Thursday, March 31, 2011

Projected 2011 Depth Chart

Safety Josh Furman has been creating
some buzz this spring.

There have been a lot of questions about where Michigan's players fit in the new defensive system.  Offensive positions are a little easier to understand, since some position changes have been announced.  I'll attempt to clarify how the team looks right now, but keep in mind that it's early in spring practice and only one freshman is in town.  The order of the listed players is a guesstimate at the depth chart based on practice reports, video clips, and common sense.

QB: Denard Robinson (Jr.), Devin Gardner (So.), Russell Bellomy (Fr.)
RB: Michael Cox (RS Jr.), Stephen Hopkins (So.), Fitzgerald Toussaint (RS So.), Vincent Smith (Jr.), Michael Shaw (Sr.), Teric Jones (Jr. - injured), Thomas Rawls (Fr.), Justice Hayes (Fr.)
FB: John McColgan (RS Sr.), Stephen Hopkins (So.)
WR: Darryl Stonum (Sr.), Junior Hemingway (RS Sr.), Je'ron Stokes (Jr.), Jeremy Jackson (So.), Jerald Robinson (RS Fr.)
SR: Roy Roundtree (RS Jr.), Martavious Odoms (Sr.), Jeremy Gallon (RS So.), Kelvin Grady (RS Sr.), Terrence Robinson (RS Jr.), D.J. Williamson (RS Fr.), Drew Dileo (So.)
TE: Kevin Koger (Sr.), Brandon Moore (RS Jr.), Ricardo Miller (RS Fr.), Steve Watson (RS Sr.), Chris Barnett (Fr.)
LT: Taylor Lewan (RS So.)
LG: Ricky Barnum (RS Jr.), Elliott Mealer (RS Jr.), Tony Posada (Fr.)
C: David Molk (RS Sr.), Rocko Khoury (RS Jr.), Jack Miller (Fr.)
RG: Patrick Omameh (RS Jr.), Christian Pace (RS Fr.), Chris Bryant (Fr.)
RT: Mark Huyge (RS Sr.), Michael Schofield (RS So.)

5-tech DT: Ryan Van Bergen (RS Sr.), Ken Wilkins (RS Fr.), Keith Heitzman (Fr.), Chris Rock (Fr.)
1-tech DT: Mike Martin (Sr.), Quinton Washington (RS So.), Richard Ash (RS Fr.)
3-tech DT: William Campbell (Jr.), Richard Ash (RS Fr.), Will Heininger (RS Sr.)
WDE: Craig Roh (Jr.), Jibreel Black (So.), Brennen Beyer (Fr.)
SAM: Brandon Herron (RS Sr.), Cam Gordon (RS So.), J.B. Fitzgerald (Sr.), Jake Ryan (RS Fr.), Jordan Paskorz (RS Fr.), Frank Clark (Fr.)
MIKE: Kenny Demens (RS Jr.), Isaiah Bell (RS So.), Kellen Jones (Fr.), Desmond Morgan (Fr.)
WILL: Mike Jones (RS So.), Marell Evans (RS Sr.), Brandin Hawthorne (Jr.), Antonio Poole (Fr.)
CB: Troy Woolfolk (RS Sr.), Courtney Avery (So.), Terrence Talbott (RS Fr.), Blake Countess (Fr.), Raymon Taylor (Fr.)
CB: J.T. Floyd (RS Jr.), Cullen Christian (So.), Greg Brown (Fr.), Delonte Hollowell (Fr.)
FS: Carvin Johnson (So.), Thomas Gordon (RS So.), Tamani Carter (Fr.)
SS: Jordan Kovacs (RS Jr.), Josh Furman (RS Fr.), Marvin Robinson (So.)


  • I have seen Hawthorne playing both safety and WILL.
  • Greg Mattison stated that the safeties must know both positions (FS and SS) and the defensive tackles must know both positions (3-tech and 1-tech)
  • Michael Shaw, Teric Jones, Troy Woolfolk, and J.T. Floyd have missed all or most of practice so far, so their statuses are a little up in the air.  Shaw might even be the starter at running back, but it's impossible to tell where he'll fit right now.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Full Contact Scrimmage Highlights

Here's a look at some full contact football for the first time in a couple months.  Several guys make some nice plays in these highlights, including Michael Cox, Devin Gardner, Will Campbell, Marvin Robinson, and . . . Jihad Rasheed (#18, running back), a redshirt freshman walk-on from Southeastern High School in Detroit.

A Look at Potential Future Michigan Recruits

Chelsea running back Berkley Edwards breaks outside against Monroe

A post showed up on Tuesday from Jim Stefani's blog.  Stefani is a recruiting "expert" with an encyclopedic knowledge of high school recruiting, and he unleashed his knowledge of the state of Michigan on his readers.

There are many potential 2013 and 2014 prospects with ties to Michigan, including:

  • Braylon Edwards' little brother Berkley, a running back from Chelsea
  • Harlan Huckleby's son Eddie, a running back/defensive back from Farmington Hills Harrison
  • Antonio Bass' little brother Amani, a quarterback from Jackson Lumen Christi
  • Rocko Khoury's cousin Jake Khoury, a lineman from Traverse City West
  • John Jaeckin's son John, Jr., a lineman from Lakewood St. Edward (Ohio)
  • Craig Roh's brother Jake, a tight end from Scottsdale Chaparral (Arizona)
  • Paul Heuerman's (Michigan basketball player) son Mike, a tight end from Naples Barron Collier (Florida)
  • Greg Skrepenak's son Christian, an offensive lineman from Wilkes-Barre GAR Memorial (Pennsylvania)
  • Alan Branch's little brother Desmond, a defensive lineman from Rio Rancho Cleveland (New Mexico)
It will be interesting to see these kids grow and develop in the coming years, although Skrepenak is already supposedly 6'8" and 350 lbs.  His dad was only 6'6", 322 lbs.

Christian Skrepenak (#45), the son of former Michigan lineman Greg.  See
those other guys?  They're jumping.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Maize 'n' Brew: Recruiting Visitors - March 25-27, 2011

New York defensive back Wayne Morgan

I put up my weekly post over at Maize 'n' Brew, this time about Michigan's recruiting visitors from this past weekend.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Attractive Michigan Girls of the Week: Dance Team Girls

If you have any other pictures of attractive Michigan fans, feel free to e-mail me at

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Caleb Stacey, Wolverine

Caleb Stacey (#71) leads the way for running back Tommy Konkoly

Caleb Stacey, an offensive lineman from Cincinnati, OH, committed to Michigan on Saturday.  He earned an offer a couple weeks ago and visited Ann Arbor.  After visiting West Virginia this weekend, he called Michigan's coaches and informed them that he wanted to be a Wolverine.

Stacey is listed at 6'4", 275 lbs. and has offers from Boston College, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Miami-OH, North Carolina State, Ohio, South Florida, Toledo, Wake Forest, and West Virginia.  His other two favorite schools were Illinois and West Virginia, but we all know those schools don't compare. None of the three major scouting services have ranked him yet, but it's still early.  His offer list at this point suggests perhaps a high 3-star or low 4-star ranking.

