Even before Brady Hoke started answering questions like this…
Q: How will Denard Robinson fit in this offense?
A: This is Michigan!
Q: What do you think about the goings-on in Columbus?
A: Though we have great respect for the Akron State Golden Bobcats, this remains Michigan.
Q: What kind of off—
A: THIS IS MICHIGAN TREMENDOUS
A: TREMENDOUS VAN OUSTANDING RIVER
/teaches journalist about Mad Magicians
…he expressed a certain disdain for fancy things like zone running, which is neither fancy or new or soft and has been used by teams from the Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos to, you know, Michigan under Lloyd Carr. He swore up and down to everyone who attended the coaches' clinic that "A-gap power"—three yards and a cloud of dust, think Jehuu Caulcrick—would be Michigan's signature play. He has expressed a certain approach to offense that sends spread friendly folk like yrs truly and Braves & Birds into twitchy fits. His stated approach is neolithic.
So… like… WTF?
SAN DIEGO STATE 1st DOWN RUN/PASS BREAKDOWN, 2010
|09/04/10||Nicholls St.||Grass||W 47-0||10||12||1||23|
|09/11/10||@ New Mexico St.||Grass||W 41-21||8||13||3||24|
|09/18/10||@ 18 Missouri||Turf||L 24-27||5||10||2||17|
|09/25/10||Utah St.||Grass||W 41-7||9||9||0||18|
|10/09/10||@ Brigham Young||Grass||L 21-24||3||9||0||12|
|10/16/10||Air Force||Grass||W 27-25||8||8||0||16|
|10/23/10||@ New Mexico||Grass||W 30-20||8||12||2||22|
|10/30/10||@ Wyoming||Turf||W 48-38||2||15||3||20|
|11/06/10||Colorado St.||Grass||W 24-19||8||10||1||19|
|11/13/10||@ 2 TCU||Grass||L 35-40||1||6||0||7|
|12/23/10||+ Navy||Grass||W 35-14||14||12||1||27|
San Diego State passed on 63% of its first downs. In tight games* SDSU passed on 79% of first downs. This was not a catchup effect. Missouri led by more than one score for all of 41 seconds; against Utah SDSU ran out to a 27-10 lead before bleeding it away down the stretch. This has something to do with Ryan Lindley and some all-conference receivers but SDSU was very slightly run biased in 2010 (51%), managing a respectable 4.8 YPC. In 2010, especially when it counted, San Diego State passed to set up the run.
Where the hell is A-gap power? Why the hell did The Mountain West Connection write this about Hoke's candidacy for the job?
Hoke would bring in another non-traditonal Big 10 offense to Ann Arbor. It would be a spread offense, but instead of having an offense where there is a dual threat quarterback he plays three, four and five wide receiver sets.
Where's the manball?
*[Missouri, BYU, Air Force, TCU, and Utah. CSU excluded because the narrow scoreline was due to a touchdown with 2:43 left.]
Is the manball in previous teams?
Hoke's previous SDSU team threw even more but was not very good. They were especially un-good at running, so numbers from that season reflect necessity instead of philosophy. And Hoke only had two years in San Diego, so maybe he wasn't able to mold his team into the A-gap power six fullback monstrosity he yearns for.
How about the apex of his Ball State career?
BALL STATE 1st DOWN RUN/PASS BREAKDOWN, 2008
|09/13/08||@ Akron||Turf||W 41-24||14||13||3||30|
|09/20/08||@ Indiana||Turf||W 42-20||12||9||3||24|
|09/27/08||Kent St.||Turf||W 41-20||8||17||1||26|
|10/04/08||@ Toledo||Turf||W 31-0||11||13||0||24|
|10/11/08||@ Western Ky.||Turf||W 24-7||9||9||3||21|
|10/25/08||Eastern Mich.||Turf||W 38-16||8||11||2||21|
|11/05/08||Northern Ill.||Turf||W 45-14||7||14||4||25|
|11/11/08||@ Miami (Ohio)||Turf||W 31-16||9||12||0||21|
|11/19/08||@ Central Mich.||Turf||W 31-24||13||8||2||23|
|11/25/08||Western Mich.||Turf||W 45-22||8||11||0||19|
|12/05/08||+ Buffalo||Turf||L 24-42||10||19||1||30|
|01/06/09||+ Tulsa||Turf||L 13-45||3||6||0||9|
Hoke's first downs under Stan Parrish were also pass-biased. Again, Nate Davis had something to do with that but Ball State was significantly more run-biased than 2010 SDSU: 520 rushes to 405 passes, with those rushes picking up 5 yards a pop. A team that ran 56% of the time threw on 55% of first downs.
HOWEVA, that's not a huge difference from late-era Carr behavior. I know this surprises you. I clicked the link three times just to make sure it wasn't having fun, but in 2007 Michigan passed on 54% of first downs despite playing Ryan Mallett for significant chunks of the season. They also ran on 56% of all plays. That may be an artifact of Michigan not being able to run very well (4 YPC; insert infamous stretch against OSU here). In 2006, a monstrously run-biased outfit (62% at 4.3 YPC while the passing game was averaging 7.7) was 50-50 on first down.
