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Posted on Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 5:06 p.m.

Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez defends program; injuries mount and more notes

By Michael Rothstein

Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema tried to avoid the question.

Then, when asked how the Michigan football team tried to stop the Badgers’ offensive linemen from pulling during a 48-28 Wisconsin victory on Saturday, he went to explain anyway.

“We were unable to disengage from a couple of their defensive linemen,” Bielema said. “They were grabbing on to us. When we got that chop block, we’re not dirty football players, but we will throw on people. And basically what was happening, our lineman was trying to pull out and their lineman was grabbing and he was engaged and when we go low, that was a chop block.

“The reason my guy was throwing is the other guy is not supposed to be there.”

Wisconsin didn’t call Michigan’s defensive tactics dirty, but a reporter asked Rodriguez on Monday about a television report that indicated the Wisconsin players were complaining about cheap shots by the Wolverines.

“Really, that’s the first time I’ve heard it,” Rodriguez said. “Playing dirty? That’s funny. We got penalized one time, right? Only one penalty. Who said that, Wisconsin?”

Bielema said keeping his guys from pulling was “a little strategy” from Michigan, but that he had his team “rectify it.”

Injury update Rodriguez said Saturday he has never experienced a season with so many injuries to key players. On Monday, he estimated 20 Michigan players might be held out of practice at the start of the week.

There is good news.

“Some of them may be cleared by (Monday) afternoon,” “We had multiple guys that have had headaches and those things that until they get cleared by the doctors, I don’t know what their practice status will be.”

Rodriguez is optimistic Craig Roh and Mike Martin will play. He didn’t know about the status of Darryl Stonum (ankle) and Jeremy Gallon (shoulder).

Both Martin and linebacker Jonas Mouton might be limited during practice this week, but are expected to play Saturday.


Craig Roh

As for Roh, he declared himself fine.

“I had a little head trauma,” Roh said. “Trainers, they didn’t clear me for the second half. Doesn’t matter this week because I’m definitely playing.”

Rodriguez also said he might try to apply for a medical redshirt for freshman backup quarterback Devin Gardner, who has had lingering lower back issues.

Surgery isn’t an option for Gardner, Rodriguez said.

Trying to specialize special teams The long-running question this season is who would be do the kicking for Michigan.

For most of the year, redshirt freshman walk-on Seth Broekhuizen has been the unsteady answer. Yet after he missed a 30-yard field goal from the center of the field Saturday, the competition is open with redshirt freshman Brendan Gibbons.

“Seth had a great week of practice, and then he missed the one and he hadn’t missed from the middle of the field in weeks,” Rodriguez said. “Brendan kicked extra points, but they were low so we were lucky they weren’t blocked.”

While the kicking situation isn’t close to rectifying itself, who will return kickoffs is another question.

Injuries have shredded the position, with potential returners Martavious Odoms, Stonum, Gallon and Junior Hemingway all shelved or needed for other roles due to injury.

The issue has left Rodriguez going to freshman Drew Dileo and perhaps oft-injured running back Fitzgerald Toussaint as the latest answers for a unit that hasn’t returned a kickoff for a touchdown all season.

“Drew is back there and we’ll get Fitz Toussaint ready to return some kicks and maybe we’ll look at some other guys,” Rodriguez said. “We were digging deep.”

Loving Mike Martin Ryan Van Bergen has played next to Mike Martin for a couple of seasons on the defensive line. Obviously, the two know each other well.

So when asked to describe Martin’s personality - with the junior defensive tackle in the room - Van Bergen had some fun.

“Personality, he’s just so cuddly,” Van Bergen said. “Off the field you kind of want to get with him on a cold day and watch some bad movies.”

Meanwhile, Martin stood off to the side, waving his hand and laughing, almost uncontrollably.

This and that Michigan brought 16-year-old Andrew Majors in to Monday’s news conference to discuss organ donation and the contest Michigan and Ohio State are having to sign up organ donors. Currently, Michigan leads Ohio State in the annual contest to sign up more donors. … Toledo natives Kevin Koger and Jordan Kovacs both said they expect to hear from a lot of friends - Ohio State fans, naturally - throughout the week.

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan basketball for He can be reached at (734) 623-2558, by e-mail at or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein



Wed, Nov 24, 2010 : 12:15 p.m.

