31 July 2008
Any tried and true Michigan State Spartan football fan remembers the bad old days of John L. Smith. The much hyped former Louisville coach brought in a spirit of mountain climbing toughness to East Lansing and made a boatload of coaching mistakes. One of Smith's most egregious errors was his decision to play 4 star recruit quarterback Drew Stanton on special teams in a bowl game, a decision which of course ended up with Stanton horribly injuring his knee. Stanton was a pro-style quarterback who should have been practicing his 5 step drops and taking snaps, but Smith wanted to institute toughness in his team. Similar coaching missteps helped land Smith a pink slip out of East Lansing.
Now Coach Mark Dantonio, who as by all accounts done things the right way every since coming to Michigan State, is tempting fate by seriously discussing the possibility of playing All-World halfback Javon Ringer on Special Teams as a kick returner. And although a stud running back holds up better on special teams than a drop back QB, here is some advice for Coach Dantonio:
Please God, don't put your All-Big 10 halfback on the kick return unit. 1) Unless he is the next Devin Hester, there won't be a marked difference between Ringer and the next guy. 2) You're in perfect position to beat Michigan and possibly pull a 10 win season off. A veteran QB leads the offense and the defense should be solid. The only thing that could derail you instantly is, of course, injuries. And God knows the last thing you want to see is Ringer getting crackback blocked to the turf by some 250 lb special teams demon running full speed down the field. 3) You have made excellent decisions at every turn in East Lansing: you brought in solid players at the line positions and you didn't spout off to the media or make wild predictions...you even pulled an Elite 11 quarterback to headline your next recruiting class. Take a lesson from the missteps of John L's past and leave Ringer off the field for one extra play.
In 28 days we'll replace our Chablis with draught-beer, our Polos with oversized mesh jerseys, and our summer sensibilities with super-egos.
Here's to sauce-drenched fingers, sun tan hangovers, and dry throats.
To celebrate, here's the latest update to the ESPN/ABC Network Schedule.
27 July 2008
The Rivalry Esq. missed Media Day (weren't invited), but that didn't stop us from scribbling on the legal pads. Suffice it to say, the big guys would have faced some serious cross-examining if one of us wasn't in England all summer.
For the sake of our dignities as pseudo journalists we've split the inquisition into two parts: serious football strategy and satire, because lets be honest, lampooning Big 10 head coaches isn't exactly difficult this year.
PART 1: SOBER, SEMI-STRATEGICAL QUESTIONS
Chris Wells carried the ball 39 times against Michigan for 222 total yards. Against LSU, he saw only half that many touches (20). His falloff in performance has been pointed to as the reason for the reduced reliance on the ground game in the Championship: he gained 119 yards off his first 10 carries, and only 30 the second 10. I think you would agree that LSU was successful outsourcing your offensive line in the second half. Simply put there weren't openings, and a power back like Beanie is significantly less effective when he has to go to the outside. What changes are you making in 2008 to the offensive line sets to ensure better opportunities for the running backs?
WR Ray Small was supposed to have a breakout season last year. He finished with a disappointing 20 receptions for 267 yards. What opportunities will he be given in 2008 to step up and shoulder some of the load from Hartline and Robiskie?
Juice Williams is a great runner, but his passing accuracy was abysmal last year. How did you and your Offensive Coordinator work with him this year to make his passing more precise?
You've seen the trouble certain Big 10 opponents have had defending tight end audibles. How do you plan to use what some consider to be the best tight end tandem in the nation in Travis Beckum and Garrett Graham to diversify your offense?
It's been reported that 26 players missed some portion of spring ball due to injuries. How does that affect your efforts to establish consistency?
"What if you could ask a Big 10 Head Coach anything you wanted?"
You've had some exciting personnel changes in the off season -- perhaps most notably picking up Ted Roof as defensive coordinator. What will he bring to a squad that was last in the nation in total defense last year?
Much has been made of the Satterfield scandal and the university's handling of it. How have you instilled in your team a focus on football admist the clutter?
Michigan's returning starters are ill-suited for a spread running offense. How have you tweaked the West Virginia Spread (dive option + pitch option + QB run) to accommodate the players you inherited?
You lost two monster playmakers to the NFL in Jehuu Caulcrick and Devin Thomas. These two fit your run-based offense perfectly, Caulcrick as the short yardage pounder and Thomas as the sticky hands home run threat who provided a change of pace. Has anyone stepped up, like Andre Anderson or Mark Dell, to take over the vacated roles?