Though he plays offensive tackle in high school, Michigan is recruiting him as a guard.  Just like Ben Braden, there's not much film out there on Stacey.  Four clips exist from ScoutingOhio, which is embedded below.  As with every high school lineman, he will need to get bigger and stronger.  But he's kind of the opposite of Braden, who plays low and is a good drive blocker.  Stacey plays a little high and needs to work on keeping leverage, especially when he's going to be playing against much bigger guys than himself.  Even in what little film there is below, there are instances where he gets stalemated initially due to his pad level, although his size and strength eventually win the battle.  Regardless, he seems to have good footwork, finishes his blocks, and looks good on the run, which will be important for Michigan's guards under Hoke.

This is Michigan's second commitment of the 2012 recruiting class; both happen to be linemen.  As I wrote in Braden's commitment post, Michigan's coaches have stated that they want to sign six linemen in this class.  Interesting to me is the fact that, in Rich Rodriguez's first year on the job, his first commitments came at almost an identical time.  Braden committed on March 24, then Stacey on March 26.  From the class of 2009, Justin Turner, Teric Jones, and Isaiah Bell committed on March 28, 29, and 31, respectively.  (Note: Will Campbell had committed to Lloyd Carr's staff the summer before that, then decommitted in September, then recommitted in January 2009).

TTB Rating: 77

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ben Braden, Wolverine

Rockford offensive lineman Ben Braden

Ben Braden, an offensive tackle from Rockford High School in Rockford, MI, committed to Michigan on Thursday during a visit to campus with his head coach.  Braden is a 3-star prospect to Scout, but is so far unranked (along with most prospects) by Scout and ESPN.  He also had offers from Michigan State, Syracuse, and Wisconsin.

Braden is listed at 6'6" and 285 lbs., which doesn't seem like much of a stretch.  He's solidly built in the lower and upper body.  He looks like the Michigan linemen of the '90's and early '00's.  He will certainly need to add weight before he plays at the next level, but physically he's more ready than several of Michigan's recruits over the past couple seasons (Christian Pace, Taylor Lewan, Michael Schofield, etc.).

Athletically, I'm not so sure that Braden will be ready early on.  No public film on Braden is currently posted on the internet, but I did see some of his junior highlights on Scout.  He plays with good body lean.  However, he's not the most gifted athlete and doesn't seem to move well laterally.  Rockford's offense is run-heavy, and therefore, he puts a little too much weight on his hand to give himself forward moment; this is a habit that will likely need to be coached out of him at the next level, giving him a more balanced stance.  I would also like to see Braden finish his blocks a little better.  There are times where he stops blocking and looks back at the play, another habit that will need to be broken.  I don't think it's due to a lack of aggression, but more a lack of maturity as a football player.  Lots of high school linemen are guilty of the same thing.

Given the questions about his athleticism and pass blocking, I think Braden is best suited for right tackle or perhaps even the offensive guard position.  Getting too tall can be problematic at guard, but if he maintains his current height, his thick build should make him a solid run blocker.

I doubt whether Braden would have been recruited by Michigan if Rich Rodriguez were still the coach.  Rodriguez pursued a different sort of lineman, so this represents a change in philosophy.  Whereas Michigan's former coach recruited quicker, more agile linemen, the current one has predictably started searching for road graders to pave the way for his running attack.

This is Michigan's first commitment for the class of 2012.  The coaches have reportedly told recruits that they expect to take six linemen in this class, so expect many more of these monsters to jump on board between now and next February.

TTB Rating: 65

2012 Offer Board Update

Pennsylvania running Back Drew Harris

The 2012 Offer Board has been updated:

Georgia DT JaFar Mann committed to Florida.

Maryland LB Camren Williams committed to Penn State.

Michigan OT Ben Braden committed to Michigan.

Moved North Carolina's Mark Harrell from OT to TE.

Added Georgia DE James Deloach.

Added Pennsylvania RB Drew Harris.

Texas LB Jeremiah Tshimanga committed to Oklahoma State.

Added Florida CB Brian Poole.

Added Alabama LB Kwon Alexander.

Added Texas OT Kyle Marrs, who is committed to Oklahoma.

Added Texas OT Trey Keenan.

Texas DE Mario Edwards committed to Florida State.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Who cares what you call it?

Brady Hoke says "tough" too much.  Whatever that means.

I try not to turn my blog into one of those that calls out competing* blogs in order to establish some sort of superiority.  Because, after all, the blogosphere has been kind to me.  The guys at Maize 'n' Brew asked me to join them, MGoBlog and The Wolverine Blog link to my site on occasion, etc.  My blog is mostly for my pleasure, not because I want to get rich or win any awards.

But Brian over at MGoBlog wrote a post today that bugged me a bit, so I'm responding at length.  He takes issue with Brady Hoke's comments about running the "power play" and makes tongue-in-cheek comments about "manball" and "toughness."  I just don't see the point.

Brian says:
There are consistent reports that Hoke makes condescending comments about the spread at alumni events. Manball? Manball.
He then goes on to suggest that all people who agree with Hoke's offensive and verbal philosophies are old, mustachioed, and averse to change.

Well . . . okay.  So what?  Football's rules have largely been the same since the forward pass was legalized.  Eleven guys on the field, four downs to get ten yards, etc.  The emergence of the single wing offense in recent years blew people's minds.  How can you have a running back taking snaps and gaining yards?!?!?!  Well, it's because football is football.  Blockers need to block, runners need to run, receivers need to catch, tacklers need to tackle.  People didn't figure out how to stop the single wing before it disappeared around the time of Al Capone.  It just got boring.  So teams started running the wishbone triple option.  Then they started running I-formation plays.  Then they took out the fullback and created the run-n-shoot.  Then they put the quarterback in the shotgun formation and gave him five wide receivers.

What's the common theme?  All of them work.  You know, if they're run well.  Paul Johnson is making the triple option work at Georgia Tech, Chip Kelly runs the spread-n-shred at Oregon, and Bret Bielema scored 83 points in one game using good ol' fashioned power running at Wisconsin.

It seems Brian is infuriated that Hoke would be audacious enough to speak condescendingly about the spread (and zone blocking in particular), but this is what coaches do.  Bo Schembechler liked to run the ball and never shied away from his disdain for throwing the ball.  But his teams ran the ball well, so it was okay.  Mike Leach threw the ball all over the place at Oklahoma and Texas Tech and thinks throwing the ball gives him an advantage over teams that run the ball more.  It works.  Why does it matter?  If Brian were asked, I bet he could completely eviscerate other successful blogs.  He could find fault with their advertising, their commenting formats, their content, etc.  In fact, he does this type of thing quite often, at least as far as content goes.  He thinks his blog is superior to others.  If he didn't, he would change.  And that's fine.  But if those blogs are gaining readership and making money, then it's all just useless babble.

Of course, much of his stance is based on the fact that Denard Robinson, a Dodge Viper in a Jeep Wrangler world, is Michigan's quarterback.  Robinson possesses the talent to be perhaps the most electrifying spread option quarterback in the history of the game (however short the history of the spread option is), but now he'll be playing under a coach who eschews zone blocking and likes fullbacks.  And it's true that Robinson was a Heisman frontunner at one point in 2010, a record-breaking signal caller who took the country by storm with his speed, elusiveness, smile, dreadlocks, and failure to tie his shoes.  That's not something that should be completely dismissed.

But when it comes down to it, a coach has to meld a player and a system together.  He shouldn't change the system to fit a player, and he shouldn't abandon a talented player just because the player isn't an ideal fit.

