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Fans are done worrying about West Virginia…

…but our coaches aren’t. On top of Rich Rodriguez’s ongoing lawsuit deliberations with West Virginia University, Coach John Beilein is also paying the Mountaineers for his departure to Crisler Arena.

Don’t believe me? The Wizard of Odds has some proof (which they got from West By God Virginia, who, presumably got it from the source).

Perhaps interesting to note: The Bank of Ann Arbor, the institution that allows Beilein to write checks for more than a quarter-million dollars, is owned by Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin.

Posted under Basketball

Rich Rodriguez on The Herd

Coach Rod was a guest on The Herd on ESPN radio today yesterday (sorry, more important things came up yesterday to post about it then). Colin asked him the general questions you’d expect from someone who doesn’t follow the program all that closely (i.e. respond to Boren comments, what will you do without Pryor, etc), to which the response was generally “I only like to talk about the guys who play for Michigan.”

However, Colin did ask him one good question, about why he took the Michigan job when he passed over Alabama’s head coaching vacancy just a year earlier. While Rodriguez said he couldn’t talk too much about it while his lawsuit was ongoing, he did give one interesting comment.

“Alabama was a super situation. There’s a lot of things that went on that I’d like to discuss, but I can’t because I’m in the middle of this lawsuit, but the Alabama thing was very tough to turn down. I was happy at the time to stay at West Virginia, then things happened.”

This definitely gives credence to the theory that Rodriguez was looking to get out of Morgantown, wherever he ended up, rather than wanting to go to Michigan while not considering what it would mean to West Virginia. He doesn’t know when the lawsuit will be wrapped up but (obviously) hopes it wraps up soon.

Herd was very complimentary to Michigan, though he obviously was never a fan of Lloyd Carr. Nice to hear that the grudge against the program has ended. He also likes the way Michigan has scheduled in the past (with Notre Dame, Oregon, etc.), and hopes to see that continue. Rodriguez noted that the difficulty lies in getting people to come without promise of a return visit. Cowherd also told WVU to get over their Rodriguez grudge: he brought a “joke” program to prominence, and now they hate him for it.

Also, the word of the day was “tickled.” I am not joking. Here’s the full audio.

Posted under Coaching

Shavodrick Beaver Goes Blue

Though many believed Kevin Newsome would be the only top-flight quarterback in Michigan’s class of 2009, improbably-named Texas QB Shavodrick Beaver has also committed to Michigan (Scout). Beaver (6-4, 200, 4.5), unlike Newsome, is not expected to enroll early.

Player Notes
Beaver is a run-pass quarterback, with a very good TD-Int ratio for a player with that distinction, especially at the high school level. As the second quarterback in this class, it will not be a surprise if he redshirts in 2009.

Recruiting Notes
Beaver was off the recruiting radar for Michigan fans for quite some time, despite his status as a highly rated dual-threat QB. Beaver wasn’t thinking much about Michigan either, as he was prepared to commit to TCU when his Michigan offer came. He quickly reconsidered, and Michigan moved among his top choices, sending TCU fans into a tizzy. After indications that a quarterback could commit this week, many Michigan fans were thinking it would be Tate Forcier yesterday. However, Beaver committed today instead.

It will be interesting to see what Beaver’s commitment means for Tate Forcier. Tate has said that Beaver would not scare him off from committing to Michigan, though he doesn’t plan to commit until a little later in the process. However, if Tate were to go blue as well, that may frighten Beaver into changing his commitment.

More on Beaver as it happens.

Posted under Recruiting

What’s the Deal with Barwis?

A lot of Michigan fans are wondering why everyone is talking about new Director of Strength and Conditioning Mike Barwis. There was never much discussion about the old guy, Mike Gittleson (except of the “ARGHHHHH GITTLESON I HATE YOU” nature), so why is Barwis on everyone’s mind all the time? Obviously he is a great S&C guy, but what makes him this way, and even still, what is so different about Barwis that it makes him a pseudo-celebrity, when I have never heard the name of a single other S&C coach in the country?

First, Barwis is a very good Strength Coach. He has unique workouts that focus on the core of the body, and are designed to help football players. While other gurus might train in ways that make guys bigger simply for the sake of having more size, or faster just to be able to run a better 40-yard dash time, Barwis designs his drills after football-specific movements, to make his guys better football players, rather than better weightlifters (or sprinters). Barwis takes a very scientific approach to everything he does, and won’t do a workout if he can’t explain the reason for it scientifically.

