Monday, September 08, 2008

Michigan Football Tidbits:

General Thoughts:

The "Barwis factor"-- we tried to warn people not to go overboard with thinking that Barwis alone would make this team a success. As stated, most college football teams have quality S&C programs. Michigan was behind the other top teams that have been using more advanced techniques. Barwis simply gets Michigan to their level. I do think Barwis had a factor in last week’s game against Utah and this week against Miami. Against Utah, we played much better in the second half, and seemed to be in better shape than them.

The Miami game Saturday was a time of possession disaster. Michigan’s defense was on the field for almost a whole quarter longer than the Redhawks’ defense. Michigan will play hard for four quarters in every game, but Barwis cannot game plan and execute for the kids. Time of possession is not as key a factor in Rodriguez’s scheme as past coaching staffs, but the offense needs to progress to the point where they can at least grind out some first downs even if they don’t score, especially late in the game.

Some posters have questioned the amount of injuries and asked if Barwis is that effective. First, keep in mind that in his clinic he talked about preventing injuries, but the ligament and sprain type injuries are harder to avoid. He also said you cannot prevent all of them and can only help kids play harder and longer while hoping to prevent injuries. Our opinion is Barwis’ key role is "player development". This has been lacking at Michigan in recent years, as younger players and depth were not developed well under the last coaching staff.

It is too early to say either that Barwis has had a profound effect, or that he has had no impact. The players will get faster and stronger. It is probably too early as well to feel the full impact of the new strength and conditioning approach; we will see better results in the coming years. It cannot be disputed, however, that the kids are in great shape, and seem to still be stronger and just as fast at the end of the game as they are in the beginning.

Marcus Witherspoon was one of the most impressive freshmen during summer workouts and drills. He is a significant loss. I simply disagree with almost everyone on how his academic situation was handled. Where were all the people inside the “Fort" who are supposed to keep Coach Rod up to date with these types of situations? It seems like they have dropped the ball numerous times in the past six months. Why are these people still there? Coach Rod had better clean house and get some people in there who are committed to his chances for success, and to Michigan football and its’ student athletes or these situations will continue.

Witherspoon and his parents deserve their share of the blame, but so what? Once he went back to New Jersey, why didn’t anyone at Michigan call him daily, every other day or weekly? Marcus and his family needed to know why Michigan was making the decisions they were. Witherspoon had signed his letter of intent. There were no rules in terms of contact. While the major responsibility for academic qualifying does lie with Marcus and his family, the modern world of college recruiting is that the universities must reach out to the athletes; there’s always another recruiter who will step in. Michigan dropped the ball on this one and there is no other way of looking at it.

Michigan is a large university with a supposedly great academic support staff. How did this staff, led by Sherri Acho, fail to keep Witherspoon and his family informed of clearinghouse issues? The Witherspoons can not be the only family unaware of all the clearinghouse issues. We feel universities like Michigan owe it to their recruits to help them avoid situations like being sent home just before fall camp breaks to catch up on credits. There is a big difference between a 17 year old person and his family, who may not understand all the qualifying issues, and a major university that is a member of the governing body that enacts and enforces the qualifying rules.

Some have speculated that Michigan may not have wanted Witherspoon, that he might not have ever played a down for the Wolverines. We do not buy that. We felt he was the best linebacker recruit in several years. J.B. Fitzgerald, another New Jersey linebacker recruit and one who is making great strides, has even said that Witherspoon was a better player than himself.

On the general state of things early in the season:
The limited ability of our quarterbacks is not an excuse for the dreadful offensive play of the first two games. There is plenty of talent, and we are tired of hearing that the talent on hand is not capable of winning. In the past, everyone would have blamed the coaches. Now, it is the players’ fault. Even when people talk about new starters and freshmen, they still blame the players. It may not be that Michigan has elite talent, but we feel the talent is better than most teams on Michigan’s schedule.

Our biggest fear of the Rodriguez hire was that every Michigan fan and Rodriguez thought a turnaround might be a matter of tossing the switch. Do Michigan fans and Coach Rod himself believe that he is such a good coach that a return to greatness would be immediate and automatic? After watching the Utah tape, we feel the play calling did not give this team the best chance to win; we saw NO offensive adjustments in the second half.

