Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Brian Griese: A True Michigan Man

Not only did Brian Griese lead the Wolverines to the 1997 National Championship but he also established himself as the quintessential "Michigan Man" for his good deeds off the field as well as his heroics on it. Recently, Mike Downey of the Chicago Tribune did an article about Griese and the children's charity, Judi's House. It is good to see a positive piece about a former Wolverine especially coming on the heels of all the publicity surrounding the fall of Tony Boles. In the article, Griese discusses that Judi's House is named after his mother who passed away when he was only 12 years old. Griese started Judi's House with a $1 Million personal endowment and over 1,500 kids have made use of it thus far. More information about the organization can be found at http://www.judishouse.org

For those who are intrigued and want to learn more about Griese on a personal level, I recommend his 2000 book that he co-authored with his NFL Hall of Fame father Bob Griese (and Jim Denney) titled: "Undefeated: How Father and Son Triumphed over Unbelievable Odds Both on and off the Field". The book can be found on Amazon's website and at fine retailers everywhere.


Monday, May 29, 2006

2006 Back-up QBs: Long on Talent, Short on Experience

The depth chart is looking a little shallow at the QB position once you look beyond starter and All-Big 10 candidate Chad Henne (junior). With Henne firmly entrenched in the starting role, back-up Matt Gutierrez transferred to Division I-AA Idaho State to presumably take over the starting job at that school. The loss of the experienced Gutierrez, who would have been a 5th year senior this year, has left quite a void at the #2 spot on the depth chart. Currently, redshirt Sophmore Jason Forcier, who ran the scout team offense last year, is listed by default as the back-up quarterback. The projected #3 QB on the depth chart is David Cone, a true freshman-to-be, who won't even be enrolled in U-M until August, 2006. After that we have walk-ons including 5th-year senior Jeff Kastl who did see mop-up duty in 2 games last year and threw one incomplete pass. Uh, is it too late to ask Gutierrez to come back if we ask really nicely? Or, maybe, Mallett can take a whole lot of summer classes and graduate REALLY early so he can start at U-M this fall.

Actually, Forcier was pretty heavily recruited coming out of high school and is highly regarded for his running as well as his throwing ability. As the scout team QB last year he focused on playing the role of the opponent each week. The problem is that he did not have very much time to learn the Michigan offense. As their new #2, Forcier has been receiving a crash course this season regarding the main points of U of M's offense. The learning curve has sometimes been steep and the final spring practice was not very encouraging. Coach Carr's comments about Forcier were not exactly reassuring. One of the comments was along the lines of that he will have to re-evaluate things once David Cone arrives. Well who the heck is David Cone and when is he arriving?

David Cone is a lightly recruited QB (read: U-M was only major school to offer) from Statesboro, GA. Cone attended QB Coach Scott Loeffler's quarterbacks' camp last summer. Going into the camp, Cone had not received any major scholarship offers but Loeffler, a legendary judge of QB talent, was impressed with Cone's accuracy and command. According to "The Wolverine", U of M offered Cone a scholarship during the camp and Cone officially signed his letter of intent in February, 2006. He will enroll in U-M in August of this year. Cone has not even set foot on campus and he already has a real chance to play himself into the #2 spot on the depth chart.

I really hope Henne's good fortune holds out and he is able to stay healthy for a third consecutive season. If he doesn't, Forcier and/or Cone are going to get a shot of a lifetime. I just hope they can rise to the challenge. Go Blue!

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

2006 Receiving Corps: Ready to Step Up

U-M will head into the 2006 season with a proven strong-thrower in Junior QB Chad Henne but for the first time in Henne's three seasons as the Wolverines signal caller the team will be starting the season without a clear-cut "go-to" receiver. In Henne's freshman season of 2004, Braylon Edwards was the #1 receiver in every sense of the term as he set school records for most receptions in a season (97) and most yards in a season (1,330). Last year, Jason Avant took over the mantle of being the top guy and he performed extremely well pulling in 82 catches which was the 4th highest single-season total in U-M history. In 2005, the second leading receiver in terms of catch production was Mario Mannigham with 27 receptions and Steve Breaston was right behind him with 26 catches. Thus, there was a steep drop-off between the #1 receiver and the rest of the receiving corps. With Avant gone it is now time for the remaining members of the receiving corps to step up and shine in 2006. Here is a preview of coming attractions:

