College Football Live 50 State Tour

Visits Michigan for the “premiere” of the feature today. Charles Woodson and Desmond Howard are planned guests on the set. This entire deal seems to be little more than an attempt by ESPN to get their show shouted out on school-specific sites from every state, but there’s definitely some potential for it to be cool. To see when CFB Live airs near you, check out the ESPNTV website.

In other stories over the weekend…

Softball, Golf bow out. The Michigan softball team, after a stellar season, lost to Florida and Georgia in the double-elimination format of the Women’s College World Series, ending their season. The team returns a strong core next year, as Shortstop Teddi Ewing is the only gaduating senior. Pitchers Nikki Nemitz and Jordan Taylor will return for the 2010 season, with hitters like Dorian Shaw and Angela Findlay providing the offense. The team will probably never have a repeat of the 2005 campaign, when they ripped of 31 straight victories, but next year’s squad should be a fun one to watch.

The Men’s golf team made a dream run into the match-play finals in the NCAA, before falling to Texas A&M in the semifinals. Michigan hadn’t made the NCAA Championships themselves in 12 years, so to make it into the match play rounds, and even win their quarterfinal against Southern Cal, was special for this team. Like their softball counterparts, this team is returning some important pieces as well. Super sophomore Lion Kim headlines a group of returners that should be very strong in 2010. Exiting seniors Bill Rankin and Nick Pumford were the team’s leaders, but other will hopefully be able to step up, and Kim will lead the team to (hopefully) another great year in ’10.

Kelvin Grady, Come on down? Mark Snyder reports in the Detroit Free Press that Kelvin Grady, ex-Michigan point guard, may become Kelvin Grady, Michigan scat/slotback. Grady had discussed playing two sports with the coaching staff of Lloyd Carr, but nothing ever came of the football option. Now, with his departure from the Michigan basketball team, that optino may be back on the table. If such a thing does end up coming to fruition, it shall be interesting to see whether he decides to stick it out on the basketball court for at least one more year, since he’ll still be enrolled in the school.

Barbecuin’. Grills. Meat. Likin’ it. The Big House Barbecue recruiting event seems to have gone off without a hitch. There were no commitments at the time, which is probably slightly disheartening for some Michigan fans. However, the recruiting for a couple Michigan prospects may have hit overdrive, and there could be a decision or two in the coming days. More on that in this afternoon’s recruiting post. Stay tuned for it.

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Monday Quick Hits

OK, These posts might become more common in the offseason as there isn’t a ton of actual news to report/analysis to undertake.

  • As reported by several other outlets over the weekend, Michigan’s pursuit of Greg Paulus has come to an end. I was basically indifferent on the Paulus situation, and I hope the Wolverines can bring in Jason Forcier, who can be a depth player and a mentor to his little brother.
  • The Wolverine Blog’s Ace Anbender cut a Tate Forcier Highlight from the spring game:
  • The Athletic Department reports that student season ticket sales are down, and they expect overall non-renewal rate to increase as well. Something tells me they won’t have a problem filling those seats with fans on the waitlist.
  • Odd situation with a “commit or not?” for the Wolverines yesterday, regarding DC LB Javarie Johnson (final answer: not). More on this situation later today or tomorrow in a Recruiting Update.
  • Catch up with the Michigan Baseball team’s progress in the weekend recap of the Michigan State series. Formerly’ll have a more long-term analysis for you later this week.

Posted under Baseball, Football, Other Sports, Personnel, Recruiting, Spring Coverage

Spring Wrap

Spring practice is over, having officially ended with a final practice on Tuesday (yes, after the Spring Game). The players will continue working with Barwis as long as they’re in town, but organized practices have come to an end.

Shall we recap what we know from spring, then?

  • Ryan Van Bergen, who was taken off the field on the Med Cart Saturday, should be fine.
  • Maize n Blue Nation provides a handy chart of the individual stats from the spring game. Tate Forcier, for the record, graded out with a passer efficiency rating (not a perfect metric, but them’s the ropes) of 270.80. Michigan’s total last year was 95.13, and Steven Threet led with a 105.26 rating. Standard caveats apply about our own defense maybe just being terrible, no contact on QBs, and simulating situations rather than a scrimmage.
  • VB Spring Game Recap.
  • VB Spring Game Photo Gallery.
  • MSC and MGoBlog recaps.

BTN Highlights:

Football news, other than that of the recruiting variety, should slow down in short order around here, unless something significant happens. Focus will shift slightly to baseball, general athletics, and other pursuits.

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Spring Game: Now with Pictures!