Another aspect of Barwis’s coaching that is noteworthy (at least to Michigan fans) is the fact that he holds every player accountable for their workouts, both in and out of season. If a player is too injured to work out, he is on the bike, or seeing the trainer, or doing something else to help him become a better football player. Under the old S&C staff, if a guy was hurt, he simply didn’t show up at Schembechler Hall for his scheduled workout. The offseason workouts are still nominally voluntary, but as Coach Rodriguez says, “so is their playing time.”

The results speak to Barwis’s prowess as a Strength Coach. West Virginia has been one of the most successful teams in the country over the past four years, despite not reeling in top recruiting classes. Thanks to a great conditioning program, the Mountaineers have been able to run other teams ragged, and outwork them over the course of four quarters to get a victory. For Michigan fans who say that the results for the Wolverines wouldn’t have been different with better conditioning (and that in-game coaching is instead more important), I point to the 2006 Rose Bowl, when the O-line was clearly out of shape, and the first two and last one game(s) of 2007, where the team was clearly not in game shape. They would have beaten App State, and at least not embarrassed themselves against Oregon and Ohio State. As further evidence, look at Ryan Mundy. He was forced out at Michigan because he wasn’t any good, and in the course of one year, Barwis turned him into an NFL draft pick.

The main reason Barwis has garnered so much fame, becoming a celebrity more than any other S&C Coach, is his personality. The guy is engaging and intense, as many interviews with him display. His players love coming to his workouts despite the difficulty, visiting recruits consistently say that he made them want to start working out then and there, and reporters are taken aback by his gravelly voice and intense demeanor. The famous video of Barwis giving a pregame speech to the Mountaineers before this year’s Fiesta Bowl (Thanks to commenter Max for furnishing a link and clarifying that it was actually the previous year’s bowl game) speaks volumes. Not only is the strength coach giving a pregame speech, it pumps the team up in a way that nothing else could, and is a perfect capsule of his motivational power.

When Rich Rodriguez came to Ann Arbor, many were excited for his unconventional offense and recent track record of success. Many were unaware that he would also be bringing along one of the best Strength Coaches in the country, and perhaps the man that is one of the biggest keys to his success. Barwis and Rodriguez seem to be linked for the long-term:

I was coming to work for Coach Rodriguez. He is a good friend and a tremendous coach. He is the one guy in the country that I really want to work for. Regardless of the situation, I want to work for Coach Rodriguez as long as he’ll have me. He’s my head coach. I have the utmost respect for him.

Michigan fans hope that the tandem can combine to bring the success they had in Morgantown to Ann Arbor.

Posted under Coaching

Quarterbacks

In case you were worried about Kevin Newsome’s speed, check out this video of his 4×100 team winning the large school division at the Penn Relays.

Newsome is the anchor leg in lane 2(? second from nearest at the finish line, the guy who wins). He brings his team the victory.

Also, according to Sam Webb on today’s edition of the Michigan Insider on WTKA, there may be other good QB news this week. Tate Forcier or Shavodrick Beaver may announce for Michigan this week.

Thanks to frequent commenter RJ for the tip.

Posted under Recruiting, Video

Recruiting Update 4-28-08

The Board.

New Information:
AZ DE Craig Roh will visit Michigan this summer.
VA QB Kevin Newsome participated (well) in the Penn Relays.
PA OT Eric Shrive. He has a Nebraska offer, and now one of his teammates will be a Husker.
Article on various prospects including Morgan Newton, Stephon Gilmore, and Quinton Washington.

Not a lot of action this week. Players that I haven’t seen anything about lately (in terms of link to Michigan) may on the cusp of getting dropped (a couple of the quarterbacks, maybe a running back or two, probably safety).

Posted under Recruiting

Wolverines Drafted

Jake Long, #1 overall, Miami
Already knew he was going here, so there is no surprise. Well-deserving of the top spot. A future all-pro.

Chad Henne, #57 overall, Miami

Dropped a little further than I thought he would, especially after Matt Ryan went #3 overall (because the Falcons want to continue to suck). Henne was behind Joe Flacco and Brian Brohm, and he will probably end up the better pro than Brohm (and Ryan, for that matter) with Flacco being a little more of a mystery because of his lack of exposure while still having some pretty good skills. Henne will challenge to be a starter in Miami, especially with a new coach.

