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 (12:02 PM)
Hey everyone and welcome to this week's chat. Let's get your questions in...Michigan football signing day is coming close, its basketball team has two games to play for a No. 1 ranking and Trey Burke is in the thick of the Player of the Year race.
How is it that Michigan already has decommits for 2014? Why are we not recruiting more RBs?
Michael Rothstein (12:04 PM)
Michigan has not had any decommits from the 2014 class yet, although Denzel Ward has recently transferred to a school in Florida. But he has not decommitted. As far as running backs, it is still early in the 2014 process for offers and don't forget, Michigan still has a big 2013 target on the board in Derrick Green.
Robert Allen (AA, MI)
We seem to have a good amount of OL on roster with another great class coming in. Which I agree with. My question is, is there any talk of any of them moving to DL as the top talent is identified on the offensive side?
Michael Rothstein (12:07 PM)
Robert, not that I have heard. Michigan also has a bunch of young talent coming in defensively, including Henry Poggi, Maurice Hurst Jr. and Taco Charlton in this class. Don't forget, most of Michigan's DL prospects redshirted last season (save for Ondre Pipkins and Mario Ojemudia) so there is a lot of talent there. Young talent, but talent nonetheless. Willie Henry and Tom Strobel are two of the redshirted defensive linemen who could surprise.
Marty McFly (Back from the future)
So like many wolverine fans I'm optimistic about greens future and his coming to Michigan but do you see any surprise commits or flips from other schools coming Michigans way
Michael Rothstein (12:09 PM)
Marty, none as of now, but if you remember last season, Dennis Norfleet flipped within 24 hours of Signing Day and wasn't necessarily anyone who was discussed in depth before that.
Hey Michael, I have a question regarding the new divisions for th Big Ten. I have a feeling Michigan is going to get the short end of the stick when it comes to the new divisions. It sounds like most expect Michgan and OSU to be in the division with Penn State and possibly MSU. But then I hear and tend to agree with people that say that divison would be much tougher so MSU should just move to the "west" division and just protect the rivalry with Michigan so they still play every year. But wouldn't that still leave Michigan with one of if not the toughest schedule every year? Obviously I still want to see Michigan play both MSU and OSU, but I also want fair divisions. Have you heard any suggestions about how to deal with that situation?
Michael Rothstein (12:10 PM)
Not anything definitive, but remember that for the most part college football programs are cyclical, especially in the Big Ten once you get past Ohio State and Michigan for the most part. So I don't think it would matter one way or the other. Still going to have to play a difficult schedule and tough teams. Remember, Iowa is historically pretty good and Nebraska and Wisconsin are no slouches, either. So it isn't like one division is going to be really bad no matter how it gets divided up.
Matt (Ann Arbor)
Last year it was Northfleet on signing day. Do you see any surprises this year on signing day. Big or small? New commit or a de-commit?
Michael Rothstein (12:12 PM)
None as of now, but then again at this time last year Norfleet was headed to Cincinnati and not headed to Michigan. Don't forget, the Wolverines might not have any room for guys, either.
Colin (The worst state in the union...Ohio)
Any word on when Derrick Green will be announcing his college decision? And any indication of which school he's leaning towards as of now?
Michael Rothstein (12:12 PM)
Derrick Green is making his announcement on Saturday.
Nav (Ann Arbor)
Where so you see UM placing in next weeks AP poll?
Michael Rothstein (12:13 PM)
If Michigan beats Purdue tonight and wins at Illinois this weekend, I would be shocked if the Wolverines were not No. 1 next week. A loss probably keeps them in the Top 5, especially if it is at Illinois and not at home to Purdue. Two losses and probably toward the bottom end of the Top 10.
Jason Backus (Arizona)
We are spoiled right now with a great recruiting class, but I can't help but review last year and this year and see only one top tiered skill player, Shane Morris. Do we have a gap on offense where players don't believe in the scheme yet or the coaches just lack some of the Mattison swank?
Michael Rothstein (12:16 PM)
Well, Jason, understand that prior to November, Michigan recruits on offense had no tangible concept of what the Wolverines would be trying to run once Denard Robinson left. Once Robinson got hurt, there was a bit more of a clue, but still nothing completely definitive. That, in my opinion, could have been part of the problem. They could show recruits things and say all they wanted, but the evidence of what they were trying to do just wasn't there.
Mike - you follow baseball at all? Know anything about M's new coach? Can I get excited about our baseball future?
Michael Rothstein (12:18 PM)
Don't know a lot, Steve, other than he was fairly successful at Maryland. Oh, and his wife's name, according to his MGoBlue.com bio, is Jiffy.
Buzz light year (From infinity and beyond )
If Michigan basketball can pull off a near successful run at a championship how do you think that will affect the football program
Michael Rothstein (12:21 PM)
I don't think it would do all that much other than Michigan being able to say it has its two marquee programs improving at a pretty decent clip. If anything, it could help when recruits are brought to games because the Crisler Center crowd, which was fairly abysmal during my first couple of years covering Michigan, is much more involved at basketball games now. So it's an atmosphere thing.
