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Varsity Blue

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Regional Action: Part 1

Saturday, May 31, 2008 by Paul

Like a crazy amount of other people on Friday, I went down to Ray Fisher Stadium despite the ominous forecast and sky. Walking down State street it almost felt like a football game (except it being at night and the crowd skewing older). Tons of people were making the trek down State for the game.

I got to the ticket window by 6:45 and it looked as though they'd been selling only standing room only tickets for a while. Luckily, standing room only basically meant general admission outside the grand stand. I had a camera (pictures up probably Sunday or Monday), so I figured I'd find a nice spot on the rail. Before the starting line-ups were done, the rail was full up both baselines. Two people deep at some places. Most of the bleachers were filling up too.

By the time the game started, the place was packed. The spot I found was along the 3rd baseline by the Yost entrance. It also seemed to be where the Athletic Department big wigs were handing out. Bill Martin was standing in the crowd looking as happy as I've ever seen him, soaking in the environment. The alumni band was in the stands led by a very energetic sousaphonist. The crowd was totally ready to go. It felt like a big league game, or at least double A.

Putnam got the start and had a shaky start. Gave up early hits and a cheap run in the second with only one out. He looked nervous. His pitches were either balls or line drives. So with one out and runners on the corners, he trying to pick off the man on first. He does this two or three times. Then he fakes the pick-off throw to first and guns it over to third and catches the runner in a pickle. That really seemed to get him going. He struck out the batter and then was lights out the rest of the night.

The bottom of the second started with Putnam up to bat. It seemed all the confidence he got at the end of the last side came from UK's starter, Rusin. Putnam got walked on four pitches. Got over to third on a hit and run and scored on an RBI single. The Wolverines scored four more runs that inning. Luckily my friend who played baseball and understands the strategy was there to explain what was happening to me. The conclusion, Maloney has balls that Les Miles would envy. In the second inning, Maloney called two hit and runs and a suicide squeeze. Both the hit and runs advanced the runner from first to third and the squeeze scored one. Rusin was pulled before he got the second out that inning.

Michigan looked like it was cruising and Putnam was dealing, but then the lightning started and they suspended the game. I didn't make to the Fish for the game this morning, but I'll be heading back tonight at 7pm for the game against Arizona. Hopefully the Fish will be just as packed and ready to go as it was last night.

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Uhh... Programming Update?

Friday, May 30, 2008 by Paul

Tim was supposed to come back stateside today around five. Unfortunately, during one of the last night of his stay in Australia, Tim fell from his hotel room (roughly 3-4 stories up). Luckily, an awning broke his fall and Tim is still alive and well. He suffered a back injury, but still has full mobility. I haven't called him yet (the combination of the time change and when I found out about this made it awkward), but what I've heard is that he could be released from the hospital in a day or two.

Needless to say I'm relieved this didn't end as badly as it could have. I heard a partial story earlier today and didn't get the details and (relatively) good news until late tonight.

Until Tim gets back to prime blogging form, you'll have to put up with updates from your's truly. Varsity Blue is truly Tim's blog, and I cannot hope to cover recruiting in the detail he does. Luckily, there is a baseball regional going on this weekend, and my girlfriend is letting me go to it. Hopefully I can snag a good digital camera and have a nice photo album and reactions from the first regional game tomorrow.

Tim's regular updates will resume whenever he is able to. If you want to send your thoughts or well wishes, his e-mail address is in the menu to the right or you can click here

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State of Michigan Football, Pt. 4

Thursday, May 29, 2008 by Tim

"State of" in the sense that Michigan is a state, and in the sense of a condition of being. Part 4: How can the high school game be improved?

Keep Funding, Baby
Nothing will flourish if it isn't given the proper resources, and if you throw enough money into something, it can often succeed despite its best efforts not to (except the Yankees - ZING!). Those who can should continue supporting the football programs around the state, especially those that aren't in position to help themselves. More funding leads to better equipment and coaching, which inevitably leads to better quality athletes coming out.

Abolish Bad MHSAA Rules
This is one area that really holds the state's football talent back. There are three specific MHSAA rules that I think are crap, and should be eliminated.
  1. MHSAA schools are not allowed to travel more than 300 miles for a game, nor are their opponents (there are some nuances, such as they can play anywhere in an adjacent state). This is apparently designed to prevent money from being thrown away for mere high school football games, and to relieve potential stress on high school athletes due to traveling. However, it prevents Michigan teams from playing the best teams in the country (unless they are from Ohio, Indiana, or Wisconsin), decreasing the exposure of the high school game in the state. A Herbstreit Challenge-esque event is out of the question, since it would be against this rule for Michigan teams to play anyone from Texas, California, Florida, etc.
  2. No spring practice. The intent behind this rule is either to allow kids to play other spring sports without the possibility of discipline from their football coaches, or to prevent them from playing sports year-round and wearing out their bodies. The second rationale is crap, because most football players play at least one other sport, and often two. While there is something to be gained by wide receivers and running backs participating in track (for example), not allowing spring football discourages athletes from trying to excel in this sport. In most other states (especially those that take high school football seriously, such as Ohio and Texas), spring football is a way of life.
  3. All-star participation forfeits eligibility. Current MHSAA rules state that any athlete participating in an all-star competition (such as the Army All-American Bowl or the ESPNU Under Armour Game) is ineligible for high school sports. This means that football players must make a choice between participating in an all-star contest or playing a spring (even winter, for much of basketball season falls after the new year) sport. This discourages Michigan athletes who are of a high enough caliber to participate in these contests, reducing exposure for players from the state.
More TV
This would likely take care of itself if some of the other suggestions were to come to fruition (i.e. allowing teams to play at or against Texas schools). With the death of Comcast Local, there is almost no coverage of high school sports, including football, until the state championships. This may be a chicken-and-egg argument, but with better football will come more TV, and vice versa.

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State of Michigan Football, Pt. 3

Monday, May 26, 2008 by Tim

"State of" in the sense that Michigan is a state, and in the sense of a condition of being. Part 3: How can we improve the state of the state?

The University of Michigan Reigns Supreme
As the comparison to Ohio shows, perhaps states are better served by having one in-state power at the college level. While many Wolverine fans may wish that Michigan State would just go away, or drop out of the Big Ten entirely, this is never going to happen. Instead, the Wolverines must continue their dominance over the Spartans, winning over the hearts and minds of impressionable youth in the state.

The state of Michigan might not be improved by having the Spartans be a perennial cellar-dweller in the conference, but with rare victories over Michigan, and a continuance of the current run of mediocrity, Michigan State will be good enough to keep citizens interested in the sport, but not good enough to win fans over Michigan. The best-case scenario for Michigan fans would be having State win all their nonconference games each year, and dwell in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten, never beating Michigan and having bowl years about half the time.

Michigan continuing its success over MSU in other sports would also help, as well as establishing a winning tradition in basketball.

