the just released schedules were a flat-out statement that the B10 doesn't believe SOS will matter in playoff selection
I approach all news about ESPN with the same attitude Joey has towards Michigan football: "I am a puppy about to get kicked." Even so, I don't think the fact that AC Slater's new "ESPN Hollywood" show gathered 0.08% of the viewing public can possibly be construed as bad news. EDSBS is on the case. This thing will probably last as long as "The Magic Hour." Yet another failure in the cap of one Mark Shapiro, the dude in charge of ruining ESPN.
10 bucks to anyone who gives
this guy a wedgie.
Rhetorical question: How many disasters does this guy have to greenlight before he's put out of his misery? Did anyone other than Warren St. John watch The Junction Boys? How about 3? (Daddy, I just wanna race!) Tilt: one season and gone. Playmakers: one season and gone. I'd Do Anything: are you serious? The final nail in Shapiro's coffin: petulant boy billionare Dan Synder, the man with the worst personnel judgement in the universe, has hired him, which is clear evidence of his complete insuitability for anything other than F-16 target practice. (Side note: Thanks Dan Snyder! You may be driving the Redskins directly into the ground, but you sucked Shapiro away from ESPN and are indirectly responsible for putting Spurrier at South Carolina. KUTGW.)
Perhaps sensing the growing discontent with ESPN, Comcast appears to be preparing to position OLN, home of the Tour De France, as a direct competitor to the Worldwide Leader in Suck. They scooped up the NHL (Off Wing Opinion has all you need on that) and may be preparing to bid for a new Thursday/Saturday night NFL package.
Hallelujah, especially if Brit TDF announcers Paul Sherwin and Phil Liggett are the canonical idea of a broadcast team to the OLN honchos. Even designated clown Bob Roll appears more knowledgeable and articulate in his field than any ESPN talking head outside of the Edge NFL Matchup set. Hopefully OLN will understand that even a hardcore sports fan such as myself can be wooed. There are games I have to watch--Michigan football, Pistons and Oilers playoff games--games I want to watch--any college football, regular season Pistons and Oilers, Michigan basketball--and games I can be convinced to watch if they somehow involve Gary Thorne, Marv Albert, and Steve Kerr--most things. I don't watch anything on ESPN except things I have to watch (and as much college football as I can cram into my head), because ESPN acts as an active detriment to the game at hand. Given the choice between an ESPN Pistons broadcast and George Blaha or Fred McCloud, I go with the local guy every time, even though every time Blaha says "2 and 25 left in the quarter" I cringe. Essentially the only reason I like the Tour De France is because it's presented spectacularly.
OLN: I don't watch random hockey games unless it's Hockey Night In Canada. But I'll start if you do it right. There's an opportunity to make some fiercely loyal viewers. Don't choose the screamy dark side. This I do humbly beseech thou.
Your traditional "unresolved questions" column from an untraditional source:
Will the safeties play safe? The answer here is historically "no." Last year was an especially egregious year for the Michigan safeties. Ernest Shazor's rapid descent after the Purdue game has been hashed and rehashed here and elsewhere repeatedly, but Ryan Mundy also bears his share of blame for the problems. Mundy and Shazor (in occasional conspiracy with the linebackers) were largely responsible for the inordinate number of long plays the defense gave up last year. Shazor's now taken his million-dollar-body and ten-cent-head to the NFL. Mundy returns. Brandent Engelmon and Jamar Adams are competing for the vacant spot.
Michigan safety play has been horrendous since Marcus Ray got hammered for dealing with an agent. A parade of tackle-missing, angle-blowing, play-action-biting, mgoblog-anger-generating straight-up-lowdown hardcore wack injured guys playing out of position have been the personal bane of my existence for going on eight years now. Ron English has shown no indication that he's interested in changing this. Ryan Mundy probably played corner as a freshman for a reason. The guy opposite him is unknown at this late point in the preseason. I expect nothing but disaster. all I want are guys who I don't notice at all, guys who play deep zones effectively, tackle opponents who get into the secondary, and never, ever make a big play. Is that too much to ask?
Relative Confidence Level: Yes, it's too much to ask. DOA.
