Excellent observations from today’s practice from ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg [who’s got a bit of Jared from Subway in his blood] on his blog post here. He notes that Kevin Grady practiced with the team and here are a few more highlights:

* Feagin’s speed is immediately noticeable, and he looked comfortable running some of the basic option pitches and throws in the spread offense. My guess is he’ll be used to run some option this fall.
* Freshman Michael Shaw seemed to be getting a lot of work at wide receiver. It’s a little weird to see No. 20 in maize and blue who isn’t Mike Hart.
* Walking through Michigan’s weight room on the way out, I stopped to check out the team-high totals for several categories. Johnson tops the bench-press chart at 500 pounds, Taylor squatted a team-best 625 pounds and cornerback Morgan Trent ran a 4.13 in the 40-yard dash.

There was also a Barwis mention of course.

Look dudes, I realize that all the attention is great for the program and recruiting and all, and it’s cool to have this guy here. And I’m as guilty as anyone for deifying Barwis, I even followed him around at the spring game in Saline (it was awesome). I’m glad to see I’m not the only one getting a little tired of it all. The frenzy has even prompted a few recent articles that basically say, ‘”Hey, School X has a pretty cool S&C program too”.

Is the non-stop Mike Barwis coverage growing tired on you?

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Update 8/4: mgoblue.com just posted audio and some additional notes.

16. April 2008 · Comments Off on On the Meyer Morton Award · Categories: Archive 2008, History, Pre-Season

The coaches did a nice thing at the start of the spring game on Saturday: they recognized the annual spring award winners. One of those presented was the Meyer Morton Award which went to senior Will Johnson. Here’s more from the official site, with the history of the winners and some history:

The Meyer Morton Award, established by the ‘M’ Club of Chicago in 1925, is given to the football player who shows the greatest development and most promise as a result of the annual spring practice. Morton, a 1912 Michigan graduate, was a lawyer in Chicago from 1915-48 and served as a Big Ten football official for 23 years.

This is the oldest individual award given by the football program and its winners include the late Gerald Ford. I actually found this pic of Ford with the award (1932) when researching a post after his death:

You may have picked up this mention on the great mgoblog within Brian’s spring practice post today:

Will Johnson won kind of a weird award for a fifth-year senior and returning starter to pick up.

Brian’s right. It’s a little weird for a 5th year senior to be getting this award. I’m still digging for the reference, but I’m 90% sure I read somewhere that this honored was originally reserved for underclassman.

Take Ford for instance. The late president won the honor in 1932, a great year for Michigan football but Ford wasn’t really active on the actual team yet. He didn’t captain the team until two years later during the miserable season of 1934 [a.k.a. the Really Great Depression for M historians].

Looking briefly through the history of the award, it looks like it was presented to underclassman until the 1950s, then you started to see a few juniors take the award. In the 60s up through Bo and Lloyd Carr you start to see a mix of seniors and juniors. The last few years it’s gone to 5th year seniors (Henne last year, Breaston in 2006, & so on).

So the interpretation of the award changed over years and Saturday’s press release on mgoblue.com confirms it. It defines the award as “the Meyer Morton Award, granted to the senior football player that experienced the greatest development and showed the most promise during spring practice”. [Emphasis added]

I don’t know when that changed or why this changed, but it did. Quoting Brian, it’s definitely “weird”.

Now, I completely realize that no one really gives a crap about any of this. But— someone’s got to keep an eye on the tradition here, and an award that’s been given out since the 1920s matters. Rodriguez probably hasn’t even unpacked the stuff in his office yet and he thankfully handed out these awards. Certainly Coach Rod just followed Carr’s lead by giving this to a senior. I’d like to know why it changed and I’m guessing that Coach Carr has the answer.

Henne to Greg Mathews in Michigan Spring Football 2007

The gates of the Big House opened in 2007 for this year’s version of the Spring Football game. This is the first of three pre-season events leading up to the football season, the other two being the ‘Fan Day’ typically in August and of course the Appalachian State dress rehearsal on September 1.

