Big Ten: Calvin Magee

Does Iowa have a conditioning problem?

The mere suggestion would be swiftly dismissed during most of Kirk Ferentz's tenure as Hawkeyes coach.

Iowa's success during the Ferentz era can be directly tied to its strength and conditioning program, which consistently takes unheralded prospects and develops them into All-Big Ten candidates who outwork the competition. There's a reason why Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle makes more money than many major-conference coordinators, and why Ferentz stuck by Doyle during the rhabdomyolosis outbreak in January.

[+] EnlargeIowa coach Kirk Ferentz
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallKirk Ferentz and his Iowa Hawkeyes have had a tough time finishing games lately.
But Iowa's recent losses have led some to question one of the program's fundamental values. The Hawkeyes blew fourth-quarter leads in each of their final three regular-season games in 2010, losing all three contests. If not for Micah Hyde's interception return for a touchdown against Missouri in the Insight Bowl, it might have been four consecutive blown leads.

Then came Saturday's game at Iowa State, where Iowa took a 24-17 lead with 5:50 to play. Needing a defensive stop to seal the win, Iowa allowed Iowa State to march 59 yards in 13 plays. The Cyclones converted on third-and-15, third-and-20 and fourth-and-1 before scoring the tying touchdown. Iowa ended up losing 44-41 in three overtimes.

Iowa may or may not have a conditioning problem, but the Hawkeyes appear to have a finishing problem.

"Not finishing the game is always frustrating," linebacker Christian Kirksey told ESPN.com. "Especially in a rivalry game, when you lose, there's nothing good about that."

Iowa's conditioning level, particularly on defense, will be tested Saturday against Pittsburgh.

I spent some time on Pitt's campus last week and spotted many students wearing T-shirts that read: "High Octane Football." It's the motto new Pitt coach Todd Graham has brought to the program, and it stems mainly from the tempo Graham demands from his spread offense.

"This isn't nanotechnology or nuclear science," Graham told a crowd of Pitt fans this spring. "We are going to mentally and physically wear you out."

Graham's Tulsa team was one of only eight FBS programs to run more than 1,000 offensive plays in 2010. The quick pace worked as Tulsa ranked fifth nationally in total offense (505.6 ypg) and sixth in scoring (41.4 ppg).

Graham wants to snap the ball within five seconds of when it is marked for play and keeps his offense in hurry-up mode throughout the game.

Although Pitt hasn't been nearly as explosive as Graham's old squad in its first two games -- the Panthers average 35 points and 395.5 yards -- only seven FBS teams have run more plays than Pitt's 156.

"You're going to see the quarterback option attack, throwing the football, a lot of plays, fast-paced," Ferentz said.

The pace shouldn't be new to Iowa after facing Iowa State last week, Missouri in the bowl game and teams like Northwestern and Michigan last season. Graham has three former Michigan assistants, including co-offensive coordinator Calvin Magee, on his staff at Pitt.

"We've played a lot of teams that are high-paced," Kirksey said, "so throughout practice you've got to make sure you fly around to the ball, keep that high tempo and be aggressive."

Iowa endured a stretch of close losses in 2007 and in the first part of 2008 before reversing the trend and turning into arguably the nation's most clutch team in 2009. Saturday's game marks a chance for the Hawkeyes to regain a bit of momentum and for the defense to prove it can outlast a fast-paced foe.

"We're a pretty conditioned team," said Kirksey, who led Iowa with 13 tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery against Iowa State. "It just makes us want to work harder. Now we know it can go over 60 minutes because we've seen it in overtime. It just makes us push more and become better as a team.

"We will finish a game."

Big Ten aides not among highest paid

December, 22, 2010
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USA Today continued its comprehensive look at coaches' salaries with a look at how the assistants are faring (not too bad, despite a down economy).

The number of assistant coaches earning $250,000 or more is on the rise, particularly in the SEC, but what strikes me is the Big Ten's absence among the very top earners. No Big Ten assistant ranks among the top 10 nationally in salary and only Illinois offensive coordinator Paul Petrino ($475,250) ranks in the top 30 in earnings. The SEC, meanwhile, has 14 assistants among the top 30.

[+] EnlargeDon Treadwell
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioDon Treadwell was one of the Big Ten's best bargains last season at $235,250.
Are Big Ten assistants getting short-changed? Are Big Ten assistants inferior to those in the SEC? Why such a discrepancy?

