8A - Tuesday, September 29, 2009
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
play vs. MSU
Sophomore Darryl Stonum ranks 15th in the country with more than 32 yards per kick return. The Wolverines' special teams unit is vastly improved from last seasonA
Don't overlook the special teams
et's take a look back to a
dark time, one that most
Michigan fans would like to
erase from their memories forever.
Bend last sea-
son, the Wol-
and lost two
10 minutes of
each other, giv- ANDY
ing Notre DameR D
a 14-point hand-
icap that helped
it coast to a 35-17 victory.
The coaching staff mixed up
the returners the next week. And
the next week. And the next.
None of it helped.
The special teams unit repeat-
edly put the team in perilous
situations, which obviously didn't
help the struggling defense,
a downcast bunch that had to
march back on the field immedi-
ately after forcing a rare punt.
Nowadays, Michigan coach
Rich Rodriguez doesn't like to
talk about last season or make
comparisons between the 2008
and 2009 versions of his team.
He'll rarely respond fully to a
question that makes any reference
to the numbers three and nine.
But he let one comment slip
when asked about the special
"Last year we couldn't even
catch the kick from what I remem-
ber," Rodriguez said during his
weekly Monday press conference
after the Notre Dame game this
year. "We were happy to catch a
kick and fall down."
Rodriguez couldn't contain him-
self - not when the special teams
have made such leaps and bounds
in just a year. And of course, it's the
offense that's garneringthe atten-
tion for bailing out the defense
after a porous performance against
That makes sense, especially
with the emergence of Tate "The
Great" Forcier as the face of the
program. But don't forget about the
returngame, which has quickly
gone from one of the team's glaring
weaknesses to arguably its biggest
Darryl Stonum is ranked 15th
in the country with more than 32
yards per kick return, no doubt bol-
stered by his 92-yard touchdown in
the first half against Notre Dame.
Against the Hoosiers, Stonum was
rarely stopped inside the 30-yard
line, relievingsome of the pressure
on Forcier and giving him, and the
offense, stellar field position all
But even that isn't good enough
"He's probably going to be disap-
pointed, because he was probably
within one trip-up, two or three
times, of taking it the distance,"
Rodriguez said after the game.
And that's with Stonum trying
to recover from a slight hamstring
There is no unit in football that is
hung out to dry more when things
aren't going smoothly. I mean, think
of the old adage - what's the only
time anyone care about the long
snapper? Yep, when he screws up.
The Wolverines clearly discov-
ered that last year, when Michi-
gan fans held their breath before
every opposing-team punt.
But it's not all negative. Special
teams can make the highlight
reel, too. Just ask Frank Beamer.
The head coach at Virginia
Tech has preached solid funda-
mentals in the kicking game since
he took over in 1987, and since
then, more than 25 different play-
ers have scored special teams
touchdowns on his squad.
In fact, the Hokies led the
nation in blocked punts through
the 1990s, while Beamer and his
helped bring the Virginia Tech
program to national prominence.
Special teams is key if the Wol-
verines want to keep winning this
season, especially with a young
quarterback and a few injury con-
cerns on the line, which means
the offense is going to sputter at
points this season.
With a solid return game - and
not to mention, one of the best
punters in the nation, which is a
great field-position booster, too -
the Wolverines can easily swing
momentum ina single play.
Honestly, what's more exciting
than a kick return? Remember
- Reid can be reached at
Tate Forcier winced in pain as
a teammate gave him a congratu-
latory shoulder pat last Saturday
during the Michigan football
team's win over Indiana.
From Forcier's expression
in the You-
Tube clip, one NOTEBOOK
could infer the
shoulder injury looked painful.
But the Wolverine faithful can
breathe a sigh of relief. Michi-
gan coach Rich Rodriguez said
yesterday that Forcier should be
cleared to play Saturday against
At the same time, protect-
ing the freshman quarterback's
6-foot-1, 188-pound frame
remains a hot topic. Rodriguez
said Forcier is generally honest
about his injuries.