Is the manball in the offensive structure?
Meanwhile, Chris Brown has the most interesting single factoid in Wolverines Kickoff 2011. It's about SDSU's bowl game, the one after which Ken Niumatalolo said "that's as good of an offense as we've seen." In that game, the Aztecs ran more zone-blocked plays than gap-blocked plays en route to a rout. Here's an inside zone:
A few plays later the Aztecs would bust out their first power of the night. Notably, it was a "constraint" play—one designed to keep the defense honest. They lined up in a pro set and handed it to the fullback for the second time all year. On third and two they manballed up. Result:
Starting running back Ronnie Hillman averaged 8.1 YPC without any distorting 80-yarders (long of 37) and finished the day with 228 yards. San Diego State's defense did not appear to have a stroke while watching this.
So how does that jive with this?
When asked recently about the influence of Oregon’s offense, Hoke subtly revealed his disdain for the tactical shift Michigan experienced under Rodriguez. He is convinced that modern spread option offenses can be counterproductive to the core values of smashmouth football and are, therefore, to be avoided.
“Right, wrong or indifferent, when you’re zone blocking all the time -- when you’re playing basketball on grass -- you practice against that all spring, you practice against it all fall and then you’re going to play a two-back team that wants to knock you off the football,” Hoke said. “I don’t think you’re prepared.
It… like… doesn't. Unless Hoke just wants to have some power around so his defense doesn't turn into a bunch of lily-livered ninnyhammers and doesn't actually care how much it gets deployed in actual games. This would be good for the next couple years when what Hoke wants and what Hoke has will be severely mismatched.
Is the manball curling up in the fetal position with a narrow lead?
Unfortunately for manball-is-just-talk theorists, that above-mentioned close-ish Colorado State game featured an event familiar to Michigan fans. After Colorado State scored with about three minutes left to draw within five, SDSU ran three times for two yards and gave the ball back to the Rams having run only 53 seconds off the clock. They ran on 2nd 7 and 3rd and 9. Very MANBALL.
The way the Aztecs lost the Missouri game is also terribly familiar. They picked off Blaine Gabbert with 1:47 left, ran 25 seconds off the clock, and punted on 4th and 8 from the Missouri 35. It took the Tigers two plays to score the winning touchdown. To be fair, freshman Ronnie Hillman caused coaching blood vessels to explode when he ran out of bounds on the first play of the drive and the Aztecs did throw on third down. To be ruthless, that throw was a screen or something equivalently conservative (it lost a yard) and once it was completed the situation was 4th and 8 for the win or a 20-yard punt. Hoke chose the punt. He chose poorly.
Against Air Force the Aztecs faced a 4th and goal from the two with about nine minutes left. They led by eight. Hoke called for the field goal team. That's not indefensible*; it is conservative. Hoke watched his kicker Broekgibbons it anyway.
On the other hand, in the Utah game San Diego State kept firing after leaping out to a big lead (obviously). There's no evidence they ever put the scoring offense away except in a couple of end-game scenarios.
*[It's probably the right call. Going from 8 to 11 forces the opponent to score two TDs to win instead of one and a two-point conversion. Getting the touchdown gives you a tie in the unlikely event an option team with 12 points so far gets two touchdowns and a conversion in the final nine minutes. A failure does leave the opponent on its own two.
As it happened, Air Force did score two touchdowns in the final nine minutes. Unfortunately for the Falcons, sandwiched between them was a one-play SDSU touchdown drive and they lost anyway.]
The things that are said contradict each other
Hoke says he wants the team to act in a certain way—toughness toughness toughness—while simultaneously saying he will not futz with Al Borges. Al Borges has shown a predilection for lots of vertical passing and apparently does not care one way or the other about gap vs zone blocking. Hoke says he dislikes zone running and uses it plenty. He's recruiting large men to squash men who are not quite as large but has maybe 1.5 tight ends and Denard Robinson right now.
What Hoke wants is clear, and what he has is not what he wants. The record implies that he'll be relatively flexible. Michigan will still see a drop in yardage/fancy metric performance because they're spending time revamping instead of refining, but if under center isn't working they'll ditch it. Hell, against Navy SDSU's first drive formations looked like this:
- Shotgun 3-wide
- Shotgun 3-wide
- Shotgun 3-wide
- Shotgun 3-wide
- Shotgun 3-wide
- Shotgun 3-wide
They even ran a zone read. It went for a yard, but by God they ran it. When push comes to shove I think Michigan will go with what works, whatever that is.
Notes from Al Borges's meeting with the media. I'm a master at taking pictures of him in which he looks startled.
Happy with QBs. Things are registering much faster mentally than they were at the end of spring: you can tell they worked over the summer. "I'm kinda fired up about it. We're not arrived, it only three days and we've got a long way to go. But I'm happy with the dedicated effort they've shown."
Denard's footwork is much better. They're trying to continue getting him to step up in the pocket. "It not only allows him to see a little better, but he can threaten run better once he gets underneath the rush." Denard is on schedule to be where they want him. "Because he's so athletic and he can create... now he has to understand about creating, yet don't try to do something that simply isn't there."
