Incoming: Drew Dileo

Michigan received it's 6th verbal commitment from a WR today, and the 10th overall commitment for the 2010 class.

Drew Dileo (5-10, 175), WR from Greenwell Springs, LA-Parkview. Given his dimensions, I'd say he's a pretty typical slot-type WR. He was clocked at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He was also offered by Tulane and Stanford, but decided to go Blue.

Welcome to the show!

Michigan Football News and How You Get It

I really want to get away from the news/link-dump style posts and get more into honest to goodness opinion and commentary. But little pesky news stories keep popping up and I feel compelled to just throw them all into one big ole' post.

So, let's start with maybe the most lame and downright stupid story of all, and that is Greg Paulus. It seems that Greg is racking up some precious air miles this month gallivanting around the country looking for a football team to play for. First it was off to Green Bay to talk to the Packers. Then it was to Ann Arbor to see if Michigan had any interest (which we all found out, did not). Then it was off to Syracuse to discuss options with them. And now it is reported that Paulus is in talks with Nebraska of all places to line up under center for one meaningless season.

All I can say is, thank God Michigan passed on him. One year is nothing. Who cares?

Rumors circulated a couple days ago that Michigan was in talks with UMass for the potential home opener in 2010, which would be the dedication game for the newly renovated Big House. Now, it seems that those talks are definitely happening, but just not for the 2010 opener. DetNews story.
"That's not true -- not even close," Draper said. "We're talking to them, (but) not for that date."

Michigan, he said, intends to make the season opener the "dedication" game for the stadium, which is currently under construction, adding suites and a new press box.

"We're trying to do something special," said Draper, who indicated Michigan is talking to a "couple teams" for that day. 
Something "special"? Hmm. I like that someone is acknowledging that this game is going to be noteworthy, I just hope its "special" enough to warrant a BCS-conference foe.

The Draper in question is Scott Draper, Assistant Athletic Director for Football.

For some strange reason, former Michigan LB and current Pittsburgh Steeler Larry Foote wants to play for Detroit. It seems that he's not happy with his situation in the Steel City, and wants out. Foote was born and raised in the D, so maybe that has something to do with it. If I'm a Lion's coach or front-office manager, I'm jumping for joy right now.

This happened a couple days ago and I was going to comment on it sooner but didn't get around to it until now. It seems the death of the Ann Arbor News is rippling through not only other news sites, but through the blogosphere as well.

Greg over at MVictors took some time to weigh in on the topic and what it means not only for him, but for the good folks of Ann Arbor who rely on The News for their sports coverage. Not only some good insight there, but also some embedded audio from his appearance on John U. Bacon's Big Show on WTKA, along with Jim Carty and Brian from mgoblog. They discussed a number of interesting topics, but mainly the downfall of The News and the rise of blogs (like this one!), as supplemental news outlets for the more "official" sources.

I don't feel like I have much to say on this topic...and if I did, I would dedicate a whole post to it, and not bury it in the weekly link-dump. But I will say that I started this blog because I wanted to be able to express my opinions and add commentary to stories that I found interesting. I did this probably for about 6 months when I knew damn well that NO ONE was reading this site. But I enjoyed it anyway. And as I started to post more and link to other blogs/news sites...people started to find me and read my site.

I still only get a small fraction of the hits that mgoblog or MVictors may get daily, and I also get a small amount of revenue from the banners you see on this page...and by small I mean I won't be quitting my day job anytime soon. And I can live with that. I'm not trying to compete with news sites.

For me the most satisfying thing is just being able to write something and have people read it and look at a side of the story that maybe they haven't considered. Let's face it, its so easy to get news about Michigan football these days. Every news source has a web presence. Coaches have Twitter and Facebook accounts. Michigan football is huge...finding knowledgeable and useful information is very easy. All I do is package it a little differently and charge less for shipping.

Hopefully you all enjoy reading this. And I encourage you to check out some of the links to the far right. There are so many good bloggers who post daily for not just Michigan blogs, but blogs from every Big Ten school. These are mostly guys who have day jobs who do this for little to no compensation...just the joy of writing and creating some fanfare.

And make sure you tell them MBN sent you!

Draft Thoughts

Two Michigan Wolverines were drafted in the 2009 NFL draft.


The fewest since 1994.

Terrence Taylor to the Indianapolis Colts as the 136th pick, and Morgan Trent to the Cincinnati Bengals as the 179th pick overall.

Michigan had 15 seniors (either true seniors or 5th year) on the roster in 2008. Granted, 7 of them signed free-agent deals the day after, but still. TE Carson Butler to the Green Bay Packers. CB Doug Dutch to the Washington Redskins. Long-snapper Sean Griffin to the Seattle Seahawks. DB Brandon Harrison to the Indianapolis Colts. DT Will Johnson to the Baltimore Ravens. DT Tim Jamison to the Houston Texans. And Mike Massey to the Cleveland Browns.

I'm not going to say that this is a travesty or something that a sign of the Michigan football apocolypse. I think we all knew it would be a rather light year for the Wolverines in the draft. But it does say something about how Michigan is viewed by NFL teams. Sure, every powerhouse school has an off-draft...but what is this going to feel like next year?