Who's the left guard? Or "who's the center," but probably left guard. Three of the five offensive line positions are set: LT Adam Stenavich, RG Matt Lentz, and RT Jake Long. Ruben Riley will start at either center or left guard. The other starter will come from this pool of players:
- Fifth year senior Leo Henige, Jr. Henige has started on and off for a couple years now during the brief stretches of time that his knees allow him to. He was slightly injured late in the summer and had minor surgery.
- Redshirt sophomore Adam Kraus. A converted tight end, Kraus would probably have locked the job up already if he had been healthy during spring practice. Unfortunately, that wasn't possible. Worth noting: if it's Kraus, Riley will probably remain at left guard and Kraus will step in at center.
- Redshirt freshman Alex Mitchell. Mitchell is definitely the most advanced of the redshirt freshman and is probably in line for a starting job next year when Matt Lentz graduates.
It may take a few games to work the kinks out here, but with three strong candidates someone should step into the void vacated by David Baas. My bet is that it's Kraus, who has a year over Mitchell and is not a walking time bomb like Henige. Better to get Kraus significant experience going into the Big Ten season than stick a possibly-still-wounded Henige in there only to see him go down, thrusting a green player into a potentially tough situation. Be like Red: go with youth.
Relative Confidence Level: Very high.
Do we have any linebackers at all? If you had turned to a knowledgable Michigan fan during last year's season opener and asked him to name the 2005 starting linebacker corps he would have said "Lawrence Reid, Scott McClintock, and Pierre Woods" and been wrong, wrong, and wrong. Reid was forced to retire because of an injury. McClintock got beat out. Woods took the express train to Lloyd Carr's doghouse. The starters appear to be Chris Graham, David Harris, and Prescott Burgess.
The situation should improve. Last year was the low ebb of Michigan linebacker play in living memory; things can't be that bad again. Defensive ends were playing out of position. Actual linebackers were confused/out of their gourd/playing hurt. Dissent reigned. Burgess (but just Burgess) was very good in the Rose Bowl and Graham has been generating buzz for a solid year now. Woods may bounce back. On the other hand, that same guy who was coaching the disaster last year is still coaching them this year. He seems hell-bent on playing both the 3-4 and the 4-3, running people on and off the field uselessly, and generally confusing the hell out of his own players.
Relative Confidence Level: Surprisingly moderate.
Can the defensive line dominate? If it does, the pressure on the back seven will be greatly relieved. Three starters return: Watson, Massey, and Woodley. Woodley should see much more time at his more natural defensive end spot and has the power and speed to become a double-digit sacker under the tutelage of new defensive line coach Steve Stripling. Stripling, in marked contrast to former coach Mike Sheridan, has extensive experience coaching defensive lines and is regarded highly by all who know him. Though he couldn't do much with a severely hampered MSU line last year, in 2003 he coached a moderately talented line very well and helped the Spartans exceed expectations significantly.
The key to the line will be getting more production from the guys who aren't Watson and Woodley. Watson, being a Ticonderoga-class defensive tackle (HT: TMQ), can only be effective for so many plays a game. Backup DTs Alan Branch and Will Johnson will see playing time early and often. Both are the sort of jumbo athletes who move too fast than anyone their size has a right to, Branch in particular. If they can effectively spell Watson and Massey for stretches at a time, there will be some pissed off interior linemen being eaten in fourth quarters all season long. Someone will have to function as an effective pass rusher opposite Woodley. There are a lot of options here: natural DEs Jeremy Van Alstyne and Tim Jamison plus DE/OLB hybrids Pierre Woods and Shawn Crable. Van Alstyne will probably start the season as the all-purpose DE but Jamison, Woods, and Crable will all get cracks at the quarterback in passing situations.
There is much depth. The players on the line should improve naturally by aging and were already quite good a year ago. If Stripling has a noticeable effect on the line, well, the sky is the limit and all that jazz.
Relative Confidence Level: High, but not amazingly so. Michigan's never been a team for explosive pass rush. Fighting a lot of history.
Is Chad Henne the new Tom Brady? Chad Henne must improve. Last year bad reads, occasional wild throws, and a problem putting proper touch on short balls prevented him from being an efficient, consistent quarterback. The Braylon Edwards long ball was a major feature of the UM passing game that will not return in 2005. Henne will be blessed with an abundance of targets, but with YAC specialist Steve Breaston, possesion receiver par excellence Jason Avant, two capable tight ends, and Michigan's historic reliance on the screen and flare, it will be on Henne's shoulders to lead an effective short passing game by making quick, accurate reads and placing balls where they can be caught without breaking stride. Sort of like that Brady dude in New England.
It's a lot for a true sophomore to absorb. But let's review: statistically most proficient freshman quarterback in Big Ten history. Only freshman quarterback to ever start Rose Bowl. In said game threw four touchdowns and no interceptions. A freshman year almost identical to the year fifth year senior John Navarre had in 2003 throwing to essentially the same set of receivers. And about that Navarre guy: He was bad as a sophomore. Frighteningly bad. Single-handedly-lose-the-OSU-game bad. A year later he was the whole Michigan offense against Ohio State. In the Shoe, against a 12-0 team with a great defense, Michigan's offense went:
- First down run, one yard gain.
- Second down run, no gain.
- Laser accurate pass from Navarre, f
The point? Scot Loeffler is even more of a supergenius than Charlie Weis. Navarre went from a no-hoper to an All Big Ten quarterback. Loeffler got everything he could out of him. This is why Henne will be better:
- a year of experience
- knowledge of the whole playbook
- a whole slew of additional bowl practices and spring practices
- Scot Loeffler
- the return (or addition) of all this: Breaston, Breaston's explosiveness, Avant, Massaquoi, Ecker, Hart, Grady, Martin, Manningham, Dutch
this is why he'll be worse:
- no Braylon
Y'all can think what you want. I know what I think.
Relative Confidence Level: I see your Ron Powlus and raise you six Heismans.
The newest Wolverines wanna cookie. Wanna
cookie real bad, Mister. Mister blogman. We
like Dora the Explorer, Mister blogman. Yay.
So Chris Heisenberg is reporting that Michigan has two hockey commits for... 2008(!). These kids, who both play for Honeybaked AAA, were born in 1990. They have no idea who Vanilla Ice is. "Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em" makes no sense to them whatsoever. C&C Music Factory? A mere rumor. I am old, about to die in 3... 2... 1...
Guess not. Wow, music sucked in the early 90s. Anyway. They have names: AJ Jenks and Robbie Czarnik. They are forwards. They score a lot for their teams. They can't drive. Heisenberg lists Jenks at 6'2", 174, which is freaking huge for a hockey player who just turned 15. They're probably somewhere between pretty and really amazingly good for Michigan to offer scholarships to them this early. The last guy who committed that young was Jack Johnson. He is amazingly good. So, hurray, I guess. No doubt nefarious OHL clubs will make runs at them, and it's really bold to project these guys as high level D-I players so far into the future. It worked out last time (knock on wood).
They're obligatory. Please take all this with a grain of salt; simply for comparison with the year-end ABT teams so I can revel in how very wrong I am.
|First Team||Second Team|
|QB||Drew Stanton||Michigan State||Drew Tate||Iowa|
|RB||Lawrence Maroney||Minnesota||Mike Hart||Michigan|
|FB||Matt Bernstein||Wisconsin||I'm Out of Fullbacks||N/A|
|WR||Ed Hinkel||Iowa||Ted Ginn||OSU|
|WR||Santonio Holmes||OSU||Dorien Bryant||Purdue|
|WR||Jason Avant||Michigan||Steve Breaston||Michigan|
|TE||Matt Spaeth||Minnesota||Charles Davis||Purdue|
|OL||Jake Long||Michigan||Matt Lentz||Michigan|
|OL||Greg Eslinger||Minnesota||Ruben Riley||Michigan|
|OL||Zach Strief||Northwestern||Mark Setterstrom||Minnesota|
|OL||Chris Morris||Michigan State||Nick Mangold||OSU|
|OL||Joe Thomas||Wisconsin||Rob Sims||OSU|
Yes, I omitted Henne. No, I don't expect I'll omit him from the postseason list. Extra WR slot because so many teams are using like 8 of them.
|First Team||Second Team|
|DE||Lamarr Woodley||Michigan||Tamba Hali||Penn State|
|DE||Ray Edwards||Purdue||Anthony Spencer||Purdue|
|DT||Gabe Watson||Michigan||Anthony Montgomery||Minnesota|
|DT||Brandon Villareal||Purdue||Quinn Pitcock||OSU|
|LB||AJ Hawk||OSU||Tim McGarigle||Northwestern|
|LB||Paul Posluzny||Penn State||Kyle Killion||Indiana|
|LB||Chad Greenway||Iowa||Dan Connor||Penn State|
|LB||Abdul Hodge||Iowa||Bobby Carpenter||OSU|
|CB||Alan Zemitas||Penn State||Leon Hall||Michigan|
|CB||Ashton Youboty||OSU||Antwan Allen||Iowa|
|S||Bernard Pollard||Purdue||Calvin Lowry||Penn State|
|S||Nate Salley||OSU||Miguel Merrick||Iowa|
Extra bonus linebacker spot just so I can cram a couple more deserving players on there.
|First Team||Second Team|
|P||Brandon Fields||Michigan State||Steve Weatherford||Illinois|
|K||Kyle Schlicher||Iowa||Garrett Rivas||Michigan|
|PR||Ted Ginn||OSU||Steve Breaston||Michigan|
|KR||Lance Bennett||Indiana||Steve Breaston||Michigan|
Breaston largely because I ran out of KRs.
The Round Mound of Coaching Renown is at it again. At this point he may as well be handing out little cards that say "Weis E. Coyote, Super Genius":
Weis has made the transition to the college game from the pros in a span of eight months. In that time, he has an idea of what to expect from the schedule and the schemes his team will see.
"I think it's significantly easier because the intricacies of the system," Weis said about making the jump from the pros to college versus going college to pro. "Pittsburgh doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out what they're going to do. Michigan, it doesn't take a brain surgeon. Michigan State will have played two games by the time we've played them. Washington three games. Purdue has a bye in there so they also will have played three games. I've looked at the schedule."
I've never really been one of those guys who need to see ND lose consistently (though it has been nice). When Michigan beats ND I want them to have a good season so it reflects well on Michigan. No longer. Nothing would be more satisfying than seeing the Supergenius get 11 anvils to the head.
(Soonerfark on Weis. Not their best work, but whatever.)
We have our own Supergenius, I guess. Terry Malone was named Rivals' top offensive coordinator in all of college football. Uh. Don't get me wrong, I like Malone a lot, but doesn't there have to be someone at one of those sophist-o-schoools who's the (Bettie Marie) Best Ever? I guess most of your Texas Techs, Purdues, Boise States, and Louisvilles have head coaches who functionally double as offensive coordinator. So finding OCs who actually head up good offenses is somewhat difficult.
Speaking of Malone, he told Angelique S. Chengelis things about Henne:
Physically he'll be so much more ready because of the conditioning and the weight training and the year's worth of work that you need to go through to be ready to play," Malone said. "To think he went through an entire season and never really had a major drop-off is amazing. I expect to see him really taking it to a higher level just because of the physical part of it."
Because Henne is stronger and has a better feel for the offense, Malone will be able to use him differently.
"We'll certainly be moving the quarterback more than we did last year," Malone said.
Emphasis mine. Git yur waggle on, girl. Chengelis also thinks that Max Martin will have a "breakout year," but she's the one who said that Troy Smith was better than Vince Young, so I would cock an eyebrow dismissively if I were you.
A long package-linger is heavily implied by the Detroit News:
The Maximum Output track club prepares to run sprint drills with a shirtless and obviously ripped Braylon Edwards during a training session last month at Birmingham Groves High.
Angelique, you naughty girl. Oh, yeah, read the article. And this one on Breaston.
The Eye on the Bucks continues. Buckeye Commentary reports that QB Justin Zwick is a bit hobbled, but it's probably not serious enough to affect him in the opener against Miami (OH). That game could be interesting. Miami has consistently been one of the better MAC programs over the last few years, has a veteran QB in Josh Betts and a spread offense well suited to get a lot of inexperienced Buckeye corners on the field.
I reiterate: Holy John Navarre, Batman.
They can never take our freedom! QB recruit David Cone, right, likes "The Patriot," says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution(AR). They also say he's one of the best 11 players in Georgia this year (damn well better be, is what I'm saying). Looks like the rest of Cone's high school is full of midgets who like Penn State a lot. Which would explain a lot about that record the last five years.
That's part of a photo spread with Georgia HS football players and their favorite movies. This is Marcus Ball as Samuel L. Jackson:
Mustache Thursday, bitches.
What a country!
More on the bouncing ball: Andy Katz says all aboard the Amaker bandwagon, pegging Michigan #30 next year:
The Wolverines should be one of the top teams in the Big Ten. We underscore should. The talent, if healthy, is in place with the return of Lester Abram, Dion Harris and Daniel Horton in the backcourt and a frontcourt of Chris Hunter, Brent Petway, Graham Brown and Courtney Sims. There really is no excuse for the Wolverines, if healthy again, to not be a factor all season.
This is Amaker's make or break year. He may get another if there's a disappointing season but it'll be really hard to convince recruits and fans that he's got what it takes to build a consistent program.
On the recruiting side of the fence, Chair has some more interesting WOTS over at PrepSpotlight(AR):
OK, Will or Tory -- who is U-M's 'Plan A'?
WOTS say it is MOST DEFINITELY Will Walker and this has made this abundantly clear to all parties involved. I can't stress this enough.
Dude. He who hesitates and flirts with Florida is lost, apparently. Chair also reiterates that Michigan is looking very good for '07 OH SF Chris Wright, who was #29 in the recently released Rivals 100 for 2007.
This is thoroughly strange. Okay. I've come to terms with Texas #2 after Duh at #1. Then... I run out of top ten teams at about five. Seriously. I don't want to rank anyone sixth. I had severe issues ranking someone #2. So you can look at this like #1 USC. 2-5: Some teams. 6-10: Some more teams.
I am accepting feedback on this thing before I submit it towards the end of the week. I'm open for your input on just about everybody. Suggest away.
|1||Southern Cal||Sophisticated as hail.|
|2||Texas||I am contractually bound to fear Vince Young as if he was Satan incarnate after the Rose Bowl.|
|3||Michigan||Homer pick? I dunno. This is where I think they go now.|
|4||LSU||One quarterback away from Zow! No, not that Zow.|
|5||Tennessee||Ainge sort of shaky end of last year, plus major secondary issues.|
|6||Miami (Florida)||Also contractually obligated to have one Florida team in the top ten.|
|7||Purdue||Snakebitten last year, now have a healthy kicker and the whole defense back. Everybody.|
|8||Virginia Tech||Sorry, Ian.|
|9||Oklahoma||No one except Adrian Peterson is back. That's still pretty good.|
|10||Florida||Seriously, who names their kid "Urban"?|
|11||Ohio State||Troy Smith sucks; a lot of other parts don't.|
|12||Louisville||Probably going to annihilate everyone they play. Have scads of talent relative to rest of Big East... how exactly did this happen? Louisville is in Kentucky.|
|13||Texas A&M||Franchione liftoff year, also many people back from last season... last season when they lost to Baylor!|
|14||Iowa||I fear Kirk Ferentz. I do not fear 255 pound redshirt freshman defensive tackles.|
|15||Arizona State||Hi Sam Keller. You probably did the right thing.|
|16||Georgia||Tee Martin hypothesis tested this year. Everyone forgot about that Ware kid, but he's pretty good himself.|
|17||Cal||Expect a lot of tasteless headlines featuring Marshawn Lynch.|
|19||Boston College||Stupid Pat Eaves.|
|20||Bowling Green||The best quarterback in college football. Shi'ite defense.|
|21||Florida State||No quarterback, no Cromartie, Jeff Bowden, real teams to oppose. Dadgummit.|
|22||Minnesota||Half of a really, really good team. Half of a violent illness.|
|23||North Carolina State||Section Six convinced me. I also have a soft spot for losers of tight games.|
|24||Texas Tech||OMG OMG OMG OMG THROW|
Update: After consideration and some input, I flipped Texas A&M and Arizona State. Ditto for Bowling Green and Auburn. This one's in the system, baby.