I think the quality of coaching remains very high in the Big Ten and several assistants might want to get new agents. I also think that wild spending on assistant coaches is less a part of the culture in the Big Ten than it is in the SEC, Big 12 or even ACC. Will we ever see a Big Ten coordinator make more than $900,000, like Will Muschamp did at Texas, or more than $500,000? Perhaps we will, but I think it's doubtful.

There are also quite a few top assistants at big-time programs in the Big Ten who don't seem likely to make the jump to head-coaching positions elsewhere. While we've seen Big Ten assistants like Wisconsin's Dave Doeren and Ohio State's Darrell Hazell land top jobs this month, there aren't a ton of red-hot coaching prospects in the Big Ten.

It's interesting to see the discrepancy.

Who are the Big Ten's highest-paid assistants? Check 'em out:

(Note: As a private institution, Northwestern doesn't have to reveal coaches' salaries; Penn State declined to provide coaches' salary information.)

1. Illinois offensive coordinator Paul Petrino (total compensation: $475,250, maximum bonus: $39,000)

2. Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst (total compensation: $361,094, maximum bonus: $122,500)

3. Illinois defensive coordinator Vic Koenning (total compensation: $325,120, maximum bonus: $26,000)

4. Ohio State offensive coordinator Jim Bollman (total compensation: $311,500, maximum bonus: $50,550)

5. Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Heacock (total compensation: $309,000, maximum bonus: $51,500)

6. Minnesota defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove (total compensation: $305,000, maximum bonus: $0)

7. Michigan offensive coordinator Calvin Magee (total compensation: $282,100, maximum bonus: $0)

8. Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Robinson (total compensation: $277,100, maximum bonus: $0)

9. Ohio State assistant head coach/receivers coach Darrell Hazell (total compensation: $264,800, maximum bonus: $48,133)

10. Iowa offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe (total compensation: $260,524, maximum bonus: $0)

Nebraska's highest-paid assistants are offensive coordinator Shawn Watson ($380,000 salary, $130,833 maximum bonus) and defensive coordinator Carl Pelini ($375,000 salary, $129,375 maximum bonus).

Illinois' decision to spend big bucks for its new coordinators plays out here. It's interesting that for a defense-oriented league like the Big Ten, three of the four highest-paid assistants are offensive coordinators.

The Big Ten's biggest assistant coach bargain in 2010: Michigan State offensive coordinator Don Treadwell ($235,250), who led the team during coach Mark Dantonio's absence. All but one of Ohio State's assistants makes more than Treadwell.

Another major bargain is Wisconsin running backs coach John Settle ($129,792).

Your thoughts on the coaches' salaries?
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan defenders J.T. Floyd and Craig Roh can empathize with their counterparts from Connecticut.

"He's a crazy animal to tame," Floyd said.

"What you saw happening out there," added Roh, "is what was happening all of practice to us."

After having Denard Robinson make them look bad for the past seven months, Floyd and Roh got to sit back and watch another defense get humiliated. Needless to say, they enjoyed the view.

[+] EnlargeDenard Robinson
AP Photo/Tony DingDenard Robinson rushed 29 times for 197 yards and a touchdown and completed 19 of 22 passes for 186 yards and a score against Connecticut.
So did a record crowd of 113,090 at the rededicated Michigan Stadium, as Robinson delivered a historic performance in his first career start, lifting Michigan to a 30-10 victory against UConn. Robinson shattered Michigan's single-game quarterback rushing record with 197 yards and a touchdown, surpassing Steve Smith's mark midway through the third quarter.

More surprising is what Robinson did with his arm, considered useless by some after he completed only 45.2 percent of his passes as a true freshman in 2009. He completed his first eight pass attempts and finished the game 19-for-22 for 186 yards and a touchdown.

Robinson completed 14 passes all of last season.

"I knew I always could throw the ball, it was never a question," Robinson said. "It was just getting the offense down pat."

He appeared to master coach Rich Rodriguez's spread system on Saturday.

How tough was it to stop Robinson? Connecticut defenders tried just about everything, even stealing his cleats.

"They were like, 'Take his shoe, take his shoe,'" said Robinson, nicknamed "Shoelace" for famously leaving his footwear untied at all times.

"They took them off on one of the plays," he added.

It didn't matter. Robinson could wreak havoc barefoot if he wanted to.