More Exposure to (Good) Football
With only the Lions representing the state in the NFL, Michigan does not have a huge presence in the professional game. Especially painful is the fact that the Lions perpetually suck. However, any football helps. If the Grand Rapids Rampage could be respectable in the Arena Football League, this would also help make Michigan more of a football state.

The state should also encourage any professional league (such as the AAFL, currently on a one-year hiatus before it has even started) to establish a franchise in the state of Michigan. This increases exposure of the game to Michigan citizens, and can also help the economy of the state.

Basketball State?
One possible reason that football does not hold the hallowed place in Michigan's culture as the game does in Ohio, for example, is that it is not the most popular sport in the state. Basketball is probably the king of the state at nearly every level, and hockey is popular in Michigan moreso than any other state (aside from Minnesota). These sports are also aided by the fact that the professional franchises

I won't suggest that Michigan as a whole forget about these sports, but just realize that football at least as important as each of them. If many elite prep athletes in the state didn't forgo football to focus on basketball in the offseason, Michigan would be aided as well.

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Wilpon Complex Already Paying Dividends

Sunday, May 25, 2008 by Paul

The University of Michigan has officially been selected as a host of one of the sixteen regional baseball tournaments. One of the reasons for this is surely the new stadium which I went to for Friday's game against Purdue. It's a great facility for a collegiate baseball program especially in the Midwest. With the new Ray Fisher stadium, Michigan has an advantage beyond the regional tournament.

The NCAA has let it be known that they'd like more geographical diversity in the baseball tournament. If Michigan can win its second straight regional title, they have a really good shot at hosting at the super-regional stage. Last year, if not for the construction, they likely could have hosted, but they did not have the facilities to even put in a bid. The team lost to Oregon State last year, the defending champs, out in Corvallis. With this more experienced team and home field advantage, this could be the Wolverines best chance of making it to Omaha for the College World Series.

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Mailbag: What is Success?

by Tim

Would you take a 7-5 season every other year if it meant you could go 11-2 (or better, let's say you win the NC every few tries) in the off years? Conversely, would you prefer to be 9-3 every year and never challenge for a title, or be slightly worse most years, but challenge for a national title 1 in 5 years or so?
The basic question here is whether you'd accept fairly consistent mediocrity with the occasional great year, or prefer consistent elite(ish) performance without getting to the promised land.

I'd like to never have to make that choice, but take the consistently elite years, with national championships sprinkled in here and there. Under Rich Rodriguez, I honestly believe that is a possibility, but given the theoretical "would you rather situation," I don't know what I'd take.

I guess I would take the elite years with no (or almost no) national championships. I find that to be better than being a program that people have a lesser opinion of, but occasionally surprises for the better. I think that the consistently elite program is more apt to break through than the consistently mediocre program (especially because successful programs have a recruiting advantage over mediocre ones except Clemson), which is why I think the premise of the question is flawed.

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Programming Update

Saturday, May 24, 2008 by Tim

Since I don't have (free) access to the internet right now, expect the next major posting from me (aside from the ones I already have scheduled) to come next Friday, or maybe even Thursday depending on the amount of jet lag I am suffering.

A few people have e-mailed me questions, which I will compile into a fairly sizable mailbag on my way back from Australia, and you can also expect a fairly massive recruiting update (including such fun items as "a new commit"), along with an update to the Big Ten rankings. By the way, you have Paul to thank for finding a new basketball commit to be unworthy of a post. I might get something together on Robin Benzing when I get back as well.

See you all in less than a week.

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Isn't This What the BTN is For?

Thursday, May 22, 2008 by Paul

So at 7:05pm tonight University of Michigan will take on the University of Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament. For all of us in Ann Arbor, going to the game is a great option, despite the cold weather. Luckily for fans outside of Ann Arbor, there is a network dedicated to Big Ten sports which has coverage of every single conference championship. You would think that would be the case, but here's BTN's line up for tonight:

While I, like other Michigan fans, would like to see how the Wolverines won the Big Ten outdoor track title, isn't things like the baseball tournament the reason BTN was made? It seems a bit ridiculous to run a pre-produced show about the track championships almost a week after they took place instead of showing the live baseball tournament.

I like the BTN and think, eventually, it will be good for Michigan fans, but it definitely needs some work to get where it ought to be.

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State of Michigan Football, Pt. 2

by Tim

"State of" in the sense that Michigan is a state, and in the sense of a condition of being. Part 2: Why does Michigan produce less D-I talent than Ohio?

Michigan and Ohio have been at odds throughout modern history. Beginning with the Toledo War and continuing through the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry, there has always been a certain degree of animosity between the two. While Ohio State has the recent edge in the rivalry, Michigan holds the overall record. Despite this, more Ohio-born players have won The Game than have Michigan natives. This is because the University of Michigan has to use the state of Ohio for recruiting, while the Buckeyes don't need to return the favor to build their team.

Prove It
To illustrate the point that Ohio produces better football talent, let's take a look at the recent Scout player rankings. While many players ranked lower than 3 stars will eventually sign with Division I schools, let's look at the highly-ranked players. For a sample size, we'll consider any prospect who could feasibly be on a roster in Fall 2008 (2004-2008 recruiting classes).
2008 Final Rankings
State
Scout 5* Prospects
Scout 4* Prospects
Scout 3* Prospects
Total 3 or higher
Signed by Michigan
Signed by OSU
Michigan
1
6
13
20
5
0
Ohio
3
11
33
47
7
9*
2007 Final Rankings
State
Scout 5* Prospects
Scout 4* Prospects
Scout 3* Prospects
Total 3 or higher
Signed by Michigan
Signed by OSU
Michigan
2
11
6
19
5*
1
Ohio
2
10
31
43
0
10*
2006 Final Rankings
State
Scout 5* Prospects
Scout 4* Prospects
Scout 3* Prospects
Total 3 or higher
Signed by Michigan
Signed by OSU
Michigan
1
1
8
10
4*
1*
Ohio
3
17
30
50
3*
10
2005 Final Rankings
State
Scout 5* Prospects
Scout 4* Prospects
Scout 3* Prospects
Total 3 or higher
Signed by Michigan
Signed by OSU
Michigan
1
3
12
16
6*
0
Ohio
2
13
16
31
4
11*
2004 Final Rankings
State
Scout 5* Prospects
Scout 4* Prospects
Scout 3* Prospects
Total 3 or higher
Signed by Michigan
Signed by OSU
Michigan
0
5
10
15
6
1
Ohio
2
4
27
33
1
15***
(* Indicates players that were 2-stars that are included in the signing numbers).
It is clear that Ohio produces more talent than Michigan. Over the past 5 recruiting classes, Ohio has produced 204 3-star or higher players, while Michigan has produced 80. Michigan signed 26 Michigan players (including three 2-star players) and 14 Ohio players (including a single 2-star). Ohio state has signed 3 Michigan players (including one 2-star) and a whopping 55 Ohio-bred players (including six 2-star players). It is plain to see that the state of Ohio produces far more Division I players, in addition to more UM/OSU caliber guys.

