Oi. Michigan's weird association with rugby continues, as Dhani Jones is spending a good chunk of his offseason learning how to play the game in England. A video feature on Blackheath's new pennyflankenshire or whatever (warning: the announcer seems constitutionally incapable of pronouncing the letter H):
My favorite shot: embittered-looking old Brits looking on dourly with half-full pints. England: feel the excitement! Mostly it rains, but other times you can look upon something with grim determination! With beer!
Actually, take away the beer and that sounds like Michigan football.
#1. Major alarm spread through all parts of the Michigan internet yesterday when Braylon Edwards dropped this bombshell in an ESPN chat:
I am already mad that Rich Rod because he gave the No.1 jersey to someone other than a WR, which is breaking tradition. But I think he is a great coach and will lead Michigan to a turnaround.
He further expounded on his displeasure on the radio:
"I'm glad you gave me a 'Go Blue' question, because Rich Rod gave the No. 1 jersey to an incoming freshman DB," Edwards said, sounding somewhat annoyed. "The No. 1 jersey has never been worn by anybody outside of a wide receiver -- it dates back to Anthony Carter, so I'm going to have a talk with (Rodriguez) about that next time I see him. But outside of that, he's been doing a great job."
(The defensive back in question is apparently JT Floyd, who wore it in high school.) Panic ensued! Okay... maybe not panic. Sample emails:
I think I share the feelings of many alumni when I say that while I am a strong supporter of moving
's offence [Canadian emailer? Maybe. -ed] and S&C into the new era, I have real issues with assigning the #1 jersey to a non receiver who has never earned it. Michigan
I'm all for giving Rodriguez the benefit of the doubt, but it's fairly bad form to gut a fairly big tradition at Michigan by giving the number to a freshman defensive back. Maybe he didn't know about #1, but I find that fairly hard to believe. What's next, no banner when they run out of the tunnel on Saturdays?
One clarification: before Edwards was forced to earn the #1, Michigan just gave it to kids as a recruiting inducement. However, as soon as Braylon got his NFL dolla bills (y'all), he gave Michigan the largest endowment a former athlete had ever provided. The intent was to enshrine Edwards' path:
"No freshman will be allowed to wear the No. 1," Edwards said. "The number holds too much significance and too much value. There are three criteria to receive it: first, no freshmen; second, the GPA (grade-point average); third, off-the-field conduct."
I don't know how closely the Carr staff was hewing to the specifications laid out by Braylon when he endowed a scholarship for the jersey, since Darryl Stonum had been promised the #1 as an incoming freshman, but at least Stonum was a superstar recruit and when he hit the field in spring he was sporting 22. Maybe Michigan promised him the jersey as a sophomore? Now it all goes wonky.
Though Rodriguez has made a heroic effort to learn and integrate himself into the Michigan tradition -- inviting program alumni back for meet-and-greets, visiting any M Club that will have him, and generally talking up Michigan history whenever prompted to -- this is a misstep. Edwards, poised to be one of the dominant NFL receivers of the next ten years, is going to be a resource both financial and otherwise no matter what happens here. But there's no reason to annoy him, or annoy fans who like a tradition that dates back 30 years (Tyrone Butterfield excepted), or remove whatever small recruiting juju exists when you dangle the 1 in front of a kid who knows what it means.
It's just going to look wrong for the #1 to be on defense. I'm already freaked out that Charles Woodson is going to be a white tailback for the next four years. This is too much. I might die. [probably not, though -ed] Hell, I'm all for more number specialization: tiny waterbug receivers get Desmond Howard's #21. Dann O'Neill gets Jake Long's 77. Whoever's small and slow and inexplicably awesome gets #20.
Is this a huge, huge deal? No, but it's directly opposed to both Rodriguez's fan- and media-friendly style and his love of weird little traditions. Number assignments aren't final yet and there's been a shocking amount of uproar about this -- Michigan message boards were unreadable for a period of several hours yesterday -- so I think there's a good chance Floyd has a sit-down with Braylon and ends up wearing something else.
Why would you ever leave? Not to be too unkind to a state that produced our current head football coach, but good God...
Seriously, a 26 win season with John Beilein's players, the best recruiting class in recent memory, a man dedicated to the state and University, why not give him a 10-year deal?
John Beilein's players won 27 games the year before he left, and if that doesn't impress because of a weak schedule and NIT help, well, before that Beilein's players had back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances.
