Report: Big Ten Going To Expand

Things have been rather quiet around MBN the last few days. And for good reason - it's the calm before the storm. I was warned of this looming storm by 3 little birdies (cue Bob Marley music).

The first little birdie told me a day or so ago that Notre Dame was on the outs when it came to joining the Big Ten. They want to stay independent. Irish AD Jack Swarbrick tells [link]:
"We do have to monitor what is going on," Swarbrick said. "There will be significant shifts. "Hopefully we can navigate them by keeping our football independent and keeping our Big East affiliation because that is what we care about."

Another little birdie told me 5 teams were set to announce their intentions to join the conference. Those teams are: Rutgers, Missouri, Pitt, Syracuse and Nebraska.

Good luck to the Irish when it comes to sticking by the potentially dilapidated Big East when it comes to its other sports (non-football) affiliations. If Syracuse, Pitt and Rutgers bail, its over for the Big East.

And finally, the last little birdie told me a potential breakdown of the future Big Ten divisions:

Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Penn State
Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Minnesota
Ohio State, Purdue, Indiana, Northwestern
Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois

Where any of these birdies speaking a lick of truth? We'll just have to wait and see.

Three Wolverines Drafted

DE Brandon Graham, #13 overall pick to the Philadelphia Eagles. [Daily Story]

Video from

P Zoltan Mesko, #150 overall, taken by the New England Patriots. He is a space emperor.

Finally, S/LB Stevie Brown was taken #251 overall to the Oakland Raiders. This picture is from Brown's INT of Pryor in the 2008 game. This was Pryor's first throw against Michigan in his career.

Thanks A Lot Donovan

Donovan Warren left Michigan after his junior season to declare eligible for the 2010 NFL draft.

He was not drafted.

Oops :/

Michigan @ Penn State 2010 Set For Primetime

2010 schedule here.

The 2010 edition of the Michigan/Penn State rivalry will air on October 30th, live from Beaver Stadium in State College, PA at 8PM on the ABC/ESPN family of networks.

Happy Valley, at night, day before Halloween. What's not to love? [/sarcasm]

From Michigan media relations:
This will be the second time that Michigan has played in State College at night. The only previous appearance was a 17-10 victory by the Wolverines over the Nittany Lions on Oct. 14, 2006.

Michigan has compiled a 22-11 record in its 33 primetime appearances (game started after 5 p.m. local time). The Wolverines are 19-5 all-time at the opponent’s venue and are 3-6 in bowl games. U-M has won 11 of its past 14 evening games, with all three setbacks coming by four points or less.

Michigan leads the all-time series with Penn State, 10-5, but has lost the past two games after winning nine straight match-ups from 1997 through 2007.

Aggressive Expansion

Big Ten commissioner Gordon Jim Delaney will be addressing the media today from the site of the BCS meetings that are taking place in Arizona. No word as to the extent of what Delaney will talk about, but we suspect a little BCS talk will be included, as well as a smattering of Big Ten expansion talk as well.

We've recently discussed the ideas for expansion [link], so readers of this blog know how I feel. Surely the recent news that this expansion talk was going to be accelerated is good news for proponents of adding teams to the conference. This could also be a tactic by the Big Ten to strike while the iron is hot...especially to maybe force Notre Dame's hand. No question the Irish are maybe the biggest key to whether real expansion is feasible or not.

I think any expansion talk that doesn't include the Irish is a waste of time. If you get Notre Dame, the remaining chips like Nebraska, Rutgers, Pitt and Missouri, schools likely to make the jump, will tumble that much easier. If the Irish decline, the wheels will fall off the expansion bus pretty fast.

For a closer look at what a 16-team expansion could like for the Big Ten, check out posts from Brian from mgoblog [link] and Dave from Maize n' Brew [link]. And if you'd like some expansion reading of a more official variety, check out the link rundown by ESPN's Adam Rittenberg [link].

Spring Game Review

Two days before the spring game, the weather Gods were smiling on the state of Michigan. It was 80+ degrees, it was sunny. But two days later, on Saturday for Michigan's annual spring game, not so much. 40's, cloudy, windy. Basically late October/November weather. Such is life. None the less, we play on.

The view from my seats in the media section just south of the tunnel.

Michigan had a respectable crowd of an estimated 35,000 Maize & Blue faithful to showcase a sneak peak at the 2010 edition of the Michigan Wolverines. We got a great chance to watch and see for ourselves some of the improvements we've been hearing so much about, mainly at the QB position and defensive backfield.

It's frustrating sometimes to read too much into a spring game. You could literally go nuts trying to decipher every play and what it means for the fall. So we won't do that. Lets dive right into our review.

You know you got a QB battle when tOSU blogs are picking it up on their radars.

No doubt, Michigan fans wanted to see what was new with Denard and Tate. And not to mention incoming true-freshman Devin Gardner.

