Mailbag! Wedges Banned! Yukon Cornelius!

Submitted by Brian on October 26th, 2010 at 5:16 PM


One topic that was brought up during your WTKA segment today regarding special teams was, "what happened to the kickoff return game?'  You never addressed it during the segment, so I thought I would throw this at you.

I haven't done my Mgoresearch, but wasn't there a rule change regarding kickoff return team blocking?  IIRC, the NCAA has limited the number of return team players allowed in a blocking wedge or wall.

I would have to look up video from previous seasons, but I believe U of M utilized a 3 man wall in front of the returners with Kevin Grady and others.

David Woods

David is correct: the NCAA banned wedge blocking this offseason, which at least partially explains how an effective kick return game has disintegrated. If Michigan was really good at the wedge and now it's gone they're starting over. That doesn't explain why they're really bad, but does get you to average.

That lack of effectiveness and Darryl Stonum's increased importance to the offense make his removal from kick returns less annoying than it was earlier in the year. With Odoms out there's not much depth on the outside and Stonum wasn't getting any returns; it's possible that one-cut-and-go type stuff is less effective and kick returners should be shiftier guys closer to punt returners.

What do you think of Devin Gardner's expected plea for a medical redshirt?  It's suspicious he's only played 1/3rd of the season and is eligible for the redshirt.  If this is RichRod bending redshirt rules for an extra year of eligibility from Devin, isn't this a bad thing, like Saban's redshirts?  We're not gaming the system for more scholarships, but we are gaming it for a competitive advantage, right?


The difference is that I'm sure Devin Gardner is 100% on board with getting a fifth year of eligibility. The Alabama players "encouraged" to take a medical scholarship would like to keep playing football and are being presented with an involuntary choice: transfer or medical, take your pick. I'm not too concerned about skating the edges of NCAA rules when it doesn't have a negative impact on the student-athlete the entire enterprise is supposed to support.

The timing is convenient but unless Michigan has an inordinate number of medical redshirts per year I'm not sure the NCAA would even bat an eye at a documented injury. Like, say, this:


That looks like exploitation. Michigan's pattern probably isn't that blatant, so what can you do when they say he was hurt?

Finally, concerns about looking bad to the NCAA are overblown. The worst thing that can possibly happen is the NCAA says no.

The future of defense. Many questions answered piecemeal:

One of the potential "benefits" of having so much youth on defense is that they could potentially lock down their positions for years.  If that happens in any cases, can you explain whether there is any positional flexibility with this 3-3-5 alignment we're using?

Could Carvin move to FS?

Doubtful. His strengths and weaknesses make him an excellent fit for the spot he's at right now and not so much of an excellent fit at FS, where speed and raw athleticism are more important. Not that our current FS has those in buckets, but moving Johnson doesn't really solve that issue.

How is Marvin going to see the field if he's behind Kovacs?  (who expected us to say something like that?)

Possibly by trying out free safety? This is the weird thing called "depth."

Could Furman or Hawthorne see the field anywhere?

Hawthorne is the third team spur behind two guys younger than him. The most likely career outcome there is special teams only. Furman is likely to move to OLB, where he'll need another year or two of seasoning before breaking through. Remember he was super raw out of HS.

Would Roh move to a true DE in this scheme or stay in this hybrid LB situation? 

He's already a DE (mostly) against conventional teams. Michigan is a 4-3 or 3-4 base against conventional pro-style sets and Roh puts his hand down more often than not. So the question is really "will Roh play DE against spread teams next year?" That depends on how Jibreel Black, JB Fitzgerald, Brandon Herron, and other OLB/DEs (Wilkins, Paskorz, Furman) develop. I think the ideal situation sees Roh add another 10-15 pounds over the offseason to hit 265—he's listed at 6'5"—and becoming a full-time DE. Before Herron went down Michigan was using him as a 3-3-5 DE to good effect against Notre Dame, and we've all seen him struggle in space against Indiana.

Roh will probably remain a hybrid against pro-style teams, playing clunky LB when Michigan drops into the 3-3-5.

Could Cam Gordon move down to another spot?

If you can find a suitable replacement at free safety, but who's that? Kovacs? No. Floyd? Really bad tackler. Vinopal's made a lot of hay out of one play against Bowling Green but remains a true freshman as well. Ideally he'd move down to spur or bandit (or even OLB) but unless Michigan snags someone ready to start at FS from day one it's hard to see him relocate.

