An eventful couple days: first IN LB Jordan Barnes decommits, then Arizona offensive lineman Taylor Lewan commits. Informative update coming in a bit.
And by "a bit" I mean "tomorrow," but first thing!
Becca says "you are so hott," FWIW.
GURU RATINGS & CHATTER
|4*, #25 OT||4*, #192 overall, #17 OT||80, #14 OT|
Lewan, of course, is defensive end commitment Craig Roh's teammate; he transferred schools for a senior year that saw him shoot up the rankings a few weeks into his senior season. At his old school he was primarily a defensive lineman, at which position he didn't project to college; at tackle, however, it took all of two weeks for twenty programs to offer. Lewan's decision came down to Minnesota, where his dad briefly played before injury cut his career short, and Michigan, with The Correct Answer winning out.
The sites, as you can see, are close to unified on his potential: it's there, he's got a real chance to be an excellent player, etc. ESPN's rating is equivalent to a mid-four star on the other sites; he's the first OT outside of their top 150.
He is a tall and lean kid with a good build, but he is lean for an offensive tackle and will need to work to add more bulk to his frame. He is a kid who plays hard and is very productive. He makes good initial contact and will flash the ability to generate power from his hips and when he does that he can drive a defender off the ball. He is a tall kid though that needs to watch his pad level and focus to stay low. He is very good with his hands as both a run and pass blocker. He gets good hand placement and can be tough to beat once he gets locked on.
They both told me about Taylor's favorite player: former Michigan left tackle and current Miami Dolphin Jake Long. Dave told me that every Sunday, “Taylor watches the Dolphin games, and actually rewinds every offensive play to see what Jake was doing, and his technique.” Lewan draws comparisons to the first pick in the 2008 NFL draft. Taylor plays left tackle, wears the number 77, is one of the smartest players on and off the field, and has based his game on strength. Coming out of high school, Long was a recent convert to offensive line rated about where Lewan is.
Obviously Lewan would have to absolutely maximize every ounce of his potential to even approach Jake Long's success.
Lewan gathered a wide bounty as teams saw him play tackle:
Staying in Arizona, there isn't a hotter offensive line recruit in the West right now than Chaparral (Scottsdale, Ariz.) tackle Taylor Lewan. Lewan has been absolutely dominant this season and word is spreading fast among college coaches.
It seems a new offer rolls in for Lewan almost daily with Oregon State, Arizona and Nebraska being the most recent. Arizona State, Oregon, Nevada and Minnesota had previously offered.
Miami, Wisconsin, and others also threw their hat in the ring.
And I have no idea how verified this voracity is but FWIW:
Chaparral offensive tackle Taylor Lewan could see his number of scholarship offers jump very soon. Lewan said Alabama, Florida and Ohio State will likely be offering after another highly regarded offensive tackle makes his college commitment.
AFAIK there's no highly rated offensive tackle with those three schools on his list, so I interpret that to mean "those three schools had one recruit they were waiting on and then Lewan was their guy"; for OSU that's obviously Marcus Hall.
Offensive linemen don't have stats.
FAKE 40 TIME
Also they don't really have 40 times.
This isn't particularly relevant but it does exist, so here's five minutes of Lewan as a junior, mostly playing on defense:
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
You get too high on offensive line recruits at your peril, as the ratings at that position are the least reliable. That said, Lewan's sudden rise as soon as he found himself at his natural position, and the offers that accompanied that rise, are an excellent indicator for his future. You get the impression that the only thing restricting Lewan's further rise is his late switch to the offensive line, which leaves somewhat deficient in technique and size and makes him something of a risk. That risk is offset by serious upside.
Two comparison points for Lewan: Jake Long and Dann O'Neill. All three have prototypical left tackle bodies and were highly rated. Long started as a redshirt freshman and eventually became the top pick in the NFL draft. O'Neill showed up and immediately seemed like he needed two years to add strength and technique; his future remains all potential.