I think I can pretty much say without provocation that Denard impressed the most. His passes were very crisp and on target. He ran well with the ball, and most importantly, he was nowhere close to being in bad situation where he might turn the ball over. Unlike Tate, who, when he scrambled carried the ball in one hand way away from his body...which got him into some trouble last year. Now I will say that Denard was playing almost the whole day with the 1 offense, and he was going against the 2 defense. So take that for what it's worth. But he did continue to do well in the situational exercises in the 2nd half of practice where the 1's were going against the 1's.

Denard's TD run early in the scrimmage:

Tate was mostly with the 2's all day, and going up against the 1's on defense. But he didn't do bad. But in comparison with Denard, Tate looked a little sloppy and little slower. And again, the scrambling with the ball hanging out way away from his body is something that scares me to death. He must stop doing that!

Freshman Devin Gardner looked like a freshman. He was very tense in the early-going. He wasn't getting his feet set before the snap, he fumbled his first snap...he looked like a freshman, which isn't bad considering he's still technically a HS senior. But once he settled down a bit, you could see that there is nothing but upside for this kid. He has all the pieces and parts to become an awesome QB at Michigan.

Technically, this is the first TD scored by Devin Gardner in the Big House (and the extra point that followed):

But going into fall practice, I would say that right now it's Denard's job to lose. His passing ability has just improved dramatically. When he scrambles, he truly has a dual-threat option right now. And he can go from run to pass or pass to run much smoother than Tate can.

Realistically, it's probably Denard, Tate and Devin going into fall based on what I saw Saturday. But if Devin can improve his throwing ability, and learn the passing phase of this offense...he might be able to get the jump on Tate. Enrolling early was a huge plus for Devin.

Rich Rodriguez's comments about the QB's from Saturday:

Running Back:
Michael Cox, Michael Shaw and Fitzgerald Toussaint are all interchangeable right now, which is a really good thing for Toussaint as the newcomer. All three looked pretty solid running the ball. All three didn't impress all that much...which can be a really good thing for our defense.

Projected starter Vincent Smith was out with an ACL tear he suffered against tOSU.

Freshman Stephen Hopkins played well and looked really good as a power-type back who I suspect could make an immediate impact on short-yardage situations.

Tight End:
A nice bright spot for our offense is tight ends. A scrambling QB's best friend is a TE who can catch the ball.  Kevin Koger, Brandon Moore and Martel Webb are all big, can run, block and catch the ball well. Nice things to have.

We passed the ball a lot in the spring game, and we spread the ball around pretty well. The guys who stepped up and made plays were the ones you might expect. Junior Hemingway was out of the spring with an injury. Martavious Odoms looked solid making nice grabs all day, until he dropped a long pass from Gardner that would have easily been a very long TD pass. Roy Roundtree had the catch of the day when he blew past a hobbled Vladamir Emilien to make a very nice pass from Denard who hit him over the middle in-stride for a huge 97-yard TD.

Didn't see anything huge from Stonum who I expected to see more of. But we did see a lot of young guys get involved, including Doug Rogan, Je'Ron Stokes, Jeremy Jackson, Ricardo Miller and Jerald Robinson.

Offensive Line:
David Molk was spotted out on the field in just a jersey and sweats, but he looked very upbeat and was walking very hopefully the torn ACL from last season will not be a factor in the fall. Clearly, this line...hell this offense is not the same without him. Backup center Christian Pace looked good in his filling in. Snaps were on target, which is saying something because when Molk

The biggest OL surprise of the day was Taylor Lewan at left tackle. He looked good. Shades of Jake Long, especially with the big 77 on his back. But any comparison with Jake Long, especially for a freshman is a huge plus.

The rest of the line played very well, as expected. Nothing truly exceptional. But much of that comes with the defensive front knowing the offense pretty well. The running game suffered much because of that.

Defensive Line:
First off, William Campbell is a beast! That guy hit the weights in the off-season, and it shows. He's going to be a force this year. He, Ryan Van Bergen and Greg Banks looked very solid all day. Mike Martin was out with an injury and not practicing but will be back at 100% this fall. I think the defensive line is going to be a very strong part of our defense this fall.

Moving from DE to sort of a DE/LB position is Craig Roh. This move seems to be a pretty easy one for Roh who played well all day. He's probably the key position that makes this 3-3-5 defense, or so it's called, work. To me, I saw more 4-3 defensive looks today than 3-3-5...but that's just me. Clearly, it's not so much a simple "this" or "that", but it's just my observation. I spent way more time observing the offense than the take that into consideration as well.

Both Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton looked very good. They were both very mobile in the middle of the field, while still looking like a large imposing LB. Mouton was even spotted in a down linemen position on 3rd and long situations where he was rushing the QB. These two seniors are a very important part of the defense this year.

JB Fitzgerald and fullback Mark Moudros were in with the 2nd team. Moundros looked pretty comfortable in there as he looks to get on the field with the defense. Not sure how much our offense needs a full-time fullback.

Defensive Backfield:
Lots of work needed in the defensive backfield after last season's bust. It is clear that personnel in the safety and cornerback spots are a fluid idea at this point.

Troy "T-Wolf" Woolfolk was out with a broken finger. But he's probably the #1 cornerback going into the fall. Taking his place on Saturday was converted WR James Rogers. JT Floyd looked pretty good over on the other corner. Justin Turner spent the day with the 2s.

