a terrible blight on our fine country
Let's take a position-by-position look at recruits in positions that Michigan still has needs. Yes, they're mostly on defense. For reference, Michigan has 21 current commits, and there's still been no resolution as to whether they can accept more than 25 commitments.
FL OL Torrian Wilson made a surprise commit to Stanford in the summer, but now he will visit Michigan this weekend. I had long assumed his commitment to Stanford was soft, but with no recruiting news until now, I had started to change my mind. It appears as though my faith has been reaffirmed.
In case it wasn't apparent from such events as "5-7," MN OL Seantrel Henderson is no longer considering Michigan.
Thought to be out of consideration for Michigan, MI DT Johnathan Hankins (I've seen his first name spelled about a hundred different ways, with no indication as to which might be right), has finally received his Michigan offer. Despite growing up a Michigan fan, Florida is still his strong leader.
Obviously, Michigan was similarly impressed, but their prolonged evaluation process has them currently trailing in the race for the three-star prospect's services.
"Florida is ahead right now," Hankins told Scout.com. "It was a great place. The players were great and the fans were amazing. The game (against Florida State) was great too. I feel comfortable there. They said I have a chance to play because they are losing defensive tackles. I'd have a chance to start. It's all up to me. After (visiting) Florida, I didn't want to take any more visits, but I rethought that and my coaches wanted me to take all my visits."
He visits Michigan this weekend, and Michigan will have the opportunity to outdo Florida then; there's also a chance that Florida might fill up (or "fill up") before Hankins has an opportunity to commit. He plans to decide before Christmas.
The increase in Hankins interest might be due to a couple other guys falling off, as last week a small Arkansas paper reported TX DT Big Tex Beachum might be solid to Arkansas. He still has not publicly reaffirmed his Arkansas commitment, so on the board he stays. Even The Recruiting Guy's follow-up doesn't have a quote affirming his commitment. FWIW, Sam Webb posted an article on Beachum that involved the words "clears the air($)," a universal signal that the article in question directly contradicts previously-reported information. He's still in play.
Michigan has offered post-grad VA DE David Mackall ($, info in header), who originally committed to Maryland in the class of 2009.
The Wolverines are also the leader for FL DE Clarence Murphy. As Brian noted last week, Sam Webb has talked about a "gut feeling" on WTKA, which generally means a silent commitment.
The biggest possibility for Michigan in the linebacking corps is MD LB/S Josh Furman, who will announce between Michigan and Virginia Tech at the Crab Bowl on December 19.
Both schools have strong academics, both have early playing time as a possibility, and Furman has established strong relationships with both staffs. With so many similarities between the pro
grams, settling on one sounds like a daunting task, but Furman has already done it.
"The location factored into it, along with the environment and the official visit," he explained.
As implied by that quote, a decision has been made and the coaches informed for each school. The location factoring could be interpreted as a bad sign for Michigan, but he did have tons of positive things to say about Michigan following his official visit. If the coaches have been informed, Webb's "gut feeling" is unimpeachable. Furman is putting up gaudy rushing numbers in his senior season, and is a huge prospect for the Wolverines.
CA S Sean Parker still wants to take a Michigan visit. The Wolverines are in a final seven-ish also consisting of PSU, Notre Dame, UCLA, Tennessee, Washington, and USC.
Michigan leads for FL CB Tony Grimes and his teammate, DE Clarence Murphy.
Hollywood Hills defensive back Tony Grimes said he is leaning heavily toward the University of Michigan. When a decision to commit is made, Grimes said he and Hills defensive lineman Clarence Murphy will attend the same school.
"Michigan sticks out for both of us," Grimes said. "There we feel we can come in and play as true freshmen."
As noted above, the two are essentially Michigan locks, assuming the Wolverines stay on them until they announce a decision on Signing Day.
Don't expect FL CB Spencer Boyd to end up at Michigan: he's sticking with Notre Dame. [Editor's note: not so fast! Rivals threw up an image of Boyd in an article header indicating he will take an official this weekend.]
