that is nice bonus change
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Anthony LaLota announces his college decision at eight PM on CSTV. Just in case he picks Michigan, let’s google-stalk!
|5*, #3 OT, #42 overall||4*, #6 SDE, #120 overall||80, #13 DE|
LaLota gets the precious fifth star from Scout, though Scout is an easier lay than prim and proper Rivals—Scout always has exactly 50 five-stars; Rivals usually has 25-30. Rivals is a bit more reserved but still lands him just outside their top 100. ESPN is slightly less enthusiastic, placing him just outside their top 150. He’s the #13 DE to them and #12 is in the 150—he’s close.
You’ll note that Scout rates him an excellent offensive tackle prospect; ESPN also sees it:
LaLota is a pretty exciting prospect. He has good size and athletic ability and when you factor in that he is still pretty new to the game of football you realize this kid has a huge upside. A debate could get sparked over which side of the ball to play him on. A very strong argument could be made that you add 30-40 pounds to his frame and make him a left tackle.
They still see him as a defensive end but do mention that he has “value on both sides of the ball”, which should increase his chances of seeing the field since he’s got more than one place he can go. This is probably moot since LaLota’s been vocal about preferring defensive end and Michigan really needs defensive ends after picking up one in the last two classes, but it’s something to keep in the back of your mind.
Also, there’s this from Tommy Bowden. Weirdly, LaLota’s dad ran into Bowden when he was giving as speech to pharmaceutical sales reps—the mind boggles—and offered Bowden some tape of his kid. Bowden looked at it, provided some advice, and made a sweet comparison:
I've broadcasted several University of Virginia football games over the last couple of years and he reminds me very much of Howie Long's son, Chris. Chris was an offensive and defensive lineman in high school at a small private school in Virginia (Anne's Belfield School) and Howie thought he was destined to be an offensive guard in college. Now, he is the top defensive end in college football and, according to several services, may very well be the No. 1 player taken in this year's NFL draft. Incidentally, in his senior year in high school, Chris had 92 pancake blocks as an offensive lineman.
If Anthony is intent on being a defensive end, and I think he has all the ingredients to be a great one, he just needs to make this very clear in the recruiting process. All I'm saying is that if Howie Long wasn't sure about what position his own son would play, I'm not about to guarantee your son or anyone else where they will eventually end up.
So, hey, that sounds good.
Lots and lots. LaLota’s final seven was M, Notre Dame, Penn State, Boston College, Virginia, Florida and Rutgers. That’s pretty impressive and it’s even more so because his emphasis on academics caused him to drop a number of football powers, including Ohio State, FSU, LSU, and Tennessee.
LaLota’s only played one year of organized football—which means he’s raw but has the proverbial upside—and in that year racked up 10 sacks.
FAKE 40 TIME
Lalota’s listed at 4.6. He is also listed at 6’6”, 260. Fake! Fake, I say!
I can’t get it to work now, but Yahoo posted the LaLota highlight film given to Terry Bowden. The free intertubes turn up nothing else.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Given his lack of experience I assume he’ll redshirt. Barwis will have to keep him at a reasonable size for defensive ends—under the old regime I would have assumed he would put on significant weight and end up at OL or… ick… DT—but once he gets some technique and chocolate milk, he could be a monster. One year of organized football, 6’6”, 260, and those ratings and offers == major upside.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
LaLota is a major, encouraging pull for the Rodriguez regime. Just over a month ago Michigan was hardly being mentioned, the last school of his seven finalists to get an unofficial visit. LaLota had declared he would commit soon after the Michigan official, which usually means the prospect has a school or maybe two in mind and is just doing his due diligence on some others. Up until his visit, I had him colored red and thought Michigan had little chance.
One visit later, he announces he’ll delay his decision and eventually settles on Michigan, filling a major hole in the prospects coming up with a recruit everyone was after. Score.
Michigan now has one defensive end in the class and hopes to get at least one more; they’ll probably take two if they can get two they like. The buzz on top 100 AZ DE Craig Roh remains good, and MI DE Nick Perry is about to be a free agent after the NCAA Clearinghouse shot him down.
