The Day Of

It's Here!!!

We made it.

It wasn't easy...especially for all of us Michigan fans, but the off-season is over!

Tonight, live at 7:30 on ESPNU, Vanderbilt and Miami of Ohio take the field in the first televised game of the season. Followed closely at 8:00 on ESPN, NC State and South Carolina. And, if that's not enough, on ESPN2 Oregon State and Stanford kickoff.

I must say, from the moment the last second ticked off the clock in the 4th quarter against Appalachian State last year, this has been one of the craziest years I've ever seen, not only for Michigan football, but college football in general. We've covered so many topics and news stories over the past year.

A quick rundown...
• Appalachian State
• Michigan starting off 0-2
• Mike Hart guarantees his team will win against the Irish, and they do
• Chad Henne's bum shoulder
• Mike Hart's bum ankle
• Michigan's heart-stopping wins over MSU and Illinois
• Going 8-0 after an 0-2 start
• Lloyd's retirement announcement
• Another loss to tOSU
• Les Miles and his "have a great day" speech
• The endless head coaching search and Bill Martin's sailboat
• Greg Shiano's non-interest in the job
• Secret meetings in Toledo
• Rich Rodriguez's bolt from WVU
• Totally new offensive scheme
• Terrell Pryor and The University of Ohio State
• Rodriguez's $4M buyout
• Manningham's weed
• Jake Long goes #1 in the NFL draft
• Mike Barwis, the rockstar, cleans out the weightroom
• Justin Boren cries to Jim Tressell
• The spring game at Saline HS
• Deposition after deposition
• New unis
• Stadium renovation
• New practice facility
• Offensive linemen dropping like files in summer camp
• Kevin Grady drunk, caught passed out at the wheel of his car
• No clear-cut starting QB
• Michigan unranked in pre-season AP poll for the first time since the Polk administration
• Rodriguez allows more media access to the program than in the past 15 years combined
• Michigan replay gets replaced with new show

What's next??? I mean at this point, we may on a collision course with night games in Ann Arbor!

It's been a roller coaster. All I can say is that blogging this off-season has been one helluva ride. And we're just getting started.

Many, many, many thanks to the blogs you see on the far right side of the page...my fellow Michigan bloggers who have endured all of this right along with me. Expect to see some great content from those guys on this site over the course of this season.

Now, I can see no better way to end this post than the way we did it last year right before the season started...with a little poetry from MaizenBrew Dave.

Go Blue!

Week 1 Big Ten Predictions

No points. No favorites. No over/under. Straight up. My prediction in bold. Game of the week in italic.

Syracuse vs Northwestern
W Kentucky vs. Indiana
Youngstown State vs. tOSU
Coastal Carolina vs Penn St
Akron vs. Wisconsin
Maine vs. Iowa
Utah vs. Michigan
NIU vs. Minnesota
Michigan St vs. Cal
Illinois vs. Missouri

Michigan Fan Stadium Guidelines

Paul at Varsity Blue has a Guide to the Student Section posted today with some great tips for the uneducated freshman attending his or her first Michigan game, or for the upperclassman who needs a slight refresher on the dos and don'ts of the student section.

So in that same spirit, we offer up our annual stadium guide for the Michigan fan.

1) The most basic rule of all, don't boo your own team. Seems simple enough, but for some old-money alums or drunk season ticket holders, booing the team/coaches is a tradition as old as the Detroit Lions not making the playoffs. You may be unsatisfied with that you see on the field (oh who am I kidding, you will be unsatisfied), but please remember that these are just boys playing a game. They hear you booing and let me tell you, it does wonders for the self-esteem.

2) Just as in the student section, refrain from getting plastered at the tailgate. And if you do, stay at the tailgate. If not, that drunk feeling in the first half will turn into a hung-over feeling in the 2nd half. Your head and your fellow seat mates will thank you.

3) Don't get pissed when someone wants to stand up in front of you on a big defensive play or 3rd down. Yelling "Down in front!" not only makes you sound like a crotchety old man, but you subtract from the excitement of the situation. Most folks stand because someone in front of them stood up. Don't be afraid to stand up and actually make some noise, you might find it fun. If you want to sit for the whole game, watch it from home.

3b) The students will shake their keys on a 3rd down defensive play or a "key play". While I disagree with this practice...they would be much more effective just yelling. Don't assume that this is the standard. There is a movement in the student section to end this tradition. Help them out by keeping your keys in your pocket and yelling instead.

4) Great segue into my next point. Get up and get loud! Nothing irks me more than people complaining about how quiet the Big House is. And it irks me, because they're right. We have some of the quietest fans out there. Does the stadium design take away from he noise the fans make? Sure, but to a point. The new pressboxes will help keep some of the noise in the bowl, but not much. My argument against that is...you can't deflect silence. Don't be afraid to be a fan and stand up and make noise.

5) The seats are small. We all know that. Don't show up on Saturday and curiously proclaim "They make these seats smaller every year!". No they don't. Your butt may get bigger...but we've all heard that statement a million times. And if someone happens to have a cheek on your seat, deal with it. I've had games when I've ended up about 2 or 3 seats away from where I started. It just happens.

6) Extend some courtesy to our visiting friends. They made the trip to the Big House to see their team play us. They're so drastically outnumbered its not even funny. Let's not get in their faces are throw things at them. Michigan fans, as a whole, have a pretty good reputation for being courteous to visiting fans. Let's keep that going.

7) Do your drinking at the tailgate. I don't want to come off as a prude here, but do you really need to smuggle in those little shot bottles of Jack or Captain Morgan to mix with your diet coke? If you do, then so be it...I'm not here to judge. But at least have the decency to put the empty bottles back in you pocket or throw them away. I have this memory of one of my first Michigan games when I was a young kid, and seeing just dozens of empty shot bottles all over the place as I watched the game. I was disappointed then, and I am ashamed now.

8) Watch the language. Michigan stadium is an amazing place. It is a great place to bring young children to experience one of the true spectacles in sports. There are more young kids in the stadium than you may suspect. The more F-bombs you yell, the more they will hear you...and they're like sponges. It makes you look bad and sets a bad precedent for the next generation of Michigan fans.

9) And finally, just be a fan. Enjoy yourself and cheer for Michigan. You can change the outcome of a game by being loud and positive...and it can be contagious to the people around you. Going negative rubs off just the same. You paid the money for the ticket and/or parking, so make the most of it. No one goes to the games looking to be upset. And the last thing you want is someone behind you that makes snide remarks the whole game. So don't be that guy either.

So have fun, cheer loud and Go Blue!

Small Town News

Oh, how I love it when small town news makes it onto my radar. Especially when it's small town Ohio.

The small town in question is Mansfield, OH. If anyone has ever spent any length of time in Mansfield lately, you might know a thing or two about depression. My grandparents lived there for many years, one of my parents grew up there. As you are driving down route 23 towards Columbus...about halfway through Ohio...take a left. Drive about a half hour and you find yourself in the hills of mid-Ohio. Two small-ish towns border up against one another. Ashland and Mansfield.

Both towns are nothing to really look at. Mansfield grew in the early 1900's when a steel factory opened up. It was a modestly thriving town in the day. Probably not many more than 50,000 people in the 70's...a number that has been shrinking ever since then. Typical rust-belt.

So when it comes to things to do, there is Browns-Steelers games, and there is tOSU Football.

Jon Spencer is a columnist for the Mansfield News Journal. His latest article, "Earth to Rodriguez - OSU is Your Top Rival" is not only terribly written with half-thought out points, but is also 6 months late. Maybe the title of this post should be "Earth to Spencer - You're in Mansfield F-ing Ohio"

But, okay...I get it. It's a great chance for a small town writer to not only take a cheap shot at a successful coach, but also add some gas to the fire of hate that all tOSU fans have for their better half from Ann Arbor.

