the most generic trophy ever assembled:
There's not actually a gallery. Don't click unless you enjoy useless activities. Wait… you probably do.
The Freedom Trophy? What is that? Was there ever any doubt in the freedom of Wisconsin or Nebraska? Has anyone tried to invade either place and establish totalitarian rule – we're looking at you Iowa.
Big Ten marketing person No. 1: This is ham-fisted and meaningless. Fans are going to make fun of us.
Big Ten marketing person No. 2: Call it the Freedom Trophy and say it honors veterans. The trophy will consist of two massive football stadiums merged together with an enormous American flag coming out of it. They can't make fun of that.
You don't like freedom? You don't honor veterans? You don't like big stadiums and big flags? You Pac-12 commie.
A lot of the time it feels like Honoring Our Heroes is done to have some of that military mojo rub off on whoever's doing the honoring. It's a way to signify you're a good person in the safest way possible, and is thus the place please-everyone rubes run to when they don't have any ideas. No coincidence that as people started hating on Dave Brandon more and more that the military tributes became a literally every-game occurrence.
Early in the offseason, Robinson knocked on the door of head coach Gus Bradley.
"I don't want to go through another season like that one," he told him. "Tell me what I need to do to get on the field."
Bradley laid out a plan for Robinson. The Jaguars believed Robinson, who weighed 194 pounds when he first reported, had the frame to carry considerably more weight. The diet and training program he embraced resulted in him getting up to 215, his current weight.
Next, they wanted to enable him to make his new muscle functional. In the offseason, Richardson worked with Robinson on running violently. Robinson was naturally elusive. Richardson wanted him to be able to combine elusiveness with violence. "We worked on using a stiff arm or shoulder drop in combination with making cuts," Richardson said. "I call it use of weapons."
Foote said, "They better change up their recruiting. They better get some eyes in there that can find some NFL talent. Michigan better go back to the hood (recruiting). They've got too many trust fund babies and they look like that when they're playing. They've got guys out there – they're just happy. They're happy they're playing at Michigan. But that's not Michigan football; the attitude has to change."
When Stanford, Notre Dame, and even Duke have significantly outperformed Michgian of late I don't buy that argument. It's about what happens after the recruits get to school, not before.
Backlash backlash backlash backlash. It's turtles all the way down in the Penn State case. I remember being uncomfortable at the time with Penn State's punishment, because having the NCAA step in on such a heinous thing was like giving Charles Manson a traffic ticket.
But they did, and then one of the lawsuits still pending against the NCAA showed that officials were uncertain if they had the power to do the thing that they did. A lot of people went LOL NCAA at this, but I'm with John Gasaway:
You’ll also have to forgive me for not being troubled to find that NCAA staffers questioned whether they were doing the right thing. In fact I would feel far better about the process behind the Freeh Report, for example, if emails surfaced wherein investigators were fretting over whether they were really doing justice to Penn State president Graham Spanier. My worry is precisely that there are no such emails because there were no such qualms.
Whether it was a good idea or not, a bluff or not, Penn State signed the consent decree and took its steadily declining lumps. Was it PR to look like the NCAA doesn't accept the idea of harboring a Sandusky? Or was it the NCAA not accepting the idea of a Sandusky? They're the same thing.
Where are they now: Dave Brandon edition. A Domino's in Saginaw saw a tense standoff between a pissed-off customer and the manager devolve into a shouting match featuring these words from the manager:
Apparently a manager at the helm of this Saginaw, Michigan, Domino'scursed out a customer who confronted him over hanging up on her son. The kid reportedly complained after getting a lightly sauced pie instead of one with "white" sauce. Hence this exchange: "Did you come in for your money back? Because I really don't care about your opinion," the manager says.
I appreciate the fact that Brandon was trying to lessen the financial blow of his buyout by getting outside work, but maybe next time get a job that doesn't involve customer service.
Note: With roundups of last weekend's Sound Mind Sound Body camp still being published, as well as various visit reactions from prospects currently on campus for Michigan's technique camp, I'm pushing back the recruiting roundup to tomorrow. Breathing into a paper bag in preparation for USA-Ghana may also have played a role here. Thankfully, I started writing this post last week.