The defense must be a balanced combination of speed and size. Take a look at how teams like Florida and Oregon recruit their defensive players. Or Boise State, for that matter. Their defensive squads have size up front and greater speed as you go back. Size does not necessarily mean slow and bulky. But it doesn't mean "fast-as-Robinson" either. It's a balance.

I love Michigan Football

Wed, Nov 24, 2010 : 9:50 a.m.

Injuries have been a problem. Unfortunately, they tend to happen a lot when your team is a little younger and therefore smaller than your opponents on a regular basis. This will rectify itself with time. ===================================================================== It will rectify nothing. This isn't the Big East where it has predominantly spread teams. It is the Big 10, where power football is what wins Big 10 Championships here. Rich is recruiting as if it is still the Big East. fact. Here is the conference records as of today. All of the power teams are on top, and the spread times rest below on the bottom. Their is a reason for that, because this conference is based on power, not finesse. That is why we see so many injuries with these teams, not because they are young, it because they are getting pounded each and every week. Michigan St. 6-1 10-1 Ohio St. 6-1 10-1 Wisconsin 6-1 10-1 Iowa 4-3 7-4 Penn St. 4-3 7-4 ----------------------------- Illinois 4-4 6-5 Michigan 3-4 7-4 Northwestern 3-4 7-4 Purdue 2-5 4-7 Minnesota 1-6 2-9 Indiana 0-7 4-7


Tue, Nov 23, 2010 : 3:43 p.m.

Heart, I agree that the speed thing isn't working on defense. You need a team that is well oiled and plays as a fast team, not just fast individuals. The only way to have a speedy defense is to have speedy players with some strength to go along with the speed, players who tackle once they get to the ball. There's more to it than just getting to the ball quickly. This lack of oil is your coaches' fault, not particularly RR's, but in a round-about way, it falls on his shoulders. The main kicker is that speed on defense starts on the D-Line, and is enhanced by the defensive backs. If the D-Line isn't forcing things constantly, then the backfield works that much harder. It's not enough to just hold the O-Line, but you've got to penetrate once in a while. Gander over and watch some of the truly great defensive teams. You'll notice that it's not always the linebackers or safeties that are blitzing to put pressure on the QB, but it's the ends and other OL that break the line. Blitzing causes holes in the backfield, and I don't think your defense is good enough just yet to fill those holes.


Tue, Nov 23, 2010 : 3:04 p.m.

WV: This whole thing of speed makes no sense though. We consistently get beat on defense by tight ends, backs, etc. Our defense is anything but quick. And our RBs are also not quick. Where's the speed that RR is supposedly recruiting and Barwis is creating? Only speed I've seen is Stonum, Hemingway, Roundtree, and DR of course.


Tue, Nov 23, 2010 : 2:56 p.m.

Maybe UM should schedule the 5 teams they played at the beginning of the year to be played as the 5 games before the OSU game. Then they wouldn't be so banged up. Are you guys for real or not? Is this supposed to be a UM team or not? You play whom you schedule and quit making excuses. You lose when you lose, no matter who you play. Wins are a different story. Winning against UConn may not be a win to brag about. You recruit defense to defend against the teams you play against, not to provide a practice squad for your offense. Good defensive players can defend against any type of offense because they work as a team. Your coach is so intrigued with the "speed" aspect, that he assumes one fast player will always move quickly to the ball. RR is so wrapped up in offense that he isn't aware he has a defensive squad. He's completely happy with having an offense ranked as high as it is and doesn't care about how poorly his defense is ranked. Give him five more years, and you'll see very little changing except in the way they win against the depleted schedule you're going to be playing. A nine win season won't mean that much if you're beating nobodys. He had the same situation at WVU and he never did realize he was not getting any respect for winning against Rutgers,UConn, and Temple in their worst years.


Tue, Nov 23, 2010 : 12:25 p.m.

Devon hasn't been on an injury report all year, but somehow richrod wants to get him a medical redshirt? More lies by richrod? He is trying to make-up for the mistake of playing him in the first game. My bet is the ncaa doesn't buy the rr b.s.


Tue, Nov 23, 2010 : 11:27 a.m.

Wisconsin was only favored by 4 to win in the big house -- they won by 20. OSU is favored by 17 to win in the shoe. This is a hard game to predict, as clearly OSU will be over-confident.


Tue, Nov 23, 2010 : 11:06 a.m.