Many know that the format in year’s past was more of an organized practice with a few snaps of live action. They actually introduced more team play this year with the Blue (offense) taking on the White (defense) in real snaps just a few minutes after warming up. They created some type of scoring system for the defense as well but they failed to explain to the 10,000 on hand how the white team scoring actually worked. Anyway, I liked the format and it allowed for a lot of action as opposed to a bunch of practice drills. More »

Make the pain go away! Coach Carr kicked three players off the squad for showing up in the A2 police blotter including the sure-handed, athletic TE Carson Butler. This hurts. Butler did a great job filling in for Tyler Ecker in 2006 and made some really nice plays. He’ll be missed. On top of this, Carr didn’t go as far as booting WR Adrian Arrington off the team, but he’s not allowed to participate this spring and it isn’t clear whether he’ll be back in the fall.

What else? Well, Mike Hart isn’t playing and is walking around in an arm sling to rest some type of shoulder procedure.

10. November 2006 · Comments Off on Michigan Fan Day 2006 · Categories: Archive 2006, Michigan Stadium, Pre-Season

Michigan Football opens the gates again for fans in 2006
ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN AUGUST 26, 2006 The Michigan Stadium gates swung open once again this year to allow the fans to meet the 2006 Wolverine coaches and players. We enjoyed the 90 minute warm embrace of the Michigan athletic department Saturday morning along with around 5,000 others. After last year’s logistical debacle they made some intelligent changes with the layout. By putting the players outside the stadium near the concession stands, they made better use of the space. They had freshman on the actual playing field which allowed more room for the kids to run around on the field and enjoy the day.

I got to see my new seats in Section 38 – a very nice improvement. Also, we saw the results of some of the infrastructure renovation. They poured new cement in most of the stadium and stamped the row number in large print.

Lew and Penny joined Abby and I for an hour or so as we toured around. Abby Dooley is under the impression that we attended an actual game and that Michigan won thanks in part to her efforts.

10. November 2006 · Comments Off on Michigan Football Preview 2006 · Categories: Archive 2006, Bowls, Lloyd Carr, Media, Michigan Stadium, Ohio State, Pre-Season, Refs & Rules, Tickets

What you need to know about this squad

Expectations are high once again for Michigan. Here’s this season’s look at the upcoming season and this team.

– Last Season. Obviously this was ugly, and 2005 will be looked at as the worst season since the early 80s. Michigan could have won every game on the schedule and had significant leads in every game, blowing it five times in losses to Notre Dame, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl. And the wins didn’t come easier either, with Michigan winning on the last play of the game against Michigan State in DB13 (OT), Penn State and Iowa (OT). While it is the worst season since I entered the U of M campus in the Fall of 1989, it probably featured the most exciting games.

– Sun Belt Refs. Speaking of exciting, the Alamo Bowl all in all was quite a ride. The pathetic crew of referees from the Sun Belt conference that lost control of the game are a running joke in town. Check this out, the Sun Belt conference even produced a full report to rebut the hammering they took in the national media [check it out]. These guys were so clueless.

– Last Play of the Season. I captured the diagram below of the seven laterals for the archives. I was half pickled watching the game with Lew and K’s, but I remember it well. It’s funny to think this was the last time we touched the ball last season. Why Tyler Ecker didn’t stay in bounds or pitch it to Steve Breaston is hard to understand. You can view a video of the final play here, and this is the diagram:

– Ticket Style. The Michigan ticket department changed the format of the tickets this year, for the first really since 1993 (visit ticketmuseum.com for an archive of Michigan football tickets). They are bigger and are bar-coded. Each game has a different sponsor, and the they made a special mention of the two “Maize Out” games, Wisconsin and Michigan State (good luck with that Maize Out- according to my research, Michigan Stadium ranks dead last on earth in participation in “[Color]-Outs”). And for whatever reason, my tickets appear to have a purple and gold border, I assume they meant to have a blue border, but it just didn’t work out. Speaking of my tickets, they actually moved me 2 sections over toward the field this year, not sure why (I didn’t ask for it).

– Conditioning. While Michigan made many changes to the coaching staff, they kept strength coach Mike Gittleson around. As would be hoped, the team clearly took a new approach to conditioning, focusing on making the team lighter, quicker and more durable. Given the second half leads that Michigan surrendered last year this was a good move. This was really all the talk during the Michigan media day.

