Mailbag: Scrimmages, GA Strategy, Big WRs, Cute Comment Count

Brian April 30th, 2013 at 12:21 PM


this would have been far less awful to behold if it was officially an exhibition


i seem to remember that rodriguez had some idea about doing spring game scrimmage with d2 or d3 schools. after this year's boring spring game, is doing something like that becoming more appealing to either fans or dave brandon types? bring on slippery rock!


RR's idea was actually to have a preseason game a la the NFL against a I-AA team to kick off the year a week early. It was his third-best idea ever, just behind inventing the zone read and recruiting Denard. I liked that idea for a lot of reasons:

  • More football.
  • …but of the sort that doesn't significantly increase injury risk since most starters will exit after a couple series.
  • Fewer bodybag games, nationwide.
  • An opportunity to have an interesting nonconference game along with ten conference games and still have seven home dates.

Excepting that one year the Mott Scrimmage was all punting drills I've happily paid near-game prices to watch Michigan practice. Maybe this makes me a freak. Even if it does, an annual exhibition game is more interesting stuff to watch because it gives teams an extra slot with which to schedule an actual opponent. If your objection is "you're adding more games and not paying these guys," I am with you on that.

That doesn't fix spring. Hoke has expressed a desire to have an actual game a la MSU, OSU, and ND, but he hasn't had the roster to do so—and neither did Rodriguez. Next year, you'd hope.

Dear Brian,

I'd like to hear your opinion as to what time you think students will need to show in order to get great sideline seats (sections 26-27, rows 30-50) for premium games like Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Ohio in 2013. I'm a rising senior and I've shown up 45 minutes to an hour early for every game over the past three years, and up until this year's basketball season, I would have thought an hour would probably be enough time to secure a pretty good spot in GA football seating. But after showing up to the Ohio basketball game this year at 4:20 pm (9pm start time) and seeing that there were already 1500-2000 students ahead of me, I'm less optimistic about the situation. Ditto for the NCG viewing (by the time they started letting people in there were at least 4000 people in a line that stretched from Crisler all the way through the parking lot, around Keech, and up to Main).

For basketball, it seems like all of a sudden it has become "cool" to show up to premium games outrageously early even for fans who couldn't name a single player on the basketball team (seriously). It's about to become "cool" to show up to football games outrageously early too. I only see two semi-plausible arguments as to why the lines won't be as bad.

1. There's no clear border between good seats and bad seats for football. In basketball, there's a pretty big drop-off if you don't get in the Maize Rage, so there's a lot of pressure to get those first 500 spots.

I'm not so confident with this one. It's not as if we don't know where the good seats are in the football student section. People are going to want to be in the first 5 rows all around, as well as sections 26 and 27. Those will fill up fast. Show up less than three hours early for UTL or the Ohio game and you will be in the corner or the end zone.

2. There's pretty much no pre-gaming tradition for basketball games.
For this one, it seems to me like a pretty big assumption that all the people who were pre-gaming up until halfway through the first quarter will continue to do so now that there is a competition for seats. The game has been changed. People will go to great lengths to make sure they get better seats than everyone else at a marquee event. It confers a feeling of superiority, whether or not the person actually cares more about the event than everyone else.


I guess it depends on what your definition of "good seats" is. Personally, I think you have to be nuts to want to sit in the first ten rows, especially in the endzone. The worst seats I ever had were on a trip to Iowa: temporary bleachers actually on the field. I had no idea what was going on most plays until I saw it on the replay boards. 

Others disagree; those will go quickly. From my experiences at other stadiums with GA student seating, if you're in the stadium 45 minutes before gametime you'll have your pick of seats outside the might-hug-Devin zone. I've been to plenty of Michigan State-Michigan games at Spartan Stadium where the student section is half-full 15 minutes before kickoff. When I went to the UGA-Tennessee game last year, Georgia students filed in at a desultory pace. The number of seats that are at least okay is an order of magnitude higher, so I do think that cliff you reference is a major control on fan insanity.

Another you don't mention is the average level of commitment of a football ticket holder versus a basketball or hockey one. Football has 10x the number of students that either of those sports do, and many of them get tickets not because they're hardcore sports fans but because it's part of the college experience to show up in the second quarter with HOTTT on your ass barely able to walk. (I was even more curmudgeonly about these people when I was in college, thank you very much.) A lot of people aren't going to care much about where they sit.

I'm confident that anyone who gets to the stadium when I do will be able to pick damn near any seat they want outside of the first ten rows. If Michigan's taking on OSU to go 12-0… I still think you're good, actually. If 50% of students aren't showing up on time, do they really care enough to secure better seats for themselves? By definition they don't really care about what they're watching. They're going to feel superior anyway. Their ass is HOTTT.