Hoke said . . .
Once we get the power play down, then we'll go to the next phase.  You know, because we're gonna run the power play.
. . .which makes Brian unhappy.  He talks about how Michigan has athletic linemen and a tiny starting running back (Vincent Smith), which doesn't exactly make you think "power run."  Power plays are usually left to mammoth offensive linemen, battering-ram fullbacks, and tailbacks with thighs like tree trunks.

Except Michigan's offensive line was already inching its way toward 300 pounds across the board, Hoke ran plenty of split back sets in 2010 at San Diego State, and running backs coach Fred Jackson has essentially said, "Vincent Smith will probably not be our starter in 2011."

The power is the base play of Brady Hoke's philosophy.  Just like any intelligent person wouldn't have expected Rich Rodriguez to run many powers and whams from the I-formation in 2008, Brian shouldn't expect Hoke to run loads of quarterback iso's and and zone stretches in 2011.  That's not Hoke's game, or Borges's.  Rodriguez ran the zone read option with two stiffs at quarterback, Nick Sheridan and Steve Threet.  They were game stiffs, but they shouldn't have been in an offense that required them to run so much.  Michigan won three games.  Put those guys in a pro-style offense, and I bet they would have won . . . four (the same three plus Toledo).  The difference is minuscule.  Meanwhile, those running backs, linemen, and receivers gained experience that allowed them to improve in 2009 and then 2010.  The growth of David Molk and Martavious Odoms, for example, would have been stunted if they had to play in a pro-style offense that first year.  Molk wouldn't have had practice with the timing and accuracy of those shotgun snaps, and Odoms might have spent the year sitting on the bench.  After all, who needs a 5'9" freshman receiver when you've got a two-back, I-formation base set?

And why wouldn't the power play be the first thing for Michigan's players to learn?  You don't hire Rich Rodriguez to run the counter trey, you don't hire Mark McGwire to teach your hitters how to bunt for a single, and you don't hire Christina Aguilera to teach you the National Anthem.

Here are the 46 offensive snaps from San Diego State's game against TCU in 2010:

1. Split backs - Power run
2. Split backs - Reverse flea flicker
3. I-formation (on the goal line) - Fullback dive
4. Shotgun spread - Pass
5. I-formation - Iso run
6. Shotgun spread - Pass
7. I-formation - Play action pass
8. Single back, three-wide - Dive
9. Shotgun, split backs - Pass
10. I-formation, three-wide - Power run
11. I-formation - Play action pass
12. Shotgun, three-wide - Pass
13. Split backs - Power run
14. Shotgun, split backs - Screen pass
15. Shotgun, three-wide - Pass
16. Shotgun, three-wide - Zone read option
17. I-formation - Power run
18. Shotgun, three-wide - Pass
19. I-formation - Play action pass
20. Single back, three-wide - Pass
21. Shotgun, three-wide - Pass
22. I-formation - Play action pass
23. I-formation - Power run
24. Shotgun, three-wide - Pass
25. Split backs - Pass
26. I-formation - Naked bootleg pass
27. I-formation - Draw
28. Shotgun, three-wide - Draw
29. Shotgun, four-wide - Pass
30. I-formation - Play action pass
31. I-formation - Iso run
32. Shotgun, split backs - Pass
33. Single back, three-wide - Pass
34. I-formation (on the goal line) - Power run
35. Single back - Dive
36. I-formation - Play action pass
37. I-formation - Zone run
38. I-formation - Play action pass
39. Shotgun, three-wide - Screen pass
40. Split backs - Power run
41. I-formation - Play action pass
42. Split backs - Screen pass
43. I-formation - Pass
44. Split backs - Dive
45. Shotgun, four-wide - Rollout pass
46. Shotgun, four-wide - Pass

I'm using "power run" a little loosely because I don't want to break down every play - this isn't a UFR - but the strategy of using a fullback and a pulling lineman is there.  Fifteen of those plays (or about 33%) are either based on power running or, in the case of play action, the threat of the power run.  These numbers are only based on one game against a very good team, which SDSU trailed for most of the time.  But when roughly one-third of a coach's offense is rooted in a single series of plays, you can't just scrap the whole thing.

I think the mindset regarding Denard has morphed into "Give him the ball every play and don't let anyone else mess it up."  Which is fine until your quarterback carries the ball almost 300 times in one season and misses time in ten out of twelve games due to injury.  As we saw this past season, the threat of Denard Robinson running the ball was practically just as dangerous as him actually running it.  There were all kinds of examples of wide open receivers running free because Denard took a single step toward the line of scrimmage.

There are multiple ways to use his speed, not just as a 300-carry feature back.  He can run the naked bootleg (seen in the above playlist), he can sprint out from the shotgun (seen in the above playlist), he can run a quarterback draw (not seen above, but SDSU's quarterback was s....l....o....w), etc.  Run a play action bootleg and see what defensive end or outside linebacker can handle him out on the edge.  It won't look the same as last year, but it can be effective.

Brian also complains about Hoke's frequent use of some form of the word "toughness."  I agree that it's a platitude, but welcome to coachspeak.  Find me a coach who doesn't use the word "tough" more often than a Ford commercial, I dare you.

Furthermore, watch Michigan's team in 2010.  Third-and-short on offense?  Michigan can't line up and run the ball.  Third-and-short (or third-and-medium, or third-and-long, third-and-a-parsec)?  Michigan can't get a stop.  Need a broken tackle?  You won't get it from Shaw or Smith.  Need a tackler to stop someone in his tracks?  If it's not Jordan Kovacs, it's probably not happening.  I won't question any individual player's toughness, but the team as a whole could use an injection of it.  All coaches preach toughness, but if it takes Brady Hoke repeating the word "tough" until his face turns blue to get his team to actually play like it, then I'm fine with it.

Conclusions and predictions:

  1. Rich Rodriguez's 2010 offense was good.  So was Brady Hoke's.  Brady Hoke is not Rich Rodriguez.  And despite both being somewhere between chunky and fat, Al Borges is not Calvin Magee.
  2. If Brady Hoke can teach his players how to run the system, it will be successful.  If he can't, it won't.
  3. The zone read option won't disappear completely from Michigan's offense, but it doesn't really matter.  Denard Robinson rarely ran it for Rodriguez, and it wasn't very effective when he did.
  4. If Ronnie Hillman can run the power frequently and gain 1,500 yards on the ground, then Michigan can find a running back on its roster to run the ball with some consistency.  That player will not be Vincent Smith.
  5. Coaches will continue to say "tough," coaches will continue to say "execute," but the next time a platitude in March decides the outcome of a game in November will be the first.
  6. My advice to impatient and angry Michigan fans is to wait and see what happens.  I wasn't a huge fan of the Brady Hoke hire when it happened, either, but I am very confident that Michigan will improve defensively.  This offense probably won't be quite as explosive as the 2010 version, but an above average offense combined with an improved defense should improve upon the win total from last season.

*I don't know what else to call them, but we all know they're more popular blogs than mine.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ray Vinopal, ex-Wolverine

Ray Vinopal makes a tackle against Illinois

Safety Ray Vinopal, who just finished his freshman season at Michigan, has left the team due to personal reasons.  Coach Brady Hoke did not elaborate on the reason for Vinopal's departure.