QB - "it's always competitive. We don't hand it to anybody. But this kid has proven he can play." The coaches have to tap that, and Gardner is proving himself as well. QBs know more now than when they left in the spring. They clearly worked in the summer.
Denard will still be running the football, with a lot of the same plays they ran last year. The power offensive style will reduce his carries, and they want to keep him healthy. The offense last year just wasn't the same when he came out of the game.
"I'm not committing to anything" in terms of number of carries for Denard. "Less" is a clear goal, but how much is still in question. Try not to get him beaten up, but want him to make plays. Not sure where the fine line is between those two. Sometimes you need to remind Denard to get out of bounds when he's running. He won't do a lot of sliding, but there are times to avoid taking punishment. "With the ball under his arms, anything can happen," so you don't want him sliding down in front of a guy he can juke past. "You coach Denard different than you coach Ryan Lindley."
Doesn't like a rotation of RBs, but "if two guys are on an equal plane, then we may do it. I'll never say never. But it's never been my preference." They'll narrow RB race down a little bit before they worry about choosing a number 1. It's tough to tell when 5 or 6 guys are dividing reps. "They know. We've made it clear" that they're competing to be 'the guy.' It's time for them to seize the moment.
Can't tell anything about who's stepping up because nobody's been tackled yet. Need to see the freshmen, too. "The kids, from understanding our protection schemes, are much better. That part of it is improved." Won't know a go-to guy until tackling comes around. You'd like to know as soon as possible who the guy is, but they're willing to wait so they make the right choice. It could take a couple scrimmages to find out what they're capable of.
"The ability to win in the open field, break tackles, make people miss, understand our protection scheme, receiving skills are a part of it too. It's not at the top of the list, but it's part of it, a guy we feel like we gan go to that can give us some of the same things Denard gave them last year and that he's going to give us this year."
3rd down backs - "everybody's got a role. Sometimes the 3rd down back is the same guy that can play on first down. Sometimes he's not." Everybody brings something to the table, and they'll use those skills.
Freshman RBs - A bit of a disadvantage because they weren't here in the spring. Young guys can play, and not have to do every part of the position. "There may a few things he can do until he completely understands what we're doing."
Some RBs run better behind a fullback. Great backs like Barry Sanders can do it both ways, but some guys have a preference. "It's a vision position. As long as you give them an opportunity to see the cuts, they can usually make the cuts."
FB - "We got a couple young guys, and then we've got Stephen Hopkins who's kind of a hybrid. He can play in there, too. John [McColgan] is as consistent a player as we have on our offense." He's not going to make amazing plays, but he's going to be consistent, give the best effort, and be tough.
Jerald Robinson - he knows what he's doing better than in spring. Has a chance to make a contribution.
WRs: "They're the same guys that played here a year ago. Junior Hemingway can go get it, Roy can go get it, Tae Odoms can go get it. Grady, we've got some speed guys." It doesn't look like the cast is affecting Odoms's play.
Michigan was more vertical in their passing structure last year, because it fit that offense. This year they'll do more short cuts. Passing routes fit what each offense was trying to accomplish. If QBs can deliver the ball accurately, the receivers will get some YAC as well.
Tight ends other than Koger: Brandon Moore has done a nice job. Still climbing, improving every day. Steve Watson is a solid payer. "Because Kog got hurt in the spring, those other guys got a lot of reps." It's too early to say if Chris Barnett is in the mix.
Lewan - "moving around good." Haven't hit, so it's hard to evaluate too much. Need to see how he understands all of what they're doing offensively, because they're firing off the ball differently. "Until we get the opportunity to play some close-quarter football, we're really not gonna know where those guys are yet. But I like what I see so far."
Having Molk and Lewan back from missing some spring helps OL cohesion. Koger considered part of that unit, too. Improved from spring.
"The only thing I've really got a bead on so far is how much more they know." The players have worked to understand the offense. They still don't know enough, but every team in America is at that point three practices in.
Going full pads on Friday: "Physicality, toughness, 'who is that back?,' have we got closer... how much have we improved since the last time we got in full pads?" See who can perform with contact.
This is a personnel-oriented look at the season's opponents. The game-week previews will be more matchup based. Last year's stats are presented with projected starters in bold and departed players in italics.
|San Diego State Offense 2010|
|Yards Per Game||456.69||16|
|Points Per Game||35.00||19|
|Yards Per Play||6.86||9|
|Yards Per Pass||9.01||8|
|Yards Per Rush||4.78||29|
|Playcall Distribution||1.03 Rush:Pass|
So, uh, this is actually gonna get a little awkward, and I think you know why: San Diego State's offensive coordinator from 2010 will be coaching the offense on the Michigan's sideline (OK, in the press box) when these team meet up in Ann Arbor.
Al Borges's scheme last year has a reputation for pass-heaviness. With a new offensive guru, we may see something just a bit different this year. The big surprise? The Aztecs actually ran more than they passed last year (even adjusted for sacks - of which they gave up very few - they passed only 1.01 times for each rush). They were a more balanced offense than many realize.
With the change in coordinators, we were likely going to see an adjustment in offensive scheme anyway, but as we shall see, some personnel changes may add to that.