Lewan's got a definite redshirt in his future, and then he's likely to spend 2010 watching a senior Schilling and Dorrestein (or possibly or Omameh/O'Neill somewhere) play before being a serious threat for playing time as a redshirt sophomore.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Lewan is the second offensive lineman and second projected tackle in the class. Michigan probably wants to add one more offensive lineman. The two best possibilities are NC OL Travis Bond, who's a three-star recruit most project at tackle, and SC OL Quinton Washington, a guy who projects at guard and a couple of the services absolutely love (ESPN and Rivals; Scout not so much).
Both have taken officials to Michigan already and the indicators are encouraging. Washington hasn't scheduled any other visits yet, though he plans to take his four remaining trips in January. Bond looked to be leaning towards UNC but the Tar Heels are doing some Saban-level oversigning and may not have room. That would leave Michigan competing against NC State and then it's just a matter of whether he wants to stay home or not. Michigan probably gets one and then is done on the OL. Also out there: Trotwood-Madison giant Chris Freeman, who's a major project but with upside.
Etc.: If you've got a Scout subscription you should check this article from the Minnesota site, which is titled "Lewan commits to Big Ten School($)" but makes no mention as to which school that might be; this newspaper article does.
An eventful couple days: first IN LB Jordan Barnes decommits, then Arizona offensive lineman Taylor Lewan commits. Informative update coming in a bit.
Goodnight, sweet prince:
"I just got out of the compliance office and picked up my release," said McGuffie. "They gave me a full release – no restrictions. I will be somewhere else in January."
Texas A&M is the likely destination. Keep your head on a swivel. And on your shoulders.
Update: I've updated the Depth Chart By Class for 2009, by the way.
A position-by-position look at Michigan's 2009 season. Previously: Quarterbacks.
With Mike Hart gone there was a void at tailback for the first time since David Underwood yielded to the mighty mite freshman in the third game of 2004, and no one really knew who would fill it. But at least there appeared to be candidates, unlike quarterback:
Like quarterback, Michigan loses a four-year starter and program icon here. Unlike quarterback, there are six options of at least moderate viability and chances are some player or combination of players emerges into a strong Big Ten starter.
As to who that was going to be, I dismissed Brandon Minor…
Minor runs too upright and stiff for my tastes. He's clearly slower than Brown and the fleet freshmen, has little wiggle, and tends to plow over and through defenders instead of trying to avoid them. Sometimes this ends with Minor spectacularly trucking someone; sometimes it ends with Minor taking a wicked shot from a headhunting linebacker or safety.
In the best case, Barwis gives Minor the half-step he needs to get the corner and he’s a poor man’s version of Darren McFadden. In the worst case he’s David Underwood. He must be physically dominant to be effective because he's not going to make people miss much and he doesn't have Hart's remarkable balance. IMO, he gets his fair share of carries throughout the year but is clearly less effective than at least one other tailback and possibly two.
…and put my money on… well, no one. Brown:
Carlos Brown has a knack for picking up annoying hand injuries. Last year Brown busted his hand in fall practice and missed the early portion of the season; in spring he cut or broke his finger or something in a “freak weightlifting accident.” I suspect Barwis bit it off and spent the summer growing a replacement in a jar.
He's a little small, and his his disappointing senior season was injury-wracked to the point where his nationally televised showcase game saw him spinning 180 degrees before contacting tacklers and driving meekly at the feet of oncoming blitzers, but even the skeptical Rivals named him last year's best running back in space and publicly wondered why he was heading for Michigan instead of a school that would spread him all over the field like Wes Welker—white guy, natch—and take advantage of his crazy speed and cutting ability.
Uh, check. He’s nominally first on the depth chart already, and will see time all over the field. It begins.
The hype is building on Shaw because he chose the right time to juke a couple defenders and plow slot-sized freshman cornerback Boubacar Cissoko. The media was there doling out oohs and aahs as appropriate and a practice legend is born.
There’s more to Shaw than proficiency in the “Michigan drill,” though. He hovered just outside the recruiting sites’ top 100 lists and spent the spring tearing up the track until he was banned for transfer-related shenanigans. He is fast. And he is fast. And he is fast.
Amongst the stupid predictions I offered in the "Five Questions and Five Answers" section:
The running back situation involves a mess of players; Minor, Brown, McGuffie, and Shaw all see 100 carries. Brown has the best YPC.
As we'll see, that was sort of right.