I can see probably P Zoltan Mesko, RB Brandon Minor, DE Brandon Graham and maybe WR Greg Mathews making some noise in the 2010 draft. But that's really about it. And I doubt any of them will go first round. Unless for some reason Carlos Brown has a rediculous season and Stevie Brown goes balistic in the defensive backfield...maybe they will get a harder look by NFL teams in the draft...but only if they play out of their shoes this year. If not, free-agency is the likely course for them as well as maybe 3 or 4 other guys in 2010.

Threet Transfers to Arizona State

Link to ESPN article.

Sometimes its hard to tell when things are really as bad as some people say they are. Its like the old saying not seeing the forest through the trees.

When Steven Threet announced he was going to transfer earlier this year, it almost seemed like I already knew he would. I don't fault him in any way for wanting to go elsewhere. I actually wish him luck in Arizona. But for some reason, this quote bothers me in so many ways...
"When Coach [Lloyd] Carr retired I wanted to transfer," Threet said. "But I took Coach [Rich] Rodriguez at his word about the offense. I tried to stick it out. I tried to help Michigan win. But in the end the offense didn't fit me. They have a run first offense at every position. What they want is Pat White and that's not me."
I have to remind myself that these are just kids playing a game. And in no way should we get all wrapped up in whats going on inside these kids heads. I try not to. But this quote says to me that Threet's heart was just not in it. He might have been ready and willing to do what it takes in early September, but by the midway point of the season, he just wasn't interested anymore.

If I'm a fellow player who busted my ass everyday, this quote pisses me off.

Rich Rodriguez, the father of the spread-option, wants a Pat White style QB? REALLY? You've got to be kidding me!?

When Lloyd retired, Threet probably did want to transfer...but he stayed. And not because he took Rodriguez's "word" about the offense, but because he knew he would have first dibs at the starting gig. I can tell you this: If Pryor picks Michigan last year, Threet is long gone before spring ball last season. But when Pryor picked tOSU, he saw the opportunity to get the starting role. I think it may be more of Rodriguez taking Threet at his word than vice-versa.

He shared starting duties with Sherridan, but saw plenty of playing time. Threet was a very highly touted QB coming out of high school. But he couldn't beat out walk-on Nick Sherridan for the starting job. All due respect to Sherridan...but come on. That alone tells me that either A) He just really didn't get the whole spread-option offense thing, or B) His head was just not in it from the get-go.

Either way, I think Michigan is much better off without Threet on the roster.

Charlie over at Nittany White Out weighs in on the topic...
Just seems like Michigan has been turned into a Nick Saban - win at all costs type of program. Maybe that Boren story about eroding family values isn’t too far from the truth afterall.
First of all, Justin Boren is mama's boy who didn't like to be challenged by a coaching staff. I'll fault the guy that turned his back on Michigan by transferring to tOSU (without a scholarship) before I fault an entire proven coaching staff for "eroding" family values. Last time I checked, all they have in West Virginia are family values...maybe too much.

Secondly, I'm sure Penn State is not at all interested in winning at all costs.

2010 Season Opener and My Scheduling Rant

It has been reported by some on the internets that Michigan has approached the Minutemen of the University of Massachusetts to play in the first game in newly renovated Big House for the opener in 2010.
“We’d like to, we want to, and we’re looking into it,” said UMass spokesman Jason Yellin.
Translation: "This one game will fund our entire athletic department's budget for 2010, and would be one of the biggest athletic events in UMass history. Yes, we're interested."

UMass plays in the Colonial Athletic FCS conference.

Say what you will...and I know you will...but Michigan is getting into a pattern of playing FCS schools. Good FCS schools, but FCS none-the-less. First it was the apocalyptic Appy State game of 07, Delaware State on Oct. 17th, and now UMass in 2010.

Let me go on the record as saying that I am not in favor of this pattern. I can forgive the rare FCS game on the schedule once every 10 years or so. But 3 in 4 seasons? What is this, Penn State?

mgoblog feels similar as I do...and goes ahead and blames Bill Martin for scheduling the Irish every year until his grand-children have grand-children. And blame he should.

The ONLY good thing about playing ND once a year...I can count on more than one hand how many people I know who are Michigan fans purely because they can't stand Notre Dame. Sure, those fans are probably 40 years of age and older, but it's still a decent % of the fan-base...but that's it. Michigan against Notre Dame is played.

Now, yes it would be sweet to line up a home-and-home with LSU or Oklahoma...and if I were the AD at Michigan, I'd surely take any calls from Norman or Baton Rouge (or Knoxville or Austin or Los Angeles or Boise or Tuscaloosa) . But it seems clear that Martin wants to keep the Irish, a couple MAC games and a FCS game on the schedule every season. And that is definitely LAME.

Show me a September night game against an SEC opponent and I'll get excited. But a noon kickoff against Eastern Michigan is never going to move this program forward. Let 2007 be the lesson. We lose to Appy State and go on to beat Florida in the Capital One Bowl. How's that for meaningful non-conference scheduling?

There is zero up-side to playing weak non-conferenec or lose. And only up-side for the opponent, win or lo$e.

Friday Link-A-Thon

There is no "real" news out there to report right now. Sure, we could dive into rumors and speculation...but we're still 4 months away from football being played, and it's Friday and I'm not motivated at what's the point? So enjoy our Friday link dump.

