NCAA Football 2010 Review

I picked this up the afternoon it came out (this past Tuesday for the non obsessed).  I have to admit that I wasn’t as excited for this year’s version as I had been in the past.  I wasn’t even planning on buying it Monday afternoon, but then I hopped online to see what people’s impressions were.

To my surprise, a lot of people seemed to really like the changes. No one even had posted their extended descent into madness and meditated as to why they always drop $60 when nothing ever changes and everything is wrong in the world and what is the point of it all anyway?  Well, considering I’ve been buying this game since 2002 came, it didn’t take too much to convince me to get it.

So I ran out, picked up and threw it in the XBox360 (Paul VBlue is my gamertag in case anyone cares). My friend came over and we did an exhibition on Heisman difficulty between a couple ACC teams (I can’t quite remember at this point).

I could have really done without the marching bands at the beginning of the game. I doubt any band is actually going to form the EA Sports logo. Once we got into the game play I started to notice the differences right away.  The movements are all much smoother and more realistic feeling. While there are some animations that don’t always quite work, most of the gameplay looks and feels very good.  A big change is your QB’s throws as he’s being hit. My offense in 2009 involved sitting in the pocket, stepping up and launching a perfect pass 40 yards downfield just before getting leveled. Try to do that in 2010 and it barely gets to the offensive line. More realistic, sure, but a little tough for me to get used to. Another thing is that the CPU defense actually takes rational pursuit angles that you can’t throw off with a wiggle of the control stick. I could shake almost any defender just by running slightly towards the post and then cutting hard to the sideline.

The defenses are pretty similar, but your defensive AI doesn’t seem quite as incompetent as last year and you can even get a bit of a pass rush at times (!). I freely admit that I generally SuperSim (best feature ever) the defense, so I may not be the best judge.

The game was going fairly well until midway through the third quarter. The game just up and froze. Alright, maybe this is a bad sign, but it happens right? It could just be a freak chance.

We restart the XBox and start the Michigan dynasty. I try to download rosters, but unfortunately, EA shipped beta rosters with the retail version of the game, so the standard people who get the game 2 weeks early weren’t able to put together rosters by the release day, and there likely won’t be a complete one for another few weeks or so.  We decided to just with number, since HB #4 seems more like Minor than have him be called Darius Simmons or something.

First thing I saw when we got started was “Add a new pipeline state.” This is new so I click it, and apparently you can now buy “Dynasty Accelerators” which give you benefits in recruiting and whatnot. These cost points/money. Will people actually buy these? I hope none of you do. I mean, really. Just don’t do it.

Anyway, I like the new recruiting lay out (grid vs. list is generally a good UI choice if you have quite a few options). You can also numerically and graphically see how much your pitch is affecting a recruit which is nice. I always got frustrated when it would take 90 minutes to pitch a guy and you really don’t know if it’s doing anything.  Besides that and the new lay out, recruiting seems fairly similar to last year.

The last big, new thing is the inclusion of Erin Andrews.  I started a Road to Glory, but got bored pretty quickly, since it’s just a repackaged Campus Legend mode (which I knew, but was hopeful for something more). The injury reports, which happen with much more frequently*, are a nice break to the standard Nessler, Corso, Herbstreet booth, and aren’t even quite as generic as I would have thought.

Overall, I really enjoy most of the changes made to the game. The more aesthetic things (marching band, 3d “dorm room” in RtG, etc.) I could have lived without, but overall, they fixed a lot of things that were really annoying, and the game play is much, much better.

The bad parts:

  • The menus are slow – I move really quickly in the play selection menu, but  sometimes it doesn’t load a submenu by the time I try to select something.
  • No full rosters – It seems really weird to me that a mistake that huge could make it through, but it is EA. You can get the updated rosters here.
  • The game crashes all the damn time – This is the big one. I tried loading it to my HDD, I’ve wiped the disc, but no matter what I do, it will usually end up freezing before I decide I want to turn it off. This has caused some annoyances and lost data, and I have to assume there’ll be a patch for it, but for right now it just really makes me want to write EA strongly worded letter. They get so much right in the gameplay, but a lot of the time I can’t even get to it.

I’m sure the more I play, I’ll find things that are annoying, but it’s definitely one of the best versions I’ve played in a while. Hopefully, EA will add some patches to make this game as good as it can be. What do you guys think?