Ryan Lindley was second-team All-MWC last year. He'll try to repeat that feat as a senior (little chance of unseating new conference-mate Kellen Lewis, no?). Last year's backup, Jake Bernards, returns for his redshirt sophomore season, so the personnel here is not changed at all.
|San Diego State QBs 2010|
|San Diego State QBs Rushing 2010|
Grade: 3/5. Although Lindley was very efficient last year, his completion percentage and interception percentage were not all that impressive. That leads me to believe he's decent-at-best making decisions, but his wideouts helped him a lot last year. We shall see how he performs without a pair of NFL wideouts to rack up the yardage, and under a different offensive coordinator. With no experience in the stable behind him, this unit is strong up top, but drops off quickly. [Ed: Respectfully disgree. 9.10 YPA is a lot of YPA. I heard you like YPA, number people.]
Ronnie Hillman (right) was a lightly-recruited true freshman last year... who just so happened to finish in the nation's top ten in rushing yardage. He'll try to repeat that feat this season, but don't be surprised if carries are a bit more spread out. It's tough for a guy to take a beating like that two years in a row. Walter Kazee should see an increase in his carries, and the Aztecs will look for viable 3rd and 4th options to take some pressure off.
|San Diego State RBs 2010|
|Brandon Sullivan (FB)||40||124||3.10||7|
|San Diego State RBs Receiving 2009|
|Brandon Sullivan (FB)||26||383||14.73||3|
Grade: 4/5. Though Hillman was a one-man show last year, it's tough to argue with his production. Despite frquent usage, he averaged nearly six yards per carry. As long as he doesn't get worn out he should be similarly productive this year, and Michigan gets him early. A new fullback and more depth are the only things holding this unit back from being rated even higher.
Here is where the Aztecs are likely to see a major step back this season. The last time SDSU lost any two players to the NFL was back in 2008 when four Aztecs went in the draft, and though they lost two receivers that season as well, both were late 7th-round picks. That's a vastly different situation than losing a third-rounder like Vincent Brown. So after losing 56% of their total receptions, SDSU is going to have to rely on some young blood to step up.
Unfortunately, redshirt frosh Jay Waddell and junior Dominique Sandifer were expected to be starters, but both are out for the season with injury. That means a mere 6 receptions(!) return from last season's wideouts. To compensate, the Aztecs might go with a two-TE base set to capitalize on their experience (Alston Umuolo was a returning starter who missed almost the entire season with injury). Redshirt freshman Ezell Ruffin and... uh... Dylan Denso? will likely start out wide.
|San Diego State Receivers 2010|
|Gavin Escobar (TE)||29||323||11.14||4|
|Bryce Quigley (TE)||5||66||13.20||1|
|Alston Umuolo (TE)||3||19||6.33||0|
|Josh O'Brien (TE)||1||10||10.00||0|
|San Diego State WRs Rushing 2009|
Grade: 1/5. Graduation and injuries have ravaged the wideouts, leading to a whole lot of question marks. However, I'll give Alston Umuolo the benefit of the doubt, as he was expected to be a big contributor last year. He and Escobar form a formidable TE pairing. Phil Steele has Escobar on his 2nd-team All-Conference projections, FWIW. There is zero expectation for the wideouts.
San Diego State returns four offensive linemen who started every single game last year, with C Trask Iosefe the only loss. Redshirt senior Mike Matamua [Ed-M: What names!] or redshirt junior Jimmy Miller will step in to fill his shoes (possibly at guard, moving a returning starter to the more-complicated position of center), but the other players return intact. Alec Johnson was last year's left guard, and if he doesn't move to center, will repeat that role. The other non-senior returning starter is junior right guard Nik Embernate. The tackles are both fifth-year players, with Tommie Draheim in his third year at left tackle and Kurtis Gunther in his second season on the right.
Grade: 5/5. Last year's offensive line was an impressive one, with SDSU doing an excellent job moving on the ground (even against TCU, the nation's best defense, RBs got 3.6 yards per carry), and giving up one of the lowest sack totals in the conference. Though center may be the most important position on the OL other than blindside tackle, there's so much experience in this unit that I have a hard time predicting anything other than an exceptional performance.
|San Diego State Defense 2010|
|Yards Per Game||353.77||43|
|Points Per Game||22.08||36|
|Yards Per Play||4.85||22|
|Pass Yards Per Game||205.00||38|
|Yards Per Pass||6.24||t-23|
|Sacks Per Game||2.15||47|
|Rush Yards Per Game||148.77||57|
|Yards Per Rush||3.71||t-36|
Unlike the offense, San Diego State's defense isn't expected to change schemes. Former defensive coordinator Rocky Long is now the head coach. One of the pioneers of the 3-3-5 defense, expect more of the same out of Long.
The Aztecs were near the middle of the pack or better in just about every defensive category (funny how successful the 3-3-5 seems at every school other than Michigan) Though they played some good offensive teams (Missouri, TCU, Utah), that number also includes some moribund units in 1-AA Nichols State, Wyoming, and the awful New Mexico schools.
There's no obvious weakness in last year's numbers, though the pass defense was slightly better than the rush D. With a ton of roster turnover, expect to see a weaker squad this time around.