Look who's wearing the lamp shade now. It was bad enough that disgraced Michigan football coach Gary Moeller -- last seen in Ann Arbor getting pink-slipped after drunk and disorderly conduct -- refused to acknowledge Ohio State as a bigger rival than Michigan State.

Worse, Rich Rodriguez, entrusted with making the Wolverines more than a chew toy for the Buckeyes, is spouting the same sacrilege, insisting the circle around OSU on the calendar isn't any bigger than the one around Notre Dame or Michigan State.

Right off the bat, he uses a terrible comparison. Gary Moeller bent tOSU over and hand them two of the most recent lopsided losses in the series (31-3, 28-0). Now, Spencer does reference that later in the article, but don't lead with it. It already shows you don't know what you're talking about. Moeller was 3-1-1 against tOSU.

And, lest we forget, I seem to remember a rather famous tOSU coach getting handed a pink slip after he let his fist do the talking against Clemson.
Jim Tressel started counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds to the Michigan game on the January afternoon he was hired as Ohio State's coach in 2001. Given his 6-1 record against the Maize and Blue, Rich Rod might want to find out where Tressel purchases his watches and clocks.
Just make sure he doesn't purchase them at the same place Mark Dantonio does.
Is he waiting until he has the manpower to contend with Ohio State before he builds up the rivalry? Is he afraid of morphing into predecessor Lloyd Carr, who embraced the rivalry right up until Tressel's grip squeezed the remaining breaths from his career? Is he playing it down for fear someone will check his track record in rivalries? (He was only 4-3 against Pitt as head coach at West Virginia, including a gag job last season with a trip to the national championship at stake.)

Or is he just ignorant?

Or, is he savy? Did Bo have the "manpower" to contend with tOSU in 1969? And it doesn't take manpower to build up the rivalry, it takes wins. You don't win the game in January. What Tressel did was give tOSU fans exactly what they wanted to hear. It's cheap parlor tricks. He cemented his legacy the first day on the job.

I give him credit for putting his balls out there like that.

I won't quote him, but Spencer goes on to discuss Boren and Pryor...both are arguments that every tOSU fan has "in the chamber" ready to fire at any Michigan fan within shouting distance.

Now, please allow me to go out on a bit of an editorial limb...

Ohio State needs to play Michigan every year. Michigan does not need to play Ohio State.

WHA???

This is a slightly modified Bo quote, I simply replaced Notre Dame with Ohio State. It may seem strange at first...but think about it. Of course I love playing tOSU every year...and I'm not saying we don't want them on our schedule. But what I am saying is, from a strictly football perspective, tOSU has no other rivals. And no, Penn State doesn't count.

I may get all kinds of flack for saying that...but I don't care. The simple fact is, great teams have more than 1 meaningful game every year.

Michigan has Notre Dame, MSU and tOSU

USC has UCLA and Notre Dame

Texas has Oklahoma and A&M

Florida has FSU, LSU and Georgia

Nebraska has Colorado and Missouri

Notre Dame has...well, everyone

But tOSU has just Michigan. And they won't let you forget it.

Tressel coming out and proclaiming the Michigan game as the be-all end-all game for his team was not bold, it was the truth. But it's not his fault. He's not responsible for tOSU not having another meaningful game on their schedule year-in year-out. I mean, they play other good teams from time to time...but nothing that even comes close to Michigan.

Again, it's just small town news. And in the scope of this rivalry, its nothing. But it does shed some light on what the rivalry means to fans in Ohio.

Ohio is a weird place when it comes to sports. tOSU is really the only contender when it comes to a successful program. You have 6 MAC schools, more 1-AA schools than I care to count, and a Big East college. So tOSU is the stand-alone. Ohio is a big football state...so to be the only real game in town means a lot.

I mean, am I the only one who's excited for the tOSU-Youngstown State game this weekend?

Utah Up-Close

As a casual or die-hard Michigan fan, you are eagerly awaiting the opening game of the 08 season. But you may have questions about our first opponent. So what the heck is a "Ute" anyway? Are they any good this year? Should I be worried? Is this going to end up like Appalachian State?

All of those questions, and many more will be covered in this, our first preview post of the 08 season!

Basics
Who: University of Michigan v. University of Utah
When: August 30, 2008, 3:30PM
Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
TV: ABC
Radio: 104.3 WOMC
Series: UM-1 Utah-0

Program Background
Conference: Mountain West
Head Coach: Kyle Whittingham
Off. Coordinator: Andy Ludwig
Off. Scheme: Spread
Def. Coordinator: Gary Anderson
Def. Scheme: 4-3
Last year: 9-4 (5-3)

Utah On Paper
First of all, this is not the same Utah team from a few years ago that went 12-0 and beat 4 BCS teams. That was in the days of Urban Meyer's players. Now-a-days, they still run the spread, who doesn't...but right now, the mainstream media is desperately searching for this year's Boise State or Hawaii...and Utah is on their radar. With an opening game at Michigan, if they should somehow win...it would thrust them into the ESPN cross hairs.

We here are MBN are not buying into that hype. Do they have a clear shot to win the game? Sure. Why not? At this point, Michigan fans know less about Michigan than they do Utah. So the same argument could be made that the Utah coaching staff knows less about Michigan than they would like as well. As Sean from Utah blog Block U pointed out last week, there really is no way for Utah to adequately prepare for this game. That could be obvious right off the bat.

And let's not forget, let's NOT forget...Utah plays in front of 40,000 people at home. The biggest stadium they played in last year was at BYU at 65,000. Playing in the Big House, especially the now bigger Big House in front of 106,000 people is going to be intimidating. I don't care who you are.

Utah On Offense
7 starters come back from 2007. They do return some key players, including starting QB Brian Johnson. He had a okay 2007. A 66% passing percentage, but he only had 11 TDs and 10 Ints. Corbin Louks, a sophomore who planned to redshirt last year but came out in week 3 saw action in 10 games. Word on the street is Johnson is fragile...so Louks coupld play if Johnson gets hurt or struggles.

Their top rusher, Darrell Mack is also back. He ran for over 1200 yards and 12 TDs last year, with a 4.8 yds/carry.

Receivers are all over the place...9 guys caught TD passes last year, with 4 of them having 3 each. But their 07 top receiver Darrek Richards is gone.

One of the nice things for Utah though is 4 of the 5 O-Line starters are returning. And they better be, because if there is one place Utah better be good, it's the O-Line. Our whole D-Line returns and they are good.

The official Utes webpage has a little rundown of the final scrimmage last week. Some noteworthy quotes:
Statistics weren't kept at Wednesday morning's scrimmage, but had they been, the offensive numbers would have beaten anything tabulated in two prior scrimmages. Both the No. 1 and No. 2 offenses moved the ball well, which won them praise from head coach Kyle Whittingham.

"That's the best the offense has looked this camp. Our No. 2 offense, in particular, showed improvement. It has struggled against the No. 1 defense, but did a nice job today," said Whittingham. "The No. 1's picked up where they left off yesterday, when we had a very good practice."

In the last scrimmage before the Utes open their season at Michigan on Aug. 30, several players stood out for the offense. On the first play, Ray Stowers broke loose for a 20-yard gain in a drive that ended with a 42-yard field goal by Ben Vroman. Vroman, who made two of three field goal attempts, filled in for All-American Louie Sakoda. Sakoda sat out with an infected calf, believed to be caused by a spider bite. The bite is healing and he is expected back on the field in the next day or two.

Also...