The Disappointing But Not Horrible Truth
That take on the running back situation wasn't far off, though it 1) presumed a heavier slant towards the run and 2) a paucity of quarterback runs. It therefore overestimated the number of carries available for running backs. Oh, and erroneously assumed Carlos Brown would be healthy. Fool me once, shame on me, etc.
The end results:
Everyone was injured at some point, from Minor's nagging stuff at the beginning of the season and then a series of shoulder/rib/shoulder injuries that held him out late. McGuffie was a concussion magnet. Shaw strained his groin and was in and out, and not 100%. And Brown spent much of the year limping before a pretty excellent game against Northwestern.
Anonymous Strong Big Ten Starter was, briefly, Sam McGuffie. His performance against Notre Dame…
McGuffie's most impressive trait against Notre Dame was his vision. When there was a cutback, he took it. When he needed to be patient and wait for the crease to open up, he waited. When he needed to spin around and stuff, he did that, sometimes multiple times on one play.
You could see the difference when Shaw came in: on both of his rushes Shaw had the opportunity to make more yards if he made decisive cuts outside. Instead he cut up or hesitated and had to settle for minor gains.
…was reminiscent of one Mike Hart, but against defenses less permeable it became clear he was incapable of breaking tackles due to his size and when you're playing for Michigan 2008 you have to be able to break tackles because Lord knows they aren't going to block anyone.
When the Penn State game rolled around, Michigan deployed Minor extensively and all other options were quickly relegated to second best:
My hope is that this MINOR RAGE offense is something they can work from as a baseline. I think they've found an effective rushing offense that's going to move forward most of the time—even when rushing plays didn't work that well against PSU the result was usually a 2 or 3 yard gain, not the epic losses from previous games—and must be defended foremost. From there Michigan can add in racing stripes and a spoiler and maybe move away from the basement of total offense rankings.
Michigan State timed a bunch of snaps and threw Michigan's offense off, and Ohio State throttled them as expected—though they did double their offensive output from 2007—but even so the second half of the season was a step forward for the rushing game:
Here's a testament to the Rodriguez running game that might evaporate in the arms of various Ohio State players, so let's just get it out now: despite having this pile of backups and freshmen in an injury riddled offense without Mike Hart and Jake Long and, like, a functional quarterback, Michigan's average YPC is better in 2008 (4.03) than it was in 2007 (3.97).
There is a long, long way to go, but if Michigan can improve that YPC by a half yard and not have the worst quarterbacking situation in the conference you can see the outline of competence in there. That's the most encouraging thing that's happened over the past half-season.
In this, at least, Michigan progressed.
2009, And Beyond
Sam McGuffie appears to be on his way out the door, returning to Texas and hopefully landing at a place where opponents don't have personal vendettas against his skull. Though skepticism about his size limiting his upside as an every-down back proved well-founded, I still think he could have emerged into a weapon of use. A couple of Michigan's rare downfield passes were McGuffie on seam routes or wheel routes wherein he would make a tough catch before getting lit up by a safety. At times his freaky balance was put to good use; the kid has a future as a slot receiver like, yes, Wes Welker. Sometimes the comparison to another white guy is inevitable. But finding McGuffie's proper place on the field appears to be someone else's problem now.
That leaves three guys vying for the starting spot next year, with Kevin Grady scheduled to look on dourly. Assuming Brandon Minor is healthy he is your starter next year. The only player who could touch him in YPC above was Michael Shaw, who did that on limited carries and occasionally drove coaches mad by running the wrong way or fumbling handoffs. Minor killed his early fumbling problems—he didn't put the ball on the turf once after his breakout Penn State game—and tore through arm tackles effectively. One worry: he does run upright and often straight at defenders, which means he takes as much of a pounding as he delivers. That style was a contributing factor in the injuries that held him out of the Northwestern game and limited his time earlier in the season; a recurrence is possible.
Carlos Brown did run pretty well against Northwestern and was quantitatively better than Minor when the two split carries in 2007, but at this point counting on him to remain healthy is a rube's game. I will hesitantly suggest that if—if—Brown does remain upright and functional he could be a surprising breakout player in his final year. He's shown himself to be at least somewhat talented and has all the recruiting accolades you could want. The bet here is for a lot of injuries and 80 or so carries in a backup role, but Brown is a wildcard.