  • Mario Manningham, So., (27 rec., 433 yds., 16.0 avg., 6 tds. in 2005) : The 6'0", 187 lb. receiver gave U-M fans a moment they will never forget as he caught the winning TD pass with no time remaining last year against Penn State. Mario led the team in all the major receiving categories last season among the players that are returning in 2006. I expect him to have a super sophmore season.
  • Steve Breaston, 5th/Sr., (26 rec., 291 yds., 11.2 avg., 2 tds.): The man whose body and talent resemble those of Anthony (AC) Carter is back for his final season. Oft-injured, Breaston has never become the break-out star that many had predicted. He has started only 13 games at WR in his previous seasons with his primary contributions coming on special teams. If he can stay healthy, and that is always a big IF, I expect him to contribute more this year at WR but don't look for any kind of Edwards/Avant type numbers. I think Breaston will continue to primarily contribute on special teams which is no small thing.
  • Carl Tabb, 5th/Sr., (12 rec., 96 yds., 8.0 avg., 0 tds.): The hard working 5th-year senior has appeared in all possible 37 career games over the 3 seasons he has lettered. He has not yet scored a TD in his career but I expect him to do so multiple times this season. I like the fact that this local product from Ann Arbor Huron H.S. brings some much needed experience to a youthful receiving corps.
  • Adrian Arrington, Jr./So., (did not play in 2005): Redshirt sophmore Arrington is returning after missing all of last season with an ankle injury sustained in the first game of 2005. Ankle injuries are tough to come back from and early reports are that he is not yet 100 percent. He made an impression in 2004 when he was one of only eight true freshman to earn playing time. I always take a wait-and-see attitude with players returning from a major injury but I'm rooting hard for him and you should as well.
  • Doug Dutch, Jr./So., (4 rec., 34 yds., 8.5 avg., 0 tds.): The redshirt sophmore provides good depth at the wide receiver spot. He may surprise some people as he is challenging the "top" guys for playing time/starting positions. However, he is returning from offseason arthroscopic knee surgery that forced him to miss some of the spring practices.
  • LaTerryal Savoy, So./Fr., (Redshirt in 2005): People are excited to see what the 6'2", 203 lb., Savoy can do but there is a lot of depth on this depth chart so he may have to wait his turn. Look for him to see limited game action in 2006 unless Arrington and/or Dutch can't bounce back from their injuries.
  • Antonio Bass, So., (8 rec., 64 yds., 8.0 avg., 0 tds.): "Mr. Versatility" was one of only six true freshman to see playing time in 2005. He will probably be using his redshirt year this season, however, as he sustained what is most likely a season-ending injury in spring conditioning drills. Knee surgery was performed on March 31, 2006 and the prospects for Bass' return this season are dim to none.

Overall, I think the receiving corps is talented but unproven. They have a good mixture of experience and youth. I don't believe that any one player will step up to be THE #1 receiver as in past years. I expect more of a receiver-by-committee approach which I don't mind because then you don't get into the situation of being stuck if your #1 (and only) option is taken away. Go Blue!

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

'75 team also featured 5 of the top 25 all-time rushers

In a post yesterday, I compared the depth at running back on the 2006 roster to the amazing depth at that position that U-M had in 1981. As I posted yesterday, the 1981 team featured 5 players that are in the top 25 career rushing yardage leaders. The 1981 team boasted running backs Butch Woolfolk (#4 all-time), Larry Ricks (#10), Stan Edwards (#17) and Rick Rogers (#22) as well as QB Steve Smith (#24). I thought such outstanding depth on one team was unprecedented. However, a little research revealed that the 1975 squad also featured 5 players who are in the top 25 all-time career rushing yardage leaders:

  • Gordon Bell #8 in career rushing yards; 1,390 yds., 5.1 yds. per carry in 1975
  • Rob Lytle #6 in career rushing yards; 1,030 yds., 5.3 yds. per carry in 1975
  • Harlan Huckleby #11 in career rushing yds.; 228 yds., 7.4 yds. per carry in 1975
  • Russell Davis #13 in career rushing yards; 179 yds., 4.5 yds. per carry in 1975

In addition to the four running backs listed above, the 1975 freshman QB sensation Rick Leach (#18 in career rushing yards) ran for 552 yards averaging 4.9 yards per carry that year. Overall, in comparing the depth of the 1981 team to that of the 1975 team I say they are very evenly matched. Of note, though, is the fact that in 1975 the Wolverines had two one-thousand yard rushers in the same season (Bell and Lytle). The tandem of Woolfolk and Edwards came close to duplicating the feat in 1980 when Woolfolk rushed for over 1,000 yards and Edwards rushed for 901 yards. To see how the times have changed all you have to do is look to the fact that in 2005 the top two running backs rushed for a combined total of a little over one-thousand yards (1,176 yards to be exact). Nevertheless, I believe that we have good depth at the running back position once again this year and we should see good production out of the backfield even though we won't be seeing the numbers put up by the 1975 and/or 1981 squads. Go Blue!


Friday, May 26, 2006

'81 team featured 5 who are in top 25 all-time in rushing

This year's team has good depth at running back with Michael Hart, Kevin Grady, Mister Simpson and freshman Carlos Brown. However, this fearsome foursome can't match the firepower of the quartet of backs Bo had in 1981:

  • Butch Woolfolk #4 in career rushing yards; 1,459 yds., 5.8 yds. per carry in 1981
  • Stan Edwards #17 in career rushing yards; 446 yds., 4.8 yds. per carry in 1981
  • Larry Ricks #10 in career rushing yards; 413 yds., 4.8 yds. per carry in 1981
  • Rick Rogers #22 in career rushing yards; 128 yds., 5.8 yds. per carry in 1981

In addition to the depth at running back in 1981 U-M also showcased a quarterback who could run. Steve Smith is #24 in career rushing yards. He ran for 674 yards averaging 5.0 yards per carry in 1981. To put this in perspective, consider that in 2005 U-M's leading rusher was running back Mike Hart who gained 662 yards and averaged 4.4 yards per carry. That means the top running back in 2005 gained less rushing yards and averaged a 1/2 yard less per carry than did the 1981 QB.

Butch Woolfolk was Michigan's career rushing leader for six years until he was passed by Jamie Morris in 1987. Butch still ranks fourth all-time with 3,850 yards in his career which amazes me considering how many carries he shared with Edwards/Ricks/Rogers/Smith all of whom are also in the top 25 all-time rushing yardage leaders. Once Woolfolk and Edwards graduated in 1981, Lawrence Ricks took over the tailback spotlight and he rushed for 1,388 yards in 1982 which is the 11th best single-season mark in Michigan history. Once Ricks graduated in 1982, then Rick Rogers (a freshman in 1981) moved up to be the featured back and he rushed for over 1,000 yards in 1983.