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Spring “Game” Recap

Paul and I both attended the spring game (with Brian of MGoBlog – we must have missed all of you at the tailgate…), and we worked together to put together a general summary of what we saw. My camera has gone MIA temporarily, so the photos will have to wait until later.

Tate Forcier

The defense wasn’t allowed to hit him, and he made his fair share of freshman mistakes, but anyone who watched the spring game has to be somewhat relieved that there will be a significant upgrade at the quarterback position over last year. Tate is by far a better runner than either Nick Sheridan or Steven Threet, and had better throwing mechanics and accuracy than either, as well. He has a much stronger arm than Sheridan, and by the time fall rolls around, it seems he will be able to better grasp the system than Threet did last year, or at least make fewer big mistakes. Forcier threw for three touchdowns, and ran for one more. He also had a few boneheaded moments, giving up a “safety” by fumbling into the endzone (in live scrimmage, it would have been a defensive touchdown), and throwing a pass right to a wide open… Brandon Herron. Another thing I’d like to see him work on is keeping his eyes downfield when he vacates the pocket. On design rollouts, he was fine, but on packet plays, once he started scrambling, he was going to run the ball. Still, for a high school kid, he wasn’t half bad.


It’s hard to judge the offensive line when it’s #1s vs #2s and vice versa, but an immediately noticeable improvement is that there are enough offensive line to have three separate teams. Hooray depth! The #1 offensive line was (left to right) Ortmann, Schilling, Molk, Mooseman, Huyge.  Schilling to LG was pretty much a done deal (at least for the spring) for the past for week, but the Huyge thing developed really quickly this week.  Considering the buzz around Omameh, it seems to be a good omen that Huyge was able to beat him out.  The OL looked like they were working well together, and they certainly opened holes, but it was against the #2 defense when the #1 didn’t have 2 of their 3 best D-Linemen.

Odoms didn’t play much (being a known quantity and all), but his play that stood out the most was when he let a punt bounce off his chest pads and out of bounds.  Stonum really struggled for most of the day. He was playing with the #2s, some people think because of his recent legal trouble, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Hemmingway just beat him out. In his defense, Stonum has all the physical tools and made a really nice, difficult catch in the end zone. He has the ability, maybe it will just take a while for it develop.  The real stars were the sophomore slots who didn’t play last year. Terrance Robinson was consistently getting to the open parts of the zone and making good catches. He also had a couple bubble screens and showed good shake.  Roy Roundtree got some playing time and had a few nice catches.  The quality and quantity of the slot ninjas will, hopefully, really make the offense run a bit smoother.

Plenty of different running backs got their turn. Minor started and looked how one would expect him to look. He ran strong and found the holes well, but nothing spectacular. Carlos Brown really stole the show. He broke a 50 or so yard run which featured a nice move to get by Emilien (not Vlad’s fault at all).  Brown definitely looked like the fastest guy out there. Hopefully he can stay healthy.  Smith had at least one big run, and looked pretty comfortable out there. One thing I’ve noticed about him is that I’ve never seen him really get hit. Granted, I’ve only seen him at practice and the Spring Game, but he seems like the kind of runner who is so shifty that he’ll never really get stood up.  It was nice to see Grady have some success out there. He did his pinball routine for a touchdown and didn’t fumble the ball at all.  I really hope he can get something going this year.


The good news: the offense looked much better than it did last year. The bad news: the offense looked much better than it did last year. The defense was suspect at best on this day. It could have been a particularly bad day for the Michigan defense (and they were missing several starters with injuries of varying severity – including Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, and Donovan Warren), but even the #2 offense (Coner!) was able to move the ball against the #1 defense. When your #1 defense is giving up 30-yard scrambles to David Cone, they had a bad day. For his part, Cone looked decent for a scout-team quarterback. That is to say, be very afraid if he is ever pressed into serious playing time in a game that matters. For a 6-6 non-mobile guy, you’d think he would have a rocket arm or ridiculous accuracy or something, but this was not the case. The defense has a lot of work to do in the off-season, both in terms of getting healthy and hopefully getting on track with GERG’s schemes. The spring depth is scary, especially considering the #1s couldn’t even stop Michigan’s backups on offense. I can only imagine if the #2s get pressed into playing time during the season.


