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Posted on Wed, Aug 18, 2010 : 5:44 p.m.

Injury to Troy Woolfolk likely to leave Michigan football team thin at corner and on leadership

By Michael Rothstein

Troy Woolfolk isn’t an All-American cornerback. More known for speed than cover skills, he likely wouldn’t be the top corner on most teams in the Big Ten. He hasn’t intercepted a pass in three seasons on the Michigan football team. In that time, he has 60 career tackles. Six Wolverines had more than that last season. But for Michigan, he was indispensible in a thin secondary. When he went down in Tuesday’s practice with an injury - a dislocated ankle, according to one report - the worrying started.


Troy Woolfolk

His father, former Michigan halfback Butch Woolfolk, told Wednesday there is no timetable for his son's return. But dislocated ankles are scary injuries. Recovery times vary. Tennessee Titans running back Stafon Johnson dislocated his ankle Saturday evening. He had surgery and Titans coach Jeff Fisher told The Tennessean he could be out eight to 12 weeks.

Even if Woolfolk is able to return to the field, there is no guarantee that speed - his trademark - will immediately return with him.

One thing is certain. His absence, for however long, creates a gaping hole in the Michigan secondary. Due to transfers (J.T. Turner), discipline (Boubacar Cissoko), the NFL (Donovan Warren) and not even reaching Ann Arbor (Demar Dorsey and Adrian Witty), the Wolverines have lost five possible 2010 cornerbacks. That’s five players who, if even three were enrolled at Michigan, could have left Woolfolk playing safety instead of being the team’s top corner. That’s a depth destruction that would crush almost any team in the country over a four-year period.

Of the 16 defensive backs Michigan recruited on scholarship starting with the 2007 class, nine remain. Five are true freshmen, including cornerbacks Cullen Christian and Courtney Avery. Both have potential and might be pushed into playing early whether they are ready or not. One, sophomore Mike Jones, was converted to linebacker. Woolfolk’s loss is more than a meaningful body. This is a team that is sorely hurting for stewardship on the defensive side. There was no question Woolfolk was the unquestioned leader of the Michigan secondary. He was the face of the Michigan defense. He may not have been the captain in name - that went to linebacker Mark Moundros - but he was being looked at for a lot of on-field responsibilities. “I have a little help out there (in the secondary),” Woolfolk said at Big Ten media days earlier this month. “But it is still my responsibility, my job to help out the defense, the DB aspect of the defense, to make plays.” There’s a decent chance Moundros won’t be on the field this fall as he competes with Obi Ezeh and Kenny Demens for playing time at linebacker. It left much of the on-field leadership to the chatterbox in the corner. They needed him there. Defensive linemen Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen are good players who are capable of being leaders. But often they are going to be unable to see the majority of the field and make the necessary changes in a defense on the fly. Ezeh would be a candidate, but he’s fighting to get on the field after a sub-par 2009. Woolfolk didn’t have those problems. His place on the defense was secure and most of his fall camp - besides the typical betterment of himself - was spent tutoring J.T. Floyd and the rest of the secondary. That’s a role he’ll likely have to fill from the sidelines. “We’ll have more bodies with the freshmen coming in but true freshmen coming in and playing, especially at corner, makes you nervous,” Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said at Big Ten media days earlier this month. “This is going to be a very important camp for coach (Greg) Robinson, coach (Tony) Gibson to develop some guys at safety and corner that we can get ready to play with.” Now the most glaring hole on Michigan’s team is bigger than ever.



Thu, Aug 19, 2010 : 2:52 p.m.

Kamie: This is a stylistic request: It is hard to read your responses. While I don't agree with all you write, I want to read it, so is it possible to split up your thoughts into shorter paragraphs? Thanks. Look forward to continuing the debates.

3 And Out

Thu, Aug 19, 2010 : 1:35 p.m.

RR is blindly throwing out offers to kids that either a) will not qualify due to academics or b) dont have a true committment to The University of Michigan.... and it is biting him in the butt as these kids do not end up on campus, or if they do they dont stay long. Attrittion is on RR...that is his responsibility. What good is it to have a recruiting class that is full....and all of a sudden "oops" 25 percent of them bounce out before ever contributing? And...when the other 75 percent is primarily 3 and 2 stars that "fit his system" lol....well that is bad recruiting... At least he has his vaunted walk on program right apologists?


Thu, Aug 19, 2010 : 1:26 p.m.

Kamie, So your logic is... RR should be allowed to do what he wants... no consequences, and people should just shut up so he doesn't get caught. And if RR rubbed the people the wrong way, it's their fault for not liking his way? And therefore RR should bear no responsibility what so ever? Am I understanding this correctly?