Distribution of Population?
The two states produce a significant difference of players at pretty much all levels of analysis here. While this would initially lead one to believe that it was simply a higher population in one state accounting for the difference, this is not the case.
Population Statistics
State
Population
Density
Michigan
9,938,444 (8)
179/sq mi (15)
Ohio
11,353,140 (7)
277.26/sq mi (9)
Population density may be something of a factor (are there enough people in one location in the UP to muster up an 11-man football game?), but the differences aren't that great, especially if you eliminate the ridiculously sparse UP (32% of Michigan's land, but 3% of its population).

Ohio doesn't produce more football talent just because it has more people. More nefarious mechanisms are at work here.

Economics
While it is free to go around whacking people, and cheap to get a football to toss around, playing actual organized football does have some significant costs. Individuals must incur costs to join youth leagues, and buy a fairly significant amount of equipment. Schools must invest in equipment, jerseys, staff, and other expenses, which can be a financial burden that is difficult to bear.

However, is Michigan's economy that much worse than Ohio's? I wouldn't presume that this is a major factor, since Ohio has been producing much more talent seemingly since the beginning
of time. Even when the auto companies in Detroit were thriving, Ohio was producing more football players.

Passion
Perhaps the reason is simply a difference between the citizens of the two states in terms of how much they care about the game. There is no way to accurately gauge this, but I honestly believe that it is the case. While there are places in Michigan where football is very important to people, it borders on religion in most of Ohio. Part of this may be the culture of Ohio State hegemony (check out part I in this series), and there are likely other factors adding to it, but no concrete explanation.

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State of Michigan Football, Pt. 1

Tuesday, May 20, 2008 by Tim

"State of" in the sense that Michigan is a state, and in the sense of a condition of being. Part 1: How does Ohio State continue to keep all of the best in-state talent for themselves, while Michigan players go to other schools, including USC and Michigan State?

Statewide Pipeline
The primary reason that Ohio State manages to keep all the best Ohio talent for itself is a lack of instate competition. Until Cincinnati moved to the Big East in 2005, OSU was the only BCS school in the state, and until the Big East (and Cincinnati under Brian Kelly) becomes more respected as a big-time conference (and legitimate major school), Ohio State will continue to reign supreme over its home turf. Perhaps coincidentally (or maybe not), the majority of teams in the state also share one important thing with the Buckeyes: the color red. Cincinnati, and Miami among Division I schools, and pro teams including the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians and Cavaliers have red as one of their colors. For comparison, Michigan has two main colors, which fans in their own stadium can't even coordinate (and the pro teams share none of, unless you count the Pistons' blue as being close enough to Michigan's).

In Michigan, there are two BCS-level schools, both of whom compete in the Big Ten conference. While Michigan State is seen as more of a rival for non-revenue sports to Michigan fans (they concede basketball to the Spartans in exchange for football dominance), Spartan fans see the football rivalry as very real. Individuals who have been in the state for a long time can easily remember when MSU football was the big game in town (before Canham and Schembechler returned Michigan to Glory - and not in the LOL ND way). Overall, there is a near 50-50 split between Wolverine and Spartan fans in the Great Lakes State.

While having two popular schools in the state may not explain why talent is willing to leave entirely (and go to USC, for example), it certainly helps explain why there is no allegiance to a particular school. With no ties to UofM, Michigan's players don't feel obligated to give Michigan more of a shot. This is not the case in Ohio, where nearly every baby's first outfit is either scarlet or gray.

In Michigan, the allegiance is not to one college team, but to one pro city, Detroit. The state throws itself behind the Tigers, Red Wings, Pistons, and (for some reason) Lions, then divides its attention between MSU and Michigan, and to a lesser extent the other state schools. I still remember the 2006 MSU game, where the score of the simultaneous Tigers game against the Yankees was announced, and Chad Henne had to take a timeout, because fans were cheering more for the Tigers (while the team that they actually paid money to see was on offense) than I have ever heard them cheer for Michigan. Ohio on the other hand, is a state united by one college team, Ohio State, and divided among several pro cities (Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus). This factor also gives the Buckeyes an in-state advantage.

It isn't likely that UCincinnati ever becomes as ingrained into Ohio culture like the Buckeyes are, and Michigan State, while always little brother, isn't going to go away any time soon. In-state, Michigan will always be disadvantaged in the Mitten compared to Ohio in the... uh... heart-shaped thing.

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Rocking the Spring Sports

Monday, May 19, 2008 by Paul

Most Michigan fans follow football in the fall and ice hockey (if you like watching a good team) or basketball (if you're a masochist) in the winter. Many spring sports don't seem to get the same attention that the other seasons do. It could be because there's no revenue sport or, more likely, a large part of their seasons are played after students leave campus for the summer.

Well, I've been in Ann Arbor the past two summers and have noticed that the spring sports have been ridiculously good the past two years. Women's track and field finished with a share of the Big Ten title last year and was runner up this year. The male runners won the title outright this year.

This year, women's tennis made it to the second round NCAA tournament, while the men made it to the Sweet Sixteen. Both teams improved upon somewhat breakout seasons the year before.

Then there is baseball and softball. Both teams last year made it to the super regionals and gave the teams they played hell. I remember watching baseball's first game against Oregon State in the Super Regional. Zach Putnam pitched a ridiculously good game. He only gave up one hit, but unfortunately that one hit brought in a run which was enough to earn Putnam the loss. It was one of the best baseball games I had seen.

As well as those teams did last year, the prospects are looking even better this year. One of the biggest reasons is the new Wilpon Baseball and Softball Palace Complex. Last year both teams played on the road in the Super Regional round. Michigan did not even put in a bid for either sport as the stands and press boxes were torn apart for the new construction. This year is different. Now Michigan has one of the nicer facilities, especially in the Midwest. Softball hosted and won its regional and will hope to do the same when it hopes the Super Regional this weekend. Baseball also has a very good chance of hosting it's Super Regional series if it made it out of the regional round.

The new Ray Fisher Stadium will be getting it's first test of a large baseball event when it hosts the Big Ten Tournament this weekend. In an e-mail from the media contact for baseball he said "With the new Press Box there is ample room, but I need to know who is coming so I can have Press Credentials waiting in your name." which is a drastic change from last year when the media room was a tent behind Yost.

If you are in the area, check out baseball and softball this weekend. The schedule for the Big Ten tournament isn't posted yet, but softball is set to play Virginia Tech at Noon this Saturday. Even if you're not in town, you can catch the softball team on ESPN and I assume BTN will cover the tournament.

It could be a special year for both of these teams. They deserve all the support they can get.

UPDATE: Details about ticket prices and availability for baseball are here. Similar details for the softball super regional tickets are here. Take-home points: Baseball is $7 per game. Softball is $5 for general admission bleachers or $7-$8 for the nice, new grandstand.

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Mailbag: Who to Recruit?

Sunday, May 18, 2008 by Tim

Double-barrel mailbag this time around. Both questions relate to making decisions on whether to recruit a particular kid or not.