Red zone situations followed and the offense performed significantly better than on Saturday, when it struggled to get anything against the defense. Johnson threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Brooks and the No. 2 defense also scored, when Eddie Wide ran 25 yards for a touchdown on the first play against the No. 1 defense. Sean Sellwood made a 32-yard field goal for the second string in other red zone action. The No. 3 offense almost made it three-for-three, when Chad Manis found Chris Joppru in the back of the end zone. RJ Rice and Robert Johnson stripped the ball from Joppru, resulting in an incomplete pass.

The punt return team had its chance to shine next and made up for a poor showing at Saturday's scrimmage. Reed ripped off a 60-yard return for a score, followed by a 50-yard run back by Brooks - both coming against a scout team unprepared for their speed.

The defense, which "did not have its best day of camp, but still is right on track," according to Whittingham, showed some energy at the end of the scrimmage when the offense started on its own 35-yard line. None of the offensive units scored in those drills and Chaz Walker made a big pass breakup.

After the scrimmage, Whittingham reported that attention would now be completely turned on preparations for Michigan. The Utes will hold a light workout this afternoon and have nine total practices remaining before playing the Wolverines in the Big House.
So take that for what it's worth. Most pre-season scrimmages are rife with mistakes and goofs...especially when they take place in the stadium and not on the practice field. But from the sounds of it, Utah is not quite where the coaches need them to be.

Let's face it, finding good credible information (for free) about a Mountain West program is not easy. We have to go with what we can find. I am pretty much Googling as much as I can, and it seems like the Salt Lake Tribune is the place for "official" Utes Football info.

They have graded each position going into the 08 season. They are as follows:

QB: B+
WR: B+
RB: A
OL/TE: B

Now, okay. Those are the grades I might give USC this year. So we'll add a bit of homer-ism in there. Utah is a good team, but an "A" at running back is a stretch. tOSU is may be one the only teams in the nation that I would give an "A" to in the RB dept. Utah was ranked 43rd in the nation in total rushing last year.

They offer up some info on each position to back up their claim, you can read those here.

Utah On Defense
The Utah coaches say the defense is not where they need them to be right now. Some of that can be pre-season coaching banter...coaches are never satisfied no matter what in the pre-season. But for them to actually proclaim they are behind schedule is not a good sign.

I like to think the Mountain West Conference is kind of like the MAC of the west. By that I mean, in some conferences, its all about offense. And when it's all about offense, it's not about defense. Utah last year bucked that trend with the #5 ranked scoring defense in the country. But in 5 non-conference games they averaged 23 points against per. 10 more points per game than in-conference.

Let's put it this way, for Utah's defense to do well against you, you had to be a conference opponent with a losing record playing at Utah.

Howeva!

How good Utah's defense looks against Michigan will have a lot to do with how good Michigan's offense looks against Utah.

Huh?

Well, like I said before, no one knows anything about Michigan's offense. We know what it looked like last year. But that's with 9 guys who are no longer on the team. And we usually know what to expect from Lloyd and DeBord...but they're not here either. So if you're Utah's defensive coordinator Gary Anderson, you have the toughest job on the staff. Everywhere you look is another question mark. There is no game film to study, there is no returning starters to look at. All of our QBs have yet to throw a pass in college. Good luck!

However, Utah's defense is not such a mystery.

Let's start with the Salt Lake Tribune's grades and work backwards.

DB: A
DL: B-
LB: B+

Again...tOSU? Yes. Utah? Not quite. Apparently, they don't watch a whole lot of college football in Utah. When the coaches are less than nervous about the defense's performance in the final scrimmage of the summer, it's time to be worried. Maybe they should just pick up a Salt Lake Tribune, turn to the sports page and put their minds at ease.

Now all kidding aside, the defense for Utah is good.

In defensive backs, the same squad that led the country in defensive pass efficiency last year are back. Brice McCain, Robert Johnson and Joe Dale are the leaders in the group. McCain can reportedly run a...ahem...4.28 40-time. Which is fast.

Johnson and Dale were lights out in the...ahem...Poinsettia Bowl last year, and earned defensive MVP honors.

That's the good. It kind of drops off from there.

Linebackers are not too bad...not much leadership though. Not one senior in the group.

And the D-Line is the most inexperienced group on the field. Which is good, because so is our offensive line.

Let me just say that the Utah defense will see at least 4 different running backs coming at them at any given time. Both Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown are healthy and should play. Freshman Sam McGuffie and Michael Shaw will start, and they are what RB coach Fred Jackson calls the best RB class ever.

Oh, and not to mention 5-wide sets, no huddles and more spread-option than you can swing a dead cat at*.

More info will make it's way out by the end of the week, but this should give you enough to chew on until then. Go Blue!

*= MBN does not condone killing cats, and/or killing cats and swinging them around...especially in Ann Arbor.

Michigan Stadium Construction Photos

I was able to swing by the stadium when I was in AA last Saturday. Of course the stadium was closed to the public, but I was able to walk around a snap a few photos. Nothing you haven't seen before, but at least this gives me the excuse to post some of my own photos on my blog for once!

Updated: Week 1 Depth-Chart

Take all that you knew about the old depth-chart and throw it away. Michigan just released it's week 1 chart.

Biggest changes, Sherridan is listed ahead of Threet...although that could mean nothing by Saturday. Running backs Sam McGuffie and Michael Shaw are listed as starters. This could be because of Minor's and Brown's injuries...which are said to be small and they should be back soon.

The OL is a mess, but what's new.

A little shake-up at WR with Odoms listed as starter. Stonum is also backing up Mathews and Savoy. My best bet would be we'd see him on the field early and often though.

The defense is pretty much what we thought it would be.

Enjoy!

Monday Link-Fest

So much news is flowing out of Ann Arbor as game week has ascended upon us. First we take a look at one of the new traditions that Rodriquez will start this year...

The Victors Walk.

Michigan Sports Center has up all of the info and a neat little map that shows the route. But basically, in the past, the team used to get dropped off by bus right at the locker room at the stadium. Now, they will still be dropped off by bus...but it will be on the far side of Crisler. And they will talk the 150-200 yards down the sidewalk through the crowd, and the band apparently...into the tunnel and their locker room.

I must say, I echo MSC sentiments, I love it! Not only does it get the players and coaches that much more jacked up by walking through the crowd and into the now huge and imposing Big House, but it also creates more excitement for the fans to witness the players up-close and the whole fanfare of the players walking in past the band playing The Victors.

What great gameday television fodder it will make.

A little gameday run-through was held last Friday at the Big Hosue, including the Victors Walk. Rodriguez held a final scrimmage called the "Beanie Bowl", where a gameday was simulated, as much as it can be with 106,201 empty seats. But the players dressed in the stadium locker room, ran out of the tunnel under the MGoBlue banner and the band was even there to help make it feel as close to gameday as possible.

It marks the first time any of the coaches (except Fred Jackson) or any of the freshman have played in the Big House. It's a pretty cool video. Check it out here.

Also, the leader in sports has a 15 minute interview with Rodriguez. Check it out.







Trying to stay up-to-date with the depth-chart is like trying to figure out the ages of Chinese gymnasts. First off, you can check out the AA News visual depth-chart, or you can view our constantly evolving spreadsheet here. Either way, we've updated ours to match, although I question the AA News publication as they still have Cory Zirbel on the 2-deep chart.

Jim Carty, every Michigan fans most favorite columnist has a brief synopsis of each Big Ten team posted. It's pretty standard stuff. I don't see much use in previewing every team right now. I'd just as rather preview our opponents the week prior to the game, but that's just me. I'm critical of Carty. And whether I should be or not, at this point, I don't care. I just don't really care for the man. But he has access and I don't...so beit.