Thu, Aug 19, 2010 : 12:22 p.m.

kamie123, you make some good points. The bottom line here is quite simple. Injuries, defections, transfers, violations, etc.... None of that matters if you win! If UM wins 8 or 9 games this year, RR will be a genius. If they can't get to 7, he is likely out as coach at UM. There is a very fine line between being loved and hated. On that line are three little letters. W, I, N. If you win, you can be a total jackass, yell at media, fans, office personnel, players, coaches, etc. No one on this thread will have anything to say if they win 9 this year and a national title next year. They'll all forgive and forget. RR, Just win baby and this state is yours!


Thu, Aug 19, 2010 : 12:02 p.m.

heartbreakm- u make good points about admissions should count, but they didnt count until the situation became public. they knew about his past when he signed that letter of intent, its no way in hell he should been allowed to sign if this was going to be the case. it brings me back to the point of the division within the program. they waited until he was clear to play to say he wouldnt be admitted which to me means they were hoping he would fail so it would be no reason to have to make any type of decision.


Thu, Aug 19, 2010 : 11:56 a.m.

yelmonian- And RR brought none of this on himself. It's all the "haters" that have brought RR down. OK... did the haters cause WVU to require RR to fulfill his contractual obligations when he skipped town, and UM picked up the bill? Did the haters cause a bunch of players to leave early? Did the haters force RR to be in a couple financial lawsuits? Did the haters actually commit the violations that have the team on probabtion? The haters are just pointing at the stupid things RR did. If he quits giving the haters ammunition, then they can't hate. The funny thing is that Michigan hired him, not the other way around... and doing so im pretty sure they knew the contract situation and Michigan offered to pay the bill. This practice situation happened because CURRENT and former players complained. so that tells me that someone within the university had those kids back for them to report to the free press. We dont know who exactly these players are but i know for a fact the university does. the problem is that the university is putting rr under the bus when these things come about. Until Dave Brandon showed up nobody within the university stood behind rich when people complained about footing the bill for him to become our coach. They didnt say anything to take the pressure off rich which is so stupid because they were the ones who went to wvu and hired the guy. so whos at fault rr for wanting to be the coach at um or the university for hiring the guy knowing the situation.


Thu, Aug 19, 2010 : 11:41 a.m.

At the end RR is getting ridiculed for wins and losses not student performances. We need football players not educated players. Its a difference that obviously the Floridas, Bama, USC and etc have figured out hints why they have more players drafted and why players want to play for those schools. Florida had a ridiculous recruiting class to the point that half of them could be a bust and they will still have 10 nfl players out of their class. i bet florida would have had no problem taking in dorsey, but they had no problem with out him because they can get another player just as good. WE dont have that luxury to pass up on talent but yet complain about wins and losses. Dont be naive and not admit it takes top level talent to win, not players with 4.0. Top talent players want to be football players and make millions on sundays. We are gonna get recruits but to win we need good ones. Just like college bball players that leave after their freshman year had no intention on education.


Thu, Aug 19, 2010 : 11:16 a.m.

GoBlue....just win

Robbie Webb.

Thu, Aug 19, 2010 : 11:12 a.m.

GoblueinNE_PA, they were just experimenting with the 3-3-5, that's not their defense of choice. That has already been explained. Pay attention. And then there's 3 and out pointing out how many of Carr's players went to the NFL, but what he forgot to mention was they were all juniors and seniors. Rodriguez's eldest players this season are juniors. Woolfolk is a huge blow, huge! But he'll get a medical redshirt and be back next year. As for this year, my hopes haven't changed much. This team can still win eight games.


Thu, Aug 19, 2010 : 10:48 a.m.

AA Blue: Nice optimism. But I question you on this: If M ends up with 7 wins this year, that would be a 3 year record of 14-21 (and Del State). Based on that 3 year output, what would make anybody think that 12-0 would follow? Also, are you meaning to say that RR could not coach any player that was not his own recruit? Or that they were not good enough to win? That it took him 4 years to win? Using that logic, Troy Woolfolk's loss should actually help Michigan (an LC recruit). Similar thoughts about Schilling and Molk being gone next year and Brandon Graham's graduation. (I smell funny logic here). Any coach who takes over knows that he has to coach what's there, not wait and sacrifice those players for his system. That is one big sticking point I have had with RR's coaching and record. What if his QB gets injured? Do we have to wait another year or 2 so he can properly train the next big thing? That's not good.


Thu, Aug 19, 2010 : 10:44 a.m.