Of the freshman that redshirted, who do you think will see the most time in the rotation on the defensive line next year?
Michael Rothstein (12:22 PM)
I get a sneaking suspicion you might see Tom Strobel and Willie Henry in there a decent amount. Henry might play just because of need on the inside and Strobel, in my opinion, has a chance to win the strong side end job. That could be an interesting competition to watch in the spring and the fall with the amount of youth Michigan has on its roster there.
B Mac (An Undisclosed Work Location)
Do you believe that the struggles of Shane Morris this past year will help the 2014 QB recruiting?
Michael Rothstein (12:23 PM)
That's a tough thing to quantify -- and remember, a lot of Morris' struggles came because he had mono throughout the season -- but I think Michigan is always going to want to take quarterbacks who are willing to compete and not shy away from competition. I don't think it will hurt that recruiting too much.
Perhaps you can help me on this question. More and more I feel like we are seeing recruits making commitments while still saying that they are out there looking at other schools. In my mind that means you are not committed to a school because a commitment is a 100% engagement. Why not just say that you're recruiting is still open but you favor a particular school?
Michael Rothstein (12:25 PM)
No idea, Matt. I think it is just how some kids want to do things -- and committing kind of assures them a spot at a place. It is why Michigan's stance on this (and it isn't the only school as Clemson does something similar, among others) is for recruits not to take visits after they decide to commit. Keep in mind this is one of the few times in the entire process for an athlete where the athlete has the leverage -- especially the higher-end ones. That's a big thing because once they get to a school, all of that goes away.
Mike do you see any possible way that Trey Burke comings back for his JR. year ?
Michael Rothstein (12:27 PM)
Is it possible? Sure, anything is possible. Heck, I thought Taylor Lewan was probably gone to the NFL and he came back. But with the season Burke is having, he will certainly have a decision to make at the end of the year.
Charlie sheen (Winning)
Michigans recruiting has done well in the hoke era but it seems like there's been a lack of 5 star commits any thoughts?
Michael Rothstein (12:28 PM)
There are very few five stars out there, which is part of it. I'd judge it by the overall strength of the class and how Michigan does at filling needs. Stars are a decent barometer, but only one way to judge a prospect or a class.
Who do you see as the 3 starting interior offensive linemen come next season and who is all involved in the competition for those spots?
Michael Rothstein (12:30 PM)
I wrote about this over at WolverineNation (http://www.wolverinenationespn.com), but the interior of the line is full of competition. I think you'll end up seeing Kyle Kalis at left guard, Jack Miller at center and Chris Bryant, if healthy, at right guard. Joey Burzynski can back up all three positions if need be and it wouldn't shock me if they kicked one of the tackles inside (Ben Braden or Erik Magnuson) if they were among the best five linemen. It's a long way to go other than at the tackles to see who will play. I think by the end of spring you'll get a better picture.
I know our 2013 BB class is pretty much done, but do you see any late surprises commit wise? And as far as 2014, who stands out as possible Michigan "leans"?
Michael Rothstein (12:32 PM)
It is always possible and could depend on defections, guys going to the league, etc. Remember, at this time last year, Michigan was not talking to Caris LeVert at all (he was going to Ohio) and Spike Albrecht was either just starting to hear from coaches or was still about a month or so away from it. If something happens, it would probably develop late in the game like last season. With 2014, Michigan has two players with offers right now who are not committed -- Devin Booker and Trevon Bluiett. Both are extremely talented players. But neither one has given an indication of where they are headed at this point. Michigan is in on some other guys, but those are the two uncommitted players with offers.
Tyler (nc) [via mobile]
If Gardner gets his medical redshirt and ends up starting at qb the next two years.. Wouldn't u think they will use Morris as qb and move Gardner back to wr for his senior season?
Michael Rothstein (12:34 PM)
No. If Gardner gets his redshirt, I would imagine he would be the starting quarterback in 2014 if he has a good 2013. If he doesn't, then it could be an open competition, but if Gardner is doing well, he would have been a starter for 1 1/2 seasons at that point. Could be tough to replace him. Unlike Denard Robinson, Gardner possesses NFL-caliber size and and NFL-caliber arm.
Matt (Ann Arbor)
What is better for non-conference strength of schedule...1 or 2 top 20 teams mixed in with a few "cupcakes" and some middle of the road teams OR only playing average teams? It seems for Michigan basketball it hurts them more playing teams like Binghampton, IUPUI and Western than it helped playing NC State and Kansas St. Football seems to be the same way.
Michael Rothstein (12:36 PM)
You say that, but Michigan's strength of schedule has been pretty good the past two seasons. With the Big Ten being what it is this year (and to a large extent last season), it doesn't make sense to load up on big-time games early. Play a couple -- and you'll usually get them between the Challenge, an exempt tournament and a home-and-home -- and fill in your schedule with guarantee games with programs of varying skill level beyond that. The Big Ten gives a great chance to get quality wins almost every game, so there isn't the huge need to push it with the schedule.