Shawn Crable, #78 overall

Good spot for Crable to go, and hopefully his freaky stud freak-ness can carry him to great success in the NFL. The Patriots are a perennial contender, and with their linebacking corps aging, Crable could be a contributor within a couple years (along with fellow former Wolverine Pierre Woods).

Mario Manningham, #95 overall
There is no way in hell that Manningham was the 14th best wideout in the draft, but he definitely earned his positioning with his actions since his junior season ended. He will end up being a better pro than half the guys drafted ahead of him. And what the hell is with the Rams picking some guy nobody has ever heard of as the first WR off the board?

Mike Hart, #202 overall
Hart fell way furhter than he should have. He is a very similar player to Ray Rice, except better in every single way (aside from perhaps being injury-prone). ESPN agreed for most of the day, as the “experts” were dumbfounded that he was still on the board time and again. However, he was able to go to a team that will be able to ease him into the rotation, and he will probably contribute down the road (even if it’s just to impeccably pass-block for Peyton Manning).

Adrian Arrington, #237 overall

Arrington was dangerously close to being Mr. Irrelevant, and he has probably realized that he made a huge mistake in coming out early. He probably would have been better served with one more year in maize and blue, proving that he could be “the guy.” He was very underrated for all of the past two years, and his performance in the florida game is closer to what I expect to see from him.

Undrafted
Jamar Adams, SS: I’m surprised he didn’t end up going in the later rounds.
Chris Graham, LB: His size and ability to play in space held him back. He might make a team as a free agent (primarily for special teams).
Adam Kraus, OG: Hopefully the era of underachieving linemen will come to an end.

Posted under Personnel

The Basics of the Zone-Read Play

Since Michigan’s offense will call the zone-read option its bread-and-butter play for the next few years, fans are probably interested in how the play works. Slightly more interesting than “run left,” I assure you.

Most important to the smooth operation of the zone-read is not a quarterback who is blazing fast, but a signal caller who can make the right decision with the ball, and can at least do a little damage with his feet.

The play operates out of the shotgun, with either one back to the QB’s side or one split to either side of him. The running back for whom the play is called will start lined up on what will eventually be the backside of the play, since he crosses in front of the quarterback (this is not always the case in RR’s offense, but for the sake of the basic play, we will start with that). The offensive line will block down to the playside, leaving the backside defensive end unblocked. This is the player that the QB will read (hence the name “zone-read”).

The quarterback takes the snap, and the running back crosses in front of him. The QB puts the ball in his stomach, but does not hand it off. This is called the “mesh point” where either the QB or the running back can end up with the ball. It is at this point that the quarterback must be able to make a good decision with the ball, and read the defensive end. If the defensive end stays at home and holds contain, the quarterback simply hands off the ball to the RB. The offensive line is expected to outnumber the defenders, and block everyone for a good gain (or excellent depending on execution and the running back’s vision).

If the defensive end gets greedy, and decides to try to chase down the running back from behind, the quarterback pulls the ball out from the mesh point, and runs back past the end, and gets a decent gain (if the offensive line blocks well, the QB should be able to get to the second level without facing a defender). The quarterback makes this read if the defensive end turns his shoulders toward the running back, rather than keeping them parallel with the line of scrimmage, as he would if keeping contain.

For those who are visually oriented:

This is obviously the very basic play, so there are lots of other variations on it. For example, backs can be motioned into or out of the backfield, slot receivers can be used as pitchmen, the play can be designed to go towards the direction that the RB is lined up, rather than the opposite direction, etc. The option-pass can also be effective, with the play run the exact same way, but if the DE crashes, the quarterback, instead of trying to gain yards, rolls out for a pass, using the zone-read as a play-action.

If my explanation was confusing (and I hope it wasn’t), have Rodriguez explain it to you himself:

Posted under Coaching, Video

Big Ten 2009 Recruiting Class Rankings 4-25-08

This will become a weekly feature for Saturdays henceforth. If there is no recruiting action during the week, I’ll either skip it or do something else informative.

Action since last rankings:
4-5 Northwestern gains commitment from Evan Watkins.
4-18 Michigan gains commitment from Fitzgerald Toussaint.
4-19 Ohio State gains commitment from Darrell Givens.
4-21 Ohio State gains commitment from Jordan Hall and Dorian Bell.
4-24 Michigan gains commitment from Kevin Newsome. Melvin Fellows switches commitment from Illinois to Ohio State.