And to wrap us up, Block U, the one and only source we like for Utah news and info has a column up about the hype around this year's (and past year's) Utah teams, and whether it is warranted or not. It's lengthy, but worth a click...and there is much more good Utah stuff up there as well.

Game Week


YES! It's here! Game Week!

I speak for the entire Maize & Blue Nation when I say "It's about damn time!". I also say that if we could make it through this past off-season, we can make it through anything. Michigan fans not only had to take ridicule from everyone about Lloyd's record in the last 7 years against tOSU, and how that led to his "retirement". But we also had to deal with Les Miles and Kirk Herbstreit. We had to deal with a covert coaching search. A sudden hiring of a relative mystery to Michigan fans - Rich Rodriguez.

And then all the sudden, we were match up against tOSU again in one of the most heated recruiting battles ever, for Pennsylvania's Terrelle Pryor. And then came all of the allegations of how Rodriguez broke his contract with WVU, and whether or not he would pay up. Death threats on his family. WVU hicks burning Rodriguez pictures on YouTube.

And to pour salt on the wound, our top (at the time) offensive lineman decides to just up and leave for tOSU to play for Sir Teflon...the ultimate in "F*** you" moves.

To say it was an off-season filled with controversy and turmoil would be an understatement.

However, there were bright spots. Let's not forget that Rodriguez is a uber-talented coach with equally talented people around him. His rockstar S&C coach Mike Barwis is the new face of the program. And we also landed up-and-coming defensive coordinator Scott Shafer from Stanford.

The team is leaner, trimmer, and much much faster. What Barwis and Rodriguez have done in a relatively short amount of time is nothing less than stellar. Need convincing, just look at Terrance Taylor. Michigan is a place where change is usually met with an upturned nose. But change is rampant in Ann Arbor, and never was more needed than this year.

But now...gone is all the talk about Rodriguez and WVU. No more contracts, no more hearsay about who and why...just football. And for the next 13 weeks, it's all about football!

Oh sure, there will be some fireworks...I mean he's still Rich Rodriguez. Post game pressers will be interesting, to say the least. But the talk will be all about football, and not about contracts, or administrators, or secret meetings in Toledo. Nope, for the next 3 months, its all about football!

I'm not saying it will be pretty. Probably just the opposite. With Lloyd, we sort of knew what we were going to get...win or lose. Sort of just the same canned responses. But with Rodriguez, the gloves are off. He wears his emotions on his sleeve. And not in a crazy John L. Smith kind of way, but more refined and concentrated than that.

So in the next 5 days, we will do our best to get you ready for the opener. We have a preview of Utah on the way. We are efforting the latest information about depth-charts, injuries, and who will see playing time. This information is coming at record speed this year. Apparently, Rodriguez hold pressers about 5 times a day, so my head is spinning trying to keep up. But we'll do our best.

So hold tight, and check back often.

Review: Bo Schembechler's Michigan Wolverines

You've waited for it, and here it is...my long-awaited review of "Bo Schembechler's Michigan Wolverines".

I was shipped a couple copies of this DVD about a week or so ago. One of which is up for grabs in the first ever MBN give-a-way, and the second is sitting nicely in alphabetical order in my DVD library.

A&E Home Video produced a series of biographical documentaries of legendary college coaches. The DVD runs about 66 minutes. It's choc full of great old footage of past games and interviews with former players, columnists and of course Bo himself. John Bacon, Jim Brandstater, Mitch Albom, Dan Dierdorf, and others are among the interviewees.

This DVD does a pretty good job of explaining the history of Bo's biggest achievements. Some of the photos and video will be pretty familiar to Michigan fans, how could they not be? But there are some photos of Bo when he was coaching at Miami, and some stories that go along with that, that I thought were pretty neat.

One of my favorite parts is when John Bacon is talking about Fielding H. Yost, and how when he got to Ann Arbor in 1901, a writer asked how his team was going to do in his first year. Yost said that he would not lose a game. And he didn't. He outscored opponents 550-0. He won every game for 4 years in a row. In his first 5 years at Michigan he outscored his opponents 2,821 to 42! And Michigan fans have held that as the standard for every new coach since!

They cover the 10 year war pretty good. Bo's relationship with Woody and his infamous Rose Bowl record. Bo even goes in depth with some of his former players (especially the '69 squad). For the most part, they keep it pretty light and easy. They don't cover too much of his passing, or the aftermath of it...but instead focus more on his legacy and what he left behind.

I will probably watch this DVD once in a while when I feel I need a quick shot of Michigan lore. If you want to get your own copy right now, you can hit it up on Amazon. Or, if you'd like to try your hand at predicting the total score of the Utah game, you may walk away with your very own free copy.

MVictors had their own contest that just ended. Check it out!

Go Blue!

Thursday Roundup

• Starting us off, the Michigan football team, coaches and friends held a bowling fund-raiser at Colonial Lanes in Ann Arbor, raising more than $15,000 to assist with Brock Mealer's rehabilitation. Brock Mealer is the brother of Michigan lineman Elliot Mealer who's family was involved in a tragic car accident last Christmas Eve.

Elliot's father and girl-friend were killed in the crash and his brother was paralyzed at the waist. Click here for the whole story.

Brock Mealer with his brother Elliot on the right. Photo credit: Freep.com
"It's such a tragic story, and the way the family has bounced back and how the Michigan family has wrapped their arms around them makes us feel special," U-M coach Rich Rodriguez said.
• Also, starting lineman Cory Zirbel is likely going to out for the entire season with what Rodriguez called a "significant" knee injury.

• Mark Huyge is also going to miss the Utah game, and maybe a couple more with a high ankle sprain.

So in order to add some depth to the O-line, John Ferrara (Jr./So., 6-4, 280) has moved over from the defensive side of the ball.
"We moved him over from defensive line to offensive line because of those injuries and, not only that, because we also think John has a chance to compete for a starting job -- for this year," Rodriguez said. "We wouldn't have moved him if we didn't think it, because he was in the rotation at D-line. In two or three days, he's such a smart guy and competitive guy, we've really been impressed with him."
Sort of makes sense since the we do seem to have the experience and depth that we need on the D-line. And the fact that he may be starting right away could be a good thing, or a bad thing.

• Donovan Warren sat out practice as a precaution yesterday. It seems that he should be back soon and ready to go by 9/30.

• Backup WR Terrance Robinson also has a knee injury that could last a few weeks.

• Finally some good news, Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor are both back and practicing fully again. Both are listed as "fine" and will be on the field next Saturday. Freshman Sam McGuffie and Michael Shaw did see reps with the 1st string, and were said to have done very well impressing the coaching staff. Both could see limited action in games.

• We really didn't cover media day very much here...because we're technically not the media. And until a press pass shows up in my mailbox (Bruce Madej, if you're reading this, I'd like a media pass please!), I'll just continue to post what I know and what the "real" media gives me. Stuff like this...

Michigan football media day


• On a side note...well, not really, but just to get this little rant off my chest...I am switching my television from cable to the dish. This is a culmination of a year of unrest with my cable company (not Comcast, but a small regional provider). I am sick of paying an arm and a leg for mediocre service and less than good HD. For what I pay, I should get 50 HD channels and stellar service. But alas, I am giving them the boot and going Dish!

So by going to the dish, I get 55 HD channels. A kickass DVR. And I pay much less per month. Without naming names, this dish company (that has "Dish" in it's name) has an HD-only service option. I chose the "silver" package which has ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, Big Ten, all the locals in HD and FSN Detroit...as well as a bevy of other channels in stunning HD.

