- Michigan has been using the 3-3-5 defense quite a bit this spring.
- Due to injuries (the ones listed below are just some of them) and an overall lack of depth, this year’s spring game won’t really be like an actual game, though the hope is to do that in the future.
- Safeties Vladimir Emilien and Jared Van Slyke will miss at least a few weeks with knee injuries.
- Je’Ron Stokes likely will be out one more week with an ankle injury.
- Anthony LaLota is dealing with an elbow injury.
- Denard Robinson hasn’t practiced at a position other than quarterback yet this spring.
- Mike Hart was at practice on Tuesday.
- With Michigan losing its starting kicker and punter to graduation, the staff is essentially auditioning replacements (for kicker, at least; no punters are currently on the roster) this spring.
- Rich Rodriguez has once again been sued for another real estate-related project, this time in Alabama. Back before last season he was named in a similar lawsuit for a real estate project in Virginia.
- Admission for the spring game, like usual, is free, but this year Michigan and C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital are partnering for the following promotion:
Fans can make a donation of choice to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital upon entering the gates of Michigan Stadium. Donations are accepted at any level but fans will receive giveaways for donating at the following four levels:
- $5 donation receives an “All in for Michigan Towel”
- $20 donation receives a spring game “All in for Michigan, All in for Mott” T-shirt
- $250 donation receives four passes to a pre-season scrimmage
- $500 donation receives 2 pre-game sideline passes (does not include game tickets) to ONE of the following four games: Bowling Green, Massachusetts, Iowa or Illinois (limited number of passes per game)
To encourage fans to participate in the fundraiser, the Beam Family of Brighton, Mich., will match dollar-for-dollar every donation that is made to Mott at the gates during the spring game.
- King Arthur Abraham, a boxer from Germany who is fighting Flint-native Andre Dirrell at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday, is a Michigan football fan.
“Everybody in Germany knows the University of Michigan,” said Abraham, making his first visit to Detroit. “It is big and famous. Yes, I know a little, too, about the football team. I like American football. If there are Michigan State fans at my bout, would they please remember, I fight Andre, not them.”
Considering Dirrell, Abraham’s opponent, said today that he’d like to see Michigan State win the national championship in basketball, I think it’s safe to say I’ll be rooting for Abraham to win the fight.
- Associate basketball coach Jerry Dunn is a candidate for the head coaching job at UNC-Wilmington.
- Michigan’s women’s basketball team will play Northwestern at Crisler Arena on Thursday night at 7 p.m. in the third round of the WNIT.
- Michigan takes on Indiana tonight at 9 p.m. on ESPN.
- Football players Denard Robinson, Je’Ron Stokes, and Joe Reynolds have joined Michigan’s track team. Robinson will compete in the 60-meter dash against Ohio State on Saturday.
- The status of Cold War II appears to be extremely up in the air. There is definitely a lack of communication between Michigan and Michigan State’s athletic departments, which is causing some of the confusion over if this is actually going to happen. Here’s to hoping it does, but I’m not too confident based on what has been said about it.
- Although I didn’t hear anything, apparently there was a rumor out there yesterday that Rich Rodriguez was headed to Tennessee to replace Lane Kiffin. Rodriguez’s agent swiftly denied the rumor and even laughed at it.
- As for the Tennessee job, it looks like Duke’s David Cutcliffe is going to be the new coach.
UPDATE: Or not. Cutcliffe has taken his name out of the running.
- Skip Holtz is going to be South Florida’s new coach, meaning Calvin Magee will not be leaving Ann Arbor (at least not for that job).
- Norm Chow has decided to stay at UCLA.
I was hoping to be completely done with any talk of practicegate after yesterday, but there simply is too much stuff worth discussing to move on already. Unlike most of the news in the last few days, however, this post is mainly filled with people coming to Rich Rodriguez’s defense. The list already includes current and former players and parents of players, and it is growing in a big way. You can add the fathers of Donovan Warren and Craig Roh, Larry Foote, Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster, and believe it or not, Jim Tressel, Kirk Herbstreit, and Ohio State captains to the list of people coming to Michigan’s defense.