Condolences to Bryan Wright. The sophomore kicker's father passed away recently. Michigan did what little they could:
. Upon learning of the death, the Michigan coaching staff contacted the family and a number of team members including players and ex-coach Lloyd Carr traveled to Salem to pay their respects.
Goddammit, stickam spammer, I am not still down to hook up, especially when you send me messages from "Robert Gleason."
The Wit and Wisdom of Weis returns. Head to 50 seconds in this video:
A transcript, since it's a little hard to make out: "I think the first opportunity they're going to have to really make a statement is that day [Sept. 6 against SDSU], and then we'll listen to Michigan have all their excuses as they come runnin' in and sayin' how they have a new coaching staff and there's changes. To hell with Michigan." Then someone's cellphone rings and Weis makes some goober remark about using all the minutes and just looks so incredibly pleased with himself and if there was a just and loving God at that moment a mountain goat would come bounding into the frame and headbutt him to the ground, whereupon he would flail his legs like an upturned beetle and emit a horrifying bovine howl.*
Weis has issued a fatwa against excuses. Check this Dan Wetzel piece:
"But I'm not an excuse guy."
But wait! There's more!
"What I never want to do is make an excuse for how things go," he said.
After the first Michigan beatdown:
I'm reluctant to even say this because it almost sounds like making excuses for the first game.
The title of Weis' book? "No Excuses."
It's almost as if he thinks he can't be blamed for being the Worst Coach in the Universe as long as he doesn't have an excuse (read: "reason") for his performance. Imagine if Jeffery Dahmer had taken this tack: "look, I know the easiest thing to do is assume I'm crazy since I do crazy things like chop people up and put them in my freezer and then, like, pan-fry them with a nice roasted garlic butter. But I'm not an excuse guy. My performance as a human being has been unacceptable, and I'm not going to say it's because my parents abused me when I was a child, because that sounds like excuse making. As mentioned, I have no excuses, so you should totally let me go."
But, yeah, he totally could have turned Notre Dame around by now if he was allowed to recruit the same thugs Navy and Air Force do.
The NCAA has just released the four-year running APR numbers through the 2006-2007 seasons. Numbers for teams followed slightly (or more!) by this blog:
(Last year's report, FTR.)
A big dip from the basketball team worries. The APR's cutoff before sanctions are applied is 925, so they're flirting with penalties even before this year's Morris-Price-Udoh-Smith exodus is taken into account. It's likely Michigan dips into the danger zone next year, and they might stay there for a year or two. Apparently there's a waiver process via which you can avoid penalties if you have mitigating circumstances and a plan for improvement, -- that's how Purdue is dodging the axeman -- so Michigan may avoid actual scholarship losses.
Football also took a minor hit as the trouble that plagued Carr's final years starts to show. I think we'll see another dip next year, though not one so drastic as to threaten penalties, followed by a plateau that lasts two-ish years before Michigan starts to regain lost ground.
Scores in non-revenue sports were universally good. The lowest was the women's basketball team and their 955. Purdue is the only Big Ten team faced with penalties in a revenue sport; their basketball program fell short. (Indiana is going to get it next year, though. They got waivered despite having a score of 899 and now five guys are gone early*, many of them having left without academic eligibility. Just desserts for hiring such an obvious sleazeball.)
*(not mentioned in that link is NBA-bound Eric Gordon.)
Michigan's 2010 hockey recruiting class will be epic if the kids who have committed stick to their commitments. D Jon Merrill and F Luke Moffatt are generally regarded as the best kids at their position in their age bracket and are potential top-ten NHL draft picks. F Jared Knight is a bit less hyped but would have been an OHL first-rounder if he wasn't planning on going the NCAA route. His size will depress his spot in the NHL draft, but initial indications are he could be anywhere from TJ Hensick to Andrew Ebbett. (I haven't stumbled across anything that indicates how highly regarded Hotchkiss Prep D Mac Bennett, the fourth commit, is.)
The 2010 class will be super mega epic if F Colin Jacobs joins the show. Jacobs is getting oodles of hype...
"Colin certainly has huge upside and is a player we are monitoring closely," said Chris Lepkowski, assistant personnel director for the USA Hockey National Team Development Program (NTDP), based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. "Our program is one that requires the highest level of dedication by the player and his family. We are not only looking for the most highly-skilled player, but a player who has character, can handle adversity, and will be able to effectively manage his time. Colin's on-ice talent is in line with the NTDP's past players."
