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.
Continuing my theme of getting super-meta this offseason, I decided to take a look back at the MGoBlog recruiting recaps from the class of 2008—hello, blogspot!—and see how they stand up now that those players have either moved on from the program or are fifth-year seniors. 2008, of course, was the franken-class of Lloyd Carr and Rich Rodriguez recruits, a bizarre blend of pro-style plodders and size-challenged spread speedsters. While it boasted 17 four-stars among 24 commits, finishing a very respectable tenth in the Rivals team rankings, the class would prove to be an unmitigated disaster, ravaged by attrition and marked with disappointment.
So, let's go back to a time when Michigan fans still held out hope for landing Terrelle Pryor—when these were written, still holding out for a better contract mulling his decision a month after signing day—to spearhead this newfangled spread offense. Today, I'll take a look at Brian's offensive evaluations, and the defense will be covered next week. For reference, links to the original posts: Quarterback and Running Back, Receivers, Tight Ends, Offensive Line. If you're anything like me, perusing those is a remarkably fun way to waste time.
Easy Joke Is Easy
With a major change in offensive scheme, Michigan was in desperate need of a dual-threat quarterback. Pryor was the ultimate prize, and Rodriguez was forced to hedge his bets with Justin Feagin, an under-the-radar athlete from Florida whose best offers were to play wide receiver at LSU or defensive back at Miami (YTM).
Projection: Someone's going to play Tebow to Threet's Chris Leak this fall; unless Carlos Brown locks that down, it'll be Feagin. I have no idea what to expect, but think his future is probably somewhere other than quarterback.
Namely, the inside of a courtroom. ZING! (Really, when it comes to the 2008 quarterback situation, dark humor is the only option lest you want to break down in tears.)
Ironically, it was his off-field actions that made Feagin one of the recruits Brian was "baselessly excited about in defiance of recruiting rankings and reason," due to late-night workouts and multiple quotes expressing no concern about potentially having to compete with Pryor for the starting job. It was noted that Feagin required "a ton of developing to be a legitimate quarterback," which was readily apparent during his brief appearances as a freshman. Then came the cocaine stuff and subsequent boot, so we'll never know whether Feagin could've turned into a passable receiver.
I started following recruiting seriously when a friend showed me Noel Devine's highlight tape during my senior year of high school. Since I had little understanding at the time about how recruiting actually worked, I was bitterly disappointed when Devine seemingly had zero interest in Michigan (and vice versa), eventually ending up at West Virginia. I swore never to get my hopes up about highlight tape heroes again.
So the next year, when another atom-sized running back took the YouTubes by storm, I had little hope that this Texan doing heel-clicks on the backs of linebackers would even consider donning the Maize and Blue. Even so, I'd watch his tape on repeat, sharing it with friends whenever the opportunity arose; seeing their eyes bug while asking what in the hell they just watched never got old. This is what they saw [NSFW audio warning]:
Then, of course, the impossible occurred: Sam McGuffie signed with Michigan, though not before nearly shattering our dreams during a signing day flirtation with Cal. Brian, however, was nonplussed, proferring this muted reaction to McGuffie's inclusion in the class:
General Excitement Level: AAAAIIEEEE! Man... this offense is McGuffie's jam, man, and the Church Of Barwis will excommunicate anyone who doubts his his's ability to get up to 200-some pounds without compromising his lightning quicks. Steve Slaton says what. Projection: He's the man, man. Will battle Brown and Grady for carries at first; probably a Noel Devine role his first year.
Oh. Unfortunately, you all know how this one went. McGuffie showed flashes of brilliance as a freshman in 2008, but also the durability of a paper bag. After finishing the season as the team's second-leading rusher, he decided to transfer closer to home, ending up at Rice, where he'll be a redshirt senior in 2012. Not exactly what we'd all envisioned when the guy who frontflipped over J.B. Shugarts at the Army Game hit campus.
McGuffie wasn't the only back in the class, however, as he was joined by two other intriguing prospects. Rich Rodriguez earned the "snake-oil salesman" moniker for snatching Roy Roundtree from Purdue (more on him later), but his other signing day surprise was pulling Trotwood-Madison RB Michael Shaw away from Penn State. You'll never guess what Brian noticed on his film [emphasis mine]:
I am not a scout, but in the Shaw video at Scouting Ohio I saw a guy with a knack for catching the flare, good speed, and exactly one move: an upfield cut followed by a bounce-out that got him outside high school defenders with regularity.
And thus we find the origins of bouncebouncebouncebounce.
The final back in the class was a relative unknown from the football hotbed of Avon, Connecticut. Mike Cox's name required a disclaimer in the notes section of his profile—"Degree of difficulty applies on all jokes about his name. (IE: please no "Mike Cox is huge" jokes.)"—while his school's sporting pedigree invited a healthy dose of skepticism:
There's almost zero reliable data on Cox. His high school conference is well known for hockey -- read full of rich white guys named "Higginbotham" (no, literally) -- and is awful at football.
Until reading the profile, I had completely forgotten that Michigan took Cox over four-star Detroit Country Day product and eventual Notre Dame commit Jonas Gray. In retrospect, I think it's safe to say that was a mistake, even though Gray wasn't a major contributor until his senior season. At least we got four years of stale dick jokes, though.
NEVER FORGET, Part Deux
Rodriguez's hire brought to Michigan the era of the waterbug slot guy, which promised to be great fun for a fanbase used to watching tiny track-star guys tear it up only for opponents. The recruit expected to come in and make a big splash early was four-star Terrence Robinson out of Klein, Texas, and all it took was one physics-defying play to see why:
Commits pulling Hakeem Olajuwon post moves at warp speed during a football game understandably cause a fair amount of excitement. Brian busted out the obligatory Breaston comparison and projected him to be in the mix at both returner and slot receiver. Robinson finished his Michigan career with one catch, two kickoff returns, and one punt return for a grand total of 94 all-purpose yards.