Like yesterday, there is some other business to attend to before going through the quotes of people defending Michigan. I noted on Tuesday that Michigan was considering hiring an outside firm to handle their investigation. As it turns out, Bruce Madej confirmed that Michigan had decided to do just that, saying that it “helps to bring in an outside firm to provide more of an objective view when we make our final report.” As I said in yesterday’s post on practicegate, having an outside firm handle the investigation will give people a better perception of the credibility behind it if no wrongdoing is found. That way people can’t accuse Michigan of sweeping anything under the rug, which is very important in turning the perception to as positive of a view as possible.
As mentioned already, the list of Michigan defenders grew quite a bit on Tuesday, with various people either standing up for U-M or dismissing the idea that any violations were committed. So far the biggest group of defenders is parents of current players. A couple spoke out against the Free Press’ report immediately, and a few more shared their thoughts yesterday.
The fathers of Je’Ron Stokes and Donovan Warren both went on WTKA and vehemently defended Rich Rodriguez, Mike Barwis, other coaches, and the program in general. Both interviews are worth listening to, especially the one with Warren’s father, as he has actually spent a week with the team each of the last two years. He was even allowed to sit in on team meetings, and as he pointed out in the interview, why would the coaches allow that if they had something to hide?
I am Craig Roh’s dad and had the pleasure of experiencing first-hand the recruiting process and first summer with the UM program. I feel obligated to share with readers concrete evidence of the integrity and compliance of the Rich Rod program and staff. My son chose UM because it is one of the few schools in the country that has great football AND academics. He could have gone to UCLA, Cal, Stanford, USC..all great academic schools and he chose Michigan because it had the best of both.
He also selected UM because of the intensity and straight talk of the coaching staff. The first person he met was Mike Barwis. After spending an hour with Barwis, Craig turned to me and said, “He will make me the best I can be. That’s what I want.” When he met Rich Rod, he was further impressed with his openness and vision. Craig came here BECAUSE of the work ethic that was to be required of him. He WANTS to be pushed to the limits, not coddled and pampered.
Former Michigan linebacker Larry Foote, who works out with Mike Barwis in the offseason, has a first-hand look at what goes on during workouts, and he made it clear that no rules were being violated by U-M.
“Everybody complains. We complain here. But it’s Michigan. We ain’t no small school. They know the schedule. They’re not going to jeopardize millions and millions of dollars, trying to get a couple extra hours in. So that story is more of a joke than anything.”
Foote said the college players would start their work out at 8 a.m. on Mondays and Fridays. He said the pros would start theirs at 10 a.m., after the college players had finished.
“And Monday and Friday, that’s the longest day,” Foote said. “Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday is shorter. So they ain’t going over the limit on those days.”
Foote went on to say at the end of the interview that “Winning’s going to cure everything.” He couldn’t be more right, as winning really does just make everything better. I can guarantee that if Michigan goes 9-3 or something like that and exceeds everyone’s expectations, there will be very few instances where Rich Rodriguez gets hit with negative publicity. If he even shows that the program is on the right track the critics will suddenly get a lot quieter.
With a Big Ten teleconference taking place yesterday, the media had a chance to ask other coaches what they thought about this whole situation at Michigan. Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster, who doesn’t believe the allegations of NCAA violations are true, really stood up for Rich Rodriguez.
“I firmly believe in Rich Rodriguez,” Brewster said. “I don’t believe that Michigan was overextending their players. It’s unfortunate that this publicity has come out.
“Rich Rodriguez is a heck of a football coach. He’s been doing this a long time and it’s just very unfortunate.”
The other coach who sort of defended Rodriguez or at least backed up his claims that players want to come in and do extra work on their own was Ohio State’s Jim Tressel.
“What makes it difficult is how good these kids want to be,” he said. “Sometimes you have to chain the doors of the Woody Hayes [football] center, you know, to get them out of there. These kids want to be good. They want to train. They want to get their buddies in there and throw the ball around, those kinds of things.”
As if that wasn’t surprising enough, Ohio State’s captains, Kurt Coleman and Doug Worthington, also came to Michigan’s defense.
