Rich Rodriguez has had little opportunity to prove himself at Michigan, as is usually the case a month after your hiring, but he obviously has a few things down. Score-O is not one of them:
Working a crowd, however, is. Rodriguez and most of the staff traded their box seats for spots in the student section to watch Michigan demolish WMU 6-1. The rewards were an incessant stream of "Rich Rod-ri-guez" cheers, one second-intermission "Beat the Buckeyes" (no pressure), and an extended "We Want Pryor." Excitement hung in the air. In January.
Then there is this from new S&C demon Mike Barwis:
For a certain sort of Michigan football fan this is the equivalent of shooting heroin into your eyeballs. Barwis appears to have missed an opportunity to be a professional wrestler: he's got an unparalleled gravelly voice, a catchphrase and finishing move ("the bottom line"), and enough muscle to cave in the side of a Pinto. (Another member of the staff also missed his calling inside the squared circle.) He's also a diplomat and a gentleman judging from his responses to questions about Michigan's existing system and Ryan Mundy.
Reading between the lines on the Mundy response yields this: Mundy was a great kid and a dedicated worker but had no idea what he was in for despite going through four years in Michigan's system. He got his ass kicked, improved, but never quite caught up to the guys Barwis got as freshmen.
Reading between the lines about Michigan's current system: lol, 1970.
Jim Carty flagged down Steve Morrison, who coached with new defensive coordinator Steve Shafer at Western Michigan:
Q: What's Michigan getting here in Scott Shafer?
Morrison: The thing that jumps to my mind is passion. He has so much energy. And it's genuine. He has the ability to inspire people. He's a passionate guy who gives 110 percent. He's fun to be around and fun to work with, that's for sure.
Michigan was old and backwards and clunky and staid in 2007; now they are not. Youth is the order of the day on and off the field. QB coach Rod Smith is 35*. WR coach Tony Dews is 34. OL coach Greg Frey is 35. Secondary coach Tony Gibson is 37. LB coach Jay Hopson is 40. DL coach Bruce Tall is 48. OC Calvin Magee is 44. DC Scott Shafer is 41. At the collegiate level coaching is the domain of old men, but only Carr holdover Fred Jackson (57) cracks 50; most of the current staff isn't anywhere near it. They haven't won anything, and they're looking to be Rodriguez someday. They have nothing but the future.
The total makeover in the program's attitude happened overnight -- on New Year's Eve, it appears -- and many are still getting used to the idea. There is fretting about our long string of NFL QBs coming to an end, the lack of internal hires on Rodriguez's staff, the immediate future of a program that counts 7-5 as an end-of-the-world type of season, the continuation of a tradition unbroken over 40 years.
These are all valid concerns. They are also the sort of talk that would cause Mike Barwis to eat your soul and crap it out as a little doll to follow you around, berating you about how you could lift that car if you weren't such an irredeemable knob.
*(Some ages approximate, as I can't find DOBs for many of these guys and am going by college graduation years; they might be off but by no more than a year or two.)
For a long time it seemed like Michigan was three-quarters of the way up a cliff, looking down. "Hang on" was the mantra of the day, be it to old methods or fourth-quarter leads or Michigan's place in the assemblage of climbers. Rich Rodriguez seems the type to look up, grab Ohio State's leg and throw them down into the mucky-muck, and get ten points for climbing The Wall -- that's worth a five-second bonus for the Eliminator, Kyle.
And it's about damn time.