Dave (in Ada, Ohio, my hometown's Ohioan counterpart) asks:
What's your take on recruiting a guy because Michigan really wants his teammate?
To start off, it all depends on whether the recruit in question is Michigan caliber. If he is, he can be a depth player even if he never contributes, and can help with recruiting his friend. Of course, this can backfire if you get the kid you didn't really want and whiff on the one you did want.

Michigan obviously wanted Greg Mathews (he is definitely the best returning receiver on the team), but was their decision for picking him over a similar kid based on the fact that they also wanted his teammate (Lorenzo Edwards in the following class)? Michigan didn't end up with Edwards, but since Mathews was a very good prospect in his own right, they didn't regret landing him.

I think most schools, especially at the high-BCS level, will recruit the best players they can. If two players are the same in their mind, teammates (present and future recruiting classes) can be a tiebreaker.

Steven:
should michigan recruit instate kids or focus on other areas. i ask because it seems like we are going after a lot of florida kids. thx.
Well, Steven, Michigan is currently going after kids at programs that they have established relationships with. For this staff, that means programs in Florida, and some in Ohio. They don't quite have the relationships going in Michigan quite yet.

As time goes on, they will continue to recruit at the programs they know (along with going for other top-level prospects), and try to develop relationships to the in-state high schools. As time goes on, I think the majority of Michigan's players will come from Ohio (as they pretty much always have), with Texas and Florida providing several players. They will take the top guys out of Michigan, and recruit top prospects from other states as well.

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Bryce McNeal Goes Blue

Saturday, May 17, 2008 by Tim

Fo' real this time.

Minnesota WR Bryce McNeal (6-1, 180, 4.46) has given Rich Rodriguez his pledge to become a Michigan Wolverine. "B-Meezy" becomes the eighth member of the 2009 recruiting class. McNeal is an outside receiver with enough wiggle and speed to spend some time in the slot (physically reminiscent of a slightly taller, maybe shiftier, Mario Manningham).

Recruiting Notes
Michigan fans started following Bryce McNeal's recruitment heavily when he was offered the weekend of St. Patrick's Day. He originally said he had planned to announce his decision at the Army All-American game, to which he has been invited, but the opportunity at Michigan was too much for him to pass up. McNeal visited Michigan on Monday, March 24th on his way home from the Akron 7-on-7 camp. On March 25th, he told GopherHole that he had a Top-5, but the only schools that he was going to reveal from it were Michigan and Minnesota. At this time, it was assumed that Michigan was his leader, with Minnesota in second. Though he didn't manage to make it to Ann Arbor for Michigan's spring game, he had planned to visit the next weekend (which also fell through). McNeal visited for the BBQ at the Big House junior day, and committed. He planned to commit to Clemson next week, but that has since been canceled.

Player Notes
In 2007 he had 33 receptions for 670 yards and 8 touchdowns at Breck high school, where the base offense was a version of the spread that he will be running at Michigan. He has also gotten some attention for track, but it is unknown whether he will try to compete in both sports in college. He is a speedster with good hands, though he will have to add some muscle to compete at the Division-I level. McNeal was invited to attend the Army National Junior Combine in January, where was named to the all-combine first team. Despite this acclaim, he was listed as a three-star player on both sites, but his ranking went up to more reasonable levels after the latest round of re-rankings from each site.

Video


Miscellany
One more interesting fact about McNeal is that his girlfriend, Tayler Hill, is a basketball prospect. McNeal has hinted in his interviews that the two might like to attend school together, but women's hoops recruiting info is so (oddly) hard to find that I haven't been able to unearth whether she has interest in Michigan or not. She is a top prospect, and a commitment would help out Michigan's hoops team greatly. That said, I'd be surprised if one of the top prospects would pick a school that can't even win the NIT (at least they can get there. ZING

(This was written by Tim. I'm just posting it. I'm basically the secretary - ed.)

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Big Ten 2009 Recruiting Class Rankings 5-17-08

by Tim

As always, let me know about your school's commits over the course of the week.

Action since last rankings:
5-9-08 Penn State gains commitment from Stephen Obeng-Agyapong
5-10-08 Ohio State loses commitment from Darrell Givens. Penn State gains commitment from Darrell Givens.
5-11-08 Penn State gains commitment from Derrick Thomas.
5-12-08 Ohio State gains commitment from James Jackson.
5-15-08 Penn state gains commitment from Frank Figueroa. Penn State gains commitment from Eric Shrive.

New Rankings:
#1 Ohio State - 13 commits
DT
*****
Johnny Simon
LB
*****
Dorian Bell
RB
****
Jordan Hall
CB
****
CJ Barnett
WR
****
James Jackson
MLB
****
Storm Klein
MLB
****
Jordan Whiting
DE
****
Melvin Fellows
OG
****
Corey Linsley
OT
****
Jack Mewhort
S
****
Jamie Wood
LB
****
Zach Boren
WR
***
Chris Fields
FB
***
Adam Homan
Buckeyes lose Darrell Givens, but gain a speedy wideout in James Jackson and remain on top.

#2 Michigan - 7 commits
DT
*****
William Campbell
QB
*****
Kevin Newsome
CB
****
Justin Turner
QB
****
Shavodrick Beaver
RB
****
Teric Jones
RB
***
Fitzgerald Toussaint
S
*
Isaiah Bell
Bell will likely end up a high 3-star. Michigan has gone cold for a little while.

#3 Penn State - 8 commits
OT
*****
Eric Shrive
CB
****
Darrell Givens
S
***
Derrick Thomas
S
***
Stephen Obeng-Agyapong
S
***
Malcolm Willis
OT
***
Mark Arcidiacono
C
*
Ty Howle
OG
*
Frank Figueroa
Big week for PSU. They snake Darrell Givens from OSU, and pick up two more secondary players, along with two more linemen. Shrive is one of the best OTs in the country. Arcidiacono is underrated, Howle will end up as a high-three star, Figueroa a low three-star.

#4 Michigan State - 6 commits
RB
****
Edwin Baker
RB
****
Larry Caper
SLB
****
Chris Norman
WR
***
Donald Spencer
DT
***
Blake Treadwell
QB
***
Andrew Maxwell
Every player committed to State thus far is from Michigan. They haven't gotten any commitments in seemingly forever, and more schools are likely to pass them as time goes on.

#5 Notre Dame - 4 commits
RB
*****
Cierre Wood
RB
****
Theo Riddick
DT
****
Tyler Stockton
TE
***
Jake Golic
Wood is a very good prospect, but all are slightly overrated because of their school of choice (especially Golic).

#6 Minnesota - 5 commits
QB
****
Moses Alipate
RB
***
Hasan Lipscomb
C
***
Ed Olsen
OT
***
Josh Campion
WR
*
Victor Keise
Keise will probably end up a mid 3-star.

#7 Illinois - 2 commits
DT
****
Lendell Buckner
OT
****
Leon Hill
Illinois started fast, but has since stagnated (and lost Melvin Fellows to the Bucks).

