Big Ten Media Days, Day One, Part Four: Rich Rodriguez and the 2010 Michigan Football Season

{Ed Note: I'm beat, folks. So please forgive any typos and run on sentences. Getting off an all-nighter from Anchorage to Chicago where the bozo next to you has a voice like a fog horn and three other buddies across the aisle meant I got three hours of intermittent sleep. I'll be at full speed tomorrow.}

For the second straight year Rodriguez started with a notecard and a smile, and answered a lot of direct questions about his football team. Here's a bit of a summary of what went down.

The Quarterback Position:

A number of questions focused on the Tate Forcier v. Denard Robinsonquarterback competition, and Rodirguez was quick to state that the competition remained wide open and no starter had been chosen. Adding to the intrigue, Rodriguez was quick to point out that freshman Devin Gardner will definitely be the "No. 3" quarterback this season. He also mentioned that if Robinson does not eventually win the starting position, he's going to be on he field in an offensive capacity. Conversely, if Tate doesn't win it outright, Forcier is going to stay at quarterback and back up the starter. The one thing I took away from this is there is no clear favorite for the position and it's everyone's to win. It's not going to be handed to anyone. It's a competition and Tate, Denard or Devin has to flat out win the position.

The Linebackers:

When no one raised their hand quick enough, I got in a question about Michigan's linebacker situation this season. Rodriguez stressed that this was a veteran group with a pair of seniors (Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton) and a really exciting sophomore (Craig Roh). But the thing he focused on was competition at the position. He indicated taht the fact there are now five or six guys that could see the field has put the onus of the starters to produce. Rodriguez singled out Kevin Leach and Kenny Demensas potential contributors. The thing that surprised most of the people in the room had to do with Mark Moundros . Moundros apparently approached Rodriguez about the switch to linebacker as a way to help the team. Moundrosthen had a strong spring and will compete for the starting job at middle linebackers. More importantly, Rodriguez is excited about DC Greg Robinson taking over the LB position because that was the position he's had the most experience with. When you think about Robinson's success as a DC and as a position coach, it's hard not to share that enthusiasm. Michigan's linebackingexperience combined withsome actual depth (there's going to be five or six guys that will see the field) has Rodriguez hoping to big things out of this position. 

Team Leadership:

There are only 15 or 16 seniors of this year's team. Despite the small size, Rodriguez indicated that the senior class seems to really have taken ownership of this coming season. Rodriguez remarked that he'd had the senior class over to his house for dinner and the seniors were not just excited about the coming season, but excited about the work they'd put in in the off season to get themselves and their teammates ready for 2010. Rodriguez also stated that he thinks that all of the off-the-field-nonsense that's gone on around this team has made the group a lot closer.

The Fans:

Fans have been terrific. Fans have been very positive, but they do want us to win more.

The Rivalry:

There were a number of questions about whether Rodriguez was feeling any additional pressure this season to perform better against OSU. Rodriguez said that there is always pressure, but what it comes down to is Michigan needs to play better. "We'll win those games when we deserve to win those games." There was even a follow up questions on the OSU/Michigan rivalry designed to make it seem like Rodriguez doesn't want to keep the OSU rivalry. [Editor's aside: Good lord people, let it go. When your team is struggling to get to the .500 mark, concentrate on what the team needs to do to get better. Rodriguez'thoughts on the Rivalry have nothing to do with how this team will perform in 2010.]

Going for Two against MSU:

There was a great question brought up about the MSU game, did Rodirugez ever think about going for the win in regulation? Rodriguez was pretty frank about this: No. Rodriguez said that you go for two only when you have to. Get to Overtime. Win it there. In a later followup question, Rich said there are always things you regret as you look at the tape, plays you wish you'd called as this season goes on. But the decision to go to overtime against MSU was never one of them.

A lot more after the jump including WR and RB statuses......

Defensive Secondary:

Troy Woolfolk , Jordan Kovacs, Michael Williams all look good. The coaching staff is really excited about J.T. Floyd. Says he's really gotten better. The player that I'd hoped to hear more about, J.T. Turner, went without mention. As Turner is just a redshirt freshman, it's faaaar to premature to considerhim anything but a later bloomer at this point. Still, given the lack of depth at the corner position and safety position, it would've been nice to hear something about the former No. 1 or No. 2 player in Ohio. At the safety position it looks like freshmen may be able to contribute immediately. That scares him and scares the hell out of me. Jordan Kovacsand Mike Williams both got a ton of playing time, but Rodriguez stressed that without internal competition it's hard to get players to reach their absolute best. The Safety slots look like they'll go down to kick-off and maybe beyond.

Running Backs:

The biggest surprise of the day, at least to me, was that Vincent Smith sounds like he'll be 100% by the start of fall practice.

Wow.

The kid blew out his ACLin November and will be ready to contribute this season. I'm floored. With Smith back in the fold that means Michael Cox, Fitzgerald Toussaint, and Smith will compete for the starting slot. No mention of Michael Shaw, but I'm sure that's more of an oversight. At least I hope it is.

Wide Receivers:

Rodriguez acknowledged that Michigan is stacked at slot receiver but that the lack of the deep ball has been a real hinderance in the offense. I asked Rodriguez who would be Michigan's top outside threats this year and he said that Darryl Stonum and Junior Hemingwayremain Michigan's primary receiving threats on the outside. Rodriguez indicated there might be a player or two coming in this year's class that could help, but the onus was on Stonum and Hemingway to "lead that charge."

Stonum will not face any more discipline from the team as the result of this summer's off-field shenanigans. Rodriguez indicated that the punishment he received from local law enforcement sounds like it scared him straight.

The NCAA Meeting:

Rich and AD's office will go before the infractions committee on August 13th in Seattle.

Side Thoughts on Day One:

I really don't care what anyone else thinks on this subject, but I like Rich Rodriguez.

Given my nascent understanding of how this whole "press" thing works, I guess it's natural that I'd be charmed by the guy. I haven't been in the locker room after a game. I haven't been there with a mic in his face for fourteen straight weeks. I haven't built a career trying to build him up or tear him down.

My stake in his future is simple. If he succeeds, Michigan succeeds. If Michigan succeeds, I'm happy.

But on a personal level, despite what you may wish to gleanfrom comments taken out of context, he is a really nice guy. I really wish more people could see him in this type of environment, just so they could see just how hard it is to be a nice guy with people shouting questions at you out of the blue and three dozen microphones positioned inches away from his face, forcing him to back into a wall if for nothing else than for it to serve as a virtual backstop for the questions being hurled at him.

He's a good football coach and a good human being. The fact that he can smile after the last two years, as pained as the look in his eyesmay be when he talks about the pratfalls he's incurred, speaks to his character. He knows as well as anyone that he's blessed to do what he does for a living. And he still comes out there witha bottle of water in one hand, seemingly as his only means of defense from the gauntlet of microphones, and answers questions witha forthrightness that we really have no business to expect from anyone. Rodirguez is good people. Please, lets keep this in mind as the season goes on, regardless of how it turns out.

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