This list is completely arbitrary and not a genuine analysis of the relative merits of state fossils.
[Finally: A one-on-one chat with Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges that has been eight months in the making. In part 1, Borges describes a typical game week, talks about game planning, and shows me what his call sheet looks like.]
“Heiko, what’s up?”
Not much, how are you?
“Just wonderful. How are you?”
Good. It’s good to see you.
How’s the offseason?
“What offseason? I’m not seeing it.”
Oh yeah, you have recruiting stuff.
“It’s always the onseason.”
*BREAKING* 6'6", 230-Pound Quarterback Has Strong Arm After All
Michigan quarterback commit Wilton Speight flew across the country to compete in the Elite 11 San Francisco regional camp last weekend. Despite a field featuring several of the top prospects in the country,—including #1 pro-style QB Keller Chryst and Oregon commit Morgan Mahalak—nobody at the camp earned an invite to the Elite 11 finals; Speight showed off a strong arm and high ceiling but struggled a bit with his mechanics, as you can see in the above video (he's the one with the Michigan shorts, natch). The Elite 11's resident coach, former NFL QB Trent Dilfer, gave his thoughts on Speight to 247's Barton Simmons:
One of the longest commutes to compete at the event came from Richmond, Va. native Wilton Speight. The Michigan commit was also one of the biggest prospects in attendance with regard to his physical stature and Dilfer noted that his size is both his strength and his weakness at this point.
Dilfer on Speight: “He had a nice day. He’s obviously a very physical kid, tall, strong. I think he’s got to get more organized. Everything’s just got to get more organized for him to be consistent. That’s typical for a lot of linear guys. There’s a lot of moving parts.”
Scout's crew of experts all had Speight outside the top five performers, but national analyst Greg Biggins—as well as Speight himself—still had a largely positive review of his play ($) [emphasis mine]:
The biggest quarterback in the camp was easily Richmond (Va.) Collegiate School’s Wilton Speight. The Michigan commit looks all of 6-6, 230 pounds and he had a solid camp. He was able to make all the throws showing off a strong arm and actually looked better than expected when he had to throw on the run.
Speight is a pure drop back quarterback who throws a tight ball and can get the ball down the field. He threw some of the best deep balls in the camp and makes it look easy and effortless.
“I was happy with my performance, I wasn’t overly thrilled with all my throws but overall, I thought I had a good day,” Speight said. “There’s always a couple of throws you want back but the beauty of this is there’s still 13 spots left for the final Elite 11. No one got the invite today so you just have to stay patient and let the process play itself out.”
As Speight said above, he'll still have a chance to earn his way into the finals later this spring; he won't be the only one from the SF regional with something to prove, as five-star Chryst reportedly (and by his own admission) struggled mightily.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest visit plans of five-star DT Andrew Brown, Michigan commits in the updated Rivals100 and Top247, and more.]
Best ever. Wolverine Historian assembles 15 minutes of Keith Jackson clips, and it's as glorious as you'd think.
"my spine is still tingling" -Ace
WH's magnum opus? To date.
Get the brooms. Congrats to the softball team, which swept through their regional in three straight games. Michigan opened the weekend with a 5-0 shutout of Valpo, did the exact same thing to Cal the next day, and took out the Bears again to close out their 16th regional title.
Michigan gets Louisiana-Lafayette this weekend at Alumni for the right to go to the WCWS after the Ragin' Cajuns upset LSU. Michigan beat ULL earlier this season in Florida 3-1. That was ace vs ace as Driesenga faced off against ULL's Jordan Wallace, who was 31-7 this season with a 1.73 ERA and four Ks to every walk issued. A two run Ashley Lane homer was the difference.
ULL proceeded to stomp through the Sun Belt before falling into the elimination bracket early in their conference tourney; though they pushed through and took WKU to a winner-take-all final they could not get the job done in that. That didn't seem to affect them, as they also swept through their regional without giving up so much as a run.
Michigan should be favored, I'd guess.
