don't we all
|WHAT||#15 Michigan v. Creighton|
November 26th, 2009
|THE LINE||Michigan –5*|
*Line provided by online sports betting site Sportsbetting.com.
The Wolverines venture outside the friendly confines of Crisler Arena for the first time this year, as they take on the Creighton Blue Jays in the opening round of the Old Spice Classic in Orlando.
The Wolverines have been tested far less than their opponents (and most teams in Division 1 ball), playing only two games on the year so far, and one of those coming against Division II Northern Michigan. Neither team came within 20 points of Michigan.
Manny Harris is still fighting his hamstring issue. He will play against Creighton, but is not 100%. Since playing is a good way to prevent that hamstring from becoming stiff, I would expect him to play extensively unless the game reaches a garbage-time situation. Morris-LLP-Harris-Novak-Sims will likely be your starters until further notice.
Creighton will be the first big challenge that Michigan has faced this season, according to John Beilein. Coach Beilein is good friends with Creighton coach Dana Altman, so he's familiar with the Bluejays, and what they try to do on both ends of the floor. As the head coach at West Virginia, Beilein faced Altman and Creighton in the 2005 NCAA tournament, emerging with a 63-61 victory.
Creighton has a deep roster, with 10 guys getting extensive playing time so far this season. Four players have started every game for Creighton: wing Darryl Ashford, center Kenny Lawson Jr., and guards P'Allen Stinnett and Kaleb Korver. Korver (the younger brother of Creighton alum Kyle, currently with the Utah Jazz) is a sharpshooter, and Beilein noted that he has an excellent presence on the court.
They have two offensive styles that they can playing, with a passing-oriented offensive set, as well as a Memphis-style dribble-drive offense. The diversity in Creighton's playbook makes them a difficult team to prepare for. Through 3 games, they have been good at shooting the ball and not having it taken away by the opposition, and have been bad at getting to the line and rebounding on defense. They shoot a bunch of threes, and are a similar team to Michigan, perhaps with a little less size in the reserves.
UMHoops talks to Creighton blog The White and Blue Review. Sounds like the Bluejays are pretty banged up already this year. While you're at it, check out WaBR for the latest on Creighton. Check out my Old Spice Classic overview. Special thanks goes to PaulVB, who was the MGoPresence at Beilein's press conference yesterday.
I'm going back-and-forth on whether I'm willing to have a CiL chat during the game tomorrow. Cast your votes in the comments, I guess.
Cullen Christian Goes Blue
As everyone has been expecting for some time now, PA CB Cullen Christian picked the Wolverines yesterday, adding a much-needed defensive back to the class of 2010. The announcement itself had been planned for weeks, and although it took a little longer than expected, the result is unsurprising. Local article. (Christian image via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).
For the record, The US Army All-American Bowl will select a player from Penn Hills next week. Christian and WR/S Brandon Ifill have both been nominated, and I'd imagine Christian is the choice as he is rated better by every recruiting service. And since there wasn't room for it yesterday, here's part 2 of Cullen's junior highlight video:
Who Will Fill the Class?
With Christian's commitment and the news that 2009 FL CB Adrian Witty will join the team this winter, there are only a few more spots available in the 2010 recruiting class. Next week's recruitin' update will be an overview-type post, but for now, let's look at a few of the guys who are still possibilities.
FL WR Kenny Shaw has narrowed his list to Michigan, Tennessee, Florida, and Florida State, with Georgia having an outside shot at him. He will announce his decision on Signing Day. [Source: ESPN, though they've apparently made it their corporate mission to not get a single inbound link, so whatever]. Florida State is still on top, but Michigan may have moved into second after an enjoyable visit ($, info in header/speculation).
CA WR Kenny Stills, one of the many visitors to the M/OSU game, will announce his final decision on December 1st. Michigan is probably on the outside in this one, but at least we'll know soon, right?