“I think Michigan is probably abiding by the rules,” said Coleman, a starting safety. “But, you know, to be great you have to put in more than 20 hours. That’s just the minimum. In any great program, each player is putting in more than what they’re required to. And it’s all on their own. That’s what takes a program to the next level, when guys are going above and beyond the call of duty.”
Worthington said that no matter what the coaches say — or the NCAA — players who want to get better will become workaholics. He said it was up to the upperclassmen to make sure that the younger players kept their noses to the grindstone.
“It’s hard to be a good football team giving 20 hours, but you know the rules and that’s why leaders and captains and seniors have to make sure we keep guys after and we watch more film,” the starting defensive lineman said. “Do it on our time, but make sure we know it’s nothing mandatory. But if you want to be good, it takes more than just 20 hours.”
One person in the media who really got worked up over the allegations was former Ohio State quarterback Kirk Herbstreit, who called this a “witch hunt” and “insulting.” I was surprised that he spoke out against the allegations so strongly, but I guess Herbstreit has immense respect for Rich Rodriguez.
Just as I did yesterday, I will finish this post on a lighter note by linking to a diary on mgoblog that is a parody of the Free Press’ investigation article. I think the title — “A Look Inside The Detroit Free Press’ Rigorous Drug Use Program” — says it all.
This undoubtedly won’t be the last post on practicegate considering there is an investigation that has to be done, but I hope it is the last time I have to mention it this week. After all, Michigan opens the season against Western Michigan in only four days, and I do want to talk some football before then. This is supposed to be a time of great excitement for the impending season to start, and that has certainly taken a backseat the last few days. I promise, football talk is on the way. Before we do move on to football-related things, however, I first want wrap up practicegate, as there is still plenty of stuff out there worth mentioning.
First things first is what will happen with the aforementioned investigation. Apparently an outside firm may be brought in to investigate the allegations. That is “to be determined,” according to Bill Martin. The main reason to bring in an outside firm is to ensure there are no conflicts of interest during the investigation and no chance that something could be covered up or swept under the rug. On top of that, if the investigation concludes and no wrongdoing is found by an outside firm, the results will look more credible. That’s not to say that Michigan couldn’t do its own credible investigation; the perception simply would be, “Of course Michigan didn’t find anything. They were the ones investigating.”
Many people have come to Michigan’s defense in light of this situation. Former players, current players, parents of players, and others have spoke out against the allegations. The latest former player to defend Michigan surprised me greatly, as he was one of the last people I expected to be on Michigan’s side in this situation.
“It was just a different structure,” Butler said.
Butler said it didn’t seem as if the players were forced to spend excessive time training and practicing.
“I don’t know all of the exact rules, but I don’t remember anything that seemed like it was too much,” Butler said. “If the weight room was open, you went. If there was a run, you went. It’s just what you do to be a better football player.”
The reason this is so surprising is because Butler landed himself in Rodriguez’s doghouse early in the season and ended up going pro with a year of eligibility left. Getting ejected from the Notre Dame game for punching an opposing player is what put him in the doghouse, eventually leading to him changing positions to defensive end. Not wanting to stay at DE or transfer, Butler decided to enter the NFL and is currently fighting (no pun intended) for a spot on the Lions’ 53-man roster.
A few players’ parents have defended Michigan, and the latest is Je’Ron Stokes’ father. Stokes, as you might remember, was one of the two freshman who were mentioned in the Free Press’ article. They were unaware that their quotes were going to be presented as evidence of Michigan’s supposed wrongdoing and were simply excited to talk about all the hard work they had done during the summer. I think Stokes’ father said it best when he characterized his son as a “victim of a reporter with an agenda.” Here is more of what he said to The Wolverine.
“My wife [Juanita] and I talk to Je’Ron every day. We follow him through the internet, by phone, and we’ve been up there on a couple of occasions,” he said. “We spent an entire Thursday through Monday up there, and I’d see guys voluntarily go into that weight room on Sunday and Saturday and put in extra work.
“I know [the allegations] are not true, because I know how [strength coach] Mike Barwis cares for these kids. He’s taken my son to bible study and to church. These are the kinds of things that impress us about the program and Rich Rod and his staff. They are good people, and I hate the fact that every negative thing put out there brings the wrong perception to the Michigan program.
