Spring Game: Now with Pictures!

Posted under Football, Photo Album, Spring Coverage

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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 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

Spring Practice Report

From the mouth of Rod:

  • 1st full scrimmage will probably take place on Saturday.
  • One of the reasons Rich wants to have a big spring game (in terms of fan attendance) is to help young guys get used to playing in front of an audience, so they aren’t as nervous when they see crowds of 100K+ in the fall.
  • Brandin Hawthorne, though he sometimes has been practicing with the safeties, is going to play outside linebacker.
  • Steve Watson’s move to defensive end has gone well. He is competing well enough that he will get some real playing time if he keeps it up. The depth at TE (Koger, Moore, Webb all doing well) allows him to play there. If they need tight ends, he’s a smart enough player that he could move back.
  • Will Campbell will be a big help for the team, because the depth at DT is pretty thin. He still has lots of learning to do.
  • Steve Schilling is at guard for now, and he’ll probably stay there for the time being. He looks good at the guard position, and shows good leadership on the field.

Observations and E-pinions:

  • Starting defense appeared to be a 3-4 set with the following personnel: DL – Van Bergen, Martin, Graham. LB – S. Brown, Evans, Ezeh, Fitzgerald. S – Williams, B. Smith. CB – Warren, Cissoko.
  • 1st team backfield featured Nick Sheridan, and often had 2 RBs (Minor at FB, C. Brown at RB) in. Moundros was the starting true fullback, in front of Grady and with Forcier as the QB.
  • The starting offensive line looked to be (L to R): Ortmann, Schilling, Molk, Moosman, Omameh. 2nd team: ? (green jersey), Barnum, Khoury, Ferrara, Dorrestein. In individual drills for the offensive linemen, either Barnum or Omameh (the only 2 black O-linemen having 56 and 65, respectively, was confusing) appeared to be by far the quickest on the team. I think it was Omameh.
  • Practicing taking direct snaps at QB with rollout runs: Feagin, T. Robinson, C. Brown.
  • An observation from the Oklahoma Drill (or the “Wolverine Drill” or whatever they call it here): Brandon Minor looked like a man among boys. He trucked a couple defenders, was able to spin off a couple more, and run by one or two (not easy in a 5-yard-wide playing area). We should have video of at least one of the impressive runs. Vincent Smith is super shifty, as can be expected of most tiny backs.
  • GERG Robinson has amazing silver hair, which he partnered up with a gray sweatsuit. Lookin’ fly.

Random (and not so random) people spotted:

  • Skyler Schofner, William Gholston, Teric Jones, Rick Leach (more of “heard.” He also sat behind us at Friday’s baseball game), Michael Taylor, Johnny Thompson, recently fired EMU coach Jeff Genyk.
  • I didn’t notice Toney Clemons in attendance, but I may have just missed him.

MGoBlue report on the entire first week of practice can be found here.


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Posted under Football, Media, Spring Coverage, Video

Spring is almost upon us

Rich Rodriguez announced last week that Michigan’s Spring Game will be returning to Michigan Stadium. This year’s intrasquad, to be played April 11th, will once again be open to the public. This is obviously a major step forward for the program, after last year’s final practice was closed, and held at nearby Saline High School.

Now that things are on the right path, I humbly offer a few suggestions to the athletic department the ensure this year’s game is a success.

  • Have a real game with normal scoring. None of this “offense v. defense, a sack is 2 points for the defense, a first down is worth half a point…”-type nonsense. A spring game is for the fans, and so let’s not make it confusing to follow. Figure out a way to get it done (I suggest first teams v. second teams, but there are a number of other ways to get this done).
  • If there are going to be activities other than a game, make them interesting. Florida has the players race each other (and students who want to try their hand at beating the likes of Percy Harvin). Michigan has players run through drills that fans don’t get. Which do you think is more interesting to observers?
  • Invite every high school coach in the state, and most from Ohio. Encourage them to bring their teams. Invite every single prospect that has been identified for the classes of 2010 and 2011. I don’t care if they’re from Florida, Hawaii, or Timbuktu. If they want to come, they will. If it’s too far, they won’t. What does it hurt to extend an invitation? Since there’s guaranteed to be less media covering the spring game (regardless of who is invited), allow the recruits to stay on the sidelines during the scrimmage – something they cant do during an actual game.
  • Have a festival-like atmosphere, or at least treat it like a game. Have tailgating, the Victors Walk, contests, concessions. Have the whole band and the whole cheerleading squad in attendance. Bring in forme (or current) NFL players to call plays. Invite College Gameday to Ann Arbor (they were in Gainesville last year) – or at least whatever BTN’s version of GameDay is. Invite all the media that cover the team during the regular season – go out of your way to make sure they know they are welcome.
  • If it’s cold, have a pep rally in Crisler before the game. If not, hold it in the stadium. Have Coach Rod speak to the crowd.
  • Give tours of parts of Michigan Stadium fans have never seen. Considering all the construction, that could just be whatever has been completed since November 15th. Let them in the locker room, or Junge (unless it’s being used for recruiting) or the press box.