*4 games into the 2009 and my QB #5 has been knocked out of the game on 3 separate occasions.

Posted under Media, Misc.

Michigan v. IU Photo Gallery

From Sunday’s game. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this slideshow is worth about half a normal Formerly Anonymous post.

Posted under Baseball, Other Sports, Photo Album

Blogcast: Talking Hockey with YostBuilt

In this blogcast we talked to the excellent Tim Williams of The Blog That Yost Built, the place to go for Michigan hockey information.  We discussed Michigan’s season and their draw in the NCAA Championship Tournament among other hockey topics.


icon for podpress  Blogcast with YostBuilt [23:54m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Posted under Blogcast, Hockey

Happy St. Patty’s Day

Don't mess with his ironPosting will be light-ish tonight, but a new recruting update will be posted this afternoon. Also check out the preview of Eastern Michigan baseball posted earlier today..

Tim and I will be at Ashley’s by 5am. Wish us luck.

Posted under Blog News

A Decade Under the Influence

I vaguely remember parts of Michigan’s last NCAA Tournament game.  I was 12 at the time, but I still remember a gigantic man in maize at the free throw line with Michigan down by 3 to UCLA.  He had to make his first and miss his second.

Tractor Traylor

I can’t remember how that game ended, except that Michigan was not able to win. I certainly didn’t understand what happened over the next few years as it came to light how much was wrong with the Michigan Basketball program.

Fisher left and Traylor picked Brian Ellerbe to be the replacement. Traylor left the following and Michigan truly began it’s decade of aimless wandering.  The teams and the players Ellerbe brought in couldn’t capture my interest, even though basketball has always been my favorite sport.  I really like Bernard Robinson Jr. and LaVell Blanchard, but they weren’t enough to get me into Michigan basketball.  In 2001 it looked like we might turn the corner.

Tommy Amaker

Tommy Amaker was a hot coaching prospect. He had a good pedigree with his history at Duke and he took Seton Hall to the Sweet Sixteen. In 2002 he brought in Daniel Horton, Lester Abrams, Amadou Ba, Sharrod Harrel, Graham Brown and Chris Hunter. Horton beat out Dee Brown at Illinois for Big Ten Rookie of the year.  There was another great class brought in the next year.

There was a lot of excitement for these teams, and they often looked like they could make the tournament. I remember after they won the 2004 NIT people were talking about how Michigan won the 1984 NIT and then went on to become a number 1 seed in 1985.  That didn’t happen.

Amaker had six years and couldn’t get in the tournament with talent that has become the NBA Developmental League All-Star team.  I was surprised when it was announced that Amaker would no longer be the coach. I figured there would be one more year with the coming freshman class of Kelvin Grady, Manny Harris and Alex Legion.  Bill Martin decided to make a bold move in firing Amaker and made an incredibly safe decision to hire a coach with over 30 years of head coaching experience.

John Beilein

The first season was the painful square peg and round hole feeling that Michigan fans know a little too well by now.  The players didn’t look like they were getting the system, and some weren’t even trying.  In 2007, Michigan only won 10 games, and in many it looked like there was no way they could score.

Coming into this season, there were three seniors on the team, two of which started as walk ons.  There were 3 players over 6’9″, one red shirted, another played a total of about 10 minutes. At most points during the season Michigan started 2 freshman. Zack Novak was matched up against people 5 inches taller, 40 pounds heavier and with 3 more years of experience.  This should not be a tournament team.

Then Michigan beat UCLA. Most fans were brought back down to Earth by the Duke and Maryland games.  Then Michigan beat Duke and didn’t drop another out of conference game.  I had become used to Michigan dropping two or three games they shouldn’t have.  That didn’t happen. They made it to the conference season only losing to two good ACC teams.

The conference season was up and down, but the team was always in the game and always in the hunt for the Big Dance. They entered into their last four games needing to win two and they beat two tournament teams, Purdue and Minnesota.  The formula was then set: win one at the Big Ten Tournament and Michigan is likely in.  Michigan completely dominated Iowa, looking like they could beat anybody.  They then looked flat against a very efficient Illinois team.