We really do have some stuff in the works for upcoming posts...but nothing that is worthy of posting just yet.

Greg Paulus is going to end up at Syracuse
Fine with me. Anywhere is better than playing for us.
Bacon weighs in on the fall of print media
Seems to be the topic of the month
VB looks ahead to this weekend's NFL Draft
...and how our Michigan men will fare
• BTN catches up with LaMarr Woodley, Steve Breaston, Larry Foote & Mike Hart
This was from the spring game, but we're just posting it now
Spring games this weekend
Illinois, MSU, Minnesota, tOSU & Penn State

Ticket Sales Down

According to a story in the Freep by Mark Snyder, ticket sales are expected to be lower this year because of the economy...and a 3-9 record in 2008 didn't help much either.
Michigan's season-ticket renewal applications went out last week -- by e-mail and snail mail. And with a renewal deadline of May 8, the athletic department should have a decent view of its numbers by the middle of the month.

The early barometer comes from student renewals, which are a bit down from recent years. Their deadline passed last week. There might be a boost with new student applications in the summer, but that interest level is still difficult to gauge.

Associate athletic director for ticketing Marty Bodnar said he's expecting the economy to take a toll on renewals, which are "down a little bit, not a lot." He said the typical 2-3% nonrenewal rate could settle more in the 5-6% range this year.

Finding people to fill those seats won't be a problem, though, given the brand and hunger that has built over years. Bodnar said the waiting list is about 10,000.
With games like Notre Dame, Penn State and tOSU on the schedule though, it should not be an issue finding people to dish out the $400 price tag for a the madatory "donation" that you must first make to the athletic department to just get your name on the waiting list.

In other news...

Sam Webb pretty much kills this whole Paulus non-sense
After two days of rampant speculation that the Duke floor general would don the winged helmet in the fall, news comes that Michigan’s courtship of the former All American quarterback has ceased.
Drew Henson weighs in on the Greg Paulus situation
DT William Campbell could not have come at a better time
The Wolverines Blog posted a nice Tate Forcier spring-game highlight video
Genuinely Sarcastic posted a legnthy but well-worded euloguy for the Detroit Pistons

Incoming: Marvin Robinson

Today marks the latest edition to the 2010 commitment well as the growing list of guys with the last-name Robinson to be associated with the Michigan football family.

Marvin Robinson (6-1, 204), the #14 rated safety in the nation according to Scout, and a 4-star recruit according to Rivals, has finally commited to the Michigan Wolverines, as most thought he would. MRob hails from Eagle Lake, FL. He runs the 40 in a respectable 4.6 seconds...not bad for a defender. In his junior season, he tallied 97 tackles and 4 INTs. For his HS career, he has 197 tackles and 9 picks.

Marvin joins fellow 2010 WR commit Jerald, first-year defensive coordinator Greg, freshman WR Terrence, and incoming freshman QB Denard as the newest Robsinson of the bunch.

Go Blue!

Paulus-Gate...What We Know So Far

First of all, as of this post, all we know for sure is...

• Greg Paulus visited Michigan on Tuesday for the final spring practice (yes, the final practice took place after the spring game).

• Paulus graduates from Duke next month and he wants to enroll at Michigan for graduate school.  He met with coaches, they talked about his prospects as a competitor for Michigan's QB spot. He has 1 year of collegiate eligibility left, after using 4 years playing basketball at Duke.

Local news wires started getting wind of the Fox Sports story, and mass confusion set in.

• Paulus had a conference call with reporters this morning and announced that he had received a scholarship offer from Rodriguez to play football next season. He also called into the Dan Patrick radio show to discuss his side of the story.

• Incoming freshman QB Tate Forcier was quoted as saying that he was told by his coaches this morning that Paulus has not received any such offer.

And thats about it so far.

This whole story has gone from funny...and back to ludacris in the matter of about 24 hours. Someone needs to step up and get the facts straight (we're looking at you coach Rodriguez).

Meanwhile, no one is stopping major sports media outlets from running with this news...

Much more on this as it develops. At this rate, it will probably get uglier before it gets better.

Greg Paulus Offered Scholarship

According to ESPN television, just saw this on SportsCenter...Rich Rodriguez has offered a scholarship to Greg Paulus. He is also considering Syracuse (probably because the coaches are such great husbands)...and he's also weighing his pro football options.

Much more on this as soon as we figure out whats going on.

Greg Paulus was just on the Dan Patrick radio show to clear the air, and discuss what exactly what is going on with his many irons he has in the fire. Thanks to MVictors for posting this.

Thursday Link-a-Thon

Links-a-plenty...bullet style!
DE Chris Graham added to Lott Award watch list
As he should be
Shafer was not at all happy in Ann Arbor
Apparently, Syracuse's coaches are better husbands and better parents
2009 Big Ten prime-time TV schedule announced
Circle October 10th, 8PM on your calendar
MSC goes in-depth with the Greg Paulus situation
It gets weirder the more you read about it
Tennessee basketball coach Bruce watch
Sparty RB Glenn Winston gets 6 months in jail...2 years probation
for pummling Sparty hockey player AJ Sturges

QB Auditions

Apparently, anyone who is interested in playing QB at Michigan is throwing their name into Rodriguez's hat.