Yeah, I may lose my signal in a driving rainstorm, but at least I'll pay less, have a better HD signal. But what do you expect from a satellite in a geosynchronous orbit 22,236 miles away?

LeRoi Moore Passes Away

Not very often do we stray from the familiar topics of Michigan football. We'll get back on track tomorrow, but today I must ask for a brief respite.

Founding member and saxophone player for The Dave Matthews Band, LeRoi Moore passed away yesterday. From the official Dave Matthews Bans website:
We are deeply saddened that LeRoi Moore, saxophonist and founding member of Dave Matthews Band, died unexpectedly Tuesday afternoon, August 19, 2008, at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles from sudden complications stemming from his June ATV accident on his farm near Charlottesville, Virginia. LeRoi had recently returned to his Los Angeles home to begin an intensive physical rehabilitation program.
I don't get too much into music, which is to say that I don't usually follow many bands, but I am a huge fan of DMB. This news certainly comes as a shock. Our thoughts are with his family and close friends.

Kevin Newsome Decommits

Kevin Newsome would rather play college ball elsewhere. Scout.com link here.

Well, we're getting more and more comfortable at QB (somehow easy to say even before the season starts), but especially going into 09. With Shavodrick Beaver still committed and possibly even Tate Forcier who is set visit UM on August 30th when we host Utah.

Sure, it does sting a bit when a star prospect decides to take a walk. Rumors recently were flying around that his transfer to a military prep school was so he could get away from his former HS coach who wouldn't shut up about Virginia Tech. And it was also noted all summer long that he may re-open his recruitment. Michigan is not out of the running, but certainly took a step back today.

Either way, it stinks. More details to come.

Zirbel & Huyge Out, Recruiting Update

After spending the second half of last week on the proverbial blogging sideline, we had some catching-up to do. And with some of that stuff out of the way, we can move into recent news.

According to a my sources, Cory Zirbel and Mark Huyge are both injured. That's devastating news to a line that was already thin as ever. Huyge has a high ankle sprain, which we all know sucks big-time (just ask Mike Hart). And Zirbel has a nagging knee injury that could require surgery and could keep him out of the Utah game. So according to mgoblog, the lineup will look like this for game 1. Ugh.

Another verbal addition to the 09 class, kicker Anthony Fera. The 3-star recruit from Houston, TX is the latest recruit to sign up. Sort of an oddity given Michigan isn't exactly over-flowing with scholarships right now, and we have a sophomore kicker in Bryan Wright. I guess Rodriguez likes a little competish in the special teams dept.

Utah Utes Q&A: Sean from Block U

Utah Utes blogger Sean from Block U was gracious enough to field some questions for MBN recently. Good insight from a school that most Michigan fans think almost nothing of unless they appear on our schedule...as they did in 2002...when we escaped with a 10-7 win.

Granted, with the devastation against Appy State last year...no mid-major is going to enter the Big House and try and sneak out with an upset win. That just ain't gonna happen. Utah is talented though, and a loss to the Utes, while still an upset, would not register on the Richter Scale as much as the Mountaineers loss did last year.

Here are his answers:

1. How is this year's Utah Utes team looking now that fall practice is in full-swing?

Fall camp has gone well for the Utes, as they've showcased their offense and the defense looks to at least put in a solid effort this season. But most importantly, though there have been some minor injuries, nothing major has happened. For Ute fans, that is a relief, since last season was plagued by injuries and it all started with the Utes losing their best offensive lineman in camp that year. If the team stays healthy, the offense appears to have developed to a level where it will give every team they play some serious problems.

2. What are Utah's fan's expectations going into the Michigan game?

Expectations for this year and Michigan are pretty high this season. The Utes are on the cusp of the top-25 in both major polls and fans expect at least ten wins and a conference championship. Of course, there are varying opinions on whether Utah should beat Michigan, but I think we all universally expect to give them a run for their money, much like the Utes did in 2002, when a 5-6 team came within a hair of winning at the Big House.

3. The Mountain West conference is a relative mystery to the average Big Ten fan. What can you tell us about how well Utah will do in-conference this year?

Hopefully the Utes can win the Mountain West, as they've come up short the past three seasons. Since 2005, though, the Utes have managed to lose a conference game or two they had no business losing. I know Ute fans are hoping that changes, or they'll probably finish 2nd behind BYU. With the Cougars and TCU coming to Salt Lake City this season, Utah has no excuse not to win the conference. But I thought the same in 2006 and that year they finished 5-3.

4. We just had a rather controversial coaching change, how well has that news traveled out west and can you relate that in any way to Urban Meyer leaving the Utes just a couple years ago?

Many out here followed the coaching change and how up and down it went for Michigan. Of course, it wasn't as closely followed like I'm sure it was back there in Ann Arbor or Morgantown. But I think most generally accept it was a good hire for Michigan.

As for Urban Meyer leaving, I guess we can sympathize more with the fans of West Virginia than Michigan's. That loss stung, but most had conceded earlier in the 2004 season he was probably on his way out. Though I think most had hoped he would return for 2005, as there was a possibility of Alex Smith and some other key offensive players returning, too. That didn't happen, Urban Meyer left, Alex Smith jumped to the NFL and Kyle Whittingham -- Utah's defensive coordinator since 1994 -- was stuck with a very young team in his first year. I guess we're left with wondering what could have been had they all returned for one last performance. Championship maybe? Nah.

5. And finally...Utah has had some great success in recent years and knocked off some good caliber opponents. Do Utah fans feel their school does not get the respect it deserves from the BCS and mainstream college football media?

Yeah, we feel there is a swipe at Utah and it's in various ways, too. Like I'm sure most Michigan fans believe they should beat Utah only because the Utes aren't a BCS team. And while I can understand that type of logic, I don't necessarily agree with it. Then when Utah actually does win, no one ever suggests it's because the Utes were better, but that the other team "lost" the game. In 2004, that let up a bit, but only because Utah went 12-0. Had they gone 11-1 or 10-2, none of the four BCS teams they beat that year (Texas A&M, Arizona, North Carolina and Pittsburgh) would have given them the respect they deserved.

Under 2 Weeks!

We are less than 2 weeks away from the beginning of the Rodriguez era! Unless you've been under a rock for the past 5 or so years...this is exactly what all the Lloyd-haters have been waiting for. I myself liked Carr and thought his program was pretty good. He ran it clean and kept his players out of trouble...for the most part.

But folks were ready for a change. And change is what they got. And it's not just the head coach...

1) All new position coaches (except for RB coach Fred Jackson)
2) New uniforms
3) Stadium under renovation
4) New practice facility
5) New offensive and defensive philosophies
6) New players at almost every offensive skill position
7) New S&C staff
8) New weight room & equipment
9) Most importantly...new attitude

Say what you will about inexperience, we have a ton of it. And say what you will about how bad Michigan will be in this first year of running a new spread offense. It's no mystery to anyone that this will not be the same Michigan program as in year's past. But for the first time in a long time, long-time Michigan fans are actually starting to feel that what Rodriguez is doing, is really special.

No longer can you blame Carr/DeBord for the stale offensive play-calling. In the time it took Michigan to run 3 straight draw plays last year...this year, they will have probably had two different QBs, a direct-snap to the RB, a flanker screen to the weak-side, and maybe even a 5-wide set with a double-reverse. All the while not stopping to huddle once.

And that idea is what has so many Michigan fans eager for Utah on August 30th.

As it stands right now, Steven Threet is the presumptive starter. But recent news is that Nick Sherridan is getting a very hard look with the 1st team offense in 2-a-days. Rodriguez has a history of not disclosing his starting QB until gameday. And this could be exactly that. But if he decides to go with a 2-quarterback system, it bodes well that he says he really likes what he sees from his two front-runners. Nick Sherridan is a red-shirt sophomore walk-on who just recently was awarded a scholarship. Threet is a red-shirt freshman transfer from Georgia Tech.