That's why the recruit I'd most like to get in February is JUCO safety Byron Moore, who qualified out of high school and transferred away from USC after a redshirt season to get playing time and scout out a new destination not being cratered by NCAA sanctions. As a big time recruit two years removed from high school with a year of PT under his belt, Moore is the closest thing to a quick fix at FS Michigan will ever have.

But wait, there's Woolfolk, right? Well a bit more on him later.

How do you see the open positions being filled in 2011 on defense to see if there's hope? I assume Jones and Demens will be the LB (backed up by Ryan, Bell, and any freshmen)

Yes, though Jones might field a challenge from parts unknown. It's hard to see anyone displacing Demens if only because there almost literally isn't anyone behind him on the depth chart at the moment.

I assume Black will be the DE (backed up by Heninger and the RS-Freshmen)

Yes, unless they go with Roh there—Black will find plenty of PT platooning—and Herron/Fitzgerald at the other OLB spot. With the lack of depth at DT that might be a way to spot Martin with RVB from time to time, as well.

Does Woolfolk automatically go back to corner or deep safety?  I assume corner, but with the time Avery and Talbott are getting could he be better served protecting the deep ball?

Up in the air, something that will be decided based on the potential acquisition of Moore, Gordon's play the rest of the season, and how things work out in spring. Right now I'd say corner since Michigan plays a ton of cover three and none of the freshmen looks like they should be starting next year. Even if one of them develops quickly you'd like to have some depth at corner for nickel and dime packages.

And then there's this:

I liken the "Angry M hating God" to Yukon Cornelius and Hermey Scrivello from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

For instance, the M defense is the Bumble, ready to devour talking reindeer and #1 wide receivers accross the land. Then Yukon and Hermey show up unexpectedly and ruin everything. They rip out your teeth (Woolfolk) and force you to do stupid shit like hang Christmas ornaments or run only zone because you have lost the only thing that instilled fear in your opponent.

Our defense is the Bumble without teeth. Right now our pass defense is being shoved off a cliff every week until we grow new teeth or we realize we have claws to gouge the eyes of our opponent. I'm just sayin'.



I have nothing to add.



October 26th, 2010 at 5:28 PM ^

all of these questions about young players on the defense add up to the hope that we have bodies to move around and flexibility if one or more of them don't develop as hoped.  kind of hoping we're seeing the beginning of the end of the decimated defense.


October 27th, 2010 at 9:14 AM ^

One thing that I have not seen discussed during the conversations about the youth on the defense is that it is also hard for the coaches to discern who is good at what.  They haven't seen much of these kids yet and haven't had the luxury of learning about them during their redshirt season.  All we seem to hear is whether or not GERG is capable of molding these players into what is needed.  I have some faith that once the coaches learn more about the players, they will put them in the right place to be successful on the field.  It's a double edge sword, not only are these guys thrust into playing time before they are ready but the coaches haven't had enough time to figure out their strengths & weaknesses.


October 26th, 2010 at 5:28 PM ^

Man, what kind of black and white world does the letter writer live in if he cant discern a difference between what Saban is doing and what Rodriguez and countless others do with going the medical RS route after a freshman played some in an opening game or two?


October 26th, 2010 at 5:34 PM ^

1). I usually frown upon any Christmas discussion before Thanksgiving ("Smokey, this is not 'Nam. This is Christmas creep. There are rules."), but because the analogy is apt and I am so happy to see that someone else has realized the massive ecological disaster wrought by Hermie (and learned his last name) that I am totally on board with this.  The good news is, Bumbles bounce.

2). Just as a reminder, please, no Christmas music before Thanksgiving.  Seriously.  Please.  Seriously.


October 26th, 2010 at 6:04 PM ^

Or that The Abominable Snow Monster had a name (considering Yukon calls all sorts of people bumbles, that must get confusing and annoying. Good thing they took away his teeth. Though not claws...but I digress....)
<br>And the MSM doesn't think you can learn anything from blogs....


October 26th, 2010 at 5:44 PM ^

Unless Cam finds some hidden speed or an incoming freshmen comes in as a complete Stud, I just don't see Wolfolk playing anything other than FS. At corner we have athletes who are just lacking experience, which won't be as big a problem next year. We'll have three sophomores (who have all played this year) fighting for one spot. At FS we have athletes who lack experience and/or speed. The more I watch Cam the more I realize he's just not fast enough to play that position. Let Wolfolk play FS and now you have younger players learning under an experienced Sr. who's actually pretty good.