These days with increased parity and reduced scholarships you don't see schools, even Michigan, stockpile talent like they once did. Those were the good ol' days when the next thousand yard rusher was just down the depth chart. These days if kids don't think they are going to be "the Man" they will transfer (exp., Justin Fargas & Max Martin). The depth we have at RB this year is about as deep as I think we can expect to get. Hart is a superstar, Grady is solid and Carlos Brown is brand spanking new but he is immensely talented. I look for good things from this group but they will be hard pressed to match their brethren from 1981. Go Blue!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Big 2, Little 8: The Golden Years (1969-1980)

From 1969 (Bo's first season) to 1980, U-M won or tied for the Big 10 Championship nine times and appeared in 6 Rose Bowls while OSU won ten titles and appeared in 6 Rose Bowls during that span. Incidentally, during the 1970's U of M had the nation's best regular season record at 96-10-3. This era was dominated by the respective coaches of the two schools: Bo Schembechler for U of M and Woody Hayes of OSU.

The rivalry between the schools (and the two coaches) was so intense during that era that it is commonly referred to as "The Ten Year War". Bo had a 5-4-1 record vs. Woody in U-M/OSU games during that era from 1969-1978. U of M finished 1978 ranked 5th in the nation which was the 10th consecutive year Bo had led U of M to a final top 10 ranking. Although both schools have continued to enjoy considerable success since the "Big 2" domination of the 70's (both schools won National Championships in the past 10 years) I don't think anyone will ever dominate the conference again to the extent these two teams did during the era of 1969-1980. With a decrease in scholarships and a corresponding increase in parity, the talent level of other Big 10 schools is too high to ever be dominated on such a long term basis again. It was nice while it lasted. Go Blue!

U-M officially announces its radio package

U-M formally announced today its radio package for the upcoming Michigan Football season. The package will be in effect through the 2010 Football season. As expected, it was officially announced that the dynamic duo of Frank Beckmann (play-by-play) and Jim Brandstatter (analysis) will continue on in their announcing duties. The football games will be simulcast on CKLW-AM (800) and WOMC-FM (104.3). Additionally, fans in areas outside Detroit will have access to more than 30 other affiliates. Furthermore, fans will be able to listen to the games from anywhere in the world via FREE audio streaming at the university's official website at http://www.mgoblue.com I have to admit I was surprised they made the audio streaming feature free. I think Athletic Director Bill Martin may score himself some big public relations points for that one. Listening to the game over the internet from anywhere in the world is the wave of the future and many schools charge for that privilege. Providing that service for free is a great way to curry the favor of the Wolverine faithful. Overall, I think A.D. Martin has done very well with the radio package and it will make people soon forget the sudden and unexpected separation that occurred with WJR after last season. Go Blue!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

1970: The team that history forgot

Everyone remembers Bo's first team in 1969. The 24-12 win over Ohio State that year in Ann Arbor is widely considered to be one of, if not THE, greatest victory in the history of Michigan football. Bo went on to win 5 Big Ten Championships from 1969-1974. The only team that did not win a Big Ten Championship in that span was the 1970 squad. Thus, they are not as celebrated as the other teams of Bo's early years. However, when you look back, you'll see not only that the 1970 team was one of Bo's best squads in his entire 21 years but that they also came close to winning a National Championship. Yet, you rarely hear about them. Until now.

The 1970 team featured Billy Taylor at Halfback, Reggie McKenzie, Dan Dierdorf and Jim Brandstatter on the Offensive Line, Marty Huff at Linbacker, Henry Hill at Middle Guard and Jim Betts and Thom Darden at Safety to name a few. The team blew through their schedule and were 9-0 and ranked #4 in the nation heading into the final game of the season in Columbus against Woody Hayes' #5 ranked Buckeyes. A then stadium-record crowd of 87,331 were at the "Horseshoe" cheering for revenge against the Wolverines for what U of M had done to OSU the year before in A2 in the inaugural Bo/Woody matchup. In 1970, the winner of this game was going to Pasadena as the Big 10 Champion. It was a tough, physical ballgame and the teams were tied 3-3 late in the first half. In the 4th quarter, OSU scored 10 pts. to ultimately pull out a 20-9 victory and end U of M's season at 9-1. The Wolverines finished the year ranked #9 in the AP season ending poll.

The accomplishments of the 1970 team are often overshadowed by the titles won by Bo's other early teams. Nevertheless, the 1970 squad was a great team and should not be forgotten. Even though we did not win the 1970 Ohio State game (and thus don't talk much about it), the game was a classic. It serves as a reminder to me about what a difference a game, or even a half, can make. U-M was SO close to going to the Rose Bowl as an undefeated team and possibly playing for the National Championship. Instead, the 1970 team is hardly recognized for what it achieved. People prefer to reminisce about 1969 or 1971 (which was one of Bo's all-time best teams and will be the subject of another post on a different day) but I don't think fans should forget 1970. That was a great season. Go Blue!

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31 straight post-season Bowl appearances

Prior to 1975, only the team that won the Big Ten Championship would qualify for a bowl game (the Rose Bowl) while every other team in the conference stayed home. This led to some inequitable results. For example, U-M was the co-Big Ten Champion in 1972, 1973 and 1974 with conference records of 7-1, 7-0-1, and 7-1, respectively. However, they did not go to the Rose Bowl (or any other bowl game) during those years. Since the rule change regarding Big Ten eligibility was implemented in 1975, U-M has appeared in a post-season bowl game for 31 consecutive seasons! While U-M's consecutive bowl appearance streak is extremely impressive our win/loss record in the bowl games during this era is a mediocre 14-17 (including a 4-9 record in 13 Rose Bowl appearances since 1975).