JDean I see your point. Are we recruiting smaller players on both sides of the ball than the other spread teams? I've always heard that if you have a spread offense you need a smaller, quicker, and more atheletic defense to keep up during practice. That seems crazy to me because why recruit an athletic defense designed to stop the spread when you play in the Big Ten, where nobody really runs the spread. Yes, the spread will work against Big Ten teams in BOWL GAMES. Mostly because those teams running the spread don't have go through the whole Big Ten schedule. They spend the whole season playing smaller teams who don't bang them up all year, and by the time the bowl game comes around, everyone is healthy and fired up. I think if Michigan went through the season playing Oregon St and Fresno St and the like, we would be 9-2 right now, maybe 10-1. And not so injured.


Tue, Nov 23, 2010 : 10:49 a.m.

@dean: The system is less important than the execution. If the line blocks well, any system works. If the defense tackles well, it will win usually. OSu's win last year was a fluke because Oregon took them lightly? Seriously? The Rose Bowl? If that's the only reason that OSU won, then you give them very little credit for continued domination. They took Oregon right out of their game, and really surprised Oregon. Just like when M beat Bama in the Orange Bowl 10 years ago--Bama was surprised at how quick M players were. I agree with that Miles would be a great fit at UM--would have been a few years ago and would still be. He is crazy though. Miles has won everywhere he has been, and he is certainly understanding of what OSU means.

J. Dean

Tue, Nov 23, 2010 : 10:21 a.m.

mdmmccullough, What about schools like Oregon and USC who also use the spread and pound the life out of Big Ten Teams in almost every single bowl game (Ohio State got lucky because the Ducks took them lightly for the Rose Bowl and the Buckeye defense did well. Avid Duck fans have sworn that no such carelessness will happen should the two ever meet again)? See, this is why I don't understand the criticism for the spread. Oregon and LSU use similar forms of the spread, and they completely dominate when they play. LSU beat the mighty Crimson Tide, and Oregon has flattened their opponents, with Cal being the one odd exception. I don't buy the argument that the spread doesn't work for the B10. Losses in bowl games give evidence to this, as does the fact that the top teams are almost always spread based(like Oregon this year). If the spread didn't work, it wouldn't be used. Again, if Rich Rod doesn't end up working out, and ends up getting fired, we're better off looking for Les Miles as head coach and getting the college equivalent of Rex Ryan for a defensive coordinator.


Tue, Nov 23, 2010 : 10:02 a.m.

Rich Rodriguez's offense is an offense that was created out of desperation. When you coach at a smaller school and can't get the good players, you need to be creative, to beat the system. And creative he was. This offense 'in theory' is genius. Problem is his players seem to be too small for the Big Ten at the rate that they're getting injured. This was an experiment. We're all finding out in real time the results of that experiment. I personally think it was a worthy experiment. There is definitely no reason to hate Coach Rodriguez just because his experiment may prove unsuccessful. He is an innovator. But it may turn out that innovation is not what a team of this caliber needs. Innovation may be only neccessary for small schools. It may just come down to power and size. Maybe we don't need a coach that thinks. Maybe we need only to use our power of tradition and excellence to attract the biggest and nastiest players in the land. We'll find out soon.

J. Dean

Tue, Nov 23, 2010 : 9:49 a.m.

Setting aside the arguments about Rich Rod himself for a moment, Harbaugh's not coming, folks. Period. To do that would mean working with a spread set of kids and that means ANOTHER 3-4 years of losses while the program rebuilds. Give Les Miles a call. He can take what we have and use it. He's proven that he can run the spread in games against the big boys.

I love Michigan Football

Tue, Nov 23, 2010 : 9:28 a.m.

Mike Bush..again. Jim Harbaugh wants to STAY a college football coach.


Tue, Nov 23, 2010 : 9 a.m.

RR clearly knows how to destroy the psyche of players and the program. The main problem here is the head coach himself! Get rid of him, and UM goes forward. Less than a week to go before RR Liberation day.


Tue, Nov 23, 2010 : 8:32 a.m.