Another source of excitement in Ann Arbor is the surge of freshman Sam McGuffie. Not only has he had more hype than any RB to come to AA since Justin Fargas in the late 90's, apparently he's been able to live up to it too. McGuffie adds a huge element of speed and agility to this offense that is so desperately needed. With Brown and Minor resting a couple small injuries (nothing that should impede their start against Utah), guys like McGuffie and Shaw could see a lot of playing time early.

Michigan's media day was over the weekend. Photo galleries here, and a whole ton of University owned content here, and here.

Also in the news, Michigan begins the season unranked in the AP poll for the first time since man has walked upright. I can't say I am surprised, as I would also not rank them in my top 25, it just hits home a little harder when you see it in print...and tOSU fans won't shut up about it.

More on the way, including a Q&A with Utah blogger, Block U...and a in-depth preview of the Utes from yours truly.

Go Blue!

"Bo Schembechler's Michigan Wolverines" Free DVD Contest!

That's right folks! One of the perks of being a Michigan blogger is that once and a while free swag makes it's way into my mailbox. Just the other day, I received a couple free copies of "Bo Schembechler's Michigan Wolverines".

This DVD is a biographical look at the legendary coach's career at Michigan. It's just over an hour long and contains interviews from Bo himself, former coaches, players and media.

Now in all fairness, I have not viewed the DVD yet, but I am penciling it into my weekend schedule. I plan on offering up a short review next week sometime. Odds are, it will be favorable.

So...

With my extra copy of the DVD, I am announcing a free give-a-way to the reader who can come closest to predicting the total number of points scored (without going over) in the Utah-Michigan game on August 30th.

Just email me at brad@maizenbluenation.com and give me your prediction. The winner will receive the DVD free of charge (and free shipping)!

Details:
• Must be 18 years of age
• Must be a US resident
• Only 1 (one) entry per person
• Must submit entry by 3:30PM on August 30, 2008

Update: So far I've had a few emails for this. Keep em' coming! It hasn't happened yet, but if two or more people submit the same total points, the first submission will stand, and I will contact any subsequent submissions that I receive to offer them the chance to change their prediction.

Update 2 (8/25): So far, these are the numbers that are taken. Don't submit these total scores: 24, 28, 29, 30, 34, 37, 38, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, and 58. Thank you.

New Michigan Football TV Show

"Inside Michigan Football" is the title of the next generation "Michigan Replay", which as we all know, died a quiet death at the end of the Lloyd Carr administration after a 30+ year run.

There's not many folks out there who were too sad to see Michigan Replay go away. Sure, it was a great show for us die-hards. But a half hour of Brandy and Lloyd waxing poetic about the game that was, got a tad dry and stale. Lloyd was not a big fan of the camera.

So, in keeping with the routine in Ann Arbor this year...out with the old and in with the new. "Inside Michigan Football" will be a new show hosted by Brandy and Rich Rod of course. Doug Karsch will be added the show's lineup...as a roving-reporter I assume.

The show will air on August 28th at 6:30pm on FSN Detroit, and will be replayed on ABC-7 and the Big Ten Network. Because of legal stipulations, it will not be posted on mgoblue.com. 15 episodes in total will air over the season following the same schedule every week.

However, a program called "Michigan Rewind" will air on mgoblue.com after games and will feature 8 to 10 minutes of highlights, analysis and interviews with coaches and players.

All I ask is that they keep the vintage Michigan Replay music...that was pure gold! Nothing says Michigan football like 70's R&B music!

Michael Phelps is Just Sick

We don't cover swimming...at all. But we do cover items that somewhat fall under the Michigan umbrella from time to time, thus no one can argue that what Michael Phelps is doing at the Olympics right now is less than extraordinary.

He now has 11 gold medals. More medals than any Olympian in history. At this year's games, he has competed in 5 events, won 5 golds and rewritten 5 world records.

That's just incredible. Plus he still has 3 events left to compete in. Here's to the Maize & Blue making is rain in Beijing!

Programming Update

For all of my loyal readers out there...I know there's at least a couple of you, I just wanted to post a rundown of what to expect for the rest of August. I am currently juggling work, life, work around the house, this, and a bunch of other small things as summer starts to turn into fall.

Knowing that my fall weekends will be mostly devoted to watching football and spending as much free-time outside as possible, I know that many things must be done around the house before September hits. However, why should my loyal readers suffer for my laziness?

So, for the next 3 weeks in preparation for the start of the 08 season, here's what to look for:

• Complete previews of all 12 opponents
• More news from summer 2-a-days
• A recruiting update before the season starts and thus ends recruitment talk
• Hopefully a Q&A with some Utah blogger (still efforting as we speak)
• An Ann Arbor "visitors guide" for visiting opponents' fans
• A Bo Schembechler biography DVD give-a-way...more details on that very soon.

And of course, whatever breaking news or other interesting items that happen to cross my desk will find their way on to this page.

If anyone of my fellow Big Ten Bloggers, or any other blogger for a team that Michigan plays this year would be interested in doing a Q&A, let me know. I am on the look out.

Braylon Edwards Awesome Catch

A little highlight for your Monday afternoon. From last weekend's Browns-Jets pre-season game.

Weekend Stuff

A few news-worthy items to take note of over the weekend.


Starting off with former Michigan QB Chad Henne (pictured left, #7). Henne is fighting for the starting job in Miami. The rookie has apparently been wowing the Dolphins coaching staff, and the local media. His first pre-season performance against Tampa Bay last weekend saw average stats, but his poise in the pocket and his ability to run an NFL offense is drawing rave reviews.
The Chad to watch wasn't the veteran on the sidelines, learning and tutoring. It was the impressive rookie on the field. It was Chad Henne, the second-rounder from Michigan who played the second and third quarters, and showed arm strength, poise and moxie.
- Ethan J. Skolnick, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
A young quarterback who looks like he could be something special someday. Maybe even soon. I don't care what Chad Henne's passing numbers were. (They were 5 of 10 for 67 yards.) What mattered more was the poise this rookie exhibited in his NFL debut, such as on a 21-yard strike on third-and-18. And the arm strength evident on a couple of deep-out routes, some good decisions he made and the fact both of Miami's scoring drives in Saturday's 17-6 loss to Tampa Bay were with Henne in the huddle.
- Greg Cote, Miami Herald

Call it beginners luck, call it being well groomed by four years of starting at QB for a major college program. Either way, things are looking good in Miami. Oh yeah, and Jake Long on the line does not hurt at all!


In other news, Michigan place-kicker K.C. Lopata kicked a 56-yard field goal in a scrimmage on Friday. Not sure, but I think that's probably a career-long.

Justin Boren in pregnant. And he's fat. Via MATW.


And finally, wrapping it up with some good news, running back Kevin Grady pleaded guilty to drunk driving. No real details yet on the Michigan end of this story, but on the legal end, he's under probation for 12 months, must to pay $3,290 in fines and spend 3 days in jail or do 24 hours of community service.

Good times.

Time to Speculate

The season is less than 22 days away. And if you're a college football fan who's worth a damn, you're about as excited at a little boy on Christmas Eve. If you're a major sports news outlet, you're cramming speculation and meaningless pre-season rankings down your reader's throats. ESPN alone has a "Power Rankings", "Bottom 10", a "Best Helmet Clash", and not to mention more conference previews than you can swing a dead cat at.