Notable things said during the takeover. WTKA's annual Mott Takeover was Friday and raised almost 100k for the eponymous children's hospital. It also was an opportunity for people to say notable things on the radio. The reddest of the red meat came from Steve Everitt. Brady Hoke's pet viking took the opportunity to blast Kirk Cousins for something innocuous he said two years ago and dump on "Notre Shame," no doubt causing a tweed-jacketed Notre Dame alum driving through town to bite down so hard on his pipe that it cracked. Meat for the meat god!
In news-ish substances, Roy Manning reiterated that Jake Ryan was on track for a midseason recovery and talked up his potential replacements. On Beyer:
"He's done a great job, he really has," Manning said of Beyer. "The transition was seamless for him. He did the things that made him successful in the past. That kid really is a sharp kid. Probably one of the hardest working kids -- I think most people on the team -- hardest working kids on the entire team."
Curt Mallory noted that statements around here that nickel is really a 12th starting spot are neither balderdash nor horsehockey:
“He got the majority of the reps at the nickel back,” Mallory said of Thomas on Friday during the Mott Takeover on WTKA-AM (1050). “That position has been played in the past by not only Courtney, but also Thomas Gordon. That really is a position that’s a starting position. Our first year, I believe Courtney played 400-some snaps at that position alone.
"(Thomas is) going to be a contributor -- we’re expecting him to be a major contributor, more so at the nickel back position and we’ll see where he goes from there.”
Also, yeah, Thomas has already locked down a starting job. Borges talked up Kyle Kalis and did vaguely imply that Glasgow had a slight edge for the LG job:
"The depth chart is still in pencil there, but one guy who took the next step was Kyle Kalis," Borges said. "When he came in, he was just not ready to play yet. It was overwhelming from the systematic perspective. Not so much physically. Kyle from the first day to the last day (of spring practice) really improved his game. He's a powerful kid who can run-block and is learning the techniques better in the passing game.
"And Jack Miller, our center, did a really nice job. He's in a competitive battle with Graham Glasgow, but he kind of answered the call, so I think he's going to be a factor. Left guard, Graham Glasgow, will be part of the mix there, coupled with Ben Braden, who's as talented a lineman as we have."
Chances Michigan brings in a transfer QB are dim, so it's on Shane Morris and the other guys coaching him up:
"You can't coach him -- that's your problem, is you can't coach him," offensive coordinator Al Borges said last week. "But our kids can coach him. So if he goes out there in some offseason workouts, there's no rule against Devin Gardner showing Shane Morris what to do.
"He'll have to get it through osmosis a little bit."
This is kind of a strange thing, to think a Cass Tech player is underrated. If you'd like some confirmation that Delano Hill is pretty dang fast, he ran a 10.8 100 meter at state regionals a few days ago while also anchoring Cass's 4x100m and 4x200m relays, both of which finished first.
That is not quite Denard's 10.44 from his high school days, but it's not bad for a guy who's nearly 200 pounds and is likely to play safety. Add it to the pile of reasons to think the guy is being sold a little short.
The other ball and stick game. Baseball squeezed into the Big Ten tournament as the sixth seed, not a bad accomplishment for Erik Bakich's first year. Michigan takes on Nebraska at 3:30 Wednesday (BTN) just a few days after taking two of three from the Huskers to close out the regular season.
After all, what can go wrong with drafting a touted point guard out of your home state? In news not at all likely to make me start watching the Pistons regularly for the first time since they traded Chauncey Billups—which still kills me, I mean broke-ass inefficient Allen Iverson cumong man—the Pistons have not even talked to Trey Burke:
Later Thursday, Burke is slated for at least six more interviews with pro squads.
Does he have one with the Detroit Pistons?
"No, I don't," Burke said Thursday. "I was actually surprised. But talking to my father (and agent, Benji Burke), he said some teams do that just to not let other teams know that they're interested (in a player).
"I don't know. I don't think they're going to bring me in for an interview."
Burke measured at 6'1" at the combine, which is a couple inches taller than I thought he would. That further bolsters his case to go near the top of the draft, so the Pistons potential lack of interest is likely moot anyway. Instead, Joe Dumars will pick the guy with the fewest eyebrows.