TX DT Jatashun Beachum enjoyed his Michigan visit, but it sounds as though he's unlikely to decommit from Arkansas. This is a disappointment, since it sounded before the Michigan visit like a decommitment from the Hogs was basically just a formality. Further updates coming as that situation develops.
MD LB Josh Furman has narrowed his list to two, with a decision date set ($, info in header). The narrowing is news, but he's been planning to announce at the Maryland Crab Bowl for some time, and there's been no indication of a change there. No word on the final two, but Michigan and Virginia Tech were announced as his leaders last week, so it's probably them... and Scout confirms all the information in one convenient header.
CA S Sean Parker told MGoBlog's own Tom VanHaaren that he plans to officially visit Michigan. Rivals confirms. Parker was supposed to be a heavy Notre Dame lean, but recent events are obviously concerning.
CA S/LB Tony Jefferson enjoyed his Michigan visit, but not even the afterglow is enough to move the Wolverines into his top 2. UCLA and Oklahoma are still on top for him, and he's going to "consider [Michigan] the rest of the way." Not the most promising update in the world. (Jefferson pictured at right via the Detroit News).
[Update: News article does say that "ESPN speculates he will choose the Wolverines," but that's contradicted by the direct quotes linked above and should be taken with a grain of salt.]
FL CB Tony Grimes and DE Clarence Murphy both enjoyed their visit to Ann Arbor, and I think the headline "Michigan on Top in Hollywood Hills" ($, info in header) is a pretty good indication of where the Wolverines stand with both prospects. Rivals confirms ($, info in header) for Murphy.
[your editor dips in for a moment…]
For what it's worth, on Monday's WTKA recruiting roundup, Sam Webb said he had a "gut feeling" on four players: Christian, Grimes, Murphy and Furman. For those unfamiliar, Webb's gut is the place he puts information about silent commitments. Christian has already dropped and Grimes and Murphy are a formality; if Webb is right about Furman and that potential rule change those four guys would close out the class.
Snake-Oiling The Irish?
The last time Notre Dame switched coaches, Michigan pirated away DE Jeremy Van Alstyne and CB/S Brandon Harrison from Ty Willingham's last class. Weis has been crushing Michigan's head in recruiting since he was hired. So can Michigan repeat the feat when Weis is fired two seconds after this weekend's game against Stanford ends?
Probably not. There are two kids in the class that Michigan finished second for, but FL CBs Lo Wood and Spencer Boyd are generic three-star sorts and Michigan isn't going to throw one of their generic three-star cornerbacks overboard, or pass up on Grimes, for them. Notre Dame's got a couple of good linebacker commits but they're both from North Carolina and had no interest in Michigan before they committed. Five-star CO DE Chris Martin has been a soft commitment for a while but he's had no interest in Michigan and Weis's firing isn't likely to sprout any. Michigan didn't make IN DE Blake Lueders's top five the first time he cut it down.
The only other player in Notre Dame's class who seems like even a slight possibility is IL OL Christian Lombard, but Lombard committed to Notre Dame at the Army Junior Combine and is likely a true believer who isn't even going to look around. (Side note: Lombard was a consensus five-star at that combine and Rivals now has him a meh three star. Ricardo Miller should have a "what happened to our recruiting rankings" pity party with him.)
In sum: Michigan and Notre Dame did not got head-to-head much this year and Michigan has better options at the spot where they did and ND won, so Weis's axing isn't going to be fruitful for the already-crammed recruiting class.
OH TE Alex Smith officially decommitted from Cincinnati last week, and Michigan was in the small group of schools he was still considering. Alas, he chose North Carolina yesterday, meaning his tenure on the recruiting board is over once and for all.
SC WR Nick Jones, who Michigan had offered, committed to South Carolina. Michigan was never hot on him, and I imagine he was mostly offered for leverage on Marcus Lattimore.
FL RB Demetrius Hart missed his playoff game last week because there was a controversy over whether he lived in the appropriate school district to attend Dr. Phillips.
