Capital One Bowl Preview

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

Pretend like this isn’t BC and Michigan State.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jerret Smith Gone

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

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

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Michigan Commit Injured in Auto Accident

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

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Coach Rod on Mike Tirico Show

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

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

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Jackson rehired, Stripling next?

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

Jackson commits (per Rivals):
Sam McGuffie
Daryl Stonum

Stripling commits:
Rocko Khoury
Dan O’Neill

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

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

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

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Me No Likey

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

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

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

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

Posted under Coaching, Personnel

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Chengelis: No assistants will be retained

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

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

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Might Rodriguez Dump all UM Assistants?

Angelique Chengelis thinks he just may do that.

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

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Rodriguez’s Potential Staff

With Rodriguez’s bringing OC/Running Backs Coach Calvin Magee and DB Coach/Recruiting Coordinator Tony Gibson to the introductory press conference, it can be assumed that those two are near-mortal locks to be on the new Michigan staff. The Charleston Daily Mail provides additional information:

The source said Rodriguez is also interested in retaining defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Jeff Casteel, safeties coach Bruce Tall, associate head coach/special teams coordinator/tight ends coach Bill Stewart and strength and conditioning coordinator Mike Barwis.

This leaves open the Quarterbacks Coach, the Wide Receivers Coach, the Offensive Line Coach, and the Defensive Line Coach. However, other shuffling may take place. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Rodriguez may want to relieve Gibson of head recruiter duties:

[Rodriguez asked West Virginia to] Hire seven graduate assistants and a new recruiting coordinator, to ease the duties performed by secondary coach Tony Gibson.

Most of the holes in the staff are likely to be filled by members of Michigan’s current coaching corps. A guess at the staff would look like to following:

  • Head Coach Rich Rodriguez
  • Offensive Coordinator/Running Backs Calvin Magee
  • Quarterbacks Coach Scot Loeffler
  • Wide Receivers Coach Erik Campbell
  • Offensive Line Coach
  • Tight Ends Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Bill Stewart
  • Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Jeff Casteel
  • Defensive Backs Coach Tony Gibson
  • Safeties Coach Bruce Tall
  • Defensive Line Coach Steve Stripling
  • Strength and Conditioning Coach Mike Barwis
  • Recruiting Coordinator Mike Singletary

As of now, it appears as though Ron English will be out, as well as Fred Jackson. Of course, this is just a guess at the staff (and it will need to be whittled down further, as only 9 assistant coaches are permitted by NCAA rules). The only as-yet-unfilled post is Offensive Line Coach. I would love to see someone like former WVU assistant and current Florida State O-Line/Assistant Head Coach Rick Trickett. He is one of the best in the business at that position, but it is likely that he will be looking for promotion to coordinator or head coaching duties elsewhere.

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

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Rich Rodriguez Press Conference notes

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

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

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

  • The scheme is not restricted to being a running offense. With the personnel they have now, that is the smartest choice.
  • The scheme aand gameplan are adapted to the offensive skill players that he has.
  • With great throwers and great receivers, it could be expected that they’d throw 55-60% of the time (as they did at Glenville State and Tulane (with Shaun King)).
  • With great runners like Pat White and Rasheed Marshall, the offense can be a running option.
  • The spread is a varied offense, and it’s not a “seen one, seen ’em all” system.

The “Odd Stack” (known ’round these parts as the 3-3-5) that he ran at West Virginia this year was 4th in the nation in total defense. He plans to run something similar, but not the same at Michigan.
Editorial Notes: Seeing as how Ron English loves the system, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as one of the assistants sticking around with Rodriguez. However, I have concerns that the Big Ten requires some 4-3 or 3-4 defenses, with teams running more I-form and Twin-TE sets than Big East teams do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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