Just one question this time, because I figure it's a pretty specialized one most will care not at all about.
Brian,So we've been following the successful and mildly popular club hockey team at Penn State for some time now. Well the boosters have been relentless and the optimism surrounding a jump to D1 increased significantly with the announcement of a 'study' commissioned for a new rink.So the question, if things do in fact pan out, is where Penn State might belong. Hockey has it's own set of traditions and powerhouses, not to mention recent realignment. With the current shake up, is there even room in the current system for a new major program?And regardless of that answer, do you think the Big Ten schools would be willing to give up their current rivals and history for a Big Ten hockey conference, similar to a move the Big East recently made in lacrosse? Right off the bat there is the possibility for a six team league, perhaps small enough to allow for a large set of traditional non-BT games to be played. It might also help spur Illinois to make the jump, as they are currently in a similar situation to Penn State.I'll hang up and listen. Thanks.
Black Shoe Diaries
Kevin's stumbled onto one of the most controversial topics in college hockey: a Big Ten hockey conference, and more generally realignment. With the dissolution of the always-unstable CHA and the flight of its members to safe havens—Robert Morris and Niagara will bring Atlantic Hockey to 12 members, Bemijdi State looks like it will squeeze into the WCHA, and Alabama-Huntsville is trying to get into the CCHA—college hockey finds itself hopelessly gridlocked. Any school looking to start a new program has no place to go, as every conference save Hockey East is full, and Hockey East doesn't seem inclined to expand.
Any program willing to take up the daunting task of starting an expensive sport and balancing the Title IX implications out would face a near-pointless life as an independent. Much cost, no benefit, no expansion.
The obvious solution is to carve up the two western conferences into three eight-team entities, and the most obvious way to do that is to yank the Big Ten teams out with a couple tag-alongs and create a Big Ten hockey conference. However, the problems with that are numerous and severe:
- Only five Big Ten schools currently field hockey teams; the minimum is six. Adding Penn State would solve that issue that but even a six-team conference is pretty slim. And I'm not sure about this but I don't think you could actually add non-Big Ten schools to the conference and still call it the Big Ten.
- Removing Michigan, Ohio State, and Michigan State from the CCHA would gut that league, hurting the bottom line of the various small Michigan schools in it. That could lead to programs folding. The recent rise of Miami and Notre Dame may make this less of an issue.
- Wisconsin and Minnesota have longstanding rivalries with North Dakota, Colorado College, and Denver they would be loathe to give up. Minnesota also serves in a similar capacity as M and MSU do to the wide variety of Minnesota schools that populate the WCHA.
- Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin are all traditional powerhouses. The gap between those four and the remainder of the league would likely be severe. Penn State and any other ambitious Big Ten school, far from traditional recruiting grounds and bereft of D-I history, would likely be signing up to play doormat.
- I think this would be offset by the increased interest and revenue, but travel costs would go up significantly.
I'd love to see it happen. Four games against each opponent would leave the departed powers with plenty of nonconference opportunities (14) to visit schools left in the cold by the move. The WCHA would be just fine anchored by North Dakota, CC, and DU—all extremely strong, established programs. The CCHA could do okay, too, as long as Jeff Jackson and Enrico Blasi stay put.
However, it would be a cataclysmic change and seems highly unlikely. The best hope for college hockey expansion appears to be the far-off idea that a cluster of Canadian universities will join the NCAA a few years down the road and ramp up D-I hockey programs, possibly taking the Alaska teams with them and opening up a couple slots for new programs.
The other option for Penn State is for it to form the basis of a new conference. Niagara and Robert Morris would probably leap at the opportunity, as Atlantic Hockey has restrictions on scholarship numbers below that of the NCAA. Huntsville would sign up, too, but then you've got to find two more schools from somewhere. That was the problem the CHA had: teams would come and go and come and go and the league's future was never assured. A Penn State-anchored league wouldn't have that problem, if only because teams in it would have no other options.
The bottom line is this: the current landscape in college hockey is exceptionally unfriendly to expansion and Penn State is probably going to find it unfeasible unless it can find another major state school (Illinois? Syracuse?) willing to start up a program at the same time and be the co-anchor of a new conference. Unless someone very weird and very rich and very into college hockey expansion dies, I don't see that happening.