When Vinopal was recruited out of Cardinal Mooney (Youngstown, OH) last year, I was not a fan.  I pegged him as a probable backup and special teamer, but Vinopal ascended to the starting free safety role halfway through the season.  His rapid ascension was at least partially due to the ineffectiveness of early-season starter Cam Gordon; the departures of Vlad Emilien and Justin Turner; and injuries to J.T. Floyd and Troy Woolfolk.  My guess is that one of the latter three would have moved ahead of Vinopal at free safety once Gordon proved he wasn't up to the task.  And yet we saw #20, a 2-star recruit, find his way into the starting lineup.

Vinopal exceeded my expectations, but his play was nothing special.  He ended the season with 33 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 interception, and 3 pass breakups.  He made a couple decent plays throughout the season (a pick against Bowling Green, a critical tackle on Mikel Leshoure of Illinois), but he was outmatched by the majority of Michigan's 2010 opponents - too small, a step too slow, or both.

Regardless of his shortcomings, he may have been the frontrunner for the starting free safety job in 2011.  Now Michigan will probably be in the same position it has been for the past few seasons - starting a very inexperienced youngster at the secondary's most critical position.  It was Jordan Kovacs, Mike Williams, and Woolfolk in 2009, Gordon and Vinopal in 2010, and . . . someone else in 2011.  Options include sophomores Carvin Johnson, Marvin Robinson, and Cullen Christian; freshman Tamani Carter; or a converted cornerback like Woolfolk or Floyd.  The situation is less than ideal.

As for the 2010 recruiting class, this is yet another blow to its quality and numbers.  Twenty-seven kids signed National Letters of Intent in February 2010, and only 21 remain.  Safety Demar Dorsey (now at Grand Rapids Community College), quarterback Conelius Jones (Marshall), linebacker Antonio Kinard (Miami), linebacker Davion Rogers (Youngstown State), and running back Austin White (Central Michigan) preceded Vinopal in leaving the program.

Vinopal has not announced a destination, although rumors have floated around that he might be headed to play at Pitt.  His former position coach at Michigan, Tony Gibson, is now the cornerbacks coach for the Panthers.  For those of you who are wondering, Pittsburgh is about one hour and fifteen minutes from Vinopal's hometown of Youngstown.  Ann Arbor is three hours and thirty minutes away.

So about all these offers . . .

5-star receiver Stefon Diggs

Many Michigan fans seem worried that the new coaching staff has thrown out offers with what fans deem to be reckless abandon over the last couple months.  At last count Michigan has verbally offered 130 prospects from the class of 2012.

The key word there is "verbally."  Due to a new rule for this recruiting cycle, high schoolers cannot receive official, written offers until August 1 of their senior year.  That means someone like Stefon Diggs (pictured above) won't be 100% sure of who's recruiting him until a little over four months from now.  In the olden days, kids could receive written offers on September 1 of their junior years, meaning Diggs would have been offered several months ago.

One thing to watch is how many kids actually accept offers this early in the process.  Since they can't have official offers in hand for another several months, kids may be feeling out the process a little longer.  It seems that there have been fewer early commitments in the class of 2012 overall.  Only 19 of the 130 offered have already committed to a particular program.

While offers are coming at a much faster rate this year, they seem to be going to higher level athletes.  Of the 130 offers, 84 of them (56%) are on the Rivals 250 to Watch list, which means they are likely to be 4-stars or higher.  In my opinion, many of the other 46 players have a very good chance of being 4-stars, as well.

By about this time in the past few recruiting classes, Michigan not only had offers out to some lower level guys, but actual commitments from guys like Teric Jones (buried on the bench at RB), Antonio Kinard (a non-qualifier who ended up at Miami), Isaiah Bell (buried on the bench at LB), and Delonte Hollowell (who ended up as a middling 3-star prospect).  This is not to say that those guys won't end up being solid players at some point, but early offers and commitments should be elite kids.  You can find the Teric Joneses and Antonio Kinards of the world late in the recruiting game, like Michigan has with Ray Vinopal, Jake Ryan, and Russell Bellomy.

Additionally, Michigan's midwest recruiting base is pretty talented this season, which means the coaches - and recruits - don't have to travel far.  Forty-four of the 130 offers (34%) are to kids from Big Ten states.

I was not a huge fan of the Brady Hoke hire, so this is not coming from the we-need-a-Michigan-Man-to-right-the-ship perspective:  I am legitimately not concerned with the number of offers the Wolverines have put out there.  This coaching staff seems to have a better grasp on the type of talent Michigan can and should recruit.  I will voice my concern if and when Hoke starts tossing out offers like candy to MAC-level and Big East-level talent, but so far that's not the case.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Duke 73, Michigan 71

Darius Morris reacts after missing the final shot (image via

Congratulations to the Michigan basketball team, which finally provided Wolverines fans with some hope after years of flailing.  I admittedly didn't pay a great deal of attention to Michigan basketball for the first couple months of the season, because football is my #1 interest and where I live, Michigan basketball isn't on television very much.  But the last couple months have been a great deal of fun.  Maybe I'm good luck, because the first game I watched this year was the four-point loss to Ohio State on January 12th and I didn't watch again until the January 27th victory against MSU, which is about when Michigan started to make its end-of-season run.  The Wolverines finished the season with a 10-5 run after losing six in a row, and three of those five losses were by two points or less.

These kids have nothing to be embarrassed about, and they represented the university well.  I don't think anybody wanted to play Michigan toward the end of the season.  And for anyone who didn't think they belonged (*cough* Doug Gottlieb *cough*), take a look at Michigan's 30-point victory over Tennessee and its near-victory against the defending national champions.  This rag-tag crew of undersized, floppy-haired, barely-able-to-vote ballers had Dookies everywhere holding their breath in fear that a floater in the lane would send the game to overtime.  And in a game that ended on a 28-15 run by Michigan, I'm not so sure the Blue Devils would have been favored to win in that situation.

I'm looking forward to next year.  Go Blue!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Maize 'n' Brew: Recruiting Visitors - March 18-20, 2011

The key to today's game.

Nobody really cares about football right now, but I put up a post over at Maize 'n' Brew about this weekend's recruiting visitors.

But in case you didn't know, Michigan is playing Duke in the third round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament this afternoon.  It will be on CBS beginning at 2:30 p.m.

I think the key to the game (aside from Darius Morris, who's the team's most important player) will be Zack Novak.  He needs to have one of his great shooting days in order to pull off the upset.  If Novak has an off day, I don't think Michigan will have a chance.

I think the game will be competitive, but Duke will end up with about a seven-point victory.  I'll guess 65-58.

Here's hoping for an upset, though . . .   Go blue!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

2012 Offer Board Update

Melissa Satta is what happens when there aren't any good pictures to use.

The 2012 Offer Board has been updated:

Added Florida OG Daniel Isidora.

Added Ohio OG Caleb Stacey.

Illinois OT Dan Voltz committed to Wisconsin.

Added Michigan OT Ben Braden.

Added Texas OG John Michael McGee.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Michigan 75, Tennessee 45

This guy... better than this guy.  At basketball.

Michigan took its "overrated" #8 seed and drowned #9 Tennessee in a torrential downpour of three-pointers, zone defense, and floppy hair.  Five Michigan players scored in double figures, and two additional Wolverines notched eight points as the Maize and Blue outscored the Volunteers 58-22 from midway through the first half until the final buzzer sounded.

The MVP of the game was Matt Vogrich (top), the sophomore guard who got the momentum going Michigan's way in the first half with a stepback three-pointer and a backdoor cut for an easy layup.  Vogrich only played 16 minutes total, many of which were in lieu of fellow freshman Tim Hardaway, who was on the bench with foul trouble for a good portion of the first half.  But I don't know if Michigan would have mustered the energy and offense to overtake Tennessee, which led for much of the first stanza, without the contributions of Vogrich.