The 2005 offense put up an obscene amounts of yardage and ran the shotgun spread beautifully. What is the key in channeling that teams offensive success?
Are you open to playing two quarterbacks interchangeably, considering Daryll Clark (athlete) and Pat Devlin (passer) bring different strengths to the field?
The nations leader in sacks last year, Greg Middleton, anchors your defense. He is sure to face double teams and tight end chips this year. How will you make teams pay for spending extra time on this sackmaster?
No one is giving you a chance in hell in playing a "13th game," the term Coach Terry Hoeppner coined. What do you tell your team to inspire them to overcome these pessimistic predictions?
The lack of a strong run game has been the biggest knock on your offense. What steps are you taking to make teams respect your ability to rush the football?
(Stay tuned for Part 2)
25 July 2008
But, after it was made clear that the honor would be both vertically and horizontally integrated, extending into all levels and facets of athletics, I was intrigued. A Democratic process that pits the most polished professional sports cities against the country Friday night lights crowd -- capstoned by a traveling interview committee broadcasting from each locale is hard to pass up.
"I'm surprised, slightly humored, and fully anticipating Graham's outrage at the fact that his Wolverines are only given credit for 3 National Titles (the school claims 10), while the Buckeyes get 7 (incidentally the exact number the school claims)."
You've got to hand it to ESPN, they've put their money where their mouth is. The research, and production value of each edition is laudable, making the search (and the ultimate selection) at least as relevant as the MTV Music Video Awards.
So, in honor of Monday's grand finale, here are the broadcasts that originally aired live from two places close to our hearts: Columbus and Ann Arbor.
If the raw esteem of watching these doesn't absolutely rivet you, you might have accidentally clicked on Carson Palmers' 2007 Post-Season Highlight reel.
A few first blush observations:
1. I'm impressed that ESPN diversified the Columbus sports-scape by firmly exploring our link to Jack Nicklaus and Jesse Owens.
2. I'm surprised, slightly humored, and fully anticipating Graham's outrage at the fact that his Wolverines are only given credit for 3 National Titles in football (the school claims 10), while the Buckeyes get 7 (incidentally the exact number Ohio State claims).
So, what do you think? Do either Columbus or Ann Arbor deserve the nod?
23 July 2008
This week the USC alum went on the offensive during a scheduled radio appearance with KLAC Los Angeles.
"I cannot stand the Buckeyes," said the outspoken Heisman winner, "...having to live in Ohio and hear those people talk about their team...drives me absolutely nuts." (USA Today has the full transcript.)
Carson's shrink must have been on vacation in Bermuda. His press relations advisor must have been out of town. How else do you explain the errant pathological tragedy of a hero who shoots himself in the foot?
"You've got to stay faithful to the Gangsta scene. Try instead, 'Dog we're gonna go pop a cap in yo ass.' Then go pee on yourself at a humanitarian protest and order a Vegan dinner for your fake-boobed girlfriend."
Granted, I have a Karmic view of college football. I hold certain truths to be self-evident. Namely you:
1. Never criticize a marquis opponent. [I made this mistake before the 2006 National Championship Game -- heckling Florida fans that 1. You have to win all your games to be the National Champion, and 2. (After Ted Ginn gazelled the opening kickoff return for a touchdown) You've got to guard him. A broken ankle, and a blitzkrieg soon followed.]
2. Don't call the kettle black. (When you're the posterboy for one of the most obnoxious pop dynastys of the modern era, you don't assail the brethern. I defy you Carson to tell me how USC is any different than Ohio State when it comes to public patronage. If anything, the Trojans should be grateful for their revival. After all, The Rivalry, Esq. remembers when it took Jenny McCarthy in a bikini at halftime to fill the Coliseum half full. Do yourself a favor and reflect on the fact that when you committed to the Trojans, they were a 6 win team.)
3. Never, ever use the phrase "butt-whoopin" on the West Coast. (You've got to stay faithful to the Gangsta scene. Try instead, "Dog, we're gonna pop a cap in yo ass." Then go pee on yourself at a humanitarian protest and order a Vegan dinner for your fake-boobed girlfriend.)
4. Finally, don't forget where you're from. (Statistics suggest that at least 80% of the Bengals faithful are Buckeye fans. Talk about falling on your own sword).
