Sunday, August 17, 2008 - Andy Andersen
UMGoBlue.COM Publisher Phil Callihan and I represented this site this morning at the football Media Day event held at Schembechler Hall, had breakfast there, and heard Coach Rodriguez’s comments. We then listened to various Coaches talking to small groups surrounding them. After that, the group of perhaps fifty media representatives adjourned to a practice field to visit with, interview, and photograph players.
This event was held on the second floor of Schembechler Hall. In order to get to the practice field we had to walk through the new and improved weight room, which I had not seen since its recent $1,000,000 improvement. It is impressive. It has several inspirational phrases on its walls, one of which I will paraphrase: People do not rise to the occasion in a crisis, but default to their level of training. A great thought with more truth than not.
I listened (and talked) to RB Coach Jackson, QB Coach Rod Smith, Director of Strength and Conditioning Director Mike Barwis, the always accommodating and effective Director of Media Relations Bruce Madej, and an old acquaintance, Director of Athletic Training, Paul Schmidt. I also visited with and interviewed a number of players.
I wanted to say Hello to the ever-interesting Jon Falk, Director of Equipment, but didn’t see him. He is probably the closest thing to the late Wally Weber for Michigan tales left in Ann Arbor.
The press asked many questions regarding who is going to be the starting QB (Threet or Sheridan?), and got nowhere. RR is simply not going to let this out before what he considers the appropriate time, and I can’t say that I blame him. He did say again that he wants to have at least a couple of QB’s prepared, and if he feels he can win with them he will play them both. Somebody said that there is an old saying that if you need two QBs to play you don’t have one that is adequate. RR does not subscribe to that theory.
And he likes to tell it like it is. Said full steam special teams practice is limited due to injury risk, and that their recent practice was only average. Obviously he won’t tolerate that.
He looked a little tired. Not surprising as things are in full swing at Schembechler.
In listening to QB Coach Rod Smith, it appears that both Threet and Sheridan have done well at times and not so well at times but they both are improving, both smart, and have a ways to go, but there are significant practices left before Utah. Coach Smith said that Steve Threet had a good week.
That Coach Rodriguez delegates the defense to subordinates was again stated as was the fact that he concentrates on offense. Of course, he said, he sees the defense in good on good and other drills, and talks to the defensive coaches at length and often.
What this means of course is that if the offensive side of the ball fails he’ll take the blame. Come to think of it, if the defense fails he’ll take the blame for that, too. I believe it is laudable that he is so honest about this. Good administrators delegate when they have competent personnel.
He again cited the inexperience of the team, especially on offense, and said they are not ready to play a game yet, but that there are two weeks left, and they have improved since spring. Indicated Threet had picked it up. Expressed admiration for Utah as a possible BCS team.
I sat down at the table where Mike Barwis was holding forth. He recapped his philosophy, much of which has already been reported extensively in the press. While he hasn’t been training Michael Phelps, some in the same or better salary category have come to Ann Arbor for his advice. In response to my question he said 32 NFLers, 3 NHLers, and one wrestler have trained here. Victor Hobson, Larry Foote, and Braylon Edwards were among them. He does not train any of the basketball players in Ann Arbor, but did in West Virginia.
He stressed training has to be a life style with a 100% commitment. This would rule out most of the press corps (my comment, not his). Says he truly likes Terrance Taylor, and that Taylor has bought into the program and is doing great.
An impressive young man, Barwis oozes enthusiasm, commitment, and sincerity through his gravelly voice. He is firmly committed to Coach Rodriguez and to Michigan. States that he and his family truly like the Ann Arbor area. It would be difficult not to like the guy, and it is hard to ignore the results of his training efforts. Always praises Gittleson as a founding father of S& C training.
There are few fatties, if any, on this team at this point, and Barwis says they still have a ways to go conditioning wise.
I had a nice visit with QB Steven Threet (6’6” 230) as we walked to the practice field. He says all the right things every time, stressing the competitive nature of the situation. I asked him to compare practices at Georgia Tech to here and he said not so much different but stressed this is Michigan!
I talked to several other players.
Martavious Odoms, a freshman slot receiver (5’9” 171), said that he liked school and Ann Arbor. This fleet slot receiver is apparently impressing as he is getting mention. He said he had never been north in the winter. I said be careful in your car, and he said he didn’t have one, but wished he did, and I advised him to buy his winter coat up here.
Also talked to Roy Roundtree, another little freshman slot receiver and speedster (6’0” 154), this time from Ohio. Also likes school, and is an Ohioan who is adding nothing to the M/tOSU controversy by reckless comment. He knows what the winters are like here.
Sophomore safety Artis Chambers (6’ 0” 207) said he is healed from injury and ready to go. They can use his talent.
Red shirt OL Bryant Nowicki (6’9” 326) is from Bay City. Since I grew up in the thumb, I am partial to those from up there. He is very personable, and big as a house, not fat. Hope he can contribute.
I had not met K. C. Lopata (6’ 2” 233) previously, even though he is a fifth year senior. When asked about his devotion to academics, he said: “Hey, we specialists always keep up with them!” He is pretty good size for a kicker.
Interviewed RB Michael Shaw (6’ 0” 185) and asked him whether he was a cut runner or a slasher. He indicated that he could cut, but that he was a slasher. Coach Fred Jackson said McGuffie is a cut/jump runner, and Shaw is a slasher.
Listened to Elliot Mealer tell his sad story. Your heart has to go out to that family, and one has to hope that in the end Elliot gets to play all the Wolverine football he wants to. He says he is still healing from the Christmas Eve crash that killed his father and girl friend both mentally and physically. He won’t say when, but he is getting closer to physical playing readiness.
There were several common denominators among the group of players I talked to, old or new. They are enthusiastic They were all very polite and articulate and happy to be playing football at the University of Michigan under RR. One of them said: “Hey, if I wasn’t playing football here. I could never have gone to school here”.
That is quite an opportunity.
August 19, 2008 Update: The print press is reporting that Blue Chip 2009 QB Recruit Kevin Newsome has done what has long been anticipated, and cancelled his oral to play football at the University of Michigan. We already have Shavrodrick Beaver in the fold and Tate Forcier and others on the threshold so there may be adequate replacements, but still there is a sense of loss as this recruit possesses major mobility and a strong arm. Someone has his ear that doesn't like Michigan.
Media Day Photos