This is maaaaybe premature there, ESPN. Maryland #1 FWIW.
Thank you for not posting a live blog for tonight's game. Good night.
And you can't have one without the other…
One more, kids, come on, one more.
Do or die. So, good news about the game tonight: MGoBlog will not be hosting a liveblog. Therefore, Michigan has a chance. Bad news: gimpy Purdue star Robbie Hummel is a go.
I've laid it out before and I believe the equation still holds: Michigan needs two of its final three games and then one win in the Big Ten Tournament to feel pretty good about getting in. Gacking it up against Iowa has cut their margin of error down greatly, and I'm expecting the NIT. But if homoerotic hobbits on a trek into Mordor teach us anything, it's that short pasty white guys with curly hair can do anything. So rock on.
One of Cook’s insiders revealed that Rodriguez met with Steve Threet and basically told him he’s decided frosh Tate Forcier is getting all the snaps this spring. Thus Threet bolted. If this was posted on mgoblog I missed it (and maybe the info wasn’t solid enough to post).
Some clarification: I've heard this from a few different people, all of them on the Threet side of things. I didn't post anything on it because it didn't seem quite strong enough, but when I was LIVE it just sort of came out and there it is. The details are still fuzzy but Threet clearly felt he was not going to have a full opportunity to win the job and, not wanting to be David Cone, decided to go elsewhere.
It's a risk on Rodriguez's part to be sure; the upside is that Forcier gets all the snaps and will be as ready as he possibly can be when Western Michigan rolls into town. Which may not be particularly ready, but he's all we've got.
Risk and expectation and so forth and so on. Braves and Birds notes a Smart Football post on the appropriate amount of risk to take in a football game. This has long been a topic of interest here, too, as it was my longstanding opinion that Lloyd Carr's answer to that ("almost none unless we're playing Ohio State") was way too conservative. However, conservative strategy has its place. Smart Football:
Is it always "optimal" to set your strategy to maximize points scored?
In the NFL -- which is what Brian [not me, this Brian –ed] focuses on -- this is likely true and the assumption holds. NFL teams are almost all competitive with each other, and even the worst teams can beat the best in a given game. So any reduction in expected points is likely to hurt a team's chances of winning because they need to maximize that out to get wins.
But is that true in college? Or in high school? Think about when Florida plays the Citadel. The Gators have a massive talent advantage compared with the Bulldogs. As a result, what is the only way they can lose? You guessed it: by blowing it. They can really only lose if they go out and throw lots of interceptions, gamble on defense and give up unnecessary big plays, or just stink it up.
My theory as to why Michigan got so stagnant under Carr was an extension of the Florida-vs-Citadel mindset. Bo Schembechler pretty much believed everyone was the Citadel—or, more likely, never gave a whole lot of thought about the appropriate level of risk in a football game past the Woody Hayes maxim that "only three things can happen when you throw the football and two of them are bad." This worked out fine for him because everyone in the Big Ten other than Ohio State pretty much was the Citadel: it would take some seriously freak occurrences for Michigan to lose to them.
Carr's mindset was formed in this era, but he coached in an era of greatly increased parity. This was bad. When you give away expectation against the Citadel, you just win by less. When you give it away against a competitive but slightly inferior team you are going to find yourself in a lot of late-game dogfights and some of those are going to slip away. Carr started moving away from this philosophy, but it was a halting process, and I could write about this sort of thing forever. It's a digression.
Not a digression: no, it's not always optimal to maximize your points scored. It's pretty easy to set up a situation where it's not (you have the ball on the opponent's five yard line with thirty seconds left and you're down two, etc etc). While a lot of these things are specific situations they illuminate a larger issue: most of the measures, even the advanced measures we have at Football Outsiders and places like that, don't take variance into account.
Smart Football's got a theory that teams should strive for run-pass equilibrium in a different fashion than you hear about it on TV. Instead of running half the time or getting half of your yards on the ground, you should seek to have your passing plays and running plays gain the same number of yards. Just about no one does this except real weirdo offenses like Texas Tech. One possibility is coaches are just doing it wrong. The other possibility is that there's an institutional wisdom there.
