Big Ten: Kurt Wermers

Big Ten lunch links

July, 29, 2009
7/29/09
12:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Some media day leftovers for you. 

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Not surprisingly, a Michigan team that often looked dysfunctional on the field in 2008 also lacked cohesion outside the spotlight.

"Last year, there were a couple of doubters, a couple of players who were like, 'Why we doing this? Why this and that?'" running back Brandon Minor recalled. "[They were] shaking their heads, blowing things off, not really paying attention to the coaches."

The predictable result: a 3-9 season, quite possibly the worst in team history, and no bowl game for the first time since 1974.

As the Wolverines prepare for Year 2 under Rich Rodriguez, Minor thinks the gulf between players and coaches has been bridged, primarily because those who lacked trust in the staff are no longer part of the program. But to many outside the program, the large number of player departures at Michigan only underscores the lack of cohesion within the walls of Schembechler Hall. Since the start of the 2008 season, Michigan has had nine transfers, a dismissal and a few players who left the program and didn't continue playing.

The roster has been reduced in recent weeks as offensive linemen Dann O'Neill and Kurt Wermers transferred to MAC schools and slot receiver Justin Feagin was dismissed for violating team rules. Wermers said disagreements with the coaching staff triggered his departure, but ESPN.com learned that he was academically ineligible and wouldn't have played this fall.

Michigan players acknowledge some friction existed in the past, but the team has turned the page heading into 2009.

"The guys that leave the program, it's something personal," cornerback Donovan Warren said. "It's nothing wrong with the team. For the most part, everyone's on the same page, everyone's here every day, putting in work. Those guys who left, it's just one bad grape out of a million."

Warren has felt a greater sense of comfort during the second full offseason under Rodriguez's staff, who increased the demands for strength and conditioning.

"We know what to expect, the runs, we see our bodies changing," he said. "We know we have to live up to what they want us to do. We also have expectations as players."

Those expectations call for a much smoother season, both on and off the field.

"We're on the same page," Minor said. "There comes a time you've got to put all that personal pride to the side and decide what we want as a team. At the end of the day, we're a team. When people look back at our team, the team of '09 at Michigan, I want to leave a good legacy behind. I don't want people to say that team had a cancer in it or the team was terrible or whatever."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Michigan is down another player, this time because of a dismissal. Sophomore slot receiver Justin Feagin was given the boot following an unspecified violation of team rules.

Head coach Rich Rodriguez said in a statement Saturday that Feagin's infraction occurred Thursday night.

The 6-foot, 198-pound Feagin is best known as being a fringe candidate for Michigan's starting quarterback job in 2008. He appeared to have the skills best suited to run Rodriguez's spread option attack, but he never made enough progress to bypass Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan. Feagin appeared in four games as a freshman last fall, rushing for 52 yards on 11 carries, before moving to slot receiver.

Feagin's dismissal doesn't figure to hurt Michigan too much on the field, though it's another APR hit and the latest player departure for a program that has seen quite a few under Rodriguez. Offensive linemen Dann O'Neill and Kurt Wermers both recently transferred to MAC schools (Western Michigan and Ball State). Wermers cited disagreements with the coaching staff as his reason for leaving, though sources told ESPN.com that he was academically ineligible and unable to stay on the team.

Feagin is the second player recruited solely by Rodriguez's staff to leave the Michigan program.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

There are two lessons to be learned when dealing with transfers, especially those from high-profile programs. 

1. Don't always believe what the player says. 

2. Those who transfer quietly are often better off than those who don't

Former Michigan offensive lineman Kurt Wermers wanted you to think that problems with Rich Rodriguez and Wolverines assistant coaches led to his transfer to Ball State. He told The Times of Northwest Indiana that Michigan's coaches recruited players who were "not my kind of crowd." He echoed former Wolverines offensive lineman Justin Boren in describing how a family atmosphere under previous head coach Lloyd Carr had turned into a strictly business mood under RichRod. 

Turns out, the only business that mattered was of the academic variety, and that's where Werners fell short. Sources told ESPN.com that Wermers was academically ineligible and unable to suit up for Michigan this fall. Whether he liked the coaching staff or not, he wouldn't be playing for the maize and blue. 

Rodriguez and his staff have taken heat for player departures in the last year, and Boren's comments about eroding family values got a lot of traction in the national media. Whether or not it was his intent, Wermers added fuel to the fire with very similar comments. But in the end, he's the one who ends up getting burned.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

For the second straight year, a Michigan offensive lineman is transferring, and not before firing a few parting shots toward head coach Rich Rodriguez and his assistants.

Kurt Wermers' words weren't as pointed as those of Justin Boren in 2008, but he made similar statements about the changes in the Michigan program as he prepares to join Ball State. Wermers was initially recruited by Lloyd Carr's staff but never played for Carr. 

"I really didn't get along with the new coaches," Wermers told The Times of Northwest Indiana. "They were bringing in a lot of different kids that were not my kind of crowd. Coach Carr's staff was a whole different ballgame. It was like a family. But when Rodriguez came in it was a whole different feeling. It was more of a business.

"I figured I'd get out while I could."

Wermers' departure comes on the heels of offensive lineman Dann O'Neil transferring to Western Michigan. The program has lost a portion of players since the new staff arrived, and the offensive line has seen the most attrition.

It's clear that Rodriguez's methods don't work for everybody, and that's fine. But it's interesting to see all the departures on the offensive line, a position that demands toughness and, in the spread option offense, an improved conditioning level.

This is big-boy football with big-money stakes, and some of the best coaches are the nastiest toward their offensive linemen. Plus, the offensive lines who are pushed the hardest often perform the best. 

But then there's Boren, a player who, by all accounts, brought a much needed edge to Ohio State's offensive line after transferring from Michigan. He doesn't seem like the type of player who needs to get meaner.

In the big picture, Wermers isn't a major loss, but his comments could momentarily fuel the hate toward Rodriguez and his staff. 

Big Ten lunch links

May, 18, 2009
5/18/09
12:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Wouldn't you love a job where you only have to be in the office one day a year? Well, I got one, and today's the day.

Bristol is beautiful this time of year. 

  • The Big Ten bowl lineup will be a key topic this week at the league meetings, and changes could be on the way, Scott Dochterman writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette.
  • Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez wants to see more facts before ruling on the status of jailed running back Kevin Grady, Mark Snyder writes in the Detroit Free Press. Wolverines offensive lineman Kurt Wermers has left the team, and more players could follow, John Heuser writes in The Ann Arbor News. 
  • It's prediction time, and The Detroit News' Angelique Chengelis sees Michigan State winning 10 games, while Michigan gets back on the right side of the .500 mark. Not much love for Penn State or the Big Ten in Chengelis' early Top 25
  • Despite being relegated to a backup role behind Terrelle Pryor, Joe Bauserman has no regrets about his path to this point or sticking with the Buckeyes, Tim May writes in The Columbus Dispatch. 
  • New Illinois offensive coordinator Mike Schultz is still figuring out where to live in Champaign, but he's doing what he does best these days -- recruit the state of Texas, Bob Asmussen writes in The (Champaign) News-Gazette. 
  • The fine Ohio State blog Eleven Warriors has a nice preview of Big Ten meetings, which take place this week in Chicago and will be highlighted by Joe Paterno's continued push for expansion.

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