Friday, November 28, 2008

Long and painful and done with

Wow, that was sure a bad season. Didn't quite it see it coming. Everything individual thing I was concerned about this year ended up being a major weakness. The inexperience and lack of talent on the OL, the lack of a QB suited to run the offense, the horrible play of safeties and LBs in coverage, etc. It all stunk and so did the team.

Kinda glad I was quite busy this fall and didn't have much time to peruse the internet much and certainly no time to do any blogging.

But the year of pain is over with and Michigan heads to the offseason with hope for 2009. Here's a quick preview of the offense for next year.


Steven Threet (RS Sophomore) - the 2008 de facto starter who split time with Nick Sheridan. He's long and lanky and has a strong arm. In fact, he's the spitting image of a Lloyd Carr-era Michigan quarterback. Unfortunately, he's got a long release and lacks quickness in the ground game and is woefully inaccurate on timing routes. He made some improvements as the season went along and had glimpses of good play in several games. He just couldn't put it together for long stretches. You have to think that he'll be better next season, but he'll also face a huge increase in competition.

Nick Sheridan (RS Junior) - opening day starter and Ohio State game starter in 2008. Former walkon who gave it his all and actually had a very good game at Minnesota. He just doesn't have the arm strength to threaten a defense vertically and he'll have a hard time seeing the field.

Shavodrick Beaver (Freshman) - He's 6'3" and 180 lbs and a 4 star recruit according to Rivals that Texas wanted as a WR. He is more talented as a runner than a passer and will add a new dimension to the offense. How advanced his passing is and how quickly he picks up the offense will be the primary determinants in how much PT he gets. UPDATE - scratch that idea, he decided to go to Tulsa instead.

Tate Forcier (Freshman) - He's 6'0" and 185 lbs and also a 4 star recruit by Rivals. You might remember one of his older brothers Jason as a former UM QB that transferred to Stanford. In contrast to Beaver, Forcier is more advanced as a passer but has some rushing skills. If he picks up the offense, he is probably the favorite to be the starter next season with his accurate passing.

That's a heck of a lot more talent and depth at QB than Michigan had in 2008. I'd venture a guess that Steven Threet is the opening game starter, but Forcier and Beaver will both get snaps. By the middle of the season I'd imagine Forcier will have picked up enough of the offense to be the starter.

Running Backs

Brandon Minor (Senior) - Finished 2008 as Michigan's leading rusher, which is where many people predicted him to be entering the season. He's big and strong and runs hard. Not the shiftiest back in the world, he is hard to stop at the point of attack. I look for big things from Brandon as a senior and he is definitely a candidate to crack 1000 yards in a much improved offense. He will, however, have to fight off a ton of competition to tote the rock.

Carlos Brown (Senior) - It seems that Carlos is always fighting injuries, but when he's healthy he is a solid back with good speed. I'm not sure if 2009 will be his chance to shine given the level of competition, but he does provide Michigan with another solid option.

Sam McGuffie (Sophomore) - Internet sensation and early season starter, McGuffie got his bell rung a few times and didn't see much action the 2nd half of the season. When healthy, he is an explosive runner in the open field that can make people miss. I imagine he will continue to earn snaps as part of a rotation next year. UPDATE - he decided to transfer for personal/family reasons

Michael Shaw (Sophomore) - A blazer in the open field, Shaw is probably Michigan's fastest player on offense. He still needs to improve his vision, but he's a home run threat every time he touches the ball. It's hard to keep that kind of speed off the field in this offense that generates so many gaps to run through.

Mike Cox (RS Freshman) - more of a big bruiser, he might earn some PT at fullback or short yardage situations next year.

Fitzgerald Touissant (Freshman) - a big play threat from Youngstown, Ohio, he has put up big numbers in HS. As you can see there is a ton of players ahead of him already, but he is definitely a threat to not redshirt.

Teric Jones (Freshman) - pint sized speedster from Cass Tech HS in Detroit, he will be hard pressed to beat out the players ahead of him as a true frosh.

Vincent Smith (Freshman) - pint sized speedster from Florida, who will be sitting alongside Jones working on his redshirt next year.

Quite a deep and talented group. Brandon Minor figures to lead the team in rushes and yards, but he'll be far from a workhorse as Rodriguez figures to rotate in guys like Brown, Shaw, McGuffie, and perhaps Touissant. It'll be a deep group that figures to push each individual to improve as the fight for more carries.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Greg Mathews (Senior) - easily Michigan's best true WR, he'll be their big target on the outside and counted on to provide big plays. Tied for the team lead in TD catches with 2 (!?!?!) last season, a total that will hopefully go up quite a bit with improved play at QB.

Martavious Odoms (Sophomore) - lead Michigan in catches and receiving yards last year as a true freshman, showcasing good hands and great moves in the open field. He's the prototype for what Rich Rodriguez wants in a slot WR and expect to see him have an outstanding career. He just needs to work on handling the cold weather a bit better.

Darryl Stonum (Sophomore) - coming off somewhat of a disappointing season as a highly touted recruit out of Texas. He only had 14 catches on the season and dropped a few easy ones. He's got good size and speed, though, and is dangerous after the catch. Look for big strides as a sophomore and Michigan's biggest deep threat.

Junior Hemingway (Junior) - hurt by injuries this year, he might actually have a shot at a redshirt. Regardless, he'll be in the mix for PT at outside WR in 2009 with his combination of size (6'1" 215 lbs) and speed.

Kevin Koger (Sophomore) - A big target at 6'4" and with good speed for a TE, he can produce some mismatches for the defense. TE isn't a big target in this offense, but he'll be a solid pass catching option.

Terrence Robinson (RS Freshman) - he was supposed to be a nice compliment to Martavious Odoms in the slot as a true frosh, but a knee injury lead to his redshirting. If healthy, look for him to provide another lightning quick smurf in the open field to play the slot opposite Odoms in 2009.

Roy Roundtree (RS Freshman) - tall and skinny, he'll fight for PT at outside WR.

James Rogers (Junior) - tall, skinny, and great speed. Not a natural at WR, but has the physical abilities to outmatch just about any DB he'll face.

Jeremy Gallon (Freshman) - another in the long line of smurf sized phenomenal athletes that Rodriguez will likely be recruiting to Michigan. He figures to fight for PT in the slot WR rotation with Odoms and Robinson.

Not quite as deep and talented as the RBs, there is still plenty of talent at WR. That's a good thing because they will be playing 3 or 4 per play most of the time. Mathews and Odoms are a quality pair of returning players, but youngsters like Darryl Stonum and Terrence Robinson will be fighting to get their own numbers called more often and it should help everyone.

Offensive Line

Stephen Schilling (RS Junior) - former 5 star recruit and two year starter at RT. Michigan will need him to be a force. He has always been more advanced as a run blocker than a pass blocker, and his improvement against speed rushers will be key to a strong passing game.

Mark Ortmann (RS Senior) - part-time starter at LT this year will be fighting for PT next year with the addition of loads of RS freshmen.

Perry Dorrenstein (RS Junior) - the other part-time starter at LT this year will also be fighting for PT next year.

