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Brian July 29th, 2008 at 1:09 PM


Just one observation turned daunting question. While reading the position breakdowns and the subsequent 2008 recruiting class analysis [in Hail To The Victors 2008], I found myself wondering, "what about Sam McGuffie?" You referred to him in the Running Back section of the breakdown as a potential contributor, and highlighted his infamous mix tape we have all come to love, but you did not provide the recruiting breakdown that you did to others (though you said you failed to do so with some due to earlier coverage provided, but you did not mention him in this instance).

All I am really wondering is what kind of impact will McGuffie have on the immediate impact of the team? As you pointed out, athletes are the life-blood of the Rich Rodriguez system, and he has a good amount (many true freshman) at his disposal. Still, as highly touted a recruit as he was, and the buzz that he has created along the way, I would love to see him have an impact as soon as possible.

Is he ready?

Aaron D.

Fall practice hasn't started yet, so no one really knows. There are reports floating around claiming him to be like this awesome unstoppable squirrel-man, but what context is this in? At Big Ten Media Days, Rodriguez mentioned getting reports from seven-on-seven sessions that the players are evidently running of their own volition. (College football summer workouts have a very complex idea of free will.) If the Squirrel Man reports have any basis in reality, they're coming from pad-free skeleton passing drills in which finding "empty grass" is as easy as stepping on the field. This is also known as McGuffie Heaven.

If McGuffie wasn't tearing up seven-on-seven drills it would bode unwell; killing them is a necessary but not sufficient prerequisite to the dominance we all envision. Unfortunately, I can't find this in the archives but last year I came across video from one of McGuffie's playoff games in which he looked small, man. Like 164 pounds small, which was what he was listed at when he put up the 4.32 40 that put him on the map even before his junior year explosion. Mixtape goes here:

The skeptical insiders, few that they may be, usually cite his overwhelming tininess as a reason it'll be a while before he sees the field, and they'd definitely have a point if Lloyd Carr was still the sheriff in this town. But he's not. The Rodriguez offense doesn't care if you can move the pile or scratch out a third-and-three or even pass block much. It just wants you to find the aforementioned empty grass, then run a long way. It's kind of a glorified seven-on-seven drill.

With Kevin Grady in the doghouse and Michael Shaw listed as a wide receiver on the preliminary fall roster, McGuffie's path to the field is now significantly clearer. I doubt he'll pass either Minor or Brown, who've proven themselves far more capable than David Underwood had, but I think a year in the Noel Devine role is forthcoming. Further rationale can be had in the 2008 recruiting recap of McGuffie.

OK, so I found another question you should have asked at the Big Ten meetings...
Looking through the weekly release there are four "Quality Control" coaches listed. What the hell does *that* mean?
Keep up the good work,
"Quality Control" coaches are bottom of the ladder types that don't have much, if any, onfield responsibilities. (In the NCAA it's zero since there's' a strict cap on the number of coaches that interact with players.) They're usually responsible for breaking down film, scouting opponents, and doing general grunt work. They're also a growing phenomenon; this "Steve" guy who I run across whenever I'm looking for information on defensive line techniques or the 3-3-5 said he'd "never heard of" QC coaches in 2006 when someone asked about the Raiders' new hire at the position.

You've mentioned some of the things you'd like to ask (TE's in the new offense... OK, so thing, singular). And expressed your - and I assume everyone's - exasperation with the lack of new/serious questions coming from the traditional media. If you were gifted a sit-down with Rodriguez what would be on your list of questions, trying as much as possible to remain and football related and tilling the ground for non-redundant information?

I know there's rules pertaining to talking about specific recruits, but asking about how he judges the "Southern Strategy" so far, and time/effort allocation as far as that goes, the general DE situation, how one jumps in to sell a school he himself is still learning about and how he sees those pitches changing as he gets into the job. Maybe the initial reaction he sees to the changing level of openness not usually associated with the Football program. Or posing the same question you've been getting: Can you make me not afraid about this season?