“We wanted to follow everything closely. He hit the school in June and from that point on we would always ask him, ‘what are you doing, what time have you got to be there, what time are you doing this, where are you going after that?’ We closely monitored what his experience was going to be coming in, knowing we were told if he comes in and competes, there’s a chance he could possibly contribute his freshman year.”
Stokes’ father went on to talk about how his son’s quotes were so badly taken out of context.
“They took and twisted and misconstrued [his quote], when Ronnie was just simply saying he’s doing the regulated hours required by the coaches within the rules. There are two sessions, and he might have been part of the morning group, like 8:30 to 11. The second group might be 1-3. The voluntary workout would be like 3-5 or 5:30 with the quarterbacks or other players. He might go to rehab, take a shower or take the initiative to go up and look at some film, might not leave Schembechler Hall until 6:00 or 7:30. But that was taken out of context.”
More defense of Michigan and its coaches came from Rick Leach on WTKA and the parent of someone who attended a Michigan football camp earlier this summer. Dave Shand also talked about the allegations and his experiences with the hockey program on WTKA, and John U. Bacon went on NPR to explain the situation.
There are a few more links I am going to post, but one I want to especially draw attention to is mgoblog’s write-up on yesterday’s press conference. Brian was in attendance, and after the actual presser was done he talked to Michael Rosenberg and Mark Snyder, the two people behind the Free Press article, and challenged them on what a countable hour actually is to the NCAA. It is a must read, as it shows just how little credibility the authors of these allegations really have.
Another must read comes from Jonathan Chait, the editor of The New Republic. He wrote an piece for The Wolverine that tore apart the Free Press’ article, calling Rosenberg’s work “journalism malpractice.” At RealFootball365.com, Bart Doan explained, “Someone needs to learn the rules, and it’s not Rich Rodriguez.”
Finally, on a much lighter note, the great LSUfreek gave his take on practicegate in a way only he can:
Michigan’s press conference at 11 would normally be to talk about the game coming up on Saturday, but I’d be shocked if that was mentioned at all. The national media are flying in for this, and ESPN is going to carry it live. You know what the subject of the presser is going to be, and I just hope Rich Rodriguez comes out of it okay. The questions will be relentless, but Rodriguez’s answers will give us an idea of where this is going. I’m assuming he will make a statement similar to the written one he released in response to the Free Press’ story, but beyond that it’s left to be seen.
In the mean time, more people are speaking out about these allegations.
Toney Clemons already has spoke to ESPN’s Joe Schad, and now he has talked with the Free Press as well. Aside from saying he’s honest and reiterating that he will tell the truth if the NCAA calls him asking questions, Clemons compared the three coaches he has played for.
“I’ve played for three coaches, I’ve seen three different systems, three different personalities of programs,” said Clemons, from New Kensington, Pa. “Not every coach does that. With Coach Carr coming in as freshmen, we understood the rules early in the summertime. We never had anybody come out and monitor anything that they weren’t allowed to be there for. And compliance at the University of Colorado is real in tune. They make sure that we know the rules.”
Clemons said most players were willing to work beyond the required hours, and that at Colorado “it becomes mandatory through your teammates. It’s not forced upon you by the coaching staff.”
He added: “The difference that came with it, and what really bothered the people, was that if they missed it, the things they had to do for missing it. It became a problem whenever people would miss a workout and had to be punished or reprimanded for missing one.”
Former Michigan long snapper Sean Griffin, who played for both Lloyd Carr and Rich Rodriguez, talked with Angelique Chengelis and shared his thoughts on the situation.
Sean Griffin, long snapper for Michigan last season, said he assumes most of the allegations are from “disgruntled ex-players or guys who transferred.”
He said he frequently worked with the special teams during the offseason and that an allegation in the report that Rodriguez’s staff broke rules by monitoring offseason scrimmages was not true, as far as he could tell.
“When I was helping with the specialists, there was never a coach, a graduate assistant, or a quality control coach there,” he said. “I wasn’t sitting there writing everything down and reporting to a coach. I worked out with a few of the new guys.
“I would just do that because people helped me out when I was younger.”
A couple parents of players have already spoken out about these allegations and basically denied them, and more are continuing to do the same thing.