Michigan's other slot ninja was Pahokee's Martavious Odoms, whose profile contains endless testimonials about his rabbit-chasing speed. Brian's comparison is Devin Hester and also a version of Steve Breaston that actually catches the bombs:
General Excitement Level: Moderate++. He's never going to be Braylon Edwards but if he's as fast as his reputation he could be a dynamite returner and even a deep threat: remember Steve Breaston's ill-fated career as the target of bombs? Well, he was open by yards time and again because opposing players got smoked by his moves and always dropped the ball. Odoms looks like he's pretty good at hauling in deep balls. Projection: Will press for time as a returner immediately and is 50-50 to be the designated bubble screen guy, with Terrance Robinson the other option. Starts off with an advantage on Robinson because he's spent the last four years as a receiver.
Evaluation severely lacking in mountain goat blocking praise.
Despite the excitement over the tiny slot guys, the biggest expectations were reserved for consensus top-100 receiver Darryl Stonum, who chose Michigan over Florida, Alabama, USC, and Florida State. Breathless hype part one:
Natural change of direction? Fluid hips? Comes down with jump balls? A mix of Braylon Edwards and Mario Manningham... which, like, dude.
And part two:
General Excitement Level: Maximal. The second most likely kid in the class to have a long, productive career at Michigan, IMO, behind Dann O'Neill.
Stonum's production disappointed, even after it was discovered that he'd been playing half-blind and needed contacts, and his career came to an untimely end after a string of alcohol- and driving-related arrests.
The last of the four receiver recruits was Roy Roundtree, another Trotwood-Madison star whose projection was the closest to the eventual reality:
General Excitement Level: Moderate. Never going to be a gamebreaker, but a likely contributor. Has to add a lot of weight to be an effective player. Projection: Redshirts, plays sparingly his second year, and is 50-50 to emerge into Michigan's #2 WR.
Roundtree redshirted, then led the team in catches in each of the next two seasons, though this was more the product of the offense—Roundtree was the main beneficiary of QB Oh Noes—than him being a true #1 receiver, though he may be forced into that role this season.
The 2008 class also featured two four-star tight end recruits, though both came with significant question marks. For Brandon Moore, the third of the Trotwood trio, the question was whether he was the future star who earned top-100 rankings and big-time offers after a standout junior season or the potential bust whose stock slipped significantly during a disappointing senior year. Scout actually started out with Moore as their #98 overall prospect before dropping him all the way to three stars and the #43(!) tight end. The verdict:
General Excitement Level: High, with caveats. Moore is a boom-or-bust guy with much potential but a long way to go. Projection: Great success, great failure, or somewhere in between. Specific cat is specific.
Barring an out-of-nowhere breakout season in 2012, bust it is.
Meanwhile, Michigan took a head-to-head battle with Ohio State for Toledo Whitmer's Kevin Koger, but it was unclear whether he'd stick at tight end or eventually make a move to defensive end:
It must be said: Koger is widely regarded a prospect of equal or greater merit at defensive end, and with Nick Perry's escape to Southern Cal Michigan finds themselves with one defensive end recruit across two classes. Though it's possible one of the linebackers -- most likely Marcus Witherspoon -- could end up with his hand down, Michigan is critically short there.
A down-the-line move was projected, but that was largely based on the assumption that Moore would pan out. Instead, it was Koger who'd get the lion's share of the snaps at tight end for the next four years.
Brian's O-line Knowledge Has Come A Long Way
One of the staples of the recruiting recaps is the "YMRMFSPA" section, in which Brian compares the recruit's style of play to a notable former player (usually a Wolverine, but not always, as evidenced by the Hester comparison for Odoms). With Michigan pulling in six offensive linemen in 2008, coming up with the proper approximation got a little difficult:
Dann O'Neill: YMRMFSPA Jake Long. No pressure.
Kurt Wermers: YMRMFSPA Matt Lentz?
Elliott Mealer: YMRMFSPA Matt Stenavich(?)
Rocko Khoury: YMRMFSPA Uh, that other un-touted guard person.
Ricky Barnum: YMRMFSPA Rod Payne?
Patrick Omameh: YMRMFSPA ????
Dave Petruziello and Leo Henige feel very neglected, man.
As you can see above, before Taylor Lewan was the Next Jake Long, that distinction went to Dann O'Neill, a top 100 recruit from Grand Haven. Not only was O'Neill quite a talent, his services were desperately needed along a thin offensive line:
Dann O'Neill might be Michigan's most critical recruit. The only tackles in the last two recruiting classes are incumbent RT Steve Schilling, three-star Perry Dorrestein, and two-star sleeper (as in "only had offers from MAC schools" sleeper) Mark Huyge. Finding two starting tackles from that group once the Zirbel-Ortmann class graduates in two years was looking very risky.
Brian projected O'Neill to start "at some point, hopefully later (say, as a redshirt sophomore) rather than sooner (say, this fall)." Instead, he never played a down as a Wolverine, transferring to Western Michigan after his freshman year. He would eventually earn a start at Michigan Stadium in 2011, but as a member of the Broncos.
The other future washout on the line was Indiana guard Kurt Wermers, whose off-field hobbies were not exactly typical of a football player [emphasis Brian's]:
Wermers was also named to the stupidly named "Offense-Defense Bowl" in Miami. The OD bowl appears to be a sort of second-tier all star game. Big whoop, except for the press release announcing the selection:
"Wermers, a veritable renaissance man whose hobbies include weightlifting, playing guitar, singing, and reading, also enjoys spending time on the virtual field of battle in the wildly popular massively multiplayer role-playing game World of Warcraft when not battling in the trenches on the football field."
"I love it," Wermers said of singing. "It gives me a chance to get away from big jocky athletic guys and hang out with a different group of people."
I don't think we'll be having any discipline issues with young Mr. Wermers. It's just a feeling.
Wermers left the team before the 2009 season, saying he decided to transfer because Rodriguez was "bringing in a lot of different kids that were not my kind of crowd," and running the team like a business (Wermers signed when Carr was the coach, but obviously never played under him). It was later revealed that Wermers was academically ineligible when he announced his transfer, probably because he was playing WoW instead of going to class. Discipline issues: check.