Admissions did the right thing with Dorsey. Their job is not to recruit football players (or accept them) but to accept STUDENTS who have a high likelihood of success. In their opinion, probably, they did not feel that he would thrive and therefore, did him a favor by not getting him into a place that he would have struggled. Sure, the team could use any talented place, but until these are professionals (minor leagues), admissions standards must mean something. (Any coach should really know who won't get admitted before offering, or at least have a guess--this is not to pick on RR about Dorsey.) There are plenty of HS students who don't get admitted to UM and end up at places like MSU, EMU, CMU, etc (and even some of them got in but chose to go elsewhere).


Thu, Aug 19, 2010 : 10:36 a.m.

Kamie123 I don't think this is some conspiracy against Rod. Admissions may not want to take a chance on someone with a checkered past after Fegan and Boobicar Clarret. Chances are they have not allowed kids for other coaches, but those coaches were smart enough to vet them to Admin before a public offer to join the team.


Thu, Aug 19, 2010 : 10:01 a.m.

Kamie123, "but as fans we panicked and went with whats been kicking r butts... Speed" The fans picked RR? UM has sunk to new levels if the fans are running the show. "The only coaches we have thats on the rise is edsell and the rutgers coach." This sounds to me like UM is not the greatest place on the earth, which is what I have always heard preached... the leaders and the best. You are telling me that UM can only get a choice of two Big East coaches? I would think from everything that's been preached over the years that UM is right there with OSU, Alabama, Florida, and USC... but evidently UM is in the second tier according to you. And RR brought none of this on himself. It's all the "haters" that have brought RR down. OK... did the haters cause WVU to require RR to fulfill his contractual obligations when he skipped town, and UM picked up the bill? Did the haters cause a bunch of players to leave early? Did the haters force RR to be in a couple financial lawsuits? Did the haters actually commit the violations that have the team on probabtion? The haters are just pointing at the stupid things RR did. If he quits giving the haters ammunition, then they can't hate.


Thu, Aug 19, 2010 : 9:18 a.m.

orlandomichfan- Finally someone with a real perspective on how things really work. No one seems to understand that les miles aint leaving lsu unless he is fired, jimmy aint leaving stanford after he took shots at us. The only coaches we have thats on the rise is edsell and the rutgers coach. two big east teams, oh yea the same conference RR dominated. Everyone wanted lloyd out he so they got there wish. Should of hired kelly before he left to cincy. He is familiar with the talent in the midwest, but as fans we panicked and went with whats been kicking r butts... Speed... Unless we hire a coach with a system similar to RR it will be another rebuilding project. As for this year, the offense will have to be our defense, we will have to be more ball controlling than big play, which i feel is too conservative. At the end of the day our defense is gonna be as good as our front seven is. We dont need one standout like BG, hell even with him the other 6 sucked lol. All 7 guys will have to make plays then our secondary will be a bit more safe in coverage.


Thu, Aug 19, 2010 : 9:13 a.m.

3andout... blah blah blah same old negative waha waha waha crap! when this season is over and michigan has won a lot more then four game's i would hope that you would be man-enough to come on this blog and apologize to the true michigan fans, player's and coach's. (i don't think you will do that). but boy your a(PEACH) of a guy... go blue... and a speedy recovery to tw...


Thu, Aug 19, 2010 : 9:04 a.m.

Wow this is the first news story in two years that RR isn't to blame for lol... I said it over the summer, Michigan was going to regret not admitting Dorsey... IDK what his past was but they allowed RR to give the kid a chance to sign a letter of intent, he did what he had to do to qualify and they screwed him over now we are screwed over. Its obvious the is a division with in that people want him to go and people want him to stay. It is killing the kids on that team and our reputation. Since year one someone has been out to get RR from the practice stuff to this dorsey thing. Someone doesnt want RR to win and that is sad cause as fans we are suffering also and those kids who came to michigan are suffering. I hope all the haters of RR are finally satisfied that this is happening.


Thu, Aug 19, 2010 : 9 a.m.

all the negativity surrounding our wolverines is crazy.....whatever happen to loyalty????????sure we are not happy with things,3 or 5 wins does not cut it for us diehards, but all you who are against rich rod & want him fired, can you tell me who would replace him?????????? and then we would be starting over & you all would be moaning & crying about wanting to get rid of that coach. there is no one out there currently who could replace r.r.... with all this b.s. stacked against r.r. how can he succeed.??? if we end up having a great year, all you complainers will be on here praising r.r.and the team.. flip floppers.. true fans and alumni need to get behind our coach and team & send positive vibes towards our team not all this negative bull crap. go be a fan of state if you are so frustrated with this team.GOOOOOO BLUE!!!!