We mentioned yesterday that Tate Focier's older brother Jason...who was a former Michigan backup QB a couple years back, is interested in going to grad school of UofM and wants to use up his remaining year of eligibility while he's at it.

I seriously doubt that Jason wants to actually contest his younger bro for the starting gig. I see this more as an act of older brother just wanting to be on-board to help mentor and coach his younger sibling. At least that's my take on it. Either way, two Forcier's on the roster would be kinda cool...not to mention nice to have another QB in the barn.

But this news has me dumbfounded.

Former high-school QB recruit, turned ex-Duke basketball point guard Greg Paulus wants to be the QB at Michigan too. Maybe. It could just be one huge April-fools joke that just didn't get retracted.

Aparently, Paulus was at Michigan's final spring practice this Tuesday and chatted with Rodriguez about the prospect of playing QB this/next year. He's more or less just gauging various interest.

I have no idea what kind of chops this kid has...I mean I know he can play basketball...and he was a pretty highly rated QB coming out of HS (Gatorade national football player of the year as a high school senior quarterback in 2004). But he hasn't seen a football field in 4 years. And...what kind of eligibility is he going to have if he comes to Michigan?

And to make this story even that much crazier, he was reported to have worked out with the Green Bay Packers last week.

So after thinking that the stable of Michigan's QBs was going to look pretty sparse after Threet now could be looking something like this for 2009...

• Tate Forcier
• Denard Robinson
• Nick Sheridan
• David Cone
• Jack Kennedy
• Jason Forcier?
• Greg Paulus???????

Hallelujah...where's the tylenol?

Ridiculously Early 2009 Preview: Offensive Line

I don't care who you are or what you think you know about the game of football. If anyone tries to tell you that the QB, RB or WR is the most important position on offense, they are just simply dead wrong.

The game of football...real played by men. Large men. Large men with no necks and arms the size of mortal men's legs. Guys who aren't afraid of crashing head first into another large man every 40 seconds for 3 and a half hours a week.

Can you tell I was an offensive lineman?

Like most schools, Michigan has had its share of great linemen. Jake Long, David Baas, Jon Jansen, Steve Hutchinson, Greg Skrepenak, Jumbo Elliot, Kurt Becker, Mark Donahue, Reggie McKenzie, Dan Dierdorf... get the idea.

My point is this: Games are won and lost on the shoulders of the offensive linemen.

The 2009 edition of the Michigan offensive line is oddly much better than most skeptics will say. First of all, every guy from 2008 is back. They are bigger, stronger, faster and better. And not to mention, smarter and more experienced. Not to mention some younger guys that will likely see their way into the starting rotation throughout the season.

A lot of times when a team struggles, it has to do with lack of production from the OL...and that might have been the case last least a little bit. But it was never the lack of blocking or protection that really hurt Michigan in 2008.

The spring game was our first real look into who's going to probably be the starting 5 up front.

StarterMark Ortmann
5th Sr.
6-7 284
Stephen Schilling
6-5, 304
David Molk
6-2, 283
David Moosman
5th Sr.
6-5, 292
Mark Huyge
6-6, 291
BackupPerry Dorrestein
6-7, 310
Elliot Mealer
6-6, 299
Tim McAvoy
5th Sr.
6-6, 297
John Ferrara
6-4, 280
Patrick Omameh
6-4, 276

Of course so much can and will change between the spring game and September 5th, but this seems like the package that Michigan is going with right now.

It's interesting to note the changes from 08 to 09 in terms of playing weights. Ortmann went from 294 to 284. Schilling went from 295 to 304. McAvoy from 288 to 297. Not huge numbers of course, but noteworthy. Most of the other guys stayed pretty much the same. And, these are roster listed weights...not always the most trustworthy.

The OL is a position where there is usually quite a bit of shake-up early in the season. Any one of those 10 guys probably can play any of those positions...and some already have. I think we had something like 3 guys playing center last year.

Injuries can and will happen. If we just get to Sept. 5th injury free, we'll already be doing much better than we did last year.

Perry Dorrestein, Tim McAvoy and John Ferrara will likely see quite a bit of playing time again this year. One thing that was nice about 2008 being so awful, was that a lot of these guys got great experience. Stephen Schilling was injured last year, were most of the other experience is a huge benefit for this group.

Also making their way into the conversation will be freshmen Ricky Barnum, Rocko Khoury and Dan O'neill.

No doubt that 2009 will be that much better due to the further development of the offense and how well the skill players can adapt to the 2nd year of the spread. But one thing that did not change with the new scheme was the importance of consistent OL production. For the first time since I can remember, Michigan brings back it's entire offensive line, intact. Couple that with the experience that the backups gained last season, and Michigan is looking very good up front.