What would that wisdom be? Well, gaining big hunks of yards a portion of the time and getting zero a lot is a different way of doing things than gaining small hunks of yards a lot and not getting zero very often. Is second and seven better than second and two half the time and second and ten the other half? That's an unanswered question.
[okay, /extremedorkmode, returning to standarddorkmode]
|Massillon, Ohio - 6'2" 186
|Scout||5*, #3 CB, #26 overall, #1 Ohio|
|Rivals||4*, #3 S, #35 overall, #1 Ohio|
|ESPN||80, #21 ATH|
|Other Suitors||Ohio State|
|Hello: Justin Turner; roundup of Army game scouting.|
|Notes||Massillon (Shawn Crable). Photo source: the Massillon Independent.|
If you're measuring by delusional expectations of internet denizens, Justin Turner may be the #1 recruit in the universe. You've got to have an avalanche of hype for some guy to write an article saying you're Charles Woodson and get this response:
Good article, but i see justin turner being faster then charles woodson. I also see turner being a better saftey the woodson was but woodson will be a better return man.
IE: "Good article about some high school senior being the reincarnation of the only defensive player to ever win the Heisman, but don't you think you're selling him a little short? Also I have no recollection of Charles Woodson's return abilities, which were pretty much crap aside from one white hot moment." (Yes, this exchange happened on Bleacher Report. Where else could it?)
So, yeah, people expect Justin Turner to be good. There are many reasons why. After all the practices and oh incidentally an actual, if incredibly hard to watch, game at the Army All American Bowl, Rivals sat down and got out their thinking caps and put together lists of who was the best at various things. Turner was rated a safety:
3. Justin Turner, Massillon (Ohio) Washington
BUZZ: He played corner during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and really excelled.
BEST BALL SKILLS
1. Justin Turner, Massillon (Ohio) Washington
BUZZ: He was like a Venus Flytrap during ball drills at the U.S. Army All-American practices.
BEST COVERAGE SKILLS
1. Justin Turner, Massillon (Ohio) Washington
BUZZ: He may end up a cornerback at the next level.
He did not place in "biggest hitter," probably out of a desire to mention someone, anyone else.
It's safe to say Turner impressed. Rivals' Jeremy Crabtree on Turner:
“He played his way up the charts. We knew he was good. Everyone knew what a tremendous player he was before his senior year in high school, but he separated himself in the U.S. Army game. He was arguably the best player on the field, not just in the game, but in practices as well. ... It’s exciting to see how big he’s gonna be for the Wolverines."
Scout's Bob Lichtenfels:
"Turner has always been known as a versatile athlete, but he showed us in San Antonio that just because he is big, it doesn't mean that he has to be a safety. Turner showed that his hips and closing speed are as good as any cover guy in the country. So we have moved the talented athlete to cornerback and elevated him to five stars. J.T. is a stud. Every coach in the country wants a guy that’s six-foot two and can cover.”
Rivals' Barry Every:
He basically can play either safety positions, and someone like that is not limited. If he plays strong safety, he's not afraid to hit and if he's going to be a free safety, he's a ball hawk. For one thing, if he can play corner, he is a coveted commodity because he is well over 6-foot. No. 2, he has excellent ball skills It's always these guys who play two ways in high school and they look good, but they don't look great. "Then, when you get them in an atmosphere where they are only working at one position, those two-way starters at big schools always end up being studs. I saw him in drills and he looked phenomenal, but you didn't get to see his ball skills at Massillon because he was mainly carrying the ball.
(Turner was a running back on offense.) There's more, more, more, all in the same vein: this man appears to be a 6'2" cover corner. Who can tackle. When reservations are expressed, they come off as "I know I just said this guy can be a corner, but I can scarcely believe it so maybe I'm wrong." ESPN didn't budge on Turner's all star performance because, in typical ESPN fashion, they wholly focused on the UA game and ignored the Army one. Turner flew up the boards of Scout and Rivals because they were paying attention; ESPN couldn't be bothered.
Turner's recruitment ended a few weeks after Michigan came through with his first big offer; by that time Illinois and Ohio State had followed suit. And despite all that happened after that commitment, there was never a hint of a waver, probably because his father is a rabid Michigan fan:
Why Marlin Jackson? Jackson and Turner are both big corners who were rated around 25th by the major scouting services; Jackson's bounced from safety to corner in his college and NFL careers. Jackson's run support and tackling from the corner spot were a major asset, too.