– Back-up QB. With Matt Gutierrez leaving to attend I-AA Idaho State, the back-up quarterback position is definitely a question mark. Coach Carr indicated that Jason Forcier is likely to be the guy. Hopefully we’ll find out during the opener against Vanderbilt.

– Bass Out. Versatile wide receiver/quarterback Antonio Bass will miss the entire season after injuring his knee during a quarterback drill (but rumored to have actually happened during a pick-up basketball game). During the Big Ten conference press conference in Chicago, Carr seemed to leave it up in the air whether Bass would ever play again. The tune changed a few days later at Michigan’s press day to more of an optimistic tone, indicating that Bass would return in 2007. We’ll see.

– Eyes on Bucks. There is clearly a lot of pressure on the Blue this year. To make matters worse, the hated Buckeyes are ranked #1 in the coaches poll and will get a lot of attention. The Big Ten coaches agreed that Michigan and Iowa would round out the Top 3 in the conference. We’ll know pretty quickly where Ohio State will stand, after a trip to Austin to visit the 2005-06 BCS champion Texas Longhorns.

– College Football News notes. I really like collegefootballnews.com – first off, they only focus on one thing, and they really know their stuff and they’re not afraid to put it out there. They will go to minute details on a lot of the aspects of college football, here’s a few tidbits:

* They actually projected every bowl game already for the 2006-07 bowl season, they have Michigan in the Capitol One bowl vs. Florida.

* They predict the outcome of every regular season game as well. They’ve got Michigan beating the Irish but falling on the road to Ohio State and Penn State.

* CFN ranked the 2006 Heisman candidates from 1-100, and provided some commentary on each. Of note: Chad Henne #17, Michael Hart #15, Breaston #34.

* Here’s a real beauty. There’s always talk about who is overrated and underrated. CFN took a somewhat scientific approach. They took data in the AP poll since 1971, and included teams that have been in ranked in the preseason poll 10 or more times, and compared this to where they finished in the final AP poll. The results are interesting. While Michigan stacks up somewhat favorably, Michigan State did not. The Spartans just qualified for the study (with exactly 10 pre-season rankings), and out of those ten years, finished out of the final rankings in nine. Wow.

– Road Opener Woes. There is clearly a problem here, as the Wolverines have dropped seven of their last eight opening away games of the season, and six straight. Each game was close and looking back I’m pretty sure Michigan had a decent lead in just about all of these games. This year M’s first road test is none other than Notre Dame – we’ll see if we can stop this brutal trend. Here’s a history of these games:

Year Opponent Result
1998 @ Notre Dame Loss – 36-20
1999 @ Syracuse Win – 18-13
2000 @ UCLA Loss – 23-20
2001 @ Washington Loss – 23-18
2002 @ Notre Dame Loss – 25-23
2003 @ Oregon Loss – 31-27
2004 @ Notre Dame Loss – 28-20
2005 @ Wisconsin Loss – 23-20

– Outlook. After last season, it is tough to walk with a lot of confidence. There are bound to be a few kinks to work out with the new coordinators and the schedule includes three brutal road games (Notre Dame, Ohio State and Penn State) and tough home tests with Iowa and Michigan State). I see Michigan dropping at least 3 of these games and winning the bowl game to finish a respectable but lackluster 10-3. As far as games that might sneak up on us this year? Check out Lew’s Sleepers for 2006.

10. November 2006 · Comments Off on 2006 Football Tickets Arrive · Categories: Archive 2006, Pre-Season, Tickets

AUGUST 5, 2006 I received my season tickets today, and this is always a fun day for me. There were some major changes to the ticket format. First, the tickets are about 50% bigger than in the previous designs. Second, they put a new advertiser on the back of each game. Third, this year’s tickets are barcoded.

The final change is the gloss. While the tickets are of high quality the borders of the tickets seem to be in a shade of purple or gold, depending on the game. This couldn’t have been the plan!