This was a little more Actual Scrimmage-y than past Michigan Spring Games, but there is still a little ways to go in terms of making it truly interesting for the fans (and the Spring Game is an event that is undoubtedly for the fans, not so much the actual team). There was almost no drilling, and it was all real back-and-forth action between the offense and defense. However, the proprietary scoring system that 1) none of the fans know going in, and 2) most of the fans aren’t going to understand, is no good, and I’d much rather see a real game, played with two teams, 1s-v-1s and 2s-v-2s. The depth this spring didn’t allow for that, but hopefully in the future, that will be an option, and the Spring Game can look more like a, well, game. This, of course, will help out significantly with Atmosphere. As an aside, one thing that I think would be cool to do for next year is basically split the fans in half, and give away t-shirts to everyone, with half getting maize and half getting blue (and all of them saying “Spring Game 2010: I was there” or something equally stupid), and have distinct teams that each side is cheering for, to make it more like a home or away game for players.


I was very pleasantly surprised with fan turnout. Going in, I got the vibe that nobody really expected the attendance to even approach Rich Rod’s stated goal of 40,000. However, as I rolled up to Michigan Stadium Saturday morning, the Crisler lots were already closed (a huge mistake in judgment by the AD or whoever was in charge of parking, as probably 10% of the parking spaces were still unoccupied), and the line for the locker room tours reached out the tunnel entrance, around the North/East end of Crisler, out the main Stadium Drive entrance, and back past Crisler towards Pioneer, with the end of it nowhere in sight. I skipped said locker room tour (been there, it’s really not worth any wait, much less multiple hours), and didn’t even catch the tail end of the flag football game, which I had been planning to do. The stadium was mostly packed, since the top 40-ish rows on the East side and 25-ish rows on the West side were closed. There was still plenty of open space to stretch out in the upper levels of each end zone, though. Next year, when there isn’t construction to worry about (at least not closing seats), I think Rich Rod’s goal of 92k+ might be attainable – as long as the marketing of the event continues on its current trajectory.

Posted under Football, Spring Coverage

Spring Game Live Blog

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T-minus One to the Spring Game

Fencing Up. Shit's getting real.So, with one day remaining until the Spring Game, let’s quickly run down once more everything that’s going on:

8:00: Locker room tours.
9:00: The MGo/VB tailgate starts near the bus stop outside Crisler. Brian’s said that’s the earliest he’s going to show up, but I’ll probably get there a little earlier than 9 if you happen to be around.
9:30: Gates to the stadium open.
10:00: The alumni flag football game begins. Most people I’ve spoken to do not plan on going to this, but I’ll probably at least stop by and check it out.
12:00: Spring Game/final practice/whatever starts. At this time, most tailgating will probably cease, perhaps to be resumed afterward.
3:00: Baseball and softball games.

So, that is established. For more info on the MGo/VB tailgate, check out the official planning thread on MGoBoard. Why, you can even participate, if you’re so inclined! There’s also a much more unofficial Spring Game Discussion thread on the VB Forum.

Also: Paul and I put together a Spring Game Guide, which contains pertinent info for people to pay attention to during said game/practice. We’ll have 250 copies on tabloid-sized paper to distribute at the tailgate, at the game, etc., but if you won’t make it there, and still want to absorb our delicious knowledge, you can download a PDF of it here and print it out on normal-sized paper for yourself.

As far as VB coverage tomorrow: I’m going to set up a CoverItLive chat here, as we’ve done for various games and other events in the past. The catch: Since Paul and I will both be at the spring game, we won’t be able to be present for comment approval. Therefore, I propose the following:

  • Paul and I will send in our observations, thoughts, etc., on the chat via our Twitter accounts. This can be the end of it OR
  • If someone is interested in moderating the chat, let us know here,  and I can have you be the official gatekeeper for the chat, and others can chime in. Paul and I would still be sending in news and whatnot via Twitter.

So, if you aren’t going to be able to make it to the Spring Game, and will be able to set aside 3 or so hours to sit in front of your computer, let me know, and we can have a bit more interaction go on during the event. Otherwise, tweeted in updates.

Spring game-centric recruiting update coming later this afternoon.

Posted under Football, Spring Coverage

Tuesday Quick Links

OK, I don’t feel guilty doing it today, since there is plenty of good content already published and upcoming, and I don’t have an Unverified Voracity-like Substance to throw random interesting things into.