Spring Game Box Score

For those of you who want as complete of a breakdown as you can get from the 09 spring game, behold the box score brought to you by the fine folks from Rivals. Here's my nice copy/paste:

Quarterback Comp. Att. Yards TDs INTs Pct.
Tate Forcier 11 13 141 4 0 84.6
David Cone 13 29 90 1 0 44.8
Ball Carrier Att. Yards TDs Avg.
Carlos Brown 10 146 1 14.6
Vincent Smith 13 53 2 4.1
Tate Forcier 12 41 1 3.4
Kevin Grady 3 37 1 12.3
Martavious Odoms 1 31 0 31.0
Brandon Minor 6 26 0 4.3
David Cone 2 23 0 11.5
Terrance Robinson 1 10 0 10.0
Michael Cox 3 3 0 1.0
Mark Moundros 1 3 1 3.0
Jim Potempa 1 0 0 0.0
Receiver Rec. Yards TDs Avg.
Roy Roundtree 3 70 2 23.3
Junior Hemingway 4 39 0 9.8
Darryl Stonum 5 32 1 6.4
Martavious Odoms 4 28 0 7.0
Mark Moundros 1 20 0 20.0
Terrance Robinson 3 17 0 5.7
Greg Mathews 1 8 1 8.0
Mike Therman 1 8 0 8.0
Vincent Smith 1 4 0 4.0
LaTerryal Savoy 1 3 1 3.0
Defender Tkls. TFL Sacks FF FR PBU INT
Jared Van Slyke 6.5 . . . . . .
Kevin Leach 6.0 . . . . . .
Tony Anderson 5.0 . . . . . .
Michael Williams 4.5 1.0 . . . . .
Boubacar Cissoko 4.0 1.0 . . . . .
Brandon Graham 4.0 1.0 . . . . .
Vladimir Emilien 4.0 . . . . . .
J.T. Floyd 3.5 . . . . . .
Brandon Herron 3.5 . . . . 1.0 .
J.B. Fitzgerald 3.0 . 1.0 . . . .
Obi Ezeh 2.5 . . . . . .
Vince Helmuth 2.0 . . . . . .
Steve Brown 2.0 . . 1.0 . 1.0 .
Steve Watson 2.0 1.0 . . . . .
Mike Jones 1.5 . . . . . .
Kenny Demens 1.0 . . . . . .
Floyd Simmons 1.0 . . . . . .
Brandin Hawthorne 1.0 . . . . . .
Marell Evans 1.0 . . . . . .
Brandon Smith 1.0 . . . . . .
Adam Patterson 1.0 . . . . . .

I can think of no better time than watching each and every play from the spring game video and breaking down exactly what happened. But hey, they did...and we're like flies attracted to bright lights.

Michigan Will Play At Night This Season

Unfortunately, it will be in Iowa City against the Hawkeyes on October 10th.

But news is looking good for those Michigan faithful whom want more than anything at least one night game a year at the Big House. Just found on the Freep website, Bill Martin was quoted as saying that the new construction at the stadium is going to be wired for lights...either temporary or permanent.
U-M athletic director Bill Martin said the construction project has wired the stadium ground for lights, either temporary ones at the TV networks' request, or for permanent fixtures. No decision has been made on permanent lights yet.
All I can say is, at least the conversation is gaining ground. Baby steps. It's pretty obvious that Martin and/or Rodriguez knows that this is what the fans want. And Varsity Blue thinks it will probably happen after the renovations are complete in 2010.

In other news, Tate Focier's brother...former Michigan backup QB Jason, who is completing his undergrad at Stanford after transferring there a couple years ago, is coming back to Ann Arbor. He will be pursuing a graduate degree in sports management.

In the spring game, LB Ryan Van Bergen left midway through the scrimmage on a cart. He suffered a knee injury. It might require minor surgury, but he should be 100% by summer.

According to the athletic department, the first patron for the locker room tour on Saturday showed up in line at 3:30AM. The tour started at 8AM.

We Fear Things Which We Don't Understand

...or at least we used to. There once was a time when the spread offense was all that was evil in Ann Arbor. Now we embrace it like a lost cat coming in from the rain.

Huh? I don't know.

Either way, this internet thing is not going away anytime soon. So in the spirit of trying new stuff and seeing what all the fuss is about, MBN has joined the Twitter universe. That's right! You can now follow us live in Twitter. We're still getting used to what Twitter is and what Twitter does...but it sure seems cool.

Click here to see our Twitter page!

So head on over and become a follower of MBN on Twitter!

Incoming: Stephen Hopkins

Just after the spring game ended, Texas RB Stephen Hopkins (6-0, 220) who was at the game, gave his verbal commitment to Rich Rodriguez. He is the 8th commitment for the 2010 class. He runs a 40 yard dash in 4.6 seconds. Rivals bio.

Most Michigan fans will probably see similarities between him and Brandon Minor. Tim at Varsity Blue draws a Bennie Wells comparison in his review (probably from the Buckeye-style uniforms). He is not rated by any of the major recruiting sites...yet, but this large and powerful back brings much needed size to the new class of RBs that Rodriguez has recruited.

Also via VB, Stephen Hopkins' highlight mix-tape.

2009 Michigan Spring Game Wrap-Up

Before we launch into the details of this year's spring game, I just want to say that I am 100% impressed with the way in which this event was planned, advertised, and conducted. Not only did we get more than the original goal of 40,000 fans to attend, the athletic department claims that close to 50,000 fans made it into the stadium on Saturday.

From my vantage point (row 30 in the student section) it looked to be about right. The home and visitors sides were solidly packed, and the endzone sections were pretty full as well. The only areas with no fans were those which were roped off due to the construction.

Of course the weather was huge help. Sunny skies and 50+ degree temps made it bearable to sit through and not get too cold. There was a pretty good wind, but not too bad. I found it odd that the offense was always going left-to-right towards the south endzone on every scrimmage possession...always going with the wind. Whether or not that was on purpose or not I don't know...but it did cross my mind., where to start?