I am admittedly not a basketball expert, but it doesn't take an expert to see what's working in a 30-point blowout.  Some observations from an amateur viewer, just because I can:

Jordan Morgan has soft hands.  When Morgan was recruited and a bit overweight, I assumed he would be a bruiser inside.  That didn't make much sense to me in Beilein's offense, but whatever.  Coming into the game, though, Morgan was hitting 61.7% of his field goals and he just has a soft, simple touch around the basket.  I don't know that I've seen him take a jump shot all year, but why would he when he can just toss up a soft hook shot and virtually guarantee that the ball's going in?  He's fun to watch whenever he's not in foul trouble.

Darius Morris didn't dribble the entire day.  Hooray.  I know Darius Morris is Michigan's best player, but it annoys me when he dribbles away 32 seconds of the shot clock and then tosses up an awkward layup or floater attempt between two or three guys in the lane.  Sometimes it's successful, but boy, is it ugly.  Not once did I see Morris waste the entire shot clock today looking to create his own shot.  The Wolverines moved the ball well, and that started with Morris, who had 9 assists.  Of course, it helps when your team shoots 52% on the day.

Stu Douglass didn't make me want to punch myself.  I normally want to strangle Douglass, who shoots the ball too much and makes too many turnovers.  As a friend put it, "He thinks he's better than he is."  And maybe that's what you have to think as a kid who's limited athletically.  But he seems to alternate good games with bad games, and after three straight mediocre games, I guess it was his time to bust out with a good effort.  He finished 5-7 on field goal attempts with 11 points, 5 assists, only 1 turnover, and an invigorating dunk off a behind-the-back pass from Morris in transition.  Of course, this means that he'll make me give myself a black eye when Michigan faces its third-round opponent (likely Duke) on Sunday.  But hey, nobody expected Michigan to even make the NCAA Tournament, so this game was exciting in itself.

John Beilein ought to win Coach of the Year.  Maybe I'm being a homer, but Michigan has vastly overachieved after losing its two biggest stars from last year's team (Manny Harris, DeShawn Sims).  This team is largely made up of Darius Morris and then a bunch of players nobody else really wanted.  Getting a victory over a Tennessee team that is in limbo because its coach likes to BBQ too much may not lead to a championship run, but this Michigan team was expected to struggle with even getting to .500 on the season.  For the most part, Michigan played its tough opponents tight (Kansas, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Syracuse), swept in-state rival Michigan State, and has won 21 games (so far) with a bunch of freshmen and sophomores.  If there's a coach out there who has done more with less, then I don't know who it is.

Clark Kellogg is like my grandpa in Tokyo.  Kellogg couldn't tell the difference between Smotrycz, Vogrich, Novak, and Douglass.  I guess when someone is a different race than you, distinguishing characters just aren't that apparent.

Hi, I'm Charlie Villaneuva.  I mean, Clark Kellogg.

Congratulations to the basketball team.  Go get 'em on Sunday.  Go Blue!

Prediction: Michigan vs. Tennessee

This is a football blog, and I'm certainly no basketball expert.  But as a fan of sports in general, I'm excited about Michigan's matchup this afternoon with the Tennessee Volunteers.  As if you didn't already know, the game will be broadcast at 12:40 p.m. EST on TruTV or, if you don't have it, you can watch it streaming online through the NCAA's official site.

I'm predicting a 63-59 victory for Michigan.

Go blue!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Attractive Michigan Girl of the Week: Hoodie Girl

If you have any other pictures of girls wearing Michigan gear, feel free to e-mail me at

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Marell Evans, Wolverine (again)

#9 Marell Evans is back on the team

At the coaches' pre-spring press conference yesterday, it was officially noted that linebacker Marell Evans has returned to Michigan's team.  This isn't news for anyone who paid attention to various Facebook and Twitter posts, which revealed that he had been working out with the team in the offseason.  This is the same Marell Evans who transferred away from Michigan back in 2009, and I can't remember the last time a Michigan player enrolled at a school, transferred away, and then transferred back.  This is truly a unique situation.

Anyway, in his sayonara post, I wrote, "It's unclear where Evans will wind up, but most kids who transfer seem to end up closer to home and at a slightly smaller program."  Sure enough, Evans transferred to Hampton University, which is approximately 1.5 hours away from his home in Varina, Virginia (just outside Richmond).  As far as I can tell, he played sparingly in 2009 and not at all in 2010.

So let's recount the career of Evans:

  • 2007: Burns his redshirt running downfield on special teams
  • 2008: Starting SAM linebacker for the Utah game; backup SAM/WILL for rest of year
  • 2009: Moved to outside linebacker in spring; transferred to play linebacker at Hampton
  • 2010: Sat out the 2010 season for reasons that are unclear
  • 2011: Transferred back to Michigan with one year of eligibility remaining
In case you're counting or wondering, the NCAA gives college players five years to play four seasons.  Since Evans transferred from an FBS school (Michigan) to an FCS school (Hampton) back to an FBS school (Michigan), he wasn't required to sit out any seasons due to NCAA transfer rules.  So it's all or nothing this year for Evans.

Evans departed in a classy way prior to the 2009 season, and he had nothing bad to say about the coaches.  But it makes you wonder why he left.  He committed to Lloyd Carr, only stuck around for one year of Rodriguez . . . and then came back to Michigan as soon as Hoke was hired.  He presumably departed for a chance to get more playing time, but now his competition is just as stiff as when he left.

Scott Shafer pegged Evans as a SAM back in 2008, but Greg Robinson turned him into a backup Quick end (outside linebacker) prior to the 2009 season.  At approximately 6'3" and 225 lbs., it would seem that Evans' best chance to play would be at the WILL position in 2011.  I don't think he's fast enough to play SAM in Greg Mattison's defense, and I think he's too small to play the rush end spot.  The WILL position is wide open after the departure of Jonas Mouton, leaving guys like Mike Jones, a couple other positional vagabands, a couple freshman, and possibly Evans to battle for the starting spot.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mark Moundros, #44

Fullback Mark Moundros

2010 Countdown: #40 Mark Moundros

Moundros was an outstanding high school runner at North Farmington High School.  In his 2005 senior season, he ran for 2,113 yards and 19 touchdowns, earning all-state honors.  However, he was largely unrecruited and followed his older brother, former walk-on fullback Kirk, to Ann Arbor.

Moundros redshirted as a freshman walk-on in 2006, but then beat out a couple scholarship athletes to earn the starting fullback position in 2007.  He never rushed the ball but ended the season with 3 receptions for 11 yards.  He also was a special teams standout, making 11 tackles on kick and punt coverage.  As a redshirt sophomore in 2008, Moundros started three games; rushed 3 times for 14 yards and 1 touchdown; caught 1 pass for 2 yards and 1 touchdown; and made 3 special teams tackles.  Due partially to an early-season injury, Moundros was limited in 2009.  He played sparingly at fullback and made only two special teams tackles.  Prior to spring practice in 2010, Moundros moved to defense in an attempt to solidify the linebacker position.  He was even named permanent captain for the defense, but it was essentially a failed experiment.  Moundros started one game at weakside linebacker and made a total of 17 tackles on defense and special teams.