The truth is that Carson Palmer (like Chad Johnson) is struggling with his own mortality. After a lackluster five seasons in the NFL, and more Growing Pains than ABC, he's focused on trash-talking rather than legitimately evolving as a leader.
Instead of losing sleep over the demonic youngsters up north, try focusing on the task at hand and making your team relevant.
And in the meantime watch your blind side. Apparently the Buckeyes have a few guys in the NFL that might not agree with your bearded banter.
19 July 2008
"After initially rating the Buckeye Offense and Defense units a C and C+ respectively, Blue Ribbon changed the grades to B+ and B without explanation."
14 July 2008
But I digress...Hate OSU or love 'em, I think Todd Boeckman needs a nickname. If he is going to spend so much time in the national spotlight, announcers, critics, and fans need something to grip onto instead of a boring German sounding name. My ideas are below, feel free to post or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your own.
"Becks" (like David Beckham)
"Lodi Toddy, he likes to party"
"Fast Version of Ryan Mallet"
"Slow Version of Chris Leak"
"Give Me the Ball" (Beanie Wells' suggestion)
12 July 2008
On the speed limit insulting drive on I-96 from
Statistics Since 1969
But the question remains: How…in the world did the
06 July 2008
Kinesthetic intelligence. Grutz v. Bollinger. Institutions of higher learning. Athletic talent as a soft factor for admissions.
These fancy terms and concepts are wonderful for a law journal or small talk at a get together for college professors, but they have little to do with the real issue at hand: Should young men, woefully under qualified and unprepared for collegiate academic life, be held up to some kind of illusory academic standard when they're offered an athletic scholarship?
The answer is unequivocally and emphatically no. To say anything else is to play lip service to the tremendous hypocrisy that currently exists in the term “Student-Athlete.” Top recruits, especially football players, are signed up for one reason – and everyone knows it. So instead of 1) setting some kind of weak academic line that the occasional unlucky recruit is sideswiped by and 2) using big terms like academic integrity…let’s concentrate on integrating college athletes into the campus atmosphere and focus on getting athletes into social settings where they can grow as people and students.
Kinesthetic Intelligence…But You’ll Never See It
Jon is very much correct in saying that athletes have tremendous kinesthetic intelligence. If your brain can say “pump fake left, check off middle receiver, hot route open” in .8 seconds and your body can follow suit, you're doing something right. And of course a college campus is a stronger campus with a student body that's diverse.
"Less hypocrisy. More focus on the athlete's actual needs."
But Jon, how many male basketball and football players did you hang out with at Miami (OH)? I am guessing the number is low. Even more telling Jon; how many male basketball and football players did you consistently see at Miami (OH)? “Big School“ college athletes live a closed existence; they live together, follow a strict practice/game schedule, and when they attend class, do not traditionally use all that kinesthetic skill to bring anything special to the classroom.
All that kinesthetic energy so fondly spoke of is channeled toward one thing: becoming a better athlete and bringing athletic success to one’s alma mater. Athletes know their purpose at a school, especially the highly recruited, well known ones.
With the Purpose Known, Lip Service is Still Paid to Storied Academic Institutions
Jon would lead you to believe that athletes who don't qualify academically should be allowed into school as part of the diversification of the university and then given a special-tailored program to help them excel academically. He seems to think this is a novel concept.
Athletes are allowed in through every exception imaginable. What if that 5 star wideout has a 1.9 high school GPA and your soft cutoff is 2.0? Send that 6 foot 4 ball of energy to summer classes and get him over that minimum GPA. Then cheer like there is no tomorrow while he is jumping over DB’s from Rival U, all the while claiming your school has held up its academic integrity. Student athletes and fans deserve a little more honesty and respect from administration.
A Simple Choice
For those who enjoy picking from options, here is what I feel like the options on the table are:
1. Continue with soft admissions and tailoring every possible advantage to getting unqualified recruits in, all the while claiming you are cultivating strong student athletes and upholding academic tradition. Allow schools like Notre Dame and Stanford to claim they cannot recruit top football recruits because they have standards. Force conferences, like the SEC, to lower their admission policy to the lowest possible threshold with the obvious goal of allowing more unqualified players in – but God, don’t let the SEC mention their true intentions. Make colleges have a goal of pulling athletic high schoolers over a mythical 2.0 GPA line so a school can uphold its mythical academic tradition.