We do not feel that recruiting is addressing team needs such as defensive line, offensive line and depth, but it is early in the process and we look to be at least under consideration from several top prospects. Michigan’s depth chart and on field weaknesses that are plain to see present these prospects with an opportunity to come in and compete for playing time right away. However, even with our depth chart, and the Michigan brand, we are being out-recruited by Ohio State, LSU, USC, Notre Dame and others at this point. And they are out-recruiting us at positions they are deep at as well. If we want to compete with the elite programs, this needs to change. And it is not a good thing to see three prominent names of Michigan recruits or commits, such as Witherspoon, Kevin Newsome and Will Campbell fall out.

We feel Rodriguez can begin making his statements by adding some elite prospects and winning recruiting battles with the programs we see ourselves as being on the level of. We feel that many are soothing themselves with the arguments that Rodriguez needs “his” type of player. But talent is talent and talent wins. That is why all the teams go after the guys with all the stars. And don’t think that Barwis can develop the less talented players to levels of greatness comparable to that of other elite programs. They all have a Barwis, and they are giving their Barwis talent to work with. We must match that.

One last point:
The athletic department would do well to hire someone who has a sports oriented marketing background. There have been a number of PR hits since Coach Rod was hired. The West Virginia buyout was an ugly mess. The Braylon Edwards jersey deal should have never happened, especially with the number of people in the athletic department who should have been familiar with it! There were issues with players leaving, including the very prominent and nasty departure of Justin Boren, who lashed out, and whether true or false, his words rang loud and clear to the media and to other recruits and coaches at the high school level. We can make light of the language issue as well, but to many that became a real concern. Coaches, kids and families see all of these things.

Someone needs to take control and make sure that Michigan becomes better at PR and marketing this great program. A Saturday night game might be a good play. UM should jazz up the spring game, with a festival-like atmosphere with activities for fans to enjoy. There used to be events such as a garage sale, a 5K walk/run, and baseball and softball games to go along with the spring game. How many times have we heard a recruit mention a spring game at another university with 50,000 to 80,000 people attending and it being a fantastic experience? There must be a reason the other schools do it and we should look into making the spring game a big-time event.

written by CoachBt, MaizeMan and ErocWolverine

10 comments:

Matt said...

Shari Acho and company really aren't in charge of Clearinghouse issues at all. That all falls under the duties of the Registrar's office. It's a very complicated process, and stuff like what happened with Witherspoon is pretty much unpreventable. It's just a fact of college athletics.

Anonymous said...

The players doc have to take their share of the blame. In the Miami-Florida game last weekend, several freshman stepped up and played amazing games. I kept wondering, why can't our freshman do the same (to be fair, McGuffie is well on his way to.)

New system or no, it's football, which these very talented athletes have been playing all of their lives. The "NEW SYSTEM" isn't causing missed tackles or missed blocks. Sure the many freshman will make mistakes, but they should also be making many great plays.

The players have to understand that their time IS NOW. This is their chance--DO SOMETHING WITH IT. NO EXCUSES. It's too easy to use "New System" as a crutch. It's football, not rocket science. You guys are elite football players, go out and prove it.

As you said about Barwis, he can't wave a wand and make our players into unstoppable Supermen. He just gets them--at least-- to the level of other elite teams. The fourth quarter, it's still going to be
won by the team with the most guts and determination: AND IT ISN"T GOING TO BE EASY! So all you players have to suck it up and get your minds-N-behinds in gear.

One last note: Threet and Sheridan have to step up: this is chance of a lifetime for them. No excuses! You are quarterbacks, new system or not: make the passes, make the reads, or step aside. RR might as well activate Fagin and put him in: he can't do much worse.

"When the going gets tough, the tough get going."

Anonymous said...

In the end WINNING is the best PR a team a can have--you can't buy that.

The only "right type" of player a team needs is winners. Those who take advantage of their brief moment in the sun (or in the Big House.) Winners win: despite adversity.

There's a fine line between "facing reality" and "accepting excuses."

Winners perform under pressure. So maybe it's time to end the honeymoon and put more pressure on the players AND coaching staff to show what they're made of. At least show us that you can play up to Division I standards: we can wait for the BCS level of play. No more "there's a learning curve" free pass, even if it's understandable.

