What Could Have Been . . . Christian Wilson

Tag: Rich Rodriguez

28Jan 2010
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What Could Have Been . . . Christian Wilson

Christian Wilson (#33)
Christian Wilson, a 6’3″, 235 lb. running back/tight end from McKees Rocks, PA, committed to Michigan back in 2007. He was expected to be a part of the class of 2008 after Lloyd Carr convinced him that he could play an H-back role in Mike Debord’s offense. It’s somewhat odd that Carr would recruit a guy for a position that didn’t really exist when he probably knew that he wouldn’t be there past the 2007 season.

Regardless, the hiring of Rich Rodriguez forced Wilson to rethink his options. Rodriguez honored the offer and told him that he could play linebacker, but Wilson wasn’t interested. He pictured himself as an offensive player, but Wilson would only fit Rodriguez’s offense as a fullback . . . and Rodriguez molds his fullbacks out of walk-ons.

Wilson took the hint and opened up his recruitment. He committed to North Carolina and played as a freshman. He caught 2 passes for 19 yards as a true freshman in 2008 and added 5 more catches for 30 yards in 2009.

Michigan’s starting fullback in 2009 was Kevin Grady, who notched 10 carries for 80 yards and 1 touchdown. He also caught 5 passes for 29 yards.

Grady was probably a better player for Michigan’s offense, but moving forward, the fullback duties will fall to fifth year senior Mark Moundros and redshirt junior John McColgan. It would be nice to have an athlete of Wilson’s caliber to play fullback, but considering the fact that a former 5-star running back in Grady only touched the ball 15 times, committing a four-year scholarship to a fullback might not make a great deal of sense. It would be nice to have an extra inside linebacker on the roster, but if Wilson didn’t want to play defense, he probably wouldn’t be great at it, anyway.

11Oct 2009
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Iowa 30, Michigan 28

Single wing QB Denard Robinson
Well, last night was frustrating. Not only because we lost, but because the loss was self-inflicted. Five turnovers, blown coverages, bad coaching decisions. Michigan clearly seemed to be the more talented team, but luckily for Iowa, talent doesn’t always win.
I would be remiss if I started this post with anything but a discussion of Rich Rodriguez’s decision to go with freshman Denard Robinson on the last drive in the fourth quarter. That was the biggest decision of the night – and the worst, in my opinion – and it might have cost Michigan the game.
Assuming Rodriguez benched starter Tate Forcier because of Forcier’s performance (8/19 for 94 yards and an INT, 8 carries for 26 yards), it was an indefensible decision. Two of Michigan’s victories this season (Notre Dame and Indiana) are the direct result of Forcier’s late-game heroics. Last week’s near-victory against Michigan State came after Michigan was down 20-6 halfway through the fourth quarter and Forcier directed two touchdown drives. Meanwhile, backup Denard Robinson has had a couple electrifying TD runs while failing to pass the ball efficiently in spot duty this season. Prior to last night, Robinson was 4/11 for 57 yards, zero touchdowns, and 2 interceptions.
When Robinson entered the game in the second-to-last series last night, Forcier wasn’t performing well. Michigan needed a spark. I understand that. Robinson completed two short passes on that drive and ended the series with a short TD run. The offense needed a spark? Mission accomplished.
But with 1:30 left and Michigan needing to go 80 yards with no timeouts, Rodriguez shouldn’t have played the running quarterback, no matter how poorly Forcier had played to that point. Robinson is clearly a subpar passer and showed it when he badly overthrew a bracketed Junior Hemingway that resulted in the game-ending interception. Robinson finished the game 3/4 for 30 yards and 1 interception, which raised his passer efficiency rating to 55.39 on the season. By comparison, Forcier’s PER is 133.11. Furthermore, Nick Sheridan’s PER in 2008 was 81.08. That’s right – Robinson is a significantly worse passer than Nick Sheridan. So not only should Forcier have been in the game at the end, but one could make the argument that Sheridan should have been in there instead of Robinson, too.
Now, some theories suggest that Forcier got benched because he and Rodriguez had words on the sideline. I didn’t see evidence of that during the telecast, but it’s possible. If that’s true and Rodriguez was using the benching to teach Forcier a lesson, that might be a good reason. But if it was just based on their play, Forcier should have been on the field.
Otherwise, Michigan turned the ball over too much. The Wolverines fumbled, threw interceptions, muffed punts, etc. They achieved just about every method of turning the ball over. In between playing solid run defense (Iowa averaged 2.4 yards per rush), running the ball well (4.3 yards per carry), and playing decent pass coverage most of the time, Michigan gave the ball away too many times. You will rarely see a team win the game when they’ve turned the ball over four or five times.
Defensively, former starting cornerback Boubacar Cissoko was suspended for the game due to a violation of team rules. In his place, starting strong safety Troy Woolfolk moved over to cornerback. The starting safeties were walk-on Jordan Kovacs and redshirt sophomore Mike Williams. Woolfolk played better than either Cissoko or J.T. Floyd had earlier in the year, but Williams especially blew some coverages at key times. I can’t blame him too much, as he’s been playing close to the line for the past two years as almost a glorified outside linebacker. Michigan fans shouldn’t expect that he’ll be a great center fielder in his first extended playing time at the position, but he does have good speed and he’s a solid tackler. If Woolfolk can solidify the cornerback position, I think Williams and Kovacs might be sufficient at the safety spots.