  • After running a 10.44 100m dash last week, incoming freshman QB Denard Robinson ran a 10.28 over the weekend. At this pace, he should be teleporting to the finish line in 0 seconds by the time he gets to ann Arbor in the summer. So, as established, Mr. Robinson is fast. I would expect the coaches to have a package of plays designed for him to run this fall.
  • After announcing his plans to transfer from the University of Miami, QB Robert Marve had Michigan on his list of five schools to which he would consider transferring. This was confusing to Michigan fans, because the Wolverines have little use for a pocket passer with 2 years of eligibility remaining. Rest easy, as he’s removed Michigan from his list of options, and replaced it with Arizona State. He cited “crowded QB situation” following the commitment of Devin Gardner, rather than the obvious “they probably couldn’t use my skill set.” Being afraid to beat out a true freshman (who is, by his own admission, a bit of a project) is something of a concern, especially for a guy who’s been the starter at his old school. Best of luck to Marve in the future. 
  • After Brian’s discussion of GERG’s potential 3-4/4-3 hybrid mega-confusing defense, noted X-and-Os expert GSimmons85 has given it his shot to educate the Michigan fandom on defensive fronts, alignments, and what it all might mean for the Wolverines’ D next year. 
  • Michigan Sports Center keeps you update with Alumni Flag Game rosters.
  • In the St. Paul Pioneer Press, you can find a truly touching story about former Michigan baseball player Mike Watters, his son’s struggle with cancer, and his meeting of a parentless young cancer patient named Victor (via MVictors).
  • Maize N Brew Dave gives his take on what the death of the Ann Arbor News might mean for the Michigan blogosphere, and how the role of the blog is likely to change fairly radically in the very near future. His take seems a little more dire than I might expect, and I think blogs will continue having the same ability to come up with content that we do now, but perhaps with even more access, which is definitely a good thing. Be honest, how often do most Michigan blogs link the AA News as the basis for an entire post? Not very frequently, in my memory. Maybe a Jim Carty column or two from back in the day, but that’s about it.

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Marketing the Program

It’s become something of an off-season tradition for me to criticize the Athletic Department’s marketing campaign (or lack thereof) each spring. This year, instead of being negative, I’d rather point out some positive examples of what better athletic marketing might look like, and what the AD has done recently to improve their marketing effort. Since this is a very football-focused blog, most of the suggestions will relate directly to football, but can be easily applied to just about any sport, revenue-generating or non-.

Coach/Sport Websites
The current trend in Athletic Departments is for football and basketball teams to have their own websites, separate from a general athletics website. Even hotter still os for the coach himself to be the face of such a website, a la Mack Brown. Such sites have several uses, not the least of which is augmenting recruiting efforts. Minnesota’s sites for Tim Brewster (with the ever-so-subtle URL “Play4Brew.com”) and Tubby Smith are excellent examples of such uses. The over-stimulating flash might be a little much, unless it’s an effort to replicate the GOFIGHTWIN aspect of Brewster’s personality, but the emphasis on attractive presentation is duly noted nonetheless. PeteCarroll.com is predictably one of the best coaching websites, because he’s just an awesome dude, and everything he touches turns brotastic. His use goes beyond assisting a recruiting effort, and even gives coverage of the team’s own recruiting on Signing Day.

Even high-profile coordinators, like Virginia Tech’s Bud Foster, can use their own websites as promotional and recruiting tools. Quickly: Check if GERG.com is available! Michigan doesn’t necessarily need to go quite that far, but having dedicated websites for Football and Basketball, featuring their respective coaching staffs, and separate from the hideous MGoBlue.com design, can only help the program.

Of course, no discussion of coach visibility would be complete without a discussion of Twitter. Rodriguez (@UM_CoachRod) was one of the earliest adopters among the coaching ranks, which is very positive. He won’t be quite as bro-tastic as Pete Carroll (“Rocking out to don henley’s “boys of summer” right now… What a great song!!”), or as obnoxious and moronic as Tim Brewster (“WINNING ON AND OFF THE FIELD EACH AND EVERY DAY IS WHAT CREATES A CHAMPION!”), but exhausting any potential outlet is necessary in today’s media environment.

I’ve harped on this before, not in terms of “Michigan needs better facilities,” but definitely in the sense that Michigan needs to market better what they do have. Of course, as Oregon and Texas have shown, “If you build it, they [ESPN] will come,” but if Michigan had a website that would better show off what are inarguably some of the best facilities in the country, it would generate some positive buzz. Top football recruit Marcus Lattimore is aware Michigan has good facilities:

“We have the same offensive system that Michigan has,” he stated.  “I have seen their great facilities up there already on their website. “

Think how much more impressed he might be if the website was designed to better show off the facilities than it currently is.