Also: Rivals AMP says Michigan is "re-emerging($)" for OH S Latwan Anderson, but kid goes to Glenville and ain't coming here.]
MI QB Devin Gardner is ready to move on to his college career, after high school ended on a down note with a 27-6 loss to Lowell in the state championship game.
"I can't mourn this,” Gardner said after the loss last Friday. “I start getting ready for my future on Monday - lifting, throwing, watching films and getting better as a quarterback so this will never happen again."
Gardner was in attendance at last night's basketball debacle, and is firm in his commitment to Michigan. He no longer plans to enroll early.
MI RB Austin White is not wavering, despite a lame internet rumor to the contrary last week.
Further commit updates, including All-State team news, will be in next week's Friday Night Lights post.
22 + 3 + er… more = er…
At this point we are operating under the assumption that Michigan can enroll no more than 25 freshmen this fall no matter how many scholarships it has open. This is unfortunate since any attrition is likely to see scholarships go unused again. It also means that Michigan has 22 commitments, three guys who are virtual commitments, zero spots left in the class, and about a dozen other guys they're still recruiting.
The conclusion is inescapable: expect attrition from the current commits. Whether it's a decommit or a gentle suggestion that maybe Player X would be better off in a situation with more opportunities for playing time, the way Michigan is recruiting suggests they're going to end up with a couple more commitments past the three expected ones. This will necessitate some current commits not signing or for Michigan to sign up to 28 with the intention of getting down to 25 by August.
Speculating about who is likely to depart in the former case is rude, but there are a couple of players who are reportedly not qualified yet and if they don't get there soon—ie, after this semester's grades are in—Michigan could be within its rights to say "sorry, but we can't take the chance you might not make it in." Your personal distaste for this sort of thing will vary. Mine is a six out of ten.
Possibilities in the latter case are grayshirting someone or expecting slight academic attrition from the incoming class. Some folks have proposed that MI WR Jeremy Jackson come in as a walk-on with a corresponding bump in Fred Jackson's pay, which is interesting, very definitely against the spirit of the rules, and possibly against the letter of them if Jackson received an official offer letter.
In any case, the next two months figure to be somewhat bumpy.
Dave Birkett of AnnArbor.com interviews a couple of recruiting experts about Michigan's class thus far. Tom Lemming seems to be a bit higher on it than Allen Wallace of Scout. Both agree that it's a solid class, but won't contend with the nation's best. Lemming is very high on Cullen Christian, and both of them really like Gardner, because he's awesome.
Huh. Tom Dienhart's taken his "get anonymous coaches to say bitchy stuff" act on to Rivals, this time breaking down the pending SEC championship game. You probably don't care much about the particulars, but I found this section pretty interesting given that much-loved former Michigan QB coach Scot Loeffler was just put in charge of the Tebow Child:
QUARTERBACK: Our staff thought Tim Tebow has gotten worse as a quarterback from last year to this year. Everyone talks about his mechanics and dropping the football; he drops it lower this year and has worse mechanics. I don't know what it is. He's still making throws and doing some things, but he just doesn't seem comfortable back there. I don't know if it's because of the concussion or what. But teams are making him sit in the pocket longer and throw the football, and sometimes he gets a little skittish back there.
Probably doesn't mean much given Loeffler's extended, wildly successful tenure at Michigan, but I found it interesting.
Is that your final answer? The internet would be a far less chaotic and rumor-stricken place if folks followed one guideline when citing inside information: never link to a place for the first time, or link to a place you've never heard of, because it's got a hot rumor.
Why do I mention this? Because of this:
Brian Kelly will be next Notre Dame football coach
Cincinnati coach to take helm of Fighting Irish, sources reveal to IrishCentral
Brian Kelly will be the next head football coach at the University of Notre Dame, informed sources tell IrishCentral.
The source, who is a well-informed person of influence at Notre Dame, says the Cincinnati coach is the preferred choice for the job, and that he is expected to eventually sign a deal.