I started writing up the 2009 offensive recruits as a whole, but I couldn't get past the first paragraph of Tate Forcier's profile before realizing the two quarterbacks in the class needed their own post. Hell, I couldn't get past the first sentence [emphasis mine]:
Tate Forcier is the one who didn't get away, the one who was planning on committing even when Kevin Newsome and Shavodrick Beaver hadn't twirled their mustaches in dastardly fashion and tied Michigan football's hopes to the train tracks before effecting their getaways. His brother is my favorite Michigan player of all time who never played. He is a relentlessly trained quarterback prodigy ready to step in on day one—which was a month ago—and challenge Steven Threet for the starting job. God help us if he flames out.
When this post was written, Forcier had already enrolled at Michigan and subsequently dominated the Spring Game—back when it actually resembled real football—in a fashion that caused junior-in-college me to make this video, and I'll admit it was no small thrill to see my name on this here site:
I just watched that thing again and it's pure sport porn; I sort of wish Ace had left in Forcier's three incompletions—one bad read, one Stonum drop, and one overthrown screen—so it wasn't a just a possibly-misleading highlight reel but was instead the whole spring performance. My favorite part is that little swing pass to Moundros on the rollout: Forcier's getting pressure from a defender, calmly positions himself, and puts a perfectly-led ball right in Moundros' arms, allowing him to turn upfield against the chasing linebacker. That is the sort of precision Michigan's offense was lacking last year.
After a season of the Threetsheridammit offense, the fawning over Forcier's readily apparent potential was more than understandable. His accuracy and YPA for a high school quarterback were off the charts, as evidenced by... a (chart?) chart:
157 / 221
164 / 213
208 / 326
The disconcerting rise in interceptions and drop in completion percentage as a senior was chalked up to a heavily increased workload and a sieve-like offensive line, the latter quite apparent to those who watched him play that season. This brought forth a foreboding aspect to Brian's eerily on-the-money comparison to former Iowa QB Drew Tate:
Forcier was often reduced to scrambling around and chucking it hopefully, which obviously led to the interceptions. Here's another piece of the Drew Tate comparison I've been beating into the ground for months now: Tate (Iowa Version) also saw a senior-year spike in interceptions as Iowa's offensive line regressed (they gave up an extra half-sack per game when Tate was a senior) and Tate took matters into his own hands more often. This tendency can be either wildly good or wildly bad, and threatens to do so on consecutive plays this fall. Only experience will teach Forcier what he can and cannot do at this level.
As it turned out, we'd never learn if added experience would've reduced the considerable "no no no YES"/"no no no AAAAAARRRGGHHHHH" aspect of Forcier's game. As we all well know, he left school after being ruled academically ineligible for the 2010 Gator Bowl, by which time he'd lost his starting gig to Denard Robinson. A certain aspect of Forcier's schooling, at the time noted as a positive—his home-school setup enabled him to work with QB guru Marv Marinovich for hours upon hours—was probably not so positive:
On Fridays in the fall, Tate Forcier doesn't feel like going to school. The night's game is on his mind, and the quarterback for Scripps Ranch High in San Diego can't imagine studying a textbook rather than studying a defense.
No big deal.
"I'll tell my teacher, 'I have a game today,'" Forcier said. "He'll say, 'That's fine; you don't have to come.' And I'll go to my football school and watch film all day."
I swear I'll get to Denard soon, but first a couple more blockquotes. Marinovich's scouting report of his pupil was so oddly poetic Brian turned it into actual poetry:
"Tate springs off his feet. He bounds from side-to-side to avoid the rush and then accelerates. His peripheral vision is key allowing him stay focused and scan downfield. But really, his mental attitude toward the position along with quick feet and hand-eye coordination blended together is ridiculous."
A haiku version of this:
Tate springs off his feet
He bounds from side to side, and
Finally, Brian makes a most unfortunate typo:
Why Drew Tate? That's my go-to comparison and I'm sticking to it. Forcier is about 6', maybe 6'1". He's nimble and though he took off frequently in high school, in college he won't have as much of an athletic advantage and will mostly use his feet to buy time to throw downfield. He has the proverbial moxie, which occasionally gets him into trouble. The Tate comparison is eerily accurate, except maybe Forcier is better school and will be more accurate than the occasionally-erratic Tate.