Special Teams:
The scrimmage started with special teams. Place kicking was okay. 43 Bryan Wright seemed to be the #1 PK, but he did split kicks with 92 Jason Olesnavage and  97 Scott Schrimscher. None of which looked to be much better than the others. I guess I expect Wright to be the main guy in the fall. But I am not impressed by what I saw.

Senior punter Zoltan Mesko looked good. He had some really awesome punts...and one that just sucked. It looked like it went off the side of his foot...but either way, I think we're covered in the punting department this year.

Backup punter 30 Chris Berry had a punt blocked by a rushing down lineman. I can't remember who it was, but it was a nice block.

Martavious Odoms was catching punts on the return team. He fumbled the first one. Even though I think it went out of bounds, still not a good move to fumble the first spring punt after a whole season of punt catching ineptitude. Fans let them know how they felt when that happened.

My first impression of watching Tate Forcier warm up was...he's short. And not just short but small in general. He has a pretty decent arm and he can move very well. In the scrimmage he was sharp on his throws and was able to escape the pocket into the open field pretty easily.

Of course it helps that the defense was going 1/2 speed around the QB, and no one touched him all day. My main concern is if he's going to be scrambling so much, he better be fast. Because he doesn't have the size to stand up to the hits that he'll take if anyone can catch him.

I was pretty happy with his accuracy though. He spread the ball around pretty well and hit his receivers in stride. It never seemed like he didn't feel comfortable in the pocket. And he scrambled in time to be able to get into space and make at least one defender miss him.

Backup QB David Cone came in and split time equally with Forcier. Cone didn't look to bad. He's got a long ways to go before he makes it into the regular backup role however. He was not as sharp on his passes, and doesn't have the scrambling ability that Forcier does. Although on one play, he put a move on Stevie Brown that led to a long run that the fans really enjoyed. Again, more of a defense going 1/2 speed than the offense looking amazing.

The line looked good. Bigger and stronger. Gave the QB time to throw pretty much all day, and also did a pretty good job run blocking. We'll go into much more detail later this week with an OL preview post.

Carlos Brown was the standout in the RB department. He had some very good runs...including a nice long 82 yard TD run. Brandon Minor also looked very strong. He was very limited in rushes though. Kevin Grady had an amazing TD run...breaking through about 4 defenders for a Touchdown. True freshman Vincent Smith looked pretty good as well. He got quite a few handoffs Saturday, as well as his fair share of receptions...mostly screens. He's also very small. I thought he'd be red-shirted this year in order to bulk up to a bigger playing weight, but that doesn't look to be the case. It looks like he'll be an integral part of this offense this fall.

We had many receivers make their debuts in this spring game. Vincent Smith, Terrence Robinson and Roy Roundtree had very nice spring games. Greg Matthews is probobly going to be the #1 wideout. But Darryl Stonum, Martavious Odoms, James Rogers and LaTerryal Savoy will all see the ball quite a bit this fall. We have a very nice assortment of talented WRs.

As many people know, it's hard to really get a good feel for the defense in a spring game. Not only did many of the best starters not even play, but the guys who were out there were going about 1/2 speed some of the time. No one was allowed to hit the QB. And big hits were few and far between.

LB Jonas Mouton, DT Mike Martin and CB Donovan Warren did not participate due to injuries. DE Ryan Van Bergen left on a cart about 1/2 way through the game.

Senior DE Brandon Graham played very sparingly to guard against potential injury. But he looked very good in there when he did play.

True freshman DT Willam Campbell saw quite a bit of playing time Saturday. I fully expect him to make an impact immediately in the DT rotation. Which is huge because we are very thin there. I wouldn't be surprised to see an OL move over to the defensive side of the line by the fall.

Overall I think this spring game was not only a huge success from a fans perspective, but from the team standpoint as well. The players looked like they were having a good time, and the fans were enjoying a beautiful day to watch a scrimmage.

Fans expectations for a spring game are always a little too loftly. I think Michigan is right about where they need to be in terms of conditioning. The ins and outs of the offense and defense will come together much better in the fall. No doubt I think we're in a better position then we were last spring. The system has had time to fall into place, and you can tell that it's starting to become 2nd nature for these guys who are running it.

Videos have popped up from all over, and we've taken a couple of them and posted them here for your enjoyment.

Via Michigan Sports Center: Spring Game Highlights

Via Big Ten Network: Highlights and Rodriguez Interview

Free Press
Michigan Sports Center
Locker Room Tour photos via MVictors

The Catch

Inspired by Penn State blogger "Black Shoe Diaries" depiction of what should be considered "The Fumble"...we here at MBN have decided to hold a little poll of our own...

For your consideration...which of these amazing receptions would you consider Michigan's "The Catch"?

1979 - Anthony Carter

1991 - Desmond Howard

1995 - Mercury Hayes
The "catch" in question is at the 3:40 mark in this video

1997 - Charles Woodson

2005 - Mario Manningham

No question, all were amazing, game winning receptions, and one momentum killing INT. And I wanted to throw in one from Braylon Edward's highlight reel game, also known as the 2004 Michigan State comeback...but those were multiple catches, all of which were amazing...but we need just one. Only one and be labeled as "The Catch". Which one will it be?