San Diego State loses two of their three starters from last year's squad, but thanks to a healthy rotation, they have plenty of players available with some experience. Senior Jerome Long is the lone returning starter in the middle, with Neil Spencer and JJ Autele expected to step in at defensive end for the departed Ernie Lawson (by far the most explosive player on the front last year) and Jacob Tauanuu. Autele is undersized for a 3-man front, but Spencer and Long are both over 280 pounds.
Depth is lacking. Backup DT Perry Jackson was booted from the team this spring, and only a couple of players have seen experience in the lineup.
|SDSU Defensive Line 2010|
Grade: 2/5. The defensive line was hardly dominant last year (sacking the QB was the weakest part of the SDSU defense last year), and losing the most productive player isn't going to help. As long as Autele's weight isn't exploited by opponents, the starting unit should be OK. The lack of depth is where the Aztecs are in big trouble unless some young guys make a big leap this offseason. SDSU could be susceptible to wearing down.
This unit has a lot more returning than did the defensive line, with only starter Marcus Yarbough out the door. Every other contributor from last season returns to the field.
Yarbough's spot in the middle will be filled by his backup Rob Andrews, who had nearly as many tackles (some on special teams) but didn't have the ability to get into the backfield. Of course, when you're playing alongside 5th-year SLB Miles Burris (at right), it's not so necessary to carry a lot of weight as far as getting into the backfield. Logan Ketchum will reprise his starting role on the weakside this fall. With nobody departing among the backups, there are plenty of guys who have seen the field. Demetrius Barskdale and Nick TenHaeff, specifically, should be ready to step in at a moment's notice.
|San Diego State Linebackers 2010|
Grade: 4/5. This is a very strong unit, with an obvious headliner and a number of interchangeable parts playing alongside Miles Burris. As long as Andrews can fill in adequately for Yarbough, this unit should improve with another year of experience. Of course, if the defensive line can't help them out up front, it may not show on the box score.
Like linebacker, San Diego State returns almost all of its depth, but the Aztecs do lose starting pieces in rover ("Aztec") Andrew Preston and corner Darryn Lewis. Juniors Leon McFadden and Josh Wade will likely be your starting corners (Phil Steele likes redshirt frosh JJ Whitaker for the starting position opposite McFadden). The safety contingent consists of returning starter Brandon Davis, a redshirt senior, along with two new starters in Nat Berhe and Khalid Stevens. Outside of the starters, FS Marcus Andrews (who could also play a couple other positions), is the only one with any significant game experience.
|San Diego State Defensive Backs 2010|
|Leon McFadden (CB)||55||7||1||2|
|Nat Berhe (SS)||39||1||0||1|
|Khalid Stevens (Rov)||37||3.5||0||0|
|Brandon Davis (FS)||36||2||0||0|
|Josh Wade (CB)||26||1.5||0||1|
|Dey Juan Hemmings||1||0||0||0|
Grade: 3/5. This looks like a strong unit with a lot of depth, but I'm hesitant to grade it any higher, as two of the top three tacklers (also the top two interceptors) from last year's team are out the door. The rover position and second corner seem a little weak, so unless Stevens can step up and impress, there are a couple exploitable areas in the D.
Brian Stahovich, who will be a 4th-year starter as a senior this fall, will continue to man the punting duties, and Abel Perez returns as the placekicking specialist.
|San Diego State Kicking 2010|
|San Diego State Punting 2010|
Grade: 5/5. This is an excellent special teams unit. Both were All-Mountain West last year (Stahovich 1st-Team, Perez 2nd-Team), are are expected to repeat the feat this year. Stahovich was one of the most accomplished punters in the nation, a 4-year starter who was 8th nationally in yards per punt last year [Ed-M: But can he rule galaxies?]
Tim provides the day-to-day but we haven't had a 1000 foot view of Michigan's recruiting in a while. Here's that.
Ondre Pipkins, Kyle Kalis, James Ross
With the addition of Ondre Pipkins Michigan is down to about four open scholarships and one vast gaping hole that really needs filling, wide receiver. In the opinion of the internet, nose tackle has a fairly large hole that still needs a good bit of filling, too.
Let's dig up UFR alter ego for a quizzing:
How many players will end up in the class and how will they get to that number?
Michigan's current roster features 18 players with junior eligibility, including Stonum, 20 with sophomore eligibility, and 26 with freshman eligibility. That's 64 players, leaving Michigan with 21 spots for next year.
Michigan will have the option of bringing back the following players for fifth years, or more to the point, not bringing them back: Mike Cox, Roy Roundtree, Terrance Robinson, Brandon Moore, Patrick Omameh, Ricky Barnum, Elliot Mealer, Rocko Khoury, Kenny Demens, JT Floyd, and Jordan Kovacs.
Most of those guys are contributors. Cox, Robinson, Floyd, Mealer, and Moore could be offered a firm handshake if needed. A couple of those guys will emerge into guys Michigan needs to keep around. Moore will be the only upperclass TE on the roster other than Ricardo Miller, who's going to need a lot of bulk if he's going to contribute. Michigan needs upperclass OL, the RB situation is unsettled, and any warm body in the secondary is something to latch onto with claws. It seems like they'll get two, maybe three of the necessary spots by not offering fifth years.