Many U-M fans have the "what have you done for me lately" mentality and, thus, last year's 7-5 record wiped out any good will from consecutive Rose Bowl appearances in the 2003 and 2004 seasons. Nonetheless, if U-M can get back on track and qualify for another Rose Bowl appearance in 2006 that will make 3 times in 4 years which is something it has not done since the Bo/Mo era. U-M appeared in the Rose Bowl 4 times in 5 years from 1988-1992 with two appearances under Bo (1988 & 1989) and two under Mo (1991 & 1992) in that span.

While the fans of many schools hope just to get to a bowl, U-M fans have been spoiled by the idea that it is not "if" but "where" U-M will be playing in a post-season bowl. More often than not the "where" turns out to be Pasadena and I think that is likely to be the case again this year. Go Blue!


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Carr's Wash 4 Kids

The 3rd Annual Michigan Football Carr's Wash 4 Kids is scheduled for June 10, 2006. The car wash event will be held at Michigan Stadium from 12:30 p.m.-2:00 p.m. to benefit the Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Unit in the new University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and Women's Hospital. Donations of any amount will be accepted with all proceeds benefitting the new hospitals campaign. Donations of $25 will include a T-shirt and a car wash; donations of $50 will include an M Go Blue for Mott Baseball cap, a T-shirt and a car wash. Those planning to attend the event should enter the stadium at Gate 9 and drive to the car wash along the east concourse. Go Blue!


Saturday, May 20, 2006

#7: Then and Now

My all-time favorite U of M player is QB Rick Leach, good ol' #7. As a 4-year starter from 1975-1978, Leach led Michigan to a 38-8-2 record, 3 Rose Bowls, an Orange Bowl, three consecutive wins over Ohio State and three Big Ten titles. That was then. This is now. Donning the legendary #7 maize and blue jersey these days is signal caller Chad Henne who is entering his third year under center. Like Leach, he has been the starter since the very first game of his freshman year. Henne is 16-8 as a two-year starter and has led Michigan to the Rose Bowl and the Alamo Bowl as well as one Big Ten title.

Although Leach was known (and deservedly so) as a great option quarterback, I've always felt that he was the first of Michigan's great passers as well. It is important to keep in mind that the time Leach played for Bo was the height of the three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust era. We probably pass twice as much, if not more, today then we did back then. With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to compare the 4-year statistics of Leach with the two-year statistics of Henne that have been accumulated in this pass happy era.

Leach 250/537 46.6% 4,284 yds. 48 tds. 35 int. 17.1 yds. per comp.

Henne 463/781 59.3% 5,269 yds. 48 tds. 20 int. 11.4 yds. per comp.

I would say Henne obviously has the edge but Leach stacks up well when you just look at the passing statistics. However, that doesn't tell the whole story. I would be remiss if I didn't give you Leach's rushing statistics which is where he truly shined: 487 attempts for 2,176 yds. (4.5 yds. per carry) and 34 touchdowns. So not only did Leach pass for 48 tds. but he ran for 34 tds. himself!!! That's 492 offensive points for which he was directly responsible!

U-M enjoyed great success during Leach's 4 years due in large part to Leach's awesome abilities. As previously noted, U-M was 3-1 vs. OSU , won 3 Big Ten Titles and made 3 Rose Bowl trips. Henne is 0-2 vs. OSU but does have a Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl trip on his resume with 2 years remaining. For Henne to match Leach's success he will have to lead his team to back-to-back wins over OSU in 2006-2007 with successive Big Ten titles and Rose Bowl berths. That's a big task but nobody said it would be easy to try and match the greatest quarterback of all-time at Michigan. I hope Ryan Mallett is paying attention and is preparing himself for the challenge of his life when he gets here.

I think Henne has done the #7 jersey proud and he will have a banner year this year and next. Nevertheless, I still consider Leach the best of all-time. Go Blue!!!

*Note: Sports Illustrated (9-6-76) cover photo of Rick Leach by Lane Stewart

*Note 2: Photo of Chad Henne from 2006 Spring Practice by John T. Greilick/The Detroit News

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Stadium renovation fast facts

West Side
  • New elevated Concourse
  • 600-plus chairback seats in notch of old press box
  • New press box
  • 47 private suites
  • New ADA seating at top of west sideline seating bowl

East Side

  • Expanded, elevated concourse with new concessions and restrooms
  • 1,900-plus outdoor club seats and club lounge
  • 450-plus indoor, 700-plus outdoor club seats
  • 36 private suites
  • Wider aisles and seats (increase seat space from 16" to 18") in bowl
  • Freestanding building for concessions and restrooms
  • Renovated restrooms and concessions areas

*from the Detroit Free Press chart "A bigger house"

Radio Voices of the Wolverines for 2006

After long and arduous negotiations it appears that U-M is close to announcing its radio broadcast package for the 2006 football season. This is according to an article by Detroit News columnist Angelique S. Chengelis (a/k/a "The Angel of the Big House"). The big news is that it appears that the dynamic duo of Frank Beckmann and Jim Brandstatter will continue to be the radio broadcast team for the upcoming season. In fact, it was U-M's desire to keep Beckmann (a WJR employee) as part of the broadcast team that kept throwing a monkey wrench into negotiations as U-M sought a new broadcast partner after it parted ways with WJR. Host Communications, who handles the syndication rights of Michigan football, has worked out a carefully crafted deal that has U-M spread out across the dial and which will allow Beckmann (who has been the play-by-play man since 1981) to stay in the booth with Brandstatter. Michigan football games will now be carried on CKLW 800, a Canadian 50,000-watt station, and simultaneously on WOMC 104.3. Both stations are owned by CBS Radio. The only casualty in the new deal appears to be sideline reporter Steve Courtney. No loss there in my opinion. The new sideline reporter will be Doug Karsch which is probably no improvement over Courtney but at least he's different.