David Molk (RS Sophomore) - surprisingly good as a freshman in the Big Ten. Center is a key spot in this spread offense and he held his own. I actually think he could be a pretty good player for quite some time in this system.

David Moosman (RS Senior) - full time starter at RG this past year. He had some decent moments, but far from a great player. He'll be fighting for PT next year.

John Ferrara (RS Junior) - he was a DT until this fall when he got pushed to the OL because of injuries. At first he just looked like he wanted to hit somebody, but as the season went along he seemed a bit more comfortable blocking. I can't wait to see what an entire offseason working with the OL can do for his technique.

Tim McAvoy (RS Senior) - former TE and part-time starter at LG, he will be hard pressed to beat out some of the youngsters for PT next year. Still not sure if he will come back for a 5th year or not.

Patrick Omameh (RS Freshman) - now entering the extremely bright future of the OL section of things with this freshman from Columbus, Ohio. He's got plenty of buzz from practice this year and should weigh heavily into the competition for PT next season. Entered Michigan at 6'4" and only 260 lbs, I think a season of Barwis-izing will have him up closer to 275 or 280.

Ricky Barnum (RS Freshman) - a highly regarded interior OL prospect from Florida who also has a lot of buzz surrounding his play in practice this fall. He also started on the small size at 6'2", 265 lbs, but should be stronger next year. He might be hard to keep off the field.

Dann O'Neill (RS Freshman) - the star of Michigan's OL recruiting last year, he's a future OT but is still learning the finer points of blocking. Not sure if he'll be polished enough to start next year over some very experienced competition, but should be a very good one long term.

Rocko Khoury (RS Freshman) - gotta love a kid named Rocko. He has a big frame at 6'5" and 280 lbs and will be fighting for PT alongside everybody else.

Kurt Wermers (RS Freshman) - another solid interior OL prospect that will fight for PT. Starting to get the sense that Michigan might have a better OL next year????

The OL struggled mightily at times in 2008, but in 2009 they should be infinitely better. For one thing, the entire line basically returns intact. They also add a boatload of redshirt freshman that spent the year doing what true freshmen linemen do (getting bigger). I imagine maybe 1 or 2 of the freshman will become starters and everybody else should be better than they were this year. If nothing else, the competition will at least give the coaches choices of who to play instead of dragging players over from the DL to fill spots.

On the whole, I think we will see major improvements on offense in 2009. And considering the sad state of affairs in 2008 that is a good thing. The QB and OL positions in particular figure to see major improvements from a combination of maturing of last year's starters combined with a massive influx of talent to the positions. When you add in an extra year of familiarity with the new offense and it won't be a stretch to see them scoring 30+ points with regularity. At the bare minimum, they should have an average offense in the conference and not be fighting for dead last in most categories.

On a more personal note, Goalline Blitz is damn addictive.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

A New Hope

This post has been a long time coming. Sorry about that. I've been way too busy with work and personal life to spend much time on the net the last few months. Throw in that this is generally my blogging down time anyway and it's a recipe for a nonexistant blog.

Anyways, I'm starting to turn my attention towards college football once again. We aren't that far off from August and the clock is going to start ticking towards opening kickoff. I'm excited for Michigan football. Not excited in the sense that I get excited for Michigan football every year, but excited to watch something different. The last time there was this much change in Ann Arbor, Bo Schembechler had just been hired and brighter days were on the horizon.

What this post isn't going to be: bragging up Rich Rodriguez as the greatest coach ever, talking about Michigan being unbeatable, etc.

What is it about? Reasons for hope and excitement and enthusiasm. Reasons why Michigan might be on the brink of something special. I'm not talking about winning a national title this year. It isn't going happen. You don't lose Chad Henne and Mike Hart and Jake Long and Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington and several other starters and completely change the offense and then when a national championship. It doesn't happen. Heck, I'm probably not even talking about winning a Big Ten championship this year.

What I am talking about is a change in the culture of Michigan football that will hopefully pay long term dividends and put Michigan back atop the Big Ten conference for the forseeable future and end Ohio State's run of Big Ten titles.

On to some specifics...

Michigan's offense had become stagnant. They basically ran the same offense for the past 10-15+ years without a whole lot of change. Some details came and went such as the HB screen and the zone blocking scheme. But in general, it was the exact same sets and the exact same play calls. Watching Mike Hart run behind Jake Long for the 250th time last year got to be a bit predictable considering he had already done it 700 other times in his career. I think in a lot of ways, the overall consistency from year to year made them easy for opponents to game plan for. You knew what you had to defend and even if Michigan had better players, you had a little bit better chance of slowing them down.

Some people like to think Rich Rodriguez runs some kind of funky run and shoot offense that won't sit well in the Big Ten and bad weather. But honestly, he likes to run the ball as much as anybody else. I refuse to drag up a bunch of stats for this post, but his rushing offense was always dominant at West Virginia despite having a bunch of 2 and 3 star recruits running it. Two things that I absolutely love about Rodriguez's offensive philosophy. For one, he's flexible. When he had Shaun King at Tulane, they lit it up through the air with a dynamic passing game. When he got stuck with Pat White who couldn't throw the ball more than 15 yards in a spiral, he ran the ball heavily. I also love the idea of spreading out the defense and forcing them to play in space. As far as I can tell, Rodriguez wants to have a boat load of fast and talented TBs and slot WRs and outside WRs and force the defense into bad matchups that they can't win. He'd rather run the ball against a 5 man box than an 8 man box. He'd rather throw a swing pass to a blazing fast smurf matched up with an OLB or SS than a swing pass to a fullback. He also doesn't huddle much, forcing the defense to not substitute and get winded. Which brings me to conditioning....

Michigan's strength and conditioning had gotten stale under Mike Gittleson. I guess that is bound to happen when one guy runs the show for 25 odd years. Mike Barwis is winning a lot of support from players claiming to already be in the best shape of their lives after a few weeks with him to former players and current pros beating down the door to come for voluntary offseason workouts. The somewhat realistic hope from all this is pretty simple. Michigan fans and foes will tell you that they can recruit with the best in the country and have for years. But now you will be seeing these players getting even faster and even stronger which should create an even bigger advantage on the field for Michigan.

I'm not going to lie. This year is going to be ugly at times on offense. Steven Threet is a very talented QB, but he isn't going to kill people running the zone read option. Rodriguez is going to have to get creative to consistently move the ball. He'll have a deep and talented group of backs and receivers to work with, but inexperience abounds on the offensive line and under center. It will be a little frustrating at times to watch them run the ball from the shotgun on 3rd and one with four wide receivers and get stuffed at the line. But it will be exciting to see them break the same play for a 50 yard touchdown other times.

But deep down, the idea of Michigan forcing opponents to try to match up with superior athletes across the field and spreading the ball to all of them is exciting.

Defensively, I really like the hire Rodriguez made with Scott Shafer. He has made quite the name for himself at previous stops with Stanford and Western Michigan for loving to create havoc in the backfield. Expect to see Michigan blitzing heavily this fall and relying on outstanding CBs to hold their own in man coverage. With a young offense, it will be up to them to force some turnovers and get some short fields to work with.