The other two will resolve themselves in the next six months. Losing two or three guys between now and Signing Day would be somewhat low amount of attrition for anyone, let alone a team radically changing its offense and defense.
What do they do with the last four spots?
IA WR Amara Darboh – via Public Paul & Media
They clearly need at least one WR after taking none last year and seeing the previous year's class whittled down to just Jerald Robinson and Drew Dileo. One of the other three spots appears ticketed for a sixth OL.
The last two are wild cards. It seems like they've thrown in the towel on acquiring another quarterback and the only running back they're seriously involved with is Bri'onte Dunn, an Ohio State commit. They've stepped up the chase for cornerbacks Armani Reeves and Yuri Wright recently. Even if that has something to do with Terry Richardson's wandering eye, both Wright and Reeves have said Michigan had a change of heart and wants another corner in the class.
And then there's NT, which currently has Ondre Pipkins but is still desperately thin. In-state prospect Danny O'Brien is a consensus four star who has all manner of folk working on him; if there's a spot still he's at least 50-50 to take it.
So your final four or five spots:
- WR. As of two days ago this was a murky area with some vague options, but now Michigan appears to lead for IA WR Amara Darboh and CA WR Jordan Payton, both four stars. So let's make this one of them.
- WR. Probably the other. If not, a generic three star we haven't heard about yet.
- OL. With Jordan Diamond getting a little fuzzy about things this could be any one of a half-dozen guys, all of whom are highly rated. Likely to be another tackle but Josh Garnett, one of the top ranked guards in the country, is moving up his visit.
- DT/CB. Everyone wants the DT, I think, but Michigan is apparently recruiting corners again. Michigan's in the top two for Wright and top three for Reeves, though Reeves is set to announce and it looks like Penn State. Complicating factor: Wright wants to announce at the AA game.
- DT/CB/RB. If they get a fifth or sixth spot chances are they'll focus on skill position players, a second NT (if they did not already acquire one), or another corner.
What class rank will Michigan end up with?
This will vary by site, as it appears Scout and 247 are higher on the class than Rivals and ESPN. Michigan's currently #1 in Scout's rankings, fourth in Rivals's and fifth in ESPN's. (ESPN's does not reflect the addition of Pipkins. ESPN thinks Pipkins is meh, though, so if they got a bump it wouldn't be a huge one.)
We can actually calculate Michigan's final score if they close out the class with Darboh, Payton, Diamond, and O'Brien, which is realistic. Scout assigns points like so:
Team Rankings are a math formula that based on a player's rating and his rankings. 5-Star is a rating, No. 1 quarterback is his ranking.
5 Star = 200 points
4 Star = 120 points
3 Star = 40 points
2 Star = 20 points
The No. 1 player at a position is worth 100 points, counting down to the last ranked player at his position to 0.
For Example, assuming Scout ranks 100 quarterbacks.
5-Star, No. 1 QB = 300 points
4-Star, No. 10 QB = 210 points
3-Star, No. 50 QB = 90 points
2-Star, No. 75 QB = 45 points
The Team Rankings are compiled of the Top 25 players per class. Some teams will over-sign, but only 25 count towards the Team Rankings.
Diamond is a five-star and the #10 OT. The rest are four-stars. O'Brien is the #13 DT, Darboh the #23 WR, and Payton the #12 WR. Collectively they're worth 902 points. Some guy with three stars worth around 90 points will get the boot because of the 25-per-class limit. This would give Michigan about 5800 points. Last year this would have been good enough to tie for second with Florida State. (Previous comparisons are probably not valid since scores seem much lower overall.)
Other services will probably be a bit less generous but if they finish strong it's easily a top five class, which will spur yet another round of Brady Hoke grape peeling in the media, which will help recruiting down the line unless those pesky game things get in the way.
INSPIRATIONAL COUNTDOWN IMAGE: 25.
I liked the koala, wallaby, and I chilled with a kangaroo a bit. There was a wombat that I quite enjoyed also.
The floor is not on fire and we need water desperately. Crisler's new floor:
I like it, and not just because there's a charge circle.
Soon to be us. Penn State fans on their version of Special K:
Penn State has been saying for years now that the piped-in commercial music has not compromised in any way the Blue Band's ability or chances to play music in the stands. I'm calling bullshit on that. Since Penn State football became The Greatest Show of Great Shows of Not-Just-JoePa in College Football or something they keep renaming to something worse, piped-in public address music has become more prominent within the gameday experience at Beaver Stadium. They are no longer just snippets of music, or pre-game warmups music when the band isn't even done with Tailgreat. Nope, Penn State now plays full songs over the PA. You know, those raucous, adrenaline-pumping classics like... Sweet Caroline?
And the poll:
Penn State fans are not down with the sickness. Ah ah ah ah ah.
Dirty. Boo Nieves did this in an international tournament against Russia: :
Dang. Nieves is consistently criticized for being a "perimeter player," FWIW, which probably means he tries stuff like this all the time instead of bulling his way to the net.