But the reality is, we eat it up. We love it. And can't get enough of it. Right now, ESPN has an article discussing which team the BCS would rather fall in love with; an 11-1 tOSU Big Ten champ who's only loss would be at USC, or an 11-2 SEC champ. Which team would get a nod in the BCS title game, assuming there were only one, or no undefeated teams? I mean, talk about stretching for content!

But reality is, there actually is a huge amount of content out there. Now, more than ever, college football is becoming the second most popular sport in America. You could make the augment that is might just be #1, aside from television ad revenue...where the NFL is king.

So in keeping up with the Jones', we here at MBN have devised up our own little "rankings" system. Every week we will decide on the top-10 teams that will be considered "Teams of the Week" (I know, clever name!). This list will be, essentially, just a list of 10 teams that I consider the best teams in college football based on a few factors:

1. Record
2. Strength of Schedule
3. Impressive Wins
4. Humiliating Losses
5. Actual Chance of Playing for the BCS Title Game
6. How Good You Are Now, Not Last Season, and not Hype
7. How Much I like You

And of course a couple other non-disclosed reasons that will change from week-to-week based on how I'm feeling. So for our pre-season rankings, I am going by how good I think a team will be for this season, based solely on what I know right now, and how well that team finished last year...like a typical pre-season ranking.

1. USC
2. Missouri
3. Florida
4. OU
5. LSU
6. Georgia
7. tOSU
8. Clemson
9. WVU
10. Auburn

First of all, USC is a no-brainer. They're the BCS darlings and perennial legitimate title contenders. I think USC sucks in every way, but you can't argue their talent and consistency. Missouri is a real contender this year. Couple that with a real down year for the Big 12, relatively speaking, and a lot of talent coming back.

The rest is kind of a crap shoot. Pre-season rankings are tough...almost meaningless. I don't believe in Georgia or tOSU yet. They could both be great, and possibly meet for the title game in January...but in August, we'll just wait and see.

Just as a side note, if I had to pre-rank Michigan this year (thank God I don't), they'd be somewhere in the 25-35 rank range. I'm a fan, but you can't argue all the changes going on and the total loss of skill players from the offense.

2008 Michigan Preview: Defensive Backs

Across the board, maybe one of the most talented groups in the past 10 years...at least on paper. Couple that with the overall speed and strength increase that the whole team seems to be benefiting from, and you have a powerful, experienced and game-breaking secondary. We may not be as deep as we were in the past, but we do have some talent coming in that could be called upon to step up.

Starting on the corners, covering typically the standout WRs, is senior Morgan Trent (6-1, 188). I don't think anyone on this team has more experience than Trent, at least on the defense. He's a three-year letterman, and a two-year starter. He's the active career leader in pass break-ups and interceptions. He has 108 tackles, five tackles for loss, four interceptions, two fumble recoveries and 19 pass breakups. Tied for 12th on Michigan's career pass breakup list with Ty Law. 92 of his 108 career stops are solo efforts. 2007 All-Big Ten Conference honorable mention, 2005 Freshman All-America honorable mention.

On the other corner is Donovan Warren (So. 6-0, 180). Talk about talent, Warren was a starter right out of the gate at Michigan. He started 11 of the 13 games in 07. He posted 52 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 interception and 6 pass break-ups. He was a freshman All-American. With a heavy reliability by post of Michigan's opponents on the pass, both Warren and Trent will be vital in the defense's success.

Safety Stevie Brown (Jr. 6-0, 209) is a relative veteran in the backfield. He's a two year starter, and has played in 26 consecutive games, has 42 tackles during career, recovered two fumbles, forced one fumble, batted down two passes and intercepted one pass. Also a special teams contributor, posted 23 career special teams tackles.

On the other safety spot, Brandon Harrison (Sr. 5-9, 206) is another long time veteran of this defense. Three-year letterman, made 20 starts in the defensive backfield at both corner and safety, has seen action in 38 games at Michigan. He has 96 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries, three interceptions and nine pass breakups ... The Sporting News Freshman All-America second team and The Sporting News Freshman All-Big Ten in 2005.

Also worth noting are Troy Wolfolk (So. 6-0, 195), and Charles Stewart(Sr. 6-2, 206). Both could easily see time as a starter or reliable backup. Freshman that could make an impact, J.T. Floyd, Boubacar Cissoko and Brandon Smith.

2008 Michigan Preview: Linebackers

Maybe the only unknown link on the defense going into fall camp is the linebacker position. It's not that Michigan doesn't have depth, and quality depth, but is the system tailored to their strengths? Shafer likes to blitz. He likes to create confusion for the offense by constantly adapting his formations to create different looks. The linebacker is a huge part of that scheme.

There are technically 3 main starters at linebacker on the depth chart. But with how much they will be blitzing and flying around the field, you may see as many as 6 in a consistent rotation.

Senior linebacker Austin Panter (6-3, 231) will be lining up early and often. Listed as a starter on the early depth chart, Panter saw action in 7 games last year and totaled 7 tackles (1 for loss). He's a 2007 All-Academic Big Ten selection.

Also listed as a starter, Merell Evans (So. 6-3, 231), earned his first letter in 2007. Saw pretty much just special teams action in 07. Not sure how or why he's listed as a starter for 08. We'll be the judge.

Obi Ezeh (So. 6-2, 247) is a returning starter at the middle LB position. He's the top returning tackler with 68 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks, one interception, three pass breakups and forced one fumble. Started 10 games and saw action in all 13 last year. He was a 2007 freshman All-American.

Also in the mix will be 5th-year senior John Thompson (6-1, 239). Thompson saw action in 8 games last year, starting 3. Made 29 tackles in 07, also two tackles for loss, one fumble recovery, one interception and one pass breakup. He's a three-year letterman having played in 33 contest and recording 54 tackles in his career.

A couple other names to keep in mind, Jonas Mouton (So. 6-2, 230) and Brandon Herron (Fr. 6-2, 218).

Like I said, it could end up being a revolving door of players at LB as the season progresses. The key obviously is that we're young. Michigan has never really had big name LBs in the past. And it's likely that this core group won't stand out too much either. I don't mean to sound like I am bashing the guys we have, but by-in-large, Michigan is not Linebacker U.

Of course, much of that stigma comes from years and years of the same defensive philosophies. We've had some good ones, but very few great ones. Maybe they've been overshadowed by some great corner backs or defensive ends, but either way, Michigan fans can expect a pretty standard unit this year. They'll be faster, stronger...maybe a tad smarter in the new system, but they'll still be the typical tough hard-nosed LBs that people expect.

A Little Tuesday Q&A

So I was asked about a couple weeks ago to do a little Q&A for the college football blog, Saturday Sound Offs. They claim to be "the blog for the college football junkie", and that they are.

While I get my lazy arse around to posting a link section for general CFB blogs in the far right sidebar, take a look at their site, and more importantly...my answers! Go Blue!

Fall Camp Begins, Many Links, Videos

Rich Rodriguez and Brandon Minor chest bump. Can you see Lloyd doing that???

Freshman RB, Michael Shaw

Presumptive starting QB, Steven Threet.

As everyone knows, camps for every NCAA team began yesterday. MGoBlue has an official posting on their site with some details. The Freep has a one, two as well. Some interesting notes from day one...

- A couple number changes, Feagin is now listed as #3, Carson Butler listed at #5. You can check out the updated roster and depth chart on the links to the right.

- Kevin Grady is back and practicing with the team. Odds are he'll have at least some type of game/half/quarter suspension for his drunk driving incident, according to RR at the presser. So it's not too surprising to see him on the practice field.

- As expected, freshman Justin Feagin, in his first UM practice took some snaps under center. Both Threet and Sheridan did the same, obviously. And even Carlos Brown took a couple snaps as QB, running the option and pitching to the RBs.