Run Offense vs. SSONIINI
With a 90% chance of heavy rains and wind tomorrow, this may be the game. Notre Dame lost second round pick Trevor Laws and some less heralded players from a defense that gave up 289 yards on a whopping 61 carries last year; Michigan returns… uh… Steve Schilling. And maybe Brandon Minor, who had 17 carries for 82 yards in late game action.
In action to date: Michigan was terrible against Utah but stepped it up—sort of—against Miami; Notre Dame allowed pass-heavy San Diego State to run for 4.7 yards a carry a week after a I-AA team shut them down. Safety Kyle McCarthy led Notre Dame with 14 tackles; safety David Bruton was second; corner Terrail Lambert was third. Over a season having three members of your secondary leading the team in tackles would indicate some unspeakably bad linebacking, but against San Diego State it mostly means they threw three times more often than they ran.
You can’t throw a rock in this down without hitting someone wailing about the Michigan offensive line’s lack of depth, experience, and talent, but the hidden story is that Notre Dame’s defensive line is in close the same place. Senior Pat Kuntz tries hard but spent last year’s game on rollerskates and is only in the lineup because the other alternatives are true freshmen. The same goes for the uninspiring combo of Justin Brown and Morrice Richardson on the other end. And NT Ian Williams was a good recruit but remains just a true sophomore; Brian from House Rock Built was pretty meh about his performance to date. I don’t see any walk-ons or anything, but there isn’t much: two freshmen are behind the starting trio at end and Paddy Mullen is the nominal NT backup.
Meanwhile, the linebackers seem okay. Maurice Crum—one of those Brooks Bollinger Memorial Eighth-Year Senior guys—is back after racking up 84 tackles last year; only 4.5 of those were for loss. People seem excited about sophomore Brian Smith after a promising freshman year; the outside linebackers are eh.
There’s not much here to base a prediction on other than 15 San Diego State carries that went well but could have been anomalous due to small sample size and were certainly more effective than they would have been if SDSU ran 75% of the time instead of threw.
Meanwhile, Michigan moves in fits and starts, gashing people when the little bastard guys get the corner or slice up into gaping zone holes and getting zero or negative yards when someone on the OL makes a critical mistake—which is often. You’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about.
Key Matchup: I’ve hinted at this before, but here it is: IMO, the most important individual matchup in this game is Michigan center David Molk versus Irish NT Ian Williams. Both are in their second year in college—Molk redshirted, Williams did not—and both have gotten meh reviews so far, though neither has put in enough playing time for early impressions to be anything near conclusive. Against Utah, Molk got buried into the backfield the few times Michigan tried traditional zone running plays; against Miami Molk sealed off the DT to the playside time and again. Williams, meanwhile, had an impressive tackle count his freshman year and checks in at 310.
If he can drive Molk backwards we’re in trouble; if you can single block a nose tackle in the 3-4 you are destined for success.
Pass Offense vs. SSONIINI
N/A, next section.
What, seriously? Okay: Notre Dame lost Tom Zbikowski, who may have engaged in judo or MMA or something, I can’t remember, to graduation and rising star cornerback Darrin Walls to a “personal issue.” So they’ve got Terrail Lambert, who Michigan fans have a special Manningham-related soft spot for, and Raeshon McNeil, Notre Dame’s only four-star+ upperclassman not on the OL, at corner. At safety they’ve got David Bruton and the aforementioned McCarthy.
That’s turnover to an extent that makes last year’s stats mostly irrelevant. Against San Diego State’s short passing game they were good-ish, allowing SDSU QB Ryan Lindley 274 yards but requiring him to throw 59 times to get there.
Michigan, meanwhile, got a lot of guys open last week and missed them all by hilarious margins. Steven Threet is your starting quarterback; he’s got a decent arm and has made mostly good decisions thus far but he’s been terribly inaccurate. There was one beauty deep ball to Junior Hemingway in the Utah game, and a couple other decent throws then. Against Miami it was all wrong.
Key Matchup: Threet versus Jesus, Man, Just Throw To Them. Notre Dame players are kind of irrelevant if Threet doesn’t hit some guys.
Run Defense vs. SSONIINI
The run defense is not as good as you might think it is, as the avalanche of sacks the team has unleashed distorts those numbers considerably. Miami’s lead back averaged 3.7 yards a carry and Utah’s main two guys combined for 94 yards on 21 carries, 4.5 per. That’s slightly harsh because both teams occasionally used their quarterbacks as runners and got stuffed doing it, but the point stands: this is not the country’s fourth-best rushing defense.