The rational side of me had read all the great bubble breakdowns and knew that there is no reason Michigan shouldn’t be in, but at Crisler, with a few thousand other Michigan fans, I was still nervous. Coach Beilein didn’t reassure us with his pre-rally speech. It was good, but it had the sound of trying to cover the bases in case Michigan didn’t make it.

Once the show started, you could feel the crowed tense up just before every 8, 9, 10, 11 or 12 seed were announced. After each bracket, the fear grew. There were a lot of bubble teams that I didn’t think would make it that did. The crowd grew a bit nervous, and nearly exploded when Minnesota was announced as part of the field.

They had gone through the top half of the last bracket, and the spots for Michigan was down to 2. I was already gearing myself up for disappointed. “If NCAA refs have been screwing over Michigan all year, why shouldn’t the NCAA selection committee?”.

Then Michigan was announced as the 10 seed in the South Bracket taking on 7 seed Clemson in Kansas City. Then,  this happened:

woooooo!There was a huge sense of release from the crowd. people were jumping up and down and hugging, and it lasted well after CBS has cut away.  Beilein thanked the coaches; David Merrit addressed the crowd; the players led the crowd in singing the Victors.  Beilein and the players left the court to do their media interviews, and I walked home unable to wipe the smile off my face.

As I was walking up my block, there were some people running in to check Southwest Airlines to see how much it would cost to fly out to Kansas City.  It’s like a curse that has left a seemingly permanent malaise was finally broken.  It doesn’t matter what happens in the NCAA Tournament. This team has done something that, on paper, better Michigan teams couldn’t.

There’s excitement for Michigan basketball again. There were more people at this announcement than were at the Eastern Michigan game last year.

Like John Beilein said: “Making the tournament is only the first step.”  A step that he was able take in two years. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next two years.

Posted under Basketball

Tate Forcier Interview

This is Tate speaking to the media on signing. He really does sound like a pro dealing with the media. Sorry for the sub-par videography. For most of the time, I was holding the camera with one hand and the mic with another.

I have interviews with Campbell, Vincent Smith and Mike Jones that will be coming throughout the rest of the week.

icon for podpress  Tate Forcier Signing Day Interview: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Posted under Personnel

Press Conference Player Info Part III

Reminder: Tim will be appearing on WTKA 1050AM today with John U. Bacon on the Big show at 4pm. You can tune in or listen online here. **CHANGE** The A-Rod “scandal” has forced WTKA to recshedule on me. I’ll let you know when I actually go on. -T

(Part 1 Part 2)

Taylor Lewan

Rodriguez said that Taylor has exactly the type of frame that he looks for in his tackles.  He has a big frame, but still has a ton of athleticism.  Taylor himself has said the Jake Long is his favorite player, and he could end up having a similar game. He’s a bit smaller, only 6’6″ and 270lbs, but with a year or two in a college conditioning program, he should be a monster.  Coach noted that he has only been playing OL for a year, so is somewhat a blank canvas and may have been underrated by the recruiting services.  I’m guessing he’ll redshirt, but I would be surprised if he didn’t contribute down the line.

Denard Robinson

Coach said that Robinson may be the fastest kid they recruited. He doesn’t have the fake 40 times of Teric Jones, but watching his game film, you can really get a sense of how fast he is out on the field.  Rodriguez also conceeded that while Denard may not be the tallest player out there, he has a knack to make plays when it appears there’s nothing there.  The consensus of Robinson is that this is his year to compete to start at QB. If he wins it, he could start for a long time, if not he’ll likely switch positions down the line.  He’s got a lot to work for this offeseason and fall.

Craig Roh

I was kind of under the imppression that Roh would end up taking a red shirt this year, but Rodriguez said that he was excited for Roh to make an “instant impact.”  That could mean pushing the older guys to work harder, but maybe playing time. He’s kind of slight right now coming in at 6’4″ 230lbs, but he’ll have summer conditioning and fall practice to put on some size.  Roh has a unique technique where he starts extemely low. Also, judging by the UA All-American game, he has a mean spin move that is very effective against good HS tackles. It will be interesting if Coach Tall will try to change his technique to a more orthodox style or just help Roh improve his technique.