Shaw, meanwhile, was a boom-or-bust guy, a jet in the open field but pretty dodgy when it came to decision making. Shaw tried to turn a lot of plays into big gainers and instead got tackled in the backfield; hopefully that's an adjustment from high school and something he can fix. He's certainly got the speed to take it to the house when he breaks through the crease.
Also, he gets tackled funny. I can't explain why I think that at all, but when he goes down it's persistently unusual. At this point he's your favorite to be the starter in 2010, and should see 100-150 carries next year.
Minor, if healthy, should be one of the conference's better backs, but not its best. Probably third or so assuming the early departures of Beanie Wells and Shonn Green.
A fleet of freshmen reinforce; depth here will be fine even without Horn and McGuffie.
Instate receiver Cameron Gordon has committed to Michigan. Informative update coming.
|3*, #79 WR||4*, #222 overall, #31 WR||78, #64 ATH|
Rivals is considerably higher on Gordon than others are, and ESPN abstains from declaring a position from him at all. That positional uncertainty was an early theme of Gordon's recruitment: reports from Michigan's summer camp were that the staff really liked him… as a linebacker. Gordon has made it clear he wants to play wide receiver. Thus a significant delay in Michigan's offer; if Bryce McNeal hadn't decommitted Gordon might still be waiting.
Scout's Allen Trieu on the positional dilemma:
"Cameron has great tools," said Trieu. "On offense, his size and strength create matchup problems, plus he has good hands. On defense, he finds the ball well and is a big hitter. His only drawback would be that he isn't a true burner as far as the receiver position goes. That would limit his potential on offense. I think he could play either position well in college, but it will likely come down to what a particular school needs. If I had the luxury of choosing, I'd want him at linebacker."
Cameron Gordon, Inkster- had a quiet day but was still efficient because he opened the field up for other receivers by drawing double coverage every play. He's so big and fast but I was most impressed by how hard he runs every possible route.
Cameron Gordon, Inkster- Gordon is just too physically gifted for the high school level and he's just as good of a OLB/safety as he is a receiver. He gave Gardner a huge block 40 yards down field on the long TD run, he made a heck of a play on his INT, and his 42 catch displayed great hand-eye coordination.
ESPN on Gordon:
Could potentially tip the scales at the 215-range making defense a strong possibility. You would never now he was a flashy wide receiver when watching him pursue the football as a hybrid safety/outside linebacker. … Shows good hip and body adjustment to the deep throw. Can break tackles with is strong frame after the catch or make defenders miss with his deceptively good movement skills. Top-end speed is a question mark and he does lack great initial burst with ball. That said, Gordon is a great athlete with coveted physical skills to develop as a college player.
The rest of the scouting report is heavily focused on defense, too. FWIW, that early preference for WR seems to be less important now:
“(Michigan) offered me,” Gordon said. “They mostly said how they want to sign me and that I’ll be able to play both sides, just depending on what side is best for me to play for their team."
On the other hand:
Before the fall, Gordon strongly preferred the playing offense, but he has softened his stance on that issue.
"I feel I am a football player, so it really wouldn't stop me from going to a school if I had to play defense,” Gordon said. “This is my first year playing safety and I really like that position, too. I still am a receiver, but it's not something that will hold me back from going to a college.”
Emphasis mine. Said emphasis indicates that position preference still exists. So he's coming in as a wideout, got it?
Gordon wasn't as heavily pursued as you might imagine. Michigan State offered him in February and Minnesota did so sometime in the summer, but those remained his only BCS offers until Iowa came in with one in late October. Michigan followed suit a few weeks ago.
Jim Stefani has his underclass numbers:
As a junior starter on a 10-2 team, he had 38 receptions for 532 yards (14.00 Avg.) and 1 INT from his OLB spot…………..As a sophomore starter, he had 19 receptions for 308 yards (16.21 ypc) and 1 TD, 7 carries for 58 yards and 1 TD, 19 tackles, 26 assists, 1.5 sacks and 3 fumble recoveries
I couldn't dig up season stats for this year, unfortunately.