Rodriguez waited until Friday night to gather his three quarterbacks and inform Robinson that he'd start the opener. Rodriguez let Robinson, freshman Devin Gardner and last year's starter, Tate Forcier, take reps with the first-team offense throughout camp.

But it would have been a surprise to many, including center David Molk, if anyone but Robinson had taken the first snap on Saturday.

"Most of the guys knew," Rodriguez said. "I don't think it was a big secret. Denard was taking a lot of reps with the [starters]. ... Denard certainly had asserted himself in camp more than anyone else."

Robinson always has had the big-play skills. His first career touch as a college player resulted in an electrifying 43-yard touchdown run, on a broken play, no less.

But until Saturday, he hadn't shown the ability to consistently move an offense. Consider four of the five scoring drives he engineered against Connecticut.

  • 14 plays, 96 yards, six runs by Robinson
  • 7 plays, 77 yards, three runs by Robinson (capped by 32-yard touchdown)
  • 19 plays, 74 yards, six runs by Robinson
  • 11 plays, 89 yards, three runs by Robinson

Robinson finished the game with 29 carries and absorbed several big hits, including a helmet to his left hip that left him sprawled on the field. Running back Vincent Smith wasn't worried.

"He always gets up," Smith said. "Very tough."

Robinson missed a total of two plays.

As Robinson's carries total rose, Michigan quarterbacks coach Rod Smith turned to offensive coordinator Calvin Magee.

"We were like, 'We've got to be careful here,'" Smith said. "But Denard, he didn't back down. He said, 'Coach, give it to me.'"

Rodriguez didn't realize Robinson had 29 carries until looking at the postgame stat sheet. Was it too much?

"If he can carry it 29 times for 200 yards, he'll carry it 29 times for 200 yards," Rodriguez said. "I don't know if he can do that each and every game."

In the past, Michigan might not have had a choice, as Robinson was a totally one-dimensional player as a freshman. Not only did he struggle with his accuracy, but he threw four interceptions in only 31 attempts.

Third-and-long used to mean punt or turnover. On Saturday, it meant opportunity.

After Connecticut had reclaimed momentum just before halftime, Robinson converted five third downs on a 19-play drive that set up a field goal.

Two plays after returning from the hip injury, Robinson pump-faked and then hit a wide-open Terrence Robinson in stride for a 42-yard gain, setting up another touchdown.

Asked to describe the play, Denard Robinson, for the first time all day, looked confused.

"It was, uh, I can't tell you," he said.

After leaving the podium, Robinson greeted Rodriguez, telling him, "They were trying to take one of our plays, coach."

The way Robinson looked Saturday, Rodriguez could have handed Connecticut coach Randy Edsall the playbook.

"There were probably more times he should have went down the field," Rodriguez said. "But we were able to control the game from a running standpoint."

Things get tougher next week, as Robinson hits the road to face a Notre Dame team that contained Robert Marve and Purdue on Saturday.

"He did what he had to do," Rod Smith said. "We gave him the reins, he took it and ran with it. Basically, now it's going to be his to run with for a while."

Robinson didn't sound so sure after the game.

"We probably don't know who's going to start next week," he said. "We'll see."

Riiight.

Informed of Robinson's comment, Rodriguez smiled.

"Stay tuned."
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- In theory, practicing against Michigan's quarterbacks this spring should be more fun for defenders like Wolverines linebacker Craig Roh.

[+] EnlargeTate Forcier
Eric Bronson/Icon SMIIncumbent starter Tate Forcier faces hard competition this spring.
Most teams treat their quarterbacks like porcelain dolls in spring ball, dressing them in odd-colored jerseys that might as well say, "Don't touch us ... or else." But at Michigan, quarterbacks Tate Forcier, Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner are wearing the same white practice jerseys as the other offensive players, mainly because the coaches want them to improve at protecting the football after contact.

Defenders like Roh no longer have to pull up every time they approach the quarterbacks. They can let it rip.

Cause for celebration, right? Not so much, especially when Robinson has the ball.

"I hate Denard on the football field," Roh said. "I love him outside of football, but on the football field, he's just such a nuisance. The quarterbacks here are too fast, and Denard, I just can't catch him. It's ridiculous."

Roh's loss could be Michigan's gain when the 2010 season rolls around. If he can't catch Robinson or the other quarterbacks, opposing defenders should have a rough time, too.