The player who's actually panned out was the lowest-ranked among the six, Patrick Omameh, a two-star DE to Rivals and the #87 OT to Scout. There wasn't much comment on Omameh beyond addressing his sleeper status; speculation about his future position turned out to go 0-for-2:
There are conflicting reports as to whether Omameh was recruited as a center (where his intelligence would help with the line calls) or tackle; that will get sorted out somewhere down the line.
As you know, Omameh is entering his third year as the full-time starter at... right guard.
Finally, Ricky Barnum peered into the future and got a serious head start on his future team's biggest rivalry:
Various people are probably irritated with Ricky Barnum: Urban Meyer, for one. Also OH OL Zebrie Sanders, who tried to commit to Florida but was told to talk to the hand because Barnum and another player had filled Florida's OL quotient for the year. Sanders, also rejected by Georgia for the same reason, ended up at Florida State and Urban ended up short one highly recruited interior lineman. Not that anyone will ever shed a tear for Urban Meyer.
Oh herro prease. I'm back for spring practice. There will be two or three pressers every week leading up to the spring game, and I will be transcribing all of them. Huzzah!
News bullets and other important things:
Ricky Barnum is practicing at center.
Rocko Khoury, Terrence Robinson, Mike Cox, and George Morales are all graduating this spring and will not return for the 2012 season
Justice Hayes is staying at running back but will be considered for kickoff return duties.
The spring game will be a scrimmage due to lack of bodies on offensive and defensive line.
On wearing pants today: “I put them on just for you guys.”
“First, this is off-topic a little bit, but we had severe weather yesterday and the damage and all that was out there in Dexter, and I don’t know too many other places -- I think that was the worst hit, but our thoughts and prayers are with those folks who went through that. We had our guys here for training table and when the campus alert went out they were all in the locker room and it was one of those situations. Our thoughts and prayers really go out to those people who were affected by it.
“We also yesterday had our pro day, which is a part of your program that the guys who have given so much, the opportunity, the dream they may have about continuing after they get a great degree from Michigan and continuing to play the game of football. I thought they represented Michigan well, and we’re proud of them for that.
“As far as this team, Team 133, I think we have a lot of questions. I know I do from the perspective of who’s going to emerge as the leaders, who’s going to have the toughness to lead and the sacrifice to lead. I think we’ve had a good winter. You can see some guys developing, you can see some guys really working hard, but I think you put the pads on, spring football, those things, you learn a little bit more about your football team. Starting tomorrow morning we get to do that. It’s going to be fun because you get to wear shorts again, get out on the field … it’s going to be good.
"When you look at where we’re at, there’s some obvious holes that we need to fill from the standpoint of our defensive line with the three seniors graduating at the position who played a lot of snaps for us a year ago. When you look at our offensive line there’s some good competition, but at the same time we’ve got to see improvement from young guys like Chris Bryant. He’s done a good job with the weight room and that part of it, but how he continues and matures. And Ricky Barnum, we’re going to play him at center to start with and see where he ends up there. Elliott Mealer getting an opportunity at the guard position, and Schofield will go out to right tackle, and obviously Taylor will obviously be the left tackle. Really for us we were very fortunate from an injury (standpoint) on both sides nad both fronts when you look at the guys up front defensively who stayed relatively healthy until the bowl practices and the six guys who were really responsible for the front. Those were the obvious places. Obviously Junior, Odoms, and Kelvin Grady. There’s a rotation there, and Junior obviously having most [contribution] statistically and all those things. There’s heavy competition and there will be competition.
"That’s probably the longest I’ve ever spoke.”
On your defensive line, how big of a spring is this for Will Campbell?
“I think it’s big, but I think he’s made great progress [in] what he’s done from a physical standpoint how he looks and all those things. I think his leadership and that part of it, with Quinton Washington, Richard Ash, when you start looking at that nose position, the ability for Will to slide from the 3-technique to the nose position is important.”
What’s the biggest issue with moving a guy like Ricky from guard to center?
“I think number one, snapping the football is always a little different. Now we did quite a bit with Rick when he got back healthy last year, playing both. I think Darrell and Al both had that mindset, if we did get beat up somewhere else where we had to rotate those guys -- at the end of the day the best five guys have to play, however that rotation works out. But I think snapping the ball, the shot gun snaps, you’d like to see centers be able to snap and step at the same time.”
Is the reason you’re moving Ricky to centerbecause you’re not confident in guys like Rocko Khoury or Jack Miller?
“Well …” (ominous pause) “… I think there’s some unknowns there. I think that’s the best way to put it.”
How has Craig Roh embraced the move to strongside and Jibreel Black with the move inside?
“I think they’ve really embraced it. I know when we had the conversation and Greg met with Craig after we discussed it staff-wise. It was like, okay. I get to eat a little more. If someone said that to me I’d be happy. He really has embraced it. They’ve done some senior drill work and all that where all those guys -- him and Jibreel both are really excited about it.”
Do you expect there to be greater competition on the offensive and defensive lines since a lot of positions are up for grabs?
“I think so. I think these guys have learned to compete more and more as far as what our perception of competition is and our expectation of competition. I think they understand what’s at stake and I think they also understand that September 1st is going to be here before we know it.”
Borges said on the radio that he wished he would have spent more time using the spread early on in the season before transitioning to the pro-style. Is there an opportunity to spend more time in the spread now?
“I think the more we get comfortable in this scheme, you may see a little more, but for us, I think Al when he’s talking about that, [he meant] maybe we could have had a little more success, but we were pretty good early. I think you could because of some things that we’ve looked at.”
How have the three early enrollees progressed through the winter?
“I think they’ve had a really great winter. The first thing you always look at is how they adjust from being away from home, mom not cooking, mom not doing your laundry. I think classes, and that responsibility -- I think Joe and Kaleb and Jarrod have all really done a good job. Talking to coach Wellman in the weight room and how their work ethic is, I think all three of them have done a tremendous job.
Have any of the three stood out in any way?
“I think they all have maybe not exceeded but have adjusted well.”
“Yeah, we’ve got some guys … George Morales is going to graduate. Rocko’s going to graduate. Terrence Robinson will graduate, and Mike Cox is graduating. I think that’s it.”
Is that this spring?