FAKE 40 TIME
In the video below, Gordon will claim he is 6'2", 195, and runs a 4.6. I give this two FAKES(!) out of five. However, this:
Now tipping the scales at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, and still capable running the 40 in the 4.6 range, Gordon is a bone-jarring presence in the Viking secondary.
Gets a third FAKE(!), as adding 20 pounds in a year and maintaining your 40 is… eh… improbable.
Here's Sam Webb interviewing him, with highlights interspersed:
The crotchety old man in me is like "son, don't chew gum when you're being interviewed."
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Gordon is a big, physical receiver with good hands who supposedly runs pretty good routes. I feel like I've compared a half-dozen possession-type receivers to this particular person in the past, but that sounds like Jason Avant. Avant absolutely maximized his physical ability, though, and a guy like Gordon is not likely to be as good as a guy currently in the early stages of a 15-year NFL career.
And then there's the defense option. Michigan is bringing in a ton of linebackers in this class (IMO, both Mike Jones and Isaiah Bell will be OLBs) but the numbers there are really thin and there's probably a reason everyone under the sun thought he projected better on defense. Sometimes kids get to college firmly intending to play their favorite high school position, figure out that they're really in a tough spot to get playing time there, and quickly switch to the position the project best at. See: Prescott Burgess, who was insistent he was a safety, and Joe Barksdale, who had a major falling out with Michigan because they projected him as an offensive lineman. Burgess was a linebacker at Michigan after about two weeks and Barksdale was a freshman starter for LSU… at right tackle.
This gives Gordon two shots at being a contributor, and the flexibility there bodes well for his future. It's probably 75-25 he stays on offense given his personal preference and the composition of this recruiting class, but the option remains.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Gordon's commitment and the recent news that TX WR commit Dewayne Peace was once again a solid verbal solidifies the outside WR position for this class, especially with Ricardo Miller and Jeremy Jackson committed for 2010. Unless something unexpected happens—like Rueben Randle tripping over a branch, hitting his head, and having a humorous sitcom concussion that makes him think he's the reincarnation of Anthony Carter—Michigan is probably done at the position.
Gordon is commitment #21, so Michigan has somewhere between four and six slots left. The recruiting board currently shows 24 open slots without accounting for the probable departure of Sam McGuffie; Michigan could also not renew fifth years for Savoy or Criswell. Potential errors therein: I'm not providing scholarships to Sheridan (reasonable), Moundros (probably not reasonable), and Morales(who knows?).
In any case, Michigan needs a couple more offensive linemen, Will Campbell, and a corner or two.
A side note: Inkster is a good school to get hooks into, as their new head coach is former Detroit DePorres HC Greg Carter and he's looking to make Inkster into a perennial powerhouse. In 2010 Inkster already has top instate quarterback Devin Gardner, and the hot rumor is that top 2010 running back Austin White is going to transfer in, as well.
Etc.: He looks like Seal in this picture; watch him morph from FOUR STAR STUD to guy MSU didn't want in this RCMB thread; 52-yard touchdown photo; couple additional pictures; transferred to Inkster from Melvindale.
Using this article from the Wall Street Journal (hat tip to Adam Rittenberg's Big Ten blog on ESPN for pointing it out), and knowing that Michigan is locked in to at least one "name" non-conference opponent for the foreseeable future, what kind of opponent, were you given your druthers, would you like to see for next season's 12th game? Similarly, do we know if the season can begin on August 29th or must Michigan, if wanting to play the 12th game, must use its Big Ten conference schedule bye week in October?
For those who don't want to read the WSJ article, it's a well-argued complaint about the lack of data points via which to compare teams in different conferences. I agree with it totally.
On to the questions: Michigan must fill its bye week this year. As far as who that should be, that's obvious: the worst team they can find. Northern Colorado. Coastal Carolina. Some reclassifying provisional I-AA team from Spain. Some team that would take one look at Nick Sheridan and say to themselves "damn, I wish we had that kid." Michigan's already done well to get Eastern in for a (God, let's hope) drubbing.
I say this because of the media environment around Rodriguez and the state of the roster. Everyone adores Beilein now because he's beating UCLA and Duke; the football team is not likely to turn around so nimbly.