Robert Allen (AA, MI)
I can't help but wish we would have seen Devin Gardner line up under center against Bama in the opener, and Denard as a RB/Slot Receiver. It seems a great season was missed due to not going that route. In addition, I think Denard would have benefited with a year under his belt in what seems to be his future position. Has there been any internal talk about this?
Michael Rothstein (12:37 PM)
I have not heard anything internally and from a future standpoint, it looks like the intelligent move now. But if you do that before Denard Robinson's senior year, you risk other factors. Denard was a major leader for Michigan the past few seasons so unless he was completely on board with it -- and he always indicated he wanted to play quarterback -- it becomes a really tough sell.
How is Fitz doing in rehab? Heading into next year how do you see the RB depth chart breaking down (hopefully Green) after the sub-par season Fitz had?
Michael Rothstein (12:41 PM)
From the limited information that has come out, Toussaint's rehab appears to be coming along, but there's still a long way to go between now and when he is healthy enough to play. That he was walking without crutches at the Outback Bowl is a good sign.As far as the depth chart at running back, still think a healthy Toussaint begins the year as the starter. Other than that, it is wide open. I like what Justice Hayes did in very, very limited work and Drake Johnson has potential from an athleticism and speed standpoint. If Green commits, he is certainly in the mix to start from Day 1. So, too, could be Deveon Smith, the running back Michigan has already signed.
More importantly - do you see GRIII60 coming back for his sophomore year? His rise on the mock draft charts makes me nervous.
Michael Rothstein (12:42 PM)
As of now I do, although there hasn't been much chatter on this one so far as I have heard. He still has a long way to go between now and the end of the season, but he could have a decision to make as well. The things which stand out about him are his efficiency and his rebounding. Those are his biggest positives right now.
Tyler (nc) [via mobile]
Any news on will hagerup?? Still suspended?
Michael Rothstein (12:42 PM)
Still suspended as far as I know.
Slightly off subject...but I thought read in a Sports Illustrated a while back, that for $6,000 you can be married in Michigan Stadium. True? And if it's true, has anyone actually done it? (my girlfriend wants us to sign up if it's real, lol)
Michael Rothstein (12:44 PM)
True. You can get married on the field, in the suites or, apparently, have a party in the press box. All that info is here: http://www.mgoblue.com/specialevents/rentals.html So, you know, if you want to do that there that info is.
Can you give a decent estimate on the final number of players in the 2013 class, assuming we keep the current commits? How many more could we even take?
Michael Rothstein (12:46 PM)
Michigan is at 26 commits right now and my understanding is the Wolverines could take two more. Derrick Green is making his decision on Saturday and if he were to commit, that would take up one spot, leaving one more. If he doesn't pick Michigan, then two are still available.
So where does Green commit to on Saturday?
Michael Rothstein (12:48 PM)
Michigan, Auburn and Tennessee are the contenders.
If Derrick Green does go blue, how soon could he see the field given the lack of a reliable runner right now?
Michael Rothstein (12:49 PM)
If Green were to commit, there would be an immediate opportunity and possibly a huge one depending on the health of Fitzgerald Toussaint. If Toussaint can't make it back to where he once was, then Michigan has a major hole (and a big-time problem) at running back. Green, theoretically, could fill that role from the start.
I saw from Shane's twitter that Hoke was conducting in-home visits now. Are the in-home visits for just kids who have already committed or are there plans to use these to steal targets from other schools?
Michael Rothstein (12:50 PM)
In-home visits are available for commits and 2013 players Michigan is still recruiting.
Matt (Ann Arbor)
Prediction from you. Who will be Michigan's next commit for 2014 to go with Ferns and Ward?
Michael Rothstein (12:51 PM)
Sorry Matt, I stay out of the prediction game on that stuff. Teenagers can be tough to figure out.
Michael Rothstein (12:51 PM)
Got a few more minutes to answer some questions, so get any final ones in that you can. Thanks.
Michael (Lincoln Park)
Does Michigan have the depth yet to have an "Actual" Spring Game?
Michael Rothstein (12:54 PM)
With walk-ons it could this year since there are 14 offensive linemen returning along with early-enrollee Kyle Bosch. Quarterback could also be an issue with just two scholarship guys in Devin Gardner and Russell Bellomy, but there are walk-on options there, too. So it could happen, but it might depend how healthy Michigan ends up being in spring ball.
has recruiting always been this intense, just the public now is more involved with all the online stuff?
Michael Rothstein (12:55 PM)
I think the public knowing more and being more involved has certainly ratcheted up the knowledge and intensity of recruiting. There wasn't as much attention paid to recruiting 25 years ago from a public perspective.
Thanks for doing this chat Michael. Go Blue!
Michael Rothstein (12:56 PM)
You are welcome. Glad to be here. If anyone has any other questions, feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet at me @mikerothstein. Or pop on to the WolverineNation site and ask away on the message boards. As always, thanks for stopping by and enjoy your weekend.