"He's a tough guy, but he'll tell
you, too." Rodriguez said. "Tate
will have a little drama, once in
a while, and tell you what is going
on. But he loves to compete and
he loves to play."
Forcier's smaller size gives
him quickness, which he has
shown with his two running
touchdowns this season. But his
physicality and health remain
Rodriguez said he expects
Forcier and fellow freshman
quarterback Denard Robinson to
add muscle mass as they evolve in
Mike Barwis' strength and con-
ditioning program. In the mean-
time, preventative measures will
have to do.
"When a big hit is inevitable,
you don't have to take it," Rodri-
guez said. "If you've already got
the first down, you can take a
quick step out of bounds. If you're
downfield, and you've already got
the first down, there are ways to
slide or get down."
But even sliding could backfire
for Forcier. Former Tulane quar-
terback Shaun King, who played
under Rodriguez when he was
the Green Wave's offensive coor-
dinator from 1997-98, found the
technique wasn't a fit.
"He was the worst slider there
was," Rodriguez said with a
laugh. "He almost hurt himself
sliding, so I said, 'Shaun, you can
just roll or something.' "
CLOSE THE DOORS: It's rivalry
week, and at Schembechler Hall,
the Michigan coaching staff isn't
taking any chances.
To prepare for Satur-
day's game, Rodriguez said
the Wolverines will tighten
media availability, closing off
Wednesday's open practice to
allow his team to focus on the
"I want our guys to know how
much focus goes into this ball
game," Rodriguez said. "I don't
think I have to do that, particu-
larly with our older guys, but our
younger guys need to know it is a
The Wolverines' outdoor prac-
tice field is visible from the Sta-
dium Drive bridge, just south of
the field. Rodriguez said on a typ-
ical day, associate athletic direc-
tor Scott Draper and other staff
members will watch the bridge
With the Wolverines being just
an hour away from East Lansing,
Rodriguez wants to take extra
"Being coaches, being para-
noid ... I trust you all, but maybe
somebody snuck in there from
Lansing. I don't know," Rodri-
guez said with a laugh.
MOLK UPDATE: When fifth-
year senior David Moosman
filled in for redshirt sophomore
David Molk Saturday, it took just
a few botched snaps to remember
"They were a little off here or
there, but you get spoiled when
David (Molk) was there, because
it looked like just about every
snap was just right," Rodriguez
Molk had foot surgery last
Monday, and is expected to be out
three to five more weeks. Rodri-
guez said Molk has a pin in place
and access to a "bone stimulator"
which can be applied for hours to
accelerate the healing process.
According to Rodriguez, Molk
has been using the device "every
chance he can."
"He says it doesn't hurt at all,"
Rodriguez said. "Knowing David,
he has a great pain tolerance.
He'll be out as soon as he can.
But we're not going to put him
out there with any risk of further
THE HUNT FOR OCTOBER:
The Wolverines are an impres-
sive 404-117-13 all time in the
month of October.
But under Rodriguez, not so
The Michigan coach went 0-4
in his first October last season,
losing to Illinois, Toledo, Penn
State and Michigan State.
In his seven seasons at West
Virginia, Rodriguez posted a 16-8
record in the month of October.
Beilein stops by Maize Rage's meeting
By JOE STAPLETON
Daily Sports Writer
It's no surprise that at its mass
meeting last night, the Maize Rage
ran out of chairs.
"We thought we were going to
get 60 to 75 people," said junior
Nick Mattar, the Michigan basket-
ball student section president. "We
put up 80 chairs, and we got maybe
Last year, with the Wolverines
coming off a 10-win season, 480
students bought tickets.
But after last season's second-
round finish in the NCAA Tourna-
ment, nearly 2,000 more student
tickets have been sold.
In order to make sure Crisler
Arena doesn't encounter the same
seating issues as the Maize Rage did
at their meeting, the athletic depart-
ment overhauled the ticket policy.