U-M Regents approve "Luxury Boxes"

In a controversial 5-3 vote, the U-M Board of Regents approved a $226 million renovation plan of Michigan Stadium. The plan put forth by Athletic Director Bill Martin calls for the construction of 83 private suites to be split between the east and west sides of the stadium and the addition of nearly 3,200 club seats. The University approved the hiring of HNTB Architechture which is expected to take up to a year to design the project. The concept plan for the project looks like this. A.D. Martin estimated construction on the "luxury boxes" (my words, not his) could begin in 2008 with the idea of being finished prior to the start of the 2010 football season. Seating capacity would be increased from the current 107,501 to 108,251 once construction is completed.

Michael Rosenberg did an excellent article in the 5/17/06 edition of the Detroit Free Press regarding U-M's plan for luxury boxes. As detailed in the article, these new structures will be mammoth. The structure on the west (press box side) will be the equivalent of a six-story building stretching from one endzone to the other. The structure on the east side will be the equivalent of an eight-story building stretching from one endzone to the other. The two structures would rise to a height of 82 feet, above the concourse, 7 feet higher than the scoreboards in either endzone. The two structures combined would cover 425,000 square feet.

If you build them, will they come? We know there are over 8,000 people who are on the waitlist for "regular" season tickets but are we sure there is enough of a high end market in economically depressed Michigan to sustain all these new luxury suites? U-M plans to charge between $55,000-$85,000 per season for a suite depending on the suite's location. Each suite has 16 seats meaning that in a 7 game home schedule each seat in the suite would cost $491 per game in the "low-cost" suite while it would cost $759 per seat /per game in the "high-roller" suites. This compared to the approximately $60 per seat/ per game the regular season-ticket holder now pays (not including PSD).

In addition to the 83 suites that have to be sold, there is the matter of the 3,162 club seats. The club seats will range in price from $1,800 ($257 per game) to $4,050 ($579 per game) plus have an annual mandatory PSD ranging from $1,500-$3,000 per seat depending on seat location. Now Sparty has found club seats to be a particularly tough sell at its stadium in East Lansing. MSU only sold about 1/3rd of its club seats last year and while U-M football is certainly not Sparty football, I am worried about the demand for this type of premium seating. However, in its presentation to the Regents, school officials stated that market research by the firm Convention, Sports and Leisure indicates a "strong demand" for the premium seats. I, however, remain skeptical about that one. I believe there is a strong demand for the 83 private suites but I firmly believe the nearly 3,200 club seats are going to be a tough sell here just as they are in Spartan Stadium.

For those who oppose the plan, you may want to visit the site http://savethebighouse.com As noted in an earlier post, the site was featured a few weeks ago in a story that ran on the front page of the sports section of the Sunday edition of the New York Times. The site is run by a dedicated group of Wolverines who want to preserve the tradition of the Big House and stop the madness of the construction of the luxury boxes. However, as Regent Laurence Deitch noted while voicing his vociferous objections to the plan, once the vote was taken U-M had essentially reached a point of no return on the project barring some unforseen catasophre. Thus, with the 5-3 vote approving the plan, it appears the ship has sailed on WHETHER this will happen. Since the plan IS going to be implemented, the focus now needs to shift to making the construction and the sale of the seats as successful as possible. GO BLUE!!!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Game Times announced for 6 games

Michigan announced this week the game times for 6 of its 12 games for the 2006 football season. The games that are set are as follows:

  • Sept. 2nd vs. Vanderbilt at Noon and will be broadcast by ESPN
  • Sept. 16th at Notre Dame at 3:30 p.m. and will be broadcast by NBC
  • Sept. 30th at Minnesota at 8:00 p.m and will be broadcast by ABC, ESPN or ESPN2
  • Oct. 7th vs. Michigan State at 4:30 p.m. and will be broadcast nationally by ESPN
  • Oct. 14th at Penn State at 8:00 p.m. and will be broadcast by ABC
  • Oct. 28th vs. Northwestern at Noon; tv coverage to be announced

Announcements regarding game times for the other 1/2 of the schedule will be posted as soon as same is available. In the meantime, here are two interesting tidbits regarding Michigan football's history on television: (1) U-M is the most televised school in college football history with 356 appearances; and (2) U-M commences the 2006 season with a string of 131 consecutive televised games. Take that Notre Dame.

U-M vs MSU game on 10-7-06 has 4:30 p.m. kickoff

Kickoff for the Michigan-Michigan State game on October 7, 2006 has been set for 4:30 p.m. Mark your calendars!!! The game will be broadcast on ESPN. As noted in the Detroit Free Press article regarding the start time, sunset in A2 on gameday will be at 7:07 p.m. That means much of the second half [and any overtime(s)] will be played under the portable lights. Remember that the last two meetings between these teams have gone into OT including, of course, the triple-OT classic U-M won at home in 2004. Also, if you are attending the game, please remember to dress in layers. I can't tell you how many people I heard say during the '04 game that they were "freezing" and that they just wanted the game to end. Afternoon sun=warmth. Sun goes down=cooler weather. We did go to U-M people. Try and act like it.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Voice of the Wolverines

While we await word on the radio broadcast information (what station and what announcers) at least it has been settled since early this year who will be the "Voice of the Wolverines" in the Big House: Carl Grapentine. Grapentine is only Michigan's third PA announcer since 1957. He follows in the footsteps of Steve Filipiak (1957-1971) and, of course, Howard King (1972-2005). Filipiak is best known for starting the tradition of announcing the Slippery Rock score during Michigan games.