The wild race at safety is still up in the air. Thomas Gordon, Cam Gordon, Vladamir Emilien, Teric Jones all saw lots of time in the backfield. Jordan Kovacs and Mike Williams played the safety/LB hybrid spot.

Special Teams:
I will say this...we need a punter. Incoming recruit Will Hagerup has the job at this point, and he hasn't even enrolled yet. But from what I saw, no else besides Tate Forcier can punt the ball within the white stripes. Let's hope Hagerup doesn't slip and fall this off-season.

We have a couple potential placekickers. Brendan Gibbons probably looked the best of the 3 main contenders. Walk-on soccer player Justin Meram looked good from 30 yards in, but fell apart from long range. Kris Paulowski kicked the ball well. I really don't know which kicker is better. They all kicked with the who knows.

All in all, it was a good spring scrimmage. The fans didn't really have much to cheer about, not a lot of huge plays. But we did get a chance to see the QB's compete and how well the offensive line is coming together even without Molk. And we also got to see the changes to the defense, which by my account is already heads and tails better then we were last year, especially in the backfield. Sure, Brandon Graham, Stevie Brown and Donovan Warren will be missed, but I like to think that it was more of a scheme issue than a personnel issue that really stifled us last year.

I was happy to see no injuries, as I'm sure the coaches were as well. And it was just good to see the winged helmets run out of the tunnel again. Just the sight of the boys out on the field again is enough to wash away the agony of the end of last season.

Now it's bring on the Huskies! Is it September yet?

Go Blue!

Spring Game Sights

A full-fledged review is on the way, and will be posted Monday. Until then, some sights from the day.

We had the pleasure of covering the spring game with a media pass this year, thanks to the good folks at the media relations department at UofM. So unfettered access is what we enjoyed yesterday at the Big House. Some photos and videos for your enjoyment.

The patch job done to the vandalized block-M at midfield looks just like that, a patch job. Hopefully a better job will be done to make it match the rest of the M before fall.

The old pressbox is just a memory. In it's place, seats with seat-backs. For now, just a work in progress.

One thing that I was concerned about, was the symbolic "Michigan Stadium" letters that used to adorn the roof of the old pressbox. Would those icons get a new home? Answer: Yes. Underneath the east pressbox in the concourse just outside sections 2 and 44.

I'll have a few videos posted with the review tomorrow, so until then Frank Beckman, who called the play-by-play from the sideline along with Jim Brandstatter, says hello!

A slideshow of the rest of the my photos from the day can be seen here or below. Enjoy!

2010 Alumni Flag Football Game Rosters Set

Posted today at mgoblue dot com, the rosters for the annual alumni flag football game that will be played at 11AM this Saturday at the Big House prior to the scrimmage at 1PM.

How cool is it to see Vada Murray as captain of the Maize squad, and Philip Brabbs for the Blue! YEAH!

Referee: James Hall (1996-99), DE

Coach -- Desmond Howard (1989-91), WR  
Captain -- Vada Murray (1987-90), DB
Ron Bellamy (1999-02), WR
Tom Brigstock (1962-65), HB
Gasper Calandrino (1978), DB
Jim Conley (1961-64), E
Zia Combs (2000-02), DB/WR
B.J. Dickey (1977-81), QB
Don Dufek (1972-75), DB
Chris Floyd (1994-97), TB/FB
Jermaine Gonzales (2000-04), WR
Livetius Johnson (1988-91), RB
Rich Leach (1975-78), QB
Triando Markray (1982-84), WR
Ben Mast (1997-01), OL
Chris Matsos (2002-04), WR
Zoltan Mesko (2006-09), P
Anthony Mitchell (1985-88), DB
Ohene Opong-Owusu (2007-09), LB
Darren Petterson (1995-98), WR
Marcus Ray (1995-98), S
LaTerryal Savoy (2006-09), WR
Lasker Smith (1992), DB
Phil Webb (1983-87), TB
Josh Williams (1995-99), DT
Chuck Winters (1992-96), S
Pierre Woods (2002-05), DE
Coach -- LaMarr Woodley (2003-06), DE
Captain -- Phil Brabbs (2000-03), K
Tony Blackenship (1989-93), S
Alijah Bradley (2003-06), RB
Jason Carr (1991-95), QB
Will Carr (1993-96), DT
Bob Cernak (1984-87), QB/TE
Bill Dufek (1974-77), OL
Dan Jokisch (1987-90), WR/TE
Brian Lafer (2001-03), WR
Andy Mignery (1999-03), QB/TE/P
John Navarre (1999-03), QB
Troy Nienberg (2001-04), K
B.J. Opong-Owusu (2003-06), S
Tom Parkhill (1962-65), E
Marc Ramirez (1986-89), OL
Aaron Richards (1998-01), WR
Todd Richards (1992-95), WR
Jim Sinclair (1988), FB
Walter Smith (1990-94), WR
Dorian Taylor (1992), LB
Michael Taylor (1985-89), QB
Anthony Thomas (1997-00), TB
John Thompson (2004-08), LB
Dwayne Ware (1988-92), WR/DB
Gerald White (1983-86), TB/FB

Incoming: Brennen Beyer

The 2011 recruiting board lives here.