New Rankings:

#1 Ohio State – 8 commits
DT ***** Johnny Simon
LB ***** Dorian Bell
RB **** Jordan Hall
CB **** Darrell Givens
WR **** Chris Fields
CB **** CJ Barnett
MLB **** Storm Klein
MLB **** Jordan Whiting
OT *** Jack Mewhort
S *** Jamie Wood
LB * Adam Homan

Ohio State has picked up three 4-star players and one 5-star player since the last rankings were given. They have a very strong start to their class. Adam Homan switched from FB to LB, where he will likely (not) play in college.

#2 Michigan – 6 commits
DT ***** William Campbell
QB **** Kevin Newsome
CB **** Justin Turner
S * Isaiah Bell
RB * Teric Jones
RB * Fitzgerald Toussaint

Michigan has continued a fairly strong (though not OSU-ian) start to the recruiting year. Kevin Newsome fills a huge need for the Wolverines, and is the right guy for this system. He will end up a very high 4-star or a 5-star (currently Scout’s #41 player (they had 50 5-stars last year), and Rivals’s #39 player (they had 30 5-stars last year)), though an early commitment to Michigan typically means death to a player’s ranking. Fitzgerald Toussaint is another RB/slot hybrid, with impressive film. High 3 or low 4-star likely.

#2 Michigan State – 6 commits
RB ***** Edwin Baker
RB **** Larry Caper
SLB **** Chris Norman
WR *** Donald Spencer
DT * Blake Treadwell
QB * Andrew Maxwell

No movement since the last rankings. Passed by Michigan because the Wolverines’ commitments will end more highly ranked, and fill positions of need effectively.

#4 Illinois – 2 commits
DT **** Lendell Buckner
OT **** Leon Hill

Losing Melvin Fellows wasn’t enough to drop the Illini below a couple teams with fewer commits.

#5 Wisconsin – 3 commits
OG * Ryan Groy r />
DT * Jared Kohout
DE * Shelby Harris

No movement. Their guys aren’t yet ranked, but Wisconsin develops linemen like it’s their job (side note: it is, in fact, their job).

#6 Minnesota – 3 commits
QB *** Moses Alipate
C * Ed Olsen
OT * Josh Campion

Minnesota is going through a big scheme change, and needs to recruit players to the new system. After a huge (and pretty good) 2008 recruiting class, Minnesota is not off to a fast start in 2009. Once a new batch of rankings come out, they might sneak past Wisconsin.

#7 Penn State – 1 commit
C * Ty Howle

JoePa is death to Penn State’s ability to recruit.

#8 Northwestern – 1 commit
QB *** Evan Watkins

A big QB. Curious to see whether he has the quicks to run Northwestern’s scheme, which requires some mobility.

T-9th – Indiana, Iowa, Northwestern, Purdue (0 commits)

Posted under Recruiting

Recruiting Update 4-25-08

The Board. With the Newsome thing, it will be interesting to see which other QBs continue to be interested in Michigan. One formatting note: committed players are now tacked to the top of their respective positions on the board.

Moved to Committed:
VA QB Kevin Newsome. WOOOOOOOOOOO! Conquering Heroes dug up some factoids on Newsome.

Added:
OK CB Gabe Lynn. He has an offer and is friends with RB prospect David Oku. He is one of the top cover CBs in the nation.
SC DE Sam Montgomery. He reportedly has been offered by UM. A four-star prospect at a position of major need.
GA S Darren Myles. He has a Michigan offer.

New Information:
TX QBs Shavodrick Beaver and Kolby Gray attend an Elite 11 combine.
NC DB Devonte Holloman. Michigan and Clemson are his current top 2.
OH OL Marcus Hall. Top 6: OSU, USC, Ill, Mich, Fla, FlaSt. Currently plans to decide after taking 5 officials.
SC OL Quinton Washington. He is strong. but he may end up staying in South Carolina. Recruiting fluff.

Removed:
PA RB Jordan Hall. Michigan may have wanted him a bit for the slot position, but it is clear they had higher priorities there. His offer may have just been an attempt to get Terrelle Pryor to think harder about attending Michigan.
MS DB David Conner. His listed height and weight have been falling ever since the initial evaluations came out, and it also appears that he won’t leave the SEC.

Etc:
For those of you who doubted my reasoning for having a big spring game (I’m lookin’ at you, Charles), SI’s Andy Staples agrees with me. 2-part interview with Lloyd in the Free Press.

Posted under Recruiting