I could go on. I probably will at some point. But blogging will still be pretty light until college football season revs up again. Either that or if the Tigers get red hot and pique my interest. Until then, I'm watching the Red Wings.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Don't Let the Door Hit You

Justin Boren, junior G/C to be, has left the Michigan football team. Jeremy Ciulla and Alex Mitchell are also offensive linemen that have left the team since Lloyd Carr retired and Rich Rodriguez was hired.

Apparently, Justin has his reasons.

"Michigan football was a family, built on mutual respect and support for each other from Coach Carr on down. We knew it took the entire family, a team effort, and we all worked together. I have great trouble accepting that those family values have eroded in just a few months. That same helmet, that I was raised on and proudly claimed for the last two years, now brings a completely different emotion to me, one that interferes with practicing and playing my best and mentally preparing for what is required.

Two weeks ago, Justin was complaining about how hard it was adapting to the new offense...

The toughest thing, Boren said, is getting comfortable with the lightning-quick pace of the no-huddle attack relied upon by Rodriguez and offensive coordinator Calvin Magee.

"You've gotta be in damn good shape," he said. "This no-huddle is hard."

All this reminds me of a few tidbits from John U. Bacon's book

The player interviews were nothing compared to the shock they got once we started working January. The rap on these guys around the league was that they were soft. And man, that's a terrible thing to hear. You can call one of my teams slow, short and weak with terrible coaching--but don't ever tell me my team is soft. We were going to fix that, too. As soon as I arrived, we set up a rather--shall we say--demanding off-season regimen...

We lost a few players during the winter workouts, but not many. I'm sure they figured we couldn't possibly run as much during spring ball--and they were right. In spring ball, we focused on hitting--every day, every session, full pads--and that's when guys really started dropping. In the middle of one of these sessions, when guys were dropping ten pounds of sweat blocking and tackling, you could see some of them look longingly at that damn track. It suddenly seemed like an oasis. Things got so hard that I had to put up that famous sing, "THOSE WHO STAY WILL BE CHAMPIONS." If you toughed it out, you'd be rewarded. I gave my word. Well, not everyone stayed, of course. We probably lost twenty or thirty guys. Some of them came to my office to quite face-to-face, and some just disappeared, never to be seen again.

I was prepared for some attrition. I can honestly say we did not lose a guy who really could have helped us. I didn't lose any sleep over anyone who quit that spring.

Does any of that sound a little similar to what Rich Rodriguez had to say about Boren leaving?

"Justin Boren has decided not to play," Rodriguez said. "I don't know if we'll have any more (attrition), but we're forging ahead with guys that play for Michigan."
Seems to me that Rich Rodriguez is working the team harder than they've ever been worked before and some players aren't up to it. Best of luck to them wherever they go, but the team will be much stronger for it in the end.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Justin Verlander

There has been a lot said about the Tigers offense in 2008 and how many runs they might score. Some say 1000 is not out of the question, I say they are on crack. 900 isn't out of the question, though, and they should definitely have one of the 3 or 4 highest scoring teams in the majors. But what about the pitching? Let's start with the brightest of the Tigers pitching stars.

You know the name, you know the game: Justin Verlander

He just turned 25 a few weeks ago, yet his career list of accomplishments is already growing to be quite impressive.
  • 2nd overall pick out of Old Dominion in the 2004 draft
  • 2006 American League rookie of the year
  • 2007 American All Star
  • 7th place in the 2006 American League Cy Young voting
  • 5th place in the 2007 American League Cy Young voting
  • Highest W/L percentage in the American League in 2007
  • First Detroit Tiger to pitch a no hitter since 1984
  • Started 2 games in the 2006 World Series
But beyond just the anecdotes and traditional stats, Verlander has been putting together quite the meteoric rise up the MLB pitching heirarchy. Consider his improvements from 2005 (spot callup starts) to 2006 (rookie season) to 2007 (full blown ace):

Wins and Losses
2005: 0-2
2006: 17-9
2007: 18-6

2005: 7.15
2006: 3.63
2007: 3.66

Batting Average Allowed
2005: .313
2006: .266
2007: .233

On Base Percentage Allowed
2005: .389
2006: .328
2007: .309

Slugging Percentage Allowed
2005: .479
2006: .414
2007: .358

Strikeouts per 9 IP
2005: 5.56
2006: 6.00
2007: 8.17

Strikeout to Walk Ratio
2005: 1.40
2006: 2.07
2007: 2.73

Home Runs per 9 IP
2005: 0.77
2006: 1.02
2007: 0.89

What's not to love about this kid's career trajectory? He is consistently improving his numbers across the board showing better control and more strikeouts and allowing fewer baserunners and fewer hard hit balls. He just turned 25 and has superstardom ahead of him. Considering the offensive support he is likely to garner this year, he must be considered amongst the favorites to win the Cy Young in 2008.

A guess at some not out of the question numbers for Justin Verlander in 2008:

32 starts, 210 innings, 22-6, 3.11 ERA, 230 strikeouts, 70 walks

Heck, 23 or 24 wins isn't out of the question for this kid with a high scoring offense backing him up, especially with his skyrocketing strikeout rate. Did you know that from June 1st on last year, his K rate jumped from 6.62 to 8.96? Yep, he started out slowly but then posted a number of big K games.


Saturday, March 01, 2008

Slow start to 2008

So it's been a slow start to 2008 for blogging. Guess I've been too busy (minor understatement). But spring is here and spring training is under way. Detroit made a splash this offseason by acquiring Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera from the Florida Marlins, a move which instantly put them as one of the World Series favorites this year. Everybody knows Miguel Cabrera is a great hitter, but just how great? Consider this...

  • he doesn't turn 25 until April, having already played 4.5 seasons in the majors
  • 4 straight seasons of 100+ RBI
  • 3 seasons of 100+ runs scored
  • 3 straight .300+ batting average seasons
  • 3 seasons of 30+ home runs
  • 4 straight All Star game appearances
  • 3 straight seasons in the top 10 in intentional walks
Of Cabrera's 10 most similar hitters through age 24 according to Baseball-Reference, 9 are either in the Hall of Fame (Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Orlando Cepeda, Joe Medwick, Al Kaline, and Mickey Mantle) or soon to be (Ken Griffey Jr, Andruw Jones, Vladimir Guerrero).

And he's just now starting to get serious about playing baseball? Watch out American League.

Over the last three seasons, from age 22-24, Cabrera put up a batting line of .327/.405/.564 which is out of this world for somebody so young. For comparison, Albert Pujols hit .334/.416/.628 at the same age in a better hitters park and he's one of the all time greats at that age.

He's that good and he's that young. The sky is the limit for this kid and he's easily the best young hitter the Tigers have had since I've been alive and probably since most fans today have been alive. Hopefully they can lock him up for the long term.


Monday, December 31, 2007

Citrus Bowl Preview

I realize it's now the Capital One Bowl, but I don't agree with corporate naming of bowl games so I'm choosing to go with Citrus Bowl. "You can't spell Citrus without U T" just wouldn't be the same any other way.