Offensive game ball goes to…
the offensive line. The offensive line got destroyed last week against Michigan State, but center David Moosman (replacing the injured David Molk) made good snaps for the entire game and Michigan got a solid push from their undersized line against a strong Iowa front seven.

Defensive game ball goes to…
Donovan Warren. He opened the game with a pick six and played pretty well for the rest of the game. He did get beat on a 47-yard pass on a 3rd-and-24, but that was at least partly because Mike Williams was slow to help from his safety position.

Let’s see less of this guy on offense…
Denard Robinson. Please, God, do not allow Rodriguez to put him on the field to pass the ball in key situations. He has a lower PER than Nick Sheridan and he can’t run the full offense. Not only is he unable to pass the ball or even run the famed read option, but he also hasn’t taken a single snap from under center (if I recall correctly) in the I-formation, which is the best way to run Brandon Minor. A large portion of the playbook goes out the window with Robinson in the game, and it’s just QB draw, QB sweep right, QB draw, QB sweep left, QB draw, QB sweep right, onward to infinity.

Let’s see less of this guy on defense…
Boubacar Cissoko and J.T. Floyd. The rest of the defense played well except for the safeties, but there’s no help coming for them. Kovacs and Williams need to improve with more experience and more reps. Meanwhile, while Cissoko didn’t play at all and Floyd played sparingly, Woolfolk held his own at the cornerback position. Hopefully Greg Robinson keeps Woolfolk at corner and is able to coaches up those other safeties.
30Aug 2009
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Michigan’s program in overdrive?

Detroit Free Press writer Michael Rosenberg has released allegations that Rich Rodriguez and his assistant coaches are overworking their players.