Of particular concern was a series against Utah where their thudding power back ran Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Draws over and over and picked up big chunks of yards doing it. Michigan switched Johnny Thompson and Jonas Mouton in at linebacker and both seemed to outperform the Utah starters, but that concern is still there when going up against a team that promised to “pound the ball” behind a newly gargantuan offensive line. Notre Dame does have a couple of Matt Asiata-like beef machines in Robert Hughes and James Aldridge; the specter of those ISQD disturbs.
|Notre Dame Rushing|
|A. Allen Jr||17||59||3.5||0||14|
The numbers above were garnered against San Diego State, which
- was the third worst defense in D-I last year,
- gave up considerably more YPC to a I-AA team in the opener, aaand
- literally had its entire starting DL out with injury.
Also they had possibly the worst offensive line this reporter has ever seen and brought the line coach back. WTF.
If Notre Dame wants to run the ball, that seems amenable despite the issues against Asiata.
Key Matchup: Ezeh and Thompson tackling Hughes and Allen. Michigan linebackers have rarely delivered a blow this year, allowing opposing running backs to gain 2 or even 3 yards after contact with disturbing regularity. Hughes is the kind of guy who thrives on that to keep his YPA up.
Pass Defense vs. SSONIINI
This is where the avalanche of sacks comes in. Against Utah, Tim Jamison was unstoppable. Against Miami, it was Brandon Graham. Michigan is now second in the nation in sacks and goes up against that same Notre Dame offensive line, which managed to keep Jimmah clean for the first time ever against San Diego State but now steps up the level of competition considerably.
We have the metrics mentioned above in the run game to denigrate the Notre Dame line, and there are also these items when it comes to the pass:
- the left tackle was a crappy guard last year
- an already lumbering line was asked to put on 20-40 pounds each, so they could pound it.
It’s doubtful the sack parade stops this week.
Meanwhile, Jimmah(!) Clausen looked like an actual quarterback against San Diego State, hitting a bunch of slants and outs and flies and the like, completing 21 of 34 for 237 yards. Three touchdowns were offset by two interceptions, and to Michigan it doesn’t really matter if those interceptions were because Clausen screwed up (he might have) or Irish wide receiver Duval Kamara sucks and flails around like a six-year-old girl sometimes (he does), because it’s likely Kamara is still a major target.
Other guys of note: David Grimes is “solid” to Notre Dame fans and “wholly average” to everyone else; think Ron Bellamy minus-minus. Golden Tate was actually very impressive against SDSU, smoking one of their corners on a 38-yard go route touchdown and nearly making a spectacular diving catch on another bomb later; freshman Michael Floyd has a bunch of recruiting hype.
On the other side of the ball: the pass coverage has been poor underneath but decent deeper except when someone screws up and lets an opponent wide receiver run free through the poppies; Michigan has had difficulty tackling little quick guys underneath but Notre Dame doesn’t have any of those except maybe Allen, who figures to feature heavily in an extensive screen game.
Key Matchup: Graham and Jamison versus Turkovich and Young. Clausen did pretty well when afforded time last week, and Michigan’s secondary is prone to safety breakdowns. Michigan has to balance out the number of big plays Clausen makes with his arm with big plays Michigan makes by bruising his ribs.
You will be pleased to know that Notre Dame’s punter is not going to average better than 50 yards a kick. He’s Ben Maust and he did 42.1 last year. However… dammit… Notre Dame was 13th in net punting last year.
Zoltan, meanwhile, had a big game against Miami, though that may have been more due to some fortunate rolls on short-ish, angled punts than any sort of space mastery.
Michigan has a significant advantage at kicker with KC Lopata returning after going 11 of 12 last year; this year he has made field goals of 47 and 50 yards while missing from 41. (Michigan’s missed extra point against Miami was due to a faulty hold.)
Notre Dame’s Brandon Walker was only 50% last year and missed his first attempt of this year, that from 47 yards. There was also some Yakety Sax on a botched attempt against SDSU.
Key Matchup: Kickers versus the weather. Every field goal attempt will be critical.
- Molk gets bowled over.