“Yeah. A couple of them have like six hours in the summer, because this is the winter quarter.”
So they will not be back in 2012?
“Hmm mm. (No.)”
Ws that their decision?
“I think it’s their decision.”
Could they take advantage of the post graduation transfer rule?
“Mm hmm. (Yes.)”
What do you expect out of Roy this season? Who do you have hope for at the receiver position to step up?
“I think the first guy you look at is always Roy. I think that Jeremy Gallon is a guy who has shown tremendous ability. You look at his year and he was pretty successful. You look at Jeremy Jackson and his development and his growth. Dileo is a really valuable guy to our team. Jerald Robinson is a guy -- he was down most of the year with us. He can be pretty productive. Joe Reynolds is a guy who’s worked awfully hard.”
What’s different going into the second spring here vs. a year ago?
“For us, I don’t know if you look at it a whole lot differently. I mean you’re always trying to meet expectations of competitiveness, toughness, leadership, development, discipline, and all those things. At the same time it’s probably a little -- I never want to say the word easier -- but they do know what certain terms mean now from an offensive schematic or defensive schematic in how we coach or how we call things.”
What’s the next step in leadership that you want to see Denard take?
“He’s done a really good job of leading this winter. He’s done a good job when you look at -- he’s always been an unselfish player, so that’s always something that his teammates have seen. But he’s always taken it and been a little more … you hear him a little more I guess. Holding guys accountable a little more.”
From a passing standpoint, how big is going back to the fundamentals and footwork?
“There’s no question. That’s an everyday thing, and that’s an everyday thing for every position. The fundamentals and techniques. Our guys do a lot of seven-on-seven in the offseason. Continually they work drills at every position, so that’s huge.”
Last year the defensive line set the tone for the defense. Do you set that kind of expectations for this group?
“No question about it. Your expectations don’t go down. They better increase because the bar is always going to be set high here at Michigan and should be. Those expectations are for the position, not the person who plays the position.”
How does their lack of experience change the way you approach that this season?
“It doesn’t. Maybe you are a little more patient when they don’t do it exactly like we want them to, so that might be part of it, but it really doesn’t.”
Do you anticipate growing pains with that group? What’s the kind of thing that will drive you crazy during spring practice?
“A guy not playing with toughness and a guy not running to the football. That will drive me crazy.”
How good do you feel about your back seven? All of them are returning.
“I think as a whole, as a unit, I feel good -- I feel good about the kids themselves. As a unit that’s going to play at the level we need to play, I don’t feel very good because we didn’t play as well as we needed to a year ago. I’m not a huge statistic guy, but you go in and you look at opportunities that we missed either in passes broken up or interceptions on that end or supporting the end, getting off a block and doing that, and you’re looking at your linebackers a little bit -- your inside guys, are they missing tackles or making tackles? I’ve always been from the school that we’re going to be really critical, so I like the guys who we have. I like the guys who are coming in. I think we’ll have great competition by the time September 1st gets here. That part of it’s good, and I like that. I like having guys how have had some experience. Now where can they take the next step with the fundamentals and schematically of what we’re trying to do so that we don’t get beaten by Michigan State or we don’t get beaten by Iowa or we don’t give up this many points against somebody.”
With the attrition, you seem to be pretty low in terms of numbers.
“Well we’ve been low in numbers for a while, especially at the offensive line position from a scholarship standpoint. I think last year we had eight guys. Usuaully that number is 14 to 16. From a defensive line standpoint, if you’re going to have a four-man front, you better have 14 to 16 scholarship guys. We weren’t even close.”
Are you happy about how 2013 recruiting is going?
“Well number one, this is not an exact science and you don’t really know what you get until they get here because this is a hard game to play and hard to be championship teams and play. I think our coaches have worked extremely hard. I think they do a tremendous job evaluating and we’ll see. That’s why there’s a signing date. First Wednesday in February. But we’ll see. We have a long way to go.”
Punting struggles with Will Hagerup?
“The punting situation is one that will be competitive. I think both guys are very capable. I think the consistency we need to have by whoever that guy is is going to be an important part.”
How do you see the running back situation shaping up since Fitz locked down the starting position last season?
“Well he’s going to compete. He’s going to compete there. I think I’ve said this since day one. There’s nothing sacred. There’s no position that’s given an entitlement. He ended the year doing a nice job for us. You have to love the kid -- I do -- because of his competitiveness. I think he grew up a lot during the course of the year with whatthe expectiations are for a Michigan back. But Thomas Rawls and Vince Smith and Hayes, you know, there’s guys there. He can’t have a bad day.”
You mentioned Justice Hayes. Are you keeping him at running back or moving him to another position?
“No, he’s a back. We’ll see how he transpires. The good thing about him, he does have that talent where he can go out and catch the ball and he’s got great explosion. Kickoff returns -- he’d be a guy we want to look at because he’s got a gear to him that’s a little different.”
Spring game format?
“It’ll probably be a lot like last year. We’d love to have a true spring game, there’s no doubt about it. I said some numbers earlier about your most physical two positions on your team, and our numbers aren’t where they need to be.”
Cox never played and was never going to play even if Michigan was down to Paki O'Meara as an alternative; Khoury was the backup center you may remember not snapping it to Denard on the first drive against Virginia Tech; teeny tiny Robinson found a role as a punt gunner last but will will not reprise it. Morales is only notable as the walking embodiment of Late Carr Era recruiting failures; he was never actually on scholarship after the first year, IIRC.
Zero of these guys had eligibility for 2013, so this frees up no scholarships for that class. Hoke said all are graduating, so no need to fret about APR issues. As far as team issues: I'd rather have Khoury and Robinson around to contribute, even if slightly. Chopping down the center race from three guys to two is worrying, and we don't even get to expand our 2013 class projections. Boo to that.
That is a very dense 239-pound human, or it's Terrence Robinson. I'm just amazed someone took a picture of Robinson holding the ball—he's got one career catch.