Lloyd Carr's farewell
The end of an era
Mike Hart and Chad Henne and Jake Long finish their Michigan careers
Urban Meyer pretends to be nice after badmouthing Michigan last year

There are lots of ways to look at this game. Normally, I'd break down all the statistics and come up with a pretty good guess of the outcome and Michigan's chances for victory. Not this year folks. It's not that I don't care. It's that I'm afraid of looking at the numbers. Michigan sucked this year. It started from the first game and continued the last game. I prefer to just look at some of the possibilities in this game and what they might mean.

For one, this is definitely the end of an era at Michigan and it actually saddens me quite a bit. Lloyd Carr is without a doubt one of the absolute best people in college football. His kids go to class. They graduate. They work hard. They develop as people. They contribute to the community. They come back year after year because they love the school and program so much. Lloyd is the last in a line going back to the day Bo was hired in 1969. It's an unbroken string of Big Ten championships and power football that dominated the Big Ten and culminated in a national championship in 1997.

Rich Rodriguez is going to usher in a new era at Michigan. That's exciting, but it's also a little scary. As long as I've been alive, the rest of the Big Ten knew what Michigan was going to do to them on Saturday and they were pretty sure that they couldn't do anything about it. Michigan also held their own against Ohio State in the greatest rivalry in college football, sometimes momentum swung one way (9-1-1) and sometimes it swung the other (current 4 game winning streak for OSU). There were Heisman trophies on offense (Desmond) and defense (Woodson). It's a hell of an era that is coming to a close. In the end, Lloyd Carr just refused to change a little too much in the changing landscape of college football.

So what do I expect from this game against Florida? Who the hell knows. It could be ugly. Florida has a lot of talent and scored a lot of points this year with their Heisman winning dual threat quarterback Tim Tebow. Michigan never fares well against mobile QBs and has quite the bowl losing streak going. Everybody expects Florida to win in a romp. Well, almost everybody. The guys wearing the Maize and Blue are going to fight tooth and nail in this one. And that's the last little bit of hope that I have left. I've seen them at their best and they can beat anybody. Whether or not they will is another story.

So what needs to happen for Michigan to win? Here are my keys to Michigan pulling the monumental upset:

1) Make Tebow one dimensional. Do not let him beat you running the ball. There is a huge responsibility to the LBs and DL to actually get Tebow on the ground when they get a chance. He's a big boy and hard to bring down and we've missed a lot of tackles on QBs this season. Shawn Crable and company absolutely have to come up big in this one.

2) Healthy Mike Hart. If Michigan Mike can stay healthy, he will churn out the yards. And nothing makes a Lloyd Carr offense more dangerous that a solid running game. You can pretty much pencil him in for 150 yards in the culmination of his record setting career if he can stay healthy.

3) Let Chad Henne air it out. They need the 2006 OSU gameplan in this one. The coaches have to know they need a lot of points and then to cut Manningham and Arrington and Mathews loose on the Gators secondary. This is no time to be conservative against a Gator D that is suspect against the pass and hasn't seen a group of WRs like Michigan will throw at them.

4) Special teams. Need a big game from the coverage units against Brandon James and it wouldn't hurt to break one themselves.


I can't do it. It's too painful to type what I expect to see happen. The only difference is that after this game nobody will be calling for the coach to get fired.


God that was sweet to watch in too many ways to count. The most obvious is congrats to Lloyd Carr for a wonderful career. I'll have many, many more thoughts on it at some point in the next few days.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Rich Rodriguez Runs to Victory

One thing that baffles my mind is the large number of college football fans that have a basic misunderstanding of philosophy and play calling when it comes to various styles of offense. The simple inability to differentiate between the spread option attack run by Rich Rodriguez and Urban Meyer from the spread passing attack run by Joe Tiller and Bill Belichick is crazy. The one and only thing they share is a shotgun formation (at times) and a 4 WR set. That's it. The spread option starts almost every play with either a handoff or fake handoff to the TB. Almost every single passing play is play action or misdirection. Many of the passes are wide receiver screens or short crossing routes and there is not much in the way of downfield passing.

What I want to do here is characterize Rich Rodriguez as an offensive playcaller in terms of run/pass balance at various places he has been. This will give us an idea of where Michigan might be heading in the future.

2007 West Virginia Mountaineers

166/246 passing for 1891 yards
589 rushes for 3515 yards

QB Pat White lead the team with 1185 rushing yards (on 177 attempts) and 1548 passing yards (on 197 attempts). The team as a whole ran the ball 71% of the time.

2006 West Virginia Mountaineers

149/233 passing for 2059 yards
590 rushes for 3939 yards

QB Pat White was second on the team with 1295 rushing yards (on 165 attempts) and lead the team with 1655 passing yards (on 179 attempts). This team as a whole ran the ball 72% of the time.

2005 West Virginia Mountaineers

122/193 passing for 1398 yards
625 rushes for 3269 yards

QB Pat White was second on the team with 952 rushing yards (on 131 attempts) and lead the team with 828 passing yards (on 114 attempts). This team as a whole ran the ball 76% of the time.

2004 West Virginia Mountaineers

149/259 passing for 1993 yards
589 rushes for 3019 yards

QB Rasheed Marshall was second on the team with 861 rushing yards (on 169 attempts) and lead the team with 1886 passing yards (on 242 attempts). This team as a whole ran the ball 69% of the time.

2003 West Virginia Mountainers

129/252 passing for 2034 yards
600 rushes for 2762 yards

QB Rasheed Marshall was third on the team with 303 rushing yards (on 101 attempts) and lead the team with 1729 passing yards (on 215 attempts). This team as a whole ran the ball 70% of the time.

2002 West Virginia Mountaineers

148/279 passing for 1753 yards
714 rushes for 3687 yards

QB Rasheed Marshall was third on the team with 666 rushing yards (on 173 attempts) and lead the team with 1616 passing yards (on 259 attempts). This team as a whole ran the ball 72% of the time.

2001 West Virginia Mountaineers

192/355 passing for 1811 yards
474 rushes for 1999 yards

QB Rasheed Marshall was second on the team in rushing with 210 yards (on 41 attempts) and QB Brad Lewis lead the team with 1339 passing yards (on 237 attempts). This team as a whole ran the ball 57% of the time.

2000 Clemson Tigers

159/296 passing for 2311 yards
557 rushes for 2600 yards

QB Woody Dantzler was second on the team with 947 rushing yards (on 172 attempts) and lead the team with 1691 passing yards (on 212 attempts). This team as a whole ran the ball 65% of the time.

1999 Clemson Tigers

252/423 passing for 3019 yards
497 rushes for 1812 yards

QB Woody Dantzler was second on the team with 588 rushing yards (on 146 attempts) and lead the team with 1506 passing yards (on 201 attempts). This team as a whole ran the ball 54% of the time.

