Chat with Michael Rothstein
Welcome to WolverineNation! On Thursday, reporter Michael Rothstein stops by to chat about the state of Michigan football.
Rothstein joined ESPN.com in 2011 after covering the University of Michigan for AnnArbor.com, Notre Dame for the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Journal Gazette and a host of colleges for the Daily News-Record (Harrisonburg, Va.). A Syracuse graduate and an East Meadow, N.Y. native, he lives in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Send your questions now and join Rothstein Thursday at noon ET!
Michael Rothstein (12:00 PM)
Hey everyone and welcome to this week's chat! Great to have you aboard. Michigan is 2-2 and gets a weekend off before Big Ten play starts next season.So let's get it started. Fire away.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Who do you think is the best College Football Players that are Playing at Michigan?
Michael Rothstein (12:05 PM)
I actually like the way this question is phrased, because best college players and best pro prospects are sometimes two different things. As far as best college players: 1) Denard Robinson. His on-field performance meltdown in the second quarter against Notre Dame aside, he is still one of the most electrifying players in the country and can score from anywhere on the field with the ball in his hands. His skills won't likely translate to being a quarterback in the NFL, but if he can catch the ball there will be a spot for him. In college, though, he is dynamic.2) Jordan Kovacs. He might not have the size or speed for the next level, but he is a great college safety and has been Michigan's most reliable defender the past two seasons. Top two guys with NFL potential:1) Taylor Lewan. He's one of the best tackles in college football and has the size and athleticism to project well in the NFL as well. He is overpowering in college.2) Jake Ryan. The linebacker is starting to come around even more in his sophomore season. He might be Michigan's best defender right now and has two more years to grow. He has good size and athleticism along with strong instincts.
Ethan (Clarkston, MI)
Do you think Denard will ever get it together this season?? With all the awful plays. Will he turn it around?
Michael Rothstein (12:07 PM)
Ethan,With Denard Robinson, Michigan is going to take the good and bad with him the rest of the way. While I think Saturday was an aberration and a confluence of a lot of events coming together along with a bad night, he still needs to improve his accuracy.That said, he won't face many defensive fronts like he did Saturday in the Big Ten. Purdue will be a stern test, as will Michigan State and Ohio State, but none of those lines or front sevens will get the pressure Notre Dame did. Or shouldn't.
So - of the debacle - what percent is Denard's fault and what percent is Gorgeous Al Borges?
Michael Rothstein (12:08 PM)
Tough to say. Michigan was moving the ball pretty well, but the halfback pass with Vincent Smith was just a baffling call at that point because Michigan had moved the ball well. On the interceptions, well, Borges isn't the one who is making the decision to throw into double-and-triple coverage. That's on Robinson. On at least one interception, the dump-down option to Toussaint was wide open. Robinson makes that read and Michigan likely gets a first down. So while I won't put percentages on it, they both take some share of the blame.
The Shaddow (Parts Unknown)
What if any adjustment you think Michigan will make heading into the Purdue game in terms of getting the offense back on track?
Michael Rothstein (12:11 PM)
I think you'll see some more zone read and designed runs for Robinson. When he does that, he opens up the entire rushing offense for Toussaint. That happens and then the passing game will open up if a team stacks the box. The key here against Purdue is the offensive line being able to block well at the line of scrimmage and into the second level because the Boilermakers have a good front.
Do you think Michigan's d-line can contain LeVeon Bell when that game comes? It seems like that's the key to beating MSU
Michael Rothstein (12:12 PM)
It'll be interesting. The linebackers, led by Jake Ryan and Desmond Morgan, will be the keys there. If the line can be neutral, it'll open up the lanes for Ryan and Morgan to make tackles. Both have good instincts and are pretty sure-handed, so that's where containing Bell would start. Would not be surprised if Michigan ran a similar defense on Oct. 20 that it did Saturday, complete with Kovacs down in the box in almost a 4-4.
Lots of chatter about Denard as a WR in the NFL. Where do you see him going in the draft? Do you see any scenario where he drops to the 6th or 7th round? I mean nobody has ever seen him catch a pass.