Michigan received it's 4th commitment for the 2011 class today.

Brennen Beyer (6-4, 222) hails from Canton, MI, and is rated as a 4-star DE according to Scouts, Inc. No rating info yet for Rivals, and ESPN hasn't updated their 2011 Michigan board yet. Experts claim he's the #3 overall player in the state of Michigan for 2011.

As far as we've been able to figure out, Michigan was his first scholarship offer. After receiving a letter from Ann Arbor, letters from East Lansing, Evanston, IL, and Stanford, CA soon followed. He wasted no time committing to the school a half-hour drive away.

Cue 10 minute YouTube mix-tape:

For a far more detailed write-up, click on over to the mothership.

More on the Rodriguez WVU Investigation

Much has been made of the NCAA's recent inquiry into the Rich Rodriguez tenure as head coach at West Virginia. According to officials at WVU, the NCAA had contacted them about possible rule violations that might have occurred under his watch.

It should be noted that this was WVU that released this information, NOT the NCAA. It should also be noted that the officials at WVU did not identify exactly WHEN the NCAA contacted them. For all we know the NCAA could have sent a fax to the athletic department back in September asking for information. And it wasn't until now that WVU "officials" deemed it necessary to tell the world. The fact is, there's a lot we don't know, and will never know about this.

But, some much needed light has been shed on this situation on the last 24 hours, and we feel it's prudent to inform the loyal MBN readers of what we do know.

As it turns out the NCAA is simply doing it's due diligence. When the practice-gate scandal broke at Michigan last August, West Virginia took the initiative to check it's own records to see if there was any similar snafus in their practice logs. A move in which I'm sure the NCAA was more than eager to discuss with them.

Mitch Vingle writes in the Charleston Gazette [Link]:
WVU officials identified this as a concern back in September of 2009, when the UM-Rodriguez story first broke. Our Dave Hickman caught up with athletic director Ed Pastilong, who indicated then his big house was in order. He suggested he and then-compliance man Brad Cox almost babysat Rodriguez's practices, almost obsessed over record-keeping.

So when the news broke, they double-checked their records and smiled.

"We looked into it,'' Patrick Hairston, WVU's assistant for compliance, said. "We're very comfortable no NCAA rules were broken."
So, safe to say that this is a non-story. Just another chance for bitter WVU fans and Michigan Rodriguez haters to do what they do best.

The "investigation" or so it's called, probably didn't initiate from WVU, but is just a continuation of the actual NCAA investigation that was ongoing in Ann Arbor, in-which West Virginia got wrapped up in. And it completely makes sense that the NCAA would go sniffing around down there to see if this problem was something that could be traced back to Rich's tenure.

Turns out, there was no smoking gun in Morgantown.

Michigan AD Dave Brandon discussed his feelings about Rodriguez:
"There is nothing new that would cause me to change my position," Brandon said in a statement released by the university, "Rich will coach our team this fall."
Sorry Rich Rod haters. Nothing new to see here.

NCAA Investigating Rodriguez at West Virginia

Without being specific at all, officials at West Virginia University said that the NCAA is investigating potential rule violations that took place while Rodriguez was the head coach.

[ESPN Video]

As we all know, Michigan is currently guilty of multiple rules violations under Rodriguez for players not adhering to strict guidelines set by the NCAA governing the amount of time in which they are allowed to practice.

No details have emerged as of yet about these new old violations, as this news has just broken. But rest assured, when more info comes out about this, it won't be tough to find. We'll keep you informed.

Did tOSU Cheat in the Rose Bowl?

I know asking if tOSU cheated is like asking if a bear &%$! in the woods...but hear us out.

According to a piece by ESPN's Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg [story], tOSU might have been stealing signals from Oregon during this year's Rose Bowl where tOSU spanked the Ducks 26-17.

Now I'll admit, I watched the Rose Bowl. And what I saw was an Oregon offense that was remarkably underwhelming considering how well they had played throughout the year, and a tOSU defense that played  remarkably better then they had played throughout the year. I pretty much just chalked it up to tOSU being much better prepared, and Oregon being not so much.

But now, it seems that there might have been some shenanigans going on in the tOSU booth.

In a story in The Oregonian last week [story], John Hunt remarks on a new system of signals being installed in the Oregon offense this season. But in his article, he mentions this...
Ohio State was so successful at stopping Oregon’s offense in its 26-17 win over the Ducks in the Rose Bowl that, at times, it seemed as if the Buckeyes knew what was coming.

Did they?

“There were a couple times last year when we kind of felt like our signals were, maybe, compromised,’’ offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said.
Now, it should be stated that no one really knows for sure if Oregon's signals were compromised for sure or not. There are no specific examples mentioned from the Rose Bowl. But it seems as if the Oregon coaches feel like tOSU was up to something, thus the changes for 2010. Of course, if tOSU did steal signals, there's nothing officially wrong with that, just morally. But since when have little things like morals ever gotten in the way of success at tOSU?