I heard Hecklinski quoted as saying the speed in a WR is over-rated. Michigan's prototype now seems seems to be 6-3 strong WR with fair speed while OSU prototype is 5-11 inch burner. To me, I would rather have the burner. I do understand it is a different offense with need for blocking more important with pro style offense, but I cannot believe speed in a WR that you are hoping to stretch the field is unimportant in any offense.

Peter F

It's not necessarily the case that big receivers have to be slow. The fastest guys in the world seem about evenly split between outside receivers (Usain Bolt, for one) and slots. Michigan's brought in a couple of guys—Jehu Chesson and Drake Harris—that are both large and very fast. Most of the top receivers in any given year will be both large and fast, and Michigan will take those guys when they can get 'em.

When they can't, like most people most of the time, Michigan will take large over quick. Those guys stretch the defense in a different way: by being just too damn big for cornerbacks to consistently cover one-on-one. As long as they're quick enough to get on the right side of a cornerback, those midgets can have all the recovery speed they want, it's not going to help. Despite being just 6'1", Junior Hemingway was an excellent example of this style of deep threat. Notre Dame's been running them out for years: Michael Floyd—yeesh, that guy—Jeff Samardzija, hell, Tyler Eifert. None of those guys were close to burners, but they certainly stretched the field anyway.

Michigan does give something up in the quicks department by going this route. They're not going to be a great WR screen team. Al Borges is fine with this. He hates throwing behind the line of scrimmage. He also loves the deep ball. I mean, come on, this is Al Borges we're talking about, the offensive coordinator who wants to call a 30 yard pass every down.

Title: Dave Brandon run for Senate?

Me: Go away!
DB: "Go away?"
[DB laughs as I begin crying]
Me: I hate you, I hate you.
DB: Where would you be without me, dollar, dollar? I saved us! It was me! We survived because of me!
Me: [stops crying] Not anymore.
DB: What did you say?
Me: Hoke looks after us now. We don't need you anymore.
DB: What?
Me: Leave now, and never come back!
DB: No!
Me: Leave now, and never come back!
[DB screams in frustration]
[DB is silent]
Me: [looks around] We told him to go away... and away he goes, Precious! Gone, gone, gone! Michigan is free!


Brian Hale

No comment.

Hey Brian,

It's been three and a half years since you posted a pic of my son as a 7 WEEK old in a post.

I made a "vine" of him Tuesday. He's keeping up with this "Mgoblog's biggest fan" moniker at the ripe old age of almost four.

Go Blue,

Rob Nakfoor

Your head might explode if you turn the sound on here.



April 30th, 2013 at 12:32 PM ^

It seems like you would have reach pretty far down in the barrel of Div. I-AA teams to find a suitable opponent for a spring scrimmage.  Even thinking about the possibility of having The Horror II for a spring game gives me the willies.

kevin holt

April 30th, 2013 at 2:43 PM ^

I don't think osu/msu/nd would be a good idea either. You want it to be competitive, but friendly. I would want the teams looking like they're having fun with each other, not trying to twist each other's heads off in hatred. More hand shakes and hugs.

Slippery Rock is clearly the best option. They'd love the big house and our guys and their guys could be friends.


April 30th, 2013 at 12:55 PM ^

From an older guy with some experience, my recommendation is to arrive about an hour early and grab row 21 for obvious reasons. Also because you're close to the field but also high up enough to see well (and throw marshmallows at the cameraman when he obstructs your view).


April 30th, 2013 at 1:02 PM ^

I actually had those seats the year we won 12-10 which I believe was in 98'. Brady was the QB. They were actually awesome when they were on our end. The safety happened right in front of us and we were in the pile with players celebrating. We were practically in warmups.

Smash Lampjaw

April 30th, 2013 at 1:57 PM ^

Sure, sometimes I was right in the backfield, or right behind the secondary. I never complained, because you don't see what you don't see. Only now, as BTN plays the Greatest Games am I beginning to see what I missed. Thank goodness for Section 24 now. PS: I can't get to OSU. What are my seats worth?


April 30th, 2013 at 2:18 PM ^

My friends were in end zone row B for 21 years until the student section expanded last year. They always got me tickets either right by them or one row behind them.

So you and I were probably sitting very close to watch for several games the last few years. Unfortunately, I was in row B end zone for the horror where the field goal was blocked at the end too.

Blue in Yarmouth

May 1st, 2013 at 8:13 AM ^

If you have two tickets and are serious about selling them let me know becuase I have literally ached for the opportunity to attend "the game" since I became a fan 30 years ago and because of geography haven't had the chance. I'd pay whatever you think they are worth. Honestly dude, you'd make a guys 30 year dream come true!