Robinson, who displayed his fleet feet at times last season as a true freshman, is taking advantage of his first spring practice and pushing Forcier for the starting job. Gardner, a heralded recruit who enrolled early, also is showing some good signs.

"It's great," wide receiver Roy Roundtree said. "They're working each other, making each other better. They're all doing well so far."

For the first time in Rich Rodriguez's trying tenure at Michigan, the team has the type of quarterback competition that the coaches want. This isn't 2008, when Rodriguez had to pick a starter from a pool of unsuitable candidates. Or last fall, when Forcier enrolled early and had a clear edge over Robinson.

"Right now, we're teaching all the quarterbacks all the offense," Rodriguez said. "We're not running certain plays for Tate, certain plays for Devin, certain plays for Denard. They're running all the offense."

Only Forcier operated the full playbook in 2009, and he had mixed results. He was arguably the nation's most exciting player in September, creating big plays and leading clutch drives as Michigan stormed out to a 4-0 start.

His inexperience showed during Big Ten play, and he finished the season with 14 turnovers (10 interceptions and four fumbles). Forcier was at his best as a freelancer, living on the edge, but he didn't seem as comfortable within the structure of the offense.

"You don't want to take his improvisation away," offensive coordinator Calvin Magee said, "but you also want him to be structurally sound in his progressions and know where everybody is."

Forcier finished with 2,050 passing yards with 13 touchdowns, but he threw nine touchdowns in the first five games and committed five turnovers in the season finale against the Ohio State Buckeyes.

"Maybe some of the things that happened early in the season happened a little easier for him," Rodriguez said. "It kind of felt right to him. At the end of the year, he played more like a true freshman at times. And he got banged up a little bit and his concentration wasn't as sharp.

"As coaches, it's our job to make sure he maintains that focus."

A year in the fire should help Forcier, just like a full offseason is helping Robinson.

Like Forcier, Robinson had his moments in 2009, scoring a 43-yard touchdown against Western Michigan on his first career touch at the college level. The unlaced Floridian showcased his sprinter's speed and ridiculous moves at times, but he wasn't a complete quarterback, connecting on just 14 of 31 pass attempts.

Robinson has worked on his mechanics this spring, and though he still could be used at other positions down the line, he's holding his own at quarterback.

"He's played well enough at quarterback for us to keep him at quarterback," Rodriguez said. "It's an expected progression."

Rodriguez is setting no timetable on naming a starter and wants more than one solid option there.

"As they go into their second year and they've been in your system," Rodriguez said, "you can expect a little bit more."

Big Ten Friday mailblog

April, 9, 2010
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A few folks challenging me today. Bring it.

Brian from Seattle writes: Adam, love the blog. This along with the Big Ten Network helps me feel like I still live in the Midwest. That being said, with all of the reports you had on MSU, not one of them mentioned them moving to a base 3-4 defense. From what I have read, Jones, Gordon, Norman and Gholston will be the 4, with Bullough getting his fair share of playing time as well. How is it that you have all of these stories with these interviews, yet miss out on such an obvious one? The linebackers are the strength to our D and the move to the 3-4 will maximize our talent. Keep up the good(?) work.

Adam Rittenberg: Brian, although Mark Dantonio said Thursday that they're headed toward more 3-4, Michigan State still will use multiple fronts (four-man and three-man). The Spartans have two promising young defensive tackles in Jerel Worthy and Blake Treadwell, and several defensive ends are emerging this spring. Who said Gholston will definitely be the fourth starter at linebacker? He isn't even practicing yet, so let's be patient there. Max Bullough has been impressive, and he certainly looks the part. Will the Spartans be a 3-4 defense in 2010? They're going in that direction, but it won't be an exclusive thing.


Dave from Streamwood, Ill., writes: Wow. Could you possibly show more bias for Iowa?? "And will do so again"? I didn't know you can predict the future, what a fantastic ability! Is it likely Iowa fans will dominate the stadium? Yes, but that's not what you said. How about you report the news and spare us your Big Ten/big school views. No wonder why you got hired at ESPN.

Adam Rittenberg: Dave, first of all, I covered Northern Illinois for three years, and I know how they've grown that football program and the fan base. I'll always be a huge Joe Novak fan, and Jerry Kill was an excellent hire for NIU. That said, I think there's more than enough evidence that Iowa fans will show up in droves for a game in Chicago, especially the season opener. Iowa travels more fans than most Big Ten schools, and Iowa boasts tons and tons of alumni in the Chicago area. The Hawkeyes have a huge presence at road games and bowl games. I don't think it's such a bold prediction to say Iowa will pack Soldier Field for that game.