October 26th, 2010 at 5:57 PM ^

It also bears clarifying for the person asking about Gardner and making the Saban reference that the only thing a "medical redshirt" and a "medicatl hardship scholarship" have in common is the word "medical."  They are apples and bricks.  The medical redshirt simply allows the player to take the year as his redshirt year even if he's played a little early on, leaving him four years of eligibility.  The hardship scholarship permits a school to keep a kid on scholarship even though he suffered a career-ending injury and can no longer hold up the "play football" part of his scholarship requirements. 

(I realize most posters here now this, but I think the person asking the question did not, and I think Brian glossed over it because it's been discussed.)


October 26th, 2010 at 6:34 PM ^

i know the answer to this question before I even ask it do we not walk into the living room/high school/whatever of a highly touted CB/S flash them a depth chart and that not be it for the recruitment. Its puzzling that we aren't rolling in these recruits right now. Nationally recognized brand name, great TV coverage, great tradition, program on the right track, instant playing time. goofy, really.


October 26th, 2010 at 9:04 PM ^

Dude just read the highlighted part on p139, that is the rule directly from the NCAA manual. There's nothing else to read. Administration of Hardship Waiver. The hardship waiver shall be administered by the member conferences of the Association or, in the case of an independent member institution, by the Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement. (Revised: 10/28/04, 4/20/09) Review of Denied Waiver. A conference that denies an institution’s hardship waiver may submit the waiver to the Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement. The committee shall have the authority to review and determine whether to approve the waiver based on circumstances that may warrant relief from the application of the legislated waiver criteria. (Adopted: 4/20/09)


October 26th, 2010 at 10:49 PM ^

That is a recent change (which I overlooked when looking at it before).  Denied waivers can still be appealed to the NCAA, where the final decision is made.  So conferences can say yes and the NCAA will go along, but nos have to come from the NCAA itself - which is the origianl point you were making.  If they can get the conference to approve the waiver, they're in.

Thanks for the info.


October 27th, 2010 at 11:28 AM ^

The NCAA never, ever uses the word "redshirt" in defining what a redshirt is.  They use the phrase "five-year rule" in defining regular redshirts, and the phrase "hardship waiver" in describing a medical redshirt.

Bylaw 14.2.4:  "A student-athlete may be granted an additional year of competition by the conference or the Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement for reasons of 'hardship.'  Hardship is defined as an incapacity resulting from an injury or illness..."

J. Lichty

October 26th, 2010 at 7:07 PM ^

1) love the Rudolph analogies - but the defense is more like the misfit toys.  Hybrids.  Stubby legs.  Ezeh.

2) I would expect that the NCAA is going to require a little more medical basis for a medical redshirt than a wonky back that allows him to practice (which hopefully by now is documented on the CARA forms).  It seems that the granted medical redshirts involve season ending tears and breaks.   Unless the process is far more lax than I am aware of, just don't see the medical records backing up the granting of the extra year in this situation.

3) Is there a reason why Gardner could not just take a redshirt next year.  With Tate seemingly out of the dog house, couldnt Gardner just not take snaps next year and accomplish the same thing?


October 26th, 2010 at 8:22 PM ^

They play in the SEC, by God!  That's the best football in the country.  Hell it's the best in the world.  It's the best!  They're faster and hit harder!  Everyone on ESPN says so - and they're the world wide leader in sports.  Just ask them.  Wait... you don't have to ask them!  They'll tell you!  SEC  SEC  SEC!!!

... and that's why Alabama has more medical redshirts.

(any questions?)


October 26th, 2010 at 9:20 PM ^

I do see them bulking up Roh 20 or more pounds to play his natural postion Defensive End and moving Josh Furman to Roh's linebacker postions just so they could get that 4.3 speed out onto the field also I think they may move Cam Gordon to the spur because of his ability to tackle better than his pass coverage and he looks like a linebacker.  Kenny Demens will be the Middle Linebacker the only problem is who plays Free Safety?


October 26th, 2010 at 10:53 PM ^

Woolfolk will be at FS next year with Cam, Ray V. and any incoming freshman backing him up. My guess is that in 2012 someone other than Cam wins the starting spot and Cam gets moved to another position after he's bulked up to around 215-220lbs. Will he ever start again maybe yes, maybe no, but thats college football for ya. 