As for Grapentine, he has had plenty of opportunity to get ready to assume the PA announcer's job. He and King worked together for 33 years as Grapentine has been the "Voice of the Michigan Band" since 1970 handling pre, post and halftime PA duties related to the band. Grapentine even got a trial run as the football PA announcer in 2005 when King's ailing health sidelined him for a few games. Grapentine filled in admirably improving with each game. He always had the commanding voice he just had to get used to calling out who made the play without hesitating. With the help of a spotter and rising confidence, Grapentine was pretty proficient by his final stint in the 2005 season. The U-M brass must have thought so as well because they decided to give him the gig full-time now that King has retired. Grapentine has such a terrific voice there is nothing quite like hearing him command, "Band, take the field!" and I look forward to hearing another year of his football announcing as well.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

U-M's 2005 Defensive Rankings

Posting about the wholesale coaching changes on the defensive side of the ball made me curious to look up exactly how we finished as a defensive unit last year under (former) Coach Herrmann. Everyone remembers (with good reason) the late game struggles to stop opponents from marching down the field for a last-minute score but overall the unit did fairly well statistically. However, when I cite statistics I always try to keep in mind a quote a friend recited to me. He said, "Some people use statistics like drunks use lamp posts. For support rather than illumination." So when I cite these statistics and make any conclusions based thereon it will be with the idea in mind of being enlightening rather than simply supporting my thesis that Jim Herrmann got a raw deal when it was suggested that it was time for him to explore NFL opportunities.

  • Scoring Defense 20.3 pts. per game 4th (Big 10) ;24th (NCAA)
  • Total Defense 345.2 yards per game 3rd; 36th
  • Rushing Defense 137.3 yards per game 4th; 41st
  • Passing Defense 207.8 yards per game 2nd; 42nd
  • Pass Efficiency Def. 116.3 rating 3rd; 33rd
  • Opp. 3rd Down conv. 35.7% 3rd; 37th
  • Opp. 4th Down conv. 25.0% 1st; 7th
  • Sacks 24 for -187 yards 6th; 64th
  • Red Zone Defense 86.5% 10th; ----

* Note: statistics researched from May, 2006 issue of The Wolverine. It's a fantastic resource. If you don't get it yet, you should. You can reach them by clicking here

Michigan's defense was basically in the top 1/3 of the Big 10 and the entire NCAA in most defensive categories. The stat that stood out to me was the red zone defense. If a team got to our 20 yard line they were money to come away with at least 3 points. Sacks was also a disappointment and I'm hoping LaMarr Woodley has something to say about that this year. Overall though, I think the defensive stats are not bad for a team that finished 7-5. Remember that 4 of our losses were by 4 pts. or less and our other loss was by 7 pts. (to ND). Our defense kept us in games. My theory (and what do I know) is the real problem was no rushing game to perform ball control/clock management on offense in close games to grind out first downs and kill the clock. Our leading rusher only had 662 yards for the season. I contend the problem was more offensive than defensive. Of course, Coach Carr did suggest to Offensive Coordinator Terry Malone that he also "spread his wings" and explore NFL opportunities. When you finish 7-5 there is enough blame to spread around to everyone. As for this season, I am hopeful with a healthy Mike Hart that the running game will get back on track which will take some of the pressure off the defense in the close games we will inevitably have this year. As for the defensive genius Herrmann, I wish things could have worked out better for him here. I really thought he was going to be our next Head Coach but that is the subject of a post for another day.


Defensive coaching overhaul for 2006

Following last year's 7-5 campaign, Coach Carr made sweeping changes in the senior coaching staff on the defensive side of the ball. Of course, Jim Herrmann was let go as Defensive Coordinator (uh, I mean was given the opportunity to explore possibilities in the NFL) but the changes hardly stopped there. We have a new linebackers coach (Steve Szabo) and a new cornerbacks coach (Ron Lee). The senior man in his position is Steve Stripling who is in his SECOND season with us as Defensive Line coach having held that job previously with MSU.

Now to be fair, our new Defensive Coordinator Ron English is in his 4th year with U-M but this is his first season ever serving as Def. coordinator at any level of coaching. His college coaching experience, while extensive, has primarily been limited to coaching members of the secondary. Now I understand fans calling for new blood to be brought in, but did we really need this much bloodshed from the former defensive staff? I mean there is going to be a tremendous learning curve with this many "new" coaches on staff being led by a coordinator who is adjusting to his new position. Granted these "new" coaches aren't recent graduate assistants getting their first full-time gigs. That is why I put new in quotes. They are just "new" to U-M. Szabo for example has been coaching for 38 years including the previous 12 years in the NFL. So, I think he knows what he is doing. It's just that it takes time for a staff to gel just like it takes a team time to come together and there are an awful lot of new (but experienced) hands who aren't used to working together that are going to have to hit the ground running once Vanderbilt rolls into A2. I like stability and I can forsee some chaotic times ahead until the defensive staff finds its way which will hopefully occur before we hit the Big 10 schedule.