Anyway, I was wondering more what *you* had in mind as you camp out in Chicago. Granted an interview (30 min., an hour, something of decent length) what would you ask?


These are the things I had written down to ask if I got a chance:

"You have six tight ends on the roster and an offense that hasn't thrown a pass to a tight end in seven years. What are you going to do with these guys?" [asked, got a vague answer.]

"How did you initially strike upon Scott Shafer as a defensive coordinator? Were you aware of his rampant blitzing tendencies? Do you think the higher risk balances out with sacks and turnovers?" [first part asked by Tom Dienhart; exploration of how Rodriguez understands applied football mathematics left untouched.]

"You've run more than 70% of the time in the last few years at West Virginia; this has generally worked out well but when the offense bogs down it doesn't seem to have a backup option. In your ideal offense, what's the run-pass split? Is your dream quarterback more Pat White or Donovan McNabb?" [this came up quite a bit and rodriguez answered it thoroughly]

"There are three minutes left in the game and your opponent is out of time outs. You're up two. You have the ball on your opponent's 34; this is outside of your kicker's field goal range. It's fourth and four. What do you do?"

"Have you heard of David Romer? (If not, explain David Romer.) Do you think that makes sense? Do you like David Romer? Please tell me you like David Romer."

"Your recruiting has a much more Southern bent than Michigan's had previously. What's the rationale behind that? Does southern speed actually, like, exist, in your opinion? Does it worry you that Michigan's going to be picking the leftovers from instate schools?"

"Why the hell is it so hard to convince kids to leave Mississippi?" [Seriously. I want to know this.]

"If you call all the offensive plays, what's Calvin Magee's role as your offensive coordinator?"

"Are you concerned that the proliferation of the spread offense will blunt its efficiency? Do you think it's just plain superior to other offenses or is it something you'd discard if the game shifted to it too hard?'

"It's been reported that Michigan is moving to a spread punt formation. What's the advantage of that, and why have so many teams moved to it?"

"How has your recruiting changed since you've arrived at Michigan? Have you aimed at a different sort of player? Most of West Virginia's high-rated recruits had legal or academic issues; was that a product of necessity? Is there any advantage in taking guys hanging by a thread?"

"Are some high profile recruits turned off by Mike Barwis and his general promise to work you like a dog? Do you prefer a guy with a high athletic ceiling or one with crazy work ethic?"

"In last year's Rutgers game Greg Schiano consistently stunted the backside DE into a gap and blitzed off the corner. Have you seen this sort of defense before? What does it do to the spread and how do you combat it?"

"How does your offense change when the defense doesn't have to respect the QB keeper on the zone read?"

Many of these would draw vague responses designed to sort of answer the question without really answering anything, unfortunately. I think the Rutgers one might get a point-blank "no," but if it got answered that would be extremely interesting. I think the key is to ask about specific incidents or strategies and avoid the 10,000 foot view; make it as hard as possible for them to slip into generalities. That's is something that would be much easier in the immediate aftermath of games.

Hi Brian,
A couple of weeks back, you made the following comment: "And Steven Threet is not necessarily chopped liver. He was Rivals' #8 QB prospect two years ago, a four-star with a number of attractive offers. In an alternate universe where Carr is still the coach and Mallett is still around, I bet he's still your odds-on favorite to start this fall."

I found this to be a very provocative statement (about Threet potentially starting over Mallett) -- do you have anything to back this up, or was it just a hunch?

Thanks and Go Blue!


If by "anything to back this up" you mean anything more than the avalanche of insider rumblings and tips that came in over the course of the fall, no. I wrote this in February and still believe it to be true:

About every week I got an email from someone on campus who had seen the kid getting high or trashed. Some talked to him; all who did came away with the opinion that the guy didn't care about anything. Sources inside the program confirmed multiple times that Mallett had a major attitude problem, something that was so pervasive that it even worked it way into one of the local newspapers. The dissent was evident on the sidelines during the disastrous Wisconsin game, when Mario Manningham bitched him out on the sidelines, or during Mallett's disastrous stint in the Illinois game, when Carr bitched him out for two solid minutes.