Kelly is expected to see out the season with his Bowl Championship Series-bound team, and then report for duty at South Bend.
There is no there there. Kelly is "expected" to "eventually" be the coach by some random guy. By this standard, Michigan is currently coached by Kirk Ferentz, Greg Schiano, and Rich Rodriguez. This site has no track record—it started in March. It talked to one guy who says Kelly is the eventual choice in a month, which in coaching search years is sometime after the Sun engulfs the Earth. And it spreads like wildfire. Why this dubious rumor and not others? Other than the newspaper website template—a rinky-dink version of one—I got nothin'.
Kelly, for his part, was less wishy-washy about staying at Cincinnati on the radio than he was at a press conference yesterday:
“I’m staying, man. I’m staying,” Kelly said on the show. “Why would I go? It’s always about staying, first. First and foremost."
No, I don't believe him either. Unfortunately.
Very modern. Greg Dooley has an interview with Angelique Chengelis up at GBW, and as a guy who runs a college football poll I found this snapshot of the AP poll's assemblage interesting:
MVictors: When you say ‘send in’, do you submit an online form or do you email something in like a Word document or a spreadsheet or something?
Angelique: I just send in an email, ranking the teams 1-25. I have a couple different email addresses that I send it to and that’s what I’ve always done. You’d think it’d be more formal, wouldn’t you?
PREWB! Yes, obligated to mention that after unusual stonewalling on the part of the local police department, eight Spartans were "indefinitely" suspended, including starters BJ Cunningham, Mark Dell, and Chris Rucker for the 2009 Posse Roundup & Engineer/Woman Beatdown. Rucker's a cornerback and in the state of Michigan all members of the secondary not named Woolfolk or Warren are interchangeably horrible, but Cunningham and Dell are excellent receivers. BONUS: there are five more guys yet to be identified—Rob Parker thinks they're all Kirk Cousins.
KJ at The Only Colors wants everyone gone permanently, but that seems steep if the kids in question didn't get violent themselves. They might have tagged along for laughs and saw Glenn Winston go all Grimsrud on them (clip NSF kiddies):
Mark Dell might just have some mechanical engineer's brain all over his car. While you have to expect that when you go anywhere with Winston, I guess, anyone without a prior incident shouldn't necessarily see their career end if the tape shows them to be largely innocent. Hefty suspensions lasting past the Michigan game next year are mandatory, though.
The thing about this thing is: I thought that giving Winston the relative slap on the wrist (essentially a four-game suspension) he got for an act far worse than many that see players drummed out of school entirely—see poor Larry Harrison—was a mistake at the time, as did a lot of other people including Spartan fans. If you want to give Dantonio the benefit of the doubt, fine. Coaches have a lot more information in these situations than we do. I find the irony of his pride before the fall delicious, though, and reserve the right to whoop it up after two years in which Michigan's coach has been portrayed as an inbred hick with no ethics.
Etc.: Phil Brabbs is dyeing his hair blue before it all falls out. DOMINATE. Rivals goes stunningly in depth with a geographic breakdown of recruiting stars and NFL draftees.
12/2/2009 – Michigan 58, Boston College 62 – 3-3
Apparently there was a meeting this offseason and Michigan's three major sports bet each other they could be the most disappointing outfit on campus. Hockey is winning, but narrowly. Assorted thoughts on basketball season so far:
SON OF A BITCH. SON OF A BITCH.
Can We Please Assemble Yost To Point At The 1-3-1 And Call It A Sieve? Holy hopscotching hell. Michigan finally moved away from the disastrous fringe zone defense against Boston College, but before that it had given up enough points to seal Michigan's doom. This comes after the Marquette game, in which the Eagles averaged 1.27(!!!) points per possession, the worst output of the Beilein era, and the Alabama game, which wasn't as bad but lord it wasn't good either.