3 carries, 14 yards, 1 touchdown; 4 receptions, 13 yards, 1 touchdown; 33 tackles, 1 forced fumble

2010: Team captain.  Robert P. Ufer Award (most enthusiastic senior).  Big Ten Sportsmanship Award.
2008: Michigan's special teams player of the year.
2007: Academic All-Big Ten

I was a little suspicious when Moundros beat out more highly touted players for the fullback position in 2007, but I was pleasantly surprised by his play.  He was a thumping lead blocker and seemed to have a good feel for lead blocking in a zone system.  When Rich Rodriguez arrived in 2008, I assumed that Moundros would become Michigan's poor man's version of Owen Schmitt, the talented fullback from WVU who now plays for the Philadelphia Eagles.  However, that role never really materialized with Rodriguez in Ann Arbor, who chose to use tight ends (Kevin Koger) and converted tailbacks (Kevin Grady) instead of true fullbacks.  The I-formation largely disappeared from Michigan's repertoire by 2010, when the "starting" fullback was John McColgan.  I feel bad for Moundros for not getting on the field much in his senior season, although he reportedly approached the coaches about the move to linebacker.  I was not impressed with McColgan in his limited time, and I'm not sure if the disappearance of the I-formation had to do with Michigan's offensive line, its philosophy of getting Denard Robinson into open space, the lack of a solid fullback, or some combination of those three factors.  I am confident that Moundros was a better fullback than a linebacker, the latter of which exposed his inexperience and lack of instincts.  But kudos to him for being the consummate team player, trying to help in an area of need, making an impact on special teams, and earning the captaincy despite not being a star player.  Hopefully, he set a good example for the younger players that will trickle down to their work ethic and leadership in the years to come.

Moundros will likely not play in the NFL.  If he has any future in professional football, it's at the fullback position.  I would not be surprised to see him play Arena Football or something to that effect, but he also seems to be an intelligent person who has the means to succeed in a life beyond sports.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Congratulations to the basketball team!

Michigan's basketball team reacts to landing a #8 seed in the NCAA Tourney (image via

Congratulations to the men's basketball team for getting a #8 seed in the tourney.  The Wolverines will play #9 Tennessee this coming Friday at 12:40 p.m. in Charlotte, North Carolina.  The game will be broadcast on TruTV.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

How to Help Japan

Here's a page from the Huffington Post that provides various links to and information about organizations that are trying to help victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

If you're financially able, I encourage you to find a way to help those affected.

Maize 'n' Brew: Recruiting Visitors - March 11-13, 2011

This week's post at Maize 'n' Brew is a rundown of this weekend's recruiting visitors - linebacker Vince Biegel, defensive tackle Sheldon Day, and tight end Devin Funchess.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

2012 Offer Board Update

Georgia linebacker Raphael Kirby

The 2012 Offer Board has been updated:

Added Utah DE Troy Hinds.

Added New Jersey DE Darius Hamilton.

Moved Ohio OT Kyle Dodson to OG.

Added Missouri OG Evan Boehm.

Added Iowa WR Amara Darboh.

Maryland OT Mike Madaras committed to Maryland.

Added Minnesota OT Jonah Pirsig.

Added California CB Tee Shepard, who is committed to Notre Dame.

Added Georgia DT JaFar Mann.

Added Georgia LB Raphael Kirby.

Added Ohio DE LaTroy Lewis.

Added California OT Erik Magnuson.

Added Maryland DE Michael Moore.

Added Georgia DE Jarontay Jones.

Added Georgia DT Jonathan Taylor.

Added Texas LB Dalton Santos, who is committed to Oklahoma State.

Added California QB Zach Kline, who is committed to Cal.

Added Tennessee RB I'Tavius Mathers.

Ohio OT Taylor Decker committed to Notre Dame.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thoughts on Tressel-gate

I refuse to put up a picture of Ohio State, so here's a stormy diarama created by Matthew Albanese.  It's made
of parchment paper, thread, ostrich feathers, chocolate, wire, raffia, masking tape, coffee, synthetic moss,
and cotton.  Click on it if you don't believe me.
 For the most part, I try to concentrate on Michigan football here at Touch the Banner.  With a full-time job and a strong dedication to Wolverines athletics, I really don't have time to keep up with all the goings on in college football around the country.  So when scandals happen at USC and even Ohio State, I typically keep my nose to the maize-and-blue grindstone.

With all that being said, Jim Tressel is an idiot.

The e-mails that came out recently are damning to the nth degree.  I have always had a begrudging respect for Tressel, who is a polished, well spoken man with a squeaky clean personal record.  He's never been in trouble for drunk driving, hiring prostitutes, choking his players, cussing out reporters, etc.  I guess that's why they call him Senator.

And the Senator is a good nickname, because it turns out that the image of moral superiority is just a facade.  Just like any of hundreds of politicians in recent history, the dirty secrets are starting to leak.  I will be the first to admit that I don't have huge qualms with every single one of the Ohio State football program's transgressions during Tressel's decade as a coach.  When a coach has 100+ players on his team, many of whom come from meager backgrounds, it's difficult to follow what each of those 100+ players does on a daily basis.  And as much as a coach would like to believe that his players will follow team, university, and NCAA rules on a daily basis, we all know that college kids will be college kids.

But the pattern under Tressel is becoming more and more daunting for him to overcome.  He has had several star players face disciplinary action for taking improper benefits - A.J. Hawk, Nick Mangold, Maurice Clarett, Terrelle Pryor, Troy Smith - and the punishments from above have been fairly light.  Of course, Ohio State's athletic director Gene Smith came out and essentially said, "Come Hell or high water, Jim Tressel is our coach."  And why not?  Tressel wins a bunch of games, often wins the Big Ten championship, and even pulled in a national championship eight years ago.  Gene Smith and university president Gordon Gee want to True Grit this horse until it dies.

But at some point, each dynasty fails.  Look at Alabama in the early '90's.  Look at the University of Michigan under Rich Rodriguez.  Look at USC prior to Pete Carroll.  Tennessee.  Florida.  Texas in 2010.  Ohio State hasn't had a truly bad year since 1999, when John Cooper went 6-6.

And the key point here with Tressel is that he had options.  Punishments are far less severe when evildoers (I figured that if Tressel can quote George W. Bush, then so can I) admit their evildoings.  Tressel could have taken the e-mails he received directly to the Buckeyes' compliance director when Tressel received them in April 2010.  Instead, he chose to keep it quiet, and that's why Ohio State is in this miss right now.  ESPN writer and author of Meat Market Bruce Feldman pointed out yesterday that the NCAA basically ended Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant's career for lying about improper benefits he received through contact with Deion Sanders.  And keep in mind that it wasn't the benefits that Bryant was banned for - it was because of the lies.  He stated that he had provided accurate information to the NCAA.  Tressel also signed the same type of affidavit, stating that he had given the appropriate information to the NCAA investigators.

So if a 20-year-old kid like Bryant loses his amateur status for lying to the governing organization, how can anyone justify a 58-year-old coach doing the same thing?

Tressel was presumably concerned that the offenses would get his players suspended or cause them to be permanently ineligible, the latter of which would be a preposterous punishment.  College kids should not lose their chance to play football just for giving out some autographs and memorabilia in exchange for free tattoos and a few hunder dollars.  Suspended?  Yes.  Forced to repay the money?  Absolutely.  Banned permanently?  Let's not be ridiculous. 