Michael Rothstein (12:14 PM)
Bill,You hit it on the head. I don't know if he'd drop that far just because of his athletic ability and someone would take a chance on him even if he insists on playing quarterback in the NFL. But if he shows he can catch and is open to being a receiver/returner, then he could be a second round pick because his speed and agility are elite. It is something we won't know, though, until at least a postseason all-star game and maybe beyond.
Who do we have the best shot of landing in 2013 class
Michael Rothstein (12:15 PM)
Michigan is still in it with the prospects it has been in with all along, Green, Treadwell, etc...There just aren't many spots left and a lot of time to go.
Fred (Juno Beach FL)
What's your W-L prediction for this regular season for Michigan?
Michael Rothstein (12:17 PM)
Fred,That's a good question. Before the season I predicted 8-4 -- 2-2 in the non-conference and 6-2 in the Big Ten. I'm sticking with that. Still think Nebraska will be a tough place to win at, as will Ohio State and, frankly, Purdue should be an even game. Michigan is in a situation where a case can be made for them winning or losing almost every game left on the schedule. But I'm going to stick with my original prediction: 6-2 in the Big Ten.
Ken (grand rapids mi)
Hey Mike, what does it take to trun the team around now? And why are the coaches trying to be 'too cute' with their play calling?
Michael Rothstein (12:18 PM)
More of the same. Michigan was moving the ball well on Notre Dame at points and the Wolverines won't see a front exactly like that the rest of the way. Offensively I think you'll see Borges continue to call plays well. He had a good gameplan for the most part -- loved what he did with the end arounds with Gallon and the WR pass -- so I don't think he'll go away from it.
Is it just me or is everyone bashing Denard and not giving Notre Dame's defense any credit? After dominating them the prior 2 years, they clearly had a better game plan and made better adjustments on defense. Your thoughts?
Michael Rothstein (12:21 PM)
Notre Dame's defense was very, very, very good -- especially in the front seven. If the Irish are to win games the rest of the way, it will be because of that strong defense. I think a lot of it comes from the decisions Denard made. He threw two interceptions essentially into the numbers of Notre Dame defenders. But yes, the Irish game plan was solid and they have a nasty front seven. Saw many shades of what Alabama did to Michigan in the Notre Dame strategy. But great calls by Bob Diaco and great plays by Stephon Tuitt, Manti Te'o and Co.
As awful as the game was Saturday - in some sense it was encouraging. If Denard has his usual 2 turnovers instead of 5, MI wins that game easily. After the game, I felt good about MI's chances to win the Big Ten. You think they will win the Big Ten?
Michael Rothstein (12:23 PM)
Tough to say. Someone has to win it, I suppose. Next Saturday will be the real barometer there. Purdue is a good team with a very good defense. If Michigan wins on the road there, it certainly has a shot. If they lose, they are putting themselves in a precarious position having to still go to Nebraska and Ohio State. As I said earlier, I think Michigan finishes 6-2 in the Big Ten. Could be good enough to get to the title game and at that point...I'd like the chances of whichever team comes out of Michigan's division.
Gardner, Bellomy, or Morris starts the conference opener next season? Gotta believe Morris is as good if not better than Henne was coming in...what's your take?
Michael Rothstein (12:25 PM)
Man, Josh, that's a tough question. Morris' illness might set him back a little bit as he strives to recover from that. Don't know what Michigan is going to do with Gardner considering he has become the Wolverines' top receiver in his first season there. That said, I think Bellomy has a very good shot at it. Michigan might be in a rebuilding mode next season, so it will be an interesting competition at quarterback next season. A long way to go, but Bellomy...maybe.
Christopher Goodman (Saint Cloud, MN)
How do you think Michigan will proceed in developing its defense, now that the defensive line has showed progress in containing its opposing numbers? Do you think Michigan secondary will rely more on younger talent or its seniors
Michael Rothstein (12:26 PM)
Chris,The defensive line has shown progress, but I don't think Michigan will look to youth in the secondary right now. No need. J.T. Floyd is the Wolverines' most consistent corner (slip against Eifert aside), Kovacs is the heart of the defense and Michigan's leading tackler and Thomas Gordon is right behind him. Unlike prior seasons, no need to pull any of those guys. The back seven has become extremely strong for the Wolverines.
