NOT BLADE PHOTO
If Justin Boren had serious problems with Michigan football under new coach Rich
Rodriguez, he succeeded in hiding it the last time he spoke publicly.
Boren, a would-be junior offensive guard who told Rodriguez on Monday he was leaving the team, on Wednesday e-mailed a statement to some media outlets that said the program's "family values have eroded."
But when Boren was one of three players the UM media relations department made available for interviews following the Wolverines' first spring practice on March 15, he described ways in which Rodriguez and his staff were building bonds between players and coaches.
Speaking about an offseason program in which Wolverines assistants broke the team down into smaller groups that competed against one another in academic and athletic events, Boren said: "It was a cool thing."
He described a specific portion of that offseason program, called the Wolverine Olympics, in which those smaller groups competed in events like egg-eating contests and relay races, as "kind of a team-bonding thing."
Boren, a 6-foot-3, 310-pounder who started all 13 games for UM last year at either center or left guard, also referred on March 15 to the challenges linemen faced in having to constantly run to the line of scrimmage in Rodriguez's spread-option offense.
But when asked what it was like to actually practice under Rodriguez and his staff - made up mostly of his assistants from his days at West Virginia -
Boren said: "They're real intense, they're real involved with the practice, and I think that's a good thing. It's just going to take a while to get used to."
To get in shape for Rodriguez's fast-paced offense, the players took part in a strenuous conditioning and weight-lifting program under the direction of new strength coach Mike Barwis.
Boren said Barwis' program was different than what returning UM players were used to, but "after a couple weeks everybody bought in and it was real positive, positive the whole winter."
And then on Wednesday, Boren said he needed to "stand up for what I know is right."
"I wore the winged helmet with pride, whether we won or lost, whether things were going well or times were tough," he said in the prepared statement. "Michigan football was a family, built on mutual respect and support for each other from [former] coach [Lloyd] Carr on down. We knew it took the entire family, a team effort, and we all worked together. I have great trouble accept[ing] that those family values have eroded in just a few months.
"That same helmet that I was raised on and proudly claimed for the last two years, now brings a completely different emotion to me, one that interferes with practicing and playing my best and [being] mentally prepared for what is required.
"That I am unable to perform under these circumstances at the level I expect of myself and my teammates and Michigan fans deserve is why I have made the decision to leave. To those of you who are outside the program, the loyal Michigan fans and alumni, I know you will have trouble understanding, but I do want to thank you for your years of support. I wish my teammates the best and will always be proud to have been a part of Michigan football over the past two years."
In a report published yesterday in the Columbus Dispatch, Boren's father, Mike Boren, said his son will finish the semester at UM before transferring, and Ohio State was one place he could end up. The Borens live near Columbus in Pickerington, and Justin's brother, Zach, is a linebacker and fullback for Pickerington North who is being recruited by the Buckeyes.
Numerous phone calls to the Boren household made by The Blade since Tuesday night have not been returned.
Mike Boren played linebacker for the Wolverines in the early 1980s, and Justin's mother, Hope Boren, ran track at UM.
Justin made All-Big Ten honorable mention as a sophomore last year. He was a Parade All-American while at Pickerington North, and was ranked as the top center prospect in the nation by recruiting Web site Rivals.com.
Contact Joe Vardon at: firstname.lastname@example.org.