October 27th, 2010 at 12:00 AM ^

I'd rather RR not ever be taking advantage of the system in this manner.  I'd say there are 2 possibilites:

1) Gardner is actually hurt.

2) Gardner is not actually hurt and is only saying he is so that he can get his redshirt.

Considering people were discussing the possibility of the second situation before any news of his injury was disclosed, the situation is slightly suspicious.  I hope it's the first situation (not that I want Gardner to be hurt or anything).  If it's the second, I would think considerably less of RR as it means he is asking players to lie.


October 27th, 2010 at 1:44 AM ^

Here are your outcomes to 1) and 2); 1) Gardner is actually hurt and gets a RS. Or 2) Gardner isn''t actually hurt, however you'll never know that because you're not RR or Gardner so instead you'll believe he's actually hurt and either way he gets a RS. The real world sucks......      or does it?


October 27th, 2010 at 9:11 AM ^

I'm pretty sure it's option #2.

Rodriguez's explanation of Gardner's injury is that it's a "back issue" that "comes and goes."

First of all, what 18-year-old has back issues?  Secondly, back issues are notoriously difficult to diagnose.  And thirdly, the whole "comes and goes" thing probably means "He got hit in the back once and had a bruised muscle for a couple days."

I'm almost certain there's a little bit of deceit there, but everybody around the country does something like this...

SC Wolverine

October 27th, 2010 at 10:12 AM ^

It's this kind of stuff that really worries me about RR.  First he burns our 5* freshman quarterback's redshirt in order to yank Tate's chain.  Then he comes back with miscellaneous back problems that "come and go," which even if true looks very shady.  Why not just not burn the redshirt in the first place?  Very troubling.


October 27th, 2010 at 4:50 AM ^

It's future defensive depth chart time!

(...this is based on the rumor that Vinopal is starting at FS, and C. Gordon is starting at Spur against Penn State...and on the hope that a number of soon-to-be redshirt freshman are better than bad veteran backups)

NT: Martin(Sr.), Washington(So.), Ash(Fr.)
DT: Van Bergen(Sr.), Talbott(Fr.), Heininger(Sr.)
DE: Black(So.), Wilkins(Fr.), Watson(Sr.)...Rock(Fr./R.S.)
OLB: Roh(Jr.), Paskorz(Fr.), Herron(Sr.)...Beyer(Fr./R.S.), Kinard(Fr./R.S.)?
MLB: Demens(Jr.), Fitzgerald(Sr.), Ryan(Fr.), Leach(Sr.)
WLB: Jones(So.), Bell(So.), Furman(Fr.)...Jones(Fr./R.S.)
Sp: C. Gordon(So.), Johnson(So.), T. Gordon(So.), Hawthorne(So.)
SS: Kovacs(Jr.), Robinson(So.), Simmons(Jr.), Williams(Sr.)
FS: Vinopal(Fr.), Van Slyke(Sr.)
CB: Woolfolk(Sr.), Christian(So.), Talbott(So.)...Brown(Fr./R.S.)
CB: Floyd(Jr.), Avery(So.)...Hollowell(Fr./R.S.)

SC Wolverine

October 27th, 2010 at 10:10 AM ^

Is it possible that this may actually be a pretty good defense?  It looks pretty good to me, but I fear that I no longer am able to discern what an actually good linebacker or safety looks like.  But this defense looks like it could easily hold the opposition to 10 points less per game than the present debacle.  If so, watch out.  (I stop gushing at this point to avoid offending any Michigan-hating deities who might be reading...)


October 27th, 2010 at 9:04 AM ^

I think there were some wires crossed in the discussion of "medical redshirts" and "medical hardships."  Those are two different things.  While I'm not a big fan of Rodriguez's handling of Gardner this year, he hasn't been asking physically capable players to beat it like Saban has.

Urban Warfare

October 27th, 2010 at 9:42 AM ^

Brian, you said that "you're not too concerned about skating the edges of NCAA rules when it doesn't have a negative impact on the student-athlete the entire enterprise is supposed to support."

Since the NCAA is already investigating Rich Rod and Michigan for failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance, are you worried that the NCAA might look at this as further proof of the charges, or that it might trigger its own investigation or sanctions?