RR likes to push his players to get the most out them. It's time to "push" RR and get the most out of him and his staff. RR wanted the "big stage," here it is: so sing before the fat lady does.

( When Lou Holtz took over Notre Dame, he won some huge games, against all odds, despite the fact that he was a new coach with players he didn't recruit.) Come on RR, show us you're worth the money. I don't want to wait till next year, or the year after, or until you have "all the pieces in place." THIS ISN'T FANTASY FOOTBALL! "Winners win" applies to coaches as well as players. Put up or shut up!

The whole program should feel the heat of underpeforming and failing to live up to Michigan expectations. This isn't AYSO soccer where everybody gets a trophy. Eat or be eaten.

TIME TO WIN, BOYS. Winners win when the conditions are IMPERFECT. So stop "waiting till next year." Losers have that attitude: and once that attitude seeps into a program's culture, even the best players won't make a difference.

So all you fans and pundits out there, turn up the heat of high expectations. This should be a baptism of fire not a picnic. It's not about your Victor's Walk or post-game Glee Club shenanigans. It's about execution, determination, and victory.

"There is no 'TRY,' only 'DO' or 'NOT DO.'"

You are MICHIGAN. You must WIN. You must DOMINATE. Always! Now!

GO BLUE! or go home.

Any questions?

Tough Love,

-- Bite-of-the-Wolverine

ErocWolverine said...

Matt,

The academic people can still keep in contact with his school and make sure everything is being taken care of along with him taken all the classes he needs to pass to get past the clearinghouse.

If he failed a class late ... then I understand, but with the coaches and the school being able to contact the kids that signed a LOI as much as they want they can talk to the kid and make sure he understands what is expected of him as well.

It is a shame because everything I heard he was the best freshman LB recruit that we had and might have been one of the best LB recruits in the past 10 years.

Anonymous said...

Let's see:
MMan-before first game
-the D will not be as good as we think
-the O will struggle at times but look good at others
-the D will have to score twice if we have a chance to win
-this team is as close as any as I have seen in a long time going into its first game
-this staff has focused more on development then I have seen in a long time
Asst.CoachBT(not the head or a coordinator at Northview)- all spring preseason.
-offensive line will not be very good -various comments indicating weaknesses of most lineman / cannot afford injuries up front(3)
-quarterback is a problem
Eroc
Not much positive to say before season starts,especially about QBacks.
We open the season 1-1, play really poorly, a lot of what you guys predicted comes true and now it is time to throw up our hands and imply RR was the wrong hire.
I love it! You guys are beautiful, I hope you continue to enjoy your access to the program that you didn't have under Carr (who by the way I supported against all the naysayers because he was our coach) friends like you who needs enemies.
No Gameplan
Not a good recruiter
Horrible PR
Take an 18 year old by the hand and beg him to take the class he needs.
Does he drive to work o.k.?

ErocWolverine said...

Anonymous,

I guess maybe we should just say everything is "roses" and we will be fine, but we believe this team has more talent then they have shown.

We also believe that there are things that can get better ... and if you don't think that we are in a different page completely.

We never said Coach Rod was the right or wrong hire ... just as we would say about any outside head coach coming in to the Michigan program. No matter who, because they have to get a feel for Michigan.

Never said he was a bad recruiter. We have said we would have liked to see more of a midwest region feel. Also we thought he would get more of a buzz for his first full year. We are doing well in certain positions, but right now we still need key recruits in key (HUGE) positions of need such as offensive line, defensive line, etc..

No offense, but we had access when Carr was around as well.

Well if you think the "PR" factor for Michigan is good right now then we are looking at two different programs right now especially the last 6-8 months. The staff before could have had better PR as well and market the program.

I bet if you asked Coach Rod about hte gameplan against Utah he wouldn't be happy either.

The funny thing is we were getting shit for our take on the program and people was labeling us haters and such and didn't want to admit after they saw for their own eyes THAT WE WERE RIGHT, but I guess that is expected from some posters, but I am sure if we would have been wrong people would have been coming out in droves saying how wrong we were. Only one person came out and said we were right and said he was sorry for his comments beforehand.