John Magrino, Dr. Phillips athletic director, said OCPS determined Hart should sit until administrators can study allegations brought by Olympia that he lives in Pine Hills, not the DP school zone.
"He was assigned to our school from day one as a ninth grader and we’ve never had any reason to question that until today,” Magrino said.
Dr. Phillips managed to squeak out a 23-22 victory over Olympia without him, and he was cleared to hit the field against Apopka this weekend. Apparently, the mere challenge by Olympia's principal has been seen as a bush-league move. Hart is considered a heavy Michigan lean, although he wasn't able to make it to Ann Arbor for a visit last weekend.
ESPN's On The Trail (no link) reports that FL DT Tim Jernigan, who holds a Michigan offer, is only likely to consider Florida and Florida State.
Michigan has their eye on AZ QB/P Jordan Morgan. He's been invited to the Army All-American Combine in San Antonio.
Etc.: MI CB Dior Mathis is an Army All-American, along with MSU Commit Joe Boisture (which is odd, because he was so awful this year that his high school team benched him). That's an Army player each of the past four years for Cass Tech, with two picking the Wolverines (though Boubacar Cissoko didn't exactly turn out as expected). Fluff on the high school coach of GA DT Michael Thornton and LB Tyrone Cornileus. Michigan pipeline Pahokee faces an unceremonious exit from the state playoffs.
Michigan brought in a ton of kids this weekend there are solid rumors that a number of the committed but are waiting to announce. The issue: Michigan is currently sitting at 22 commitments after FL CB Adrian Witty officially qualified and PA CB Cullen Christian committed. In addition, the entire planet expects FL DE Clarence Murphy and FL CB Tony Grimes' signing day announcement to be a mere formality. That would leave one spot before Michigan runs up against the NCAA-mandated 25-per-class maximum.
Teams have been getting around this for years by enrolling a few kids early and counting them against the last class, something the NCAA rulebook specifically provides for. Diarist Umhero has pored through the 2009-2010 NCAA manual and finds the bylaw that governs early enrollment:
22.214.171.124.2 Recruited Student-Athlete Entering after Fall Term, Aided in First Year. [FBS/FCS] A student-athlete recruited by the awarding institution who enters after the first term of the academic year and immediately receives institutional financial aid (based in any degree on athletics ability) shall be an initial counter for either the current academic year (if the institution’s annual limit has not been reached) or the next academic year. The student-athlete shall be included in the institution’s total counter limit during the academic year in which the aid was first received.
This is part of this year's NCAA manual and is unchanged from last year.
The reason Umhero went over all this is that GBW recruiting guru Sam Webb has repeatedly stated on WTKA that this rule has been changed and backdating is no longer allowed. This would be bad. If Michigan experiences any attrition between now and February, they will be going into the fall down scholarships because the 25 limit tripped them up.
FWIW, I asked SID Bruce Madej about it and he said he believed that was the case; when I pinged back with that bylaw he said he had to talk to compliance.
Before Witty qualified and Christian committed, poster cypress put in a useful comment that counts up all the guys on scholarship next year and the recruits currently committed and came up with three open slots in a recruiting class of 23. I don't think his count is 100% correct. It includes Cone, who indicated his departure by walking on senior day. Other assumptions made:
- Sheridan is listed, who is going to be fourth-string at best and is the son of the Giants' defensive coordinator. Chances are that family can swing tuition.
- Kelvin Grady may or may not be guaranteed a scholarship down the road. Earlier in the year it seemed like Grady was technically a walk-on who would get scholarships if they became available.
- It does have Kovacs.
- It does not have Morales, Leach, or Moundros. Morales is a safe omission since he is not the starting long-snapper. The other two might be first in line if scholarships are available.
- It assumes all fifth-years return. This is potentially dodgy in the cases of Adam Patterson and Bryan Wright.
- It assumes no attrition before signing day.
Some or all of these may be incorrect.
