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Capital One Bowl Preview

Sunday, December 30, 2007 by Tim

I wanted to watch some Florida games before writing a preview of their team, but I didn't have the opportunity here in Orlando. Specifically, I wanted to be able to see what Auburn did against the Gators both this year and last (this year: held them to 17 points, the only time they scored below 30; last year: hold them to 17 points, only team to defeat the Gators). Obviously, I'm of the opinion that if Michigan can hold Florida below 17 they can win this game. Instead, I'll have to give a more shallow preview, for which I'll apologize now.

Pretend like this isn't BC and Michigan State.

Florida starts and ends with Tim Tebow. The 2007 Heisman trophy winner rushed for 838 yards and 22 touchdowns, while passing for 3132 yards and 29 touchdowns. He is, like, good and stuff. Michigan will look to Shawn Crable to stuff Tebow's running, and the Michigan secondary to stop his passing. The Wolverines' secondary has turned into something of a strong point this year with two senior safeties in Brandent Englemon and Jamar Adams, along with a very good corner in Morgan Trent, and a developing freshman in Donovan Warren. The main question in defending the pass is the depth, as Florida will try to spread apart Michigan with 5-wide sets (which will also open up the scramble for Tebow). Brandon Harrison is an adequate nickel, and Stevie Brown will be a good safety someday. However, neither of these players is a world-beater. Quarterback pressure will play a key role in forcing Tebow to throw, rather than run (by containing him, something Michigan has done very poorly this year), and also by making him get rid of the ball more quickly than he wants to.

Percy Harvin is Florida's other key offensive weapon, and he is a fast one. Harvin was recruited as a wide receiver, but most of his offensive touches this year have been runs. However, he is still the Gators' second-leading receiver, to Andre Caldwell. The Florida O-line has still been incapable of coming up with a conventional running attack, but with Tebow and Harvin in the backfield, that is nearly irrelevant.

The Florida defense is where more of the vulnerability lies. 37 points ceded to Kentucky and 42 to Georgia are certainly signs that this isn't last year's Gator D. The pass efficiency defense, in particular, is a sore point for the Gators, ranking 63rd after last year's #4 unit. Losing sackmaster Jarvis Moss hurts, as does the entire secondary, most of whom (including big-hitting safety Reggie Nelson) are playing in the NFL. The problem for Michigan is quarterback play. Chad Henne hasn't been healthy all year, and Ryan Mallett clearly isn't ready to lead Michigan yet (and may be considering a transfer). The receivers are fairly reliable, with the occasional ball they shouldn't drop, and the protection has been slightly subpar this year as well.

The running game for Michigan may be a problem as well. The Wolverines struggle in 2007, especially towards the end of the year. The offensive line performance was pitiful against Ohio State, and if they don't get it together, this could be an ugly game. Mike Hart's high ankle sprain has had some time to heal, and his backups got some time this year, in case he is unable to compete at 100%.

The coaching will play a large role in this game as well, and herein lies the separation. Urban Meyer is one of America's elite coaches, and Lloyd Carr is on his way out, partially because he just can't do it anymore. Urban calls the plays for Florida, and he does a great job, with last year's National Title game as a prime example. Genius plays such as the Tebow Option Pass left the Buckeyes defense... er... defenseless, and Chris Leak was able to complete his first 8 passes, helping develop his confidence. Michigan's defensive braintrust has thus far been unable to stop a spread-option offense, and Rich Rodriguez has not worked with the Wolverines yet to help with this situation. Michigan's offensive playcalling is just bad, and Michigan fans probably won't be sad to see Mike DeBord leave after the Capital One Bowl.

In terms of intangibles, perhaps the most important factor is Michigan's coaching staff being in control of this game while on the way out. Will the team fire up to play for Lloyd's last game, or fold because their leaders are lame ducks? In addition, many on the coaching staff may be worried about their next stop, rather than this game, causing them to lose focus. Home field advantage will be strongly against Michigan (as it almost always is in the bowl season). At the Champs Sports Bowl, an usher told me he expects the crowd of 72,000 to be split 75-25 in favor of the Gators (note to Michigan fans attending the game: see this as an opportunity, not an excuse) (for the record, the Champs Sports Bowl was 60-40 in favor of State). The last intangible to take into consideration is the Curse of the Heisman. Like nearly all such curses, the COTH is likely a myth. However, there may be some truth to egos being inflated for players taking home the trophy. Troy Smith, Reggie Bush, and Jason White all lost their bowl games, though it's fair to say that Urban Meyer, Vince Young, and the USC Trojans had something to do with that.

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Jerret Smith Gone

Saturday, December 29, 2007 by Tim

Coach Beilein has dismissed Jerret Smith from the Michigan basketball team. This makes 3 players that have left the program since Beilein became coach. K'Len Morris and Kendric Price left for personal reasons.

Posting on football pending when I have time to sit down for a minute and do it.

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Michigan Commit Injured in Auto Accident

Tuesday, December 25, 2007 by Tim

Elliot Mealer's father and girlfriend were killed. Sad day. Thoughts and prayers to the Mealer family.