Sean from Chicago writes: Adam, was wondering if there was any news/buzz about Fitzgerald Trouissant out of Michigan's spring camp. The kid came in highly recruited after an impressive high school career and I know he battled injuries throughout his Freshman year. Was wondering if he has made any headway through the depth at tailback under Rich Rod or if there is any other news on the kid. He went to my high school, and I always wondered why he chose Michigan (other than fan growing up) with all the depth they had coming in with his class and Rich Rod's history for stockpiling the running back position.

Adam Rittenberg: Michigan coaches sound happy with Toussaint, but there's definitely more buzz about Michael Shaw and Michael Cox this spring. The Wolverines also like what they're seeing from burly freshman Stephen Hopkins. Toussaint certainly has opportunities to push Shaw and Cox, but I'd say they will the top two backs coming out of spring. Vincent Smith re-enters the mix this fall, but offensive coordinator Calvin Magee told me he'll need to catch up fast.


Bryce from Dallas writes: If you could help me clarify something Adam, someone said to me that both Purdue and Indiana make more television money as of now than Notre Dame? Is that true or if not true, would it be true with expansion?You can't say that wouldn't be funny that the once mighty Notre Dame make less in TV revenue than its in-state opponents? But in actuality, I imagine some Big 12, ACC and Pac-10 powerhouses may also make less.

Adam Rittenberg: Every Big Ten team makes more from TV revenue ($17-18 million a year) than Notre Dame does from its NBC football contract ($9 million a year). And the Big Ten shares revenue equally among all its teams, so Indiana and Purdue get the same slice as Ohio State and Michigan. How would expansion change this? Well, I would expect the Big Ten would only expand if there was the potential to grow TV revenue even more. Big Ten presidents are only going to share the revenue pie if there's more of it to go around.


Ricky from Placentia, Calif., writes: The word thus far in Spring practice is that Jaamal Berry is the most-explosive tailback for Ohio State, with Saine, Herron, Hall, Martin and Hyde also performing.Do you feel that the coaching staff will play the back that is producing the best or will the staff go towards seniority (meaning Saine and Herron) and overlook performance? The reason I ask, there were times that Jordan Hall looked very good last season, yet he didn't get a lot of carries.

Adam Rittenberg: I'm heading out to Ohio State practice in a few minutes, so I'll have more on the running back situation. But this coaching staff loves its veteran players, and Brandon Saine and Dan Herron certainly have the most experience among the backs. Saine told me today that he's enjoying mentoring the younger guys and singled out Hall and Berry for their play this spring. The coaches like what they saw from Hall last year, but he'll need to really separate himself in practice to take away carries from Saine and Herron. The same holds true for Berry.

Big Ten lunch links

April, 9, 2010
4/09/10
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In Columbus today, visiting with the Big Ten champs.

Big Ten lunch links

January, 28, 2010
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They're all named Sean, they're mean, and I hate it here.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- After losing several national award winners, Ohio State's defense adopted the motto of, "No names, no blame, no worries" for the 2009 season.

The Buckeyes left Michigan Stadium on Saturday with absolutely nothing to worry about, having clinched their sixth consecutive victory against their archrival and their third outright Big Ten title in the last four years. They had Michigan blaming itself for five turnovers and other missed opportunities in plus territory.

Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesOhio State safety Kurt Coleman caught two crucial interceptions in the Buckeyes win over rival Michigan.



And several Ohio State defenders definitely made names for themselves in the process.

The Buckeyes rode big plays on defense to a 21-10 victory, filling up the box score with tackles for loss, pass breakups, interceptions and a forced fumble that started it off in the first quarter. From safety Kurt Coleman to cornerback Devon Torrence to defensive end Cameron Heyward to linebackers Brian Rolle and Ross Homan, Ohio State won thanks to its cast of stars on defense.

"Every time we get in the red zone, we've had a higher awareness," said Coleman, who had two interceptions, both in Ohio State territory, to go along with two pass breakups. "We've just been fortunate enough to make the plays when we need it. We've been wanting to get after the ball, and it's showing out on the field."