10. November 2006 · Comments Off on Matt Gutierrez Ends Michigan Career · Categories: Archive 2006, Pre-Season

Somewhat surprising news this morning as back-up Michigan quarterback and high school phenom Matt Gutierrez has announced he will leave the Wolverines to play for I-AA Idaho State.

Basically his comments were classy but left a sense of frustration with his inability to get some playing time. Gutierrez was reported to say, “I feel like in my four years I’ve done everything I could have done and was asked to do to earn an opportunity. Unfortunately the opportunity didn’t come when I was finally healthy and ready to play.” One has to assume that Gutierrez expected some playing time after Henne struggled early in the season, probably after starter Chad Henne’s performance against Notre Dame. Or at least given a chance. Certainly that was the sentiment of the sports radio callers and many M fans around the country.

One has to assume that Gutierrez has a desire to go to the NFL, and without significant playing time (even on Michigan) feels that he’ll need some guaranteed snaps. Memo to the guy that thought he was in line for the Idaho State QB job: sorry Charlie.

So this leaves many questions for Michigan regarding the back-up role. Should Chad Henne falter or be injured next season, who will fill his shoes? The most likely candidate is red-shirted frosh Jason Forcier [scouting report].

As for Matt Gutierrez, he heads on to the Bengals of Idaho State, who ripped off the Cincinnati Bengals color scheme. Strike one: the ISU website is sponsored by Ramada (I’m serious). gregdooley.com pulls better advertisers. Strike two: Their website has one of those countdown tickers, tracking the time until kick-off. That’s great, but the opponent is listed as “TBA”. Maybe the Vince Young and the National Champion Texas Longhorns will step up to this challenge. I couldn’t find a schedule for next season, I’m not sure what kind a scheduling voodoo happens in I-AA, but I’m at least confused if not concerned about their advanced ticket sales.

Looking over previous seasons, it looks like the Bengals will face at least one Division I opponent next year. That should be interesting. And as far as transfers, I saw a press release from December announcing 5 transfers to the team, including a running back from Oregon. Hmm. Should be interesting to watch next year.

10. November 2006 · Comments Off on Michigan Football Preview 2005 · Categories: Archive 2005, Fans, Lloyd Carr, Media, Michigan State, Pre-Season, Rose Bowl, Tickets

What you need to know about this squad
Expectations are high once again for Michigan. Here’s this season’s look at the upcoming season and this team.

Before Looking Ahead . . . – Any year with a Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl berth can’t be look upon unfavorably. It was a great season. The Texas game in Pasadena was one of the all time greats. That said, the fact is the team lost 3 games, and easily could have lost five (Michigan State and Minnesota were squeakers at home). The lingering bad taste from the last four games is due to the inability of the defense to stop the run. M gave up nearly 275 yards on the ground in these games, and finding a cure for this is at the tip of the tongue of all of the preseason talk.

Tickets – This year’s theme is ‘consecutive Big Ten championships’, featuring photos of old coaches, rings, etc., celebrating Michigan’s success in the conference. Michigan has won two straight championships and five in the last eight years.

Replay of MSU game – The Michigan Ticket department did a good thing this year. For those who renewed their tickets using an ‘eCheck’, they supplied a free copy of the MSU 3OT game. I reviewed it last weekend. The film of the game was taken by the university but it is of high quality, with angles and replays. In addition, they used the Michigan football radio broadcast (Beckman and Brandy) over the film. Really nice job. And to be clear, it’s not a highlight reel; it is just the entire game. It retails for $19.99.

QB Chad Henne Solid – Consensus is that he is the second highest regarded QB in the conference behind Iowa’s Drew Tate, possibly neck and neck with Drew Stanton. Here’s my take: he is special. I just watched the replay of the 2004 MSU comeback game. While Braylon Edwards made a lot of great plays, Henne was a great leader and kept his head in it when M was done. One thing that stuck out: down 17 deep in the fourth quarter and facing third down, instead of forcing a ball into the end zone, he tucked the ball in and basically took a sack. How many true freshman would have had the poise to stick to the game plan at that point? Garrett Rivas made the field goal, and after the onside kick recovery, two plays later Michigan was in the end zone. I can’t get over how well the true freshman played last year, and the faith Carr had in starting him (see my 2004 review: “you can cancel out true freshman Chad Henne; there’s no way Carr would start a guy right out of high school.”) Guess not.