#8 Wisconsin - 3 commits
DT
****
Jared Kohout
OG
***
Ryan Groy
DE
***
Shelby Harris
Wisconsin has all linemen, all from America's Dairyland.

#9 Iowa - 2 commits
OT
****
David Barrent
FB
*
Brad Rogers
Their only commit comes from one of the least important positions on the field. Huzzah!

#10 Northwestern - 2 commits
QB
***
Evan Watkins
RB
*
Mike Trumpy
At least they have some commits. Come on, state of Indiana.

T-11th - Indiana, Purdue (0 commits)

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Spring Junior Day Tomorrow

Friday, May 16, 2008 by Tim

While most schools have junior days in January and February, Michigan will follow its winter Junior Day with one Saturday.

As the staff started the year, they were behind from having to catch up with 2008 recruiting year. The junior day, a barbecue, should give them a chance to play catch-up, as well as display a family atmosphere about the program. The weather is not expected to be exceptionally warm, but sunny skies should make for good BBQ weather.

Prospects expected to attend include Bryce McNeal, and Pennsylvania DB/WR Corey Brown.

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Recruiting Update 5-16-08

by Tim

The Board.

Added:
FL OL Matt Alajajian. He has been offered (info in header).
NC QB Everett Proctor. He would be a backup QB/DB. Michigan might give him the opportunity to start his career as a QB to get him to commit. He is HS teammates with Xavier Nixon.

New Information:
OK RB David Oku. He has trimmed his list to a top 5, still including Michigan (and no longer including OSU or USC).
MN WR Bryce McNeal. Sam Webb in the DetNews.

Removed:
NC DB Devonte Holloman. Committed to Clemson.
MI WR James Jackson. Committed to Ohio State.
CA QB Tate Forcier. Michigan is probably done recruiting him.
PA OT Eric Shrive. THE Pennsylvania State University.

Analysis:
As I said when it happened, James Jackson hurts because he is an instate guy spurning Michigan to go to Ohio State. He loves the school, but never really got a vibe going with the new coaching staff. His location makes it possible for Rodriguez to continue recruiting him. Holloman hurts because it means another year, no 5-star safeties. He had been planning a Michigan visit tomorrow, and it seems as though his commitment may have been to avoid having to go on the visit when he knew he actually wanted to become a Tiger.

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Programming Update

Thursday, May 15, 2008 by Tim

Tomorrow afternoon, I will be boarding a plane and heading out of the country for two weeks. Fear not, however. I have written a few posts that will be published over the course of my absence, and Paul should be able to come through with at least a little content.

The one area that I expect to fall behind (at least a little) is recruiting coverage. If I have internet access on my trip, I will try to keep up with the Monday-Friday schedule, but I make no promises of regular coverage. If there is big news, i.e. commitments, Paul should be able to take care of them.

Thanks to all the loyal readers, and even if you don't visit as frequently while I'm gone, mark May 29th on your calendars, and look forward to that date.

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The "3 Yards and a Cloud of Dust" Misconception

by Tim

Many people (mostly in the mainstream media) have recently mentioned that Michigan is abandoning its "3 yards and a cloud of dust" tradition in favor of a "wide-open spread." I will contend that this is not quite accurate, and it involves a misunderstanding of both concepts.

First, the "three yards and a cloud of dust" ideology. It focuses on the run game, and only passing the football when entirely necessary. While teams in the past that favored this philosophy typically featured heavy sets with many tight ends, and relied on a bruising RB to hit the hole hard and gain yards after contact, that is not the only way to run the football effectively.

Now, the "wide-open spread." The implication of this phrase is that the ball goes all over the field (hence "wide-open"). While Rodriguez's spread runs off-tackle, it is easier to get the ball to the perimeter with a quarterback who throws tons of screens, and can stretch the ball downfield. Purdue has a "wide-open" offense Rich Rodriguez has an offense that tries to run the ball 60% of the time (and has actually run for a greater proportion in the past). Michigan didn't use star receivers often enough when they had Mario Manningham and Steve Breaston, so if anything changes in that department, it seems as though it will be for the better.

So, it is plain to see that a spread offense does not necessarily preclude running the ball often, and with effectiveness. Don't be surprised when Michigan runs for far more yards this year than they have in the recent past. If the goal of both offenses is to do the majority of damage on the ground, and pass only when necessary (for example, in 3rd-and-long situations, when behind by a large margin, or to prevent the defense from selling out on the run), is it really that different? Michigan tried to keep the ball out of Chad Henne's hands and in those of Mike Hart as often as possible in their careers. Just because Michigan is going to run more effectively now, I wouldn't expect them to run for a vastly different percentage of attempts.

Finally is the idea that Michigan's philosophy has been a static and unchanging entity that is going to be vastly shattered. Bo Schembechler liked to run. Lloyd Carr liked to run. Rich Rodriguez likes to run. Bo himself even had an option game with QBs like Rick Leach before the pro-style got established in Ann Arbor.

So, next time you hear mention of the "wide-open spread" that Michigan will be using next year, think critically. In the context that it was used, is this an accurate statement? And, if change happens, is it necessarily a bad thing?

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RichRod Misconceptions

by Tim

Hack columnist thinks Michigan will be fine at QB. He goes on to state that Kevin Newsome and Shavodrick Beaver shouldn't expect to ever throw the ball. Here's his reasoning:
But there's something that these guys need to remember, as quarterbacks.

Based on recent history, here's what these guys can expect when they get to Michigan.

(All numbers are rank in the country in stated category)

Rushing Offense

YearWest VirginiaMichigan
2002259
20031338
2004761
2005444
2006221
2007347
Average5.1745

Passing Offense

YearWest VirginiaMichigan
200210844
200310522
200410445
200511561
200610064
200711461
Average107.749.5

This is one of the most common misconceptions about Rich Rodriguez that I see out there: he refuses to throw the ball. He does not take into account that maybe WVU didn't throw downfield because their QB couldn't pull it off.
And Pat White is already being projected as a wide receiver.
I'm a firm believer that talent is talent, and if you have the skill set to be a QB in the NFL, you can become a QB in the NFL. If Pat White could throw downfield, he wouldn't be "already being projected as a wide receiver." Perhaps it's a chicken-and-egg argument, but WVU's lack of downfield passing didn't make Pat White a non-NFL QB. Pat White's status as a two-star safety coming out of high school made WVU unable to pass the ball downfield. The same could be said for Rasheed Marshall, who was such a great QB that he couldn't even make it into the NFL as a wideout. He currently reside in Columbus, playing for the AFL's Destroyers.

I hope that people who constantly write about Rich Rod's lack of creativity on offense eventually come to realize that he was limited in his playcalling by the talent he had available to him. Maybe then, we will stop seeing poorly-constructed arguments published.

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Only 3 More Hours to Donate

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 by Tim

Michigan leads in the charity bowl, and it's time to seal the deal.

Plus, boobs.