Not so much. According to GBW's Bret Osburn, hockey forward Jacob Fallon won't return to the team next year($). We haven't seen confirmation anywhere else but the addition of Sinelli could be construed like a kind of a "whoah, we need a guy" thing. He'd be Michigan's 14th forward if Fallon does come back, and while you want a couple extra guys around forward #14 can probably come from the club team. (Krikor Arman say what.) More than next year it's the jam adding Sinelli creates in the next two years that make his addition seem kind of like an either/or with Fallon.
The most convincing possible argument against the BCS. Everyone likes Andy Staples. He writes interesting things, thinks advanced stats might have some merit, and is willing to get in twitter fights with SBN bloggers without being condescending to them. But there is no greater reason to like Andy Staples than his admittedly half-cocked BCS implosion scenario. Specifically, this bit:
The Fiesta, after missing out on Big Ten No. 2, takes Pac-10 No. 2 and matches it against Notre Dame. Every year. Because Notre Dame equals ratings and sellouts.
That's right, Notre Dame: "after missing out on Big Ten No. 2". /Degeneration X entrance in your face
"They are definitely up there on the list," Bolden said of the Wolverines. "The facilities are impressive. Both indoor fields are as long as the outdoor grass and outdoor turf fields. Then you just walk into the Big House and look from side to side — 115,000 people are screaming for you on a Saturday. There is probably no feeling like it. They told me that they were going to add about 6,000 seats. That's definitely an impressive thing."
Those would presumably be more rows in the endzone, but how that works with new scoreboards is undetermined. Do they flank the scoreboards? Would they move their grand spanking new boards? Do they set one back or something? Someone interview another recruit so we can find out.
The past! Um… was anyone allowed at Wisconsin's spring game? This is a somewhat sincere question. They won the Big Ten, the weather was nice, and most of the shots in this video feature zero (0) spectators:
While you can see some people in the endzones they could be parents or something.
In other news, zero touchdowns were scored, all of Wisconsin's quarterbacks are terrible and they'll spend the next four years going 3-10,000 because they don't play Michigan. Sorry, Wisconsin. We don't make the schedule, we just doom everyone who doesn't play us. We don't like it either.
Tatgate warp. I guess the NCAA has been working on OSU's case since at least December but even so they've pounded out a Notice of Allegations against Tressel & co in record time. When Michigan got their version of that during the Jihad I did an email interview with the Bylaw Blog that tried to get a sense of how final all this was. The answer was "pretty final":
A major violation case, once it gets to this point, rarely is argued back down to a secondary infraction. To get to a Notice of Allegations, especially in this case, the enforcement staff and Committee on Infractions would have worked very closely to decide if there were major violations, ultimately the COI's decision.
Individual major violations are sometimes downgraded to secondary violations during the response and hearing. In the Kelvin Sampson case at IU, one of the original five major violations--that Sampson and assistant coach Jeff Meyer gave Derek Elston a backpack and t-shirt and recruited him during a camp--was found to be only a secondary violation. Of course, the COI can add too, like the failure to monitor charge that came after the committee hearing.
Expect all or almost all of the allegations in the NOA to stick. They are:
Seven different players sold or exchanged memorabilia.
Tressel "knew or should have known" two of these players were ineligible but played them anyway.
Jim Tressel lied about this—the dread almost-certain-firing bylaw 10.1 violation.
…and that's it. So much for delicious rumors of point shaving/something much worse/Ohio nuclear apocalypse, at least for now.
Not that the above doesn't constitute something close to Ohio nuclear apocalypse. The Dispatch's article has some raw numbers that are alarming for OSU fans: 13,385, 500, and 6000. The former is the amount of money the seven players got. The latter are the amounts Troy Smith and a basketball recruit got in the recent past. The first is pretty big; the second two expose OSU to repeat violator status. While Michigan was technically a repeat violator when the Jihad started, their eventual infractions were major in name only and had nothing to do with Ed Martin; here this seems like the continuation of a pattern.
As far as Tressel himself goes, the email trail is even more damning than previously known. The Dispatch:
After Ohio State University football coach Jim Tressel was alerted that some of his players had traded memorabilia for free tattoos from a suspected drug dealer, he exchanged numerous emails, phone calls and text messages with the tipster, his star quarterback Terrelle Pryor and Pryor's mentors.
Documents obtained by The Dispatch also show Tressel called an FBI agent within days of getting the first email warning the coach of the potential NCAA rules violation and a federal drug investigation.
But OSU records don't show a single call or email from Tressel to the Ohio State compliance office in which he could have reported his players' apparent violations of NCAA regulations.
(Some OSU spokesman claims the dozen extra emails between Tressel and Sarniak were "inadvertently omitted" from previous document releases.) Michigan fan disclaimers and all that but I can't see how anyone can construe that as anything other than a deliberate decision to not suspend players known to be ineligible. The text of that email to Sarniak:
"This guy, Chris Cicero, is a criminal lawyer in town. He played here when I was an assistant coach in the early 1980s. He has always looked out for us. jt"
If anything justifies a we-have-to-fire-you show cause it's this case*. I mean, right? I'm betting OSU vacates last season, gets a bowl ban for this one, and gets a show-cause on Tressel. Scholarship penalties could be in the offing but I'm guessing they won't be severe unless the NCAA justifies it with that "repeat offender" status.
*[Um… other than trying to frame a murdered player of yours as a drug dealer.]
Spring extrapolations. Magnus picture-pages the Cox touchdown from the spring game and comes away with some conclusions: no Wilkins this year (he was obliterated by two walk-ons), not so much on Herron, Marvin Robinson is highly inconsistent.
Etc.: Rodriguez says going to Michigan wasn't the best decision he's ever made, which… yeah. Depressing headline. Pete Bigelow claims Cullen Christian's exit doesn't "make for another cornerback crisis," and he's right: it continues and deepens a secondary-wide crisis that has been raging at various levels for going on ten years. Soon pirates will start appearing off the coast of the Michigan secondary. UMHoops scouts a bunch of 2013 targets. Christian transfers to—surprise!—Pitt. Someone owes me ten million dollars. Penn State's first coach is Guy Gadowsky, previously of Princeton.
Just don't fumble and we're good. Unless kicker is a black hole, but what's the worst that could happen?