Guru Reliability: High. All Star game appearance.
General Excitement Level: Very high, as everyone rushed to shower praise on his performance throughout practice and during the week. (ESPN ignored the Army Bowl to their detriment.)
Projection: Immediate playing time as a nickel corner and a starting role his sophomore year if Donovan Warren leaves early.
From Yost Built and Alnike at the Wolverine's message board comes word of not one but two commits for the hockey team. Both are forwards who will probably be a part of the 2010 class but could be put off to 2011 if Michigan doesn't experience the usual spate of NHL defections, which yeah right.
The first is Alex Guptill, a 6'2" forward from Ontario. Guptill was a sixth-round OHL draft pick but his stock may have been depressed by uncertainty over his signability. Also, kid was apparently rail thin. Brampton's scouting director on Guptill:
“He’s tall and lean but he can really skate. He has very good puck skills. We think he can be a goal scorer, but he needs to fill out. He really needs a year at the junior A or midget level and he needs to add upper-body strength. He needs to mature physically before he can step in and compete for a spot.”
His year at junior A has been impressive: 30-34-64 in 49 games, and the league's rookie of the year award. He was his team's top scorer despite playing with kids up to four years older than him*. He drew a mention from Guy Flaming over at Hockey's Future as a guy on the "beyond tomorrow" radar:
Alex Guptill (2010) of the OJHL Brampton Capitals has been on a tear since the 6’2, 165-pound rookie forward joined the team last Fall. In 47 games, the Newmarket, Ontario native has posted 60 points (28 goals, 32 assists), including 17 points in nine January Junior “A”games.
No indication if he's on anyone's radar for the 2010 draft but this appears to be a guy with scoring line potential.
Guptill's local paper has a commit article in which he politely turns down the OHL, citing education; there are also some interesting quotes from Mel Pearson on the realities of college hockey recruiting.
*(His two linemates were actually scoring at a slightly higher rate than he was until they were traded 3/4ths of the way through the season. But those guys are 20, not 16.)
The other commit is forward Derek Deblois from Hotchkiss Prep, the former home of freshman grinder Luke Glendening and current home of defenseman commit Mac Bennett. Deblois was interviewed by McKeen's early this month, wherein he was described as Hotchkiss' "go-to guy". Deblois on his game:
McKeen's: Describe the type of game you play. What are your strengths? Weaknesses?
Deblois: I play an aggressive game and like to make plays. I think my strengths are seeing the ice and setting up plays. I need to get bigger, faster, stronger, so I guess you could say my jump.
McKeen's: What would you say is the most underrated facet to your game?
Deblois: I would say breaking the puck out. People don't really understand how hard it is to pick a puck off the boards flat footed with a defensemen pinching. I think I do it pretty well.
McKeen's: Which NHL player do you model your game after and why?
Deblois: I would like to say someone like Joe Thornton. He loves playing behind the net and makes great passes. I think I see the ice well.
Stats, size, and Michigan's main competitor:
Deblois, who is 5'11'', 180 pounds, leads Hotchkiss in scoring with 10 goals, 21 assists and 31 points heading into Wednesday's game against Salisbury.
Deblois, who turned 18 last Thursday, reportedly chose Michigan, which plays in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, over Boston University.
He's currently ranked #69 by Central Scouting, which corresponds to a fourth- or fifth-round pick. Deblois kind of an oddity in that he's good enough to get drafted by the NHL but won't arrive on campus for at least a year after he hears a pro team call his name. Usually kids who enter college hockey at 19 or 20 are guys who needed some extra seasoning before they got to the NCAA; the only kid in recent memory to be drafted by the NHL, play a year of junior, and then arrive at Michigan was Kevin Quick.
Given the age of the two prospects here, Deblois is the more likely to be moved into the 2010 class.
A note on an existing recruit. Michigan Hockey Net points out that the leading scorer on the USA U18 team is none other than Michigan recruit AJ Treais. Treais is one of those skilled tiny guys a la Cammalleri and Comrie and Hensick, but prior to this year he was believed to be a step or two below those guys, who range from solid NHLers to fringe All Stars. Leading the U18 in scoring is an encouraging indicator.