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Rich Rodriguez Deposition Released

by Tim

The Detroit Free Press has the entire Rich Rodriguez deposition in three PDF files:
One
Two
Three

If you don't feel like reading the whole thing, some highlights can be found at the Times West Virginian. Some highlights:
Rodriguez says board members Steve Farmer, Drew Payne and Perry Petroplus also assured him all outstanding demands Rodriguez had for the football program would be met when Mike Garrison became WVU president.
“And that’s the time when (Garrison) said he didn’t believe in buyouts, and that he would reduce it anyway, once he took office,” Rodriguez testified.
Rodriguez said he considered the $4 million “excessive” and “unfair,” but acquiesced when he learned Kendrick had insisted on the amount. Kendrick had pledged $2.5 million to the WVU Foundation Inc., contingent on Rodriguez remaining coach.

Flaherty told Rodriguez that Kendrick withdrew the pledge after Rodriguez resigned.
Rodriguez said he was called by Arkansas about the Razorbacks’ vacant coaching job after WVU lost to Pitt in the 2007 regular-season finale, but he wasn’t interested. He later mentioned that call to Garrison at a Fiesta Bowl function, saying “we need to sit down and talk about the issues.”

Garrison agreed, “but we never did, other than that Saturday night before I made the decision,” Rodriguez said.

After he got Michigan’s offer Dec. 14, Rodriguez met with Pastilong and Walker. Though he’d been hopeful of an agreement, he said that changed during a private 10 p.m. meeting at Garrison’s house on Dec. 15.
As expected, it certainly sounds like WVU tried to strong-arm him more than he was eager to get the hell out of Morgantown.

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QBs Not-quite-mailbag

by Tim

RJ furnishes us with a link, summarizes by giving us this snippet of information:
Sam Webb said this morning that the days of Michigan recruiting players that only play qb. Brandon McGee and a few other dual threats who play other positions are what they are looking for. Tate Forcier and all the other qbs can be pretty much taken off.
I removed all QBs except two categories when Shavodrick Beaver committed to Michigan:
  • Guys who could play another position and learn QB for emergency situations.
  • Tate Forcier.
It now sounds like Forcier can be removed from that list. However, I think the scope of RJ's message is a little overextended. For 2009, Michigan is probably done recruiting QBs (unless they are multiple-position guys), but in the future, if there's a Tate Forcier-type guy, they would take him. So, for this year, it means Forcier is off the board.

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Charity Bowl

Tuesday, May 13, 2008 by Tim

I'm sure you've seen this elsewhere in the Michigan blogosphere, and may already be sick of it, but it's time to participate in the Charity Bowl. And hey, if you get sick of it, maybe you'll donate just to shut all of us up.

How? EDSBS:
1) Make a donation online to the American Red Cross, CARE, or the International Rescue Committee.

2) Email the donation confirmation to kevin@fanblogs.com and state your team affiliation by 8pm EDT on Wednesday, May 14th.

3) Results will be displayed at Every Day Should Be Saturday and Fanblogs throughout the week, with the final results shown by Thursday, May 15th.

4) The winning school will have its colors displayed at EDSBS and logo/mascot shown on every page at Fanblogs.
Let's Go Blue for a good cause.

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James Jackson and Devonte Holloman off the Board

by Tim

A couple big hits to Michigan's recruiting efforts, as two of their top prospects are off the board. Holloman is probably a bigger hit than Jackson, as he seemed to be more interested in Michigan than Jackson did, and will be harder to get back on campus to sway his decision (especially since he was supposed to come here this weekend). Jackson had cooled on Michigan over the course of time, but if Rodriguez and co. really want him, they should at least be able to get him back on campus to visit, as he is an instate prospect.

Both prospects will be removed from the next edition of the Recruiting Board. On a side note, I don't understand how Clemson has consistent recruiting classes that can be described as "kind of awesome" and teams that can be described as "kind of terrible."

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Recruiting Update 5-12-08

Monday, May 12, 2008 by Tim

The board. You may notice it's been reorganized so the offered prospects are at the top of each table. If I missed anything, let me know in the comments to this post so I can fix it.

Added:
NC DB Terry Shankle. He's been offered (info in header).

New Information:
TN OT Alex Bullard. Top 6 includes Michigan. Tennessee with the edge currently.
AZ DE Craig Roh. He will play in the ESPN Game.
SC DB Damario Jeffrey. Top 10 does not include Michigan.
OH OT Marcus Hall. His top 6 has changed but still includes Michigan.
IL OG Chris Watt recruiting fluff. No Michigan mention (but no mention of OSU, either). He's #1 in Illinois.

Etc.:
Freep's top 5 instaters. Lots of Michigan targets expected for the OSU Nike. Happy 2nd birthday Michigan Football Saturdays.

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Keith Nichol

by Tim

Former Lowell QB Keith Nichol has stated that Michigan may his destination following his transfer from the University of Oklahoma. Nichol, a pass-run threat, committed to Michigan State, then rescinded his verbal once John L. Smith was fired as head coach. He ended up a Sooner, but received his scholarship release after two years, when he saw that he would likely not gain any major playing time.

Will Nichol end up at Michigan State? He's not a great fit for the Spartan offense, which now features the statuesque quarterbacks that Michigan fans were so glad to get rid of. Nichol also spurned the school (and by extension, the new coaching staff) once, so it's unclear whether he will be accepted with open arms. Still, the current depth chart situation looks perfect for Nichol to come in and take the reins in 2009.

At Michigan, the offensive scheme is more suited to Nichol's athletic ability. However, he grew up a big Michigan State fan, and who knows if he could see himself playing for the University of Puke? Also, I'm not so sure that Rich Rodriguez and co. would want a player who won't be able to hit the field until 2009, and even then only has three years of eligibility. Since Justin Feagin will be able to play in 2008, he will have a year of game experience over Nichol, and he has more athletic ability. By the time Nichol is eligible in 2009, Feagin will be but a sophomore, and (at least) two new quarterbacks with 5 years to play 4 will be around.

So what's the advantage of taking Nichol? It doesn't seem like the smartest move for Michigan from a football standpoint, and I'll be surprised if he ends up here.

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Programming Update

Sunday, May 11, 2008 by Tim

Sorry for the lack of posting this weekend, I was out of town sans internet. Should be a flurry of activity this week, then I'm going to be out of the country for a couple weeks, and I'm not sure if I'll have internet access. If not, I'll try to have Paul get some content up in my absence.

I'll give another programming update as the date of my departure arrives (let's call it Friday).

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Big Ten 2009 Recruiting Class Rankings 5-10-08

Saturday, May 10, 2008 by Tim

I've come to realize that the commitment pages aren't always updated by the end of the week, so if you're a fan of a school that doesn't get much notice, drop any commitments your team might get in the comments.

Action since last rankings:
By request, Notre Dame added.
5-3-08 Iowa gains commitment from David Barrent.
5-4-08 Minnesota gains commitment from Hasan Lipscomb.