Practice highlight type substances. From Rivals and strictly FWIW since there's no pads:
Rerank. ESPN's latest 2012 re-rank sees Glenn Robinson III at #53 (up from #60) and Nick Stauskas at #85 (from #99). Their profiles don't show any updates, though—wonder if they still think Stauskas is a low-athleticism guy who can't create his own shot or whether this AAU season has changed that. The highlight videos suggest he can get to the hoop.
Mitch McGary is #3, BTW. Come on, Mitch McGary. Daddy needs a new pair of shoes.
Also rerank. Scout redid its Midwest state rankings. Your instate top 10:
|Rank||Name||Pos||City (State) High School||Ht/Wt||Verbal|
|1||James Ross||MLB||Orchard Lake (Mich.) St. Marys||06/01/20||Michigan|
|2||Aaron Burbridge||WR||Farmington Hills (Mich.) Harrison||06/01/80||Michigan State|
|3||Danny O'Brien||DT||Flint (Mich.) Powers||06/03/90|
|4||Royce Jenkins-Stone||MLB||Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech||06/02/15||Michigan|
|5||Terry Richardson||CB||Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech||05/09/65||Michigan|
|6||Ron Thompson||TE||Southfield (Mich.)||06/04/20|
|7||Devin Funchess||TE||Farmington Hills (Mich.) Harrison||06/05/10||Michigan|
|8||Dennis Norfleet||RB||Detroit (Mich.) King||05/07/75||Cincinnati|
|9||Mario Ojemudia||DE||Farmington Hills (Mich.) Harrison||06/03/15||Michigan|
|10||Ben Braden||OT||Rockford (Mich.)||06/07/19||Michigan|
If O'Brien commits that's seven of the top ten with two of the others guys who wanted to commit but got slow-played because of grades (Burbridge) or undisclosed "things to clear up" (Thompson). They really should have taken Burbridge just to make Dantonio's head explode.
Braden's moved up and threatens to get a fourth star if he performs this fall. Only one That Guy complaint: Matt Godin is #15, which seems low for a guy with his size and offers. He's behind a CMU commit, for one, and Thompson appears to be picking between Syracuse, Indiana, and a late offer from Illinois.
Etc.: Michigan soccer enters this season ranked ninth, which is a vote of confidence in the program after they lost Justin Meram and Soony Saad—AKA all the goals—in the offseason. Hopefully that holds up. Hoke's entire opening presser. Two toned pants: ack.
Ondre Pipkins Goes Blue
Michigan gained a big (literally and figuratively) commitment in MO DT Ondre Pipkins on Monday. The Wolverine Blog takes a look at Big Pee-Wee's game:
He needs to develop consistency in his technique, to the point where he maintains quality leverage and hand use after the initial contact... Should he get these little technical kinks sorted out, he looks very much like a future NFL prospect to me.
Go Blue Michigan Wolverine chimes in:
Combines outstanding size and power with surprising quickness. Ondre is super strong at the point of attack. He gets off the ball well and is almost impossible to single block. Unlike many big guys, he shows a good motor and overall athletic ability.
The first thing I see that I like about Pipkins is his stance. He puts a lot of weight on his front hand and sticks his butt slightly up in the air. With his weight distributed that way, he has no choice but to fire off low and fast. Beyond that first step, he continues to stay low, moves his feet well, and uses a variety of moves to rush the passer.
“When he wants to be Ondre has the potential to be a top 5 defensive tackle prospect in the 2012 class. Pipkins is very explosive, strong and has very quick feet for a kid that is 320ish pounds.
With three defensive line coaches on Michigan's staff, hopefully his technique can be coached up. For more on Pipkins, check out the Hello: Ondre Pipkins post.
Though Darryl Stonum is redshirting the 2011 season, I asked Brady Hoke if his presence will reduce the 2012 scholarships available from 26, and the coach said there is no change to the available number.
With 22 current commits and 26 spots in the class, that means there is room for four more commits. With 22 spots currently available, that means attrition of four more players going into next year will open up those spots. [Ed: With two or three redshirt juniors looking like marginal contributors at best, Michigan should easily make it without hijinks. They could get a 27th or 28th scholarship.]
NJ QB/S Devin Fuller has a final 11 without Michigan in the mix. I imagine that ends the possibility of landing a signal-caller in the 2012 class, especially with such a small number of available scholarships.
Ohio State soft commit Bri'Onte Dunn seems to be the main option at this position (unless the staff thinks they can try to get in with another super like NC RB Keith Marshall). As the situation unfolds, we'll see if Dunn is a realistic possibility, and if the coaches focus on other runners if he's off the table.
Does Darryl Stonum's return change WR recruiting plans? As mentioned above, it probably takes the two-wideout minimum to a two-wideout preference (though Michael Spath of The Wolverine seems to disagree ($, info in header)), as Darryl will be around for one more season in 2012.
CA WR Jordan Payton has Michigan and Cal as his top two (audio), with the Wolverines alone at the top ($, info in header). He says he's "going through the process," but don't be surprised to see a visit early in the fall. Payton's junior highlight reel:
IA WR Amara Darboh is setting up an official visit to Michigan ($, info in header). [Ed: The new scuttlebutt is that Michigan leads and that official may end his recruitment.]