... oodles ...
Some scouts hype Jacobs as the best American-born player since Mike Modano.
Here is what Alan Caldwell had to say about Jacobs:
"Jacobs is one of the best 1993-born players in the United States. The fact that he went this low means he'll be a tough sell on the WHL. First-round talent if he comes."
If Jacobs doesn't end up in the WHL he's very likely to be with the NTDP. Just an advisory to keep his name in mind.
Oh, so that explains it. Bill Martin talked to the Big Ten Network, explaining that Michigan's basketball program now has the funding for a practice facility:
Now that we're practicing, look out, world.
Just one transfer away from a return. Indiana safety Jerimy Finch was a top-50 player in the class of 2007 who 1) committed to Michigan early in the process, 2) inexplicably visited Indiana with a bunch of his teammates, 3) even more inexplicably decommitted from Michigan and committed to Indiana, 4) decommitted from Indiana and eventually signed with Florida because Urban Meyer was apparently calling anyone on Rivals' top 100 list.
After his recruiting sojourn, we have more numbers: 5) got move to linebacker against his wishes, 6) broke his leg in the third game of the season, 7) pretty much failed out of Florida, and 8) is now transferring back to Indiana.
He's projected to be Michigan's starting free safety in 2010.
The Big Ten Network: feel the excitement! Presented without comment other than the obviously snarky lead-in:
Dance gala to be aired on Big Ten Network
"Performing Iowa: Dance Gala," the University of Iowa's first original non-sports cable TV program for the Big Ten Network, will be screened at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the auditorium of the UI Art Building West.
No, wait, one comment: damn you, Comcast. This is the last straw.
Speaking of, yet another article that claims a Comcast-BTN deal is imminent:
The Big Ten Network and Comcast â€” the nation's largest cable provider that replaced Insight Communications this year in Springfield â€” likely will announce an agreement in late August, said John Ourand, a reporter for SportsBusiness Journal.
"Both sides are saying they expect something before the football season,'' Ourand said.
An announcement could come in as soon as two or three weeks.
Late August or in two or three weeks? It don't matter to John Supinie of the Springfield Journal-Register! The article does have an interesting suggestion: though Comcast and the BTN always talk about a potential deal like it stands alone, the BTN's association with Fox means that there are dozens of channels and stations and so forth and so on in constant flux between the two media titans.
Side note: a WCHA channel? WTF?
Ha-ha. A reader sent along this lol-worthy State News piece wherein the outgoing sports editors "reflect on years of Spartan sports memories." You know where this is going: the Horror features prominently despite, you know, not actually being a Spartan sports memory in any way. Even weirder:
1. MSU football vs. Michigan, Oct. 1, 2005: Domata Peko's 74-yard fumble return touchdown
1) Michigan State lost that game (obviously). 2) The play referenced here may in fact be the worst call in the history of college football. That sounds bombastic, but not only was Chad Henne's arm obviously hit during his throwing motion, just as obviously going forward at the time, and just as obviously propelling the ball forward before it hit the ground -- making this a trifecta of incredibly obvious items that indicate a forward pass -- but they actually reviewed the incredibly obvious forward pass and called it a fumble anyway. Incredibly obvious missed calls from yesteryear can't compete because they weren't validated by some batty old zombie up in the booth. (The video on the post disappeared, but if you want the relevant section of the NCAA rulebook it's here.) We actually spent the entirety of the remainder of the game bitching about that call, enraging an elderly Spartan fan to the point that he wanted to fight us.
Another editor cites the first half of a game Michigan State got blown out in; only the girl
who is apparently one of the three Spartan hockey fans manages to name two things that are actual Spartan sports memories that aren't kinda humiliating.
Zing! SI's "Truth and Rumors" is basically a news aggregator that takes snippets from articles and reposts them to SI. Today we have this on GA S Darren Myles:
Coaches from Georgia, Illinois, Marshall, Michigan, Ohio State and Ole Miss were on hand to get a glimpse of junior free safety Darren Myles Jr. and his teammates during opening day of spring football practice at Carver on Monday. Myles, whose marquee scholarship offers are from programs such as Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, South Carolina and Tennessee, enjoyed a productive day at the Nike camp in Tuscaloosa, Ala. on Saturday.