Previously: Vlad Emilien.
|Orlando, Florida - 6'2" 200
|Scout||3*, #49 S|
|Rivals||3*, #25 S|
|ESPN||77, #55 S|
|Other Suitors||Auburn, Kentucky, ND
(no offer), UNC, Wake, USF
|Mike Jones Commits To Michigan|
Early enrollee. Orlando Edgewater (Greg Mathews).
Ah, Mike Jones, he of the accursed Google-proof name that is not Frobozz Tamoshanter.
Though Jones is listed as a safety by everyone, everyone also expects he'll move down to linebacker immediately. He's already 200+ pounds and 6'2"; in a year or two he'll be 215 or 220 and decidedly ponderous for a safety: it's OLB for him, a la Jonas Mouton. Jones' opinion of himself points the same way:
"I'm a hitter," Jones said. "I hit real hard and I've got good speed. I react to the ball real quick and have great instincts."
He admits he wants to improve on his covering skills. "I'd like to work on my footwork and steps."
Rivals.com analyst Michael Langston:
"Mike's just a great player,” Langston said. “He's listed as a safety, but he pretty much plays a rover linebacker at Edgewater. He's a really hard hitter, but also a really good cover guy. He's not going to cover like a corner, but he can cover for his size. They can use him that way if they need someone to fill that void."
He is a defensive back who could easily grow into an outside linebacker. He is every bit of 6’3, 205 lbs. He is a very rangy kid who could end up at 235-240 lbs. He can run well and loves to make contact, and his best attribute is that he loves to hit.
So: not a safety. A linebacker. Probably. Coach again (link ibid):
I believe they are going to stick him at strong safety first and see how he adapts to that position, which I believe will fit their style. We run the same type of defense that Coach Rodriguez ran at West Virginia (3-3-5) so he has been one of those outside linebacker / safeties for four years, and I believe he could play either position at the college level.
This is a theme with Michigan's linebacker recruiting this year: hybrid cover guys you can run out there in the spread. These guys are basically the opposite of Johnny Thompson, and the one guy who isn't a high school safety (Hawthorne) is actually the smallest of the bunch.
As far as how good he is, he received fairly early offers from Auburn and North Carolina along with a number of other teams not as imposing on the recruiting trail, plus heavy interest from Notre Dame that did not actually materialize into an offer. Or may have. There was some confusion about that, and though newspaper comment sections are pretty much the worst places on the internet this actually sounds very plausible as to what went down
The guru ratings above are all pretty meh, but he does have a mitigating circumstance: his junior year was cut short by a shoulder injury. In the five games he played he had 56(!) tackles, eight(!) sacks, and four forced fumbles.
Random biographical note: Jones' father was a first-round NFL draft pick who played for the Steelers, Patriots, and Dolphins over the course of a nine-year career.
Why Larry Foote? ESPN spends most of its evaluation talking about what a terrifying blitzer Jones is; Foote was a terrifying blitzer who was about the same size and weight as Jones' potential down the road. Foote was also a moderately hyped recruit making a shift from safety to linebacker. (IIRC, that was a long time ago.)
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Jones is at a big Florida school and is probably pretty well scouted, but the junior year injury and his decision to avoid camps put some wobble in his ranking.
General Excitement Level: Eh; I'm expecting one of the OLB recruts to pan out in a big way, one to be okay, and one to wash out.
Projection: A redshirt or special teams duty in year one followed by a year behind Mouton; in 2010 will go to war for the starting job.
YMRMFSPA = "you may remember me from such players as." Note that this is not supposed to be a projection of success; we only know how successful players play, as unsuccessful ones don't.
|Lauderhill, Florida - 6'0" 186
|Scout||3*, #42 S|
|Rivals||4*, #14 S|
|ESPN||80, #22 S|
|Other Suitors||Ohio State, Wisconsin, Tennessee,
South Carolina, Stanford
|TomVH interviews Vlad; MGoBlog commit article.|
|Notes||Best name in the class; early enroller.|
Emilien seemed ticketed for Ohio State before a senior-year injury knocked him out and the Buckeyes accepted a slew of defensive back commitments. He received a mid-march offer from OSU and favored the Buckeyes for a long time, but never pulled the trigger. Offers followed from Tennessee, South Carolina, USF, Auburn, and Illinois before Michigan followed suit in late April. LSU followed up with one.
It was at this point Emilien and OSU started drifting apart, as he remained uncommitted while six other DBs signed up. After some on-again, off-again stuff—due in part to some malfeasance on the part of OH S Bradley McDougald, then an OSU commit—Ohio State reappeared on his list for good at about the same time Michigan got back on it. After officials to Wisconsin and Michigan, Emilien picked M the day after the OSU game.