Good Morning. Those of you who feel that losing the coach will be a setback because of "style" or the "system" not being compatible with the new guy don't understand the problem. If Michigan was bringing in real football players then the "system" wouldn't matter. It would be the coaching. You build a team by having the players believe that their best interests and the coach's best interests are also the team's best interests. Players leave programs because they no longer trust the coaching staff with their future, their best interest. And, it's my opinion that Coach Rodriquez can appear to be petty with players at times. I'll give you an example. Michigan is winning early in the season and to give DRob a break the coach brings in the true freshman Devin Gardner instead of Tate Forcier. Why? Because he wants to make Tate an example of but at what cost? Now UM is trying to get a medical redshirt instead of a regular one for Gardner because of it. He has put Tate in games when there is no chance for him to run a balanced offense, turning him into a mobile "bullseye" for the opposing team. He put Forcier in to protect the psyche of DRob on Saturday, but it was a "no-win" situation for Tate. Do great and start the next game on the bench and do badly and start the......well, you get it! Forcier has talent but does he still believe this coach has his best interest at heart. That's why players leave programs and that's my guess why so many players have moved on from Michigan. Some of you want to keep the system's coach another year because of what you think you will lose by bringing in another coach. I think the loss is an acceptable one if UM can just get a football coach.


Tue, Nov 23, 2010 : 12:10 a.m.

I agree with my Arizona bretheren. This team lacks the fundamentals for one but even more so I think they lack pride. Our coach is unfamiliar with Michigan tradition and has no first hand knowledge with which to build a foundation for this team. I know we have two players who hail from Columbus Ohio and I bet they understand the rivalry but the rest of them.... I'm not so sure. As for fundamentals... Spielman pointed out a fine eample during the game. Our DB's drop into zone coverage and cover part of the field - what they fail to do is cover the actual receivers who come into that area of the field. That is poor coaching. What can we look forward to next year? These unskilled DB's in their second year or bringing in more "young" freshmen to replace them and the same excuses? I have been on the fence for a long time regarding this regime but I just dont see any pride in this program from the players. Two weeks ago there was a quote from VanBergen that he was more excited for the Purdue game than any game in a long time. That speaks volumes to me about the state of this program.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 11:43 p.m.

So RR you haven't seen this many injuries before? That's what happens when you put small and (ostensibly) fast guys in the Big Ten. They get creamed. It's brutal up here RR, and not just during the press conferences. Big Ten is real football. Don't say you weren't warned. It is admissible to say you didn't listen.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 11:36 p.m.

Harbaugh will be on the list of all vacancies this year both in the CFB and NFL. JH has said on TV that he is a college coach kinda guy than a pro NFL guy like his brother. Now why would he leave Stanford eventually? Because of apathy of the public in the Stanford program, they can't fill the 50,000 seat stadium and that Stanford can't pay top dollar to their coach because the program does not earn much money. JH now is paid in the vicinity of 1.2 million only as compared to the 2.4 million RR is paid. Last season JH rejected Kansas and recently allegedly turned down the interest of Minnesota.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 10:54 p.m.

Coaching an NFL team has its own problems -- intrusive owners, prima donna players... for those lucky enough to get past that, they are considered kings. But a college coach who bring glory to a school is considered a god. Harbaugh is no fool.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 10:20 p.m.

all you harbaugh lovers i dont know if you know this there are 2 nfl job openings and counting.hes on both of those teams list.

Kim De

Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 9:58 p.m.

Dudes, RR seems like a decent human being, but natural selection, to mere human eyes, seems a cruel master. For most of the season I've been for retaining Mr. Rodriquez. No longer. If Mr. Brandon can afford and attract Mr. Jim Harbaugh, do it. Like many of you, I think in the best long term interests of the program, RR needs to go. The better football DNA/memetics seem to belong Mr. Harbaugh. Natural selection says make the tough decision, for survival. Special teams and the D are bleeding to death. All the best to Mr. Rodriquez. Long live King Harbaugh.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 9:46 p.m.

RR has been an embarrassment, a joke, a failure and a wimp. We need a coach who stands up for Michigan, knows what the traditions are all about, and focuses on rivalries and pride. Not some clown who makes excuses for his poor coaching. Talent or not, great coaches make his players better. How good was Standford's recruiting BEFORE Harbaugh showed up. Enough said!!