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Coach Rod on Mike Tirico Show

Friday, December 21, 2007 by Tim

Rich Rodriguez appeared on ESPN Radio's Mike Tirico Show this afternoon. Clip Here. Highlights here:

  • The biggest surprise to Rodriguez so far is the amount of money being poured into the football program soon, including the stadium renovations, new indoor facility, etc.
  • In the next month, Rodriguez will put his staff together (last week through this week), work on recruiting, and determine transition plan.
  • Difficult to fire all the old assistants. He is rehiring almost all of the support staff, and has rehired Fred Jackson, no word on whether any other UM assistants will be rehired. He cited loyalty to his WVU staffers as one reason to drag them around.
  • The staff is expected to be complete by January 7th.
  • The spread can be adapted to fit the offensive skill personnel. Shaun King, etc. have been Rodriguez system guys that have thrown a lot more. He has spoken to the Michigan receivers and quarterbacks about probably throwing it more than he has at WVU.
  • Coach Rod understands that the UM/OSU rivalry is a big deal. However, Michigan State and Notre Dame are big rivalries, and the winningest team in college football history is EVERYONE's biggest game. OSU is the most important each year, but for now, he is concerned about Michigan and Michigan only.
  • Lloyd Carr has been very supportive of Rodriguez since he took the job. He will get information about the players from coach Carr.
  • Capital One Bowl: Coach Rod will return to Ann Arbor next week, and has observed and evaluated the program and the players. He will attend the bowl game, but does not intend to be a big distraction to the team. No word on preparing his new team for the spread offense of the Gators.

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Jackson rehired, Stripling next?

by Tim

Angelique Chengelis reports was many had suspected previously: All the Michigan assistants were fired so that some could be rehired (rather than some being fired and some being retained). Fred Jackson has been rehired, though it is unclear what position he will actually coach for the Rodriguez Wolverines. There is also some suspicion that Steve Stripling will be rehired as well, in addition to one other assistant (as-yet unknown). This would corroborate original reports that 3 Michigan assistants were likely to be retained.

Jackson commits (per Rivals):
Sam McGuffie
Daryl Stonum

Stripling commits:
Rocko Khoury
Dan O'Neill

One must assume that current D-lineman commit Mike Martin has a relationship with Strip as well.

The third Michigan coach that is rumored to be retained could be:
Mike DeBord
Andy Moeller
Erik Campbell
Scot Loeffler
Ron English
Steve Szabo
Vance Bedford

Bedford is assumed to be gone, as is Moeller (a DUI will do that to you). DeBord is a possibility as OL coach, Campbell unlikely but not impossible, Loeffler possible, English a possibility but it is assumed he would move on (which I think is clearly not my choice), Szabo is assumed to retire or head back to the NFL. There is always, of course, the possibility that no others are retained.

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Me No Likey

by Tim

Recruiting isn't the only area affected by every single Michigan coach getting fired. Expect to see a lot of attrition from the current roster, too.

Debord: Who cares, he was so worth firing.
Moeller: Who really cares, he was so worth firing
Loeffler: I hope you didn't like that Mallett guy!
Jackson: McGuffie is gone
Campbell: Manningham and Arrington who? The NFL sure sounds fun!
English: Goodbye, Boubacar Cissoko, whatever chances Michigan had at Vaughn Telemaque and Herman Davidson.
Steve Szabo: Both New Jersey linebackers, probably reduced (the already slim) chances of landing Brandon Smith.
Steve Stripling: Maybe Terrance Taylor leaves early, Mike Martin might be gone, Jr. Will Campbell might be gone.

I'm not sure who was recruiting whom in terms of non-position recruiters, but there may be some fallout in that respect as well. There could be some unexpected other players leaving the team, as well.

Welcome to New West Virginia, where loyalty from the head coach means you keep your job... uh oh, I've heard this one before. If Rodriguez was going out to hire the best assistants available, rather than bringing along almost all of his staff (and the dreaded 3-3-5 defense), it would be a little more acceptable.

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Chengelis: No assistants will be retained

Thursday, December 20, 2007 by Tim

Although it was expected that 2-4 current Michigan assistants would be on the staff of new head coach Rich Rodriguez, Detroit News writer Angelique Chengelis reports that none of the current assistants will be retained.

This is surprising, and upsetting because the assistant continuity was expected to help maintain the current recruiting class.

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Might Rodriguez Dump all UM Assistants?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007 by Tim

Angelique Chengelis thinks he just may do that.

She also thinks Loeffler may be a candidate for CMU's head coaching job if Butch Jones is hired by West Virginia. This would be surprising, as CMU sucked when Loeffler was on the coaching staff (much of the blame for which likely rests up on Mike DeBord), and he has never even been a coordinator.