1998 Tulane Green Wave

251/375 passing for 3495 yards
518 rushes for 2523 yards

QB Shaun King was third on the team with 633 rushing yards (on 156 attempts) and lead the team with 3495 passing yards (on 365 attempts). This team as a whole ran the ball 58% of the time.

1997 Tulane Green Wave

201/366 passing for 2608 yards
424 rushes for 2038 yards

QB Shaun King was second on the team with 511 rushing yards (on 124 attempts) and lead the team with 2577 passing yards (on 363 attempts). This team as a whole ran the ball 54% of the time.

A couple things jump out. For one, Rodriguez loves to run the ball. In the last 11 years, his lowest run percentage was 54% (in his first year at both Tulane and Clemson). He also tends to run the ball a lot more the longer he is at a school, which may be a product of recruitng more guys that fit his system the longer he is there. Even his record setting Tulane offense in 1998 ran the ball 58% of the time, despite being characterized as a wide open passing attack.

I think in the long run, Michigan will settle out running the ball between 60-65% of the time with Rodriguez at the helm. He should be able to recruit some dual threat QBs that are better passers than Pat White, but it's also plainly obvious that even when he has a future NFL QB he is going to run the ball a lot. Take a look at those West Virginia rushing yardage totals. When is the last time Michigan cracked 3000 yards on the ground in a season? Rodriguez has done it 4 straight years in Morgantown.

It's also worth noticing that QBs tend to rank very highly on the rushing list each year for Rodriguez. In 11 years since he left Glenville State in the NAIA, the worst a QB has finished in rushing yardage on his team is 3rd and only twice has he failed to have a QB rush for at least 500 yards on the season.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Rich Rodriguez

"Thank you all very much -- great crowd. It's an honor and privilege to be named the University of Michigan's head football coach. I will tell you, it was a very difficult decision to leave a place where I grew up, a program that we had built over the last seven years, to leave family and friends and a wonderful team with great young men. As I mentioned, it was a very difficult decision and in order to leave there, it was going to take a very special opportunity and a very special place, and I think that's what this is."

And with that, the Rich Rodriguez era in Ann Arbor got underway. I must admit that his name surfacing at the end of the coaching search came as a bit of a surprise to me. Honestly, I never thought he'd be in the mix as a candidate after turning down Alabama last year. I mean what was Michigan going to offer that Alabama didn't? They had a big contract at one of the true historical powers in the sport in a big time conference and he said "no thanks". Michigan came along offering a little bit more money and perhaps a little bit bigger of a name, but he decided to bite and for that the fans of Michigan should be greatful.

What do I make of the hire? Boy, oh boy, things are going to be changing in Ann Arbor. From the day Bo Schembechler was hired before the 1969 season until Lloyd Carr's last game in two weeks, it has been a long and continuous run of success at Michigan capped by the 1997 national title. Michigan has often been close but not in the national title chase, but has also been a bully in the Big Ten for 40 years. And they did it basically the same way. Sure, things changed a little over the years. But the people and the philosophy were the same.

What will 2008 bring? Fasten your seatbelts because this isn't your father's Michigan anymore. Rich Rodriguez favors a spread option attack that spreads the defense out and is always on the move. He also likes to go with a no huddle offense. He likes to score a lot of points. He is willing to take risks on offense. He isn't afraid to gamble at times. Gone are the days of Michigan sitting on a 10 point lead in the 3rd quarter content to let the defense close it out. Rodriguez will also likely be bringing about a change in the strength and conditioning program. Depending on who you ask, that might lead to big improvements in the explosiveness of players on both sides of the ball.

Beyond just a change in style, Rich Rodriguez has almost no prior connection to the University of Michigan. He is from outside the family. He is going to have to learn about what it means to be the head coach of the University of Michigan and everything that goes along with it. But he is a very good coach. He transformed West Virginia from a program that was usually on the fringe of the top 25 to a program that is looking for it's 3rd straight top 10 finish and was one bad loss away from playing for the national title. A common complaint from detractors is that he did it against a weak schedule and didn't have many quality wins. Well, I'd like to point out that he also did it with players at WEST VIRGINIA and almost no recruiting base. I'm confident that he can do big things at Michigan with all the talent that he will have at his disposal.

I don't know what his coaching staff will look like and I don't know how exactly how he will fit his offense around the talents of Ryan Mallett. What I do know is that he is a very good coach that he will figure out how to win a lot of games at Michigan. I look forward to seeing what he can do against Jim Tressel and the rest of the Big Ten.

Congrats to Bill Martin for another good coaching hire and apologies to West Virginia fans for once again taking one of your coaches.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Coach - O - Rama

Since the retirement of Lloyd Carr, the rumors of who is to be the new coach of Michigan have kicked into full gear. Most recently, apparently false rumors of Kirk Ferentz accepting the job and being on the verge of an announcement have swept around in the last 48-72 hours. Brian knows his stuff and I think I know where he got some of his information from. As best I can tell there have been some actual serious looking at Ferentz as a candidate by Michigan combined with some Iowa fans spreading some false rumors of Ferentz as accepting the job. I think the two are totally unrelated and the timing is ironic and kind of funny. So where does Ferentz stand in the Michigan head coaching search? I think he is still a candidate, though I don't think any decisions have been made yet.

So here are some of my thoughts on some potential names I have seen kicked around in various locations. Some are more likely than others. We'll start with the 500 lb gorilla in the room.

Les Miles - I think everybody knows the story. Former OL under Bo Schembechler who also had 2 stints in Ann Arbor as an assistant coach. He had some success at Oklahoma State including some big wins over rival Oklahoma and he has had more success at LSU taking over for Nick Saban.

What are some of the pros for Miles? Well, he's a "Michigan Man", whatever that means. He certainly knows what it takes to be successful in Ann Arbor and he certainly loves the school. He also has had success as a head coach in both the Big Twelve and the SEC. LSU finished 6th in the AP poll his first season and 3rd in the AP poll last season. This year they were at or near the top until their recent triple OT loss to Arkansas. You still have to figure they are a good bet to once again finish in the top 5 nationally. Miles also is not afraid to gamble on the field which is a little different than Lloyd Carr. He is not afraid to fake field goals and punts and just go for it on 4th down over and over. There is definitely a little riverboat gambler mentality in Les and that's not a bad thing.

Some of the cons? He has a big mouth and will say some un-PC things to the media. Who can forget "we have a new rival in fucking Alabama"? He also didn't profess to be a fan of the Pac Ten while ridiculing the USC schedule. After 13 years of listening to Lloyd Carr extoll the virtues of every single opponent he plays and talk them up left and right, are Michigan fans ready for a coach that will pop off at any time about any topic and risk offending lots of people? I'm not sure, though I admit it would be fun to listen to him talk about his true feelings about Ohio State. There are also some folks that feel Les has never had a truly great season losing some games each year that he shouldn't. However, you can say that regarding just about any coach in the country. Given the tough schedules he has faced at LSU, I'd say he has handled himself quite well in the W/L category. Also various rumors about Oklahoma State players being surprised they had to go to class and attending meetings and other such routine things after Coach Gundy (he of the press conference tirade) replaced Miles.