This isn't even a preparation issue. Marquette and Alabama did not put in special practice time to deal with Michigan when there was a 25% or less chance those teams would play the Wolverines; Michigan just sucks at the 1-3-1. Hard.
If this was football I'd have some amateur but fairly accurate point about scheme; since it's basketball I'm about as mystified as anyone else. The defense wasn't good last year but it wasn't anywhere near this bad and the only difference is replacing a couple walk-ons with Darius Morris. Morris hasn't seemed like the problem so far. Problems: Stu Douglass is a really terrible defender, Manny Harris is lackadaisical himself, and no one got any taller.
…but on the other hand. Morris has given Michigan zero offensively other than some fast break buckets against poor competition. I guess he makes sense in a high-paced transition offense that results from a ton of steals forced by the 1-3-1. Since Michigan is not getting a ton of steals, he's a non-shooter whose main contribution on offense is to pass the ball around the perimeter. Freshman and all that, but right now Stu Douglass is a much better passer and shooter and seems considerably more useful on offense. Is that worth the 3-4 wide open threes he'll give up? This is not a lovely choice.
And now we devolve into talk radio platitudes. Forgive me: I am about to sound like whichever post-Spielman droid is currently Pam Ward's color guy. In multiple ways. Brace yourself.
Doesn't this team look horribly coached? I keep going back to the haunting Manny Harris three against Alabama. With 20 seconds on the shot clock in a tie game with under a minute left, Harris comes over a half-hearted screen from DeShawn Sims and jacks up a three with a hand in his face. It, like 90% of Harris's threes to date, misses, and Alabama comes down for the winning basket after the rebound. Beilein benched Harris and Sims for large portions of the Boston College game, and they deserved it, and the team didn't play much worse. That's about all he can do but good God, by now the upperclass stars on the team shouldn't have to get benched.
Elsewhere in this theory: the 1-3-1 failure and the number of possessions that end with few ideas and few good shot options. Sometimes the dread specter of Amaker offense shows up. This should probably not be happening in year three.
I don't want to overstate the case: obviously I still support Beilein and think he's a good coach who will—has—been the most successful one at Michigan since Tom Goss and Ed Martin crushed the program's will to live. But in the aftermath of the Evan Smotrycz rise, Brundidge commitment and potential acquisition of Casey Prather or Trey Ziegler, I was teetering along the edge of taking back the "Beilein won't ever make Michigan elite" theory offered here earlier… now not so much.
Second: could "leadership" actually be an issue here? Resorting to leadership is the last option around here, but the team seems way, way worse than last year—even when you take things like losing to Iowa and almost doing the same against Indiana—and the only difference is that CJ Lee is running for congress or something and David Merritt is starting the next Nike. Similarly, the hockey team lost Aaron Palushaj but nothing else aside from a couple of gritty grit Gritsteins in Tim Miller and Travis Turnbull and has collapsed to the point where its decades-long tourney streak is in serious doubt.
I usually dismiss heart and leadership and whatnot. I still think this holds in football because football is a bunch of short, complicated bursts of activity. Whatever effect trying really hard has is dwarfed by knowing what the hell to do and doing it right. Aside from the occasional tired defensive linemen, coasting isn't an option. Football is kill or be killed; it has your full attention at all times.
In hockey and basketball, on the other hand, you can sort of do things. You can defend the post with token effort, or lackadaisically close out, or not rotate. You can coast on your forecheck or not backcheck or not finish a check. It's far more possible to give poor effort. So it's conceptually possible to me that gritty heart dirt dog blah blah is actually important, and then you've got two separate teams that are a thousand times worse than they were last year despite personnel situations that should be considerably better but for the absence of Gritzilla. The conclusion, horrifyingly, is that maybe people who like Colin Cowherd aren't always wrong about everything forever.
It's just about over, isn't it? Michigan's put themselves in a position where they've blown virtually all of their winnable quality nonconference games—Creighton doesn't look like it will count—and now must either pull vast upsets against Kansas and/or UConn and maybe also beat Utah to scrape into the tourney with a similar conference record. If they win one of those games they probably have to go 11-7 in the conference to make it, and raise your hand if you think that's likely. Right.