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Rodriguez's Potential Staff

Tuesday, December 18, 2007 by Tim

With Rodriguez's bringing OC/Running Backs Coach Calvin Magee and DB Coach/Recruiting Coordinator Tony Gibson to the introductory press conference, it can be assumed that those two are near-mortal locks to be on the new Michigan staff. The Charleston Daily Mail provides additional information:
The source said Rodriguez is also interested in retaining defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Jeff Casteel, safeties coach Bruce Tall, associate head coach/special teams coordinator/tight ends coach Bill Stewart and strength and conditioning coordinator Mike Barwis.
This leaves open the Quarterbacks Coach, the Wide Receivers Coach, the Offensive Line Coach, and the Defensive Line Coach. However, other shuffling may take place. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Rodriguez may want to relieve Gibson of head recruiter duties:
[Rodriguez asked West Virginia to] Hire seven graduate assistants and a new recruiting coordinator, to ease the duties performed by secondary coach Tony Gibson.
Most of the holes in the staff are likely to be filled by members of Michigan's current coaching corps. A guess at the staff would look like to following:
  • Head Coach Rich Rodriguez
  • Offensive Coordinator/Running Backs Calvin Magee
  • Quarterbacks Coach Scot Loeffler
  • Wide Receivers Coach Erik Campbell
  • Offensive Line Coach
  • Tight Ends Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Bill Stewart
  • Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Jeff Casteel
  • Defensive Backs Coach Tony Gibson
  • Safeties Coach Bruce Tall
  • Defensive Line Coach Steve Stripling
  • Strength and Conditioning Coach Mike Barwis
  • Recruiting Coordinator Mike Singletary
As of now, it appears as though Ron English will be out, as well as Fred Jackson. Of course, this is just a guess at the staff (and it will need to be whittled down further, as only 9 assistant coaches are permitted by NCAA rules). The only as-yet-unfilled post is Offensive Line Coach. I would love to see someone like former WVU assistant and current Florida State O-Line/Assistant Head Coach Rick Trickett. He is one of the best in the business at that position, but it is likely that he will be looking for promotion to coordinator or head coaching duties elsewhere.

Points of disappointment? The retention of Defensive Coordinator Jeff Casteel. While West Virginia was 4th in the nation in total defense, the caliber and style of offenses in the Big Ten is a far cry from the likes of the BIG EAST. It would have been superior to pull for a big name outside of either program to fill the role. However, it is likely that Casteel can adapt, and his defenses play an aggressive, attractive style.

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Rich Rodriguez Press Conference notes

Monday, December 17, 2007 by Tim

Staff
Coach Rod brought to WVU assistants along with him for the press conference. Expect Offensive Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach Calvin Magee and Secondary Coach/Recruiting Coordinator Tony Gibson to join the Michigan coaching staff. Conventional wisdom suggests that Rodriguez will also want to bring his (stellar) Strength and Conditioning Coordinator, Mike Barwis as well. The comments he made regarding summer conditioning, which implied a change in culture, certainly would give credence to this belief. He doesn't have the entire staff in mind, but he will interview several UM assistants.

Team Intensity
"I don't want our team to expect to win, I want them to deserve to win" He noted that offseason workouts will be "unpleasant."

Offense
Rodriguez was asked several questions, and his responses were somewhat enlightening.
He said the staff would "do what we've done" offensively. However, he made note that this meant over the past 17 years, not just that past 7.
Rodriguez lamented the misinformation that has been perpetuated about his offensive schemes. He responded with the following points.

  • The scheme is not restricted to being a running offense. With the personnel they have now, that is the smartest choice.
  • The scheme aand gameplan are adapted to the offensive skill players that he has.
  • With great throwers and great receivers, it could be expected that they'd throw 55-60% of the time (as they did at Glenville State and Tulane (with Shaun King)).
  • With great runners like Pat White and Rasheed Marshall, the offense can be a running option.
  • The spread is a varied offense, and it's not a "seen one, seen 'em all" system.
Defense
The "Odd Stack" (known 'round these parts as the 3-3-5) that he ran at West Virginia this year was 4th in the nation in total defense. He plans to run something similar, but not the same at Michigan.
Editorial Notes: Seeing as how Ron English loves the system, I wouldn't be surprised to see him as one of the assistants sticking around with Rodriguez. However, I have concerns that the Big Ten requires some 4-3 or 3-4 defenses, with teams running more I-form and Twin-TE sets than Big East teams do.

The Coaching Search
Thanks Mike Wilcox, Mike Brown, BM, & MSC for making this deal happen. He doesn't care if he was the third choice. He may have been his wife's third choice as well, but in the end, he ended up with her.

Bowl Games
Rodriguez will not coach West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl, because he will worry about Michigan and their bowl game. Bill Martin and MS Coleman offered to let Coach Rod coach the Capital One Bowl, but he chose not to out of respect for Coach Carr, and because some of the assistants he would want to coach with him will be unavailable. He will, however, talk to Coach Carr about being involved with the bowl preparations.

Job-Hopping
He plans to, and will tell his assistants to "take the job as if it's the last job you'll ever have." Michigan is a "special opportunity that doesn't happen very often." He also claimed it would be his last job: "I will plan to retire here."