If basketball programs, with their 13 scholarships and rapid turnover, are Ferraris, football programs are dump trucks. Sometimes you get remarkable season-to-season turnarounds but in cases like that it's often random stuff—turnovers—obscuring a more gradual improvement. See Minnesota, 1-11 and possessors of one of the nation's worst turnover ratios in 2007, bouncing up to 7-5 on the strength of a +12 TO margin. Minnesota is still more than 50 yards per game worse than their opponents and is going to get its head caved in by Kansas; they're not much better than they were a year ago, but no one knows it.
So the football team is likely to be pretty bleah next year, too, especially with uncertainty at quarterback, and something like Toledo redux is a possibility. See: Minnesota, again. If that happens and Michigan misses a bowl again Rodriguez might actually find himself in serious hot water, which I think would be the worst thing that could happen to the program.
So: do not schedule a team that could possibly beat Michigan. This is shameless and I feel vaguely guilty about it, but that's life. If the media isn't going to go any deeper than surface level, surface level is what we shall give them.
More generally, I'm resigned to at least two cupcakes a year, one in the opener and one in the Big Ten bye week. Notre Dame is the third spot and that's fine. What rankles is that fourth game, which looks to be yet another cupcake unless Michigan accidentally schedules a top ten Utah team. Michigan should be scheduling competitive programs from various BCS conferences and playing the occasional road game in there. Utah is fine. BYU or Boise or TCU would be fine. Clemson or South Carolina or Oregon State or Rutgers or Cincinnati or Stanford or Kansas State or would be fine. Games against actual opponents that, in most years, Michigan will be solid favorites in.
There is zero chance of this actually happening, of course.
I noticed that after last year we had a major void in depth on the D-Line after not landing any DE's last year. This year, we have commitments from LaLota, Roh, Schofield, Graves, Jones, and we look very good for Pernell McPhee, very good for Big Will, and good?(not sure) for Taylor Lewan. Quite an impressive list of Lineman commits, including that we look alright for Sam Montgomery and Quinton Washington.
With all these excellent lineman, do you think any will move to O-Line(big will? Lalota? as both project to O-line as well..i think..)? Also, i think it is good to note that football is won in the trenches, and this is building a great foundation for especially the Offense but also the Defense(as long as we can pick up some viable Linebackers..hopefully Jelani, but i dont know).
In a word: no. While the offensive line was so thin last year it necessitated John Ferrara's move from defensive tackle, Michigan loses no one this year and now has a fleet of six redshirt freshmen to add depth and challenge for starting jobs. Offensive line suddenly has a two-deep.
The defensive line, however, is extremely thin. The departure of Kates and Slocum leaves only Mike Martin and Renaldo Sagesse at DT. The DE whiff last year leaves Ryan Van Bergen as the only underclass DE. Everyone Michigan is bringing in on the defensive line is going to have to stay there.
I know lots of sites seem to track what school is in the running for what player, but going back to last year, when RichRod used the snake oil for a lot of last minute commits : Did yourself, or any other recruiting sites, track that UM was in the running for any of these players (ie Shaw, or Roundtree) and don’t you think that RichRod may use the snake oil again and pull in some last minute recruits that no one seems to be tracking?
Last year was a special situation, as Michigan suddenly found itself sporting a different coach, different offense, and different priorities. This naturally changed the opinions of various recruits and, with some prodding, resulted in a number of snake-oil heists.
Example: Michael Shaw was offered by Michigan as an "athlete", not a running back, and decided on a place that recruited him as a running back. When Rodriguez came that changed his status in Michigan's eyes, and, eventually, vice versa. If Rodriguez had been around for the whole year Shaw probably would have committed to Michigan in the first place.
So we're probably not going to have the flood of signing-day decommits; players that want to go to Michigan are more likely to just commit to Michigan. On the other hand, "commitment" gets to be a shakier word every year, and Michigan is recruiting a number of guys who are technically committed to other schools. The difference is that we have a good idea who these guys are (McPhee, Stokes, etc) already. I think you'll see a surprise or maybe two; four is highly unlikely.