Oddly, Denard's otherworldly running abilty wasn't nearly as prominent in those clips as you'd expect. There isn't so much as a hint of a run until nearly the two-minute mark. In fact, there are only a couple plays in the whole reel that really show off what he was capable of doing, probably because his offensive coordinator ripped the "OBVIOUS ROLLOUTS" page from the Al Borges playbook and left the rest. Denard's highlights are way better in theory than they are in reality.
I'm not sure there's better evidence of how much football offense has evolved even in the last half-decade than Denard Effin' Robinson running every play on his high school highlight tape from under center. In 2008, this may have gone unquestioned. In 2014, there'd be a federal investigation.
Denard's passing stats fell well short of Forcier's, as would be expected. Less expected were the rushing stats:
Oddly, Robinson's rushing yards weren't spectacular. He had only 538, which was fewer than Forcier had, though Forcier wasn't going up against big schools in Florida at Scripps Ranch. Does this indicate a Drew Tate Forcier-like tendency to run around in the backfield and then launch it deep? A couple of throws above and that yards per completion number indicate "yes", but he also breaks contain several times and takes off and those are just highlights so maybe he got sacked a lot for ridiculous yardage after running around like a headless chicken and I guess what I'm trying to say is we just don't know, dude.
We just have to go on the universal heavy panting about this guy's ability to outrun a cheetah in a Porsche strapped to a jet engine and dropped out of a plane. Which, like, okay.
Deerfield Beach's Denard Robinson got the near-perfect start he needed, motored down the straightaway and won the 100 meters in a personal-best 10.44 seconds at the BCAA Track Championships at Coral Springs on Saturday.
Robinson's personal-best … is the second-fastest high school time in the nation, according to Dyestat Elite 100 rankings.
Denard's reaction was even better:
''I was kind of disappointed in myself to run a 10.44, but I will accept that,'' Robinson said.
It comes as little surprise that a bolt of lightning recruited to play quarterback for Rich Rodriguez received comparisons to Pat White from everyone, Brian included. The excitement to see this athlete in that offense managed to rival the avalanche of Forcier hype even though Robinson didn't get the benefit of an early enrollment. Surely the blogger who set Sam McGuffie's general excitement level at "AAAAIIEEEE!" saw the nearly unlimited potential that would soon be realized in arguably the greatest QB rushing season ever:
Seeing Denard grimace and swear is akin to seeing Santa remove his fake beard and take a long pull from a flask. Something's gone horribly wrong and perhaps it's time you stopped believing in certain things—like the possibility of a Big Ten title or the existence of Santa Claus.
[After THE JUMP: More cursing! More sadness! But also basketball!]
If the GIFs are slowing down your browser, hit 'escape' on any browser except Chrome to stop animation. If you are using Chrome, I highly recommend adding the extension "GIF Scrubber" to have video-like control over each GIF.
Denard Robinson's introduction as something more than a lightning-fast curiosity came in Michigan's 2010 opener against UConn. Fittingly, the game marked the unveiling of the Michigan Stadium luxury boxes, a new attendance record, and the completion of Brock Mealer's journey from paralysis to walking out and touching the banner. It's an easy argument to make that this game represented the high water mark of the Rich Rodriguez era, a moment when anything and everything seemed within the realm of possibility.
The Big House was gaudier, a man had gone from never walking again to walking again, the much-maligned defense shut down the Huskies, and Denard ... well, a Michigan quarterback record of 197 rushing yards is what we remember most, and he also completed 19/22 passes for 186 yards and a score. Rodriguez introduced the first iteration of the Worst Waldo play...
...and when it looked like UConn finally might be able to slow down Denard, he used their eagerness to finally lay a finger on the guy against them:
Michigan raced out to a 21-0 lead within the first 21 minutes of the opening kickoff, then cruised to a 30-10 victory. Denard became an overnight sensation. A fanbase beaten down by 3- and 5-win seasons the previous two years had reason to think that perhaps this could work out after all. Most of this optimism stemmed from Denard, of course, who helped matters by being one of the most eminently likable athletes to ever step on campus.
This summer, I went back through Denard's career and made a whole bunch of GIFs, with full intention of writing up an ode to the man who—often single-handedly—dragged the Wolverines from the depths of 3-8 and put them in a position to succeed in his three years as a starter and beyond. Like Brian with his HTTV article, I sat down and just couldn't go through with it.