Thanks for the response and not really seeing what we really said and using your own spin.

West Texas Blue said...

I really think the class of 2010 will be Rich Rod's first great recruiting class. Boren's comments and the buyout mess has damaged this year's recruiting. This year's class' goal is taking care of depth problems, mainly at slot and QB. Michigan supposedly is in good position with Marvin Robinson (S), Ricardo Miller (WR), and Christian Lombard (OL), all three top 10 prospects in their respective positions for class of 2010. We'll still finish in top 15 in recruiting this year, but next year is when the big haul will come in.

Also, several seasons of poor OL evaluation and development has left us in this current mess. No team can expect to establish a good offense with our inept OL. Our QBs can't hit the broadside of a barn; the coaches can call perfect plays but it wouldn't matter. Remember, Threet is a RS Freshman and Sheridan a former walk-on; this team will only go as far as their level of play.

ErocWolverine said...

West Texas Blue:
That is why CoachBt, MaizeMan and myself have been saying that talent wins games.

Also a lot of offensive linemen left with eligibility left.

Missing The Swagger said...

Hey, you guys have nothing to apologize for: it's your blog, and even if it wasn't you have a right to your opinions. I think you guys have been pretty fair and realistic and I look forward to your comments.

Having said that, I agree with some of the previous comments that this season shouldn't just be "written off" as a rebuilding season, even if, realistically, it is. I get a sense of casualness to the poor play: extremely poor play which, I feel, goes beyond the "new system" excuse.

Winners find a way to win. Not next year, or the year after, etc., but immediately. This holds true for the players AND the coaches.

Sure you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but come on, the team, though improving, looks pathetic, and that's against smaller schools. Where's the "adapting to the players we have" that I've read about so often? Good coaches can make any team if not win, then at least perform beyond expectations. So far, Michigan hasn't lived up to even the very low expectations of a "rebuilding" year.

The players have to step up. These guys are the best of the best and most have a lot invested in them: I don't see much on the field that demonstrates this. Even the defense, which is supposed to be good, and doesn't really fall under the "learning the spread" umbrella is underperforming.

It's not the team is slacking off, they've been playing hard and determined. I just think somebody's got to tell them that next year ain't good enough: we want them to kick some ass now.

It's time to stop bumbling around like a rookie high school team and go out and play like the great players they are. So what if there are "missing pieces" or a "new system" or too many freshmen (Let's face it, these ARE excuses.) Enough philosophizing: it's time to get angry and show some spirit. Let's be honest, the team's play, all in all, has been embarrassing. Sure, nobody should panic, but I think the "it is what it is" or "it's expected," attitude is a bit weak.

The Wolverines are elite football players. They should at least go out and punch the other team in the mouth--over and over. If you can't use what RR teaches you, then use what Barwis has endowed you with. If you can't finesse them, BEAT 'EM UP! THAT'S adapting. That's football.

Maybe the "Apostles" need to hold a team meeting and talk about WTF the problem is. ("Are we MICHIGAN or are we MICE?") Bottom line: everybody has to play better, one way or another. Figure it out, fellas.

I want see Michigan beat the crap out of Notre Dame: if not by score, or statistics, then at least physically. I want them to show me and the rest of the fans some fight.

Anyway, you guys keep up the good work. If anything, I wish you had more comments. Lately, a lot of the entries have been links elsewhere, which is convenient and informative, but not as interesting as getting your take on things.

Cheers.

Anonymous said...

You guys are great. Most of your opinions have been pretty spot on. Keep up the good work and ignore the critics.

Just read the transcript of RR's last interview. He makes a good point: the coaches and players have had less than fifty practices together--TOTAL--including 15 in spring which not everyone was part of. So of course they're going to look like they don't know what they're doing, especially in the first game.

I saw improvement in the second game, and hope to see some in each subsequent game. There's no substitute for game speed and game experience, so the Utah game was a shock to the system--and it painfully showed. They did much better against Miami, but of course, there's still a long way to go.

Got to admire RR for his calm and patience.

One day, probably sooner than we think, but not soon enough, we'll look back at this season's start and laugh wondering how we ever doubted the new coach.

And you guys: keep the insights coming.

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