Let me say this to start out: Media Days are really friggin cool. Walking through the door with a placard sized pass around your neck and people politely calling you "sir" is a new thing for me. I kinda like it. Sadly, media days only last two days so I have to go back to buying my own lunch and sneaking coffee from the office next door. Freebies aside, it's pretty cool to see Joe Paterno sitting there and addressing everyone, including the furniture, as "young man." (I keed, I keed. He called the furniture "SECRETARY!") But... man.... everyone is there. BTW, I'm taller than Adrian Clayborn. I am not taller than Stephen Schilling, though; and Mark Moundros is one intimidating looking dude. Nicest guy in the world, but damn, if I saw him lining up across from me I'd fake an injury. He kind of looks like an angry Billy Zane, but without the cuddliness.
One of the coolest things about the Big Ten Media Kickoff is that you actually get to sit down with players and coaches and ask them some direct questions. If you're a seasoned journalist who has covered Michigan athletics for years and goes to the press conferences every week, it probably isn't that big a deal. But for a rank amateur... strike that... total clown, like myself it's an amazing opportunity to get a feel for the program before they suit up and start knocking heads around on August 5th.
Obviously none of what I'm about to write would be possible without the overwhelming generosity of the Michigan Athletic Department and their staff who have allowed me to join in on all this fun stuff. I don't say that to kiss a ring or leave an offering at the alter, I say it because it's true. Without them nodding a head or in some way allowing me through the gateway, I wouldn't have been there. So kudos and thanks to the AD's office for the opportunity to participate in the proceedings.
I'll get into more detailed wrap ups as I go through the audio recordings, but here's a general wrap up of what went down.
First, Michigan's representatives were Steve Schilling, Mark Moundros and Troy Woolfolk. All three guys were very cool, very accesible and everything you'd expect out of Michigan men. One of the things that lept out at me was that there really seems to be a sense of unfinished business on the minds of the players. They obviously want to get out there and play, but I got the sense that they reallywant to show people just how good they are this season. Woolfolk in particular seems to want to show people that he is a No. 1 corner, and judging from his understanding of the defense and experience he could very well become a star this season.
A LOT more after the jump.....
All three young men were soft spoken leaders. The kind of guys that seem to lead by example. But all three also seem like the kind of young men who will stand up for what they believe in and lead this team with a unified voice. Another thing that's crystal clear, they really like their head Coach. Paraphrasing something Steve Schilling said, he told me that he was privileged to play for one of Michigan's greatest coaches in Coach Carr, but he said looking down the road he's going to be able to tell people that when he played at Michigan he played for two of Michigan greatest coaches, Carr and Rodriguez. So keep that in mind if anyone ever asks you what the players think of Rodriguez.
Player wise, Vincent Smith's return to the field seems almost guaranteed. Michael Cox sounds like he's going to be a beast this year. Patrick Omameh and Taylor Lewan sound very young, but they also sound like they are non-stop effort type players who have star written all over them. J.T. Floyd may very well be the real deal at the No. 2 corner slot. Woolfolk and Rodriguez couldn't stop talking about his progress. Denard Robinson is going to be on the field in some capacity this season, regardless of where he is on offense. However, Rodriguez emphasized that right now he is battling for the starting QB position. I'll have more specifics in a little while.
Second, Rodriguez is a great interview. He's serious when he needs to be but for the most part he is as relaxed an interviewee as you'll ever find. He just loves to talk football. One of the things I admire about him greatly is that while our questions usually focus on individuals, he always likes to talk about the team as a whole. He never stops emphasizing that the team comes first, and that's something I'm proud he teaches our players. Another thing is Rodriguez has a great sense of humor. At one point he was asked about some of the times that got him down or things he wishes he could've done differently. He responded honestly saying that if he were to sit down and think about it, he could probably come up with a list of things, but also responded that he'd never do it because that would just ruin his day. Instead he chooses to focus on the positive, like (facetiously saying) it'd been 48 hours since something'd gone wrong. I'll say it 'till I'm blue in the face, he's a great guy.
Third, the assembled media was really cool. Even established guys like Joe Schad were very approachable and friendly. Your normal cast of characters like John U. Bacon, the Michigan Daily Staff, Sam Webb, Angelique Chengelis, Mike Rothstein, Adam Rittenberg, Tim Sullivan (MGo), Mark Snyder, and everyone else were a lot of fun to be around. It's a very congenial atmosphere, and their presence and acceptance makes it a lot easier for your humble blogger to relay things back to you. So my thanks to all of them for making the event that much better.