Etc.: home video of Michigan folks stopping in at Mott. Peyton Siva tells Burke the best block ever was in fact a block and not a foul. Jeff Withey changes his tune on Mitch McGary. Michigan won't break its Adidas contract. Well… yeah.
You Know The Drill
TRUE FACT: TomVH used to say "buckle up" all the time. You should remind him of this frequently.
On Wednesday morning, TomVH broke the news that five-star NJ CB Jabrill Peppers will announce his college decision live on ESPNU on May 26th*, when he'll choose between finalists LSU, Notre Dame, Michigan, Penn State, Rutgers, and Stanford. Peppers
has a visit set to Penn State for tomorrow, and could make one more "surprise" visit—presumably Rutgers—before making his announcement.
[UPDATE: Scout's Brian Dohn just posted on the GBW message board that a source tells him Peppers has cancelled his Penn State visit ($).]
As for any concerns that those final visits could sway Peppers from a presumed pledge to Michigan—let's just say it doesn't sound likely, given this quote to a local paper:
“I know and feel very confident in the decision I’m going to make,” said Peppers.
Michigan commits feel very confident in that decision being for—you guessed it—Michigan:
— Drake Harris™ (@drizzygetbusy01) May 15, 2013
(If you're wondering why Speight and Harris will be in San Diego, quarterback guru George Whitfield—the guy with the broom who's worked with Devin Gardner—is hosting a camp that weekend.)
You have nine days until following proper safety protocol is strongly advised. I have eight days to decide whether pre-writing a post is worth the jinx-bait.
BONUS: In the wake of the MSU-Jay Harris mutual** parting of the ways so Harris can pursue a rap career, Peppers weighed in on his USA Today blog [emphasis mine]:
Peppers, who will choose between Michigan, Stanford, Penn State, Notre Dame, LSU and Rutgers on May 26, said that each school is well aware of his current rap career and long-term aspirations.
"They ask me about it all the time," Peppers said. "They're OK with it because my raps are clean. I just think if he (Harris) really wanted to pursue rap he could've gone about it a better way. I don't think anyone in their right mind would turn down a free education to a prestigious university to play football. It could only help your career."
Peppers said from broadening your vocabulary, to overwhelming exposure, to having an established fan base, "whether you're nice with your rap skills or not," college has "unlimited benefits" to boosting a career in the booth.
One key difference between Peppers and Harris, aside from the blunt-smoking and bailing on a free education: Peppers is nice on the mic, Harris... well, you've probably seen the video by now. I'm legitimately disappointed Leon McQuay III didn't sign on this year, both for the obvious reason—he's pretty good at football—and so he and Peppers could potentially form the elite defensive back version of JDK & Rey.
BONUS BONUS: Speaking of good defensive back recruits, IL CB Parrker Westphal could be approaching a commitment, per TomVH ($):
After his visit to Arizona State [this weekend] Westphal says he might take a trip to Tennessee, but nothing is set in stone. From there he will only focus on those schools on his list and continue to visit and evaluate what those programs have to offer. Westphal still says he is in no hurry to make a decision, but would like to get it done sooner than later.
“I want to make it before the season,” he said. “Games don’t start until August, but practice is in a few weeks so we’ll see when it happens.”
Michigan is "still the school he uses to compare other visits," and Westphal noted that his recent Florida visit went well... with the caveat that Michigan offers better academics. If he sticks to a summer decision timeline, it's hard to see him ending up elsewhere.
*Now a banner day for fans of Michigan football and Arrested Development. Peppers' announcement will hopefully ensure that I don't attempt to watch the entire fourth season in one sitting. (I probably will anyway.)
**Since Harris had signed a LOI, it's my understanding that State could not legally revoke his scholarship without consent, though the looming prospect of getting through admissions means Harris still didn't have much of a choice, in all likelihood.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on the linebacker situation, new offers, Michigan visiting the son of rap royalty, and more.]