Recruiting
The dead period started today. He is not allowed any on-campus or in-home contact with recruits, and is only allowed one phone call per week. He contacted some committed and uncommitted recruits yesterday, and may try to recruit a few guys they were thinking about taking at West Virginia.

Michigan/O-State Rivalry
Some guys were heckling him with that dumb "O-H" thing as he got on the plane yesterday. He understands that it's one of the greatest rivalries in college football. However, Michigan has two other rivals (Notre Dame and Michigan State) to worry about, and every team that plays Michigan thinks of them as a one-sided rival.

Paul will probably have some stuff from the PC up later today.

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Recruiting Update

Sunday, December 16, 2007 by Tim

With a new coach in place, we can start to think about recruiting once more. First off, it's uncommitted players like Terrelle Pryor, Scout's #1 Quarterback. Pryor had considered Michigan, then dropped them, leaving him with West Virginia still on his short list. With Rodriguez now in Ann Arbor, you can bet on Pryor considering Michigan once more. Other players who have been considering both Michigan and West Virginia include Shayne Hale and Cameron Saddler, who may be reconsidering his commitment to Pitt, and instater Nick Perry, with whom it is rumored the Maize-and-Blue had recently begun to slip with.

There is also the softly-committed to West Virginia offensive guard, (#1 at his position in the country), Josh Jenkins. When Jenkins moved back from his solid verbal, two of the other teams he had been considering were Michigan and Ohio State. With Rodriguez jumping from one of his favorites to another, Jenkins is a very solid possibility for Michigan.

Of course, there are likely to be some casualties. The first is Tuscola, IL quarterback John Weinke. The uncertainty in Ann Arbor, coupled with the commitment of Steven Threet to the previous class, gave Weinke pause, and he pledged his verbal to not-Michigan Coach Kirk Ferentz of the Iowa Hawkeyes. Who else might leave? Probably some of the lesser-rated recruits will have their offers reconsidered (i.e. Longsnapper George Morales), including an O-lineman if Jenkins begins to favor Michigan.

Expect more updates in the near future, as current commits will either reaffirm their commitment to the new headman, or decommit from Michigan. Of course, which assistants stay will have an effect on this as well.

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Rodriguez to Michigan?

by Tim

The current word on the street? Rich Rodriguez is your man. This changes a lot of things for Michigan.

Remember the fear of the spread? Gone.

Remember Terelle Pryor, top quarterback recruit? No longer gone($).




Names like Jim Grobe and Kirk Ferentz sound very weak in comparison now. All those who have criticized Bill MArtin should offer an apology. Let me clarify. Saying "Bill Martin should have hired Les Miles when he had the chance" is acceptable. Saying "Bill Martin is the worst AD ever because even though he hired John Beilein and kept Rich Maloney and had turned around the Athletic Department's budget for the positive and got the stadium renovation through, he likes to sail" is not acceptable.

Ann Arbor Torch & Pitchfork stockholders, sell now.

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What is going on?

Saturday, December 15, 2007 by Tim

Just a couple days after Jim Grobe was considered the "hot candidate," Rich Rodriguez of West Virginia was thrust into the spotlight.

During the day yesterday, Rodriguez apparently met with Bill Martin and Mary Sue Coleman in Toledo, and many people figured he would become the next Wolverines head coach. Today, however, the talk has subsided. It now seems as thuogh Rodriguez will remain at WVU.

Where does Michigan turn next?

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Learn me on Jim Grobe

Thursday, December 13, 2007 by Tim

Who is Jim Grobe? Besides the latest Michigan candidate du jour, Grobe is the current coach of Wake Forest.

Grobe has coached the Demon Deacons since 2001, going 45-31 at the second-worst football school in the ACC. This includes a 2006 season in which Wake went 11-3, winning the conference title. Midwest ties? Grobe's got 'em, having served as coach of the Ohio Bobcats from 1995-2000.

Biggest drawbacks on Grobe?
  1. Age. Grobe is 55. This is only 1 year older than Les Miles, but Miles's age is easier to overlook with his superior coaching record.
  2. Grobe recently signed a ten-year extension at Wake Forest, and turned down the Arkansas job, leading many to believe that he is not keen on leaving Winston-Salem.
  3. Grobe is low-key, and many consider him a newer version of Lloyd Carr.
And the positives? His defenses have always played well, and he is a good enough coach to go 11-3. At Wake Forest. No, seriously. Wake Forest. Considering his age and demeanor as another Lloyd, if Grobe were to get the job, one must assume that it would be as some sort of transition-like period, and Grobe would coach for 5-8 years before retiring.

Better than DeBord? YES YES A THOUSAND TIMES YES

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Has Ron English Underachieved?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007 by Paul

This quote from the comments of the last post kind of got me thinking:

ramosa Says:

simply put, you don't promote people who underachieve. english has underachieved as the defensive coordinator, so he should NOT be promoted to head coach. the same goes for debord, who underachieved as the offensive coordinator. UM needs change.