The bottom line is that Miles is a good coach and would likely have Michigan routinely in the top 5 or 10 in the country and in the hunt for national titles. How many times he'd embarrass himself by saying something dumb in the media would be up to speculation.

Kirk Ferentz - former player and assistant coach at Iowa that has been the Hawkeyes' head coach since 1999.

Pros? Mary Sue Coleman (the Michigan prez) apparently still loves him from her days at Iowa. Personally, that does nothing for me because she doesn't know anything about sports. His star was much brighter a few years ago when Iowa had three straight #8 rankings in the final AP poll. Lloyd Carr is also a fan of Ferentz.

Cons? Too many to list them all. For one, Iowa has struggled mightily the last three years and has lost some horrible games. If you thought losing to Appalachian State was bad, imagine losing a home game to Western Michigan in the season finale with a bowl on the line. That's the ultimate "what the fuck" moment for a coach. It's also not so hot to go 6-6 overall and 4-4 in the Big Ten this past year when he got to skip Ohio State and Michigan on the schedule. And can you say "off field problems"? Iowa's got way more than I can count with Ferentz at the helm. And don't get me started on the bend but don't break and don't ever blitz philosophy that Ferentz and Norm Park love on offense combined with the run, run, and run some more style he likes on offense.

Kirk Ferentz has a stellar reputation as a head coach. He unfortunately has not had much results recently and there is no great explanation why. In a best case scenario if hired, he could bring some changes off the field in terms of strength and conditioning, but it would realistically be like hiring a younger Lloyd Carr. I would hope he could keep the off the field problems away, but his track record isn't great. I'd also hope he would take a few more chances on the field but I wouldn't hold my breath. It would be a thoroughly boring choice and my only hope would be that he could prove me wrong on the field. My biggest hope would be that he would hire an offensive coordinator that had some cajones in playcalling and we'd have to wait and see who that would be.

Mike DeBord - Lloyd's buddy. You probably know him as the current (or is that soon to be former) offensive coordinator for the Wolverines. He was previously seen as the Central Michigan head coach from 2000-2003 when he lead them to a thoroughly unimpressive 12-34 record.

Pros? None. Lloyd likes him. Probably a nice guy. Wouldn't get lost driving to work in Ann Arbor. He also wouldn't need to look for a house.

Cons? Horrible resume as head coach against bad competition. I shutter to think what he'd do against the big boys.

DeBord would be perhaps the only candidate who's name has been tossed around that would make me instantly call for the heads of everyone responsible for the decision from AD Bill Martin to University presient Mary Sue Coleman.

Ron English - the current defensive coordinator for the Wolverines. English was a long time west coaster before coming to Ann Arbor having played and coached at Cal and coach at Arizona State prior to being named DBs coah for Michigan. This is his 2nd season as DC replacing Jim Hermann.

Pros? English definitely has a different attitude than Carr. He's a young and energetic coach that demands excellence from his players. He's also african american for whatever that is worth.

Cons? His defense was dominant in the first 11 games last year, but has not been nearly so hot the last 13 games. Coaching? Players? Both? I don't know, but his star has lost a little luster.

Ron English might be a very good head coach some day. I'm just not sure Michigan wants to roll the dice on him right now considering he has a total of 2 years of experience as a coordinator.

Brian Kelly - Kelly is currently in his first year at Cincinnati after guiding Central Michigan for 3 years and 13 years at Division 2 Grand Valley State.

Pros? He wins games. In his final 3 years at GVSU, the Lakers went 41-2 including a 32 game winning streak and 2 national titles. At Central Michigan, he cleaned up Mike DeBord's mess going 4-7, 6-5, and 9-4. In his last season, the Chips were the MAC champions. Now he's got Cincinnati in the top 25 in the Big East in his first season. Kelly also is a fan of a wide open attacking offense and he is not afraid to take chances. His style of play would be a welcome change of pace from what Michigan fans are used to watching.

Cons? Not many. This is his first year in a BCS conference level school at Cincinnati, but he does have plenty of coaching experience. He has also been successful everywhere he has gone. One little incident that is a knock on his resume were some comments he made to the press after some players at CMU were involved in an incident at a bar that left one man dead. Kelly made some remarks about how some of the players (who were black) were raised in a culture of violence. He later apologized. Depending on who you talk to this is either a really big deal or a really small deal. The only certainty is that nobody around the country knows or remembers this and it's really only in the minds of those looking for it.

Chris Peterson - the current head coach of Boise State, Peterson will be an intersting candidate for some big jobs over the next 1-2 years.

Pros? He lead Boise State to a 13-0 season in 2006 (his first as head coach) including a Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma and was later named national coach of the year. Not a bad debut season. He has a pretty lengthy career as an assistant coach under his belt, however. A former QB at UC Davis, he coached quarterbacks at Portland State and Pittsburgh and Oregon. He also served as offensive coordinator at Boise State under Dan Hawkins for 4 seasons, twice being named a finalist for national assistance coach of the year (Broyles Award). He is a fantastic offensive mind and definitely not afraid to take chances to go for a victory.

Cons? A grand total of 2 years now as a head coach at a small school in a small conference isn't exactly the best way to prepare to jump into one of the biggest fishbowls in the country. I'm not saying he wouldn't be successful, but he would have to make major changes to what he is used to doing. Recruiting against Ohio State for a kid from Cleveland is a little different than pitching Boise State football to a kid from Pocatello or a juco transfer.

Peterson would be an interesting hire. I'd rather go for Brian Kelly if they were really looking to make a splash because of his lengthy track record as a head coach, however Peterson is a dynamite offensive playcaller. I doubt he gets an interview, but it's not totally out of the question.

I might get into some more names later like Butch Davis, but that's I'll I've got for now.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Hoops and Hockey

The John Beilein era is well under way as the Wolverines got off to a 2-0 start this weekend with wins over Radford and Brown. You can easily say that it is just Radford and Brown, but Michigan looked much different on the court compared to previous years. And I'm not just talking turtlenecks...

Freshman Corperryale (aka Manny) Harris and sophomore DeShawn Sims both got off to good starts and should be quite the dynamic duo this season. Through 2 games, Sims is averaging 20.0 points and 5.5 rebounds while Harris is scoring 17.5 points and dishing 4.0 assists per game. There are enough role players around them that the Wolverines could give some top teams some real problems this year. Player by player brief previews:

#1 Jerrett Smith - the 6'3" junior point guard is still limited in foot speed, but is a good passer and can knock down the open shot

#2 CJ Lee - a 6'0" junior point guard that transferred from Manhattan. He's got speed and is looking to force his way into the lineup.

#3 Manny Harris - reportedly up to 6'7" with long arms, this kid is multitalented. His strongest suit is defense, but he is also dynamic taking the ball to the rim. Once his outside shot rounds into form more consistently, he will be one of the best players in the Big Ten.

#5 K'len Morris - the 6'4" redshirt freshman can play almost anywhere on the floor and he figures to be a valuable player off the bench this year. A natural passer with good basketball smarts.