Thu, Aug 19, 2010 : 8:13 a.m.

Ezeh had a solid frosh year under the old regime. He has struggled since and makes you wonder if this staff has the ability to coaach up players.

birch creek john

Thu, Aug 19, 2010 : 6:53 a.m.

What a bunch of worry warts! The game on September 4 will provide some reality on which to base comments; until then, reading these comments provides a lot more heat than light.


Thu, Aug 19, 2010 : 5:30 a.m.

Sean T. I don't necessarily think of that as wishful thinking more like positive thinking. Now Rightmind250 displays his version of wishful thinking which as you can see is silly absurd. I'm sure you've seen human character step up in situations like this in your football travels and that could happen here, now this is positive thinking, if I say that the Woolfolk loss will make no difference that is wishful thinking, got it Sean T? In all seriousness this accident is to bad but I think we'll step up, now that is positive thinking.


Thu, Aug 19, 2010 : 4:46 a.m.

Hey, Someone call the weatherman. That black cloud has been hanging over Ann Arbor for almost 3 years now. I think it blew over from West by God Virginia.

3 And Out

Thu, Aug 19, 2010 : 4:43 a.m.

David Bowens...but you are not counting that the 97 roster even without him...was FAR more talented and FAR better coached than Rich Rods kids. That team sent 27 players to the NFL out of 104 total including walk ons. That is INCREDIBLE...and the only team that I can find close to those numbers of talent is the 01 Canes. Lloyd and his coaches knew how to recruit and keep their players...and coach them up. Even without Bowens who had to transfer out due to academic troubles... that team was still very very wont see that this year and to try to equate Bowens to the MASS departures that Rich Rod is responsible for in his error is a very thin argument that holds no water. peach and Go Blue.


Thu, Aug 19, 2010 : 1:29 a.m.

AABlue, you forgot the biggest loss to the D just before the 97 season. He led the team in sacks in 96. Anyone remember? But this feels worse. The only hope is that the O-line gels and DRob leads the nation in rushing.


Wed, Aug 18, 2010 : 11:55 p.m.

We cannot be talking about RR's last season at Michigan today -- that is crazy. Oh my gosh, we haven't played one game in 2010. This is not a bad team -- let's start by focusing on UConn and take them one at a time.

3 And Out

Wed, Aug 18, 2010 : 9:31 p.m.

This team will be lucky to win 4 games and even be on the radar vs OSU. Rich Rod has to go for all of this to end.


Wed, Aug 18, 2010 : 9:03 p.m.

I would love to see Troy back early, but don't count on it. At least there is still a lot of practice time to adjust with what we have. Someone is suddenly going to get a lot of coaching and playing time. Let's hope one of these freshman turn out to be a future All American. As for leadership, someone out of necessity will step up and his quality of play will as well. The team will only get closer. Let's give them our support.


Wed, Aug 18, 2010 : 7:56 p.m.

instead of using Floyd as a Charles Woodson style player, they need to use Denard for that role. If I were the coach, i'd use Denard in multiple positions like punt and kick off returns, running back, qb, and cornerback. I know that would up his chances of getting hurt but it sure paid off with Woodson. I do remember hearing Rich saying a few weeks ago that if Denard wasnt at center, then he would be somewhere else on the field so maybe and hopefully thats what they will do. The guy is way too talented to just sit until we need a qb sneak or option play.

Sean T.

Wed, Aug 18, 2010 : 7:32 p.m.

I wish I could believe that too AABLUE, but this team nor the coaching staff are of that caliber. But I love the wishful thinking!


Wed, Aug 18, 2010 : 7:12 p.m.

The sky is not falling. Remember the fall of 1997? Michigan was coming off of four straight seasons of four losses each. The media and our rivals were suggesting that the "M" in Michigan had come to stand for "mediocre". There were plenty of "Fire Lloyd" t-shirts in the stands on Saturdays. Starting senior defensive tackle Ben Huff had trashed his knee in the summer. Senior linebacker and co-captain Eric Mayes blew out his knee in the Indiana game. Junior safety Daydrion Taylor was lost for the season after a big hit against Penn State. At quarterback, we had a kid named Griese who was a former walk-on. Yeah, things really looked bleak. Until we ran the table at 12-0 and won a National Championship in the Rose Bowl. Forget the gloom and doom. Players will step up. Rodriguez and his Wolverines will meet the challenge, win at least 7 this year and bring the Big Ten title home to Ann Arbor in 2011. The future is bright for Wolverine Nation.


Wed, Aug 18, 2010 : 6 p.m.

I don't know how you press forward with the 3-3-5 plan with this secondary. It's suicide, but maybe that's the plan.