Michigan has lost six games in two years with English as its coordinator. Those two years featured very different challenges in creating defensive schemes.

In the first year, it was all about letting his talented players make plays. Everyone who had watched the fairly complicated system Hermann used was amazed at how fast and loose all the defenders played when they were able to just play aggressively. In his second year, I felt it was all about covering up weaknesses, namely the linebackers. With both of these challenges, it seems as though Ron English has achieved, but numbers work better than feelings.

2006
OpponentScore
Ohio State42-39
USC32-18

In both of these contests, the defense gave up over 30 points, but as Tim pointed out, these teams were able to exploit the one weakness the badass defense of 2006 had. Going out on a limb, but for part of the 2007 season, the secondary was better than any time in 2006. After Leon Hall there was no one, and Adams and Englemon really stepped up this year. There is no way that Michigan could cover 4-5 receivers with at least 3 quality defenders. Most of the time, the pass rush stopped this issue before it started, but Troy Smith being the Michigan Destroying Robo-QB he is, could run around and toss darts while being harassed, and USC's offensive line played a hell of a game protecting John Booty (why do only a few players get to go by three names? I'd have liked to hear Leon Lastarza Hall). This isn't a scheme issue, but rather an"our rock their paper" sort of issue.

Michigan also dominated average to above average offenses in Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Michigan State. I find it hard to say based on the 2006 season that Michigan's defense underachieved.

2007
OpponentScore
App. State34-32
Oregon39-7
Wisconsin37-21
Ohio St.14-3


First of all, the defense in 2007 was supposed to be merely an afterthought to the OMFG juggernaut offense that will score 75 points each game!!! A great defense from last year lost all of its impact players including one (Branch) once in a lifetime type of player. Michigan surely just needed an adequate defense in order to run the table...

So... the Horror. Michigan's defense sucked in the first half. Johnny Sears and Stevie Brown combined to smoke a bowl of suck in the first half. The defense allowed 28 points and looked like it might allow 50. Then, English realized that what was out there wasn't working, changed things up, and only allowed six points the entire second half. If people are worried about in-game adjustments, English has to be considered a pro. The defense didn't lose this game for the Wolverines. If KC Lopata was the kicker or Shaun Crable understood such complex principles as "blocking," this discussion wouldn't be happening.

Next... Oregon. Ugly, Ugly, Ugly game. The defense was completely outclassed and Oregon could have easily put up more points. Two important points though: the defense was out on the field for most of the game; also, who stopped the Dixon-led Oregon offense? USC couldn't do it and they have more NFL-caliber players than the Miami Dolphins. The lowest UO point total with Dixon was 24 (a mere 17 points north of what the Michigan offense put up). Oregon was simply the better team, and the only way a Michigan coach could have schemed a way to win that game was to go the Tonya Harding route.

On (to)... Wisconsin. This game is proof why a playoff system would kill college football. The result technically didn't matter for Michigan's future as a win over THE OSU state University of Ohio would get them to the Rose Bowl and a loss would cause all Michigan fans to simultaneously go crazy. It seemed that for the entire game, the dogs were called off. People were playing not to get hurt and to save themselves for the big dance. From what little I know about Ron English, I doubt this strategy came from him. Throw in Tyler Donovan playing the best game of his life and the fact it was at home so that Official Wisconsin RB On Probation could play, and it was a recipe for a let down.

Finally... Ohio State, again. I'm not really sure what more people could have wanted the defense to do. They were on the field almost the entire game and still held a potent Ohio St. offense to 14 points, and only one really good drive. If the offense could have done anything, ANYTHING, this game most likely would have gone the other way.

In 2007 it was supposed to be all about the offense. It seemed, more often than not, it was the defense who were the unlikely heroes of games. Ron English deserves a lot of credit for this. He took a defense with a mediocre line (Crable undisciplined, BGraham not very effective against the run, Will Johnson disappointing) and horrible linebackers and made it work to an incredible extent. They gave up a lot of points, but with the fumbled snaps, fumbles by every running back not named Mike Hart, Evil Henne interceptions and Mallet forcing throws, it's almost surprising they didn't give up more.

I guess people could say "English can prove himself in the bowl game!" I know Hercules completed his tasks, but that shouldn't be the standard you hold everyone by. Tim Tebow and the Florida offense are very good. They will score points. Auburn (designated spread option stopper) held them to 17 and next after that is Georgia who held them to 30. Both of those defenses have better personnel than Michigan. If Michigan is going to win, it's going to have to be the offense. Hopefully DeBoard isn't auditioning.

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More defending Ron English

Tuesday, December 11, 2007 by Tim

After my post last week, I don't think very many people were convinced that Ron English will be a great head coach. Despite possessing many of the qualities that a head coach needs (recruiting, aggressive, media savvy, and dare I say it?: black), while lacking many a coordinator must (X and O proficiency, talent development), people disagreed. A fair amount of them have cited the fact that they believe English is more of a "friend" rather than someone who will "enforce" his players.