Michigan is at 22 recruits and have at least three more slots with Cone's departure and the assumption that Sheridan is not on scholarship.
If the back-dating rule has not changed I think they can bring in a full 28. There are two obvious fifth-year seniors who may not be invited back if Michigan latches onto a recruit they think that can help them, and unless Michigan gets lucky there is probably going to be some attrition between now and Signing Day. If they can bring in 28 without hijinks they can take their 25 now and sit around on Signing Day attempting to snake-oil big names; if they can't they might have to…
Pull The South Carolina
If Webb is right, and he's probably getting his information from someone in the department whose job is to know these things, then Michigan is probably almost full right now and any pleasant surprises like CA RB Dillon Baxter or FL WR Kenny Shaw would necessitate someone getting put on a slow boat to either another school or a grayshirt.
Michigan did this with a couple of recruits last year. It's kind of a nasty move but the guys Michigan gave a nudge to ended up at Oklahoma State and Kansas, so they landed on their feet. I feel for Dewayne Peace, who's probably been told that his mother died because she was so disappointed in him, but "mutually parting ways" before signing day is a venial sin compared to the Alabama method.
I don't think that will or want that to happen; as you'll see in Wednesday Recruitin' a lot of the "we're totally in it for this guy from really far away!" has melted away into Michigan explicitly trailing other schools that have yet to receive officials, a situation that virtually never results in a good result. The most likely outcome for the recruiting class is that it adds Grimes and Murphy plus one other defender—Webb has a "gut feeling" on Josh Furman, FWIW—and ceases there as everyone grumbles about two more slot receivers.
The rest at CBS Sports.
Tim's final ballot after the jump.
The men's hoops teams heads to Orlando this week to participate in the Old Spice Classic. The bracket looks as such:
Here's a brief look at the teams in the tournament field.
So Far: Creighton fell to Dayton in their opening game this season, and came back with a big win over Florida A&M. On Sunday, they beat Arkansas-Little Rock by 15.
Profile: Creighton is slightly above average on both offense and defense. They're certainly not a team that likes to bang in the post, as they've hardly gotten to the line, and haven't sent their opponents to the line much either.
Matchup: Creighton is the only team that Michigan is guaranteed to play, and they seem to just average. As uncomfortable as it is to say that Michigan basketball should be able to take care of opponents that are simply average, that's the new reality I guess. They shouldn't be an easy out, but Michigan should emerge victorious. UMHoops talked with a Creighton blogger about the Bluejays.
So Far: The Eagles have feasted on an easy schedule so far, knocking off Centenary, Maryland-Eastern Shore, and Grambling by at least 20 points a pop. All three games have been at home so far.
Profile: It's hard to determine a team profile based solely on the tempo-free statistics from games against opponents that are so overmatched. Marquette has been very good rebounding the ball on both ends of the floor so far, and is shooting the ball very well. They don't foul a whole lot, nor do they draw a lot of fouls from the opposition.
Matchup: One area that might hold Michigan back should they face Marquette is turnovers. Marquette gets a lot of steals, and the Wolverines start a freshman point guard. Still, it remains to be seen what this Big East squad can do when they aren't operating at a significant talent advantage.
So Far: The Musketeers are 3-0 so far this year, with the wins coming against Younsgtown State, Bowling Green, and Sacred Heart. They have yet to play anywhere other than their home arena.
Profile: Xavier currently leads the nation in effective field goal percentage, though it's unclear how much of that is a product of the competition they've played. They're great shooting from behind the arc, and have done a decent job of getting to the free throw line so far this season.
Matchup: For all that they're good at, Xavier is seriously deficient in one area, and that's forcing the opponent into turnovers. That plays somewhat into Michigan's strengths. However, they also haven't been letting opponents rebound their own misses, which Michigan, as a Perimeter-Oriented Team, should be susceptible to.
So Far: The Tide lost at home to Cornell, and rebounded to beat Jackson State. Most recently, they beat Providence 84-75 on Friday.