Shawn (FT Benning Ga.)
Why has Thomas Rawls not been utilized more? Even when Fitz was suspended for Al game, I didn't see him on the field very often.
Michael Rothstein (12:28 PM)
Shawn,Don't know other than Michigan has always said it wants one featured back and Fitzgerald Toussaint is that. Vincent Smith comes in the game in certain passing situations and has a specific role. Right now I can't see Rawls pushing for time unless Michigan loses faith in Toussaint. Don't see that happening.
Stefan (Kansas City)
People have said that Al Borges' commitment to run a pro-style offense with Denard Robinson was a bad idea, what are your thoughts on that?
Michael Rothstein (12:29 PM)
He hasn't run a true pro-style offense. If he did, Michigan wouldn't be in shotgun as much as it is. He runs elements of a pro-style -- certainly more than Rich Rodriguez did -- and those elements have had varying levels of success depending on play-calls. It is a misnomer Borges has completely gone to pro-style. He hasn't and won't until next season.
Stat G (Alabama)
Do you think its a wise choice to move Devin Gardner to QB, move D Rob to WR and add Roundtree, Dileo and Vincent Smith as a somewhat base formation? Afterall you have your big playmakers on the field at one time...
Michael Rothstein (12:31 PM)
Stat,Nope. Never happen. Gardner is proving to be a mismatch at receiver, Robinson has never played receiver and as Gardner and others will tell you, that transition is not easy. And having Roundtree, Dileo and Vince Smith on the field means Gallon (Michigan's second-leading receiver) and Toussaint are off of it, let alone Funchess. So no, don't see it happening.To understand the QB-to-WR conversion, check this out: http://es.pn/R3zDBm
Christopher Goodman (Saint Cloud, MN)
Do you think Will Campbell has a chance to be a star in the Michigan Defense, or has his die been cast in people's minds? Who should we pay attention to in Michigan younger members of the defense for the rest of the season?
Michael Rothstein (12:33 PM)
I just don't see it happening for Campbell, at least not being a star. He could still become a productive player and has at least eight games to do so. But a star -- that time has passed for him. As far as Michigan's youth, watch Joe Bolden and James Ross III at linebacker, Jarrod Wilson at safety and both Ondre Pipkins and Keith Heitzman on the defensive line. Those five will likely push -- or in some cases have pushed -- for playing time already. Now with a week to evaluate things, wouldn't shock me if Michigan makes some changes coming out of the off week. The Wolverines did last year, too.
Mike - M win Big Ten basketball this year?
Michael Rothstein (12:36 PM)
Steve,It will be tough for Michigan this season. It is an extremely talented team but in a loaded league. Indiana might be the nation's No. 1 team. Michigan State has depth and talent. Ohio State might have the best guard-forward combo in the league in Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas. Iowa's frontcourt is strong. Minnesota is young and has a ton of potential with Trevor Mbakwe returning for one more year. Wisconsin always ends up in the top five. And that's not even mentioning Northwestern or Illinois. It's going to be an exciting league this season. Much like last season, a split title and perhaps a league title with four or five losses is possible. Maybe probable.
Matt (Washington, DC)
I realize Toussaint is our returning 1000-yd rusher. And god bless him for that. But the fact is, he's just not getting it done this season. I was shocked we didn't see more of Rawls in the ND game. Is Fitz just that much better in practice that Rawls, is this why he's getting the carries? 'Cuz it sure isn't his YPC average, that's for sure.
Michael Rothstein (12:39 PM)
Matt,Am unable to watch practice so tough to really get a gauge without seeing it with my own eyes. But to say Toussaint isn't getting it done isn't exactly fair. He has received 12 carries a game, which isn't a ton to really find a rhythm. When he was given a few carries in a row in the second half against Notre Dame, he was able to get moving a little bit. I think he'll find his form. He's shown flashes this season already.
If Borges goes to a true all Pro-style offense do you see Gardner staying out as a WR?