My anecdotal evidence to the contrary is as follows:
As many of you know (though some may not), I am the general manager of the University of Michigan student television station, WOLV-TV, as well as the producer of the football show, aptly named "Varsity Blue." This places me in the unique position of not being an actual member of the mainstream media, while still having some of the privileges of said group. (For the record, I consider Daily writers to be actual MSM members).

Last year was the Year of Infinite Lack of Pain Prior to November 18. During the YILPPN18, I traveled to three Michigan away games (Notre Dame - which I still consider one of the best days of my life, Penn State, and Ohio State - which I did not attend as a media member). This story takes place on October 14, 2006 in State College, Pennsylvania. My companions on the Penn State trip were Paul, VB "writer," and Danny, my current roommate. Since both of these gentlemen are inadequate at filming from the field, I was entrusted (by myself) to take care of these duties.

At halftime, Michigan clung to a 10-3 lead. Despite the fact that Michigan's defense had held Penn State to a single field goal, defensive coordinator Ron English was far from pleased. On Penn State's lone scoring drive, they traveled from their own 14 yard line to Michigan's 5. On my trip from the (cold) field to the (warm) press box, I had to take an elevator. This is primarily due to the "erector set" nature of Beaver Stadium.

On the trip from the field to the elevator, I walked into a ground-level tunnel (shut off from access to the public), and through the underbelly of Beaver Stadium, towards a shaft that was surrounded by nothing but struts and supports. Nothing, that is, except a press room.

Apparently, Penn State's visitor locker room is lacking in meeting areas, because the press room was being used by Michigan for a defensive meeting. The door was cracked, and as I walked by, a coach or grad assistant, was lecturing the team, in near monotone, on what they needed to improve. Upon completion of his speech, he ceded the door to an as-yet-not-present Ron English. The instant Random Coach #1 was finished, Ron English burst into the room.

"All right you stupid motherfuckers, listen up," was the way Coach E started his halftime speech. RC#1 realized the door was still open at this time, and saw that I was outside, enthralled by what I was witnessing. Unfortunately, my education was far less important than the integrity of The Fort, but the point was made.

I almost never consider myself an insider, but in this particular subject I do. People who only see Ron English interact with his player in the public forum are missing out. They may think he tries to play the soft "friend" role, but that isn't necessarily the case: when he needs to, English can be intense not only to his opponents, but to his own players as well. English is a motivator at heart.

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Big Ten to allow play after Thanksgiving

Monday, December 10, 2007 by Tim

Though Lloyd Carr was always in favor of a bye week during the season, he also found it important that players be able to spend Thanksgiving with their families.

He is going to be 1 for 2 next year.

The Big Ten will allow for teams to play after Thanksgiving in 2008, which will provide them the opportunity to have a bye week during the season. Michigan's 2008 season will already have a bye week on Sept. 20 without having to extend past Thanksgiving.

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Hockey?

by Tim

Highlight.

I'm posting like it's my job today.

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Coaching Search a Time to be Proud of Michigan Fans

by Tim

Arrogant. Detached. Dispassionate. Michigan fans.

Fans of other schools have always criticized Wolverines for simply not caring as much as they should. With the largest stadium in the nation, Michigan should have the largest home-field advantage. Instead, the fans sit on their hands, dropping Michigan below (at least) Ohio State and Penn State in its own conference. Despite Lloyd Carr’s recent struggles, there was little public clamoring for his head (regardless of what national media like to assume was happening, and decide to state as fact). All points to a Michigan fanbase that is exactly as its detractors claim: They just don’t care.

However, 2007 changed everything. Lloyd Carr’s Wolverines lost their season opener. Again, Michigan would be removed from national title consideration by the end of September. Oh yeah, that loss came to 1-AA Appalachian State. Carr, previously invincible because of his national championship pedigree, started to hear some calling for his resignation. A blowout loss to the Oregon Ducks only heard the calls intensify.

Were Michigan fans actually showing some passion for their school?

Fast forward to November 19th. Two days after his fourth consecutive loss to Jim Tressel, Lloyd Carr announced his retirement. He was heaped with praise for all that he did for Michigan, while fans acknowledged that it was time for him to move on.

When it became clear that Les Miles may be interested in the Michigan job (no, not in 2001, but when it actually became available), fans knew who they wanted to lead the Wolverines back to perennial Big Ten titles and National Championship game appearances: the man in Baton Rouge. After two weeks of posturing, it appeared inevitable that Miles would rule Bo Schembechler’s kingdom.

Then it all fell apart. Following ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstriet’s assertion that Miles would accept the job, the LSU coach held an impromptu press conference prior to the SEC title game to announce that “I'm the head coach at LSU. I will be the head coach at LSU. I have no interest in talking to anybody else.” Michigan fans, long criticized for their disinterest did something novel: they flipped the fuck out.
Fans called for the head of Bill Martin, and demanded that Lloyd Carr step away from the coaching search. They organized marches against Martin, and even started an online petition in favor of Miles, where more than 1000 people have pledged more than 100,000 total dollars if Miles is the next coach at Michigan.