In October I wrote this based on multiple sources:

The situation here is precarious; without a major attitude adjustment things could be very sketchy at quarterback next year.

I have heard it far and wide and so many times from so many sources that the conclusion is indisputable: Ryan Mallett is the reason Ryan Mallett transferred, no matter what Ryan Mallett's mom -- no doubt the least biased source around -- says.

Mallett was in such deep conflict with Carr and his performance onfield was so miserable that the "experience" gained was a net deficit. Barring a 180 wherein Mallett got "on the same page" with Carr -- always a possibility when you're dealing with a 18-year old kid -- is he going to go with the kid he hates and doesn't play well or the kid he likes and hasn't, like, thrown a ball backwards to Carson Butler?


Tim Waymen

July 29th, 2008 at 1:26 PM ^

Third, and I can edit it if I end up being 4th so that I don't look like an ass. "Oh no, look at him! He thinks he's 3rd but he's really 4th!! Everyone point at Tim and laugh!!" Because that would really hurt my feelings. Thank you for the new comment system, Brian.

Ninja Football

July 29th, 2008 at 1:33 PM ^

We're basically done with it, but I like to keep people on their toes. Hey Brian, I read an interview with Magee last week where he said he calls all of the plays and they go through Rod who rarely overrides the call. So that answers one question, fwiw. Unless he was just being diplomatic, in which case we're back to square one.


July 29th, 2008 at 2:12 PM ^

Last season I remarked to a friend that Mallett reminded me a hell of a lot of Ryan Leaf. Tremendous arm and potential but horrible personality. Personally I'm glad that Mallett left, he never really fit in with the Michigan tradition.


July 29th, 2008 at 2:57 PM ^

I'll tell you what makes me cry. This question.

"There are three minutes left in the game and your opponent is out of time outs. You're up two. You have the ball on your opponent's 34; this is outside of your kicker's field goal range. It's fourth and four. What do you do?"

No way in hell he's answering the Rutgers question. He might even have Barwis open a file on you if you ask it.

I like Squirrel Man. He does not make me cry.


July 29th, 2008 at 3:07 PM ^

"There are three minutes left in the game and your opponent is out of time outs. You're up two. You have the ball on your opponent's 34; this is outside of your kicker's field goal range. It's fourth and four. What do you do?" Hand it to McGuffie, who will jump in the air and hover for 2 minutes before coming to Earth and eluding defenders for the final minute by jumping off their backs. Alternatively, have Barwis stare at the clock and intimidate it into running faster.

Ninja Football

July 29th, 2008 at 9:35 PM ^

Wolverine32 you made me laugh with that "Stop for the Peoples" statement. I shall retire "first" at once, and crack up every time I think about doing it. See all it takes is a little creativity people! Amuse me more than I can myself and your wish is my command.)


July 31st, 2008 at 2:20 PM ^

I knew you were doing it tongue-in-cheek, so that's why I didn't go for the jugular. 

And I definitely appreciate the props!  (True story.  The coaches used to tease Shonte mercilessly, and their favorite thing to say was "Why did you put Shonte in there, you know he's a liability!"  At least, I was told this by one of the student managers at the time.  Just because of that, he's one of my favorite Wolverines.)


July 29th, 2008 at 10:40 PM ^

This is off-topic, but I can't remember . . . did we have the final vote-off between the last two banners? I see that the Hart banner is still there, so I'm assuming no.

Jim Harbaugh S…

July 29th, 2008 at 11:57 PM ^

BlueSeoul - I think Romer is the go for it on 4th down guy. A kind of 4th down scholar. IIRC he has a "lot" of "disciples" on this site, I for one do not totally agree with Romer. ------------- Hat - I think (almost positve) Jason Minor's banner won (the one with the helmets, looked like the team walking out for a game).


July 30th, 2008 at 10:17 AM ^

"Why the hell is it so hard to convince kids to leave Mississippi?" [Seriously. I want to know this.] Umm, apparently someone has never been to Oxford to check out the 'scenery.'