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 8:34 p.m.

wpm, I'm not sure I follow you. Harbaugh and Bielema are both coaches who believe in solid fundamentals first and foremost. They take players and extract solid football from them. They make very few mistakes. When they win, they win playing well-executed football. When they lose, they lose playing well-executed football. Michigan, by contrast, executes poorly at times (except for the offensive line, which I'll grant is a bright spot), makes far too many mistakes, and lacks the kind of determination we see in championship teams. When Michigan wins, they often win lucky; when they lose, they often lose ugly. And that's not going to change. There's nothing on the horizon that will make a difference. It's not just a matter of talent and maturity, it's also a matter of a gritty attitude and determination. And that is simply not present with this team. Or this coach.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 8:06 p.m.

@OSUbeBetter (makes me cringe to type that LOL) The Vest does that in his press conference for the same reasons that he brought up Michigan during that cold night in February at the OSU game (or was it January). Because the Vest gets it. He understands the UM-OSU rivalry, thrives in it, and though he has dominated it, loves it. He can name old players, old scores, knows its importance to people in the two states. As I have brought up in years past and this year, can you ever imagine RR saying anything along those lines? Rather, he is saying how the players are not good enough, how he has this excuse and that injury. Sheesh. Even Coop did not make excuses. I personally always root for OSU to do well so that the game means something. Those bucknuts must be so bummed at how far M has fallen.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 7:56 p.m.

After all is said and done, this guy has been recruiting now for three years and we have 7 freshmen on defense and no kicker. That is inexcusable! One more year, and unless it all comes together -- sent him packing!


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 7:44 p.m.

RR's offense "was" fun to watch against weaker teams. Against the top dogs of the Big Ten, this offense is merely ordinary. Denard "was" fun to watch against the weaker teams, but Denard became a turnover machine than a scoring machine against the top dogs. It would have been good if all of our losses were close, but sadly, all of RR's losses were complete blowouts. RR's wins however against the weaker big ten teams and notre dame were close wins. LOL! Sadly, RR's team does not have a decent offense, defense and special teams at least against the top dogs.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 7:42 p.m.

".....Really, thats the first time Ive heard it, Rodriguez said. Playing dirty? Thats funny. We got penalized one time, right? Only one penalty. Who said that, Wisconsin?....." Is your coach an 11 year old girl? If you want to hear what a real coach sounds like I invite you to go to Dispatch and click on the OSU Sports tab and on the right side of the screen there are videos, about half of which are Senator Tressel speaking in press conferences. Talk about a guy who knows how to hold a room. And you will be surprised to know that a minute into the Iowa post game press conference, Tressel wants to divert all attention to the Michigan game. less than a half hour after that game and all Tress wants to talk about is Michigan. Now there's a coach who knows the score, there's a coach who knows what its all about.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 7:39 p.m.

Mike, thanks for the story about Bielema. The more I quotes I hear from him, the less I like him. He has trash-talked Michigan 3 times on Saturday. It's time to call him on it. Unfortunately, we don't play Wisconsin next year.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 6:41 p.m.

This team is 1 win off of what i predicted at the start of the season. Didnt expect to lose to MSU but it happens. What the real problem is here is G Robinson and the pathetic 3-3-5 D. Fire G Rob, re-hire Ron English, and go back to the 4-3. The offense is way too fun to watch and its been fun watching D Rob blow the records away. The kid is only a sophmore so he will learn from all his mistakes as does every young QB. Michigan has never had such an expolsive offense. ALL IN FOR MICHIGAN! GO BLUE!


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 6:31 p.m.

Don - I can't think of 2 coach's that would be a worse fit for the players that we currently have. I like RR for another year. The offense is fun to watch. Fix the D and we have ourselves a ball club. On another note - I really hope we get a red-shirt for Gardner. Would be great to have 2 years for him on the back-end of DRob...

3 And Out

Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 6:25 p.m.

Yea! Let's all "commend" Rich Rod and his staff of lackies and buds on going: 2-6, 1-7, and 3-5 in 3 years in the Big MICHIGAN!!!! Congrats Rich A. Rodriguez and Go Blue! Try to keep it close vs. OSU!

3 And Out

Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 6:23 p.m.

you know what they say about excuses.....


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 6:07 p.m.

He's sounding more and more like a man who knows the dogs are at his tail. And AD Brandon's comments about football success needing to be the engine for the entire athletic department speaks volumes. If Brandon is not putting out feelers for potential new coaches, then he's a fool. Jim Harbaugh is an obvious choice. But here's another to consider: try to poach Bret Bielema from Wisconsin. The guy is a tough, no-nonsense disciplinarian. The exact opposite of the "please like me" coach we have with Rodriguez.