Brace yourself. LSUFreek spent yesterday swapping rival coaches' hair. Paul Chryst/Dana Holgorsen:
Aaand our local rivals:
As Orson says, that makes Hoke look like a senator straight out of O Brother Where Art Thou.
Point Gene Smith. OSU's AD on the possibility of playing The Game at night.
"Are you crazy? What's wrong with you? It'll be noon. I have to be open to 3:30, but noon is my favorite time for that one."
Grudging respect meter: incremented.
Oh come on man. I'm gonna need some more detail on this($), Wyatt Shallman, before I agree this is a thing that actually happened:
In elementary school, he once caught a 10-pound bass using nothing more than a Spiderman fishing rod and a Lifesaver candy.
I wasn't born yesterday, Wyatt Shallman.
Goodbye, stupid o'clock bowl. The Big Ten has (likely) dumped the Insight.Chicken bowl in Arizona, not that Michigan ever showed up in it since any vaguely bowl-eligible Michigan program got snapped up as soon as the Big Ten bylaws allowed it and they were too far down the pecking order. I mean, that 7-5 outfit a couple of years ago got snapped up by the Outback.
For people looking for more variety in their bowl destinations, it's still grimly central Florida in the consolation prize area:
The Gator Bowl and Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl previously had rotated the No. 3 Big Ten selection after the Rose Bowl. The Holiday Bowl is expected to get the No. 3 Big Ten pick, after Capital One and Outback. The next Big Ten team could go to the Gator Bowl or Music City Bowl, depending on the year.
They've only managed to insert the Holiday in there and lessen the big ten presence in the Gator Bowl. Meh. The Pinstripe and Please Change The Name Of The Bowl In San Francisco are likely to be added, but again so far down the pecking order that it's unlikely Michigan is around when those bowls are picking. Also slightly alleviating the central Florida malaise is the Orange Bowl, which will get a Big Ten team at least three times over the next twelve years. In those years the ACC will send a team to the Citrus. Miami, while inconvenient to get to, is essentially its own insane tinpot country that is at least interesting.
More helpful than the bowl switch up is the Big Ten taking back some of their autonomy as far as who goes where:
"We'll probably be somewhere in between (a bowl committee) selection and a conference placement," Delany said after the league's athletic director meetings in Chicago. "So what we'll do is give a lot of conditions to each bowl, and they will have to get conference approval for the selection that they choose.
"The goal is going to be that we keep these games fresh and also that the bowls create the best possible lineup. I think there's been some fatigue."
So if fanbase X that's been to central Florida six straight years ends up in a big pile of approximately equal teams they'd probably ship 'em to the Holiday or Music City.
Also in annoying things, the Holiday will feature the #2 Pac-12 team against the #3 Big Ten team. The Big Ten has a couple extra teams, yeah, but with the road-ish nature of that game that should be an even 2-for-2 or 3-for-3 if it's going to be even in the long run. The Big Ten doesn't help perception of itself much when its quest for maximum dollars continually puts them at a disadvantage in bowl matchups.
Weird thing I just thought of in relation to all this: if we do get a Ten Year War II going on the Rose Bowl is going to be the consolation prize for the loser of The Game. Ew.
Are we dumping the only incompetent Germans? This is admittedly a bit of a stretch that Drake Harris would be the one guy who knows what Michigan's plans are in re: their apparel contract, but he's tweeted out "when we got back to Nike, I hope we get [appalling uniforms that prove seventeen year olds are blind and/or insane]" and responded to a guy asking him about it that he thinks it'll go down in two more years. That's not accurate according to Angelique Chengelis, though the door is going to be open:
Brandon on WTKA says 3.5 years left on Adidas contact. Will honor contract. And then....negotiations begin
It is possible that they're telling recruits they plan to switch in an effort to assure them they won't end up having to play skins in a critical conference game. There are many, many reasons to do this, from Adidas's uniformly (ha!) appalling alternates to the labor kerfuffle to the fact that the only incompetent Germans can't supply Michigan with non-tearaway uniforms or replacements for the tearaway ones.