Michael Schofield

Schofield is very similar in size to Taylor Lewan (I think we’ve figured out Rodriguez’s type), but maybe not quite the all around athlete that Lewan is. Coach seemed very proud to share that not only did Schofield not give up a sack all year, but also the entire unit went the entire season without a holding penalty.  Obviously Schofield has experience playing on a talented, well-coached offensive line.  Hopefully that will help as he gets used to the college game. I have to imagine he’ll red shirt as the OL is fairly deep at this point and he still needs some size.

Vincent Smith

Smith was at the press conference, and he is tiny.  I’ve talked with Odoms face to face, and I’m pretty sure Odoms has 2-3″ on Smith. He’s listed 5’6″; I’m pretty sure there are rides at Cedar Point he can’t get on, but he can apparently run the ball really well.  Rodriguez seemed as impressed with his high school production as the recruiting services were (went from a middling 3 star to a solid 4 star). He had over 2,000 yards as the leading rusher for the Florida state champs (division III).  Coach said he would start working at running back and almost certainly work in some at the slot down the line.

Je’Ron Stokes

Rodriguez didn’t seem to be taken on the rollercoaster ride the blogosphere was subjected to regarding his commitment.  Coach made it pretty clear the he expects to Stokes to make a pretty quick impact on the football team.  He said Stokes will immediately compete at inside and outside receiver in addition to returning kicks.  Having that amount of flexibility should allow him to see quite a bit of playing time his freshman year.

Fitzgerald Toussaint

Early favorite for best name of the class along with Vlad Emilien.  Tim and I had a chance to see Fitz play live, and while he was largely held in check, he still busted some great runs when it looked like he would be hit for a loss. He has a huge stable of moves and flat out athleticism.  Rodriguez wants him at running back and returning kicks. Coach predicts the Fitz will have an immediate impact on the team.

J.T. Turner

Rodriguez mentioned that some sources considered Turner the best player in the state of Ohio. So that means, along with Campbell and Roh, University of Michigan got commitments from, arguably, the best players from Michigan, Arizona and Ohio.  Turner had a great performance at the UA All-American game, playing corner and some safety.  Coach said he expects to play Turner to play both Safety and CB, and said that unless something unforeseen happens, Turner will see the field as a freshman.  I always get nervous at freshmen in the defensive backfield, but Warren, Jackson and Woodson all had good freshmen years, so maybe my anxiety is misplaced.

Quinton Washington

This was probably the biggest suprise of this class. I was pretty sure he was going to stay at home in South Carolina, but Washington chose the maize and blue, which is good as Schofield and Lewan both appear to be tackles while Washington is an interior lineman. He’s listed at a sizeable 6’3″ 315lbs, and is reported to be athletic to boot.  Like the other two linemen in this class, I’m going to guess that he’ll get a redshirt. There’s a ton of depth this year and having that extra year at the end can really make a huge difference.

Adrian Witty

I’m not sure if this is Rodriguez being political or sincere (probably somewhere in between), but he called Adrian Witty the most “overlooked” recruit in this class. The more cynical fans see Witty as additional bait in order to get a commitment from Robinson, but Coach mentioned that Witty had a very productive senior year with quite a few interceptions.  I have to assume Witty will redshirt this year, and I’m not quite sure where he’ll end up when all is said and down. Hopefully, he’ll be able to contribute.

Posted under Football, Personnel

Programming Update: The Week After And Of

There’s a lot of stuff to get through the next few days, so we decided to have a plan.  Today will be mostly about recruiting with a round up post here and on MGoBlog (different and complementary posts).   We’ll also post the last the round of information of specific players from the signing day press conference (part 1; part 2).

Finally, Tim will be appearing on the Big Show with John U. Bacon on WTKA at 4pm (listen live online here).  He’ll be talking about blogging and recruiting. It should be interesting, or at least something different.

Tomorrow we switch gears to basketball and talking about Michigan State. If you don’t want to wait until tomorrow, Dylan at UMHoops.com is off and running, including a chat with KJ at SpartansWeblog.  We’ll have a limited UFR (just the plus/minus) from the Penn St. and UConn games as well as the standard preview of the opponent.  There will a be a live blog on MGoBlog (maybe cross posted here).

Wednesday we’ll have reaction to the basketball game and hopefully be ready to run some of the player interviews from the signing day press conference.  Standard caveat of all great plans of mice and men, etc., but that’s our tentative schedule. Should be an exciting week.