Grand Rapids Catholic Central standout Obi Ezeh now plays linebacker for the Michigan Wolverines. His parents say they’re stunned by the accusations, and they don’t believe the coaching staff would break NCAA rules. Nkechy Obi told FOX 17 News, “When I read the report, the one thing I said to myself is what’s wrong in kids working hard, why is it being twisted now, that they’re breaking the rule? I don’t think the coaches are breaking any rules and I don’t think my son would go along with it.”
Je’Ron Stokes’ father posted that he believes it’s pathetic for the Free Press to twist his son’s quotes and went on to say that “Coach Rich Rod, and his staff run a very respectable program.” Stokes was one of the freshman who talked to the Free Press about his workouts without knowing what he said was going to end up in this investigation. His quotes simply read like those of an excited freshman, and they ended up in the Free Press as “evidence” against Rich Rodriguez.
Michael Schofield’s father, who talked with TomVH at mgoblog yesterday, had his full message posted on the site. It’s worth a read for sure. (Also at mgoblog is a journalist’s take on the Free Press’ story.)
Michigan started practice yesterday, opening fall camp and more than three weeks of preparation for the 2009 season. The team won’t put the pads on until Friday, which is when practice will really get going.
- Although none practiced on Monday, Jason Forcier, J.T. Turner, and Adrian Witty all have lockers. All three are waiting to be made eligible by the NCAA, though for different reasons. Forcier is waiting to find out if he will be eligible immediately at Michigan despite transferring this year. He came back to Michigan for grad school, and if he can play football this season, he will be the second Forcier on the roster. As for Turner and Witty, their issues are academic-related. Turner is supposedly being held up by an issue involving an Ohio graduation test, and Witty is waiting to get a test score back. Hopefully both of their issues are resolved soon so they can start practicing.
- Michigan has new practice jerseys that feature adidas’ patented three-stripe look down the sides. This style appears to be common, as other adidas schools have a similar look in practice.
- AnnArbor.com’s Michael Rothstein has a list of observations from yesterday’s practice, with the most noteworthy one probably being how short Denard Robinson looks in person. When he walked by me in the crowd at the spring game I didn’t really notice his height all that much, but I imagine on a football field with other players he could stand out for being short.
- It appears that all players who were injured in the spring or earlier this summer practiced on Monday.
- Greg Mathews, Martavious Odoms, Donovan Warren, Terrence Robinson, and Je’Ron Stokes practiced punt returns. Mathews and Warren are the sure-handed veterans in that group, with Odoms being more of an explosive returner (when he actually catches the ball). Robinson is an unknown since he was injured for most of last season, but coming out of high school all indications were that he could be explosive on returns in a way similar to Odoms. Stokes is a true freshman.
- After watching part of one practice, Dave Birkett already thinks Tate Forcier has the edge in the QB competition.
- With Justin Feagin off the team, it appears Jeremy Gallon has switched to the #3 jersey.
- Speaking of Feagin, Rich Rodriguez commented on his departure by saying that no red flags were raised while Michigan recruited him. Up until police came to Schembechler Hall in July, coaches didn’t know Feagin was in any trouble. It sounds like all of his issues in Florida were kept under wraps as well, as one recruiting analyst from Rivals.com said he never heard anything negative about Feagin’s character. Usually if a recruit has been arrested, especially more than once, that will get out to the public pretty quickly.
- Rodriguez answered five questions from Sporting News readers.
- Al Glick Field House is now officially open, and everyone is impressed by it. From the outside to the inside, it looks awesome, and that’s not even all of it. The locker room in Schembechler Hall is brand new as well, and now the entire team is together. (Before parts of the team were in separate rooms depending on their year.)
- MGoBlue.com has video of yesterday’s practice, including a look at Zoltan Mesko hitting the roof in the new practice facility.
- AnnArbor.com has video of Michigan’s quarterbacks doing a drill during practice.
- Greg Robinson stresses fundamentals.
- John Beilein was at yesterday’s practice.
- WolverineHistorian uploaded highlights of the 2007 Michigan-Northwestern game. I had never seen highlights beyond what was on ESPN since this was before the Big Ten Network was on Comcast. I’m sure that is the case for many, but now you can watch how Michigan won 28-16.