2. Drop the Standard Admission Criteria farce. Allow colleges to recruit for top notch athletes, but force colleges to do a better job integrating their student-athletes into the community. Take athletes in and take steps to make them productive members of the college campus instead of paid professionals.
Sure it’s idealistic, but at least the focus will be put on strengthening college student athletes. Jon had a wonderful idea of starting the athlete’s in a lower level program and if they excel, bump them to a full scale BA program. If my plan had a tagline, it would be: “Less Hypocrisy, More Focus on the Athlete’s Actual Needs.”Right now, every Nick Saban and Urban Meyer is discussing how to get Token 5 Star Recruit's GPA up one more point so he can come play football at their school. Once Token's GPA hits that GPA threshold, their entire focus is going to be on making him a stud athlete. This approach is not only hypocritical, but entirely harmful. So let's take the focus off a bright line GPA approach and put the focus on making the student athlete a productive member of the collegiate system and society.
02 July 2008
"...Under center is Wangler, he goes back, Carter has it, Carter is (inaudible), AHHHH...95 Wolverines are going in the endzone...Ufer is going out of his mind...Anthony Carter, the human torpedo...Will be heard until another 100 years of Michigan football...I've never been so happy in my 59 cotton picking years..."Who has ever been able to describe the excitement of Michigan football better than the immortal Bob Ufer? Ufer's website calls him "enthusiastic, optimistic, loyal, and hardworking," and anyone with a pulse can tell these characteristics are correct. So with a nod towards some of the most famous Bob Ufer quotes, I want to discuss the excitement and uncertainty that surrounds the Michigan Wolverine football team of 2008.
"I Have Never Seen Anything Like This!"
Ufer's famous call on the Anthony Carter touchdown against Indiana is exactly what many fans will say when the Wolverines come out in the Rich Rod spread. Michigan's I-form / Pro-Form offense of the Lloyd Carr era has given way to the spread and this Michigan fan couldn't be happier. Michigan's offense, full of NFL talent, was halted many times in big games during 2007. The Rich Rod spread will struggle during 2008, this is sure. But Rodriguez is following the national trend of building a varied, adaptable offense, and the 2008 Michigan offense is sure to wake a few fans who have been slumbering through the 7 step drops and 2 yard dives of 2007.
"Thank You Fielding Yost!"
After Carter miraculously scored against Indiana, Ufer offered up a prayer of gratefulness to the Michigan legend. Although I am sure Ufer was caught up in the moment and some misfiring neutron in his brain channeled the Michigan coach with an 83% winning percentage, Ufer's "thank you" is a constant reminder that, dammit, UM football is still UM football, full of legends, a storied history, and top recruits.
So no matter how bad Rich Rod's spread looks right off the bat and no matter how the Utah opener goes, let's not forget that the Meeeechigan football program still pulls top 10 recruiting classes and has one of the best defenses in the Big 10, with Brandon Graham and Terrance Taylor leading the way. Also, 40 straight winning seasons is nothing to laugh about.
"They Laid Woody Hayes Away"
The simple fact that Ufer wrote a poem about burying college footballs version of Bobby Knight is enough to make any Wolverine smile. Ufer's ode to a Michigan upset over the Buckeyes is especially relevant this year. Can the Wolverine's put up a fight against a Buckeyes team primed for a national title run? Will the offense run into a Buckeye brick wall and only spring for 3 points like 2007? Will the loss of Terrelle Pryor to Columbus haunt Michigan's precarious QB situation?
"Oh They Came to Bury Michigan, But Michigan Wasn't Dead"
The 2008 schedule does not look favorably on University of Michigan football. Games against Utah, Notre Dame, Illinois, Penn State, Michigan State, and Ohio State look like possible/probable losses. The offense will be tested instantly and Notre Dame and Michigan State are licking their chops to play this untested Wolverine team and avenge some embarrassing recent defeats. The blogosphere is lighting up with early news of the Wolverine's demise.
But Bob Ufer would support the old Lee Corso adage, "not so fast my friend." The Michigan Wolverines will always be a threat thanks to their tremendous recruiting and history. So if you would, turn the volume up of an old Bob Ufer clip and allow Mr. Ufer to convince you that hope springs eternal at the corner of Main and Stadium and that the 2008 Wolverine's can rise from their premature funereal proceedings.