Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hello Goodbye, 8/23

I had the great fortune of being able to spend this past weekend in Ann Arbor; it's truly amazing how much you hate living there in the dead of winter, and then when you move away for even the shortest period of time you'd rather be back in that unpredictably cantankerous climate than the sunny, sensible place in which you now live. It was my first trip to Ann Arbor since graduation in April; while being back in town was a little sad in that it is a reminder that my undergraduate days are over, driving down Main and seeing the new scoreboard bursting from the horizon like a maize and blue wonder of the world was, to say the least, tremendous. 

In more important, less nostalgic news, I think I cast my vote in the Sandwich Wars for Maize and Blue Deli...for now. This of course will change whenever I get the chance to go to Zingerman's again (hopefully Notre Dame weekend). Also, for anyone who cares...the new Mediterranean place on State (one that took the place of Cosi) is actually fairly good. I recommend it. ANYWAY.

Camp Rumors: So we've been hearing a lot the last several days about who is performing and who is not. Some of the news has been encouraging, some has been extremely discomfiting. The latter is, of course, referring to Will Campbell, who is building up his case for being one of, if not the biggest, bust in recent history for Michigan. I had held out hope that maybe the light would go on like it sort of did for Gabe Watson, and he'd at the very least be a player that you could hope would not be a significant liability by virtue of his size (and, admittedly, his recruiting pedigree), and thus, at worst, a non-difference maker capable of holding down the starting spot. As tough as that is to say, it's true, as it appears Campbell may have reached his Waterloo this time. Getting beat out by a walk-on represents a conscious decision by the coaches to go with someone less talented in every respect because the more talented player does not have the drive, the technique, the willingness to improve, etc. to get the job done and done well. BWC has had his chances, and there's always the potential for a Hoke motivational ploy to be found in Nathan Brink's ascension up the depth chart...then again, the path that Campbell's career has taken suggests it is not.

In other news, offseason favorite Fitzgerald "Mike Hart with speed" Toussaint has generated some significant buzz, to the point that many are saying he could be the starter. I will be completely honest, this was a surprise to me. A good surprise, mind you, but a surprise nonetheless (kind of like walking into the Big House for the UCONN game last September to watch the Wolverines only give up 10). Guys like Shaw, Smith, Cox, and even Hopkins, are known entities at this point; we know that Shaw is a burner who sometimes has trouble finding the hole and then flashes the knowledge he attained at the Carlos Brown School of Tackle Breaking when running between the tackles. Smith is a tiny, tiny man who can catch and block but don't ever, EVER ask him to convert on 3rd and short. It seems like he's gotten some of his burst back, so we'll see how he figures in to the offense this season. We know that Cox is talented and will look amazing against Derp State but never see the field otherwise, and we know that Hopkins is of the Wisconsin mold of tailbacks.

This is why Toussaint taking the reins would be pretty exciting. We saw a brief flash of what he could do against Bowling Green, but he's spent much of his time at Michigan either injured or not playing. Now, as a redshirt sophomore, is a perfect time for him to come in and show people why they were so excited about him in the first place.

Other notes available at MGoBlog as usual...it looks like my prediction that Avery will take over the spot opposite Woolfolk is coming to fruition, which I think is good for the defense overall. No offense to JT Floyd, who'd make a more than okay nickel, but Avery is just less athletically limited and has better upside. Some names are added to the logjam that is the WLB position race: Hawthorne and Morgan. It's interesting to see Morgan being moved from the MIKE position; I was definitely a fan of his the more I read of him, but, as Brian notes, this obviously indicates that the WLB position is probably going to be mediocre this year. I'm interested to know how interchangeable the coaches feel some players are vis a vis the SAM and WILL positions; that is, does putting the 3 best backers on the field entail Jake Ryan sliding to the other side (i.e., the WILL)? While it's hard to say, I don't think it would hurt to try it down the road if some of these more experienced guys--age-wise, at least--fail to do anything substantial. A unit of Ryan-Demens-Gordon could be, dare I say it, downright good.