The sadly-defunct razorbackfacilities.com has been replaced by a (far inferior) inline facilities section on Arkansas’s main athletics website, but their display is still far more impressive than Michigan’s. With interactive panoramic views of every building on their athletic campus, the Razorbacks know how to flaunt what they’ve got. Merging their “Shock and Awe” tactic with Michigan’s “Just the Facts, Ma’am” approach and integrating good web design could form one of the best facilities sites on the internet (Texas’s implementation is a good example of the right direction to head, but could be more interactive).

Of course, the excuse of “Blerg too much construction blerg” can be used as a reason not to have a more impresive facilities website. On the contrary, it’s an opportunity to show off how much Michigan cares about improving the facilities, and show status updates, along with live images (sadly, almost nobody knows about these) of the progress on Michigan Stadium.

Media Coverage
This ties in with the facilities argument above, but welcoming the media is an important part of marketing the program. Perhaps more important, is having worthwhile events, people, etc. Daily writer Andy Reid agrees, but dude, you’re in position (perhaps better than anyone) to see what the Athletic Department is doing to make the spring game worthwhile, yet you completely ignore all these steps? Like, welcome to being the new Future Drew Sharp, idiot. Better, yet, you could even read the title of “UM adds activities to Spring Game” and realize that your column is complete crap.

Now, for the actual facts (something Reid has no time for, obviously). This area is one in which the program has probably made the most strides since Rodriguez has taken the helm:

  • The AD has crafted a video to hype the spring game, which is certainly more than they’ve done in the past.
  • The spring game will return to Michigan Stadium for part of the Spring Sports Weekend, along with Baseball, Softball, and other non-revenue sports contests.
  • The Stadium Locker rooms will be open to the public before the practice, and Athletic Department officials will be giving guided tours of the new premium seating.
  • The Wolverines will honor those Michigan Men who participated in the Super Bowl. Lamarr Woodley and Larry Foote have already committed to attending the event, and others (such as Steve Breaston and Gabe Watson) are expected to follow suit.
  • Along the same vein, an alumni flag football game will be played in Michigan Stadium the day of the game, with commitments from Gary Moeller (who had been something of a persona non grata around the Michigan AD until recently), Jerry Hanlon, Rick Leach, Anthony Thomas, and Derrick Walker already.

Allow me to make one more suggestion: Do This. Please. I’d be surprised if Bill Martin and Rich Rodriguez didn’t invite live coverage, or at least a remote “GameDay” set from BTN or even the real thing from ESPN. These exciting changes, along with Rich’s stated goal of breaking Alabama’s Spring Game attendance record, lead me to believe, for the first time since I’ve been blogging about Michigan sports, that the marketing of UM athletics is headed in the right direction, at least in one way.

Posted under Football, Spring Coverage

Tuesday Quick Hits

I swear, I’m really trying to avoid doing these posts with any regularity.

  • Ricky Barnum has sprained his ankle, and will miss a few spring practices to get wrist surgery. His wrist was (apparently) pretty damaged, and he was working through it before. While it sucks that he’s sustained another injury, at least it gave him the opportunity to get the wrist taken care of.
  • Denard Robinson 100m 10.44 seconds Michigan QBDenard Robinson has claimed the 2nd-fastest 100m dash time in the country so far this year for high-schoolers. The incoming QB ran a 10.44 time, and expects to run in the 10.3s when track season gets underway in earnest. (Photo by Tom Ervin for the Miami Herald).
  • Devin Gardner plans to publicly commit to Michigan either Thursday or Friday. He apparently did so silently at junior day, but wanted to finish out his basketball season before worrying about dealing with the press.
  • Darryl Stonum has debunked the rumors that he’s intending to transfer from Michigan at the end of spring practice.
  • VB (Paul and Tim, at least) plans to be at todays 3:05 PM baseball game at the Fish. Feel free to say hello to us.

And, in site news: If you take a look at the top of the right sidebar, the subscription options have changed slightly. You can still subscribe via RSS, but there are now other possibilities. There is now an official VB Twitter account to which you can subscribe @VarsityBlue. You can subscribe via e-mail, which will inform you whenever there is a new front page post on Varsity Blue. And, perhaps what we’re most excited about, we’re going to start rolling out a VB Newsletter, which we’ll send out once a week (you can help us determine which day when you sign up), and will include a recap of the week’s action on Varsity Blue, along with a bit of information that may not have made it to the front page, and even a preview of what is coming in the next week. It might start out a little spartan in design (no pun intended), but we’ll be beefing it up in short order.

In other site news, we plan to debut a couple new features on VB in the coming weeks, though they’re not quite ready for public consumption yet. I’ll keep you posted when everything is ready to go live.

Posted under Baseball, Blog News, Football, Personnel, Recruiting, Spring Coverage