As for fans? Well, they just need to show up, have fun (regardless of the weather), and maybe have a tailgate or two. If there’s one thing fans can do to help the team for next season, it’s showing they still care about and love the Michigan Wolverines, and maybe build a little confidence for the players and coaches going into ’09.

What ideas do YOU have to improve the spring game? Leave them in the comments, and I’ll post a roundup/revision post as spring practice begins. Maybe the best suggestion will get a prize… Anybody interested in a DVD set? There’s a copy of The Rivalry Series: Michigan Beats Ohio State up for grabs.

Posted under Football, Recruiting, Spring Coverage

Rocking the Spring Sports

Most Michigan fans follow football in the fall and ice hockey (if you like watching a good team) or basketball (if you’re a masochist) in the winter. Many spring sports don’t seem to get the same attention that the other seasons do. It could be because there’s no revenue sport or, more likely, a large part of their seasons are played after students leave campus for the summer.

Well, I’ve been in Ann Arbor the past two summers and have noticed that the spring sports have been ridiculously good the past two years. Women’s track and field finished with a share of the Big Ten title last year and was runner up this year. The male runners won the title outright this year.

This year, women’s tennis made it to the second round NCAA tournament, while the men made it to the Sweet Sixteen. Both teams improved upon somewhat breakout seasons the year before.

Then there is baseball and softball. Both teams last year made it to the super regionals and gave the teams they played hell. I remember watching baseball’s first game against Oregon State in the Super Regional. Zach Putnam pitched a ridiculously good game. He only gave up one hit, but unfortunately that one hit brought in a run which was enough to earn Putnam the loss. It was one of the best baseball games I had seen.

As well as those teams did last year, the prospects are looking even better this year. One of the biggest reasons is the new Wilpon Baseball and Softball Palace Complex. Last year both teams played on the road in the Super Regional round. Michigan did not even put in a bid for either sport as the stands and press boxes were torn apart for the new construction. This year is different. Now Michigan has one of the nicer facilities, especially in the Midwest. Softball hosted and won its regional and will hope to do the same when it hopes the Super Regional this weekend. Baseball also has a very good chance of hosting it’s Super Regional series if it made it out of the regional round.

The new Ray Fisher Stadium will be getting it’s first test of a large baseball event when it hosts the Big Ten Tournament this weekend. In an e-mail from the media contact for baseball he said “With the new Press Box there is ample room, but I need to know who is coming so I can have Press Credentials waiting in your name.” which is a drastic change from last year when the media room was a tent behind Yost.

If you are in the area, check out baseball and softball this weekend. The schedule for the Big Ten tournament isn’t posted yet, but softball is set to play Virginia Tech at Noon this Saturday. Even if you’re not in town, you can catch the softball team on ESPN and I assume BTN will cover the tournament.

It could be a special year for both of these teams. They deserve all the support they can get.

UPDATE: Details about ticket prices and availability for baseball are here. Similar details for the softball super regional tickets are here. Take-home points: Baseball is $7 per game. Softball is $5 for general admission bleachers or $7-$8 for the nice, new grandstand.

Posted under Baseball

The Perfect Spring Game

After this past weekend, many Michigan fans were up in arms over the comparatively festive spring game atmospheres at rival schools (Notre Dame, Ohio State, and even Michigan State) as compared to the less than 5,000 fans who took in Michigan’s final spring scrimmage at a nearby high school. For the future, I would love to see a better spring game.

Why not this year? There were tons of extenuating circumstances (pretty much all out of Rodriguez’s control) that prevented a spring game from happening. Most of them will not be present, at least to their current magnitude, next year.