The ACL tear that held Emilien out his senior season, and two big schools' reaction to it, may have made the difference:
"It meant a lot to me that U-M stayed loyal to me after I hurt my knee ... others stopped recruiting me at that time and that hurt. Michigan stayed with me; they showed me they will still be with me in tough times as well as good."
So: that's a wide selection of impressive early offers and continued, if intermittent, Ohio State pursuit despite their flood of defensive backs. Plus you've got two sites giving him four stars despite the injury. Sounds good, but we're probably going to have to wait to see him on the field. Coach quote:
"Vlad is still just really developing,'' Davis said. "He was a running back as a freshman. I think he has the potential to be just like [current Gator] Major Wright.''
Major Wright, you say?
Of course, Wright was a major (ha!) reason Florida's secondary was so toasty crisp in 2007—Citrus Bowl what—and he didn't spend his senior year on the sideline. Emilien's early enrollment is probably not enough to offset inexperience and any lingering effects from the injury.
But he'll work when he gets here:
WHAT I DO TO STAY IN SHAPE: "I'm a workaholic; basically all I do is train, train, train. I wake up at 5 a.m. and go train. I run track, too, so I'm trying to keep myself in shape for that. I lift weights. Go on the track and do a couple of 400s to keep my endurance up. I run a couple of 110s, because that's what they run in college. I've got to get used to the college life and make sure my speed is up."
Pray to Baby Jesus that he got an A in geometry; if he does we've got something here.
Why Jamar Adams? Approximately same build, same sort of early offer, and he's the only Michigan safety in the last ten years that wouldn't be an insult.
Guru Reliability: Low. Wide spread and a senior-year injury.
General Excitement Level: Moderate Plus. OSU safeties not named Jamario O'Neal have played out of all proportion to their rankings for years now and I'm extremely happy to pry a guy they thought was worthy of a March offer out of their hands. Probably underrated, but the knee injury increases the chances he won't live up to those offers.
Projection: Either sparing special teams time as a freshman or (hopefully) a redshirt. In 2010 will be a major threat to start at strong safety, though he might have to fight Brandon Smith to get a job.
it comes. it is the glendening. prepare your rosewater. [er: commenters point out this is actually Wohlberg, which is true.]
Hockey won four straight. I'm staring at a box score that shows Michigan down 2-0 after seven minutes and then this:
Travis Turnbull (Louie Caporusso, David Wohlberg) PPG 15:04
Brian Lebler (Travis Turnbull, Robbie Czarnik) 16:44
Luke Glendening (Louie Caporusso) GWG 15:32
Luke Glendening (Louie Caporusso, David Wohlberg) ENG
That's the equivalent of basketball winning with 30 points from David Merritt. The night before Michigan pulled Hogan after he gave up 3 goals on eleven shots and put in Sauer for the third and then Sauer went out and won the next night. The once-settled goalie situation now seems unsettled, but four wins over decent competition is four wins. Michigan has now moved into third place in the CCHA and has nearly clinched the first-round bye. Notre Dame is six clear and is all but assured the regular season crown—things would be much more interesting with competent refereeing a couple weeks ago—and Miami remains a game ahead of M.
[Update: Hogan had the flu and pulled himself out, apparently.]
…and moved way up in the Pairwise. The win streak has moved Michigan into outstanding position in the pairwise. They're second overall now, somehow, and Notre Dame has fallen to fourth. If the season ended today, Michigan would finally get to stay home and play in the Grand Rapids regional.
I'll spare you the details as to how the bracket is formed—those interested can get them at USCHO—but forming a coherent one is tough at the moment because three teams currently in the tournament are guaranteed hosts: Minnesota, Yale, and UNH. Michigan's bracket on a pure seeding basis is frickin' righteous:
15. AH autobid (probably Air Force)
However, Yale has to be in Bridgeport and there can't be a first-round intra-conference matchup, so someone would have to get swapped out or in. The thing that seems to make the most sense right now is swapping Yale into BU's bracket and Denver into Michigan's, but all this stuff is going to change a thousand times before the end of the season. It's not worth getting exercised about.