A quick bit of critical thinking should have told Tressel that Pryor and company would have received a slap on the wrist.  What would that have meant for Ohio State's football team in 2010?  Let's take a look.  If those five players received the same punishment for the 2010 season as they now must face for 2011, they would have missed:

  • Marshall, whom they beat 45-7.  Still a likely victory.
  • Miami, whom they beat 36-24.  Miami was ranked #12, so OSU would have been in a dogfight.
  • Ohio, whom they beat 43-7.  Win.
  • Eastern Michigan, whom they beat 73-20.  Slaughter.
  • Illinois, whom they beat 24-13.  Again, this was a somewhat close score, but OSU still would have been favored.
That's a likely 4-1 record after that five-game stretch, which would have essentially removed the Buckeyes from national title contention, but still would have allowed them to be in the race for the Big Ten and a BCS bowl game.  And it's not like Pryor would have actually led them to a national title, because that kid's a bigger moron than his coach.

So Tressel risked his job and program based on the difference between a 12-1 season and, at worst, a 10-3 year (if you grant Illinois a victory).  Get out the hypothetical pitchforks!

If the NCAA were fair, it would suspend Tressel for the entire 2011 season.  If Ohio State had standards, it would fire Tressel.  In my opinion, all twelve victories from Ohio State's 2010 season should be vacated.  And if we're talking about Practicegate vs. Tressel-gate, then the Buckeyes ought to be put on several years' probation.  And if we're talking about Reggie Bush-gate (in which USC's coaches denied knowledge of improper benefits) vs. Tressel-gate, Ohio State ought to lose some scholarships in the coming years.  The program in Columbus has a long history of these things happening, and at some point, the NCAA needs to stop slapping Ohio State's wrist and come up with some sort of viable punishment.

Nike Coach of the Year Clinic: Day 3

Paul Johnson is kind of ornery.

Saturday morning there were a couple presentations about youth football to start the day.  I've never coached youth football, so I went to get breakfast instead.

But later in the morning, we attended the talk from Paul Johnson.  As you might expect, Johnson talked about the Run-n-shoot.

Not really.

Johnson was very forthcoming about his triple option offense.  In fact, one of his first slides was a breakdown of the blocking rules and footwork for all eleven offensive players.  I may or may not have copied it down, since Georgia Tech is pretty good at running the ball.

And that was essentially the gist of his presentation.  He would go position-by-position and explain what each player's duty was on each play.  He stressed that his rules do not change, no matter what defense a team runs.  The quarterback has three reads on the triple option - the dive read, the option read, and the run support read.  His assumption is that one of those defenders will make a mistake and, therefore, his team will be coached well enough to make the right play.

I thoroughly enjoyed Johnson's presentation, largely because he doesn't have time for idiots.  There was one coach in particular who asked several questions, most of which were useless.  Johnson was a little bit curt with the coach a couple times.  I didn't laugh out loud, but I was giggling on the inside.  The guy asked him, "In an ideal world, would you rather run to the 1-tech side or the 3-tech side?"  Johnson responded with snide intonation: "It doesn't really matter.  We can beat them either way."  The main point of his talk was, "I don't give a f*** what the defense does.  I'm going to run the same play over and over again and beat you with it," and people just didn't get it.  He's not going to give you tips on how to beat the option.  He's not going to admit weakness.  He just.  Doesn't.  Care.

The same guy asked him about the pitch relationship between the quarterback and the A-back (a.k.a. the wing player who goes in motion behind the fullback) asking, "How far do you want the A-back to be from the quarterback for the pitch?"

Johnson just said, "Stuff like that sounds good.  If I could say four yards, it would sound really scientific.  But I don't know.  We tell our A-backs, 'When the quarterback turns upfield, you turn upfield.'"  When you're going full speed, it's impossible to tell four yards from three yards or five yards.  It's just a natural instinct that players feel once they've had enough repetitions.  I think it's lunacy when coaches try to turn football into a science, because athletes are moving too quickly to judge distances accurately.  You give them some basic principles, rep them over and over again, and then send them out and hope they do what they practiced.  Mike Leach and Paul Johnson have very uncomplicated offenses.  Iowa and Penn State have very uncomplicated defenses.  They get good at the few things they run, and then they just let their kids go out and play.

Even though Doug Marrone, Syracuse's head coach, was scheduled to speak on Saturday afternoon, we booked it after Johnson finished.  Marrone was going to talk about offensive line stuff, which both Danny Hope and Kirk Ferentz had discussed.  So we didn't really see the point.

It was a good weekend.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

James Rogers, #18

James Rogers breaks up a pass to Notre Dame's Michael Floyd.

2010 Countdown: #56 James Rogers

Coming out of high school in 2007 from Madison Heights, MI, Rogers was a mid-level recruit.  He was a 3-star player, the #68 athlete, and the #27 player in Michigan, according to Rivals.  Scout said he was a 4-star and the #17 safety in the country.  I guess Rivals made the better evaluation here, since Rogers bounced back and forth between cornerback and wide receiver all four years.  At no point did he play safety.

Rogers was a pretty dynamic offensive player in high school, so many assumed he would be a receiver.  But he first appeared as a cornerback and special teamer, burning his redshirt for a small slice of playing time as a freshman in 2007.  He ended the season with 6 tackles, 1 pass breakup, and 1 fumble recovery.  When Rodriguez showed up and needed an influx of receivers for 2008, Rogers moved to that side of the ball.  He started two games, making 3 receptions for 64 yards in addition to 2 special teams tackles.  Rogers stayed at receiver into 2009, but when attrition took its toll on the cornerback position, he found himself back on defense and special teams, making 7 total tackles.  A shortage of defensive backs continued and injuries mounted, which left Rogers on defense.  So in a somewhat surprising turn of events, the high school running back/wide receiver-turned-cornerback-turned-receiver-turned-cornerback became a 13-game starter as a senior.  He made 40 tackles, 3 interceptions (tied for the team lead), 3 pass breakups, and 2 tackles for loss throughout the year.

55 tackles, 4 pass breakups, 3 interceptions, 2 tackles for loss; 3 receptions, 64 yards


Rogers is a pretty good story.  He's the type of kid who stuck around for four years and never complained, even when it looked like he would never see the field.  If it weren't for the injury to Troy Woolfolk in the preseason, Rogers probably wouldn't have played much this past year, except for spot duty and special teams.  But he persevered and ended up as a 13-game starter.  I always wished Rogers could stay at wide receiver and stop bouncing around, because I thought he had the speed and hands to be a decent wideout.  But obviously he was needed at cornerback this past season, and he made an impact on that side of the ball.

Rogers was not invited to the NFL Combine but will likely work out at U of M's upcoming pro day.  He has excellent speed (witness his rundown of a Mississippi State running back in the Gator Bowl), but he's not very smooth in the hips, he's somewhat slow at diagnosing routes, and he's not a great tackler.  I would be very surprised if he plays football at the next level.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Nike Coach of the Year Clinic: Day 2

Tom Williams, Yale's head football coach

Friday morning we woke up and ate donuts at the clinic.  If you didn't know before, it's tough to be healthy when you're a football coach.  It was beer and pizza on Thursday, donuts on Friday.

The first session I attended was that of Sean Connors, the quarterbacks coach at Diablo Valley College in California.  Connors talked about the pistol offense and, more specifically, the option route.  DVC is a junior college with an explosive offense, and the offense is predicated on the option route.  If I remember correctly, he said that they run some form of the option route on 52% of their plays.