New Rankings:
#1 Ohio State - 13 commits
DT
*****
Johnny Simon
LB
*****
Dorian Bell
RB
****
Jordan Hall
CB
****
Darrell Givens
CB
****
CJ Barnett
MLB
****
Storm Klein
MLB
****
Jordan Whiting
DE
****
Melvin Fellows
OG
****
Corey Linsley
OT
****
Jack Mewhort
S
****
Jamie Wood
LB
****
Zach Boren
WR
***
Chris Fields
FB
***
Adam Homan
With only 6(ish) scholarships left, this will be a quality-over-quantity class for the Bucks.

#2 Michigan - 7 commits
DT
*****
William Campbell
QB
*****
Kevin Newsome
CB
****
Justin Turner
QB
****
Shavodrick Beaver
RB
****
Teric Jones
RB
***
Fitzgerald Toussaint
S
*
Isaiah Bell
Bell will likely end up a high 3-star.

#3 Michigan State - 6 commits
RB
****
Edwin Baker
RB
****
Larry Caper
SLB
****
Chris Norman
WR
***
Donald Spencer
DT
***
Blake Treadwell
QB
***
Andrew Maxwell
Every player committed to State thus far is from Michigan.

#4 Notre Dame - 4 commits
RB
*****
Cierre Wood
RB
****
Theo Riddick
DT
****
Tyler Stockton
TE
***
Jake Golic
Wood is a very good prospect, but all are slightly overrated because of their school of choice (especially Golic).

#5 Minnesota - 5 commits
QB
****
Moses Alipate
RB
***
Hasan Lipscomb
C
***
Ed Olsen
OT
***
Josh Campion
WR
*
Victor Keise
Lipscomb is a speedy little bastard from Russell Shepard's high school, and I think he is likely a little underrated. Keise will probably end up a mid 3-star.

#6 Illinois - 2 commits
DT
****
Lendell Buckner
OT
****
Leon Hill
Illinois started fast, but has since stagnated (and lost Melvin Fellows to the Bucks).

#7 Penn State - 3 commits
S
***
Malcolm Willis
OT
***
Mark Arcidiacono
C
*
Ty Howle
Arcidiacono actually had some pretty good offers, albeit from schools that offer anyone with a pulse (Notre Dame and Florida). I think he is a little underrated. Howle will end up a high 3-star.

#8 Wisconsin - 3 commits
DT
****
Jared Kohout
OG
***
Ryan Groy
DE
***
Shelby Harris
Wisconsin has all linemen, all from America's Dairyland.

#9 Iowa - 2 commits
OT
****
David Barrent
FB
*
Brad Rogers
Their only commit comes from one of the least important positions on the field. Huzzah!

#10 Northwestern - 2 commits
QB
***
Evan Watkins
RB
*
Mike Trumpy
At least they have some commits. Come on, state of Indiana.

T-11th - Indiana, Purdue (0 commits)

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Recruiting Update 5-9-08

Friday, May 09, 2008 by Tim

The Board. Changes I'm contemplating for the next update: moving offered prospects to the top of the chart at their respective positions, instead of organizing by stars. Leave comments on whether you think this is a good/bad idea.

Added:
NC WR Jheranie Boyd. Michigan was at his school in late April (and apparently offered). However, Clemson leads (info in header). He won't decide until signing day.
SC WR Alshon Jeffrey. Offer.
SC DB Damario Jeffery. He has been offered.
IL WR Kraig Appleton. I had knocked him off the list for lack of any knowledge about mutual interest, but Sam Webb reported on WTKA that he has now been offered. Michigan mention.

New Information:
MN WR Bryce McNeal. Fluffy stuff.
LA DT Chris Davenport. LSU insiders expect him to end up a Tiger (not surprising).
GA CB Darren Myles. Michigan visits him.
MI TE Dion Sims. Sam Webb discusses his status in the Freep.
AZ DE Craig Roh. ESPN game participant.

Removed:
TX RB Jazsman Mitchell. No word of mutual interest lately, and Michigan seems to be in enough other RB/slot prospects.

Lots of new adds this week. don't forget to comment on the potential board reshuffle.

Etc.:
Rivals Michigan recruiting fluff. Definitely disagree that offensive recruiting is the most interesting to watch this season. With a couple system-specific guys in the fold, I'd love to see some DEs.

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Thursday Afternoon Links of Interest

Thursday, May 08, 2008 by Tim

Today's afternoon post shall be a link factory, because there's a lot going on in the world of internets.
  • Grand Haven's 1370AM radio interviewed Michigan recruiting guru Tom Beaver. Podcast on the Terp's Take Blog.
  • Will the stadium renovations be completed on time? MVictors.com has read the tea leaves, and thinks the schedule may be in jeopardy.
  • Interesting correlation to my post this morning, Utah blog Block U ruminates on how to build a non-BCS program. I've played NCAA '07, so I already know: recruit every 5-star you can, regardless of whether he's at a position of need or not.
  • A new and improved ACL procedure. Paging Antonio Bass.
  • To shit-talker Charlie Weis: 1-2. Maybe you should do something worthwhile before your ego gets too big. Wait, this is Charlie Weis we're talking about here. His ego knows no bounds.

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Improving the Football Program

by Tim

The football program at a big-time Division I University is a multi-faceted entity, and it requires many changes to individual aspects in order to radically change the program as a whole. Improvement can be measured in terms of wins, merchandise, exposure, academic achievement, even recruiting rankings, but most accurately by some sort of aggregation of these things. The Michigan football program, while still the nation's winningest of all time, has room for improvement. To move in a direction of positivity and modernity, I propose the following changes. Some of them apply to the athletic department on the whole.
  • Upgrade/update the spring game.
  • Create a new website (separate from MGoBlue) about Michigan's facilities. People (including recruits in every sport) care about the facilities at schools. A virtual tour of every facility for practicing, competing, or studying would be entertaining and enlightening. You have the facilities, so make a well-designed website to brag about them. Model it after the Arkansas version of same.
  • Speaking of websites, scrap the new MGoBlue. It looks terrible and is a pain in the ass to maneuver. Cloning the (terrible) layouts of CSTV sites was an awful idea. The new video, audio, and photo items are great, but there had to have been a better way to integrate them into the site.
  • Encourage more media exposure. With the Rich Rodriguez regime, this has improved a great deal. Rod has been all over ESPN and the local media, and even Mike Barwis is getting interviewed by Brice Feldman. Still, encourage more of this. The all-access feature on College Football Live was a great start. Being more friendly to the media (local and national) means that the media will be more friendly back to you.
  • Encourage walkons. Like media exposure, Rodriguez has already started doing this. Like Bo Pelini's plan to revive Nebraska football, having homegrown walkons will help the team because they are proud to be Wolverines. Take kids from Michigan and Ohio especially, but also any other student who can make the cut. If kids would rather walk on at Michigan than get a scholarship at Michigan State, it would put a smile on my face.
  • At least try for a night game. If it means the old alumni won't come, well... that may not necessarily be a bad thing.
  • Give out free maize shirts to fans during maize out games. A sponsor will undoubtedly cover the entire cost, and the "special event" game will no longer look like crap.
  • Like Beilein's meeting with the Maize Rage to brainstorm ideas, have Rod (along with Bill Martin, Bruce Madej, even Marty Bodnar) meet with students for the same purpose. I am not the only person with these sorts of ideas, let the other ones come out.
  • Perhaps most importantly (and, unfortunately, least under our control), continue beating Notre Dame and Michigan State, and start beating Ohio State. On top of bragging rights and prestige, this helps recruiting. Enough said.
This is just a little collection of some ideas that didn't take me more than five minutes to come up with. If you have any of your own, drop them in the comments.

