No, but the Rich Rodriguez Era in Ann Arbor is off to a ragged start, from on the field depletions to off the field distractions. Since RR was wooed from West Virginia, it has been anything but dull in Wolverine land.
First there are the player attritions, which are to be expected. One of the first to go was QB Ryan Mallett, who hardly fit the spread option mold of QB that Rodriguez covets. Mallett is now at Arkansas. But 10 days into spring training, offensive lineman Justin Boren bolted out the door. The 6-foot-3, 310-pound Boren started every game last year for the Wolverines, and was one of only two returning starters in the OL. A pair of upperclassmen who started at right guard last year, Alex Mitchell and Jeremy Ciulla, left the program soon after Rodriguez arrived.
The loss of Boren hit home for several reasons. First he is a legacy (his dad Mike played for Bo Schembechler). Secondly on the way out he took a shot at the new staff. "I have great trouble accepting that those family values have eroded in just a few months," Boren said. " … That I am unable to perform under these circumstances at the level I expect of myself, and my teammates and Michigan fans deserve, is why I have made the decision to leave."
Boren also talks about tranferring to, OH NOOOOOOOO, Ohio State.
Then there are the off the field distractions. The divorce between Rodriguez and West Virginia was messy, and it isn't over yet. Any breakup that ends up in court fighting over the settlement is ugly, but this one is Rosie O'Donnell-Elizabeth Hasselbeck ugly.
Ann Arbor Akbar!
West Virginia wants Rodriguez to honor his $4 million dollar buyout clause in his contract. Rich doesn't see it that way. So its in court where charges and counter charges are flying, painting both sides as petty, bitter rivals.
The latest soap opera twist in the fight concerns Calvin MaGee, who was Rodriguez's offensive coordinator at WVU and has the same job at Michigan. Magee has alleged that Larry Aschebrook, West Virginia senior director of athletic development, had told him that he had no shot at getting the WVU head coaching job after Rodriguez left because he is African-American.
In a a sworn affidavit Aschebrook not only denies that the conversation ever took place he alleges that Rodriguez put Magee up to making the charge to make WVU look bad.
Aschebrook, who now works for Arizona State, claims that Rodriguez promised to find him a job at Michigan to make up for using him to get to the Mountaineer administration. The affidavit itself is a facinating read.
Then there were the Mountaineer allegations about Rich Rodriguez the Shredder. After being hired by Michigan, Rodriguez went to pack up at his West Virginia office, where he was seen shredding documents. WVU officials leaked that Rodriguez cleared his office of information ranging from summer camp financial records to player personnel records to records of player progress in the West Virginia strength and conditioning program. Rodriguez and his agent denied this, claiming it was only personal material, such as game plans and notes from conversations with other coaches that were shredded. As Rodriguez's agent, Mike Brown, pointed out, if some of the alleged files were not also kept elsewhere, say the WVU compliance office, then, "they have serious institutional control issues."
And while the court proceedings should keep fight in the public eye throughout the summer, Rodriguez has already pissed off the some of the "Good Old Boy Network" of Big Ten coaches, specifically Joe Tiller of Purdue. Tiller, who has already announced that 2008 is his last year, is upset for what he sees as Michigan breaking a "Gentleman's Agreement" over recruiting in the Big 10. During the last rush before signing day, Michigan got recruits previously committed to Florida, Penn State and Purdue to change their minds. It was Tiller at Purdue who was especially upset over losing wide receiver recruit Roy Roundtree.
"If we had an early signing date, you wouldn't have another outfit with a guy in a wizard hat selling snake oil get a guy at the last minute, but that's what happened," Tiller said.
Rodriguez replied, "Well, maybe I'm not a gentleman," he said. "I never heard of that (agreement). In that regard, I would be guilty as charged. … Until the guy signs, he's out there, particularly if he visits. If the young man is committed to your school, yet he's still visiting other schools, he's not truly committed; he's just very, very interested."
When asked if there was a 'Gentlemen's agreement," to back of on other Big 10 commitments, Ohio State's Jim Tressel said, "I guess only between the gentlemen,"
With all of this swirling around, Michigan actually spent some time this spring on the practice field, trying to adjust to the new systems. So how did the players on campus take to the spread-option offense. Reports say that, to put it kindly, quarterback play remains a mystery. RS Steve Threet and walk-on Nick Sheridan shared first-team snaps. Threet is a Ryan Mallet clone physcially at 6-5 and 228. The Michigan native started out at Georgia Tech, stayed just one semester before transferring back home. Sheridan got some mop up duty against both Notre Dame and Minnesota last season. It has been reported that when it came to the option, both displayed the mobility of Troy Aikman running the OU wishbone. They will go into the season being protected by an offensive line with only one returning starter and 14 total scholarship players.
Michigan will get a first-hand look at how the spread-option is run on opening day. Utah visits the Big House on Aug. 30th. The Utes return 16 starters off a 9-4 squad that includes a senior QB, Brian Johnson, who threw for over 1,800 yards last year in 11 games, and a running back, Darrell Mack, who rushed for over 1,200 yards.
Last year Michigan opened a season with two straight losses at home for the first time since 1959. After Utah, Michigan will play Miami of Ohio at home to begin 2008. The Wolverine schedule has 7 home games, and includes road games at Notre Dame, Penn State, Purdue (think Joe Tiller doesn't have this one circled already?) and finishing up at Ohio State. Waiting to see how Michigan handles all the off-season distractions along with adjusting to the new regime will make for a lot of anxious Wolverine fans leading up to August 30th.