I mentioned last week that MD WR Stefon Diggs is back on the table, including Michigan in his top 15.
OH WR Dwayne Stanford is high on LSU ($, info in header). His relationship with Michigan has been hot-and-cold.
Happy Trails, NJ WR Leontae Caroo, who chose Rutgers. This is probably more notable for its effect on his teammate, NJ CB Yuri Wright, who is back in play for Michigan (more on that in a moment).
CA OL Commit Erik Magnuson received a USC offer last week, but maintains a solid commitment to the Wolverines ($, info in header).
IL OL Jordan Diamond stopped by Michigan as his team toured Eastern Michigan, visiting former teammate Chris Bryant.
WA OL Joshua Garnett will visit Michigan for the Notre Dame game. Garnett's friend Zach Banner is one of the few other realistic prospects for Michigan remaining on the board, as well.
Sounds like CA OL Kyle Murphy is no longer considering Michigan, focusing on West Coast schools along with Notre Dame, Oklahoma, and Florida.
Michigan's off-again, off-again recruitment of IL DT Tommy Schutt took a bizarre turn last week when he was spurned by Notre Dame, and immediately tried to schedule a visit to Michigan - and was denied. Brian already covered the approximate timeline, and the way it shook out sure makes a whole lot more sense with Ondre Pipkins' commitment.
What Big Pee-Wee's commitment might draw into question is the Wolverines' recruitment of MI DT Danny O'Brien (right). Conventional wisdom has held that the coaches are taking only one DT, so does that mean O'Brien is off the board, or that the staff will make an exception for him?
Elsewhere on the defensive line, there may be a spot available for an elite prospect, particularly one who, for example, is teammates with an elite wideout.
With MI CB Commit Terry Richardson going back-and-forth on taking visits, Michigan's sudden re-focus on defensive backs could be a search for replacements (should he decide to go elsewhere) or simply more players along the back line. So who are some of those players?
I would say Michigan is in my top two, I've always liked Michigan. I haven't really cut my list down yet, but they're in the top somewhere. Just the tradition that's at Michigan, the winningest program, the coaches, and the whole experience of going to school there. Coach Mallory has been telling me it's just about getting a chance to come to Michigan and getting better when I get there, and hopefully make it to the league.
Wright grew up wanting to go to Michigan, so a good visit could start winding down the recruiting process.
MA CB Armani Reeves is also back on the board, but he's announcing this Friday at 10AM, and as Brian says, with no in-person contact since he and Michigan have been back on each others' boards, it's unlikely he picks the Wolverines.
With the 2012 class damn-near wrapped up, we're starting to get a slightly better idea of what the 2013 class will look like. Your departing seniors following the 2012 season:
- Denard Robinson
- Michael Cox
- Vincent Smith
- Darryl Stonum
- Je'Ron Stokes
- Roy Roundtree
- Terrance Robinson
- Brandon Moore
- Patrick Omameh
- Ricky Barnum
- Elliott Mealer
- Rocko Khoury
- William Campbell
- Craig Roh
- Kenny Demens
- JT Floyd
- Brandin Hawthorne
- Jordan Kovacs
That's 18 spots, but there's also a chance that some of those guys who have redshirted in the past might not get offered fifth years for the 2012 season, either on account of ineffectiveness or lingering injuries. Those slots would likely be filled in 2012 recruiting. With a couple possibilities for early entry and/or transfer, 18 is a good starting point, with a likelihood of swelling to about 20 spots. How might those spots be filled?:
- QB: 1-2 (Shane Morris)
- RB: 1-2 (Depends on filling 2012 class)
- WR: 1-2 (Depends on filling 2012 class)
- TE: 0-1
- OT: 2
- OG: 1
- DT: 2
- DE: 1
- LB: 2
- S: 2
- CB: 1-2
- Other: 1-2
With that brief primer out of the way, on to the information:
Michigan made a good first impression with IL RB Ty Isaac ($, info in header).
IL WR LaQuon Treadwell (teammate of 2012 CB Commit Anthony Standifer) tells Tom that Michigan is on top, but he's a long way off from a decision.
Tom has a video interview with AZ WR/TE Jake Roh, the younger brother of current Wolverine DE Craig. Jake says he hasn't heard much from Michigan yet.
IL OL Kyle Bosch visited Michigan over the weekend, and came away impressed:
We met with Coach Funk, talked to him for about half an hour. After that they took us around the campus, showed us the facilities, the locker room, and the stadium. I feel really good about Michigan, I really liked it. I didn't know much about them going into it, but I was really impressed.
He plans to narrow his list of schools after his junior season, so it sounds like he has a slightly accelerated decision timeframe.
OH S Dymonte Thomas will be one of Michigan's top targets in the 2013 crop, and the cousin of 2012 RB Bri'Onte Dunn enjoyed himself at the BBQ at the Big House, but will take his time:
I just want to wait for my colleges to offer and take some visits to all the schools though. I'll probably be up for the Notre Dame game and the Michigan-Ohio State game too. I really like Michigan, I think they're at the top. Michigan State isn't very far behind, I like their coaching staff too.
He's said in the past he plans to commit this February to whichever school Dunn signs with.