- The fatties on the right side of the ND OL start bashing Michigan backwards.
- We don’t see more Cissoko/Woolfolk so Harrison can stay at safety.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Michigan’s defensive line turns in a repeat of FBD II.
- Corollary: and Clausen looks just as bewildered by the idea of these chaps hitting him as he did last year.
- Michigan linebackers are sniffing out the screens.
- We complete a pass.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 6 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for Wow We Still Suck, –1 for Wow They Still Suck, +1 for I Don’t Believe In Ghosts But I Do Believe Notre Dame Stadium Is Full Of Them And They’re Douchebags, +1 for Walk-on May Be Starting At Left Tackle, –1 for …And He’s Probably Better Than Sam Young, –1 for Weis E Coyote, +1 for We Literally Did Not Complete Two Passes Downfield Last Week.).
Desperate need to win level: 8 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for Eff It, We Must Go To The California Raisin Bowl 7-5, +1 for Notre Dame Is So Annoying, –1 for General Ennui 2008, +1 for Vast Irrational Hatred Of Charlie Weis, +1 for …It’s Not Really Irrational But It Is Vast)
Loss will cause me to... really struggle to find six wins on the rest of the schedule.
Win will cause me to... enjoy deep draughts of schadenfreude on ND message boards for two solid weeks.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
There is one bloody giant mismatch in this game and it’s the Michigan defensive line versus the Notre Dame offensive line. These are the same players that took to the field last year; when the dust cleared Clausen thought it was Shrive Tuesday 1936 and Michigan had a 38-0 win with Ryan Mallett at QB.
In the interregnum Michigan has acquired the services of (eeee!) Mike Barwis. Notre Dame, meanwhile, threw 40 pounds on an already ponderous Sam Young and kept John Latina, line coach of ultimate seduction, around. This seems like an idea on par with “spread ‘n shred versus Georgia Tech.”
Except, no, I lie: there is a second bloody giant mismatch in the game and it’s Michigan quarterbacks versus anything. What do you have? A souvenir shot glass from Casa Bonita? Good enough.
So… who do you pick? I figure Michigan swarming Clausen is good for a pick or fumble or three; I have also watched our quarterbacks. I figure Notre Dame will get someone deep several times because of safety malfeasance and Clausen will either have Tim Jamsion’s helmet in his chest or an excellent chance to score a touchdown that Michigan can ill afford to give up.
I mean… who knows? I don’t know if ND’s defense is going to be any good, if they can stop Michigan’s run game, if Threet will complete anything, if Walker makes any field goals, and the uncertainty is doubled because of the weather.
I do suggest, very tentatively, that Michigan is much better prepared to handle a world in which its offensive line has no idea how to block its opponent, and that the apparent thunderstorm brewing bodes ill for passing games, and that this is more relevant for Notre Dame, and I kind of expect Michigan to win.
But not very much. I expect several very high-variance things to happen and for a close game to be decided by something ridiculous.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Yes, we do complete a long pass. To Hemingway, even.
- Shaw and McGuffie get more evenly distributed carries.
- Michigan gets to Clausen five times.
- Michigan, 13-10.
Site note: I’ve gone back to the defensive UFR and done the cool popup video thing to it, if you’re interested.
Succor. I’d normally hold this until Monday for the weekly recruiting dump, but this news expires tonight so here you go from the front page of the Wolverine:
Michigan has been recruiting the defensive end ranks hard throughout the class of 2009 and tomorrow they will find out their fate with one of the top targets. Princeton (N.J.) The Hun School's Anthony Lalota will announce tomorrow night and Michigan's chances look good.
Lalota is a top 250 strongside defensive end to Rivals and a five star OT to Scout and would be a major relief at a position of significant need. Which one? I dunno, pick one. Michigan’s recruiting him at DE.
Now, there are various degrees of “look good”; this one is not a foregone conclusion like the two Pahokee guys were, but it is, as they say, looking good. Lalota announces at 8 PM on CSTV.