Adam Rittenberg writes...
It's very important to note that Helfrich never calls out Ohio State by name or cites specific examples from the Rose Bowl. The reporter makes a stronger suggestion than the coach does. But when you look at Oregon's incredible offensive numbers from 2009 and how rarely the Ducks struggled to move the ball and score points, it's a good bet Helfrich was referring to Ohio State. Oregon scored 31 points or more in 10 games last fall and eclipsed 40 points seven times. The Ducks put up just 17 against Ohio State despite having great field position all game.

Did the Buckeyes steal signals? We might never know for sure, but I don't think it's why they won the Rose Bowl. I saw a physically superior group of defenders execute the scheme and their fundamentals against a gimmicky offense. Ohio State was extremely well prepared for the game, and Oregon ball carriers didn't have the room to run or the arm tackles that they were accustomed to in the Pac-10. 
Safe to say, we'll never really know for sure. But it seems likely that if it made the pages of Adam's blog, there is something to this.

A Look at the Offensive Line

Look, you can have all the QBs and RBs and slot-WRs you want. None of it will matter at all unless you can block the defensive front and make room for those speed burners to get into space. For as much as the skill players need to know the offense, so to does the offensive line. No one on the field plays more physical or takes nearly as rough of a beating than the linemen, especially the interior line.

So it stand to reason that we owe these big fellas their due attention on the pages of MBN. This season, just as almost any season, we're only going to go as far as our OL will take us. Here's a chance to take a good look at what we can expect to see this weekend, and in the fall.

Gone from 2009:
Mark Ortmann
David Moosman
Tim McAvoy

Spring 2010 Observed 2-deep:
#77 Taylor Lewan (6-8, 283, FR)
#72 Mark Huyge (6-6, 305, JR)

#52 Stephen Schilling (6-5, 303, SR)
#76 Quinton Washington (6-4, 307, FR)

#50 David Molk (6-2, 270, JR)*
#63 Rocko Khoury (6-4, 291, SO)

#65 Patrick Omameh (6-4, 293, SO)
#57 Elliot Mealer (6-5, 310, SO)

#72 Mark Huyge (6-6, 305, JR)
#79 Perry Dorrestein (6-7, 305, SR)
#75 Michael Schofield (6-7, 281, FR)

*=Molk has been injured this spring, but is projected as the starter at center in the fall.

Other notable linemen:
#56 Ricky Barnum (603, 282 SO)
#61 Zac Ciullo (6-1, 266, JR)
#74 John Ferrara (6-4, 283, SR)
#69 Erik Gunderson (6-8, 295, FR)

Now, of course these are simply observations from spring. OL coach Greg Frey has talked a little with the media this spring about the overall depth and experience that he has to work with this year. This is a huge plus for the Michigan offense. Our lack of experienced depth over the last couple seasons, as well as injuries have got a lot of younger guys some big playing time...of which we'll reap the benefits this season.

I fully expect to see a very fluid lineup this season. Lots of guys playing in lots of positions. Guys will get banged up and injured, just as in every our experienced depth is key.

There are a couple freshman that could make an impact. Quinton Washington and Michael Schofield, both red-shirted last year, could have a chance to step up if given the right circumstances. Guys like Ricky Barnum and John Ferrara, who saw meaningful action last year will add as some great depth to our lineup this fall.

Michigan will add 2010 recruit Christian Pace to the roster this fall, but will likely red-shirt him, just as they typically red-shirt most recruited linemen.

My personal feeling is that they key to the success of this line is David Molk at the center position. I fully expect him to be a pre-season all-Big Ten selection.

When he went down midway last season with an injury, this whole offense went away with him. David Moosmen, who switched from right guard to center struggled to get his snaps crisp and on target to the QB. And it just seemed like the swagger that this line had in early in the season was gone. It's clear to me that the heart and soul of this line is David Molk.

No question injuries will occur, but I think that this lineup is better equipped than almost any lineup Michigan has ever had to adapt quickly to position changes if needed. That's going to a huge reason why the 2010 edition of the Michigan offense will be much improved over 2009.

We Now Have a QB Race

It seemed going into the spring, that Michigan's QB situation was pretty simple to distinguish. Tate had the obvious advantage of running the bulk of the offense in 2009. Denard, while the more athletic of the two, struggled at time with his passes last year. It would have seemed pretty clear that Forcier would have been the overwhelming choice for starter in 2010.

Of course, that was all before we started spring practice.

Enter: Devin Gardner.

Gardner stands 6 foot 4 inches tall. Boasts a 200+ pound frame. He has a very strong arm, and runs effortlessly much like a Vince Young-style QB. He seems to be designed perfectly for running the Rodriguez spread-option. Most thought that he'd get a good look in the spring, but ultimately would fall in line behind Forcier and Robinson as the 3rd-string QB for the fall.

But as things seem to be progressing, Gardner is making a name for himself.