What's the best option for acquiring Frozen Four tickets? Just wait until there's a glut of tickets from fans of non-tourney teams, wait 'til the FF is settled that week? At this point (after moving to NY) I'd be willing to go just to see the games.
Every year, the Frozen Four sells out over a year before the actual event transpires. As a result, thousands of fans end up not going because they can't be bothered or just bought the tickets to maintain their priority, and tickets are beyond plentiful. Unless you're dead set on getting the best seat in the house there's no reason to buy them until you arrive on site. I've gone when it was in Buffalo and Denver and both times acquiring seats for face value was a snap. If I really care to push it I probably could have got them for less. This year it's in DC, which cares about college hockey not at all, and if Michigan gets there I'm planning on buying on-site.
The only exception to this is if a Frozen Four happens to be in Minneapolis or Boston and a local team makes it; in that case tickets can be tough.
Brandon Smith, from Jersey in last years haul. He was Army, solidly recruited by some other bigs (FLA), he has disappeared off the map. Even with a red-shirt, should I have been less optimistic in that his name seems to only come up with trepidation, as in, "oh my god not Stevie and a Frosh". What do you percieve as his main challenges to getting on the field?
Smith was a pretty big recruit but was also more of an athlete than a solid player at any particular position. He played QB, KR, PR, S, and some LB for his high school team because he was one of those guys you use as much as possible; this speaks well to his athletic ability but also means he wasn't quite as ready to play as someone who was a safety all the way. So Smith started the year looking like a likely redshirt, then had an appendectomy which sealed it.
I haven't heard the trepidation you have, though. What practice mentions I've read have been very positive on his ability and optimistic he can be a solid player. That's no guarantee—Grady Brooks, Kevin Grady, etc etc etc—but he's not a guy who's fallen off the map during his redshirt year. I think he'll play, and challenge Mike Williams for a starting spot.
It is interesting that the Big Ten is again considering a nine-game schedule. I can remember the Big Ten race back in 1982. That year Michigan played nine Big Ten games (back when there were only 10 teams) but Ohio State played only eight. This actually decided the title because Ohio State beat Michigan in Columbus, had a better overall record, but finished 1/2 game back in the standings. (Searchable Big Ten standings database if you want to poke around.)
Michigan was 8-1 in the conference (losing to OSU). Ohio State finished 7-1 and beat Michigan. Michigan went to the Rose Bowl to lose to UCLA for a second time in just over 4 months. For some reason, only Iowa and OSU played 8 BT games while the rest of the conference played 9.
I was only 12 or 13 years old at the time. Imagine the chaos if that happened in the age of the internet!!
Keith in Northville
Holy cow: Keith is right. In 1982, the entire Big Ten played nine league games except for Iowa and OSU. This also happened in 1981, when those two schools tied for the title at 6-2. OSU and Iowa were co-champs in a year when the only Big Ten game that didn't get played was Iowa-OSU!
In 1979 and 1980, Northwestern and Minnesota played an extraneous ninth game against each other; the rest of the league stuck with eight conference games. In 1977 and 1978 it was Wisconsin and Northwestern playing a full round-robin. It appears that in the late 70s and early 80s Northwestern was so concerned about its ability to schedule nonconference games that it just struck up a deal with whoever had rotated off their schedule to play a game anyway. Opponents were happy to oblige, as Northwestern won just one conference game from '77 to '81. (They beat Illinois 21-7 in '77.)
In '83 the league stopped its experiment with wacky unbalanced schedules, playing a full round-robin for two years before settling back into its traditional eight-game schedule.
Does anyone know what the heck happened in 1981 and 1982? I get full round-robin schedules. I get Northwestern running around, hat in hand, to whichever conference mate was denied the opportunity to blast them into the stone age. I don't get "everyone plays except Iowa and Ohio State."
I've been a UM hockey fan for a long time, but I used to be the type that was a score-watcher until the weather got warm, then I would pay strict attention for the stretch run. My first UM hockey memory was the Mike Legg goal and I was hooked (boom, pun) since. The last few years I have taken a more consistent interest despite living outside of Michigan, mostly thanks to MGoBlog. It's been a lot of fun and I must say that I couldn't believe the surly mood I was in after the Notre Dame Frozen Four game last year.
