Friday, August 26, 2011

The Horror Pt. II: This Time It's Personal, 8/26

The last football-less weekend is finally upon us. To be quite honest with you, this offseason has been the swiftest one I can remember ever having to slog through, and up until the recent flurry of transfers, was just about perfect. Brady Hoke fattened the media up on the empty-calorie foodstuff known as fluff, the VHT recruits are coming in like they used to, and OSU has a laundry list of questions to answer on and off the field. In any case, I'm looking forward to what the season has in store, but I advise all to savor the quiet calm that will be this next week. Once things get going there's no looking back.

As far as this blog goes, I'm excited to keep things going throughout this season. I started out with a certain vision of what I wanted to write about, and if you've read anything here you'll know what I'm talking about. I love to write and I love Michigan football, two inclinations which converge to form long-winded posts on games against bad Indiana teams. Everybody has their flaws.

I've tried to produce some more day-to-day type content to bridge the gap between my longer posts. I'm still trying to feel things out, and I've been helped out immensely by Brian at MGoBlog, as well as the guys at Maize and Brew and The Wolverine Blog, for linking to my work; without their help in that respect, this blog would not have advanced much farther than my own circle of friends. With that said, my interest is not in the aesthetics of the blog or even the number of views I get, and I would still do this even if my close friends were the only people that read it. I started this thing late one night last summer, and I had no idea what I was doing, what my "niche" would be, how long I would continue to write, and what my "voice" was or would be. I'm still trying to get a feel for all of these things, but it's coming along. I haven't posted as frequently as I would have wanted, but the new season is the perfect opportunity for me to throw some words out there into the great big void that is the Internet and whomever reads it, reads it.

In short, for the handful that have kept up with this blog: thank you, and I'm looking forward to writing about the 2011 season.

Hey, remember that time? ME NEITHER: So, Dave Brandon clearly has not learned from past mistakes. As you all know, Michigan has scheduled the Appalachian State Mountaineers to a rematch, to be played in 2014. Yes, I know. Dr. Saturday expresses the universal dread-filled sigh exhaled by Michigan fans everywhere upon hearing this news:

For most Michigan partisans, Sept. 1, 2007, is a black hole. A void that never existed. A Saturday that the calendar, somehow, just sort of … skipped. All they know is that they went to bed that Friday night excited for the season opener, and came to the following Monday feeling terrible.
A lot of interesting emotions will be floating around Ann Arbor that day. The atmosphere will be part dread, part apprehension, part disingenuous apathy, and part vengeful bloodlust. Playing this game is still stupid, no matter how much anybody wants the "revenge." There is no number of points that Michigan could win this game by that will eliminate any of the embarrassment of that day. I had a similar reaction to Brian when I saw this...I don't think any fanbase ever has panicked more than we have/will about an FCS opponent 3 years down the road. As weird as it is to say, this game, which took place on my third day on campus as a naive freshman, will always be a significant part of my fandom and of my aggregate memories of Michigan football. Not that I want that to be true, of's horrible. No amount of mind bleach will ever erase the painful memories of that day. It was a surreal part of your every Michigan fan's fandom, an absurd memory that just kind of latches on to your memory and never lets go, not unlike the time you had to watch The Miracle of Life in middle school. Some things stay with you forever.

At least Armanti Edwards can't hurt us anymore.

Hello Goodbye Again: Exit TX TE Chris Barnett, adding to the recent string of departures. This is the third incoming recruit to not make it to Sept. 3rd. Attrition is unfortunate, and by all accounts Barnett was a very talented player (i.e., not your generic stone-handed in-line blocker). Having garnered offers from two schools that have recently produced elite tight ends (Oklahoma-Jermaine Gresham, Arkansas-DJ Williams), Barnett was a big get for Michigan. Unfortunately, he ballooned in size throughout the spring and summer, apparently reaching a hefty 280. There's no telling if that was the sole reason behind his transfer (if it is...why?), but in any case, this is unfortunate simply for the fact that there's currently not very much talent waiting in the wings behind senior Kevin Koger. Michigan is probably good at the tight end position for this class, but it will definitely be a priority next year, as will the Barwisization  Wellmanization of Ricardo Miller.

Meanwhile in Columbus: 11W previews the season, but not until they talk about how long the offseason has been for them. Eventually, they get to some prognosticating: 4 out of 8 contributors have the Buckeyes going a Carr-esque 9-3, with two claiming 10-2, one for 8-4, and one for 11-1. Basically, they'll be in Florida playing an SEC team, which would be their most disappointing season since 2004 (which should just about tell you how far apart Michigan and Ohio State are right now). Personally, I think 9-3 is a good bet. A pretty tough slate in October will make or break this team, with the road test in Champaign being particularly interesting. Who those three losses will come to is up for debate, and I'm not quite willing to go on record right this minute if Michigan is one of those three (FWIW, general season predictions post should be coming next Monday).

They also each identify the one thing that would make the season a "failure": four involved some form of Michigan, with three being "losing to Michigan" and one being "losing to Brady Hoke."

CtK Day 8:

Wolverine Historian: Tired of watching last season's Illinois shootout on the BTN every other day? Here's something nice to mix things up a bit:

It's So Fluffy: More offseason fluff, this time in the form of a Q&A with former assistant Jerry Hanlon. A couple bits aren't exactly anything new, per se, but should serve as some needed reassurance for the legions of people worried about the offense:
They will do some zone blocking, but they will also do some swiping and double-teaming. They pull and trap. They pull every man along the line of scrimmage, from the tackles to the center to everybody. It allows you to take more advantage of what the defense is doing to you.
There it is, it's out there. No speculation necessary about what Michigan will or won't do (with more emphasis on the latter, perhaps). Michigan will zone block, despite Hoke's notorious rhetorical aversion to zone blocking and his offseason-long diatribe re: its incompatibility with overall team toughness. Michigan will also do some man blocking. It seems like a distant relic of the past, given that we've been zone blocking since 2006. Everything, include Borges's own words and SDSU's offensive philosophy under Hoke/Borges, point toward a balanced, diverse offense. The offense will probably not be too complex early on (looks like it's 65-70% of the SDSU playbook as of now), but, by the end of the season we should be looking at a fairly dangerous offensive unit. What that translates to in terms of cold, hard production is tough to say, but an improved defense (top 70?) and a competent kicker (PLEASE) would go a long way towards easing the transition and ultimately leading to maybe an extra win this year.

Hanlon also makes note of some potential difficulties with the receivers:
There will be a change with your wide receivers. They'll be more interested in blocking downfield, as well as running patterns. Of course, they're going to have to run much more disciplined patterns, where they read a defense and know what they're supposed to do and make a cut, come back to the ball. The pocket passing game is more geared to that.
This is perhaps the most underplayed issue involving the offense, particularly when most consider the talent and depth that the Wolverines are blessed with at the position. For all of RR's offensive brilliance, his passing schemes were actually fairly simplistic. There's nothing complicated about getting a receiver open after Denard carries the ball for several long gains on a given drive.

Notre Dame figures to have a pretty strong front seven, but Michigan should be able to win its fair share of battles in the secondary if Denard and Roundtree, Hemingway, etc. are on the same page.

More? Dr. Saturday continues with his BlogPoll...OSU comes in at 17. Spencer Hall trolls hard in the paint. Delonte Hollowell et al, I think the word y'all are looking for is "tremendous." If this is what the future looks like then I'll stay right here, thanks. Dick Tressel thinks brother Jim will coach again...good luck with that. The Daily on Michigan's practices leading up to the opener...Borges: "Our practices are not for the faint of heart."

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