Everything that I have been reading and hearing so far from spring camp is that Tate does look better than he did last year, but he remains inconsistent with his throws and his reads. In short, he has good days, and bad days. Not exactly the type of improvement Michigan coaches are looking for from a 2nd year starter in this system.

I'm not entirely surprised to hear this. Tate is a very confident player, but he's also not the prototypical QB for this system. And it's true that you can't always trust what you read on message boards, but deep down I think that Tate, while a great QB who can make amazing plays, may not be the most fit QB to lead this offense.

But neither is Denard. At least not the Denard we saw in 2009. When he entered a game at QB, everyone and their grandma knew that he was going to take off running as soon as the ball was snapped. Now I do hear that his throws have gotten better, but his biggest asset is still his speed and allusiveness. I want to see Denard on the field as much as possible this fall, but not at the QB spot.

So here's the big question. Which QB offers the best leadership? Can this offense thrive behind Forcier? Is Denard better fit to be able to manage a game? And what do we know about Gardner? Chad Henne wasn't the greatest QB Michigan has ever had, but he might have been the best at managing a game, and putting players in the best position to make big plays. And that's something that only comes with natural skill and experience.

I now have some doubt that Tate Forcier is going to be starter on Sept. 4th. His experience is likely his biggest asset. But I don't think his biggest competition is going to come from Denard. I think Devin Gardner is maybe the next big QB for Michigan. Of course I say that without ever seeing him I don't hold me to that. But from everything I read and hear, Devin is the exact type of QB Michigan needs to run this offense. Even as a freshman, his skill level is far above what Tate has last year at this time.

Also, according to reports, all three QBs are about at the same level as far as knowledge of this offense...which blows my mind. In last Saturday's scrimmage, Gardner was running with the 1st team for longer than one would expect a early-enrolled freshman to do so. This is either really good news for Michigan fans, or really bad.

This Saturday at 1PM, we'll all have a chance to see for ourselves.

EA's NCAA 2011 Cover: Tim Tebow

Just announced, Tim Tebow will grace the cover of NCAA 2011.

I guess he'll be wearing his pristine 2007 BCS title game jersey he wore against tOSU, and not the grass-stained, blood and tear soaked 2008 Capital One Bowl jersey that he wore against Michigan.

For your Friday enjoyment: Happier times...

And how good would a Tim Tebow sundae be without the cherries on top:

Tiger, Rodriguez Radio, Heininger Torn ALC, Roy Ochocinco

Just a couple news bits to update you on.

• Light day here at MBN studios as we continue to contemplate the significance (or lack thereof), of Nike's latest TV spot. I think it's interesting that while some of Tiger's sponsors ran away from him at the first sign of trouble, Nike's creative agency was busy scripting a commercial to exploit their largest asset's extra-marital affairs.

First of all, I applaud the idea. It's an impactful spot that truly does what it's supposed to do...which is to make you think, and create discussion. But is it a little too soon? And do we really need to see 3 Nike swooshes? This man is purely a corporate monkey at this point.

Why do I say that? Well last night Masters chairman Billy Payne gave his opening statement for the 2010 Masters. In it, he pretty much gave Woods a verbal spanking.
"Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children," said Payne. "It is not simply the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here, it is the fact he disappointed all of us and more importantly our kids and our grand kids."
A little too heavy? Maybe. But then, in today's opening round, he's set to tee off at 1:42PM...just in time to have the entire world tune in in the afternoon to see him play. No chance in hell Payne has Tiger tee off at 6:40AM and finish before the broadcast airs live in ESPN.

• Rich Rodriguez joined Bill Simonson on the Huge Show yesterday to discuss the defense, spring game, Demar Dorsey, Dave Brandon and all the other important spring issues that have Michigan fans up at night. [Link to MVictors audio]

• Backup DE Will Heininger suffered a torn ACL in practice a couple days ago. I meant to post this earlier, as I do think this could be a big blow for the depth of our defensive line. No question we're thin up front...okay...all over. It's not clear whether or not he'll miss any time this fall, but clearly an injury like this is not something you just come back from right away.

• ESPN Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg is in Michigan this week visiting MSU and UofM to get the lowdown on both school's spring practice, and to his dismay, he's taken back by the overwhelmingly positive attitudes he encountered at Schembechler Hall. Not that he was probably expecting doom and gloom, but maybe with all the struggles and negative news coming out of Ann Arbor recently, the overall feeling should be a little more subdued.
There's a lot of doom and gloom outside the Michigan program, but inside Schembechler Hall, there's definitely a different feeling among players and coaches. They know Year 3 is critical and another losing season will not be tolerated, but no one is walking on eggshells in here. Several players told me they're having fun playing football again, particularly in practice. "We can dance in practice now," wide receiver Roy Roundtree said, smiling. "Freshman and sophomore year, no one could really dance. But the only time we can dance is if we make a big play or score a touchdown." Who's the best dancer? "Kevin Koger," Roundtree said. "Denard, too. I said I might do a Chad Ochocinco if I score a touchdown."

Screw 'Em!

This has nothing to do with Michigan, but there's no way I couldn't post this.

I think Michigan fans can relate to Boston fans a bit.