#12 Anthony Wright - 6'4" redshirt freshman with broad shoulders (he outweighs Morris by 50 pounds) and a smooth outside jumper. He'll be battling Ron Coleman for PT at the 3/4 spots.

#15 Jevohn Shepherd - 6'5" junior with outstanding athleticism. He's a great defender, but struggles mightily to contribute on offense. It will be interesting to see if Beilein can improve him.

#22 Ekpe Udoh - 6'10" sophomore center with long arms and a knack for blocking shots. He has decent range to about 1o or 12 feet, but he will not be shooting three pointers this year. He should provide very solid defense on the interior.

#24 Ron Coleman - 6'6" senior (the only one on the roster) is mostly a role player. He can knock down open shots and can grab some defensive rebounds, but that's about it. He is a poor passer and is slow and subpar defensively.

#32 Zack Gibson - 6'10" redshirt sophomore transfer from Rutgers is a big kid with a good shooting touch out to three point range. Can you say Kevin Pittsnogle? Well, I won't. But he will provide some scoring touch.

#34 DeShawn Sims - 6'8" sophomore is a dynamic talent that can score both inside and out and might be one of the tougher covers in the conference.

#44 Kelvin Grady - 5'11" freshman point guard that has blazing speed in the open court and a good shoot touching behind the arc. He figures to challenge Jerrett Smith and CJ Lee for most of the point guard minutes this season. He could be a Dee Brown type player as he gains experience.

I'm giddy with excitement that Michigan basketball will once again be worth watching.

On to hockey...

Michigan swept the UAF Nanooks this weekend at Yost to improve to 9-1-0 on the season including 6-0-0 in CCHA play. It's too hard for me to follow the hockey team from a distance, but suffice to say they are off to a great start. Considering they weren't picked to do much this year, Red Berenson is doing a great job so far. It will be interesting to see how they do in the Showcase against Minnesota and Wisconsin and also how they fare against current #1 Miami in CCHA play.

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Game Time

Now that the formalities are out of the way (Michigan's stinker in Madison), it's time to find out if this team can win the Big Ten and represent in the Rose Bowl again. Ohio State didn't fare so well in their warm up either, but they still had the national title on the line so that was a head scratcher.

No worries, though, as Michigan is just rounding into health for the Ohio State game and it'll be nice to not see Troy Smith out there again. Chad Henne barely played and Mike Hart didn't play at all against the Badgers so that both can be as close to 100% as possible for The Game.

What did I learn from the Wisconsin game?
  • Ryan Mallett is still nowhere close to being a prime time performer. He makes a mental mistake almost every other time he drops back to pass and some of them are devastating.
  • I also learned that nobody can hope to cover Mario Manningham and he's the best route runner I've ever seen at Michigan.
  • It's also painfully obvious that Michigan has no ground game without Mike Hart. His continual ability to make something out of nothing is missing in both Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown.
  • Michigan's run defense has struggled mightily the last 6 quarters against MSU and Wisconsin and the LBs need to get it straightened out ASAP.
  • Tyler Donovan made some nifty moves in the pocket, but it's still frustrating to watch the pass rushers just whiff time after time when they have a QB in their sights. Fortunately Todd Boeckman is a big target that should be easier to get a hold of.
The season was a disaster following the 0-2 start, but this team has rebounded and has a chance to earn a spot in the Rose Bowl and that kind of toughness has to be appreciated. It would also be nice to send Lloyd Carr out with a win over Ohio State and Jim Tressel in his final attempt.

Thoughts on the hockey and hoops teams later today after Beilein's squad improves to 2-0...


Monday, November 05, 2007

Next on CBS: Big Brother!

So apparently Mark Dantonio doesn't take kindly to Mike Hart referring to his program as the little brother in the state. I don't know much, but I do know that it is HI-LARIOUS to watch a rival coach have Mike Hart get so far into his head that he feels the need to comment on it at his press conference two days after the fact.

Let's just run through a little time line of sorts to provide a background to this and some other nonsense.

September 17th, 2005 - Michigan State beats Notre Dame and proceeds to plant a flag at midfield in South Bend (HT for the reminder of this to MGOBLOG).

September 1st, 2007 - Mark Dantonio offers to have a moment of silence for Michigan after being informed that they just lost to Appalachian State. Here's a thread at the RCMB pretty much dedicated to how awesome that quote was and how much they love their new coach.

October 30th, 2007 - Coach Dantonio, the same guy that installed a clock counting down to the Michigan game before the season even started, asks his players if they are ready to stop bowing to Michigan.

November 3rd, 2007 - Michigan beats Michigan State 28-24 on the field, once again coming from behind to beat MSU in dramatic fashion.

November 3rd, 2007 - Michigan celebrates the victory by having a mock moment of silence on the field for the Spartans and then bowing to Dantonio.

November 3rd, 2007 - Mike Hart in the postgame press conference...
"I was just laughing," Hart would later say about the crazed crowd when MSU was leading. "I thought it was funny. They got excited. It's good. Sometimes you get your little brother excited when you're playing basketball and let him get the lead, then you just come back and take it back."

November 3rd, 2007 - Jehuu Caulcrick's postgame press conference where he whines that "You don't have to rub it go off the field, you celebrate with your don't try to rub it in, that's a lack of respect". Sorry Jehuu, after planting a flag at midfield you aren't allowed to complain about this EVER.

November 5th, 2007 - Mark Dantonio goes off about everything except the beating his team took in his weekly PC...
“I find a lot of the things that they do amusing,” Dantonio said on Monday. “They need to check themselves sometimes. But just remember, pride comes before the fall.” Dantonio also addressed Mike Hart’s comments after the game in which he referred to MSU as the “little brother” of U-M. “Does Hart have a little brother or is he the little brother?” Dantonio asked. “I don’t know, he’s…” Then Dantonio placed his hand up to his chest to illustrate Hart’s stature.

I mean where do you even begin commenting on this stupidity? Caulcrick having the stones to criticize the way Michigan celebrated their victory after his showmanship a few years back? Dantonio making fun of Mike Hart's height two days after the game? Anybody having the balls to criticize Michigan's moment of silence after the wise cracks coming from the MSU side when Michigan lost to Appalachian State? It's insane. The entire Michigan team from coaches to players kept the mouths shut all season long regarding MSU. They didn't say a word about the Spartans, while MSU continued to take little shots here and there. Then Michigan wins (AGAIN) and let's the Spartans know what they thought of their antics before the game and the entire Spartan world takes offense to this?


Don't whine about being called Little Brother if you can't stop obsessing over every little detail of your latest loss to Michigan. Don't go bragging about how Michigan will get theirs and about the latest round of revenge you'll be seeking next year after Mike Hart tells you all about what he thinks of your program. Guess what, for the rest of his life he's 4-0 against Michigan State with a pair of 200+ yard games on the ground and a pair of 100+ yard games on the ground. From here to eternity, he can always point to the scoreboard.