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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Jerseys, Jerseys, Jerseys

The theme of my first post of the day is Jerseys. Here are 3 random thoughts I've had that I've put under one post:

First: Authentic game-worn jerseys for sale.
Yesterday, I did a post on the fall of Tony Boles. His heyday was his sophmore year of 1988 in which he ran for 1,408 yards and he capped off the season by playing in the 1989 Rose Bowl. His Rose Bowl jersey is apparently for sale for $999.00 at http://www.collegejersey.com/store/viewItem.asp?idProduct=22182

Second: Nike "Authentic" Jerseys vs. Nike Replica Jerseys
For those of you who don't feel like making a mortgage-like payment to buy a jersey, there is always the option of the buying a jersey "like" the players wear. The question is how much are you willing to spend to have a jersey "like" those worn by the guys on the field. The Nike "Authentic" Jerseys for sale at the M Den are extremely high quality but are $150.00 each. (Note: I put "authentic" in quotes merely to distinguish it from the authentic game-worn jerseys mentioned above.) Although obviously not game worn, you will look like a player as the jerseys are of the same quality as those worn by the players. However, since it is unlikely that Coach Carr will look into the stands and ask you to come down and serve as the gunner on the special teams unit you are probably ok if your jersey is not game quality as long as it looks good. This leads us to Nike Replica jerseys which are generally 1/3 the cost of Nike "Authentic" jerseys and thus look very attractive just from that perspective. Even at $50, these aren't exactly cheap. Although they don't generally have the stitched on numbers, the jerseys are generally of a very high quality and look very good. The Replica jerseys seem to be the most popular choice because you are getting a good quality product for a much better price. More bang for your buck. For those who want to distinguish themselves a bit from the pack of people who own Replica jerseys, you can order a custom-made replica jersey from the M Den. For $65, as opposed to the normal $50, you can special order any number you want on your jersey and/or have your name placed on the back. (Note: They don't allow you to put the name of current or former players on the back of the jersey. I assume that has to do with some kind of licensing issue). To check out these jerseys, you can go to the M Den's website here: http://mden.com/shopping/index.cfm?dept_id=1033

Third: Michigan's "piping" hot road jersey that debuted last season
U-M had new road jerseys with piping on them in 2005 which can be seen here. This was hardly a bold change to the uniform but it was just enough of a change that people would certainly know if you did not keep up with the times by plunking down another $150 for the latest version of the road jersey. Although the change in style was ostensibly for the purpose of sprucing up the uniform it had just as much, if not more, to do with the bottom line. With each change in style, the die-hard fans buy the updated version which leads Nike and the University to decide that while tradition is great for the helmet that change is good for the jersey as it generates revenue. I fully expect further revisions in coming seasons once the market cools on this "piping" hot jersey.

Luxury boxes at the Big House???

Now that Jim Herrmann is gone and U-M fans are no longer able to debate the topic whether he should stay or go, the Wolverine faithful have a new topic to discuss interminably: Whether luxury boxes should be added to the Big House? The debate really caught fire a few weeks ago when the anti-box side was featured in an article on the front page of the Sports section of the Sunday edition of The New York Times. The anti-box people have a website, of course, which can be found here: http://www.savethebighouse.com/

The site does a fairly good job of laying out the case of the anti-box forces. However, I'm not sure I'm convinced. To me, tradition is the winged helmet and the fight song. The stadium needs to be able to change with the modern times to accomodate both the fans and the players. Michigan does not want to get into a position where we get left behind the other Big 10 schools because we are too tied to tradition.

PSD a/k/a the bane of my existence

It was just recently announced that Preferred Seating Donations (PSD) raised $9.5 million dollars for U-M for the 2006 season. Michigan Ticket Manager Marty Bodnar was quoted as saying in the May 5, 2006, Ann Arbor News that, "I'm very comfortable that the program has been very well accepted." The article can be found here

Now I understand that the ship has already sailed on this issue and that most people have moved on to whether we should join the other Big 10 schools in the 21st century and add luxury boxes (excuse me, Bill Martin, Enclosed Seating Areas) to the stadium. However, I am not quite ready to move on. I am still stuck on complaining about these stupid PSD's which were phased in fully for the first time this year.

The PSD program covers 33,000 of the 107,501 seats at the stadium with "donations" ranging from $125 to $500 PER SEAT depending on the seat location. By the way, don't insult me by terming this a "donation" when in fact you are coercing this from me. "Donation" connotes voluntariness and this is anything but voluntary. Either you satisfy this mandatory requirement or you get banished to the endzone or out of the stadium altogether. The program should be referred to as PSS: Preferred Seating Surcharge. That would be a much more accurate description of what was occuring.

I found it interesting that the cancellation rate for season ticket holders was 4% this year and last year respectively as compared to the 2%-2.5% annual cancellation rate during the years prior to the implementation of the PSD program. It should also be noted that an additional 300 season-ticket holders downgraded themselves to the endzone this year to avoid paying the PSD surcharge.

With PSD's providing an additional revenue stream of almost $10 million annually, I would hope that (at a minimum) that U-M can hold the line on ticket prices in future seasons.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Tony Boles: A Cautionary Tale

John Heuser of the Ann Arbor News did an outstanding piece on Sunday, May 7, 2006 regarding the plight of former U-M superstar tailback Tony Boles. The article details the descent into drugs and prison that has occurred in Boles' life since his football saturdays for U-M. Boles had a once promising career after having rushed for 1,408 yards in his sophmore year in 1988. That season rushing total still ranks 8th best all-time for Wolverine rushers for a single season total. Boles suffered a career ending knee-injury in his junior season and he dropped out of school. Although some people don't like to read this type of article because they find it depressing (and I can certainly understand why they would feel that way), I found the article to be very enlightening and worthwhile. I hope Boles can eventually turn it around like Billy Taylor did as no one wants their legacy to be that of a cautionary tale.