I think I'm ready now. Hit the jump for a GIF retrospective on the career of one Denard Robinson.
I had this thing I was always going to write about Denard, and I said I'd put it in Hail To The Victors, and Seth really, really wanted it because we really, really had to send everything to the printer, and I sat in front of my keyboard and could not do it. As you're about to find out this week, putting words into a computer is something I do quite frequently. My problem is usually keeping those words relatively concise. This time I sat there, and the thing I'd had in my head for years sat there too.
We stared at each other. Nobody moved.
This is a program that has been in flux for nearly a decade now. The first indication was Jim Herrmann's one-year experiment with the 3-4 in 2004. Like everything in the Late Herrmann period, it worked just enough to make you crazy when it didn't. A year later, Michigan was running a 4-3 again, had a 9-point lead against Ohio State with 7:49 on the clock, and blew it.
Herrmann was given the NFL position coach gold watch, and because any motion towards the future must be paired with an equal and opposite motion towards the past a year later Mike DeBord was re-installed as the offensive coordinator. He completely overhauled the offense, dumping pulling linemen for a zone-stretch running game. Two years later, Rodriguez came in, overhauling everything except David Molk. Three years later, Hoke came in, overhauling everything except David Molk.
All along, the panic grew. Michigan started casting about for anyone they thought could help, whether it was mentally unbalanced defensive linemen or guys with no offers who showed at camp or defensive backs who hadn't ever played a varsity game. Or Mike DeBord. The decisions being made became increasingly unmoored from reality in the late aughts. Something named Appalachian State beat Michigan. At some point Greg Robinson was hired.
Here is a Hieronymus Bosch painting, because nothing else can represent the thought process that ended with that decision.
Chaos descended on Michigan gradually, until a bird-man and spiky monkey and plague dude and bird-hippo-thing murdered it and its magnificent beard. You can assign the various actors their roles based on your preferences, except the plague guy has to be GERG.
This is still a team in flux. Rodriguez got axed just in time for Michigan to complete its transition to spread personnel, echoes of which are still on the team today: a right tackle who was high school hurdler, a #1 receiver standing 5'8", a quarterback who's probably going to jet for 60 yards at some point this year. There are two (two!) upperclass offensive linemen.
This will be the first time since 2003 that anyone at Michigan has entered his third year—let alone fourth—in the same defense, under the same coordinator. Even as the defense settles in, the offense prepares for a drastic change in its nature. The Hoke recruiting classes are just blooding themselves in the two deep; the disastrous 2010 recruiting class looms in holes across the roster.
But for the first time in a long, long time, you can see the trajectory. No one's clamoring for the defensive coordinator's head; no one's looming over the shoulder of the offensive coordinator, ready to pull the plug on anything that looks remotely dangerous. For the next half-dozen years, Michigan is going to be an aggressive 4-3 under defense paired with an offense of titanic humans who will make safeties choose between pounding on the ground and long-range aerial bombardment. The coaches will be the coaches with the exception of a position coach or two who will probably be replaced by a Michigan legend.
On fourth down, they're going.
Deadlines are deadlines, so I wrote the thing eventually. It wasn't what I wanted. It was supposed to have turrets and buttresses and run a 4.1 40. Instead it was… okay. It's not the worst thing I've written. None of that mattered. Time was up. It was done.
In the aftermath a peculiar feeling descended on me. If I spoke German, I would crush together several contradictory words into a multi-syllabic monstrosity that would not quite entirely fail to communicate it. It was over, and that was terrible. It was over, and that was necessary. I wanted to go back, and wanted to go forward.
The thing that was keeping Michigan between states of being had dreadlocks and could outrun a photon. Denard could not do the things Al Borges wanted him to do, and Al Borges could not figure out other things to ask. And yet there he was, so we kept banging that square peg against the round hole. To do otherwise was incomprehensible.
Regrets, I've got 'em. Everyone's got 'em. But there's no going back. Finally, it's in the past. Finally, everyone can focus their efforts on refining what is there instead of throwing it all away and starting over, and then throwing it away next year and starting over again.
This is Michigan, a guy said once. What does that mean? Now we find out.