While there have been some ad hominem attacks of Carr Martin, and even Miles, the Michigan fan base if finally showing a passion for Wolverines football. Without going batshit insane like Arkansas fans, the maize and blue clad supporters have shown they really care. Now it’s time to prove that on game day as well.

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More Important Things than Coaching Search

by Tim

Jake Long Guitar Hero.

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The Case for English

Thursday, December 06, 2007 by Tim

No, I haven't gone crazy. Is Ron English a better candidate than Les Miles? No. Is he a better candidate than Greg Schiano? No. But English is not the catastrophic, absolute disaster candidate that many in the world of Michigan sports seem to believe.
The first criticism of Ron English leveled by most detractors is that he is not a great X and O defensive coordinator. Examples like OSU 2006, USC 2007, and App State 2007 are cited. Taking any of these into account, the talent that Michigan had at its disposal is certainly relevant. Ohio State and USC spread Michigan out, and without enough defensive backs to cover the elite athletes, there was little that "scheming defensively" could do.

Especially against Ohio State, the defensive coordinator can hardly be blamed. Jim Tressel coached a hell of a game, including a play-action bom on second and very short that everyone in the stadium except Ryan Mundy saw coming. Also, the Buckeyes scored on two long touchdown runs during which Antonio Pittman and Beanie Wells each broke tackles (poor technique, not the fault of the coordinator) at most levels of the defense to reach the grass that was painted red. While on some plays, Michigan had linebackers covering slot receivers, the Wolverines had very little adequate personnel at their disposal (and in a zone this shouldn't matter as much), leaving English in poor position to make something happen.

Against Appalachian State, players on both sides of the line admitted that Michigan was not ready to play against the reigning 1-AA champs. The Wolverines were destroyed by App State through the air. Part of this was personnel selection (Stevie Brown at FS and Johnny Sears at CB), which can be blamed on the DC, but the general attitude of blowing off a lower-division opponent to focus on later teams rests on the headman.

Another criticism leveled by detractors of English is the fact that he does not make adjustments for the second half of games. This is obviously untrue, as opponents have scored far more points on English defenses before the break. In 2007, 148 points were scored by Michigan opponents in the first half, as opposed to 97 in the second (60.1% scored in first half). In 2006, 95 ponts (46.3%) were scored by opponents in the first half, but this includes meaningless scores by many teams that already had no chance to win the game (nearly all except Vandy (scoreless in 2nd half), IU (scoreless in second half), Ohio State and USC (Ohio State scored 2/3 their points in the first half, and USC appears to be the only time English's adjustments were legitimately without reward). While a case may be made for English's defenses ceding more points than they should, halftime adjustments are not a huge issue.

The anti-English crusaders may state that, adjustments or not, English's defenses have given up too many points. However, while X and O proficiency may be part of the criteria, they aren't the most important criterion.

A head coach must surround himself with good assistants. While it is obviously too soon to know if English would do this, one must assume that, given the current sentiment among UM fans, he at least would not hold on to DeBord (huge improvement in one fell swoop!). It is unclear what other changes he might make.

The philosophy of the head coach, rather than his specific schemes, are the crux of his coaching identity. Ron English defenses, in both 2006 and 2007, have been aggressive. If there is one thing that Michigan fans have consistently complained about in the post-Woodson Carr era, it is a lack of aggression, both offensively and defensively. English would obviously continue to embrace an aggressive defensive philosophy, and it may be reasonably inferred that this would translate to his decisions on the offensive side of the ball as well.

The head coach must be a good recruiter. If nothing else, this is what has been English's calling card during his time as a coach of the Michigan Wolverines. Such players as Jonas Mouton, Boubacar Cissoko (as-yet unsigned), Donovan Warren, and Michael Williams were all recruited by English. All of these players garnered five stars from at least one recruiting service. Recruiting, perhaps the most important duty of the head coach, would not be a worry if English were named head coach.

The other key area in which head coaches are expected to excel is media relations. While English has limited experience, and in that experience he has often been coy, Lloyd Carr is a prime example of a head coach getting by without being cordial to the media. If anything, English would be a step up from Lloyd, and probably a significant one.

Am I advocating Ron English as head coach? If all the better prospects fall through, maybe I am. However, he is clearly a fall-back choice, if candidates such as Les Miles and Greg Schiano continue to rebuff the courting of Bill Martin. However, as fall-back choices go, Ron English is certainly not the catastrophe that many would like to believe.

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Has the Miles door finally closed?

by Tim

According to Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate, Les Miles's contract has been approved by a committee from the LSU board of supervisors. The full board is expected to approve said contract tomorrow.

However, Detroit Free Press columnist Drew Sharp reported on 1270 WXYT this afternoon that Martin, Carr and Miles will all be in Orlando tonight for the Outland Trophy ceremony, for which Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long and LSU DT Glenn Dorsey are both nominated. According to Sharp, it is expected that the two UM representatives will meet with Miles. Last night, Glenn Dorsey, one of Miles's players, took home the Rotary Lombardi Award in Houston. Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long was also a finalist. Reportedly, Carr was in attendance, while Miles and Martin were not.