Jerimy Finch verbally commits to U-M for 2007...kind of...sort of

The Wolverine is reporting that Jerimy Finch has given U-M a verbal committment for 2007. Finch is 6'1", 211 lbs. and is one of the State of Indiana's top high school prospects. He plays Safety for Indianapolis (Ind.) Warren Central High School which is also the alma mater of current Wolverine standout linebacker Chris Graham. That's the good news. The bad news is that Finch may, or may not, ever actually end up in a Wolverine uniform. It seems as if his verbal commitment is considered to be "soft" at this time and he still plans to make recruiting visits to other schools. Finch is, for now, considered to be U-M's sixth verbal committment for the class of 2007.

*Note: Photo of Jerimy Finch from Rivals.com.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Great players but as coaches???

There have been several articles recently about former U-M tight-end Jay Riemersma returning to Zeeland East High School as Head Football Coach. Last year, as Interim Coach, Riemersma led his team to a "perfect" 0-9 season. Nevertheless, Riemersma was recently "rewarded" with the removal of Interim from his title and he is now the Head Coach at Zeeland East.

The Zeeland East High School Chix (that is really their name) are one of the worst teams in the state. They are almost as bad as the team coached by another U-M legend: Ron Simpkins. Simpkins was one of my favorite U-M players in the late-70's and he still holds the record for most tackles in a single season and in a career. However, he has not yet enjoyed that level of success in terms of wins and losses during his coaching career at his high school alma mater Detroit Western. Simpkins has been the Head Coach for the past 12 years and his primary area of success has been more in the "molder of men" category than the "wins/losses" category. At least that is what I got from a Detroit News article profiling him in October, 2005.

I'm all for teaching young high schoolers the ways of Michigan Men but maybe Bo could come out of retirement for a Friday night or two to give some former Wolverines a little help on the sidelines in leading their charges to a couple of more "W's". Or, they could do what former U-M Safety Mike Jolly (#16) did and become an Athletic Director (Troy Schools) and let someone else take the heat on the sidelines. Go Blue!

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Jeff Backus back on campus

Disproving the old saying that you can't go back home again, Jeff Backus is back on campus doing his off-season workouts at Schembechler Hall five days a week while he works out his contract details with the Detroit Lions. Apparently, the two sides are currently still far apart. Backus has always been a consumate professional and maybe having him in the weight room this summer will be a good influence on the young Wolverine lineman who hope to someday join him in the NFL ranks. Go Blue!

Offensive Coordinator DeBord will be speaking in Lloyd's hometown

On May 24, 2006, new Offensive Coordinator (but old hand) Mike DeBord is coming to Riverview (a/k/a "The 'View") to speak at the U-M Club of Downriver Spring Scholarship Awards Dinner. It is open to the general public and will give people a chance to meet DeBord and ask him offensive questions in an informal setting. (That is offensive questions as in queries about plays conducted by the offense not offensive questions as in "Hey DeBord, is your play calling going to be as bad as that of your predecessor Terry Malone?").

Tickets for the dinner are $25. More information can be obtained at http://www.umclubs.com/downriver


Monday, May 08, 2006

Committment of Ryan Mallett---shades of Drew Henson

The blogs have been abuzz over the recent committment of Ryan Mallett the high school JUNIOR from Texarkana, TX. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm glad we got him and I'm sure as heck glad we got him over that goofy looking Jimmy Clausen who committed to Notre Dame. However, I can't help but think back to the days of Drew Henson from Brighton, MI. Once burned, twice shy. I remember being SO excited when Drew was coming to U-M. I was one of those goofballs that thought we would win 4 national championships. (As an aside, I see Jimmy Clausen made the mistake this year of forecasting 4 national championships in his team's future). Well we all know what happened with Drew. He never quite lived up to his billing even after Tom Brady graduated and the team was all his. Mallett is only a junior and needs to concentrate on having a great high school senior season. All the hype surrounding him could hurt his development. Obviously, people are excited that he committed to U-M but I try and never to get too "up" on a recruit. If Henson can fizzle, so can Mallett. I hope people go back to focusing on Chad Henne (the starting U-M junior QB) rather than Mallett, the high school junior QB who will (possibly) start for us in the future if everything works out right. Ask Matt Gutierrez about that next time you see him. Oh wait, he transferred.

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Those Who Stay Will Be CHAMPIONS

During Bo Schembechler's first year as Head Coach at U-M in 1969 he had a sign placed in the locker room that read, "Those Who Stay Will Be CHAMPIONS". This has become a legendary motivational phrase that continues to live on today with the current players who don the maize and blue. I've always liked the phrase because it exemplifies the Michigan ideal: perseverance and hard work paying off with winning results. It is for that reason that I chose to name this blog: Those who stay will be champions. Well, for that reason, and for the fact that many of the other good Michigan football names (MGoblue; winged helmet; victors valiant, etc.) had all been taken. There are many good Michigan Football blogs out there (M Zone, Michigan Sports Center, and M Go Blog to name a few) so why add my blog to the list? Well, because I wanted to add my two cents worth. Whether it's worth reading...well, that's for you to decide. I do notice that many of the Michigan blogs plow the same territory (there are only so many times I can read Ryan Mallett committed to U-M and Jimmy Clausen of ND has a bad haircut) so I am going to TRY to branch out as I go but I'll just have to see how that works out. If you stick with me, however, I can tell you one thing.......................THOSE WHO STAY WILL BE CHAMPIONS!
(Don't tell me you didn't see that coming.)
*Note: Vidcap of the original "Those Who Stay Will be CHAMPIONS" locker room sign from MVictors.com