Michael Rothstein (12:41 PM)
Depends on what Michigan has at quarterback. If Bellomy and/or Morris beat Gardner out in the spring/fall then yes, I think Gardner stays at receiver. If Gardner is clearly the best option at quarterback, Michigan will play him there. But if he doesn't win the job, he'll become the Wolverines' No. 1 receiver next season for sure. It'll be an interesting scenario, but it all starts with quarterback.
Christopher Goodman (Saint Cloud, MN)
Taylor Lewan has been a force on the Michigan Offensive Line, but it seems the rest of the members have not been getting things done as well as last year. Should we expect younger members to contribute more this year to bolster the protection and running game?
Michael Rothstein (12:44 PM)
It'll be tough because Michigan has no depth there outside of freshmen at this point. When Lewan has come out of the game, it's been a wheel of movement with Schofield from RT to LT, Omameh from RG to RT and then Burzynski at RG. If Michigan were to suffer a serious injury to the line, I'm guessing you'd maybe see a freshman come in. But at the point I think Michigan is trying to preserve a year on all of those guys unless injuries force them to play a first year player. This is where the injury to Chris Bryant really hurts.
Bring on Shane Morris (Ann Arbor)
Kellen Moore was a good-to-great quarterback his entire college career and didnt get drafted, Denard definitely wont. Hes far too small and has absolutely no arm. He might walk on as a punt returner somewhere but id be willing to bet a lot that he never starts a game as a pro.
Michael Rothstein (12:47 PM)
I don't think you can say Denard won't get drafted. If he shows he can be a competent receiver, he might be the first or second Wolverine off the draft board in April depending whether or not Taylor Lewan returns for his fifth year. Don't know if you can say he doesn't have an arm. He has arm strength but lacks the accuracy necessary for pro passers. And he won't "walk-on" as a punt returner. Some team will give him a shot because his raw speed, agility, acceleration and athleticism will be enticing to pro scouts.
Mike - STILL no word on M/MSU game time?
Michael Rothstein (12:48 PM)
No, not yet.
Michael Rothstein (12:48 PM)
I'll be around for another 10 or so minutes so get those final questions in!
Zac (Athens )
Thank god the Big10 is absolute garbage this year or we would be in serious trouble; what do you think the over under is on us losing 5 games this year? I definitely see us losing to Michigan State, Nebraska, and probably either Nortwestern or O$U.
Michael Rothstein (12:51 PM)
It's entirely possible, Zac, and you can add Purdue to that list. As I said before, I think Michigan goes 6-2 in the Big Ten but I can make an argument for the Wolverines winning or losing every game except one, maybe two, the rest of the way. I think you'll learn a lot about the rest of this team's season next Saturday because Purdue could be a tough test.
Record Book (Michigan )
Do you happen to know who holds the school record for most interceptions in a career by a Michigan quarterback? The Big10? Denard has gotta be getting close doesnt he?
Michael Rothstein (12:54 PM)
Denard Robinson holds Michigan's career record for interceptions with 38. Passed Chad Henne, who had 37, against Notre Dame. As far as the Big Ten, I need to look that up. Checked the Big Ten media guide and, well, I couldn't find it.
Christopher Goodman (Saint Cloud, MN)
Who do you think Michigan will schedule in 2015 and beyond to replace Notre Dame on their schedule?
Michael Rothstein (12:56 PM)
Would prefer not to speculate, however I think Dave Brandon is going to look into some high-profile teams. My guess is he had already been working on things, but this just accelerates the timeframe.
I agree with you saying the w-l record can go either way. But do you think that is more of a talent issue or that they are transitioning the whole team to a new Pro-Style, and that starts now even with DRob still here.
Michael Rothstein (12:59 PM)
I think it's a talent thing more than any type of transition of an offense or defense yet. There isn't the depth there on either line and a lot of their best talent is still young. That has a lot to do with it. For Michigan, though, it should be happy as the Wolverines are in a league where every team has deficiencies this season.
Michael Rothstein (1:00 PM)
With that, my time for this week has concluded. Thanks again for all the questions and if you have anything else, drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mikerothstein. Enjoy the weekend off!