Well, yeah. Brandon says the 2014 Penn State game will likely be at night:
"That's a good hunch," Brandon said when asked the likelihood of a Michigan-Penn State night game at Michigan Stadium. "I would expect that Penn State game would be a terrific game in early October to have as a night game against a Big Ten opponent."
…because the other three are Maryland, Indiana, and Minnesota. Dave sounds a little defensive, must be getting a lot of heat for the Worst Home Schedule Ever. At least he acknowledges it's a problem:
"Football can be pretty boring in September if you've got all your teams playing down to competition," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said. "It's boring for the fans at the stadium and it's boring on television. We don't want to be boring, so we want to strengthen the schedule."
Also in October and November when you're playing Rutgers and Maryland every week. My mind is still struggling to interpret those as football games instead of extra byes.
Chrome it up! Death comes for us all. YOLO. Synergy. Brandon:
Michigan ended last season by making a rare alteration to its winged helmet, adding a matte finish for the Outback Bowl. That theoretically could open the door for more changes, including a chrome helmet, which many teams already employ for their alternate looks.
The idea surely would ruffle feathers in some corners of the fan base. But Michigan has also shown a willingness to push the envelop during the Brandon era.
So, would he do it?
Brandon said he is reluctant to alter the helmet so drastically -- but added, "never say never."
He cites "some polling done," which… I mean it's already locked in your brain or it's not. Also he calls college football "the platform" at some point. I hope MBA programs know they're killing the language.
/buys even more Ann Arbor Torch & Pitchfork stock.
I'm with Dave here though. The MSA president, still as useless as ever:
"The students are upset to say the least, they feel that the athletic department broke its long-held social contract with the students," said Michael Proppe, Central Student Government president for the 2013-14 academic year.
Oh I see they've changed the name to something more evocative of Stalin to emphasize their extreme lack of power. Anyway. Ahem.
YOU broke the "long-held social contract," Michael Proppe, by not showing up. You and lots of other people. The deal was: you get cheap tickets, show up, and be loud. You have altered the deal. Pray Dave Brandon doesn't alter it any further.
Etc.: Oh goody: "dead is a strong word" for expansion. Big Ten ADs want seven wins to be the minimum for bowl eligibility. Rutgers' new AD was on the wrong end of a lawsuit about discriminating against pregnant women. Kicker: is a woman.
|WHAT||NCAA Softball Regional|
|WHERE||Wilpon Complex/Alumni Field|
|WHEN||Friday-Sunday, May 17-19|
|LINE||Softball lines, junkie?|
|TV||ESPN3.com (all games)|
Right: Freshman slugger extraordinaire Sierra Romero.
The NCAA regional is a double-elimination tournament, so the only team Michigan is guaranteed to play is Valparaiso; if all goes chalk, Michigan would play Cal in Game 3 and go from there.
|Friday, May 17|
|4:30 p.m.||Game 1 -- Central Michigan vs. California|
|7 p.m.||Game 2 -- Michigan vs. Valparaiso|
|Saturday, May 18|
|Noon||Game 3 -- Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner|
|2:30 p.m.||Game 4 -- Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser|
|5 p.m.||Game 5 -- Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 winner|
|Sunday, May 19|
|1 p.m.||Game 6 -- Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner|
|3:30 p.m.||Game 7 -- Game 6 winner vs. Game 6 loser (if necessary)|
All games will be broadcast on ESPN3.com.
First-team All-B1G pitcher Sara Driesenga
Record: 45-10 (20-2 Big Ten, 16-0 Home)
Rankings: #7 USA Today, #8 ESPN, #8 RPI
Good wins (RPI): #11 Arizona State, #29 Arizona, #16 Texas A&M
Bad losses (RPI): #179 LIU-Brooklyn
Michigan mostly dominated in the Big Ten this year and fared pretty well when it came to facing ranked non-conference opponents (5-4, including wins against both Arizona schools), though they unexpectedly fell to RPI #24 Wisconsin in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament. The Wolverines are the #8 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament (full bracket .pdf here)—as you'll see, however, they didn't get the easiest of draws.