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Tone down the anti-Martin venom

Wednesday, December 05, 2007 by Tim

I echo the sentiments of MZone today, down to the reverence for MGoBlog.

Bill Martin did what he promised he'd do. Did Skip Bertmann play him like a drum? Yes, but I doubt Martin has a secret plot to sabotage Les Miles's candidacy for the job.

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The Miles Situation

Tuesday, December 04, 2007 by Adam

By now you've heard and read everything about what happened over the weekend with Les Miles. He's not coming to Michigan and before I close the book on him and open it up to other candidates, I just want to say one thing:

Les Miles was the wrong coach for this job.

First off after the SEC title game on Saturday, Miles was of course asked about Michigan and he professed his love for the school and its football program. However, he made a remark at the end of his press conference along the lines of they will eventually beat Ohio State.

If I'm Mike Hart, I take more offense to that comment than he did to the comments Jim Harbaugh made in the preseason. This was a poke at Lloyd Carr, who as has also been reported does not have a great relationship with Miles. Hart has always been the first one to defend Carr and rightfully so. I'm a little surprised that this hasn't been blown up a little bigger. Michigan probably was holding out hope that it could still get Miles and wanted to keep quiet. Either way, what's done is done and we move on.

Michigan next coach should be...Brady Hoke. I know that you all think this is crazy, but tell me this. Where did Urban Meyer coach before coming to Gainesville? What about Jim Tressel? Michigan needs a guy who is ambitious and wants to prove that he belongs on the national stage. It makes no sense to go after a guy like Gary Pinkel or Kirk Ferentz. While both have had some success, they've been inconsistent and struggled to win with similar resources that Michigan has. Brady Hoke has never had the resources that Michigan would offer. This year Ball State went 5-2 in the MAC and lost to Nebraska by one in Lincoln. We all remember the game they gave Michigan last year. He was also an assistant under Lloyd Carr for eight years before going to Ball State.

Michigan has to take a risk with its next football coach. No matter who its going to be it will be a risk because we are so used to the consistency of the program since Bo got here and there is no legitimate candidate who can assure Michigan football will maintain that level of consistency. Why not offer a guy a chance to win on the biggest stage? Ferentz and Pinkell have already proven they cannot do this consistently, so they would be an even bigger risk.

WOLV Poll

Monday, December 03, 2007 by Tim

Blah.

1. Ohio State 4
2. Oklahoma 2
3. LSU
4. Georgia
5. USC
6. VT
7. Mizzou
8. Kansas
9. Hawaii
10. Florida

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Varsity Blue Top Ten

by Tim

1. Ohio State (4)
2. Oklahoma (2)
3. LSU
4. Georgia
5. USC
6. VT
7. Mizzou
8. Kansas
9. Hawaii
10. Florida

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Michigan Capital One Bowl Bound

Sunday, December 02, 2007 by Tim


Illinois will face off against USC in the Rose Bowl, meaning that Michigan will be in the Capital One Bowl, typically reserved for the #2 team in the Big Ten (this year, it will be the #3 team, as the conference has two BCS teams). The Wolverines will face off against the Gators of Florida, likely giving Ron English one last chance to stop a spread offense.

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Bowl Update

by Tim

Did things turn out for Michigan to get into the Capital One Bowl? Probably not, as too many teams won that Illinois needed to have lose to make it into the BCS situation.

Conference champ auto-bids go to:
OSU
LSU
USC
OU
WVU
VT

BCS Ranking auto-bids will (likely, until the official rankings come out):
UGA
Hawaii

Leaving two spots open. Kansas or Missouri will probably get one spot, and ASU and Illinois will fight for the final BCS bid.

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The Aftermath

by Tim

What a day.

The take-home point from the Les Miles debacle is not "LSU offered more money, so Les is going there." Sure, that may be true, but something much more important happened. A completely unexpected turn of events notwithstanding, Les Miles will not be coming to Michigan. Not next year, not ever. Miles knows this. By treating Michigan the way he did, he officially torched any remaining bridge he had to Michigan.

The most interesting part of this, is that Miles has made no secret of his desire to end up as the head coach at Bo's school eventually. It's been his goal ever since he played under Schembechler. So maybe Miles doesn't love Michigan as much as he says, or maybe he really does just value money more than the loyalty he's been preaching about since his days at Oklahoma State.

If Les Miles loved Michigan as much as he says he does, he still might not be the next Wolverines head coach. What he did, however, was prevent himself from ever being the coach here. Enjoy your $35 Million, Les.

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And it all comes crashing down...

Saturday, December 01, 2007 by Tim

Jim Carty reports that Les Miles has reached a deal with LSU for a contract extension, keeping him in Baton Rouge. No further details on who will be the next Michigan coach.

http://blog.mlive.com/annarbornews/2007/12/les_miles_to_stay_at_louisiana.html

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