Profile: Alabama is below average in offensive efficiency (despite being above average in the four factors.; figure that one out), and above average in defensive efficiency.
Matchup: It's too bad Michigan is unlikely to face Alabama, because they'd be a good matchup. They've allowed opponents to make a bunch of threes, and although they've blocked a bunch of shots, that was against far inferior opposition, and a perimeter-oriented team that still has some height in the middle should be able to shred them.
So Far: The Bears are 4-0, having knocked off Norfolk State, Hartford, and Southern. They also pounded D-3 side Hardin-Simmons, which isn't a very relevant data point.
Profile: Baylor is a very efficient team offensively, coming in 29th per Ken Pomeroy. They're a below-average defensive team, however. They get a ton of offensive rebounds, and block a bunch of shots, both of which are at least partially attributable to erstwhile Michigan Wolverine Ekpe Udoh. They've also held opponents to bad shooting numbers, but not so much with the three-pointers.
Matchup: I'm sure a lot of Michigan's players would like the opportunity to play against their former teammate Ekpe Udoh. The Bears look like a pretty good team on paper, though the numbers have all come at home against questionable competition. The one area that Baylor struggles with is three-point defense, which plays to Michigan's strength.
Note: written before Florida beat the hell out of Florida State last night. That certainly rounds things down for the Seminoles.
So Far: Florida State has beaten the hell out of far inferior opposition, with a comfortable victory over Jacksonville and an 80-38 pounding of Stetson. They also dismantled Mercer on Saturday.
Profile: With only three games against bad teams as evidence, it's hard to judge Florida State's style. They seem to be above average in just about everthing, especially two-point shooting on offense and defense. They're also #1 in the nation in blocking opponents field goals.
Matchup: The oddsmakers say Michigan will meet up with the Seminoles in the finals of the tournament, and they look like a formidable opponent from the evidence we have so far. Still, the areas in which they're least excellent are strengths for Michigan. They turn over the ball a bit, and don't guard the three-point line that well. They also haven't stolen the ball a lot, despite the vastly inferior opposition. That could help Michigan, who will play young point guards.
So Far: Iona has notched wins against Boston University, Hampton, and most recently Norfolk State on Saturday. The game against Hampton was their only away contest so far.
Profile: Iona is a physical team. They are near the top of the nation in drawing opponent fouls, but near the bottom in not returning the favor on the other end of the floor. For all the fouls they draw, you'd think they wouldn't be so bad at making the freebies, but they're shooting just 61% from the stripe.
Matchup: Though it's unlikely that Michigan sees the Gaels during this tournament, they would probably be a good matchup for the Wolverines. They don't stand out in any significant way other than their ability to get fouled, and MIchigan would be one of the taller, quicker teams they'd face, which would neutralize much of that.
Michigan has gained a commitment from PA CB/S Cullen Christian, from Pittsburgh's Penn Hills High School. Yay and whatnot. How about we move on to the informative portion?
|4*, #3 CB||4*, #6 DB||4*, 79, #18 CB|
Christian can play either safety or corner, but he's ranked by all three sites as a corner. Scout.com's Bob Lichtenfels offers a scouting report:
Christian is a nice sized cover corner who gets better with every rep and only lacks experience at the position. He has the ability to a true lockdown corner. Right now he relies a lot on instinct, but is getting better at being aware of everything that is going on around him and jumping routes. He is tough to beat in press coverage and he will hit you. Plays very physical football and is not afraid of contact.
From the start, Christian is noted for his physical ability. As a corner, that means he's good in press coverage or in Cover-2. It can also mean he's suited to switch to safety. Rivals's report echoes the sentiment, but points out that he isn't a speedster:
Needs Improvement: Needs to improve his speed, which will help him to recover when beaten on a route. Christian will also need to add some muscle mass and strength, which will help him make solo tackles in the open field.