The offense is led by shortstop Sierra Romero, who earned mention in this space last week after an astonishing freshman season earned her big-time accolades:
Kind of good, part two. Six(!) softball players were named first-team All Big Ten after Michigan roared through the league schedule 20-2. Sierra Romero was both the freshman and player of the year, Carol Hutchins coach of the year, etc.
Here is Romero's Big Ten slugging percentage.
Also her on-base percentage was .659. That is nuts.
Other batting standouts include 2B Ashley Lane (.385/.435/.698*), 1B Caitlin Blanchard (.399/.467/.534), and OF Sierra Lawrence (.347/.424/.578). Romero's full slash line for the season is a ridiculous .378/.514/.854—in other words, she reaches base on more than half of her plate appearances and hits with a ton of power (in 164 at-bats, she hit eight doubles, two triples, and 22 home runs, the last mark a school record). Leadoff hitter Lyndsay Doyle (.304/.429/.360) is a patient hitter with base-stealing speed (10/11 this year), while catcher Lauren Sweet (.267/.330/.545) provides some pop at the bottom of the order.
The pitching staff is very good but a step below dominant. Sophomore righty Sara Driesenga earned first-team All-B1G honors, posting a 26-6 record with a 1.81 ERA and 202 strikeouts in 205 innings pitched—her control (63 walks) keeps her from being totally dominant. Sophomore lefty Haylie Wagner is the #2 starter—she finished 18-3 with a 2.53 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 119.1 innings. Wagner is more hittable than Driesenga but exhibits much better control (only 15 walks all season).
Cal star pitcher Jolene Henderson (via)
This is where I stop pretending to know anything about softball and let our mysterious softball source take over the scouting. All of the actual scouting content below comes from a source who's asked to remain anonymous; I've only done minor editing for brevity and provided the intro.
Record: 34-25 overall, 11-9 Horizon (that's bad)
Rankings: #186 RPI
Previous meeting: none
Good wins: ??? (win over Iowa State is only major conference victory, beat also-bad Youngstown State for tourney title)
Bad losses: Detroit (five wins this year, tied for second-least in NCAA)
Their lineup is pretty straightforward, with three girls to look out for and one that possibly might be an issue. Their top batter is Brittany Duncan (.349/.478/.514), who I'm told the key against is to go low—she's a big girl that can go long on anything up high, so anything other than a well-executed rise would be ill advised (Wagner seems to be known more for that type of pitch than Driesenga).
The next two to worry about are Janelle Bouchard (.333/.376/.548) and Kaitlyn Ranieri (.322/.429/.399), but they're both freshman and aren't anything [redacted source] has seen in person or on film. My recollection from seeing a game in person is that Amanda Korb (.387/.406/.613) is capable of hitting well, and more or less abused the freshman version of a good pitcher throwing mostly rise and curveballs, but she's only been at the plate 31 times, which makes a current injury or injury from earlier in the year possible. [ED-Ace: I can't find anything to indicate an injury, so I think Korb is just a potentially underutilized pinch-hitter.]
Expect them to start pitcher Taylor Weissenhofer (20-11, 2.29 ERA), who is also a freshman, and is "not fast but spinny with back door curve. [Throws] a lot of curves and off speed pitches," according to my source.
Record: 33-18 overall, 18-7 MAC (better than 11-9 Horizon, but Cal should win easily)
Rankings: #95 RPI
Previous meeting: M 11-0 (5-inning game)
Good wins: MSU and PSU are the only major conference wins, although the bottom of the B1G is not "major" for softball purposes.
Bad losses: Nothing really sticks out, but seven losses in the MAC doesn't indicate a consistently good team, few losses in the high 100's RPI.
The box score on MGoBlue should be your main guide here, but I'll provide some color substance. Michigan saw Kara Dornbos (15-11, 2.47 ERA) and Kristen Kuhlman (4-2, 3.82) as the 1-2 in their last outing; expect Dornbos to start. She was pulled after giving up 8 ER in three innings at Alumni Field.