A wag in the comments:
So the hot news here is that if your school has a name, they are still in the mix of getting a commitment from this guy?
biminator | 05/06/08, 08:22 AM
Good news, mostly, from wherever in the ether the OHL draft originates from. (It's a conference call.) Both Michigan recruits were picked in the third round, which is right on the border between "secret deal worked out" and "flier." The general impression I've gleaned is that both picks are strongly in the flier category.
Defense recruit Jon Merrill went to Plymouth. Plymouth's GM:
"We had Jonathon Merrill rated as a top defenseman on our list. He is committed to Michigan and the US program, but we'll wait and see. He's not going to be here this year, I don't think, but we'll talk to him and his family and kind of follow the same path we went with Beau Schmitz - just talk to the family as needed and not bother them too much."
Obviously there's no pre-existing deal with Plymouth. They reference Beau Schmitz, a former NTDP defenseman Plymouth just signed, but Schmitz's situation was quite different: he was a Ferris State commit for a while but decommitted and the WOTS is that he was never going to qualify.
OTOH, Merrill's been at just about every Michigan home game since he committed a couple years ago. Bob Miller made reference to "hearing some things" about another Jenks, -- AJ Jenks was a commit supposed to come in with Czarnik and Wohlberg, but defected -- which gives me the willies, but if Plymouth doesn't expect him to show up this year then he's got a choice between one year with the NTDP and going to a Michigan team he obviously would like to play for and the Plymouth Whalers, average attendance: 2,600 fans in a rabidly half-full Compuware Sports Arena. Weird things happen, but they would be weird.
One last bit on Merrill: in the Hockey's Future thread on the OHL draft there is a guy who works for Red Line's junior division, and he shared RLR's scouting report:
Currently rated #1 overall by Red Line Junior in our rankings for the 2008 Ontario Hockey League Priority Draft. In a class by himself as far as Red Line Junior is concerned when it comes to available defencemen his year.
Has all the tools to become a superstar-calibre pro: excellent size, effortless, fluid mobility and a good head for the game. Uses the body regularly. Makes his first pass with authority. Great point shot, and gets it low and on the net consistently. Technical skating is outstanding, with smooth pivots and excellent backward/lateral acceleration. Reads plays well defensively and deftly uses long reach and quickness to cut off available lanes. Knows when to be aggressive in his challenges.
Has already committed to next yearÂ¹s U.S. U-17 National Team.
Again, Jack Jack Jack. There will never be another JMFJ, but Merrill sounds as Jack-like as possible without the scouting report directly stating "Jackson Pollack embodied in a hockey player... is he insane or brilliant? From the chaos comes beauty, and in the edges of understanding is a serenity unknown to outsiders. Liable to kill Ryan Smyth someday."
Meanwhile, forward recruit Jared Knight also went in the third, and he went to one of the two teams you, as a fan of an NCAA hockey program, do not want to see your player drafted by: London. (Kitchener is the other.) Still, Knight was not regarded a flight risk before the draft and the Hockey's Future chatter* on his selection is universally pessimistic about his chances to report. CHL fans think everyone is going to report, so that's a good sign. Knight was apparently the #19 rated player by ISS, with Merrill coming in #6 -- obviously they're not as enamored as Red Line.
One target, Brandon Saad, is a goner:
"To go (in the) first round was an honor," Saad said. "I've had a couple of meetings with them already and I'm pretty excited about going there. I've been away a couple of times at camps, but never for very long.
"About this decision, we haven't decided whether I'm going this year or next year. My parents might hold me back to get my life in order. We've been talking to them (the Spirit) about that. I'm going to take a couple of visits up there, see how the mini-camp goes and make our decision based on that."
But, he added, he expects to eventually end up in the Saginaw playing in the OHL and not going the U.S. college-route his 17-year-old brother George Jr. will eventually take when he's finished with high school.
Tyler Toffoli also went in the first round. He is committed to his Junior A team for next year, but it's rare that a first round pick eschews the OHL. Miller regarded him a longshot to start, anyway.
Two other targets Miller called out as guys to watch fell significantly. Kevin Clare, a "very high end defenseman" according to Miller, slipped into the fourth round and went to Erie. Erie is widely regarded to be the Detroit Lions of the OHL. Michigan's top goalie target, Jack Campbell, fell to Windsor in the sixth round. Both are likely headed to college. Bob Miller's OHL draft thread has information on all these kids and more.
*(Sorry to lean so heavily on anonymous message board posters by LOL CHL Canadian teenagers, but media coverage of the OHL draft, especially as it relates to NCAA commitments, hardly exists.)