After a spring in which the motley collection of walk-ons assembled to punt managed to keep just one of their attempts on the field of play, it was a relief to see Will Hagerup launch Zoltan-like bombs in the fall scrimmage. While he's likely to go through some growing pains as he adjusts to college, mgouser Wonk put together a diary demonstrating that punter is a spot at which you can throw in a true freshman without much worry. A three-year study of freshman punters sees them land around 73rd nationally—just a smidgen below average—with a 39.3 net.
So your average freshman punter checks in just below average, and Hagerup is not your average freshman punter. He got the rare third star from Rivals and is their #1 true punter after a senior year in which he actually bettered Zoltan's numbers:
As a senior, Hagerup punted 22 times, landing seven within the opponent's 20-yard line, and averaging 42.9 yards per attempt. By comparison, Mesko had a career average of 42.5. In a statistic suggesting Hagerup applies adequate hang time to be a factor at the college level, opponents averaged just three yards per return against him.
No word on awesome high-stepping fakes, or disastrous mind-meltdown ones. Rodriguez called Hagerup "a real talent" this fall, then repeated it for emphasis. I'm not saying he's the Space Emperor of Space or anything, but while no one can replace Zoltan in our hearts Hagerup probably won't be far off on the field.
As per tradition when this site attempts to project a kicker it's never seen play, we punt. (HA!) Projecting kickers remains a rube's game. For example, last year this preview expressed "disquiet" because projected starter Jason Olesnavage couldn't beat out mediocre competition in '08, sucked in the spring game, and wasn't the touted freshman Brendan Gibbons. Olesnavage proceeded to go 11 of 15, a 73% strike rate. So we won't really have a grasp on what's going on here until midseason.
Right now the tea leaves are grim things scattered everywhere except the center of the cup, however. Rodriguez has been openly fretting about the situation since spring. An example from Big Ten media days—here Rodriguez is asked what's his biggest concern:
"Probably the kicking game, particularly field goals."
Troy Woolfolk's ankle had not yet been smitten, but even at that point being more concerned with anything other than the secondary (which thankfully finished second) sets off alarm klaxons. More go off when AnnArbor.com quotes Rodriguez saying "guh," which is my line.
But I was pretty guh last year, too, and that worked out okay. Hopefully Gibbons can find the accuracy to live up to his scholarship status; if he can't the silver lining is that Michigan might be forced into correct fourth-down strategy. That's the ticket!
Michigan found its best kickoff returner since Steve Breaston in the form of blazing fast Darryl Stonum last year. Stonum ripped off this critical touchdown against Notre Dame…
…and took enough other kicksout to midfield to see Michigan into the top 25 nationally at #23. Stonum himself was actually better than that; his 25.7 yard average would have been good for 4th if he took back all of Michigan's returns.
Touchdowns are outliers and we should expect Stonum's production to fall back to earth a little bit this year; hopefully Michigan has a better second option and can maintain their above-average production here.
When it comes to punts,
HOLD ON TO THE GODDAMN BALL
was the directive last year. It was not followed very well. This was actually an improvement on 2008, when kickoffs were also 50-50 to be horrible turnovers, but it wasn't very fun. A rotating array of jelly-fingered receivers toured the position last year, with Junior Hemingway's 10 returns for 86 yards and Martavious Odoms's 6 for 54 leading the returning players. (Brandon Graham's punt blocks actually made him Michigan's best punt returner: two for 36 yards and a TD.)
This year it looks like Hemingway has been relieved of duties. The four guys in contention this fall are Odoms, Terrence Robinson, Jeremy Gallon, and Drew Dileo. Gallon reputedly did not seize his opportunity to perform over the summer* and then suffered an ankle injury in fall, Robinson's hands have plagued him since his arrival in Ann Arbor (he was the only player to fumble a punt in the fall scrimmage), and Dileo is a true freshman. Your punt returner by default is Odoms until such time as one of the guys who isn't a fumble-prone starting receiver steps up and takes it from him.
I suppose here's where we should make mention of Michigan's coverage units. A combination of Zoltan and the spread punt formation made the punt cover guys highly effective, with opponents managing just 5.6 yards a return. I put together a little stat that measures how many yards a team gives back on average (so a punt without a return is zero) and Michigan finished 28th last year despite Zoltan finishing 9th in gross average. That's pretty good; Michigan can probably expect similar.
On kick returns, opponents averaged 22.3 per, which was slightly below average. Stonum's Beanie Bowl-opening KOR TD and some disturbing half-speed practice returns in the fall scrimmage have people worried, but that's scant evidence to suggest last year's kickoff team, which returns largely intact, is going to fall off a cliff.
Light day at the press conference today, aside from the pseudo-bombshell that Brandon Minor is still injured, and is now considered questionable for Saturday. It remains to be seen how much of this is legit, and how much is gamesmanship/giving the press something new to talk about. Either way, not good. Carlos Brown would get the start if Minor can't go, with Shaw, Grady, and Vincent Smith also garnering playing time.
Rich says the coaches are starting to have a good idea of who will start at QB on Saturday. They'll let the quarterbacks know tomorrow night who is getting the starting nod.
Big focuses in camp this year: holding onto the ball and avoiding negative yardage offensive plays. He felt like they held onto the ball pretty well in last year's camp (and we know how that turned out), but it's even better this year.
During punt return practice, the returners seemed to be having some sort of competition to not be the first to drop one. When someone finally did, a grad assistant who had been turned the other way immediately turned around and asked "Was it Terrence [Robinson]?" It was.
Though there have been more explosive plays from the offense in camp this year, Rodriguez said it's not necessarily because the defense has been subpar. The offensive players in camp this year have better skill sets as a group than last year's, and the execution has improved with another year in the system. It's hard to tell if big offense plays mean offense == good or defense == bad, but when they go back and look at film, they can decide whether the defensive player was playing his assignment and was beaten by a good offensive play, or if there was a blown assignment.
In case you were doubting that Rodriguez is pretty hands-off with the defense (last year's Purdue game notwithstanding), he said he's not quite sure exactly what the defense is doing. They're teaching well, and on track to where they should be. He won't concern himself too much with the defensive side of the ball until it's time to start drawing up gameplans.
The first group on the defense is pretty good, but they are just a couple injuries away from having a scary lack of depth.
And from the practice session:
Last year Brian said something along the lines of "this team can only execute one new thing per game, and when the offense is fully installed, it could be pretty dangerous." This was obvious itself (what with West Virginia being 5th and 15th in total offense nationally in his last two years there, and dropping to 59th with the same talent in the first year he was gone), but there was so much evidence of this going on today. There were tons of looks that weren't even hinted at last year: Tight end lined up as an H-Back, jet motion from slots, misdirection and slots being involved in the option game as pitchmen, even a little bit of pistol. Once the offense has the full playbook at its disposal, you'll see one of the more creative offenses out there (thankfully, as this was something I didn't think was necessarily coming).
Martavious Odoms was out (red jersey) with headaches, Mathews wore a green jersey for the first half of practice, it looked like Moundros(?) was also in a green jersey, and Barnum is still out with the same ankle injury.
Same old story with how players look: Denard is getting good velocity on the ball, though he has a bit of accuracy work to do, Kelvin Grady looks pretty good catching the ball and moving with it after the catch, Terrence Robinson dropped a couple of passes.
A disclaimer on the "You May Remember Me From Such Players As": YMRMFSPA is supposed to be a rough estimate of what kind of player the recruit could turn into if he pans out. It is not a projection. The players listed tend to be very good because no one knows what kind of player Doug Dutch is; we just know he can't get on the field. I am not saying that I expect Martavious Odoms to be Devin Hester, the best return man in the history of the NFL. I'm saying that Odoms is sort of like Devin Hester and if we roll a second critical hit on our critical hit roll he might be half as good.
Stonum is the second piece of Michigan's Houston-area skill position haul, a dynamic receiver who was universally acclaimed one of the country's top wideouts. Unfortunately, there's an odd paucity of data out there for such a highly-touted recruit; more on that later.
Stonum's commitment may have been locked up last February, when Michigan signed his Dulles High teammates Troy Woolfolk and Brandon Herron. Non-stop praise for the program from those two and soon-to-be Michigan commitment Sam McGuffie had the Wolverines atop Stonum's list consistently, though he would occasionally throw out scary quotes about everyone being even. These quotes were made doubly scary since the "everyone" included USC and Florida, both of whom offered and pursued Stonum heavily. When Stonum announced he'd be coming to Michigan over the summer, it was a relief.
Given the heavy interest from powerhouse programs and the universal top-100 rankings from four different sites, Stonum must be good. But there are no highlights floating around in the free areas of the web and no one willing to descend from the scouting mountain to tell us what to expect. There's this from veteran scout Randy Rogers:
Sugar Land Dulles's Darryl Stonum is a worthy apprentice for Michigan to plug in behind Biletnikoff Award finalist Mario Manningham.
"Stonum, I think, is special,'' Rodgers said. "He can also return punts, and he's 6-foot-2. He's just exactly like what Michigan's been playing with.''
This is good, but "special" does not constitute detail. We've got his height. All right, then. Maybe some highlights?
There are a couple more of better quality interspersed in this effusive interview with Stonum's coach:
(Side note: it appears these videos were uploaded by Stonum himself.) Though ESPN throws out weird evaluations with frequency, in this case they're the only game in town when it comes to a description of his game. Thus:
Stonum is one of the smoother players we have seen in this class and is a legit vertical threat. He is silky smooth for lack of a better term. He is very natural in terms of his change-of-direction skills and body control. Has fluid hips for a taller receiver and is a smooth route runner who doesn't have to gear down a lot when going into and coming out of his breaks. He is tall, has long arms and good leaping ability. Has shown the consistent ability to come down with the jump ball.
Natural change of direction? Fluid hips? Comes down with jump balls? A mix of Braylon Edwards and Mario Manningham... which, like, dude. Now if we can just get the ball to him...
Guru Reliability: Maximal. They're all in the same ballpark, and they all say he's gooood. General Excitement Level: Maximal. The second most likely kid in the class to have a long, productive career at Michigan, IMO, behind Dann O'Neill. Projection: If Carr was still in charge this would be easy: one season of blocking on telegraphed run plays followed by a breakout sophomore season. Under Rodriguez, Stonum will probably get more early looks, especially with only three other receivers on campus now. He'll play and may get up to around 20 catches.
Same city, but not the same school as OT Mark Ortmann.
I have an inordinate fondness for players like Terrence Robinson. I was terribly excited about Marquis Maze, the small-school Alabama midget who temporarily a Michigan commitment last year and hoped that Pennsylvania midget Cameron Saddler would bring his kickoff-return exploits to Michigan. Though those hopes were both kiboshed, Rodriguez and company tracked down Terrence Robinson to fill the crazy-legged slot ninja spot vacant since Steve Breaston took his talents to the NFL.
I'm delighted. This is why:
There are other reasons, most detailed in the post that introduced Robinson to MGoBlog readers: he was named team MVP and MVP of the Klein area over teammate, top 100 prospect, and Texas commit Deshawn Hales. He outrushed Hales by some 1000 yards. He might be underrated because a transfer kept him out for his junior year.
So Breaston's up there as a comparison, and that seems close, especially because Breaston also had to make a transition from high school quarterback. Though Robinson will have an easier time in the spread 'n' shred, which will give him a lot of screens and carries from the backfield, there is the potential that Robinson is something less than a natural receiver. Fellow wonder midget Martavious Odoms might have an early edge on Robinson, about more which later, despite Robinson's higher rank in the eyes of the gurus.
Guru Reliability: High-ish. Only one year, but at a major school that got a lot of attention. General Excitement Level: Moderate++. Like Martavious Odoms below, his size will likely prevent him from becoming an out-and-out star, but his impressive rise from unknown to four-star says he's talented. Projection: Immediately in the mix as a returner and battles with Odoms to become the designated bubble screen and reverse guy.
"Man, that number 83 (Martavious Odoms), they say he runs a 4.2 - I didn't expect him to be that fast," said Dion Lecorn, who lined up opposite Odoms much of the day. "I was playing both ways and I got tired and lost focus."