Batting wise, Wagner held CMU to two hits and Cal's Jolene Henderson is a better pitcher than Wagner. Either team should shut down a fairly mediocre MAC offense with relative ease. CMU did finish the year on a bit of a hot streak, winning 7/8 and going undefeated in the MAC tournament.
Record: 36-17 overall, 10-14 Pac-12 (don't be fooled here—the Pac-12 has seven of the top 30 teams in the country based on RPI)
Rankings: #18 USA Today, #22 ESPN, #18 RPI
Previous meeting: none
Good wins: Won two of their three games against Arizona, beat #26 Baylor and #21 Hawaii in the same tournament. Otherwise struggled against top competition, going 3-12 against ranked Pac-12 teams when Arizona is excluded.
The only game that approached bad loss territory was a 1-0 loss to #77 Oregon State, but that came on the heels of two wins over the Beavers by a combined 11-1 score. As commenter Alton pointed out, I was looking at the wrong RPI sheet—Cal doesn't really have a bad loss this year.
Jolene Henderson's talent cannot be overstated, she is an absolute monster and will be up for Cal HoF or jersey retirement or whatever honors the AD over there gives out, with the only "dark spot" being that they were knocked out in the WCWS semifinal last year and she hasn't won a national title. She's arguably the number two pitcher in the nation (one is pretty well claimed), and that's where I would put her. Cal and LSU are the only teams through Super Regionals where Wagner and Driesenga will be outmatched talent-wise, in my opinion.
Henderson (30-9, 1.23 ERA) favors a curve, but has an excellent changeup when she can get her spots, and obviously can pitch just about anything. She does not have overwhelming (68-70mph in softball) speed, but obviously makes up for it in movement, accuracy and is praised universally for her poise. One thing that's very important to remember is that Henderson is coming off a knee injury; had she been healthy all year there would be a regional in Berkeley almost definitely.
[Addition from a later email: The better pitching evaluation for Jolene Henderson is that she does have top end speed (I've seen at least 70mph on the ticker, the world record for a single pitch is 75) and kills by pitching that in tandem with a killer changeup, 15mph difference at times. Curve evaluation would stay the same, excellent, probably above anything other than the fastball or the changeup, but her arsenal is deep and scary in general. This is me noting her confidence and poise again.]
Cal lacks the firepower to win a shootout with Michigan, which has a formidable batting lineup. If Michigan can score three or four, expect a win for M, although shutting down Cal completely is well within the abilities of either M pitcher if she can throw well that particular day, which will make a tough matchup for M's batting order much easier, obviously.
I'd also add that MGoBlog's resident seeding/RPI/NCAA expert Alton had an opinion on Ann Arbor's seeding, where 8 M got 17 Cal, and in exchange got the equivalent of two four seeds. Neither CMU nor Valpo is a credible threat to advance. (Valpo upset Louisville last year, but lost their pitcher and several hitters to graduation.) Cal is quite possibly more likely to advance than any other two-seed in the tournament, and definitely is among the top eight seeds.
ESPN has a broad overview of each of the regionals—here's their bit on Michigan, the proclaimed favorite to come out of Ann Arbor:
The favorite: No. 8 Michigan
Michigan stumbled on a couple of occasions down the stretch, but that didn't prevent it from clinching a coveted top-eight seed. A run-starved lineup that overachieved when it reached a super regional a season ago matured into a juggernaut, its slugging percentage climbing from .415 to .535. Some of that comes down to freshman star Sierra Romero (1.369 OPS), but five regulars are slugging at least .500, up from two a season ago. The difference between a team that can get to the World Series and one that can do something there may come down to what the Wolverines get from Sara Driesenga and Haylie Wagner in the circle. The staff's 2.92 Big Ten ERA is dicey.
Many thanks to our anonymous source for a remarkably informative preview—hopefully, if Michigan advances, we'll have much more coverage in the same vein.
*For those unfamiliar with baseball/softball slash lines, that's batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage.