fair point that
Yesterday the Wolverines gained a commitment from OH LB Jake Ryan from Cleveland St. Ignatius High School, a traditional power in Ohio's largest high school division.
|2*, #113 OLB||3*, NR OLB||NR, not in database|
Before everyone starts freaking out, I'm going to go ahead and warn you: this kid is a sleeper. Like, a deep, deep sleeper. He barely even exists in the eyes of many talent evaluators, though some have been quick to admit they simply missed the boat on him. Now, let's dive into the evaluations.
We start with Rivals, whose Greg Ladky caught him in a scrimmage against Twinsburg (alma mater of Sapce Emperor Zoltan Mesko) this fall:
LB-Jake Ryan- St. Ignatius- Ryan may end up being a defensive end at the next level. His 6-foot-3 listing may be a actually be a bit short. He looks like he is in tremendous shape, and made a few nice tackles on defense. He has the size and range to be a force for St. Ignatius this year, teaming with McVey to form a strong and mean linebacker corps.
The general scuttlebutt is that Ryan may be a bit taller than 6-3. Ladky seems to think so. Interesting to see that he may be considered a potential defensive end even if Michigan's coaches aren't likely to share that opinion. Good range is a plus in coverage, but the Wolverines' linebacker commits over the past couple years have had plenty of range, it's the size that's new and exciting. The McVey in question there is OH LB Scott McVey, an Ohio State commit who was in and out of the lineup with injuries this year.
Ryan managed to make 1st-Team All-State as a linebacker, and he's listed at 6-5 on that list. On the Scout message boards (take with a grain of salt, of course), "CatFan93" who says he's been involved with Ignatius football for more than 30 years, says the following about Ryan:
Ryan was Ignatius' best defensive player this year by a wide margin. Jake had a great year and has an excellent frame at 6'3 225#, he is a big strong kid that can run in the high 4.5s, he is a very athletic kid. Versatile athlete that played FB this year, some TE in the past and also excelled on KO and PR coverage
To this point, I have been perplexed by his offer sheet, which is essentially every team in the MAC conference. He is far better than a MAc player, I would have expected his offer sheet would read something like Boston College, Vanderbilt, Indiana, Virginia, Northwestern, Michigan State, Iowa, Pittsburgh, Louisville, etc at this point.
That said, i think this is a stretch offer for UM. Jake is a B10 talent, just but not a Big 4 [UM, OSU, ND, PSU] talent IMO. While he possesses good speed, he doesnt possess the lateral sideline to sideline speed that I would want to see at an elite BCS school. Watch his film, when he is making plays near the sidelines, often times it is after someone has already turned the play back inside.
That's not a exactly ringing endorsement, but it's pretty positive. Maybe you can see some Ohio State fandom bleed into the assessment in the contradictions: a 225 pound, 6'3" high school kid running in the high 4.5s has plenty of speed to play middle linebacker, and the youtube highlight reel shows him tracking down guys from Glenville wide. In any case, at this point in the recruiting cycle it's good to pick up a guy who would fit in just fine at Iowa at a position of need. He doesn't have to be a four star to be a much better option than Michigan's other underclass middle linebackers: air and walk-ons.
CatFan also sheds a little light on Jake's sleeper status:
One need only look at junior year tape to compare McVey v Ryan. Jake was a starter for 6-7 games his junior season before he got injured. Not a rap on Jake's abilities, but McVey was just head/shoulder above...It has been a long time since I have seen a LB have the kind of season that McVey did last year.
The recruiting types could look at Ryan and see a higher ceiling because of the better frame, maybe they are right...but as long as Scott's shoulder heals - and everything I hear is positive in that regard, there is no question which one I would rather have on my football team...
So, I guess the cliff notes version is that Scott McVey is an amazing high school prospect, and Jake Ryan is just OK. The junior injury helps explain Ryan's low profile, and McVey's senior injury might explain why Ryan was named St. Ignatius's best linebacker at the team banquet.
Again with the sleeper talk. Ryan had scholarship offers from mostly MAC-type schools, including Ball State, Bowling Green, Central and Eastern Michigans, Ohio, and Toledo. He took visits to Ball State, OU (not that OU), and Toledo prior to this weekend's Ann Arbor visit.
On that visit, Rich Rodriguez and company decided that his film was good enough to warrant an offer, which he accepted today. There have been rumors that he's a Patrick Omameh-style sleeper, with Ohio State coming on strong very late. In that case, it's a heck of a steal.
St. Ignatius finished the 2009 season 11-1 with wins over talented teams like Glenville, Massillon Washington, St Xavier, and Inkster, whose quarterback is some guy you may have heard of. The lone loss was a 13-30 defeat in a playoff rematch with the Tarblooders of Glenville.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer tells us his stats for the year (and also provide the picture up top):
Ryan used his outstanding pass-rushing technique to register a team-leading 104 tackles for the Wildcats with 62 solos, 26 tackles for loss, eight sacks, eight quarterback hurries, four deflected passes and two fumble recoveries.
For those who disagreed with my assessment from his video the other day, it's "used his outstanding pass-rush technique" that bothers me: as a middle linebacker, he's going to have to do a whole lot more than rush the QB. Maybe he has another highlight video that shows him doing other stuff, but I haven't seen it.
FAKE 40 TIME
Rivals lists his 40 time as 4.6. That's your average linebacker time (listed, perhaps not accurately), and his highlight videos show that he has good closing speed. With very little to suggest he's not a very good athlete, I would give this 40 time just two FAKEs out of five.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Michigan is thin, thin, thin at middle linebacker. The synopsis for this guy is that he's in good shape, and would be accurately listed somewhere around 6-4 and 210 pounds. That's a little on the smallish side but with the depth chart, he will be forced into spot duty as a freshman as a backup and on special teams. The company line on traditionally-powerful Catholic schools is that their players come out well-coached, so he won't be overwhelmed. Ryan actually, you know, played linebacker in high school—a rarity on Michigan's roster—and that should help ease his transition.
During that year, he'll hopefully be able to develop physically, adding muscle without any bad weight, and be the primary backup to JB Fitzgerald or Kevin Leach(!) as a true sophomore. After that, he won't put on more bulk unless he is just too slow for linebacker.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Ryan takes the second-to-last slot in the recruiting class assuming no further attrition. That leaves just one spot left, and it would take a serious upset for that spot to go to anyone other than a safety. The remaining options at that position are CA S Sean Parker, FL S Rashad Knight, and longshot FL S Demar Dorsey (a soft Florida commit) in order from most to least likely.
Michigan may also grayshirt an incoming prospect, and there could be another kid or two who leaves the recruiting class for some reason or another. In that instance, Michigan would try to grab two of the safeties, or the best option at safety and one lineman if they can find a good one.
So this happened. Will MS Paint ever go too far? If it hasn't already, it won't ever get there:
If you think that's impressive or, more likely, disturbing you should see user LongLiveBo's collection of these that now goes six deep. "Barwis Beach" is a favorite. I hope LLB is a hobo or student, because if he's not his job is really, really boring.
Bzzzt. Mark Snyder got the defensive coordinator job at South Florida, which takes him off Michigan's list for their linebackers opening. He also talked to reporters, including this here site's Tim Sullivan, about the position at halftime of the UConn game. Birkett has a quote currently open in my tabs so we'll go with that:
“Still talking to guys,” Rodriguez said Sunday at halftime of the Michigan-UConn basketball game. “I may do it in a week or 2, I may do it after signing day.”
Hiring a guy right now does not seem like a huge priority. If it was going to get done before signing day it probably would have gotten done at the coaches meetings.
The new name. And since all Michigan coaching news involves the Bulls in some way, the new name on the list is recently departed USF linebackers coach David Blackwell. He's talked with Michigan about the job:
Linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator David Blackwell has had contact with Michigan about its linebackers job.
Blackwell was officially given his walking papers and is looking for a new gig. As you can see in the table below, Blackwell has extensive experience as a linebackers coach.
That's twelve straight years Blackwell's been coaching the position, eight years as a recruiting coordinator, and one year as the increasingly popular "co-defensive coordinator." His bio has a bunch of accomplishments that are debatably his—it's hard to assign credit or blame to a single position coach, but it is true that Clemson was a consistently excellent defensive team with Blackwell coaching and his departure was because Tommy Bowden got axed, not because he just wasn't hacking it.
Also, if some people are concerned that this might be a sort of crony hire, that's hard to see. Rodriguez was long gone from Clemson by the time Blackwell showed up and whatever weird USF connection he's got going appears totally coincidental since Blackwell only got one year with the Bulls before Jim Leavitt had to choke a walk-on. Rodriguez's familiarity with Blackwell is limited to coaching against his Pitt team for three years early in his tenure at West Virginia and whatever contact he maintained with Tommy Bowden's staff at Clemson. This is not a guy Rodriguez goes way back with.
In Blackwell's single season at USF the Bulls finished 49th in rushing defense, 25th in pass defense, 24th in total defense, and 19th in scoring D. However, some of USF hilariously weak non-conference opponents had something to do with that. Wofford, Western Kentucky, Charleston Southern are two I-AA teams and a team (WKU) that was a I-AA three years ago. Also, those numbers are a slight step back from the previous year, when USF was 10th in rushing D and 11th in total D against a tougher slate of opponents.
In games against actual competition, USF gave up 7 to an explosive Florida State outfit and 19 to West Virginia but 34 to Cincinnati, 41 to Pitt, 31 to Rutgers, 31 to Miami, and 29 to UConn in losses. Not all of those numbers are as bad as that, though. Like Michigan in 2008, USF's defense was crushed once Matt Grothe went out and ridiculously erratic BJ Daniels came in. Daniels seemingly went three-and-out or threw a 70-yard touchdown on every drive, so there were a lot of opportunities for opponents to score.
Also, one year is not a good sample size.
Blackwell also has a twitter. It tends towards multiple exclamation points and was last updated in August.
Brief, unavoidably homoerotic interlude. So this picture of Denard Robinson at his track meet—which MGoBlog covered in detail—has been floating around the internets:
1. Daaaaang. I bet he can punch through a cow.
2. It looks like Denard got a temporary case of Greg Oden disease there, eh? (The one that makes you look old, not the one that makes you have a series of increasingly terrible injuries that cause people to compare you to Sam Bowie.)
3. Pretty sure the big bald white dude in the background is OL coach Greg Frey.
As long as we're talking about Robinson, Devin Gardner finally getting the piece of paper he needed from Inkster and enrolling at Michigan for spring practice opens up a world of possibilities at quarterback. Everyone's got their opinion on this—I've been getting emails about it since Gardner committed—and here's mine. Assumptions:
- Gardner will almost certainly not be better than Tate Forcier this fall. If Michigan gives a freshman quarterback extensive playing time for a third straight year it is bad, Rodriguez-firin' type news.
- Redshirting Gardner is best for both him and the program unless Gardner plays a lot better than he did at the UA game and in the state finals. That throwing motion degraded over the course of the year to the point where he was really pushing the ball; he needs probably a solid year of coaching to go back to the zippy delivery he developed over the summer.
- Robinson didn't even run the zone read last year and is so far behind Tate that once there are other options at quarterback it makes sense to get Robinson's athleticism on the field in any way possible.
So. Tate starts, Gardner is groomed as the backup quarterback but not put on the field unless circumstances demand it. I just can't see a few plays late in blowouts being more helpful for Gardner and the program than a fifth year. If Tate gets dinged for a series or two, Robinson is the guy. If he's out for an extended period, it's time to put in Gardner (and pray). Robinson evolves into a slash player that takes some wildcat-type snaps at quarterback and also functions as a slot receiver/tailback. Michigan should also look at having him return kicks.
Cone, mad flow, nothing new here. Via TomVH, David "Febreze" Cone's latest masterpiece:
(Someone needs to unescape their text.)
This is why you don't hire your head coach as an assistant. I think most people thought West Virginia was in a little bit of trouble when Doc Holliday got snatched up by Marshall, but probably not this much trouble:
Didn't he say that he would not go after Florida commits when he came here as an assistant?
After his "racist" comments while at NC State I never thought I could forgive him. I got over it and accepted him with open arms. After this, I hope he is never welcomed back at WVU.
Hide the trash cans if he comes to the Civic Center on Wednesday.
That was after Holliday swooped in and snake oiled two West Virginia commits away from the 'Eers, so West Virginia fans are probably even more pissed off now that WR Darius Millines pulled the same trick. Add in Richard Ash and Davion Rogers defecting to Michigan and it's been a suboptimal recruiting year in WVU. They're losing recruits like Tennessee did in the aftermath of the Kiffin fiasco… so who's the head coach there anyway?
The other angle: dude, Doc Holliday is some sort of ninja snake charmer if he can get recruits to bail on a consistently top 25 team in a BCS conference for a mediocre CUSA team in the same state.
Etc. Underground Printing is featured at AnnArbor.com. I'm quoted about our relationship, which is working out great. Baseball picked up a commitment from the top player in Illinois. Teric Jones is moving back to offense for spring. Orson goes curling and loves it. In three months he will be Canadian. West Virginians search for Rich Rodriguez vastly more often than people in Ann Arbor.
FL S Demar Dorsey is a safety prospect from Lauderdale Lakes, Florida who took an official visit to Michigan this past weekend. Dorsey, a Florida commitment, is a highly ranked recruit and happens to be the cousin of Michigan's very own Denard Robinson. I caught up with him after his visit, and this is what he had to say.
TOM: How was your visit to Michigan?
DEMAR: It was great taking the trip to Michigan. I learned a lot of new things about the academics, and about the program. I met a couple players, coaches, and their wives and kids. Went to Rich Rodriguez’s house, and hung out and played video games. We were at the basketball game, too, that was fun. We all ran on the court after they won, which was fun.
TOM: What were the coaches telling you about what position you’d play?
DEMAR: They want me to play safety and corner. They said that they want me to play offense, too. They said I could play a little receiver, run some reverses, and screens because of my speed.
TOM: Denard Robinson is your cousin, what had he told you about Michigan before this visit?
DEMAR: He was just telling me not to listen to what other people say about the weather, and the academics are strong. Having him there won’t be a big factor in my decision, but it would be nice.
TOM: What made you decide to come up to Michigan?
DEMAR: Shoelace was telling me about the program, and I was just waiting for my test scores to come back. I was going to go to Tennessee, but then the coaches changed so I put Michigan back on the map.
TOM: You and Devin Gardner played in the UA game. Did you guys strike up a friendship?
DEMAR: Yeah, me and Devin met at the Under Armor camp and game, and we hung out a couple times at the camp. We already knew each other, so we got to know each other a little more and had some fun together.
TOM: What other visits do you plan on taking?
DEMAR: I’ve been to Florida already, so I’m going to Florida State this weekend and then USC.
TOM: Are you still committed to Florida?
TOM: Is it a soft commit?
DEMAR: I’m just trying to take a couple visits to see what other schools have to offer. I think I’m going to stay committed, but I’m not sure. It’s going to come down to signing day, so I’m not sure what could happen, really.
Yesterday the Wolverines gained a commitment from OH DE/LB Davion Rogers, a teammate of DJ Williamson at Warren G. Harding High School. Yes, that's where Mario Manningham went to high school.
Now it's time to drop the information on you:
|3*, #94 OLB||3*, #26 OLB||3*, 78, #29 OLB|
I'm a bit surprised that the recruiting sites list Rogers as an OLB, because it seems to be generally accepted to Michigan fans (and many analysts) that he'll primarily play with his hand down. Rivals's Greg Ladky took in a Harding scrimmage and evaluated Rogers like so:
Rogers is still pretty skinny, but is clearly athletic and very rangy. He showed some agility on a short catch a reaching up the field for a 10-yard gain. He needs to improve against the run and increase his aggressiveness in taking on blockers, but as he fills in his frame, he could be a monster off the edge. He will be fun to watch develop at the college level.
Ladky seems to think he's destined for defensive end as well, and ESPN thinks that, with some weight room work, he could be a special one:
Rogers has the chance to a very special player at the next level because of his natural tools. He has exceptional height for a safety or outside linebacker but could gain some weight and be a dominating rush end on defense. Flows, closes and has very good range for such a tall player.
"He'll run down things from behind," Harding Coach D.J. Dota said. "If it's run at him, he pretty much destroys it. He's probably our best defensive player and our defense is pretty good. He's just been all over the field. He has that knack to find the football. We've asked him to do a bunch of different things this year and he's done a great job understanding what he needs to do for us,'' Dota said. "He's made a lot of great plays for us.
"He's a great blitzer off the edge. Really, anything you ask him to do he does really well because of his athletic ability, which is really shocking because of his height. He plays really fast."
Dota said once Rogers fills out his frame in the weight room, the sky is the limit.
"I think he can play at the next level - the NFL,the Harding coach said. "I think his game will only improve. His game has improved some much in a year. The mental knowledge, he understands what's going on around him."
The Destruction of All Runs is a trait that the unbiased sources don't attribute to him, so at the very least, that part may be his coach blowing hot air. HIs versatility and athletic ability, on the other hand, are apparent to seemingly everyone. From the same article, Rogers describes his own game:
"I've got the feet of a safety, I hit like a linebacker and the size of a defensive end," said Rogers in summing up his talents. "I get to the ball. No matter what I'm going to get to the ball. I'm determined to get to that ball.
Those positive reviews, are mostly backed up by third-party evaluators. It seems as though his largest upside is at defensive end (or maybe hybrid OLB/DE), but for what it's worth when Rogers committed to West Virginia they planned on playing him somewhere in the back seven, maybe even in the secondary(!):
Despite being as tall as the average defensive lineman, the coaches at West Virginia have narrowed their options to put Rogers at linebacker, or possibly in the secondary with Dorsey.
"They like me at linebacker, but they might look into playing me as a strong safety," Rogers said. "I'll do whatever they ask me to do. I just want to be able represent myself the best way that I can. I'm looking forward to any opportunity that they give me to play. I'm very excited."
The main reason for his low rankings despite the potential is the fact that he's a tweener right now. He weighs as much as a safety but projects as a defensive end or outside linebacker, which means he won't contribute right away.
He is reminiscent of Shawn Crable, though he might [ed: must] have thicker legs and is starting out of high school at much lower weight (205 or less against Crable's 230ish). Buckeye Planet has a Harding insider named "Worm02" who cites Crable in his assessment of Rogers' talent:
Last year was Rogers' first year playing varsity and the only thing that he played was OLB. Obviously, when you're dealing with a kid that tall, you can imagine him playing DE at the next level, so there are a lot of possibilities, but I could see Rogers' current frame being suitable for OLB. At this point, I won't say that he is better than Shawn Crable was in HS (that dude was a BEAST at Massillon!), but that's another tall guy who played OLB in college. Then again, Lamarr Woodley was a LB in high school who bulked up and moved down to DE in college, and he wasn't nearly as tall. That's a big dude though (he came to Warren with Prescott Burgess a couple times). Speaking of Burgess, he was a standout at SS in HS who played OLB in college and does so now for the Baltimore Ravens, and he was 6'4 at Harding. Davion is 6'6, but Burgess had a much bigger frame.
Though all three recruiting services give him three stars, Scout is the outlier in terms of ranking, as both other sites have him in the top 30 OLBs, on the cusp of four stars. Rivals has him one slot above OLB/DE tweener, almost-commit, and future Seminole Holmes Onwukaife, FWIW, so any complaints about that recruitment have been effectively mooted.
Rogers had a very early offer from Michigan State and then got one from West Virginia that he immediately snapped up. As such, information on who has been recruiting Rogers is sparse. Articles about committed recruits don't really talk about other offers until that recruit is soft, and Rogers has only been soft for a couple weeks.
He also received interest from regional non-BCS teams, including offers from Ohio University, and Toledo. Pittsburgh showed him interest, but never offered.
From the same article as above, Rogers accrued the following stats through 8 games:
Rogers, who has earned a three-star rating (out of five) from Scout.com, has 55 tackles, seven sacks, two interceptions, a forced fumble and fumble recovery for a touchdown this season for Warren G. Harding (5-3).
HOWEVA, Harding was never 5-3 on the year, as they tied their first game against East Cleveland Shaw, and finished the year before that article, with a record of 6-3-1 in 10 games. Take those stats as a rough approximation of his production this year.
FAKE 40 TIME
Rivals lists his 40 time as 4.6, and that's the only source I can find a reported time. For a future defensive end, that's pretty low, but as a guy who sounds like he could play safety if he wasn't so tall, it's not so ridiculous. I'll split the difference, and give it just two FAKEs out of five.
Rogers, like most Ohio prospects, has video available from ScoutingOhio:
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Rogers has a lot of athletic potential but is not college-ready at this point. He has a lot of physical maturing to do. Even if he is to stay at linebacker, he needs to add 25 to 40 pounds. More likely, he'll be a pass-rushing DE, probably from the quick position, a la Craig Roh. That would require even more weight being added, but fortunately—and unlike Roh—he's not being called upon to contribute right away.
Rogers will definitely redshirt. In that year he'll hopefully be able to add tons and tons of muscle, possibly getting into the 230-pound range. As a redshirt freshman, he will probably contribute on some special teams, perhaps as the Brandon Graham-style Designated Punt Blocker. Unless more defensive ends emerge, he may be called upon for spot duty in pass-rush situations as well.
As a redshirt sophomore, he'll back up a senior Craig Roh, or even grow enough (remember, he's 6-6 and only 200 pounds) to move to the strongside defensive end position, where he would be a backup as well. As a redshirt junior and senior, he should be a full-time starter.
Given his coach's (and the scouts') evaluations of his talent, he could develop into an NFL player, so All-Conference distinctions when he reaches a starting role are not out of the question.
[Editor's note: I wouldn't put it past Rogers to stay at linebacker for a bit given the composition of the roster. Shawn Crable was an enormous chicken-legged linebacker for most of his time at Michigan and only moved down to defensive end permanently as a senior. Rogers seems like a good fit at the weakside linebacker spot currently occupied by Jonas Mouton, and that spot will be open when Rogers is presumably coming off his redshirt year. Long term, though, Shawn Crable was the world's most perfect fit for the deathbacker spot and this guy is Shawn Crable 2.0.]
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Rogers is technically commitment #25 for the class, but is more likely #24 given the likelihood that Tony Drake does not end up in Ann Arbor. OH LB Jake Ryan just committed and is #25. Rich Rodriguez said yesterday that they will be able to enroll 26 players in the fall, so that leaves one more slot assuming there's no further attrition from the recruiting class.
With a true pass-rusher (finally) in the fold, safety is most pressing concern. Sean Parker, Rashad Knight, and maybe even Demar Dorsey (who visited over the weekend) are the possibilities. Another possibility: Michigan could grab both Parker and Knight if there is a decommit or someone does not look likely to qualify.
EDITOR-APPENDED BIT AT THE END THAT ISN'T IRONIC BUT IS THE SORT OF THING YOU WANT TO CALL IRONIC DESPITE ITS LACK OF IRONY
Rogers grew up a huge Ohio State fan to the point where the first article on him from Bucknuts was summarized like so by Buckeye Planet:
Davion says that although he is friends with Mario Manningham and grew up next to Prescott Burgess, he is not at all interested in Michigan...only tOSU.
OH MY GOD WOULD YOU PLEASE LET US FINISH THE GOOGLE STALK ON ONE PROSPECT BEFORE COMMITTING THIS IS JUST LIKE THE LAST THREE MINUTES OF THE FRIDAY HOCKEY GAME. OK. PLZ THX.
Sleeper linebacker Jake Ryan of Cleveland St. Ignatius has committed to Michigan. Informative update coming eventually. Davion Rogers first. Video for now (RAWK):
Also standard argumentative thread about how awesome he is.
1/16/2010 – Michigan 6, Alaska 0 – 13-10, 8-7 CCHA
1/17/2010 – Michigan 3, Alaska 3 (Alaska 1-0 shootout), 13-10-1, 8-7-0-1 CCHA
Hockey doesn't have grand narrative arc of a 12-game football season so usually I'm at a loss when trying to come up with a column-type substance. Instead, this is mostly items.
With about five minutes left in Saturday's third period I was stewing. After two periods of near-total domination interspersed with a terrible turnover from Chad Langlais, a terrible penalty from Tristin Llewellyn, and the goals that resulted from them, Michigan trailed 3-2 but looked like they'd come storming back in the third. Instead, Alaska kept them penned in their own end with help from a series of dumb or questionable penalties. Michigan had one scoring chance.
It was the exact same script they'd followed all year: own territorially, fail to generate goals off that dominance, make enough undisciplined plays to get behind. It was the same script they'd kicked the year off with in a 2-0 loss against the Nanooks in which they outshot the opponent by more than two to one. It threatened to undo the good from the Friday night shellacking. It was very annoying.
Then Langlais dashed into the slot to pick up a loose puck and fired it through the goaltender and outshot Alaska 6-1 in OT—though the Nanooks didn't get credit for a shot that zinged off the inside of the post—and everything seemed okay. Michigan is 3-0-1 after the break and moving towards the NCAA bubble. They're showing some fight, at least, and it seems plausible that they do something this weekend against tourney-bound Ferris.
The shootout doesn't really matter. It matters a little for CCHA standings but in the eyes of the NCAA it's a tie. For the PWR, Michigan picked up a three-point weekend against a pretty good opponent.
As far as the CCHA goes, Michigan is now within striking distance of that fourth place spot that gets the last first-round bye. They're tied for sixth with Notre Dame, four back of fifth place Alaska, and five back of fourth place Lake State, but they've got two games in hand on all those teams. If you believe in goal differential, Michigan should be able to distance themselves from those two teams over the final stretch: Michigan is +11 in conference while Alaska is –4 and Lake State is +1.
Bork! You know a player has developed into a star when your reaction to his line hitting the ice is "oh thank God," and Carl Hagelin has officially reached this level with me. I've been touting him for a while now but never had that visceral relief until this weekend. He's like a version of Jed Ortmeyer with little rockets in his skates.
Depending on what happens the rest of this season and next, he'll challenge Ortmeyer for champion of my personal Michigan hockey Valhalla. I fully approve of some intrepid students deploying a Swedish flag big enough to use on a battleship this weekend:
Speaking of students. Giant Swedish flag plus responsible vuvuzela guys* plus far more newspapers than usual plus general liveliness equals one of—if not the—best student sections I've seen at Yost. They've even added a few things to the rich panoply of things people say at Yost. "Moose, sieve" is a fantastic addition to the selection of "noun, sieve" chants and this is the year the bizarre muppet-esque hooting that goes on when an opponent is trying to break out of its zone on the power play went from fringe weirdness to actual thing. I'm impressed given the crappy year and the crappy football year that preceded it.
HOWEVA, it is extremely bad form to give the opponent a "warm up the bus/sled/sorority" chant on Friday. One, it doesn't make any sense since they're not going anywhere. Two, it is jinxtastic. Also, a request: someone needs to have their cell phone ring be an incredibly loud plain ringtone as if from a, you know, landline, and they need to have their buddies call four or five times a game so the "Hey, [goalie], it's your mom" cheer can continue.
That is all. Carry on with all other things.
*(Another friend suggested everyone get them because they were "awesome" and I was all "with great power to annoy comes great responsibility." The current amount of crazy plastic horn noise is excellent; more would probably be a disaster.)
So to belabor a point. I don't want to be a creepy mean guy about a kid playing hockey but I do think this sequence was sort of amazing: someone with a 4 as the second number on their jersey runs in for a check on an Alaska player and gets an extremely dubious elbowing call. I turn to my friend and say "I give Llewellyn a lot of crap but that was a terrible call," and then it turns out the guy heading to the box is Brian Lebler. Seven seconds—seven seconds!—later, Llewellyn blatantly grabs a guy to prevent him from getting to a Michigan forward attempting to clear the puck and Michigan goes down two guys for almost the full two. Alaska scores twice. Argh.
Elsewhere in guys who I think had bad weekends: Langlais did score the game-tying goal Saturday but before that he was having a really rough weekend. Alaska's first goal on Saturday was the direct result of a Langlais turnover and he made a series of other mistakes, none of which remain so clear in my mind, before the great redemption.
Lebler, meanwhile, had a really weird weekend. On Saturday he scored on two absolute lasers Brett Hull would have been proud of and zinged a potential hat trick off the post. I've never seen Lebler do anything of the sort before. Then on Saturday he picked up four minors, one of them the aforementioned weak elbowing call but the others were dumb stuff that you have to call.
Good things. Lee Moffie has established himself as an up-and-comer. He's not very physical but is steady, doesn't make a lot of mistakes—though he did fall down and create a two-on-one—and has an excellent shot. It's not heavy but it's seriously accurate; when he dove in from the point to pick up a great Hagelin centering pass it went top shelf, no mistake.
Lindsay Sparks, meanwhile, has gone from healthy scratch to third (second?) liner and kept up his hot recent play with a sweet powerplay goal on which he walked out of the corner and slid it five-hole. Sparks is sixth on the team in PPG and has as many points as Kevin Lynch and one more than AJ Treais despite the latter two having played twice as many games.
Michigan is moving on up. The last two weekends have had a huge positive effect on Michigan's numbers. They're currently 19th in RPI. Two weeks ago they were 29th, not even a Team Under Consideration (TUC). Caveat: it's a lot easier to move from mediocre to pretty decent than to move from pretty decent to tourney bubble. When you're 29th in RPI, the teams around you will go about .500. When you're 19th, they'll be doing better than that.
Even so, that's a big leap in just two weekends; if Michigan continues playing well they have time to break into the top 14 in PWR. Right now Michigan is 19th, exactly what their RPI rank is. Despite Michigan's ugly overall record, their peripherals aren't that terrible. They're 6-6-1 against other TUCs, though that's shaky since they've played three of the last six teams in and are 3-1-1 against them.
Root for Alaska and Minnesota the rest of the way out (not that it's a revelation that you'd like Michigan's nonconference opponents to play well). The other team on the TUC bubble is Notre Dame. Michigan split with them earlier in the year and plays them again the final weekend of the regular season; the desirability of the Irish as a TUC is yet to be determined.
Demon bear. Mandatory. We're using this one from now on because the Demon Bear superfluously blows up Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Michigan State before annihilating the planet.