This next is just something to read:
As a WVU fan, I am struck by your description of the ten-year drizzle cloud lifting from the Michigan hoops program. The state of Wolverine basketball in the beginning of the second year of the Beilein administration is eerily analogous to that of the WVU program early in Beilein's Morgantown tenure. To wit:
- The last four years of Beilein's WVU predecessor, Gale Catlett, were an abject horror. You have little reason to know anything about this, so Google "Jonathan Hargett", "Drew Catlett", "Coliseum asbestos", or "Gale Catlett routinely wore a leather blazer during games". Michigan had post-sanctions stress disorder and was choked by Tommy Amaker's turtlenecks.
- Beilein's first season at each stop was interminable, featuring attrition galore. In WVU's case, the departed players would have improved that season's record, but had they remained, the youngsters who spent the season potty training (Jo Herber, JD Collins, Pat Beilein, Tyrone Sally) would not have received the season necessary for to make them the nucleus--after adding Gansey and Pittsnoggle--of the 2005 and 2006 NCAA runs. It sounds like M will come to rely more on guys who weren't meaningfully around last year, but the early returns for '08-09 sure seem to indicate that last year's nuclear aftermath of a season was not in vain. Plus, there may be a pithy comparison to make between Lucas-Perry and Gansey.
- In the second years, each team stole wins over highly touted foes: WVU beat Florida (thought to be really good at the time but turned out to be just good) and a meh Maryland, whereas Michigan beat UCLA (thought to be really good but would project to turn out better than just good) and lies in wait for the next conquest.
- Second-year NIT berths--should Michigan fall short of 65 next March--following barrel-bottom first seasons.
Whether the result of the Taylor-Traylor-Amaker calamity or of hoops not being football, it seems that you don't like Michigan basketball so much as tolerate it because you crave a major-sport, maize-and-blue squad to root for in the winter. I identify with the hoops toleration and both motives. Because of Beilein and the similarities in the rat nests he inherited at WVU and UM*, I feel a kinship with Michigan fans. (Gasps understood, and no, I don't take your vomiting personally.) And trust me, you will love rooting for Beilein's teams.
The successes will sneak up on you. When Beilein's teams are hot, they are exhilarating. Even his best teams--though I suppose his hypothetical, great M teams may change this--will inspire frequent rending of garments. But I am roughly your age and, before Rich Rodriguez and JK Rowling gave birth to Pat White, watching Beilein's 2005 and 2006 teams on their tournament runs was the greatest sports-fan experience of my life. Sure, the athletic traditions of Michigan and West Virginia are comparable only to facilitate the demonstration that Michigan's is far richer, but still. You will love Michigan hoops under Beilein, and the leaps forward will happen sooner than appears possible and drown out by far the maddening aspects of his regime like rebounding and fickle substituting. The conductor is only rehearsing now, but the symphony will open without notice, and you will be mesmerized.
* What is the preferred, abbreviated nomenclature, dude? Is "U-M" just an unfortunate freep.com sports-page construction?
As to the question: AFAIK the standard abbreviated nomenclature is UM, with the dash some editor's affectation. I actually prefer just "M," which plays off Michigan's iconic block M logo and prevents confusion with Minnesota and Miami.
As to the point about my personal relationship with basketball: no, I don't much like Michigan basketball, but that's more a function of the uniquely soul-crushing miasma that lingers over the program a full decade after any funny business went down than anything inherent in college basketball*. And the turnovers. Jesus holy God, the turnovers. I don't think anyone really liked Michigan basketball in the Ellerbe/Amaker eras because it was unlikeable. They played hideous basketball and they lost. Ellerbe stacked his teams with jerks (Ingerson, Gaines, Searight, Moore, Taylor, Traylor, Bullock). Amaker didn't have that problem, but you try watching this:
Even when they were pretty okay, Michigan was a brutally coached team. That gets to you. Couple that with a funereal atmosphere at Crisler and, well… it's not an attractive product. However, I did go to about half the games last year and plan on getting to that many this year. And I'm not defensive about this at all.
*(Well, okay, I will admit that the shot clock is too long and the three point line is (still) too close.)