I’m sure there’s a flipside post somewhere, but I do like Rakes’ “Five Reasons Notre Dame Loses to Michigan.” Of note: their kicker’s been terrible and their punter isn’t Orin Incandenza. Meanwhile, BGS wonders why Notre Dame didn’t pound it over the right side of their line more. This seems like wishful thinking:
So perhaps all the running left was by design: if we can beat SDSU with the left hand, why show the big right hook to Michigan at all? Until we fell behind in the third quarter, we really didn't need to exploit the right side. Did Weis want to give Michigan, which has been absolutely dominant against the run, lots of looks at the left side of the run game, knowing full well that the right side is the true strength?
That's what I'm wondering. I don't know why else we would consciously run 10 times in a row to the left when you know the right side is more productive. It's crazy, isn't it?
Later, the author urges us to see the ploy as “deviously Weisian,” because against Michigan they’ll come out and run it right and Michigan will go “WTF I thought this was a NASCAR offense” and die. Because the only explanation for Charlie Weis doing something dumb has to be that he is secretly a genius.
We are talking about Charlie Weis here, right?
Weis loves doing things that are unexpected even more than he loves doing things that are correct according to game theory: fake punts, that idiotic QB draw against Georgia Tech two years ago, sending your national-worst offense onto the field to try and convert a fourth and eight when a reasonable field goal attempt is in the offing. Weis does dumb things to emphasize how smart he is.
Breakin’ it down. There’s a lot of fantastic Notre Dame preview content out there in the Michigan blogosphere. A sampling:
I meant to mention Genuinely Sarcastic’s Run Chart as part of the UFR but neglected it. Said chart (chart) is right in line with my expectations: +4 for Molk, an active but uneven day from McAvoy, concern about Nowicki, and appreciation for Moundros’s small but important role at fullback.
The Ace of Sports breaks down Clausen’s day against San Diego State complete with video clips; the general upshot is that Clausen’s arm and general competence have taken great steps forward but on the rare occasions the Aztec defensive line got anywhere near him he went “eeee I’m a little girl for something other than Mike Barwis” and chose… poorly.
The question with Clausen has always been his ability to make decisions under pressure; the SDSU game was probably a flashback to high school for him. This week will be the test.
Speaking of that defensive line: there have been reports that as many as seven Aztec defensive linemen were out or wounded for the Notre Dame game, forcing SDSU to start a linebacker at defensive tackle and a stack of post-it notes at end. Surely that a vast exagerration spawned in the wild outcroppings of the internet, where the truth bends like kelp at high tide?
Ah, well, not really:
The Aztecs, who concluded fall camp already thin across the defensive front, had no fewer than four more defensive linemen sustain at least some sort of injury in Saturday's season-opening 29-27 loss to Cal Poly.
Jebus! A dossier:
- DE Tony DeMartinis and DT Neil Spencer, both starters, are out for the year.
- Siaosi Fifita missed the opener with a knee injury
- DE Eric Ikonne and DT Jerome Long had ankle sprains.
- DeMartinis’ replacement suffered a concussion.
- DT Ernie Lawson aggravated a foot injury.
I’m not exactly sure how many of these guys played, but only Lawson was credited with a tackle.
Also, it’s kind of sad when even your official site disses you:
Brandon Sullivan was inches away from a 4-yard touchdown run and a two-score lead for the Aztecs. But safety David Bruton jarred the ball loose and recovered it in the end zone to help the Irish (1-0) avoid an embarrassing loss.
Et tu, goaztecs.cstv.com?
Even more fun is to be had. The forecast calls for whipping winds and rain and all that:
As of Wednesday night, the forecast for South Bend on Saturday called for high winds and scattered thunderstorms. That would be quite a departure from the clear skies the Wolverines.
Is this good? Or bad? Or what?
On the one hand, Notre Dame’s biggest advantage in this game is the ability to throw passes past the line of scrimmage. On the other hand, they’ve got a couple of big bruising backs who might be better suited to pounding ahead in Hurricane Katrina (MAKE PLAYS). On what appears to be a third hand—I’m just zis guy, you know—, sometimes those little nimble guys can make cuts no one else can because of physics. Remember the one awesome game Justin Fargas had? No? Well, it came against Northwestern in a driving rain and ugly conditions.
I tentatively suggest rain and winds are advantage Michigan because then it’s super hard to make the DL irrelevant, and from what I’ve seen of the Notre Dame blogs they seem to agree.
Live at 9PM; Shavodrick Beaver's Rider team takes on Sulfur Springs on ESPN2 then and will function as a backdrop.