Oh, and it might help if you got a head coach that didn't insist on trying to piss off Michigan. I got news for you, taunting them in the papers and threatening swift revenge next year isn't going to make winning any easier.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Random Thoughts on Michigan Football

It's been a long journey back to respectability for the Michigan football team after a disatrous start to 2007. But, I think they might be back. The most recent incarnation of the BCS rankings puts them at #12 in the nation. I find that a little strange since they were #20 last week and it ties them with Georgia for the biggest jump since last week at 8 spots worth of improvement. Georgia had to beat Florida by 12 points to earn that, while Michigan merely needed to beat Minnesota. It's also nice to see the BCS math at work. Michigan ranks #15 and #14 in the polls and is #16 in computer average, so 15+14+16/3 = 12 in BCS land. It works out, though, because of some massive disparities between the computers and the polls for other teams. USC, for example, is #13 and #15 in the polls, but completely out of 4 of the BCS computer rankings which drops them to #19 in the BCS. Hawaii and Texas average out around #11 in the polls, but Texas is unranked by any computer and Hawaii is only ranked by 1 computer so they both get zero points from the computer rankings.

What does all this mean for the future? I hesitate to use my imagination, because I might find some slimmer of hope that Michigan doesn't deserve after the loss to Appalachian State and the beatdown by Oregon. I'll just stick to understanding that Michigan is 5-0 in the Big Ten and heading to East Lansing with the Rose Bowl firmly on their minds.

Speaking of Michigan State, the more things change (another new coach) the more they stay the same (another horrible loss, this time to Iowa). Is there a more schizophrenic program in the country? Michigan beat Minnesota without Chad Henne and without Mike Hart, but both figure to return for the game in East Lansing. You know the Spartan fans and defenders really don't want to see Mike Hart. In 3 career games against the instate rivals, Hart has rushed for 224 yards, 218 yards, and 124 yards. That's 91 carries for 564 yards and 2 TDs for those keeping score at home. In case you wondering, the previous Michigan record for rushing yards against a single opponent was held by Tyrone Wheatley against Iowa with 519 yards in three games.

Don't forget Mario Manningham. He just ripped off his 4th straight conference game with over 100 yards receiving and a TD when he torched Minnesota for a career high 162 yards. That gives him 32 catches for 541 yards and 6 TDs in his last 4 games. He joins Braylon Edwards as the only Wolverine to ever have 4 straight 100 yard games receiving and he is the first to do it in 4 straight Big Ten games.

Shawn Crable is having a monster year at LB. He ranks 2nd nationally with 22 tackles for loss and has thrown in 60 tackles and 7.5 sacks and 3 forced fubmles. He might be the best OLB in the nation right now.

All things considered, Michigan is playing pretty well right now. They've ripped off 7 straight wins against admittedly relatively weak competition, but they are starting to round into form. The defense has shored up against all sorts of formations and the offense is hitting on all cylinders with both backups and starters. What does this mean for the future? Two road games coming up with Michigan State and Wisconsin will both be tough but winnable. Then the biggie with the Buckeyes. I'm strangely confident about the OSU game this year. Maybe it's the comfort at Troy Smith being in the NFL. Maybe alcohol killed the rational brain cells I used to have. Who knows.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Bo's Lasting Lessons

So I've been incognito for a few weeks working way too many hours day after day and sometimes night after night. Well, thankfully that little bump in the road is mostly behind me so I can have some free time every now and then. The kind folks at Grand Central Publishing were nice enough to send along a copy of Bo's Lasting Lessons by Bo Schembechler and John U. Bacon for me to read and review. I have no particular talent at reviewing books and I'm sure they sent out as many copies to as many blogs as possible, but I feel compelled to share my thoughts.

It was a darn good read, especially for a lifelong fan of Michigan. I'm a little young (not even 30 yet) to remember most of Bo's tenure at Michigan. My first memories of him were the tail end of his career when he kept running the same offense and I kept wishing that we'd throw the ball more and have more aggressive play calling (I loved Gary Moeller's offense). Over the years, I've heard numerous 3rd and 4th hand stories about Bo and had a few brushes with him at sporting events in Ann Arbor. I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, but since I'm a sucker for Michigan football I gave it an honest read. Well, let me tell you that I was actually impressed. It's told from Bo's point of view and it gives a lot of his insights into some of the most important moments in Michigan football over the last 40 years, both good and bad.

It's not just a collection of coach speak, but personal tales from Bo himself. You get a glimpse into his fiery determination to win. You see that his primary concern was the personal lives of his players and coaches. You get a chance to see how he helped players after they were long gone from Michigan. Most of all, though, you get a chance to see the real Bo and not the vague character seen storming the sidelines on ESPN Classic.

Bo's Lasting Lessons is an excellent book that I highly recommend for fans of Michigan football, or just fans of fired up old school coaches. There was one or two parts that brought a tear to my eye and at least one or two parts that made me want to throw on some pads and hit somebody. It was a beautiful glimpse into the inner workings of Michigan football that extend into today.

This might sound like whoring for the man for a free book, but it's a damn good book and I hope other Michigan fans can pick up a copy for themselves.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Mike Hart

He's a warrior on the field and carried the ball 44 times against what was the #1 rushing defense in the nation statistically entering the game. Everybody knew he'd need to do it with Ryan Mallett still manning the QB position in Chad Henne's place against #10 Penn State. 153 yards and 1 TD later and it's another victory for Michigan. Quite the performance. Earlier this summer, I noted that Mike Hart was approaching several career records for Michigan. Well, they are going to ride him hard this season and he will have a good shot at some single season marks as well.

Four games into the season, Hart ranks #1 nationally with 655 rushing yards and #2 nationally with 163.75 yards per game and #1 nationally with 127 carries and #10 nationally with 6 rushing touchdowns.

Let's assume Michigan will play in a bowl game this year. Before the season, that was a given. After the 0-2 start, that was a major question. At this point, though, it seems pretty reasonable. That would give Michigan 13 games to play this season. Right now, Hart projects to 413 carries for 2129 yards and 20 TDs. That would be a hell of a season.

Rushing Attempts - the current single season mark is held by Chris Perry at 338 attempts. Hart needs 211 more in 9 games (23.4/game) to tie the mark. Assuming he's got a couple more 35+ carry games coming it would seem that he will break this mark if he stays healthy. I'm thinking 360+ is a likely bet at this point.

Rushing Yards - the current single season mark is held by Tim Biakabutuka at 1818 yards in 1995. Hart needs 1163 more yards in 9 games (129.2/game) which will be tough to do but is within reach. Hart's main problem will likely be that the Michigan coaches will look to give him some breaks against teams like Eastern Michigan so he might only end up with a few sub 100 yard games. I'm not ruling him out, though.

Rushing Touchdowns - Ron Johnson holds the single season mark with 19 rushing TDs in 1968. Hart needs 13 more in 9 games (1.44/game) to tie the record. This will be tough to do, but he will definitely get the ball near the goalline. If he can throw up a couple three TD games he'll have a chance.

100 Yard Games - the single season mark is currently held by Jamie Morris with ten 100 yard games in 1987. Mike Hart is 4/4 on the season and needs to get 6 of the last 9 to tie the mark. It seems pretty likely that he'll at least tie the mark and he might even break it.