Two years ago Michigan's field goal kicking options were so bad that during mid-season Rich Rodriguez held an open tryout for potential kickers, "any student out there who's enrolled at the University and is in good academic standing and a good guy and can kick field goals and can kick the ball into the end zone, we'll have another tryout for you." Things rarely reach a level of bad that so compels a coach, out of frustration, to send up such a desperate cry for help.
While all wasn't lost with scholarship kicker Brendan Gibbons, this story does show just how valuable a team's walk-on program can be to build depth and bolster production at thin positions. The University of Miami is in a similar boat these days. Attrition has ravaged the Cane offensive line to the point where Al Golden has resorted --- presumably not himself --- to posting flyers around campus calling for walk-on offensive linemen. While the critera (are you over 6'1, 230lbs?) and execution (one pictures the flyer surrounded by others for tutoring services, lost dogs, and terrible local bands) have given many a hearty laugh, the fact is Golden understands something about college football: a healthy walk-on program is important. Paul Myerberg understands it too:
Every program in college football wants a certain number of walk-ons, and along the offensive line in particular. In the big picture, a deep and talented group of walk-ons promotes depth throughout the roster: not merely in numbers, but also in the game-situation reps these walk-ons give the difference-makers - the recruited, scholarship student-athletes.
If there is any fan base in the country that can appreciate just how important a team's walk-on program is to the overall success of the team, it is Michigan's. Not only was the kicking situation so poor two years ago as to inspire a similarly pathetic sounding cry for help, but elsewhere the walk-on program has provided a number of success stories.
Look no further than Jordan Kovacs, unquestionably the best Michigan safety since 2006, and a kid who had to walk-on twice because he had an injury that kept him from making the team the first time. Along the defensive line is the success story of Will Heininger, who moved positions at the behest of coaches and finally settled into a starting role as a senior.
A football team may not, as the old cliche states, be only as strong as its weakest link. However, there is no doubt that another cliche fits well. A rising tide lifts all boats. The strength of a walk-on program, no matter how pandering the invitations, can do wonders for the rest of the team.
On to today's links:
Can Michigan Make "The Leap" Offensively in 2012 - Over at mgoblog the Mathlete takes a look at Michigan's chances at a big jump in offensive production this year based on returning starters and coaches, and past production from teams in similar situations. Bringing back Denard is good, bringing back Borges is better, but, strangely enough, a lack of proven players at receiver could be a stumbling block when looking for the great leap forward.
"I had a pretty good game," he said. "I wanted to go out there and show everyone that I thought I should've made the [Mcdonalds All-American] team. I got in the gym extra early that day.
Stay hungry, kid.
However, what the team did in one game against an unfamiliar opponent in an unfamiliar city shouldn’t negatively color perceptions of Michigan’s season as a whole. It was clear that the program made big strides in becoming a Big Ten powerhouse, earning a four-seed in the Big Dance on the way.
More basketball retrospectives. This time it is the Daily with its take on Michigan's conference championship season*.
*(I am not going to get tired of saying that)
Does Michigan have the best uniforms in the Big Ten? BTN's tournament says yes - So does common sense, and eye for aesthetics, and the coolest helmet in college football.
He did say that the jerseys would be "futuristic" but "not outlandish," and that there would be no changes to Nebraska's helmet.
Phil Knight laughs at your simply ways, Tom Osborne.
Starting in 2012, Penn State fans can no longer count on the lights out-performance by the defense with absolute certainty. The defense could be plagued with the same unpredictability we have experienced with the offense during the last few years. Let's face it- if the defense wasn't there to bail out the offense so often, the losses would have piled up very quickly over the years. Take Penn State's 8-1 start before The Thing in 2011. Without a dominant defense, Penn State almost certainly lose to Temple, Indiana, Iowa, Purdue, and Illinois. Suddenly an 8-1 team (with the only loss coming to the eventual national champs) is 3-6 with the only wins coming against FCS Indiana State, Eastern Michigan, and Northwestern. And I'm being generous by not counting NW as a probable win. Now that's downright terrifying.
BSD on the uncertainty facing the Nittany Lion defense. Michigan fans, you know you can sympathize with this one.
Doc Holliday: When Doc takes a chance and jumps a route and it works, you jump and scream and have nothing but the highest of praise. When Doc takes that same chance and leaves the safety hung out to dry on a long pass, you curse and frown and talk about how this team needs players who stay within the scheme and bend but don't break. This says more about you than Doc Holliday, and what it says is that you don't know what you want.
EDSBS continues its generic previews of each position group with a look at the six kinds of defensive backs on your team --- there are only six kinds, don't let your foolish notions of individuality cloud your mind.