We Like Nice Stuff

Last year was dreadful. So dreadful infact, that many Michigan fans are already dreading this year. And who can blame them? I don't feel this way, but I certainly understand where this sentiment comes from.

I'm a perpetual optimist when it comes to Michigan football. And up until 2008, we all had every reason to be. Michigan ruled the college football world. We were a force. And to prove it, 2008's 3-9 record was bigger news than most other schools doing well. (Sparty...cough, cough)

There is a bad lingering taste in our mouths though, that no amount of hopeful optimism can wash out. But when the big boys at SI give your coach a nice shot of praise, it makes the long and bitter off-season that much more tolerable.

Found over at The Diag, Rivals dot com writer Tom Dienhart (via ranked the Big Ten coaches in order of awesomeness...I guess. Either way, our very own Rich Rodriguez comes in at #2 on the list. And not behind Sir Teflon like you might have expected.
1. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
2. Rich Rodriguez, Michigan
3. Sir Teflon, tOSU
4. Joe Paterno, Penn State
5. Mark Dantonio, Little Brother
6. Ron Zook, Illinois
7. Bret Bielema, Wisconsin
8. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
9. Danny Hope, Purdue
10. Tim Brewster, Minnesota
11. Bill Lynch, Indiana
Odd that a Ferentz gets the top spot after just a 9-4 record in 2008. I'd say he's full of potential, but he's already peaked at Iowa...a while ago. He's done well with the mediocre talent that he's had, some might say he's done amazingly well. And that's given the fact that in recent years he's not had tOSU or Michigan on the schedule and he's still struggled. Sure, he handed JoPa his only loss last year...but that was a fluke.

I probably would have thrown Pat Fitzgerald into the top 6. Now there's a coach that has overachieved. Pretty much the rest of the list makes sense. Most will argue that Rodriguez has no business being in the top 2...and I can see their arguement. But this is a Michigan it makes perfect sense to us.

Tuesday Link-a-Thon

• Spring game is Saturday @ noon. Current forecast is 51 degrees and mostly sunny. I only say that because today's forecast was 38 and snow. I like winter and all, but only when it takes place during designated winter months. Last year's high (for April 11th, according to AccuWeather) was 72 degrees, ftw.

• Ann Arbor sports/talk radio 1050 WTKA will hold a live broadcast from practice this Thursday from 3-6 PM. They will also be broadcasting the spring game live. Coverage will start at 10AM and will feature not only the spring game, but the football alumni flag-football game as well.

• Incoming freshman QB Denard Robinson ran a little faster this week than he did last week. Apparently, he did 100 yards in 10.28 seconds. For the record, I can't do anything in 10.28 seconds.

• Fellow Michigan blogger Maize n Brew Dave took a good long look at the realities of the mainstream media (print) and their struggles in this harsh economic climate, and what it all means for he and rest of us bloggers. My $0.02 is that he's pretty much right on with his assessment. While the lack of mainstream media hurts us in the short-term, it might provide an opportunity for bloggers to gain valuable access down the road. It's a good read, and you can find it here.

• Fellow Michigan blogger Brian @ mgoblog is crossing enemy lines. He will be writing a weekly feature for the tOSU blog/website/web-thingy BuckNuts. Aside from the obvious issue of having to write at a 3rd grade level for tOSU fans to understand what he's saying, we here at MBN will be eagerly awaiting each week's post...and the flaming that will ensue in the comment section. Best of luck Brian. Godspeed.

Adventures in Basketball Land

A nice 3-day weekend was just what the doctor ordered. Unfortunately, on the 3rd snowed. And not one of those haha April 1-inch snowfalls that melts in 1 day, it was a 4-inch wet snow that can do damage to trees and power lines kind of snow storms. But it was still nice to have the long weekend.

So...what happened in the state of Michigan last weekend? Anything? Was there some sort of basketball competition going on in Detroit?

For all of the hype that was created from MSU's run to the championship, even this blogger must admit that he drank the "The state of Michigan's hopes and dreams ride on the shoulders of Sparta" kool-aide that was being dolled out in big old pitchers by the local and sports media.

First of all, college basketball...while fun and exciting...does not compare even a little to the weight and influence that college football has in this state. But being that it's April and it's snowing...I guess we'll cling to anything we can get right now. And right now, we clung to MSU and their run for a title.

And I'm okay with that. I can cast aside my gripes and grievances with Sparty to pull for a big win against a school like North Carolina. As much as I don't think a win would have made a lick of difference right now to offset the anguish of thousands of people who have suffered a job loss or monumental life-changing setback due to the awful economy in this state...a big win would still have been nice anyway. But as it turned out, someone forgot to tell Izzo and Sparty that they actually had to play a basketball game last night.

What I saw was nothing short of one of the most lopsided losses ever on one of the biggest stages ever. MSU had no answer for anything the Heels did. Most of the time, they just looked like they were trying way too hard to be a better team than they really were. I'm no basketball expert, but what I saw last night was boys versus men.

But least they made it that far. And they did win some big games to get there. So it's not for nothing. Sparty fans should be proud. Hell, they were good enough to get me (and many other Wolverine fans) to cheer for them...and that's actually pretty impressive.