Most Impressive: He has hips on a swivel, excellent ball skills and the ability to steer receivers off their intended route by using his long arms as weapons. His long arms also allow him to reach around receivers and bat down balls that smaller corners couldn't even reach. Christian is very confident and does not let getting beat affect him on the next play.
ESPN has more of the same, though they're the outlier with a low ranking:
The only asset Christian is missing is great speed. He has coveted size, quickness, fluidity and savvy as a D-I corner prospect. Utilizes his long arms and frame well jamming and pressing receivers off the line. Consistently forces receivers to the outside in zone, Cover 2 schemes and takes away....
I'm not linking it because they've hidden most of their coverage behind a paywall for the express purpose of annoying me. Take that, corporate drones!
For a guy who gets a lot of talk about moving to safety from corner because of less-than elite speed, hearing that he has loose hips is encouraging. Still, after entering a college weight-training program, it's unclear how much mass he'll add to potentially become a safety. His coach gives standard coachfluff on Christian's abilities:
"He's an excellent cornerback," Graham said Thursday. "And he's a leader on and off the field. He brings leadership to a team, and he has big-play ability. He has excellent hands and is very quick. He runs excellent patterns. He's just a well-rounded athlete.''
Yay, meaningless quotes. For his part, Christian prefers CB:
• WHY ARE YOU PLAYING SAFETY THIS YEAR? Just the fact that at cornerback, the other team can take you out of the game and not throw your way. Teams didn't throw the ball to my side much last year. At safety, I can make plays.
• DO YOU LIKE SAFETY? It's OK. I don't like it better than corner. I love corner. You can show your athletic ability more at corner.
Christian had offers from a number of programs across the midwest and nationally, including Pitt, BC, Cincinnati, Colorado, and Illinois. His finalists were Michigan, West Virginia, and UCLA, and all had offered. "DB offer from Ohio State" is just as ringing an endorsement as "QB offer from USC" or "LB offer from Penn State," so knowing that he also held a Buckeye offer should be a hugely encouraging sign for Michigan fans.
High school DBs rarely have easily found stats. Christian is rarely mentioned in articles following Penn Hills games, so I assume that's a good thing (though it likely means he's not contributing a ton on offense either). If you find something, leave it in the comments.
FAKE 40 TIME
Christian's Scout profile gives him a 4.55-second mark, which is about where you'd expect for a DB. However, since every scouting report on the kids says he's not that fast for a corner, that sounds like a 1 FAKE out of 3 score. His Rivals profile says 4.68, and is combine verified. It is quite obviously not FAKE.
Christian has a long junior highlight on Youtube, uploaded by a user who calls himself "cullenchristian." Coincidence, I'm sure.
Part 2 can be found on the tubes.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Despite a widely-reported lack of great speed, the recruiting sites are still very high on Christian. This means he's probably very good at most other things. His rankings are pretty even across the different recruiting sites, which mean's he's pretty-well scouted, and probably accurately rated.
The big question is whether he ends up playing corner or safety once he gets to Michigan. He's known as a big, physical presence who doesn't have elite speed. That sounds like a future safety to me. His position, at least for year one in Ann Arbor, will depend on where JT Turner plays (and whether Donovan Warren stays for his senior season). Christian is likely to end up at the other spot, and take a redshirt year or play exclusively on special teams as a freshman.
In his second year on campus, Christian will probably play a big role in nickel packages, in addition to special teams duty. After a couple years getting acclimated to college ball, he can be a starter down the road.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan needs about a thousand DBs, so taking a highly-rated one probably won't change the way they're recruiting. It might give them the ability to be a little more selective with the guys that they do take. Tony Grimes and Rashad Knight are still realistic options, and definitely wouldn't be turned away. Any top prospect, such as Tony Jefferson, is not affected by the commitment of Christian.
Etc.: Penn Hills is also the home of D-1 prospects DT Aaron Donald (Pitt commit) and S/WR Brandon Ifill. Neither is considering Michigan at this time.