Big Ten: Greg Harden
May, 31, 2012
By Adam Rittenberg | ESPN.com
Three months remain until the games begin, but Michigan already has completed the nation's best offseason team activity.
Michigan recently took its seniors to California for a three-day leadership retreat, which culminated with a training session alongside the U.S. Navy SEALs at a base in Coronado, Calif. Wolverines players also participated in leadership classes, conducted a youth football camp and toured the Rose Bowl, where they'd like to return on Jan. 1.
Colleague Mark Schlabach tagged along for the trip and wrote an extensive piece about what he saw.
One interesting scene came when Michigan associate athletic director Greg Harden asked the seniors whether they're better leaders than they were a year ago.
About halfway through the players' answers, Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson offered a surprising response.
"I feel like I haven't grown," Robinson said. "For me to be the quarterback at the University of Michigan, I feel like I have to grow up a lot and be a lot more accountable."
Robinson's honest self-evaluation was just the kind of answer Michigan coach Brady Hoke wanted to hear.
Leadership has been on Robinson's mind for some time. He talked with Brian Bennett last month about the need to be more vocal and forceful with his words to teammates. Although Robinson is unlike any Michigan quarterback we've seen with his unique skill set, he wants to be more like his Wolverines predecessors in how he conducts himself as a leader.
Hoke and Michigan's strength coach Aaron Wellman had a connection with the Navy SEALs from their time with San Diego State's program. Hoke's final group of San Diego State seniors went through a similar program in 2010. Michigan's trip was approved by the Big Ten's compliance staff because it involved leadership and life skills (the NCAA permits such activities).
Schlabach details several events during the trip, including a meeting where players shared deeply personal aspects of their background as well as their achievements in college.
The training session was particularly interesting, and not surprisingly, the SEALs didn't take it easy on the Michigan players.
Robinson's team, which also included [J.T.] Floyd and [Roy] Roundtree, won one of the early tire relay races. But they made the mistake of celebrating in front of Stella.
"What did they do wrong?" Stella asked. "They celebrated. How many times have you seen a team celebrate before the game is over? They're out there jumping up and down and hollering and then it's about them. Football players are the worst about that. Be humble, people. If you act like that, you're going to put a target on your back and people are going to crush you! What is humility? It's the absence of arrogance. If you start winning games and acting like fools, I'm going to get on a plane and come out there and kick your butts. Be humble and act like a team."
Then Stella turned to Robinson's team.
"They celebrated and now they're going to pay," Stella said.
Instead of getting a reward -- a short rest period -- like other winning teams, Robinson's team was ordered to complete lunges and sprints. None of the Wolverines did any more celebrating.
I've broken the links up into two categories following the big news at Michigan.
NON-MICHIGAN BIG TEN LINKS
NON-MICHIGAN BIG TEN LINKS
- Penn State confirms it will have a full complement of quarterbacks for spring ball, Joe Juliano writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer. JoePa's Doghouse explores why Lions DC Tom Bradley can't land a head-coaching job.
- Ohio State linebacker Dorian Bell will serve the second game of his suspension in the season opener against Akron, Dave Biddle reports.
- Michigan State has a huge recruiting weekend on tap, Greg Johnson writes in The Grand Rapids Press.
- Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure, who declared for the NFL draft Tuesday, faced his share of obstacles to reach this point, David Haugh writes in the Chicago Tribune.
- Illinois State adds three Big Ten transfers: two from Illinois and one from Minnesota.
- Indiana co-defensive coordinator Doug Mallory has no issues returning to a school that once fired his father, Pete DiPrimio writes in The (Fort Wayne) News-Sentinel.
- Nebraska fans can breathe a bit easier after Michigan hired Brady Hoke, Mitch Sherman writes in the Omaha World-Herald.
- Iowa benefits from the coaching change at Pitt and adds a recruit, Pat Harty writes in the Iowa City Press-Citizen.
- Colleague Mark Schlabach: "Hoke won't bring a fancy spread offense or marquee last name to Michigan, but he might bring what Rodriguez lacked: a winning formula. And while Hoke doesn't have Miles' résumé or bowl victories, he seems to have a better command of the play clock."
- The Detroit Free Press' Michael Rosenberg: "In December of 1968, a lot of people mocked this Bob Shlemblekawhat fellow, and when Carr got the full-time job in November of 1995, most fans were unhappy. And those hires worked out pretty well, as I recall. The more you watch Hoke do his job, the more you will like him. In fact, the more you look at him right now, the more you will like him."
- The Detroit News' Bob Wojnowski: "Brandon is putting the short-term image of his athletic-directorship on the line here. After the Rodriguez experiment, the hope is, Hoke presents a solid and safe return to Michigan ways, and can mend the fractured program. It won't be easy, and the only true fraction-fixing formula is to win."
- SI.com's Stewart Mandel: "This is hardly the first time a major football program had to settle for its third- (or possibly fourth- or fifth-) choice, and history shows it often works out just fine. Former USC AD Mike Garrett never originally planned to even contact Pete Carroll. Former Ohio State AD Andy Geiger interviewed a whole slew of more high-profile candidates before settling on a little-known I-AA coach named Jim Tressel. Meanwhile, the early backlash I've seen from Michigan fans on Twitter and message boards over hiring a career 47-50 coach reminds me of a similar situation two years ago, when a certain SEC school's fan base couldn't fathom the hiring of a guy with a 5-19 record at Iowa State. On Monday, Gene Chizik led Auburn to a national championship."
- The Sporting News' Dave Curtis: "Hoke’s hire should be hit among fans because he represents them in the ways his unsuccessful predecessor, the dismissed Rich Rodriguez, did not. Hoke has Midwestern roots. He has worked at Michigan and understands the “intangibles” UM fans and boosters believe make their school’s job unique."
- Mgoblog's Brian Cook: "This is not Brady Hoke's fault." Repeat 1000x. This is not Brady Hoke's fault. He seems like a nice enough dude. It seems unlikely he actively participated in the submarining of Rich Rodriguez. Unlike everyone else ever associated with the Michigan program with even the most thinly plausible of resumes, he actually wants to be the head coach here. So that's nice. This is a stupid hire. It will always be as stupid hire and David Brandon just led the worst coaching search in the history of Michigan football. He managed to chase off half of an already iffy recruiting class, hired a Plan C coach on January 11th, probably ensured the transfer of the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, and restricted his "national search" to people who'd spent at least five years in Ann Arbor. Michigan just gave themselves a year of USC-level scholarship reduction voluntarily."
- One non-Hoke Michigan link but a very worthwhile read by Eric Adelson on Michigan associate AD Greg Harden and his influence on the school's football players.
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