New Jerseys. Nike will outfit Michigan in new jerseys this year. The material is 30% lighter than last year’s, and the shirts are tighter fitting. A maize outline has been added to road jerseys, the names on the back of the jersey are stitched (no longer silk screened) and the numbers are smaller. Here’s the official press release along with a history of the changes M has made to their uniforms over the years.

Freshman to Watch – Along with Henne, true Freshman Mike Hart combined for two of the biggest contributions by freshman – ever. This year a few faces will see some playing time, but the arrival of RB Kevin Grady is something a lot of fans have been waiting for. Grady has actually been practicing with the team since the Rose Bowl and is undoubtedly the real deal. He’ll play. Look for Hart to get around 20 carries a game, with Max Martin, Jerome Jackson and Grady getting the rest. Rumor is that the offense is toying with new sets in order to gets these talented guys on the field.

With underrated and under appreciated punter Adam Finley leaving, M has a gap at punter. Along comes 6-4, 225 pound freshman Zoltan Mesko. He’s supposed to have a cannon leg. We’ll see if he wins the job and delivers as advertised. Antonio Bass is a highly rated freshman ‘athlete’ that M wants to get the ball to. He was injured playing baseball in the spring but seems to be better now. M will line him up at receiver and, down the road, look at having him return kicks.

Road Opening WOES!. Michigan has lost 5 straight road openers and six of 7. This deserved its own column. Read it here.

Hard Times at the Big Show. Ernest Shazor was one of the leaders on the defense last year and was on many All-American teams. He decided to go to the NFL early (he had 1 year of eligibility left) and it was a total stunner to me that he went undrafted. I don’t wish anything bad on the guy for leaving early. Many Michigan fans have shown a lot of resentment for guys who leave early (Drew Henson is a perfect example). He signed a free agent contract with the Arizona Cardinals and now he’s a just another dude in the NFL trying to get by. He reported to camp late and reports say he is still bitter about not being drafted.

Warmer Weather for DB13. This year and in 2006, the Dooley Brothers MSU vs UM game moves to early October (10/1/05 and 10/7/06). A few weeks make that much of a difference? Believe it – Just ask the Dooley Brothers crew!

Construction. Get used to it for the next several years. M replaced a bunch of seats this year and is still working on a recruiting center between Crisler and the lockerroom. It is a place for recruits and their families to hang out during games. It will be unveiled during the Penn State game this year. After that – I assume M will break ground on the big changes: adding luxury suites and a new pressbox on the east sideline. I hear they may add an upper deck to the north end zone in order to keep M stadium the highest capacity stadium.

Home “Field”. Michigan has only lost 6 times at home since 1994, no more than once a year. Since installing the artificial turf (FieldTurf) after the 2002 season, Michigan has not lost (although they got about as close as you can get). Certainly Notre Dame and Ohio State would like to take a shot at that this year.

I maintain that the soggy grass at Michigan Stadium was somewhat of an equalizer for the opponent. Watching Michigan’s speed players lose traction on cuts was agonizing. Remember those huge chunks of sod that used to come up? Looked like one of Big Frank’s beaver pelts on the links.

Heisman?. Consider Henne, Hart and Stevie Breaston longshots. Each return next year. With Braylon Edwards gone to the NFL, look for more balls going to Breaston and Jason Avant.

Outlook: Not much of a surprise again, but most folks have picked Michigan at the top of the Big Ten. The latest ESPN poll has Michigan #4, others vary between 3 and 12.

Throwing this out, I really think this team has a chance to make some noise. The biggest obstacles I see: on the road at Wisconsin, MSU and Iowa. The Big Ten is too tough, I see M dropping at least one of those games. Then there’s the biggie v. the Buckeyes. Too far off to see right now. We’ll have to assess how M handles the running game and in particular, the running QB.

Prediction: 10-2, Big Ten co-champs, BCS bowl. Will drop either the Bowl game or to the Buckeyes.