Rosenberg’s article states that players were required to work more than the NCAA-regulated 20 hours per week during the season and coaches and quality-control staffers watched 7-on-7s that are supposed to be player-run, among other things. The writer’s sources are supposedly current and former Michigan players, along with parents of others.
As could be expected, these allegations are causing an uproar in the blogosphere as well as in the college football world. Michigan’s football program has never been found guilty of major violations. If Lloyd Carr were still the coach, he and the program might be insulated a bit by the respect he had in the coaching world. But Rodriguez has already been inundated by attacks on his character for at least the last couple years, including the lawsuit by WVU, parting shots by Kurt Wermers and Justin Boren, and the questionable character of Justin Feagin.
The article includes quotes from incoming freshmen Je’Ron Stokes and Brandin Hawthorne, apparently recorded at Michigan’s Media Day. They mention having football-related work to do all day during the summer. Their comments can seem pretty damning on the surface, but those quotes aren’t evidence of NCAA violations. The quotes Rosenberg uses really make no mention that the coaches were mandating the workouts. If any player wants to work out and do 7-on-7s for 18 hours a day, he’s allowed.
But Rosenberg seemingly preyed on two incoming freshmen who likely had very little knowledge of the NCAA rules. It’s interesting that the two Michigan sources who didn’t request anonymity were 18-year-old kids who haven’t even finished their first summer practices. At best, Rosenberg’s journalistic efforts seem like poor journalism; at worst, they’re downright disingenuous and good reason for Rosenberg to be blackballed by Michigan sources from this point forward.
That being said, it’s not unbelievable that some violations occurred. During the season, coaches are allowed 20 hours of mandatory football work per week. Three hours of that come on Saturday, meaning there are 17 hours to spread amongst five other days (the players had Mondays off last year). That’s an average of 3.4 hours per day on those five days. Between practices and workouts (film study and visits to the training room don’t count), that’s not very much time per day. As a frame of reference, high school teams usually practice 2.5 to 3 hours per day in addition to 7 hours of school; college football players aren’t in class for nearly that amount of time per day.
One of the biggest variables in this story revolves around the definition of “mandatory.” If coaches are present at “voluntary” workouts, they are by definition mandatory. Nobody outside the program knows whether coaches were present at voluntary 7-on-7s, so it’s impossible and absurd for Michigan fans to dismiss this story out of hand. That being said, in the modern age of college football, very few workouts are truly “voluntary.” Kids need to be in great shape and have their techniques fine-tuned to be competitive. One motto that’s repeated in the story is “Workouts aren’t mandatory, but neither is playing time.” If Player A works extremely hard during voluntary workouts and learns all he can, when the season comes around, he’s going to get on the field ahead of Player B, who might only do the required minimum. If coaches were, in fact, present at 7-on-7s or voluntary workouts, that’s practically a guarantee that the practices went over the allotted 20-hour weekly limits.
If the NCAA investigates Rosenberg’s allegations, sanctions could include a loss of practice time or scholarship restrictions. Either could doom Michigan’s chances of regaining its stature as a powerhouse program in major college football in the near future. If Rodriguez’s program does incur sanctions such as these, this could be the death knell for Rodriguez as Michigan’s coach. Some fans and boosters have already been wary of Rodriguez, and major violations would probably sway another large chunk of fans and boosters.
And you can include me in that group. Whether Rodriguez and his staff are guilty of these allegations, I don’t know. If they aren’t – and I don’t trust Rosenberg as far as I could throw him – then the writer should be blackballed or perhaps even fired. If they are guilty, heads should roll. I don’t blame Rodriguez for last year’s 3-9 record, but you can’t field the worst Michigan team in forty years, commit major program violations, and keep your job.
18Jun 2009
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“One step ahead of the grim reaper”

Equipment manager Jon Falk
challenges Mike Barwis in

Michigan’s official site has a piece on the coaches’ exercise habits. I think many fans are largely unaware of how much time major college coaches spend working per day. Barwis states that they often work 16- or 17-hour days, and I’ve read about many a coach who regularly sleeps on the couch in his office. These guys barely get enough time to sleep, let alone exercise . . .

. . . which is why it’s important for superfans to have this handy dandy guide to where the coaches work out.

Defensive line coach Bruce Tall says, “I have a nice route that goes from State to Eisenhower and I loop back around and end up on Packard.”

Linebackers coach Jay Hopson has a different route. “I can’t stand running,” says Hopson, “but I have to keep the heart going. I’ll do a 5K that takes me around campus and back through The Diag, which is a beautiful part of the run and something I look forward to. I don’t listen to music. I just take off and start running.”