  • Construction in the Big House. Even if they weren’t going to have a legitimate game this year because of other circumstances, they probably would have still invited fans to come to a practice in the Big House had it been available. Next year, the magnitude of construction won’t be as great (there is literally no East Concourse anymore, just steps that lead to a cliff – photo credit to UMGoBlue.com), and they’ll hopefully be able to use the Big House for the game, even though construction won’t be completed.
  • Installing a new system. This year, Coach Rodriguez and his coaches were installing completely new offensive and defensive schemes, which is something that they probably won’t be doing again in their time at Michigan. Even upperclassmen are learning something completely new, which won’t be the case in future years.
  • Playing catch-up. On top of a completely new system to teach the players, Michigan’s new coaches had other areas in which they were playing catch-up as well. They had to gain back ground on the 2008 recruiting class, start anew for the 2009 class, get to know each other (along with terminology and schemes in some cases), buy houses, and integrate themselves into the community in Ann Arbor. When they don’t have all these things to make up ground, they’ll be able to teach more effectively in the spring, and plan for a spring game.
  • Rodriguez had other things to worry about. Including his lawsuit, which he has a stake in, regardless of the fact that his lawyers are doing all the actual legwork.

Is it likely we’ll see one in the future? Yes. Spring games give media exposure which is good in almost every way. It certainly helps with recruiting. Also helping with recruiting is being able to invite tons of top prospects to the game, and show them an exciting atmosphere. Also, Rich Rodriguez has had one in the past at West Virginia. Almost no school this day can sustain a great program without some form of popular spring game.

So what makes a great spring game? Several factors have to come together to make a spring game truly great. The event must be about not only the game, but a carnival-like atmosphere around it.

  • First, the game must be entertaining. This means 1st team offense v. 1st team defense, backups v. backups on two teams, with standard timing, scoring, etc. No “offense v. defense” games with complicated and weird scoring systems that nobody can remember (much less decipher in some instances). If you don’t want to do special teams for the sake of avoiding injuries, they can be left out or limited.
  • Inviting recruits is also important. Even if many of them can’t come, letting them know that you are thinking about them (a la a Pete Carroll text message) is important to prospects, especially those who won’t get an offer, but still want to feel like BMOCs. This is also big for keeping in-state coaches happy.
  • Media coverage. I wouldn’t be surprised if BTN has exclusive rights to all spring coverage of conference schools, which hurts somewhat (it means no GameDay, and no national coverage on basic cable unless the network gets picked up by more carriers), but at least it is something. The game should be on live television, presented exactly as though it is a real game.
  • Have other important people there. Invite back every football alum who is or has been in the NFL (photo of Lamarr Woodley, Pierre Woods, and ? thanks to MVictors.com). Invite other prominent Michigan grads (Lucy Liu, Michael Phelps, Steve M. Ross) to come as well, and make the whole thing into an event. The famous people can even come together and coach the teams.
  • Band, cheerleaders, alumni cheerleaders, etc. Make it a clone of a real game.
  • Have other events around the game, like Ohio State (Lacrosse game in the ‘Shoe) or Florida (sprints between students and players).
  • Not sure if this is allowed per NCAA rules, but invite signed recruits to the game, and introduce them to the fans over the loudspeaker. That lets future recruits know how important they are to the program, and also helps fans know who will be on future teams.
  • Advertise the game more. Statewide, via direct-mail lists, alumni associations, etc. Get fans in the seats.
  • Have the parking lots open for tailgating, just like any other game.

Take a lesson from Don Canham, Mr. Martin (and Mr. Rodriguez) and advertise the event and the program, not just the game itself. Having a big spring game can only help the program achieve long-term success.

Have any other ideas? Drop them in the comments.

Posted under Recruiting, Spring Coverage

Programming Update

Various commenters have let me know that the audio levels on yesterday’s videos are too low. I’ll fix that and repost them later today.

Also, since today is the last day of spring practice, the post-spring reports will be published over the next couple of days. This includes:

  • Updated Scholarship count
  • Post-spring depth charts
  • Post-spring recruiting needs
  • Summer preview

Look forward to it, yo.

Posted under Spring Coverage

Spring Practice Video Bonanza!

Here are VB’s videos from the spring game:



Posted under Coaching, Spring Coverage, Video

Big Ten Network Spring Game Highlights

More on the spring game coming up later today.

Posted under Spring Coverage, Video