Big Ten Expansion is Going to Happen

Dear Big East,

Sorry :(

Big Ten
Now that basketball is finished, we can now focus on spring football...and the giant purple elephant in the room.

Tony Barnhart, a well respected sportswriter who primarily covers the SEC, was in Indy this week for the NCAA's. During his trip, he got to talking with various people all closely related to both college football and the Big Ten conference [article]. And while the game between Duke and Butler was the reason all these people were together, it was not, as Tony reports, the biggest story in the room.

The NCAA's impending decision to expand the tourney from 65 to 96 teams was all the rage this year according to Barnhart. All those close to this news say it's basically a done deal. Turns out, the NCAA likes money. But that doesn't even come close to how big of an impact the other main topic of conversation could drastically impact college sports as we know it.

You may recall my last couple of posts from earlier this year detailing who I thought would be prime candidates for expansion should the Big Ten decide to grow to what I assumed would be a relatively large, but do-able 14 team conference. [Part 1] [Part 2].

According to Barnhart, he spoke with conference commissioners and athletic directors who all were pretty much convinced that the Big Ten is positioning for a big move. He said, one of three outcomes is inevitable:

1. The Big Ten does nothing and stays with 11 teams. (Unlikely)
2. The Big Ten adds 1 team to go to 12. (Notre Dame...if not them, then not worth it)
3. They go for broke and add 5 teams to create a dominating super conference that would impact just about every other conference in the nation.

"If they go to 16 and one of them is Notre Dame then we’ve got an entirely new ball game," according to an unnamed conference commissioner who spoke with Barnhart.

If the Big Ten makes a move like this, it's over for the Big East. Rutgers, Syracuse, Connecticut and Pitt would all be likely entrees for Big Ten dinner. And if that happens, what's left of the Big East (West Virginia Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida) would probably end up with the ACC and/or the SEC.

Barnhart believes the schools that enjoy a Big East affiliation for basketball (Georgetown, Villanova, St. John’s, Marquette, Seton Hall, DePaul, Providence) to basically form a catholic basketball conference. Whether of Notre Dame joins them is a whole other issue.

But if the Big Ten gets this 16 team deal done, it's on for other conferences.

The SEC, in a panic gets on the phone to Miami and Florida State to lure them from the ACC. The ACC calls every mid-major school in the eastern time zone. Texas gets calls from all over. The WAC gets pillaged by the Pac-10. The Big 12 is the wild-card. They could either lure some mid-majors and hopefully keep Texas and A&M, or be picked apart by the SEC and Pac-10. And all of the sudden, you have 4, maybe 5 mega-conferences...the Big Ten, ACC, SEC, Pac-10 and maybe the Big 12. Whats left in the wake is a demolished Big East, a shattered WAC, and maybe a slightly dented MAC and/or Conference-USA.

Or, the Big Ten just adds the Irish and we all go about our happy little lives and everyone goes home.

Just wait and see. It won't be long now.

Tuesday Links

• The countdown to April 17th is getting shorter. Remember, the spring scrimmage starts at 1PM, but the alumni flag-football game will commence two hours prior at 11AM. Gates open at 10AM. MBN will be live in-attendance...look for me!

• Former UM football star Jim Mandich who was diagnosed with cancer in February said in his first interview since be began treatment that things are going well and he's been in good spirits. He said he had a meeting with his doctors earlier this week and the status of his chemotherapy was that things are going well and the treatments are proving to be successful.

Mandich currently lives and works in Florida as a radio sportscaster for his former NFL team, the Miami Dolphins. Check out the whole story here.

• The Butler Bulldogs put up a valiant effort against the Duke Blue Devils in last night's NCAA Championship game, but a last second half-court attempt clanked off the backboard and then off the rim to give Duke the 2-point win. It's clear that someone was able to get Butler's players the official NCAA guide to "How to Properly Demonstrate Losing in the NCAA Tournament".

Beauford over at Maize n' Brew had a very good write up on how this tournament hit a little closer to home for him.

• You have just over 3 hours left to bid on coffee with Lloyd Carr! No really, on eBay...right now! In just one of many efforts by UofM to raise awareness for cancer, albeit maybe the most interesting, you can actually bid on the chance to sit down with Lloyd Carr and have a cup of joe. All of the proceeds of these auctions will go towards cancer research. Thanks for MVictors for the story.

Inside Michigan (Spring) Football

A little mgovideo "Inside Michigan Football" from spring practice. Enjoy!

Video from March 29th

Video from March 22nd:

Also, the video from the first spring practice that we posted last week that we never got around to posting here because we're just lazy like that.

BTB Roundtable - Spring Fling Edition

Well, it's spring time in college football-land! What better way to pass the time than to gather the expert minds of the Big Ten Bloggers, and have ourselves a little round-table Q&A.

Today's questions come to us from the good folks over at the Penn State blog

At some point they will post a recap of all the answers by the participating Big Ten Bloggers, so make sure to head over and get a full dose some Happy Valley goodness. Enjoy!

Recruiting Rewind:
LBU: How did your team do this recruiting class, impressed or disappointed?