April 30th, 2013 at 1:12 PM ^

Who's that guy in the top picture?  Wasn't he the guy who got drafted into the NFL?  No, it's not Vincent Smith...hmm...Michael Shaw, maybe?  No?  Hmmm...I want to say Dickson or Peters or something...


April 30th, 2013 at 1:19 PM ^

While my memory is not perfect, when I was a student from 88-92 everything was effectively GA seating except for senior seating. We had assigned seats, and no one sat in them. Fraternities regularly sent pledges to save seats and they did so in whatever rows they could get when they got there. Unless you were absolutely last the seats really aren't bad.

This was right after they stopped allowing full coolers to be brought into games, and right before they outlawed marshmallow wars. Bottom line is that as long as I can remember students have showed up late for average to uninteresting games, and mostly on time for the likes of Michigan State, Notre Dame, etc.

In some ways it was worse then because we were all spoiled during the multi-year Big Ten title streak and our opponents were mostly unranked even in conference.



April 30th, 2013 at 1:24 PM ^

I think if they moved the student section back around toward the middle of the field like it used to be, the idea of GA might be a little easier to swallow?


May 1st, 2013 at 3:38 PM ^

But the NE corner used to extend out to around the 40 yard line on that side of the Stadium. As the money for those seats became more valuable, they were pushed back more and more to the actual corner.

*Not counting the year(s?) they had more demand than seats planned out and put some of the students in the South endzone.


April 30th, 2013 at 1:27 PM ^

Basically the equivilent of me complaining about the cost of a bus pass:


"Excepting that one year the Mott Scrimmage was all punting drills I've happily paid near-game prices to watch Michigan practice."


aka a business expense when you run a Michigan sports blog on the inet for a living.


April 30th, 2013 at 1:31 PM ^

I've never understood the concern about GA seating unless, as has been noted, the goal is front-row huggable distance.  Beyond that, most games will feature MANY available seats well before gametime.  Heck, I'm guessing the rivalry games will be pretty open just because people like to get hammered beforehand.  And I know some people have mentioned the potential for the Greek set to send pledges to hold seats, but I have a feeling that will be curtailed by a couple of ushers and the reality that trying to protect a whole row is going to get you in trouble.


April 30th, 2013 at 3:03 PM ^

The Senate thing was just a stupid rumor.  

That being said, it makes me think that all future AD contracts need the following safeguard clause:

  • "I pledge to steer very clear of embarassing bacchanalian partisan-politico mud festivals."

Congrats, you did not destroy your brand today via a self inflicated "kamikaze" death spiral into the side of a mountain, please don't do it tomorrow.  

Michigan Mizo

April 30th, 2013 at 1:41 PM ^

Starting the wave.  After touching the banner and the MMB taking the field, doing the wave is the best football tradition.  It is the responsibility of the seniors to know when to start the wave; on defense when we're up 4 is NOT the time (looking at you red haired girl with brown northface and ugs).

Obviously, there are instances where the seniors and juniors sitting in front have sinned by starting the wave at inappropriate times but to now entrust freshman causes me to lose sleep at night.

Considering the RR years, the wave has not been seen in the Big House as often as it used to but I do believe one way to return the wrath of the AMSHG is to blaspheme by unknowning freshman starting the wave when your full attention should be on the field.


April 30th, 2013 at 1:44 PM ^

One of my favorite WR in recent memory has been Jason Avant. He is a good example of a receiver that was not super fast but still a very solid receiver. He is listed as only 6' but he always looked taller/bigger to me for some reason. He was built like a brick. The guy could not run a 4.2 but, from what I remember, he pretty much caught anything thrown his way and some. Smaller DBs, albeit faster than him, definitely had problems with him because of his stature.

Braylon Edwards is another example. He was not particularly fast but he was a pretty big dude and smaller/faster DBs has problems with him for exactly that reason. The problem that Edwards had was that he had butterfingers and dropped many passes.


April 30th, 2013 at 2:25 PM ^

Avant, to me, is a perfect example of why size is overated.  He was not tall, or even long, but got to every ball thrown in his area.  He did it with instincts, body control, strength, and anticipation -- basically every think Devin Gardner lacked and the reasons why he was not an impact WR despite being tall.  If Avant was slow, he wouldn't be in the NFL.  Avant is not super-fast, but he is fast, and definitely not tall.

Edwards, to me, is a perfect example of why speed matters, even if you're big. Edwards was a track star - he was very fast and big - unlike other big WRs we had in the 90s.  His speed is what made the difference from being another WR to a college superstar.  He is the example of what Brian was talking about in having both - he is what we hope Harris will be.  Floyd too, was very fast, but happened to be big as well.  Everyone wants guys like that, even Rich Rod.  The problem with Edwards...wait, there was a problem with Edwards?  I remember him being an all conference player.  Took him a couple years to do what Lloyd wanted but in the end he was a great player at Michigan.