Last year, Ohio State ranked 14th nationally in total defense and tied for 20th in takeaways with 29. Though the Buckeyes have maintained their overall toughness on D, they've been more opportunistic this season.

They now have 33 takeaways on the season, which might lead the nation after Saturday's games (Ohio State came into the day ranked sixth nationally). Ohio State now has five players with multiple interceptions, led by Coleman (5), and seven players with at least one fumble recovery.

"The first thing we said all week was, 'You can't turn the ball over,'" Michigan offensive coordinator Calvin Magee said. "And we turned it over. You can't win like that."

Young quarterbacks had given Ohio State a bit of trouble in a loss to USC (Matt Barkley) and last week's overtime win against Iowa (James Vandenberg). Michigan freshman Tate Forcier moved the ball at times Saturday, but his five turnovers (4 interceptions, 1 fumble) were the difference.

"We just came up with more plays," Coleman said. "Against USC, we just couldn't come up with the plays that we needed to, and this time, we did."

Video: Michigan OC Calvin Magee

November, 21, 2009
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Michigan offensive coordinator Calvin Magee talks about the Wolverines problems against Ohio State.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- When Michigan quarterbacks coach Rod Smith went down to Florida and asked to speak with Denard Robinson, he quickly learned that his recruiting target went by a different name.

"His coach goes, 'Hey, Shoelace!'" Smith said.

Shoelace?

The story goes that Robinson hasn't tied his shoelaces since elementary school. Not for football games. Not for track competitions. Not for anything.

The odd practice seemingly would hinder an athlete's ability to stay on his feet. For Robinson, it's just the opposite.

Robinson's speed has become one of the top storylines during Michigan's preseason camp. After gaining attention in March for running a 10.44 in the 100-meter dash at a meet in Florida, the true freshman has amazed his Michigan teammates and coaches with his warp-speed, unlaced feet this month.

"Damndest thing I've ever seen," Smith said.

Like fellow quarterbacks Tate Forcier and Nick Sheridan, Robinson is practicing with the first-team offense in camp and likely will play in the season opener Sept. 5 against Western Michigan

True to form, Robinson showed up Sunday at football media day with his shoes untied. When Michigan opens the season, Robinson will go sans tied laces.

That is, unless the coaches make him lace up.

"I really don't know [if they will]," he said. "I don't think so."

Not if he continues to dazzle in camp.

He had a 58-yard touchdown run in Friday's practice and tossed a short touchdown pass to Je'Ron Stokes in Saturday's scrimmage. Robinson accounted for two plays of longer than 40 yards on Wednesday, including a 40-yard scoring strike to Greg Mathews.

Smith was asked Sunday if Robinson reminded him of a young Pat White, who thrived in Rich Rodriguez's spread offense at West Virginia.

"I don't want to blow [Robinson] up, but he's fast," Smith said. "It's fun to watch, and if he breaks through, I love Pat to death, but I'm not too sure this kid is faster. They're close."

Robinson's speed has helped him offset the natural struggles that come with learning a new offense as a freshman.

"I get away with a lot," he said. "I'll probably make a mistake and get back on it with my speed."

Robinson didn't really have an explanation for his shoelace habit. Despite the risk of tripping or having a teammate step on his laces, he'll plan to continue the practice.

Though he's making it easier on opposing defenders to make shoe-string tackles, they might not even get a chance.

"I just enjoy running," Robinson said. "When I get the ball, I think about not getting caught. If I'm in front of everybody, I feel I shouldn't be caught. Nobody's caught me from behind [in practice]."

Robinson's speed might be too valuable to keep off the field, even if he's not the starter at quarterback. There are lingering questions about his arm and accuracy, but offensive coordinator Calvin Magee said the freshman can "throw the heck out of the ball."

So he's not totally anti-laces.

"Everybody says I can't throw," he said, "but I'll show you different when you see me start and see us play."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has called league expansion a "back burner issue" more than once in recent weeks.

Well, here's one for the conference to put on the front burner. 

The hiring rate of minorities to head coach and coordinator positions remains well below what it should be in college football, and it's reflected in the Big Ten.

The league has one minority head coach -- Michigan's Rich Rodriguez is Hispanic  -- and only two minority coordinators in Michigan offensive coordinator Calvin Magee and Michigan State offensive coordinator Don Treadwell.

The league had six coordinator changes during the offseason, including the departure of Illinois offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, who became one of six black head coaches in the sport when he took over at New Mexico. But none of the vacancies was filled with a minority candidate.