You know, if I ever thought I'd get so much use out of the "i know it's over and oh it never really began but in my heart it was so real" tag, I might have considered another line of work. Like ninja.
Boston College 62, Michigan 58
Michigan 3-3 (0-0 Big Ten)
Buckle down, Michigan hoops fans; it's going to be a long season in Ann Arbor. Not literally, of course, because this doesn't look like a team that will extend its year into the postseason. But long like painful, you see.
At one point in the second half, I tweeted "Holy crap, this looks like an Amaker team." The unfortunate thing is that I wasn't saying it to be mean-spirited, it was just true. Uninspired defensive play and poor decisions offensively made for a highly unentertaining (and ineffective) brand of basketball. Sure the officiating was pretty bad, but I think if the game had been reffed well, Michigan might have just ended up losing by a much wider margin.
As things stand, the 3-point shooting still isn't there. Stu Douglass seems to have lost all confidence, passing up two open looks with less than a couple minutes left in the game, and Michigan still within striking distance. That lack of confidence is the story of the team right now, and they have to break out of this slump (which included a 64% mark from the free throw line) if they want a chance to play for the tournament.
After the disappointment in Orlando, Boston College appeared to be Michigan's lone chance for a signature out-of-conference win. Now the Wolverines face the daunting task of winning in Salt Lake City against Utah or in Lawrence against Kansas for their resume booster. With the way they've performed over the last week, neither looks likely, and coming down with a single win in those two games is looking less and less possible.
Something has to be said, however, for the Wolverines' refusal to give up. It shouldn't take a 15-point deficit in the second half to light a fire under their asses, but at least when they finally started playing the damn game, it was a flash of brilliance. Now, that just needs to be harnessed, and put on display for more than 5 minutes per game.
- Coming out of Orlando, DeShawn Sims was somebody who needed to step up his game. He finished with as many fouls as points (4).
- A hearty cheer for Zack Gibson is in order. He's really developed into someone who can contribute on both ends of the floor, and he kept this team in the game toward the end.
- Manny went 1-6 from 3-point range, and the only make was banked in. He isn't shooting well early in the year, and the way to solve that problem does not involve jacking up contested shots on every other possession.
- As mentioned above, free throw shooting continues to be a problem. At this point in the year "early in the season" can no longer be an excuse. This team has to be better from the stripe. 70% is not good enough, especially for a team that shot over 75% last year.
- Ben Cronin is not ready to contribute against good teams. He made a hustle play, but still doesn't have the athleticism back after his hip surgery.
- Darius Morris had a nightmare game. He turned the ball over more times than he shot it (1 to 0).
- I, too, am shocked that the headline of this post was not used up during the football season.
- The official attendance was over 10,000, but I'll be damned if that's anywhere near accurate. The gold level on both baselines was completely empty.
- Yay for the Big Ten finally winning the ACC Challenge. It's a hollow victory without a Michigan win.
- "This [Boston College] is obviously a pretty good team. Or we're a really bad team." John Beilein, on the team's performance.
- "We're frustrated, but the thing about college basketball is you've got to bounce back." DeShawn Sims, on the three-game losing streak.
- "I think we're losing focus a little bit, and you can't do it. Teams are too good." Zack Novak, on the defensive struggles.
- "Even my first year, I don't think it was this bad shooting-wise." Manny Harris.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff heads to Crisler Arena at 2PM on Saturday. Beat the Golden Lions or whatever.
After Michigan's 4-0 start the offense skidded downwards into mediocrity and inconsistency, gradually erasing the early giddiness around these parts. Early in the year, I said "the question is not whether this will be Michigan's best rushing offense of the decade, but by how much," which… well… Alan Greenspan has something to say about that.