April 30th, 2013 at 3:43 PM ^

Straight-line speed helps, but it's not essential to being a great deep threat.  What actually is most important is your quickness off the line and ability to change direction.  Braylon was also good at these things. 

Mario Manningham was not all that fast in terms of his 40, but he had a fantastic double-move that constantly left CBs guessing wrong.  Gallon gets open deep for the same reason.





April 30th, 2013 at 1:42 PM ^

he is the AD michigan needs right now, not the one it deserves. the program will, unfortunately, rise to greater heights under him than anyone prior. demand for it will be bigger across all athletics, and when demand grows dollars follow. and dollars are what drives everything in college sports in 2013. maybe when things settle down and every nickel has been scraped up, we will get the strong jawed, luddite, steely michigan man we want to imagine is in charge, but for now, we need someone to escalate this arms race and make us glad we are paying for it.


April 30th, 2013 at 3:36 PM ^

I'm not sure why people think Brandon is some kind of outlier as an AD.  Pretty much all ADs nowadays are obsessed with making as much money for their schools as possible.   Being an athletic director nowadays means scrambling to pay for the following:

1.  Tuition for student-athletes (which invariably outpaces the rate of inflation)

2.  Coaches' salaries (which have absolutely skyrocketed over the past 20 years, with no end in sight)

3.  The facilities arms race, which only seems to be intensifying.  If you don't have the newest and best of everything, it apparently is a huge black eye in recruiting.

Brandon himself has noted that this isn't a very healthy business, financially speaking.  Schools are massively spending themselves into the red, but they don't really have a way out if they want to be good at sports.   

If people think Brandon is some kind of nightmare, it could be a lot worse.  We could have an AD who doesn't float trial balloons before making big changes.  We also could have an AD who makes poor personnel and/or financial decisions (Mr. Goss comes to mind).



April 30th, 2013 at 5:21 PM ^

"the program will, unfortunately, rise to greater heights under him than anyone prior."

What the hell is unfortunate about that?  If you're saying it's simply the times that are raising the program, I don't agree.  Despite Brian's protestations about "people are just in charge of things, there's no reason", Brandon made the best decision possible when it was most important - bringing in Hoke.  That wasn't the easy or expected choice.  If Brian were in charge we would have had another year of RichRod, for fuck's sake.  And believe that I don't think I'm any better, because at the time I agreed with him. 

Brandon was much smarter than that.  Despite your dislike of "people of his ilk".  Whatever the hell that means. 


April 30th, 2013 at 1:45 PM ^

We have the "don't remember the scrimmage date," the "guess which poster keeps complaining about arriving at OSU at 4:20," "Oh noes, OSU is recruiting slot ninjas" (and misinterpreting the quote), only to finish with the guy who is Gollum creepy towards Brandon.

Yup, these are your readers.


April 30th, 2013 at 2:44 PM ^

"Those guys stretch the defense in a different way: by being just too damn big for cornerbacks to consistently cover one-on-one."

If this is the way it worked, every WR would be 6'8 and football players would look more like basketball players.

If you're 6'3 and the CB is 5'10 you start with around 5' of vertical separation, but it's easier to deflect than catch so you lose 2 or 3 by the nature of the battle. The rest (we're talking about an inch or two) can easily disappear via leaping ability, anticipation, strength, vision, etc. The basketball equivalent is rebounding - and even there the tallest guys aren't always the best.

Maybe on a vertical routes height-over-quickness is a valid argument, but jump balls (fades, posts, and corners) or passes caught a foot over DBs heads are relatively infrequent. More frequent in Borges' system yes, but most of his routes are still outs, digs, stops, etc. For those routes you cut to get separation horizontally - you have to be quick with your footwork and then fast enough to keep the space you got via knowing where to be. Being tall doesn't really matter there.

And all that is just catching the ball - what you do afterwards is pretty important too.

Obviously tall and fast is great, but often you have to choose a or b and Michigan is choosing height over quickness. I believe this is questionable at best.


April 30th, 2013 at 3:46 PM ^

While speed is great, it's not like the receivers UM is recruiting are running 4.8's or 4.9's in the 40.  40 yd times to me at least are over rated, especially when you start comparing two guys who runs a 4.43 vs say a 4.55.  Rarely if ever is a player going to run 40 yds in a straight line during a game.  The few instances might be in a punting/kick off situation or if a ball carrier breaks free and has a straight shot to the endzone.