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Academic Progress

Wednesday, May 07, 2008 by Tim

The NCAA published its Academic Progress Rate reports yesterday, and Michigan has a clean bill of health. All scores were above the penalty cutoff of 925, and three sports (both genders of golf and women's tennis) recorded perfect scores of 1000.

Since Michigan's main sports have been so attrition-y lately, let's see if they are in danger for next year (when players who left the program this year will count against APR).

Football's score was 951. In the past year, the team has lost Adrian Arrington and Mario Manningham to the NFL. Arrington was a fourth-year junior, and probably graduated prior to leaving Michigan. Manningham may have been enough of an academic liability to hurt APR next year. To transfers, Michigan has lost Ryan Mallett (Arkansas) and Justin Boren (Ohio State). I know nothing of their academic prowess, though I would assume that at least Boren was in good standing when he left. Several players have also left the team for other reasons. If Johnny Sears doesn't hurt the APR, I'll be shocked. Alex Mitchell and Jeremy Ciulla are the only other two that spring immediately to mind, and I know nothing of their academics either.

Basketball's score was 927, dangerously close to sanctions. With all the people that left the program (Kendric Price, Jerret Smith, Ekpe Udoh, K'Len Morris), I wouldn't be surprised if the team at least gets a warning for next year. At least they're not completely toast like Indiana, already below the cutoff, and going downhill with lots of attrition in this offseason.

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A Tradition of Numbers

by Tim

After Braylon Edwards stated yesterday in an ESPN chat that Rich Rodriguez had decided to give the #1 jersey to an incoming freshman - who wasn't a wide receiver (and later clarified on the Mike Tirico Show that it is in fact a defensive back - people are telling me it's JT Floyd), Michigan fans seemed to be clearly split on the issue.
Jared Kent West Union IA: What are your thoughts on the new MICHIGAN regime.
Braylon Edwards: I am already mad that Rich Rod because he gave the No.1 jersey to someone other than a WR, which is breaking tradition. But I think he is a great coach and will lead Michigan to a turnaround.
It is important to note here that Braylon is throwing his support behind Rodriguez, and it is merely one issue that the two disagree on (no pun intended). Braylon even said on the Tirico show that he planned to call Rodriguez and voice his displeasure/suggestion.

Background on the #1
Who has worn the jersey before? Paul Goebel wore it waaay back in the day (when "wide receivers" didn't exist - he was a "forward pass receiving end" on offense), and since then, fellow Wolverines Anthony Carter, Derrick Alexander, David Terrell, and Braylon Edwards have followed in Goebel's footsteps and earned All-American honors.

Until his junior year, Edwards wore the #80 jersey. He believed that, as a very good receiver, he should be able to wear the #1. When Edwards approached Lloyd Carr with this request, he was told that he would have to earn the number. Braylon, who had previously had a reputation as a less-than-stellar effort player and far from a workout warrior, put in the time in the weight room, and became the player that Carr believed he could be. The motivational tactic paid off, and Lloyd gave Braylon the #1 jersey. Stellar junior and senior years showed that he had indeed learned his lesson, and made him into the #3 overall pick in the NFL draft. It is plain to see why the #1 holds a special place in Braylon's heart.

Upon his graduation, Braylon began to establish what has become a fairly robust charity, known as the Braylon Edwards Foundation. Since Edwards was told by Lloyd he had to earn the right to wear the #1 jersey at Michigan, the number meant something special. As part of the BEF, Edwards endowed a scholarship for the wearer of the #1 jersey at Michigan:
The Scholarship Endowment for the University of Michigan's No. 1 football jersey was announced in April 2006. The charitable gift provides support to a student/athlete wearing the No. 1 football jersey. The scholarship endowment will recognize future athletes who demonstrate character and commitment both on and off the field. Athletes wearing the No. 1 jersey are selected by U-M's coaching staff.
When he gave the original endowment, Edwards undoubtedly believed that the tradition of #1 going to a wide receiver would be continued. Rich Rodriguez was either unaware of this, or didn't care about it.

The #1 should go to whomever asks for it
This camp of fans believes that Michigan should not reserve the #1 jersey for anything special, and that any player who asks for it should receive the uno. Since nobody had to earn the jersey before Braylon, there was no real tradition before him, despite the illustrious gentlemen who preceded him.

Since Rodriguez and his staff are trying to turn around a program that has been slowly slipping from the forefront of American consciousness, they should reserve the right to do whatever they so choose with any number. They will be able to establish their own traditions.

The #1 should be reserved
This bloc wants the #1 to continue being something special, going to any transcendent Michigan receiver. While a defensive back may want the jersey, he should be told that he is out of luck, and to pick a different number. Tradition is one of the aspects that sets college football apart from almost every other sport, and even if one does not exist yet (as those other fans suggest), it should be established.

My Take
I believe, in this particular instance and overall, that the #1 jersey should be reserved for a wide receiver. Braylon has expressed displeasure with granting it to a different position, and what is the benefit of alienating one of the highest-profile Wolverines in the NFL (arguably 2nd behind Tom Brady)? Overall, I think that establishing traditions like reserving #1 for a great wide receiver, or #2 for a great defensive back (which has not been done, but I think should be in honor of Woodson) can only help the program. It can restore some mystique that has perhaps been lost from the Michigan program, and can be used as a major recruiting tool.

This also leads me to the topic of retiring numbers. I think it is appropriate for Michael Jordan's number to be retired from the Chicago Bulls, and certainly for Jackie Robinson's #42 to be retired throughout baseball. However, I think that college sports are not served by retiring numbers. Establishing tradition and continuing said traditions (as mentioned above) give personality to schools like Michigan (whose prestige is largely based upon tradition), and can help with recruiting, as players undoubtedly believe they can carry on the tradition (or at least want to try). While the Wistert Brothers did great things at the University of Michigan, it may be disrespectful to prevent anyone from trying to follow in their tradition. And what high-profile running back recruit wouldn't want to follow in the footsteps of Old 98 (which would be an awesome number for a tailback to have in the modern game).

In the end, I guess I'm a traditionalist (whether that be continuing old ones, starting new ones, or supporting fledgling ones). Leave the #1 to a wide receiver. As someone said to me yesterday, "Keeping and establishing traditions cost nothing. Eliminating them can destroy your program."

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