- UM-Flint’s club football team had to cancel its season due to a lack of funds.
- The NY Daily News has an interesting article about Jarrod Bunch, who told his story of making a career change from football to acting.
- Andy Evans is leaving WTKA and will be replaced by Ira Winetraub.
- Nothing Is Illuminated created an awesome schedule wallpaper for the 2009 football season.
- The Free Press profiled Robert Traylor and looked at what he currently is up to. He seems to have his life in order and now wants to attempt an NBA comeback.
- Black Heart Gold Pants put together a great post comparing college football programs to pro wrestlers. Michigan’s counterpart was the Undertaker and Michigan State’s was Kane, who is Undertaker’s little brother in the storyline. That seems like a very fitting comparison.
The roster on MGoBlue is no longer from the spring, allowing us to get a look at new height and weight listings, number changes, and the addition of incoming freshmen. That also means that we now know all of the freshmen’s numbers, which are listed below.
2 – J.T. Turner
2 – Vincent Smith
5 – Tate Forcier
5 – Vladimir Emilien
6 – Je’Ron Stokes (UPDATE: Stokes’ number has been switched from #4 to #6.) (I imagine this will be changed, as it would prevent Stokes and Brandon Minor from being on the field at the same time. Also, Brandon Smith is listed as being #4 as well, and I doubt 3 people would have the same number.)
7 – Brandin Hawthorne
13 – Adrian Witty
14 – Teric Jones
15 – Thomas Gordon
16 – Denard Robinson
26 – Isaiah Bell
27 – Mike Jones
28 – Fitzgerald Toussaint
29 – Jeremy Gallon
34 – Brendan Gibbons
73 – William Campbell
75 – Michael Schofield
76 – Quinton Washington
77 – Taylor Lewan
84 – Cameron Gordon
88 – Craig Roh
90 – Anthony LaLota
Other noteworthy numbers:
4 – Brandon Smith (as alluded to above, he switched from #28)
19 – Kelvin Grady
- Michigan plays Penn State at home in basketball tonight. The game starts at 7 p.m. ET and will be on the Big Ten Network. For those of you watching at home, you will be treated to Gus Johnson. Hopefully he will have a chance to be more excited than when he announced the U-M/PSU game in Happy Valley, as that turned into a blowout.
- Rivals ranked Michigan’s recruiting class as the 7th best in the country, and Scout had Michigan at #13.
- I got preoccupied with other stuff last night and never got around to posting a recap of Rich Rodriguez’s signing day press conference. I don’t believe anything too noteworthy was mentioned, but you can check out the transcript for yourself just in case. If I get some free time in the next few days I will post a recap of it. Just a heads up, though, that probably won’t happen since there is a home basketball game tonight and home hockey games on Friday and Saturday.
- One thing I will point out from Rodriguez’s presser is what he had to say about the possibility of some signees not qualifying.
“Everybody’s registered with the clearing house, but there are still a couple of them that have to have good semesters. Every one of them that was on the list that we signed had (an academic) plan. They’re taking the right classes. They’re doing the right things to prepare for the test and all of that to be eligible. There’s just a couple of them, but that’s going to be the case every year, probably just about every program. You’re going to have two or three guys that their senior year they better make sure they do the right things and follow the plan.
“Every one of these guys has a plan from their high school guidance counselors and coaches and families to make sure they’re set and ready to go. Our plan is to have them here by summer school so they can get oriented to Ann Arbor and our football program.”
There are two signees that always get mentioned in rumors about recruits not qualifying, but since they are only rumors I won’t post any names. I certainly hope everything works out and all 22 signees end up qualifying, but this will probably be something worth watching in the next few months.
- Rich Rodriguez was interviewed by the Big Ten Network yesterday:
- You definitely have to love Tate Forcier’s attitude.
- Mike Milano is going to stand trial for his assault of Steve Kampfer.
- There is a hub for signing day coverage on MGoBlue.
- Craig Roh participated in a chat on ESPN.com yesterday.
- A video of Je’Ron Stokes’ announcement has been posted.
- Maize and Blog has a recap of Mock Rock X, and someone on YouTube has uploaded videos from the event.
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