Attrition Time: Tony Posada is done at Michigan, making him the second freshman to leave the program this offseason (the first, of course, being TX LB Kellen Jones). This doesn't necessarily hurt as much as Jones from the talent perspective, whose existence in Norman only further underscores his potential. Posada had a solid offer list but nothing to write home about. If he wasn't from Florida, I doubt people would have been as excited about him as they were (which was sort of muted to begin with). He would have had to drop some bad weight regardless the offensive system, but, in my honest opinion, he seemed like a guy who would be a good fit for the Michigan lines of old as a big bruising right tackle/guard whose production probably would top out with a year (maybe two of starting), with maybe a season of all-conference honorable mention. Being compared to the small town that was Alex Mitchell was never a good thing for Posada. In any case, we'll never know, and it's time for Hoke and Co. to keep on the remaining OL targets (Garnett, Banner, etc.).

CtK Day 12: 

J.B. Fitzgerald, "competing for a spot" at the MIKE position. Obviously, Demens is pretty much a lock there, but in the case of injury (no thanks, please) Fitzgerald is a seasoned vet who has seen some action despite not quite living up to his recruiting hype. Most backers figure to at least practice at multiple positions, and I'm sure the same is true for Fitzgerald. He is definitely a MIKE, but as mentioned earlier re: Jake Ryan, I get the feeling that the linebackers might have some flexibility as to what positions they will play. If Greg Robinson was still around I'd be displeased at the notion of linebackers switching positions, but I think we all have faith that Mattison will coach 'em up. Ideally, you want guys that can play multiple positions anyway. Physically, your WILL is going to be smaller and faster than the other two backers, but it's still possible to know all three positions and be able to play them if necessary due to injury, lackluster performance, etc.

Staying Put: 

In a statement put out on Friday, the conference announced its intention to stand pat with respect to conference expansion:

In response to a number of recent media inquiries received by several Big Ten Presidents and Chancellors regarding the likelihood of further expansion by the Big Ten, the COP/C would like to reiterate that it will not be actively engaged in conference expansion at this time, or at any time in the foreseeable future, barring a significant shift in the current intercollegiate athletic landscape.   

1) This is good news. 2) In this day and age, I've gotten so jaded that I don't believe anything that anyone says in the world of college football...I believe that they think they intend to stay at 12, but once the dominoes start to fall will Delaney be able to watch other conferences pick off the best schools? I don't think so. In any case, the whole "barring a significant shift" thing...yeah. That's gonna happen.

GET OFF MY LAWN: Okay, not quite, but Rittenberg talks about the Big Ten and how it's not like your father's Big Ten:

When Wisconsin's Bret Bielema attended his first Big Ten coaches meeting in 2006, he recalled Delany polling the coaches about whether they would favor a league championship game in the future.
"The only two guys who raised their hands were me and Ron Zook," Bielema said.
Zook being "ahead of the curve" on this (as ahead as you can be on something that has already existed elsewhere for quite a while) makes me second guess the validity of the Big Ten's current model. However, in all seriousness, it's hard to argue that the Big Ten hasn't done well for itself overall. Instant replay, the BTN, adding Nebraska, the establishment of Big Ten hockey, etc. Now, the only thing left to do is win a national championship for the first time in nine years. This isn't Bo and Woody, but then again in those days the Big Ten was Michigan, Ohio State and everybody else; I think the new status quo is better for everybody (as well as national perception). Brady Hoke comes in with a quote in response to Delany's lamentation of the NCAA issues at Michigan and Ohio State:

"It was toward all of us," Michigan's Brady Hoke said, "about how important the Big Ten brand is and how we want to respect our brand and how we want to operate and do business. … It was something we needed to hear."
"Brand"...slowly becoming the new "tremendous?"

More? Dr. Saturday starts his BlogPoll countdown...Mississippi State comes in at 24. The SEC West is going to be scary this year. The Spartans come in at 23: "This team could be any Dantonio team: The veteran pro-style quarterback under center, the between-the-tackles workhorse in the backfield, the largely anonymously but solid defense, etc. Check, check and check." James Wood on secularism and religiosity...sometimes I imagine Michigan State fans waking up in the middle of the night, sweating, wondering what the point of it all is (it, of course, being a Spartan fan). 11W previews the Ohio State offense in the post-Tressel/Pryor era. Verdict? "Cautiously optimistic."

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