MBN: With all Things considered in 2009, recruiting was a success. A little late signing day acquisition of S/DB Demar Dorsey was actually the cherry on top of an already solid recruiting class. Clearly, defense was the focus of this year's class. Other defensive standouts such as Cullen Christian and Marvin Robinson could see some early playing time in the depleted Michigan defensive backfield.

It was interesting to watch the offense-heavy class turn much more defensive oriented once things really started to fall apart mid-way through the 2009 season for Michigan, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Clearly, Rodriguez and DC Greg Robinson saw that more depth was something we needed all around. All areas of the defense were addressed in this class.

Offensively, another great group of fast and talented play-makers for Rodriguez. Inkster 5-star QB Devin Gardner will undoubtedly be in the mix this fall as he has the benefit of early enrollment to get up to speed with the offensive scheme. I doubt he'll replace Tate as the starter next year, but he could be used in the backup role as Rodriguez looks to get Denard Robinson mixed into other roles on the offense to take advantage of his speed.

WR's Jerald Robinson, Jeremy Jackson and Ricardo Miller all enrolled early. We will need them.

I would have liked to have seen OL addressed a little better, the only OL recruit being 3-star Christian Pace. But our great depth in that area and much more pressing needs on the other side of the ball, I guess I can let it slide this year.

LBU: The media regressed a bit into their Big Ten bashing habits of the last few seasons. Many dogged the Big Ten for it's supposed inability to translate the bowl season success into a conference-wide monster recruiting haul. Warranted criticism, or not? 

MBN: I honestly didn't hear much of this "dogging". We don't really cover recruiting with the same vigor and aggressiveness as other members of the Big Ten Bloggers. But if this criticism is out there, we didn't dig far enough to find it.

My $0.02 is that teams like Michigan, tOSU and Penn State...perennial recruiting powerhouses all did about as well as expected if not better. tOSU got screwed on signing day...but that was okay with us.

But I will say that Wisconsin winning their bowl game against Miami and only turning in a #87 ranked recruiting class according to Rivals...WTF Wisconsin?!

Big Ten Expansion:
LBU: Surely you've already addressed this, but we'll ask anyway. Do you support Big Ten expansion?

MBN: We sure do. [Part 1] [Part 2]

LBU: If so, 12, 14, 16 teams? Which ones? 

MBN: This is a can of worms.

Honestly, I think it's going to be 14 teams. But I'd love to see 16. Just for the sheer chaos of it.

If you would have asked me two months ago, I would have said probably Missouri or Rutgers or maybe even Pitt. But right now I think the Irish are the leaders in this debate. Not only do I think Notre Dame is perfect for the Big Ten, but I think the folks in South Bend are starting to realize that a conference affiliation is worth way more at this point in time than ever before.

Forget all this Texas nonsense. That was a pipe-dream to begin with.

Without getting too long-winded, which is surely something we could do on this topic, let's just say that the Big Ten is definitely going to expand within the next 2 years. Notre Dame and Rutgers seem to make the most sense on paper. It's going to be up to Pitt and Missouri to fight it out for the last spot.

Spring Practice:
LBU: Every Big Ten team lost at least one star from 2009. For your team, what's the toughest hole to fill this spring? 

MBN: I have to say CB Donovan Warren. His early departure for the NFL (and a rather premature depature according the draft experts), leaves yet another hole to fill in this Swiss-cheese we call a secondary. The only bright spot in the backfield last season was Warren. His play at CB was pretty solid all year long.

Redshirt-freshman Justin Turner is the likely candidate to fill his spot this year. Many were surprised to that he didn't see the field last season considering all the woes our secondary had.

But it goes without saying that the vacancies left by DE Brandon Graham and S/LB Stevie Brown will also be very tough to fill.

LBU: What will be the most intriguing position battle to watch this spring, across all the Big Ten teams?

MBN: I'd have to say the QB spot in Happy Valley will be interesting to watch. Darryl Clark left some pretty big shoes to fill. It wasn't always about his ability or his stats, which were both typically good, but he ran that offense with such poise and purpose. It will be interesting to see who steps forward there. Former 2009 Michigan commit - turned Penn State signee Kevin Newsome is my pick for the starting role on Sept. 4th against Youngstown State.

Bonus Time:
LBU: Urban Meyer ( thoughts.

MBN: Urban was out of line. First of all, the guy is standing in the press area of the open practice with probably a dozen or so other reporters who all posted the same quote in their columns. If Urban wants to threaten someone, start with the player who said it in the first place. Don't shoot the messenger(s).

I just read yesterday that Urban has come out publicly and apologized to that reporter. Case closed.

If Lloyd Were Still Coach, He'd Say...

Absolutely despicable what took place at Michigan Stadium this week. Our Big House was vandalized! Someone broke into stadium, made their way down to the field and cut out a section of the block-M at midfield.


Michigan blogger Greg at MVictors posted what could be the most suspicious eBay auction I've ever seen, and could be a huge break in the case.

Michigan associate athletic director Bruce Madej said the field (which is to be replaced soon) will be repaired in time for the spring game on April 17th.