Posted under Blog News

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Press Conference Themes

Rich Rodriguez uses his press conferences much like a politician does. He takes the attention, especially on big days, and uses it to shape the message and control the commentary. There were 3 major themes that he came back to and stressed throughout the press conference. It seems like a lot of his responses were directed to local columnists who, for some reason or another, seem hellbent on proving he’s a current or future failure.  This was put together from my recollection and the tweets I banged out during the conference. Statements in quotation marks are actual quotes. The full press conference can be viewed on MGoBlue.com.

Recruiting the State of Michigan

Coach Rodriguez came back to this point 4 or 5 times during the press conference, which seemed fairly telling. A lot of the local papers have accused the new coaching staff of forsaking the state of Michigan in favor of Florida and other southern states in which the coaches had connections during their tenure at WVU (or, for many of them, South Florida).  On first look, that may  appear to be valid, since there are only 4 players in the class from Michigan, and MSU snagged the better half of the state’s top 10 recruits.

Rodriguez addressed this bluntly a few times. At one point he said “people who say we don’t recruit the state of Michigan are way off-base,” and  “it’s the first place we look.” He mentioned that Michigan is the place where the first targets on the board come from.  He also said that he’s not going to take a Michigan kid just because he’s from Michigan. They’re going after guys who fit their system, and they’ll look in Michigan first, and go national if they can’t find what they need in the home state.

One reason for the lack of commitments from kids in Michigan is that the coaching staff hasn’t had the time to develop the relationships with the high school coaches. Coach Rodriguez’s coaches clinics have a good reputation, so this should turn around quickly. Expect Michigan to push hard after the big name in state prospects (Devin Gardner, William Gholston, et al).

Effects of a 3-9 Season/Negative Recruiting

This was another recurring theme during the press conference.  He said that some of the recruits had some questions about the season and the issues that the team faced. The struggles made some people a little wary, but Rodriguez also said that because of some of the weaknesses on the team, he was able to promise every recruit the opportunity to come in and immediately compete and make an impact.

He also said that negative recruiting often comes back and bites the person spreading the rumors. One example he gave was southern schools trying to scare kids by talking about the weather in Michigan. A lot of kids from Florida were braced for an Arctic expedition only to find it wasn’t as bad as they thought.

Obviously Rodriguez didn’t name any specific coaches, but at the beginning of his statement he made a statement to the effect of “there was a lot of negative recruiting out there we had to fight through.” He kind of pulled back a little bit and said that, in general, most coaches don’t do any negative recruiting. Usually it’s a young, over-ambitious assistant trying to reach.

Rodriguez, predictably, stated in no uncertain terms that neither he, nor anyone on his staff recruit negatively. He said, “if you got a good enough program to sell, why bash someone else’s?” Also, as previously mentioned, there is a real chance of backlash when recruiting goes negative.


This got brought up more than once, a lot of times by the reporters asking questions. Rodriguez said he “wasn’t surprised by anything on Signing Day.” This may be spin, but it was apparent that he had a pretty good idea of what was going down, especially with the two defensive tackles. He basically conceded that a commitment from a kid who is still taking visits doesn’t really mean anything; you still have to recruit him hard, since the commitment basically doesn’t exist.

He also said 2 or 3 time that “sometimes you want people to decommit, sometimes you don’t.”  I’m pretty sure he didn’t want both DTs to decommit, but it makes sense in the case of Jordan Barnes, DeWayne Peace, and their ilk. The offer still stands, but the communication and constant salesmanship flags until eventually the recruit realizes he is no longer wanted, and chooses someone else.  Seems a bit ethically dubious, but better than the alternative of over-signing. Recruiting is, in essence, seamy, so it’s all shades of gray to a certain extent.

If you have any specific questions about Rich Rodriguez’s portion of the press conference, feel free to leave them in the comments.

Posted under Coaching, Football

New Recruiting Class of 2009 HQ

The new site has given us a lot of new options that we didn’t have on Blogger. The ablity to do something like this easily and locally is probably the biggest.

We have put together a page on each current 2009 commit and pulled information from the recruiting board, recruiting updates and Friday Night Lights posts.  Now almost all the information Varsity Blue has on a particular commit is in one place where readers can comment and discuss (and share video highlights, news stories, etc).

The page can be found here as well as in the Quick Links box at the top of the page.

Posted under Blog News, Recruiting