The Big Ten has had only three black head coaches and only one, Michigan State's Bobby Williams, since 1991. Northwestern had consecutive black head coaches from 1981-91 in Dennis Green and Francis Peay.

Before Michigan hired Rodriguez, the Big Ten had only one other minority head coach in the last two decades -- Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez, one of the most successful coaches in recent league history.

"It's not more of a concern today than it was a year ago or two years ago, but it's a constant focus," Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said of minority coach hiring. "We want diversity on our campus from the president's office to the faculty, including the athletic department. And the only way you get that is through purposeful recruitment. It's not just who applies. It's who you're looking at and who you're developing through your ranks."

(Read full post)

Big Ten lunch links

May, 5, 2009
5/05/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Is it September yet?

S: There was one quote that stood out for me from last season. It was after the Michigan State game when Michigan's offensive coordinator Calvin McGee described your play as "inconsistent, as always."

T: I guess I feel like that's a difference of philosophy from the previous staff. Granted, coaches do different things to get the most out of their players. Some people close to me were upset that a coach would call me out in front of the media, but you know, in the end it didn't really matter to me. And to be honest, my play in the Michigan State game was inconsistent. Is it right to say that at the press conference after the game? I mean, we had just lost a big rivalry game, so I would chalk most of that up to emotions after a big game like that.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Happy pre-Turkey Day. Safe travels if you're heading somewhere for the holiday.

  • Despite an inferior record, Iowa could jump Northwestern and possibly Michigan State in the bowl pecking order because of its large traveling fan base, Mike Hlas writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette.  
"But no matter how the Civil War turns out, a Midwestern battle will then take place on the battlegrounds of Florida. Which will get the highest bowl available to it, Iowa or Michigan State? Iowa or Northwestern?
And why would those two questions even be asked when Michigan State and Northwestern went 9-3 and defeated the 8-4 Hawkeyes? You know why. Cold, hard Iowa cash. The Hawkeyes might not bring prestige to a bowl game and don't add eyeballs from around the nation to national telecasts. But they deliver fans to bowls."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
 AP Photo/Tony Ding
 Michigan defensive end Ryan Van Bergen (53) dumps a bucket of water on head coach Rich Rodriguez after the Wolverines stunned No. 9 Wisconsin, 27-25, on Saturday.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Part of the credit for Saturday's historic comeback goes to the Michigan Stadium FieldTurf.

Unlike real grass, FieldTurf can't be penetrated by gophers, moles and other subterranean creatures. That's a good thing, because Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez wanted to join his furry friends at halftime.

"If there was a hole to crawl into, a bunch of us, including myself, would want to crawl in that hole," Rodriguez said.

Many of the 109,833 in attendance wouldn't have minded if Rodriguez had gone underground after Michigan's miserable first half. As the first-year coach and his players walked to the locker room trailing Wisconsin 19-0, the fans let them know exactly how they felt.

Coaches often talk about living in bubbles and ignoring distractions, but the boos bouncing around the nation's biggest stadium were impossible to block out.

"If you were anywhere in the Ann Arbor vicinity, you heard 'em," Rodriguez said, smiling. "The fans are frustrated. They want to play at a high level here, and that's OK. I hope they're not booing the kids, they're booing the coaches. We have to take it as coaches.

"But I didn't see a lot of people leave."

Michigan's new uniforms are embroidered with Bo Schembechler's famous saying: "Those who stay will be champions." Those who stayed at the Big House on Saturday afternoon were witnesses to history.

The Wolverines went from incompetent to inspired, from hopeful to heartened, from futile to unstoppable, all in a blink of an eye.

They rallied from a 19-0 halftime deficit to beat ninth-ranked Wisconsin, 27-25, completing the biggest comeback in Michigan Stadium history in the 500th game played at the Big House. They avoided a disastrous 1-3 start and won their 23rd straight Big Ten home opener.

"It [was] a defining game for this team," nose tackle Terrance Taylor said. "If we had lost, it would have been a setback. ... Now that we've won, we've got momentum going for the rest of the season. It's who we are."

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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Happy Labor Day. It's a day off for most of you (I hope), but not me. I'll be back with updates throughout the day. Before looking ahead to Week 2 and a set of Big Ten games unlikely to make your must-see list, here's a quick look at the best from the first weekend.

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