Lecorn played for Trinity Catholic, the team that beat Pahokee for the state championship in 2005. Odoms was a sophomore.
"You're talking about a kid who at the age of 14 caught a touchdown pass in the state championship game," Blustein said. "He owns three state championship rings and 60 percent of that offense Pahokee had this season was because of him. He demands double coverage. There's a lot of wide receivers out there bigger than him, but he's blazing fast. He's a jet with great hands. I remember seeing him make an over the shoulder catch against Glades Central that was just unbelievable. He'd be a solid No. 2 receiver for somebody."
This youngster can flat out scoot. Odoms accelerates as well, if not better, than any wide receiver/scatback we have seen in this class.
With that being said, he is more sudden and quick than he is fast in terms of top-end speed.
Shows good vision in the open field and displays excellent change-of-direction ability. Is shifty and elusive in space. Will consistently make the first defender miss. His ability to separate and explode off the cut or after the catch is awesome. Reaches top speed in a hurry and can stretch the field. He can also be dangerous on reverses. He has huge upside in the return game and gamebreaking open-field skills.
An explosive and dangerous player who lacks great size but has everything else. He's quicker than a hiccup (4.12 shuttle as a soph), runs great routes, is strong for his size (14 bench reps as a soph), tough, athletic, goes vertical (34-inch vertical), blocks well and is a very hard worker. A real playmaker.
Fast! A contact very familiar with Florida high school football:
He's a tough SOB. Small cat, really tough, will remind you of Steve Smith. Very, very fast. I'm a huge Martavious Odoms fan, you'll love him.
You get the idea: Martavious Odoms is a tiny man capable of teleporting short distances. Highlights:
It's difficult to tell if this is a consistent thing, but Odoms appears to track the ball well on deep throws and has a knack for over-the-shoulder catches (this can be seen more clearly in the state championship game video linked above).
Odoms' Pahokee team competes in one of the smaller classes in Florida and dominates it. The 2005 championship for Trinity Catholic was preceded and followed by back-to-back Pahokee titles, the latest a 53-14 blowout in which Odoms had 5 catches for 111 yards and a touchdown. Over the course of his senior season he had 41 catches for 936 yards -- almost 23 per catch -- and 10 touchdowns.
At one point he had an impressive set of offers that belie his kinda-meh final choices. (The Miami offer was basically a grayshirt, as they offered him a track scholarship with the intention of bringing him to the football team after this season.) Notre Dame was the first in March; they were quickly followed by Iowa. South Carolina and Rutgers joined over the summer, and then the floodgates broke: LSU, Oregon, Alabama, Tennessee, West Virginia, South Florida, and Auburn had offered by mid-October.
Oddly, Odoms seemed almost totally uninterested in recruiting until midway through his senior year, when he finally visited Auburn and started paring down his list. West Virginia, then the home of Rich Rodriguez, featured heavily (and, indeed, finished second for Odoms' services), as did USF and Miami. Odoms actually delayed his decision and joined Michigan's class a few days after signing day
Guru Reliability: High. Pahokee's a well-scouted Florida powerhouse with multiple D-I players and Odoms was well known from his freshman year. General Excitement Level: Moderate++. He's never going to be Braylon Edwards but if he's as fast as his reputation he could be a dynamite returner and even a deep threat: remember Steve Breaston's ill-fated career as the target of bombs? Well, he was open by yards time and again because opposing players got smoked by his moves and always dropped the ball. Odoms looks like he's pretty good at hauling in deep balls. Projection: Will press for time as a returner immediately and is 50-50 to be the designated bubble screen guy, with Terrance Robinson the other option. Starts off with an advantage on Robinson because he's spent the last four years as a receiver.
Very excited about the medicinal properties of his newly-acquired snake oil. Video interview; Purdue commit feature from Rivals. Low-quality highlights.
The recruit that caused Joe Tiller to call Rich Rodriguez a "wizard-hat wearing snake-oil salesman," Roy Roundtree finds himself at the heart of a thunderous West Lafayette-based controversy. But we're not in West Lafayette or anywhere in Indiana (state motto: "Probably not Ohio"), for that matter, so we don't care.
We do care about Roundtree the player. This assessment of Roundtree after his performance in the Kirk Herbstreit challenge seems about right to me:
The player that personally impressed me the most is Roy Roundtree. He has really evolved as a receiver over the last year. He burst on the scene as a junior and made some amazing catches, and that allowed him to build confidence in his abilities. He is absolutely fearless coming over the middle to catch the ball. He may not run a 4.4 forty, but of the games that I saw he most likely had best hands of any receiver that took the field.
He is really effective out of the slot using his size, quickness and savvy to find soft spots and get down the seam. He is tough and will go up and fight for the ball in traffic and isn't afraid to make the clutch grab across the middle of the field. His hands are soft and he catches everything-- shows good focus and concentration to track the ball and haul it in.
His ScoutingOhio highlight video (from his junior year) had a number of diving catches and a pair of beauty one-handers but little in the way of explosive cuts or deep balls. Roundtree was committed to Purdue and he seemed like a quintessential Purdue receiver: lacking physically in some way but a sure-handed possession guy who runs nice routes and can slice apart a zone. No wonder Tiller was pissed.
Though Roundtree is being brought as a slot receiver like Robinson and Odoms, he's a different sort of slot receiver and, if he works out, will fill a different role on the team. He won't be the recipient of any bubble screens, but will camp out in holes in the zone and use his long arms and leaping ability to flag down eight-yard passes on third and seven.
At 150 or 160 pounds it's unlikely Roundtree sees the field as a freshman; as he brings something no one else in this class (or the class before it) does he's got a good shot at filling a #2 or #3 receiver role once he puts on enough weight to prevent being snapped in half.
Guru Reliability: High. No reason they'd misevaluate a kid at a high profile school like Trotwood-Madison and he went to a couple of different camps on top of that. General Excitement Level: Moderate. Never going to be a gamebreaker, but a likely contributor. Has to add a lot of weight to be an effective player. Projection: Redshirts, plays sparingly his second year, and is 50-50 to emerge into Michigan's #2 WR.