- The only player that was not fully participating was Junior Hemingway. He wore a green jersey as he is still healing from a spring injury.

- George Morales. Interesting note, he accepted a full scholarship from Carr just days before his retirement, but is just now listed on the roster. There was speculation as to his status on the team this spring. But now he is listed at the backup long-snapper. Strange.

Somewhere someone posted that senior CB Morgan Trent, who has seemingly been doing a little training in the off-season, posted a 4.13 40-yard dash. 4.13!!! That's hellafast! Not sure if that will get him a little time, or at least a good look at kickoff returns or punt returns, but with that kind of speed, it would be tough not to.

Oh, here it is.

Photo Galleries from day 1: Free Press and DetNews. Those links via Michigan Sports Center.

And, also linked to from MSC, ESPN's Adam Rittenberg posted a few notes from yesterday, as well as interviews with offensive coordinator Calvin Magee (part 1, part 2), and defensive coordinator Scott Shafer (part 1, part 2).

In case you missed it, Mike Hart tore up the Redskins (backup) defense in the first NFL pre-season game Sunday night. He looked really good.



And finally, via MSC (I'm so cheap!), a YouTube video of Lloyd Carr, Red Berenson and Bill Martin discussing their recent diagnosis with Melanoma and their battle against this deadly form of cancer. From the looks of things, they seem to be winning!

2008 Michigan Preview: Defensive Line

Ah yes, the defense. Shafer's men. The heart and soul of this year's squad. If we plan on winning 8 or so games this year, the defense is going to be mostly responsible. We may have a shiny new offense that is supposed to be great, but until they figure it out, the defense is the key. In this conference, no matter how many spreads there are, defense wins championships.

And it all starts up front with the D-Line. And the good news is, Michigan returns all of last year's starters at this position.

Defensive end Tim Jamison (Sr. 6-3, 263) brings with him three varsity letters and a ton of experience. He has played in 38 games, and made 13 career starts for the Michigan defense. He is the current active sack-leader; 79 tackles, 19 for loss, 14.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 interception, and 3 pass-breakups.

On the other end of the line, Brandon Graham (Jr. 6-2, 270) is also a returning starter, and two-year letterman with 5 starts and playing time in 24 games. Posted 28 tackles, 9 sacks, and 10 tackles for loss.

On the interior line, Terrance Taylor (Sr. 6-0, 319) is the standout. Taylor is a three-year letterman, two-year starter at nose tackle. He has started 24 games at nose tackle and played in 36 contests, made 15 straight starts at nose tackle. Has 79 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and three pass breakups during career. 2007 All-Big Ten Conference second team.

Will Johnson (Sr. 6-5, 285) is another 3-year letterman and returning starter. Appeared in 35 career games and made 13 starts at defensive tackle. Has 52 tackles, 6 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks during his career A smart one, he's a four-time U-M Athletic Academic Achievement (2004-07), and three-time Academic All-Big Ten Conference (2005-06-07).

BTB Roundtable - Rivalry Edition

1. ESPN's Adam Rittenberg recently ranked the top 5 rivalries in the Big Ten and there were some controversial results (Illinois v Ohio State as #3?). Clearly Ohio State vs. Michigan is the #1 rivalry in the Big Ten, but give me your next three. Your school does not have to be included in this list, but regardless of who you choose defend your picks.

I would have to go with Michigan v. Michigan State at #2. Not too many times you get to have a game in the Big Ten with both teams from the same state. I was never really aware of this rivalry's intensity until I moved to the Great Lakes State. I always knew they had a dislike for each other, but not to this extreme. UM-tOSU is the de la creme of rivalries, but don't tell the Sparty that.

After that, I'll say Indiana-Purdue. Again, in-state rivals mean so much more. It's not that they're ever really competing for anything. They are both typical middle-conf teams, if not worse. But that does not downplay the rivalry here, in fact, it might add a sense of bitterness. Last year's game that Indiana won on a last second field goal was a great game.

And my #4 Big Ten rivalry is Wisconsin v. Minnesota. I know nothing of this rivalry, other than it is one and that people care a lot about who wins. Packers v. Vikings is the pro-version, but college is better. Sooner or later Minnesota has to crawl out of the cellar.

And while we're at it, We'll round out the top 5 with tOSU and whatever school from Ohio they are playing that year (Akron, Cincinnati, Ohio, Toledo, BGSU, Youngstown State, Kent State). I know its not two Big Ten teams, but tOSU is so desperate to play a fellow Ohio team every year that I will include it in this list. Penn State does not get a Big Ten rival yet, as only being in the conference for 15 years does not mean you automatically have "tradition". So they will have to wait.

2. Obviously winning every game is important and beating really good teams sends a stronger message than beating Minnesota. Assume every team is .500 this year and the outcome of your next two games means nothing outside of pride and a year's worth of bragging rights. Give me the two schools you would want to beat (in order) and why. What makes beating School's A and B significant?

Well, tOSU is obviously #1. But after that it gets interesting. I could go about 3 different ways with this. MSU is a very important game. And with Dantonio not able to shut up about us for more than 5 minutes makes it even more so. But I would have to go with Oregon.

Oregon just simply took Michigan and made us their biotch last year. They beat us in almost every sense of the word. It was one of the worst games I've ever seen Michigan play...and that's after the Appy State game, which is saying something. Playing Oregon again and winning would not only save some face, but talk some of the most die-hard, blow-hard Michigan fans off the edge.

3. Take the two teams from above that you claim are your biggest rivals and give me a new mascot for them.

The Ohio State "Buckstaches", and the Michigan State "Little Brothers".

4. There are some new rules in college football this year. My favorite is the Big Ten experimental rule which states that after every win this year you get to pluck one player off their roster and bring them back to your campus. Looking at your schedule give me two players you would pluck (assuming a win), why you would take them and what would you do with them?

I would take Terelle Pryor and slap a Michigan jersey on him. And then I would take Wisconsin's coach (not a player, I know) Bret Bielema and call him names until he cried. I don't know, he just always looks like he's close to tears.

5. Brian at mgoblog was kind enough to post a diary entry which gives us and new coach Rich
Rodriguez a list of Michigan traditions that maybe we were not all aware of. This has inspired two final questions...

5A - are there any Michigan traditions that he missed? (here is your chance for some Michigan cheap shots)

He pretty much nailed 'em. I would love to add something about Michigan Replay and the 3rd down key jingling...but I'm not that clever.

5B - Are there any traditions of your school's rival that we should all be aware of?

Oh god...I could go for days. Here's a brief synopsis: Always winning BCS title games, amazing record against the SEC, stylish silver helmets with gray pants, band uniforms that don't in any way resemble salvation army uniforms, well-mannered and respectful fan-base, great player discipline, clean recruiting reputation, pretty stadium, super-tough non-conference schedules, humble and talented marching band.

Those are just off the top of my head. I mean, seriously, what is tOSU not good at?

Carr, Martin, Berenson Diagnosed with Cancer

Reported yesterday by the Freep, Lloyd Carr, Bill Martin and Red Berenson were all diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. From the article, is sounds like most, if not all three of the men were diagnosed early enough to be able to treat the cancer before it had the chance to spread. Lloyd tell that his wife saw a small spot on his back and urged him to get it looked at. Once diagnosed, Lloyd implored the rest of the athletic staff and fellow coaches to get checked out.

It is not known as to what condition they are all in. This news is just starting to make its way out there, so facts are a little sketchy. As with most serious medical conditions, this is a situation that is understood if kept from the public and dealt with with families and doctors.

I can say with no doubt, all the maize & blue faithful wish all three men the best as they battle this unfortunate diagnosis. Our prayers are with you all.