Still, for anyone who actually watched the team this year and last, the idea that things didn't improve is laughable. The favorite tool of folks who like to claim this is Michigan's scoring offense in the Big Ten. Check this pre-OSU Michigan Monday for an example. Okay, actual scoring—despite being the point of everything—is is kind of a wildly unreliable metric, especially when your quarterbacks are freshmen and very, very turnover-happy. But when a tempo-free aerial says basically the same thing when it comes to yards per attempt…
…the offense has not exactly reached juggernaut status.
Still, it did improve significantly. All of this focus on conference play ignores that last year Michigan was 1-3 outside the conference and lost to a 3-9 MAC team because it scored 10 points. Against Notre Dame the net offensive output was probably negative because of five horrendous turnovers. This year the MAC snacks were swatted away and Michigan was one of many teams to scorch TAH-NOO-TAH's blitz-mad ways. They were in the ballpark of crappy, and this represents a step forward from last year, when Michigan football was the Indiana basketball of the Big Ten: too terrible to even fit on the scatterplot. To repeat a theme of late, this is progress of a not-very-fun variety.
There is noise yet in the scatterplot, though, as it makes Northwestern's dink-mad offense look worse than Michigan's when it wasn't. Let's take away all the noise caused by varying numbers of drives, varying average drive start, and opposition offenses, and just look at how efficient Michigan was on a drive-by-drive basis.
Brian Fremeau maintains a rating that does this called the Fremeau Efficiency Index. It's similar in concept to the numbers the Mathlete has posted here over the last year or so: find the average success rate in Situation X and measure teams by how far above or below that break-even line they are. Fremeau has many numbers; we'll look at a few. OE is "offensive efficiency" and is just a measure of how much you score relative to the D-I average. It's a tempo-free stat roughly equivalent to Points Per Possession in basketball. The second, FEI, is this in the words of its author:
College football rating system based on drive-based Game Efficiency data that rewards playing well against good teams, win or lose, and punishes losing to poor teams more harshly than it rewards defeating poor teams.
I couldn't find a more specific definition of what exactly this means; IMO, this is less interesting as a performance measure than it is an attempt to make the ratings more plausible to human eyes looking for a ranking system. So the focus should be on the raw numbers.
100% Awesome Mediocrity
Raw and adjusted, your results:
|Year||OE||OE Rk||Off FEI||OFEI Rk|
(This rating excludes I-AA games, as all serious attempts to quantify college football do.)
So there you go: from one of the worst teams in D-1 to totally mediocre. Totally mediocre seems acceptable, or better, when you're graduating four starters, have a freshman quarterback, play most of the year without your best offensive lineman, don't get to use your senior tailbacks all that much, and suffer from another epic turnover plague.
The Unfortunate Flipside
The other side of the ball is sort of horrifying:
|Year||DE||DE Rk||Def FEI||DFEI Rk|
…but a little less horrifying than i expected. Michigan's defense under Scott Shafer was actually sort of good-ish, but submarined by terrible field position and a ton of drives faced because of the offense. FWIW, I don't think this reflects poorly on Robinson yet; one year doesn't tell you much of anything. Also, Michigan's two best defensive performances of the year (relative to the opposition) were against Minnesota and Northwestern, after Shafer was basically fired. (And, yes, after Michigan's disastrous attempt to switch to the 3-3-5 cost them the Purdue game.)
Improvement + implosion = ?
Your net numbers in efficiency: Michigan went from 85th last year to 62nd this year. In FEI terms, Michigan went from 71st to 56th. That is almost exactly in line with what I believe is a reasonable take on the team: it was terrible last year and significantly better this year, but the amount of progress was disappointing not just relative to expectations after 4-0 but relative to those in the preseason.
Attempting to downplay the real improvement that was obvious to anyone watching the offense in something other than the fetal position is silly, and a sign they're about to bring up the Braylon Edwards #1 jersey "controversy" as further evidence that Rodriguez should be fired.
It gets pretty wild in slots 10-20. Let me tell you. The rest at CBS Sports.