If you're wondering, the option route is a play where the slot receiver on either side makes a read at the beginning of his route, deciding whether to run an in route or an out route.  The slot receiver tries to get open at six yards (no matter which side he chooses).  The outside receiver on the slot's side must get an outside release and create a deep threat downfield, which hopefully takes the cornerback and/or safety out of the equation.  The deep route is obviously a lower percentage pass, but it often comes open because safeties jump the 6-yard route.  On the opposite side, the slot receiver and wideout run a "high-low stretch" in which one stays short and the other goes long.  It's not a difficult concept, but it seems like it could be effective with the right personnel.  As a junior college, DVC doesn't get many players who stick around very long, so Connors said that his players can learn it pretty quickly.  I'd say it's working, because I think they averaged 41.3 points per game last year.

The second presentation I attended was Tom Williams, the head coach of Yale.  Williams is not exactly what you might expect from an Ivy League head coach.  He's loud and boisterous and a little rough around the edges, but he was very entertaining.  I could see why players would want to play for him.  He grew up in Forth Worth, TX, and played for both Jack Elway and Bill Walsh at Stanford.  He ended up playing a little special teams in the NFL, but ended up coaching shortly thereafter.

Before Williams really started talking about himself, he gave us a history lesson on Yale football.  He said that Yale was the first college football team to reach 800 wins.  And then the conversation detoured into territory that's close to my heart.  He put up a chart of the teams with the most wins in college football.  It went like this:

1. Michigan - 883
2. Yale - 865

He said, "I kinda hoped Rich Rod would stick around a little bit longer.  He's a good guy, though.  But Brady Hoke is coming back and gonna bring some tough, hard-nosed, I-formation football."

I don't know if Williams has some sort of connection to Michigan, but the talk about the Wolverines didn't stop there.  As the head coach and assistant special teams coach, he talked about how he teaches players to avoid blocks on kickoffs.  And regarding avoiding blocks, he said, "Bo Schembechler used to say 'The issue is the ball.'  Too many guys spend too much time figuring out how to get past blockers.  'The issue is the ball.'"  He repeated that theme several more times.  Williams had several interesting drills and techniques to share, but I don't imagine too many of you are interested in reading about his kickoff drills.

He did, however, reveal the results of an interesting study.  When he was an assistant coach with the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars, he went back and studied film of all their games.  What he wanted to find out was, How important is tackling form?  He found a couple of interesting statistics:

  • 76% of encounters that involve a tackler making body-to-body contact (in other words, not "arm tackling" but actually having a collision between both torsos) result in tackles
  • 70% of encounters that fail to make body-to-body contact (in other words, "arm tackles") result in missed tackles
Williams had a lot of energy and had film of himself sprinting downfield with his charges on kickoff practice.  I thoroughly enjoyed his presentation.

Later, I attended the session by Mike McQueary, the wide receivers coach (and former quarterback) for Penn State.  He was five or ten minutes late because he went to the wrong Holiday Inn first.  Oops.  He shared some insights and film on running screens and draws, but nothing that groundbreaking.  I attended the Penn State coaches clinic in 2009 and saw some of the same information about wide receivers that he shared during the second half of his session, so I went to eat lunch instead.

The same afternoon I went to the session of Todd Bradford, who is the new defensive coordinator at Maryland under Randy Edsall.  Bradford came from Southern Mississippi this offseason, but he has quite a resume for a little known coordinator.  He spent time at Eastern Michigan (where his defense broke a bunch of team records) and Wisconsin (where he coached first rounder Jamar Fletcher), among others.  He runs something like a 4-3 Under defense, but it's extremely complicated.  Whereas Sean Connors, the QB coach at Diablo Valley College, used the K.I.S.S. principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid), Bradford's defense seemed to be extremely complicated.  I think it was partially due to his use of jargon, but several coaches that I talked to were confused by some of his terminology and schemes.  For example, he would use the phrase "Sam" and "Star" almost interchangeably, and it was unclear if it was something like Greg Robinson's Sam/Spur position. Eventually, I think I determined that the Star referred to the slot corner that would come into the game in passing situations, but I'm not positive.

Anyway, Bradford had a very interesting approach to defense.  He would have his boundary safety (the one to the short side of the field) making adjustment calls literally right up to the snap.  But the boundary safety doesn't communicate to the corners or linebackers - he talks to the defensive linemen.  Let's say the 3-tech defensive tackle has B-gap responsibility and the 5-tech defensive end has C-gap control.  If those defensive linemen take their first step and realize that the offensive linemen are trying to reach them (i.e. step outside the defenders to seal the edge), a certain call will tell the 3-tech and the 5-tech to take the gap to the inside so the boundary safety will then have outside contain.

In other words, pre-snap the safety could have A-gap, the DT could have B-gap, and the DE could have C-gap.  But if the safety sees something he doesn't like, he could make a signal for the DT to take A-gap, the DE to take B-gap, and then for himself to take that outside gap.  But it all hinges on those defensive linemen immediately reading the block in front of them.  

Like I said, it sounds extremely complicated.  Maybe that's one reason why Southern Mississippi finished with the #13 rushing defense in the country in 2010.

Yes, I know all kinds of people, and I'm not afraid to say it.

The final speaker of the evening was Kirk Ferentz, Iowa's head coach.  He was both the coach I was most looking forward to seeing . . . and the most disappointing speaker.  Maybe he's genuinely just a very friendly and engaging guy, but if he's not a "name dropper" then I don't know who is.  Don't get me wrong - it's a great quality that he can remember the name of a mother of one of his players back in 1988.  Names are difficult to remember, and it shows that he probably listens to people when they talk.  

But when you're sitting in front of a few hundred coaches in Podunk, Pennsylvania, and naming little known players and their mothers from Podunk, Iowa, or Podunk, New Hampshire, then it just seems a little forced.  

He did tell an excellent story about some woman's outstanding recipe for stuffed red bell peppers, so there's that.

Most of Ferentz's talk was about the offensive line, which is no surprise, since that's the position he's known for developing most.  He talked very little about technique, but showed a lot of film.  Much of the film was looking at drills, but there was a decent amount of game film, too.  Every time a clip of Iowa vs. Michigan would pop up on the screen, my co-workers would look at me consolingly.  We all knew that somebody was about to get crushed, and sure enough, there goes Adam Patterson being pushed from his nose tackle position about eight yards downfield and almost to the sideline.  There goes Jonas Mouton getting swallowed by a guard.  There goes the entire right side of the defense just getting obliterated.  It was sad.

Anyway, it's pretty amazing to hear him talk about where he finds his offensive linemen, because those kids are often virtual nobodies coming out of high school.  Michigan fans make a big deal about getting 4- and 5-star recruits, but Ferentz turned two walk-ons - from the same high school, no less! - and turned them into Big Ten starters on a solid team.  

Ferentz is also one of those guys who ends his talk about 18 times.  "I just want to finish with a couple things" turns into "Before I finish, I just want to say" turns into "There are a couple things I want to leave you with" turns into "And as a side note" turns into "Two things I'd like to share with you are" turns into me wanting to fall asleep.  I'm not sure if I would have stayed awake for the entire thing, except for the fact that I was wondering if he would mention anything about Michigan.

He didn't.

When he was finished, everyone - including Ferentz - went to a separate banquet room, sat around, and drank beer.  I sat nowhere near him, but he was there well past midnight.