In the last mailbag there was some discussion of Georgia Tech and why they didn't suck nearly as hard as Michigan did. Nate Fowler, GT fan and erstwhile blogger, provides the GT perspective:
Saw your mailbag comments on the PJ/RR comparison ... and the Nesbitt v. Sheridan/Threet/DEATH rotation was certainly a huge difference in the two teams. Couple of other comments I had:
#1 - GT came into the season with far better personnel than UM did, not just "for the system" but overall.
The defense has 3 and possibly 4 future 1st/2nd round draft picks (Morgan Burnett - S, Michael Johnson - DE, Derrick Morgan - DE, Vance Walker - DT) and they won games for GT during the first half of the season as the offense found it's legs. I never got the impression that Michigan's defense was capable of carrying the team to wins the way GT's could/did.
The offense as well had plenty of young talent that had all had some experience to boot. Jonathan Dwyer is Beanie Wells on steroids [isn't Beanie Wells "Beanie Wells on steroids"? –ed] and had rushed for 9 TD's as a true freshman backup, he was ready to breakout in a big way. If you are a run based offense, having one of the 5 best RB's in the country on the roster is a huge trump card for you.
Demaryius Thomas was an athletic 6'3" 230lb WR who already had a season as the #1 WR under his belt. Even Nesbitt had taken snaps as a true freshman and was ready to step in full time. Michigan had no RB's even close to Dwyer's class, and had a lot of inexperience across the board on offense, especially at the skill positions. Chan Gailey's 2007 recruiting class was ranked #15 overall. It was clear even by the end of last year that that class was more like a top 5 overall class with the way everyone panned out, and that group of sophs carried this GT team in 2008. I know what the rivals/scout rankings for the past 5 years say about the talent levels, but my eyes tell another story - I wouldn't trade GT's roster in 2008 for UM's under any circumstances - GT was more talented across the board.
I think Michigan did find a pretty good running back but it took them half a season to do so because of unfamiliarity and a host of nagging injuries that held Brandon Minor out (and, of course, Minor got knocked out a couple weeks after establishing a hold on the starting job, allowing Carlos Brown to have a standout game against Northwestern).
#2 - Johnson recruited well as soon as he took the job. Even with Nesbitt on the roster, he went out and got another QB who could play - and play right away - in Jaybo Shaw. Good thing he did, because Nesbitt missed all of 2 games (Mississippi State and Duke) and parts of several others. Shaw played well in his absense and won a couple of games for GT. When he got hurt too and we had to play the 3rd stringer - we saw a frightening glimpse Sheridan/Threet hell with Calvin Booker and nearly lost to Gardner-Webb.
I think that Rodriguez really dropped the ball by not finding a QB anywhere, somewhere he could lean on if he had to. Shaw was only committed to MTSU when Johnson got him, but he was an option QB and a smart kid who could step in and beat Duke if he had to. That was key to the season. Johnson also got a couple of other kids (Cooper Taylor and Marcus Wright, in particular) who stepped in as true freshman and were big time contributors. His recruiting from the very moment he stepped onto campus filled some very important holes.
Rodriguez's failure to acquire a passable freshman quarterback is the biggest failing in his Michigan career to date, but he did try. Feagin didn't work out and BJ Daniels went to South Florida after Michigan hurriedly backed away; GBW hinted at shenanigans, which is pretty common, but when Rivals suggested the same thing in no uncertain terms that's eyebrow-raising. Then, of course, Pryor: Rodriguez's focus on a guy who, in retrospect, was just playing with him was fatal to this season. That was a major error.
#3 - Johnson is just a heck of a coach. The dude has been a monster winner everywhere he's been, and I doubt there's anyone else who could have pulled off a season like this under the circumstances. Comparing him to most every other college coach isn't a "fair" comparison. I can't say enough good things about the way he totally changed the entire GT football program and culture in under 12 months. The man is a magician.
#4 - As a side note - don't bash the ACC schedule - GT played 7 bowl teams, 5 of which were on the road (@BC, @VT, @UNC, @UGa, @Clemson, FSU, Miami) and won 5 of those games. The ACC was a better and much deeper league than the Big 10 this year.
"Bowl teams" is such a goofy metric these days, but Nate's last point does stand: Sagarin has GT's schedule #32 and Michigan's #24. There's not a huge gap there.