October 27th, 2010 at 10:09 AM ^

I'm not sure if you're serious, but how could explicitly following the rules in the NCAA manual "trigger its own investigation or sanctions?"

A player plays less than the maximum number of games.  You submit a doctor's report to the Big Ten, saying he didn't play more than the maximum because of an injury.  The only possible outcomes:

(1) The Big Ten says "ok, take the redshirt."  Devin takes the redshirt.

(2) The Big Ten says "no, not enough evidence."  Michigan appeals to the NCAA, who says "ok, take the redshirt."  Devin takes the redshirt.

(3) The Big Ten says "no, not enough evidence."  Michigan appeals to the NCAA, who says "no, not enough evidence."  Devin does not get a redshirt.

It's not against the rules to ask, whether the answer ends up being yes or no.


October 27th, 2010 at 2:07 PM ^

Inside the link that talks about the banning of the wedge was also mention of banning eye black with messages. I was wondering where all the area codes and John 3:16 's went to.


October 27th, 2010 at 3:31 PM ^

I have a feeling we're going to get Moore (guaranteed 3 years starting at FS at a good academic school) and having a back 3 of Woolfolk, Floyd and Moore who can all play zone or man to man would be amazing. I really think we're going to see a shuffle of everyone else from SS to DE but I think that while they'll be moving (once again) they'll be moving to a better spot suited for their skills. I understand that shuffling players normally means they have to re-learn the playbook and tons of problems but I think that these shifts would move the guys to positions that they are better suited at, which means in a game feel more natural at.

So if we get Moore and Woolfolk comes back (healthy that is) I think you see Woolkolf be CB #1, Floyd CB #2, and Moore at FS. Cam then moves down to SS because he is fast enough to cover most TE's in the Big 10 (not counting ND as Big 10) and because he is strong at coming down into the run game. Kovacs then gets moved to the Spur position where he should have been all along if we had depth. Kovacs is like Omameh where he excels if he's allowed to do what he's good at. Kovacs is amazing at darting in between big OL and grabbing the RB around the ankles. The nice thing about the Spur is that it plays on the weakside, which means most of the time Kovacs will not be run at, where a OL can crush him (see MSU). Also, instead of having to cover a WR deep he'll be responsible mostly for RBs, FBs, TEs, H-Backs, etc. who are slower and normally not tall (except TEs except that the Big 10 seems to like 6'1 TEs). Sure you're moving Kovacs but into a more natural position.

Then I think the LBs are going to be Demens and then no idea. I think we'll see a rotation at the OLB spot based on who we play. I really wish we could move Roh down but then who would be Spur. Wilkins? Too slow (and big?). Kinard? He'd be a freshman. Herron? RS JR and hasn't done much besides a few plays at the beginning of the year. Maybe Hawthorne but if anything he's more of a Bandit type. Bell? Maybe. But he came in as a S and I think he's going to be our starting OLB. That is unless we get an elite 5 star LB like Tony Steward, which we won't.

The nice thing about this defense is that once you have depth you can really substitute in players that fit the offensive scheme better. For example, if playing Wisconsin we can go to a "heavy" lineup that has Wilkins (or another big DE), Martin, and RVB upfront, with Roh, Bell, Demens and Kovacs playing the LB & combo positions, leaving C. Gordon back at SS. However if we're playing an IU or NW or Purdue we can go with a lighter and faster team that would have a front 3 of Roh, Martin and RVB, a middle 4 of Hawthorne (but now at Bandit not Spur like before), Furman, Bell, and Marvin Robinson. We'd basically have 4 ex-HS safeties sit behind our front 3 covering short zones. The athletic combination of these 4 would allow any single one of them to blitz or cover a slot WR without needing to substitute anyone. That would leave the back 4 of Woolfolk, Floyd, Moore and C.Gordon or Kovacs concentrating on the cover-3 or cover-4 and not let anyone behind them.

What's particularly amazing about having a Bandit-MLB-OLB-Spur combination of Hawthorne, Bell, Furman and Robinson is 1. we would have no more problems with LBs being too slow to drop back into zone coverage, 2. they all were known in HS for being amazing hitters (besides Furman), 3. they would be the most athletic defense I've ever seen (not just Michigan) and no way does any team besides OSU have a spread offense with more athleticism than these 4 and 4. we don't need to bring in Avery, Talbott, or Christiansen into the game.