Sadly, Rich Rodriguez and some of the other coaches do the majority of their exercising at Schembechler Hall, which makes it increasingly difficult and potentially unlawful to stalk them.

However, if you’re going to stalk them, put on your sprintin’ shoes or get out the Schwinn. When I lived in Ann Arbor a few years ago, Lloyd Carr walked out of the Starbucks at State and Liberty. My excuse is that I was only wearing flip-flops (that’s right, ladies – only flip-flops), but that dude left me in his dust like I was Minnesota and he was Carlos Brown.

7May 2009
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Is the Rodriguez offense evolving?

Michigan message boards have been roaring lately about the commitment of Drew Dileo, a lightly recruited slot receiver from Louisiana. Nine months before signing day 2010, Michigan fans are wondering why Rich Rodriguez would offer – let alone accept a commitment from – a player whose next best offers come from Stanford and Northwestern. Fellow Michigan commits Antonio Kinard and Tony Drake still don’t have any FBS offers besides Michigan.

Watching these message boards flutter with activity about Dileo, I began to wonder what Rodriguez might have in store for Michigan’s offense. My mind took a not-so-huge intellectual leap from Rodriguez’s spread offense to those of his good friend Urban Meyer at Florida and Mike Leach at Texas Tech.

Looking at Meyer’s roster for 2009, I made an interesting (to me) discovery:

Going into the 2009 season, Florida has only two scholarship running backs (Chris Rainey and Emmanuel Moody) on the roster. Fellow “backfield mates” Jeff Demps and Brandon James are both listed as “athletes” on their official roster, and both are 5’8″ or smaller and about 185 lbs. The class of 2009 adds only Mike Gillislee to the running back stable, which means a total of three designated running backs. Meanwhile, Florida has nine scholarship receivers and one incoming (Andre Debose) to give them a total of 10 receivers.

In 2008, Florida threw the ball 329 times (37.7%) and ran the ball 545 times (62.3%).

Meanwhile, Texas Tech has 15 returning scholarship receivers and four freshmen joining the team in 2009 to give them a total of 19 receivers. They threw the ball 465 times (59.5%) and ran the ball 317 times (40.5%).

Both are spread offenses, but they’re vastly different.

Michigan currently has eight receivers. Two will graduate after this season, but four are incoming this year and six more will arive in 2010. Hypothetically, this gives Michigan a total of 16 scholarship receivers for three spots on the field in 2010 (assuming no position changes, for sanity’s sake):

Cameron Gordon, Je’ron Stokes, Jeremy Gallon, Teric Jones, Drew Dileo, Jeremy Jackson, Ricardo Miller, Jerald Robinson, D.J. Williamson, Tony Drake, Junior Hemingway, Martavious Odoms, Terrance Robinson, Roy Roundtree, James Rogers, Darryl Stonum

With the entrance of Tate Forcier to the fold (a polished passer with a slight build), I think it’s safe to say that Rodriguez’s offense might be evolving into a pass-first spread. I sincerely doubt it will turn into Texas Tech and their standard of four- and five-wide sets, but I think it’s clear that he’s trying to develop the depth at the wide receiver position to throw the ball at will. Not only does a bloated number of receivers increase the chances of finding impact players at the position, but it allows the coaches to rotate players in and keep them fresh for running downfield and blocking. I would not be surprised to see more sets with four wide receivers in the next two or three years, but I think three will remain the norm.

I’m excited to see what the Michigan offense will look like in the next couple years. I’m fairly certain that Michigan’s offense will not replicate that of West Virginia circa 2005-2008. Forcier and, arguably, 2010 recruit Devin Gardner are better passers than Pat White was coming out of high school. Therefore, It would seem counterintuitive for Rodriguez to bring in an accurate, polished quarterback and 16 receivers to run the ball 60% of the time like Meyer is doing in Florida. Once Rodriguez gets his offense going at Michigan, I would expect that the Wolverines will be throwing the ball 50 to 55% of the time.