That being said, my somewhat uninformed question is: do the refs really screw everyone like this in the CCHA? Trust me, I know they're bad. Like, The Mentalist bad. I'm just saying, it seems like the Wolverines have been on the receiving end of this as of late. I know that it goes with the territory of being an obsessive fan that you will think your team is being screwed, but when puck hits skate and goes in, it's hard to shrug off being called a homer. When's the last time UM has been handed a game a-la Notre Dame and Ohio State? And you know, aaarrrgggh and stuff.
I've long been of the opinion that CCHA refs not named Shegos* or Piotrowski were uniformly awful. Any new recruits quickly proved themselves about as incompetent as the rest of the bunch. Though a couple of the promoted linesmen have struck me as okay so far this year, it's too early to tell with them.
HOWEVA, I have never seen a team get so completely hosed on two separate occasions. Two obviously blown goals in two separate one-goal games is a truly enormous effect, one that can't be matched by a demonstrative Ed Hightower charge call, or anything at all, really. I've never seen anything like it.
In the decade I've been following Michigan hockey, these are the controversial (non-) goals that stand out:
- Some nonconference game against BC: Michigan is up 3-2 with about two minutes left in the game. There's a late scramble for the puck, which ends up lying in the crease for a BC player to roof a nanosecond after the ref blew it dead. Michigan goes on to secure an important nonconference game.
- Some game against State: I think this was the one Michigan ended up tying when Jason Ryznar scored with a second left. Anyway, a State defenseman blasted the puck… somewhere. A goal light went on, but the puck wasn't in the net. Replays showed very little, but there was a telltale net bulge—it looked like the State defenseman had actually shot the puck through the net. Not quite as impressive as beheading a goalie a la Jack Johnson, but still. They checked the net for a hole, didn't find one, and declared no goal.
- The NCAA regional game against Colgate: This, I believe, was the year Michigan played after the beyond epic St Lawrence-BU game that went into four overtimes. (They played Maine with four defensemen and collapsed late.) I watched an entire game of hockey and the feed only picked up when the OT started. Anyway, that was the second round.
In the first round, Michigan went to overtime with Colgate. At some point there was another goalmouth scramble in front of the Michigan net that was eventually blown dead. When Josh Blackburn, who had ended up partially in the net, moved the puck was revealed to be well over the line. It was not entirely clear when the puck had crossed the line, however, and after a lengthy review it was called no goal.
- The Buffalo Frozen Four against Minnesota: it's tied late in the third period, and by this time you know the drill: goalmouth scramble, puck loose that the referee can't find, and a whistle that goes just as Jason Ryznar pokes it through the fivehole.
Most of these are controversial early whistles from the referee, something that's inescapably part of hockey. None of them are the inability to see a puck obviously kicked in the net, or goals inexplicably waved off for absolutely no reason. I've never seen Michigan handed the equivalent of two goals via sheer blind incompetence.
The Colgate thing was probably the luckiest Michigan's ever gotten: it was like those plays in football where you're sure the call on the ice is wrong but there just isn't enough evidence to overturn it. It was a game-losing goal that Blackburn luckily obscured until it was too late.
Side note: the CCHA should obviously incorporate every available camera angle into its reviews, and the NCAA should repeal the inane rule about kicked goals. Anything that's not thrown or high-sticked into the net should count.
*(This knowledge appears to be disappearing into the ether, but there used to be two Shegoses (Shegii?) in the league. They were brothers. When displeased with refs who were not Shegoses, Yost would chant "we want Shegos." When displeased with refs who were Shegoses, Yost would chant "other Shegos."
The origins of this were never clear. Did the chant get started out of genuine respect, or the belief that Shegos was beyond horrible and preferring Shegos to anyone was the worst insult imaginable? Given what we know about Yost, probably the latter. This would be ironic, since the closest thing I have to a "thank God he's reffing" moment now is when I see Shegos on the ice.
Yes, like he was against Ohio State. He can't do anything about Langseth randomly awarding/disallowing goals.)