Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sideline discipline

Early in last year's Ohio State game, Coach Rod lost control of his sideline. It was chaotic, it was frantic and (frankly) it was pathetic. Players and coaches were screaming at each other. A strength and conditioning assistant (Chris Allen) grabbed the face mask of a player (Charles Stewart) and a timeout had to be called to straighten out the pandemonium that had overtaken the Wolverines' sideline during the rivalry game. When Bo was the Head Coach, order was the rule of the day on the sidelines. Bo was in control and no assistant (and certainly no S&C asst.) was going to cause chaos and force the Wolverines to burn a timeout during the biggest game of the year.

In his book, Bo's Lasting Lessons, Bo wrote at p. 174:
So every Friday before a game, we'd practice something we called our
"sideline discipline." We'd line up all the offensive starters in
their positions: linemen in front, backs right behind them, wideouts on the
sides. Then we put the second-string player at each position right
behind the starters, all up and down the bench. Everyone had a
particular place to sit, so we knew immediately if someone was injured or
missing. It was the backup's job to watch the game and be ready the
second the starter came out, for any reason. And we'd do the same thing with the defense. You
have to make sure everyone is indoctrinated.

When it was time to do this in the games, we'd get
everyone together right before the offense or defense
took the field. We could get it all done in seconds.
I'm sure what we were doing
looked like chaos from the stands, but it
wasn't. Everyone knew what they
were doing. Do this correctly,
and you will never get called for too many
men on the field.

Coach Rod needs to spend some time during Fall Practice with his players and coaches refreshing them on sideline discipline so that when they are faced with a pressure-packed situation during the season that they don't lose their heads. More importantly, Coach Rod should ban Chris Allen from the sideline for the 2009 season. There is apparently no in-game function that Allen performs and he has already proven beyond any doubt that he cannot conduct himself in a professional manner on the sidelines. Allen should be left in the locker room during the games for this season. Hopefully, Coach Rod will have a more disciplined sideline in 2009 than what was on display during the nationally televised game versus Ohio State last year that made the Wolverines look foolish. Go Blue!

UPDATE ON 7/22/09: The Athletic Media Relations Dept. did a puff piece this week on Chris Allen on in an attempt to repair the damage caused by the fallout from the nationally televised debacle instigated by Allen last season versus OSU. Fine, there is no problem with retaining him on staff. Just keep him off the sidelines during games where he has already shown himself to be a liability. Go Blue!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Nowhere to go but up

Michigan's offense struggled mightily in 2008. The passing game was especially atrocious. The transition to Coach Rodriguez' Spread Offense was rocky to say the least. However, the team has a year with the system under its belt and there will likely be a new QB at the controls for 2009. Hopefully, the team will show improvement this season. Below are the team's 2008 rankings (of 119 Div I-FBS teams) in some key offensive categories:

The key to Coach Rod's Spread Offense is the Quarterback position. As became painfully evident last year, the Wolverines did not have the right personnel (i.e., Threet &/or Sheridan) to run the Spread Offense. This year, the likely starter is true freshman Tate Forcier. If Forcier starts the season opener, he will only be the third true freshman in the 130-year history of the Michigan Football program to start at QB in a season opener. (Rick Leach in 1975 and Chad Henne in 2004 were the others). As Coach Rod stated, the key to being a QB in the Spread Offense is that you have to be able to "think quickly and make good decisions in space to make good things happen." That is a lot to ask of a true freshman quarterback. However, Forcier seems to have the attributes that Coach Rod is looking for in a quarterback. At (the Forcier family website), the welcome page of the site states, "Quarterback mostly comes down to SPEED, Ball Speed, Foot Speed, Decision Speed + Heart will put you over the-top and add the 'Magic' -which very few athletes have- (Not to be confused with dumb luck) you've got a SUPER-STAR!" The welcome page goes on to define Decision Speed as "the knowledge offense, opponents defense and execution speed there of." Although Forcier's chutzpah is admirable and his physical talents far exceed last year's starters, he is still only a true freshman. The learning curve will be steep and Forcier's decision speed in 2009 will be nowhere near what it will be in future seasons. The Wolverines will no doubt improve this season but by how much largely depends on how quickly Forcier develops. Expect some potholes this season on the road back to respectability. Go Blue!