So maybe now the bandwagon gets a little smaller for the folks in East Lansing. And hopefully it will get a little bigger in Ann Arbor. Let's not forget what Beilein was able to do in just his 2nd year on campus. Good things are happening in the world of Michigan basketball. So come on back to the good-guys side Michigan fans. No more of this "cheering for Sparty" nonsense.

Oh...and by the way...4 days and 2 hours until the spring game!

Incoming: Devin Gardner...Again

He was in a while ago...but now it's official.

Have a nice weekend!

Ridiculously Early 2009 Preview: Running Backs

The Ridiculously Early 2009 Preview: Quarterbacks lives here.

Welcome to the second installment of our ridiculously early 2009 preview. Last time we took a look at the QB situation. Today we will address a slightly brighter spot of the offense...running backs and fullbacks.

Okay, we're a tad older in the RB department. Although it should be noted that sophomore Michael Shaw, who saw some pretty decent time as a RB last season, is listed as a WR on the spring roster. But I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the backfield once or twice this year. Why is this? Because we actually have a pretty good shot at having a QB who can run AND throw...and not fumble the ball 3 times a game, so we need all the WRs we can get.

The obvious standouts are seniors Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown.

Many, if not all Michigan fans are waiting for Brandon Minor to have the kind of season we all know he can have. We've seen flashes of sheer awesomeness from him. Even in a few games last year come to mind...Penn State, Purdue...and Minnesota in 07.

Last year he rushed 103 times for 533 yards and 9 touchdowns. And there is no question that with McGuffie gone...the full weight of the rushing attack will fall on his shoulders. I fully expect him to be durable enough to stay healthy to last the entire season. And with Michigan hopefully able to take to the air with better and more success than they did in 08, that should open up more for Minor and his fellow backs on the ground.

A successful year in 09 would be probably somewhere in the 1200+ yards area. A good gauge for most Michigan faithful would be Mike Hart's 06 season where he rushed for 1562 yards and 14 TDs on 318 carries. Of course Minor probably won't see the ball over 300 times this year...especially with fellow backs Carlos Brown and Kevin Grady.

Carlos Brown has always been the kind of back that probably could be a great back at a mid-major...but has shown that he can provide as a very capable #2 on the depth chart for a school like Michigan. At 6-0, 206...he has the size to be durable and tough, and is also speedy enough to hit the holes or get to the outside and turn the corner.

On the road at Illinois in 07 was his breakout performance. Stepping in for an injured Mike Hart, he rushed 25 times for 116 yards. The following week against Minnesota, he stepped up again for 137 yards and 2 TDs on 13 carries.

He saw limited action last year due to injuries. But is I expect him to be a viable option for this year. He's very similar to Minor in size and might be a bit speedier. Odds are you won't see more than one back next to Forcier or whoever is QB at the same time, so Minor and Brown should be able to split RB duties 70/30.

Also in the mix is 5-9, 226 senior Kevin Grady.

More of a fullback than a finesse runner, Kevin Grady is great for getting those tough yards. Had his best season so far as a freshman in 05, rushing for 483 yards and 5 TDs on 121 carries. Production has dropped off since, but only due to lack of carries. He's always been a pretty dependable runner, gaining yards almost every time he touches the ball.

He's also battled injuries and discipline issues during his career. He did not see the field at all in 2007 after a spring injury. And then he missed the 2008 opener due to a drunk driving charge.

A solid season for Grady would probably look like 100 carries and 600+ yards. However, due to a senior-heavy RB position, I expect Grady to be called in for mostly short yardage situations. Let's face it, this isn't exactly the kind of guy that thrives in a spread-option type of offense. But he's a good back and should anything happen to Minor or Brown, it's nice to know that we have another senior with 3 varsity letters.

From there, the RB position gets smaller and younger. Junior Jimmy Potempa (5-7, 178), and highly touted freshman Vincent Smith (5-6, 158) will likely not see much action this year unless the line of succession gets very short.

Potempa saw very limited action in 07, playing in 3 games with career totals of 18 yards on 6 carries. Vincent Smith comes in as a rivals 3-star recruit from Pahokee, FL who enrolled early this spring. He was the #36 ranked RB in the nation. He's small, like McGuffie was. A red-shirt season would do wonders in building size and strength.

And finally, red-shirt freshman Michael Cox (6-0, 215) will likely see some action this year as a backup. Rivals had him ranked 30th coming out of high school in the RB position.

So there you have it. Not too much mystery involved in who's the creme of the crop. The expectations could not be higher for this class of RBs. For all of the uncertainty there is at every other offensive position, RB should be the one that gives us the most dependable output. Of course, I just screwed us with that comment.

But all kidding aside, the success of anything the offense does will rely 100% on how well the offensive line performs. And we'll address that position next.

Spring Game Hype

The athletic department has put more hype into this spring game than the past 5 Lloyd spring "scrimmages" combined. I guess it's good to see more hype than normal, it's just odd...that's all. Very un-Michigan-like.

Take for example the following "official" spring game trailer:

Thanks to MVictors for posting this yesterday.

Also the accompanying banner on mgoblue dot com:

And just so you have an idea who all those guys are on the field on April 11th, here's the official spring roster.

Also, I'm throwing in the following picture from spring practice for obvious reasons...