You want Notre Dame to lose, lose, lose, as if they slide ahead of Michigan in the PWR they'll get the spot in Grand Rapids and Michigan is getting shipped. (Probably. The rule book no longer demands that #1 seeds get placed in order of seeding.) Also feel free to root against UNH, as their hold on the tournament is tenuous at the moment and their exclusion would help Michigan not get hosed.
The margins in the PWR are always thin, so Michigan has a lot to play for in the final couple weeks of the season and the playoffs. They've got a couple of road games against Ohio State—which has to be kicking itself after it took a 3-2 lead against ND with under three minutes left, then took a spearing(!) major, let the game get tied up with a second left, and lost in OT—and the season-ending home and home against Ferris. OSU is solidly on the bubble for the tournament and will be playing for its season against Michigan; Michigan will be playing to keep pole position for Grand Rapids. Should be an excellent series, and both games are televised.
Mark Mitera's prognosis got grimmer. Michael Spath:
When [Mitera] met with the entire media about three weeks ago, he was energized and talking about a mid-February return. Not so Monday. Admits getting back into playing shape is much harder than he anticipated. Looks good when he does skate, but his stamina is lacking severely. Said today he wasn't even sure he'd be back for the final weekend of the regular season Feb. 27-28.
Spath updated that with a quote from one of the coaches stating that if Mitera was ready for the CCHA playoffs he'd play in them—and remember they'll have two weeks to prepare after the Ferris series—with the most likely lineup change being Chris Summers to forward.
I'm not wild about that idea since Summers has been excellent on D and the return of Mitera would be an opportunity to sit the penalty- and mistake-prone Llewellyn (although he may have played better the past couple weeks); meanwhile the Michigan grinders like Winnett and Fardig and Ciraulo and Glendening have all been playing well.
Michigan picked up a depth forward for next year. Chris Heisenberg is now listing Lindsay Sparks as a Michigan commitment. Sparks was committed to Brown until his M switch. Yost Built has more on Sparks; sounds like he'll be a depth forward. Maybe John Shouneyia upside?
Notre Dame announced a new arena. Ding, dong, the Joyce is dead. Jeff Jackson has already made them a power and they'll be one until he retires; the new arena should help him recruit. The CCHA's days as the Big Two and little ten (or eight or nine) are over; Miami and ND are here to stay.
So: I'm back. It might be a little slow today as I attempt to catch up on almost two weeks of happenings and assimilate them into coherent thought. But it might not.
First, though: massive thanks to UMHoops, Varsity Blue, The Wolverine Liberation Army, Yost Built, The Hoover Street Rag, MVictors, Diarist Jamiemac, and longtime commenter and general blog affiliate Colin for picking up the slack and then some in my absence. I hope you found a couple other blogs to read during our painful separation. Also, Tom Van Haaren turned in an MGoBlog first by breaking the commitment of OH WR Jerald Robinson.
A common question: where was I? This, hopefully, will reveal all.
You will note that guy's slammin', laser-enhanced Michigan hat:
A second commonly-fielded question isn't actually a question, it's "you can't ever do this again," which sentiment I appreciate. This was long and ill-timed and next time someone asks if I can evaporate for almost two weeks in February I'll say "uh… no". HOWEVA, this was also the first time in over four years that I'd taken more than a weekday away from the blog outside of the annual Christmas break. I'll probably do it again at some point. But in summer.
Also appreciated is the flood of donations that came in when the WLA browbeat y'all. I was sitting in a McDonald's in Aswan—free internet!—the last time I got my email and was stunned, flattered, and then a little bit suspicious of the tide. Many thanks to everyone who chipped in.
As a reward for tolerating my absence, here's a list of all the things you can't take on Egyptian planes, including "spear," "weapons for killing cattle," "spiral taking away instrument for cork plug," and, bizarrely, "roller skating shoes." (click for big; well worth it):
Now, on with the show.
Hi. I'm back, and tired, and it's 3:30 AM but I've already slept seven hours today so, like, hi.
The Daily has confirmed the rampant internet rumor that Steven Threet was planning on a transfer:
"I have decided to transfer from the University of Michigan," Threet wrote in the statement. "I have requested and received my release. I do not yet know where I will continue my collegiate career, and have no further comment until that decision is made."
This is obviously not good for anything except my prediction that Tate Forcier would be the opening-day starter. For all Threet's faults he looked competent at times last year and could have been passable as a sophomore; Michigan is basically down to the two freshmen and then it's time to close your eyes, pick a walk-on, and pray.
So, yeah. Hooray for good news immediately upon returning.