The ticket policy for the student
bleachers will be on a first come,
first serve basis. For the students
sitting elsewhere in Crisler Arena,
seating will be assigned. An impor-
tant twist to the ticket policy is that
the students who come to the most
games will receive priority seating
in the bleachers for the Connecticut
and Michigan State games.
But the Maize Rage as a group
has more issues to deal with than
just seating. Mattar mentioned the
need for more organization within
the group on game days, citing
times last year when the different
parts of the student section chanted
different phrases simultaneously.
To tackle that problem, Mattar has
instituted section leaders, experi-
enced group members that will lead
a specific group of the student sec-
tion in chants duringthe games.
"We are going to make an effort
to make this one, unified group,"
So far, the group has succeeded
in attracting new members.
"I love being a fan, and if there's
a way to get more fans involved
through more organization, I'm
there," he said.
Would he still have joined the
group if the team had been worse
The Maize Rage will have almost 2,000 more students than last season.
Even Michigan coach John Beil-
ein showed up, saying that when he
was asked to make an appearance at
the meeting, it was a "no-brainer."
He was met with raucous applause
and thanked all those in attendance.
Beilein stressed how he wants
the Maize Rage to be more con-
nected to the players, even saying
he would be able to get some play-
ers to come to a few of the Maize
Rage's weekly meetings.
Beilein spoke briefly about Mich-
igan's exceedingly difficult sched-
ule to begin the season, saying it
was "one of the toughest in the
country." The team's early-season
schedule includes games against
Boston College, Utah and Kansas,
as well as a game against Connecti-
cut in the middle of Big Ten play.
"It helps when they have not only
their fans behind them, but their
friends behind them," Beilein said.
GREAT LAKES WATER QU A LITY
IV h rj
Blue at Invitational
By SCOTT SUH ed out the top three for the Wol-
For the Daily verines, with scores of 232 and
The weather stole the spotlight Most notable in the extended
from the Michigan women's golf tournament was the lack of sub-
team and the field of competition 300 overall team scores in the
in the two-day Lady Northern final round. As Purdue was the
Invitational. only team to post a score under
After unplayable weather con- 300, which was a stark contrast
ditions pushed back the comple- to the opening round, in which
tion of the second round from golfers played in better weather
Sunday afternoon to early yes- and five teams posted scores
terday morning, rain and wind under 300.
persisted throughout the day at "Sometimesyoujusthave abad
the University Ridge Golf Course tournament, and it's one of those
in Madison. The poor conditions things that you have to putbehind
led to high scores for each of the you," Stacy said. "But I think all
15 teams competing in the tour- the girls know that they have to
nament. work harder to get better. A lot of
Despite the uncertain condi- us need to work on hitting more
tions, the Wolverines battled greens to take off a little more
through 27 demanding holes yes- pressure and not have to scramble
terday en route to a 10th place to get up and down all the time."
finish. Purdue won the tourna- The Wolverines will return
ment with a team score of one- to the same course in April for
over par 865. the Big Ten Championships. But
Senior captain Ashley Bauer before they focus on that, Michi-
once again led the way for the gan will turn its attention to
Wolverines, posting the team's Northwestern's 54-hole Windy
lowest score. Bauer's score of 222 City Collegiate on Oct. 5-6. They
held her just out of the top 10, as will travel to Chicago on Sunday
she tied for 11th overall, in preparation for the two-day
"Ashley had a good tourna- tournament.
ment, though I think she was "This year is just going to be
a little disappointed, because I a building year, and we have to
know her expectations are very be as positive as we can," Stacy
high and she was trying to win said. "But ultimately, the golf-
the tournament," Michigan coach ers understand what Michigan's
Cheryl Stacy said. expectations are, and they know
Junior Min Yean Tan and that they are going to have to
sophomore Meagan Bauer round- work harder to get better."