Michigan has broken the seal on the class of 2012 with a big in-state offensive lineman. Ben Braden hails from Rockford, and the informative portion goes like this:
|3*, NR OT||NR OL||NR DT|
It's early in the process, so prospects that start a little under-the-radar rarely have a whole lot of info out there. We'll start with size. Rivals is the most optimistic, measuring him at 6-6, 285. Scout isn't far behind at 280 pounds, but ESPN calls him a mere 6-5, 250 - while simultaneously calling him a defensive tackle. I'd say ESPN, as both an outlier and the absolute worst at evaluating prospects in a reasonable time, is least likely to be accurate. Braden's probably a shade under 6-6, and around 270-280 pounds. 24/7 Sports calls him 6-7, 295, which seems like an exaggeration given all the other evidence at our disposal.
Braden has gotten some message board comparisons to erstwhile Michigan commit Jake Fisher, but based on pictures alone (from the same game, at least), Fisher looks to be a taller, leaner player - unsurprising given he was listed an inch taller and anywhere from 10-30 pounds lighter - than Braden. Of course, that could just mean Braden has done more work in the weight room to this point.
Based on measurements and appearance alone, I would guess Braden could play either inside or outside. In high school, he's a right tackle:
“He’s just a big boy and hard worker, very unassuming, very coachable and very aggressive,” Munger said. He also coached current San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Joe Staley.
“He’s been blessed with size, strength and speed. He’s the right kind of guy. He’s been raised by a wonderful family and believes in the values his family taught him. For us, he’s an awfully good offensive lineman and he’s raw. He’s coming into his own.”
Size, strength, and speed are probably the three most important qualities for an offensive lineman, and it's a bonus to see he has a good head on his shoulders.
Braden held a Wisconsin offer, which you should know by now is the automatic sign he's a serious prospect - much like Ohio State for safeties or USC for Pro-Style quarterbacks. He also held offers from Syracuse and Michigan State.
Not only is Braden an under-the-radar prospect (at least in terms of news out there on the internets), he's also an offensive lineman. They don't have stats, so nothing to see here.
FAKE 40 TIME
None of the premium sites have a listed 40 time for Braden, so I'll take the liberty to give him an automatic five FAKEs out of five.
I couldn't find any free video of Braden anywhere out there. If you come across any, let me know.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
With the new coaching staff putting a serious emphasis on size rather than agility, a redshirt to bulk up is all but guaranteed (and it probably would have been under RichRod and co. anyway). As a redshirt freshman, Braden will be entering a lineup that loses Patrick Omameh, Ricky Barnum, Elliott Mealer, and Rocko Khoury, so a two-deep position is practically guaranteed, with a starting position possible.
The question becomes what position he plays. He has a good body for tackle if the 6-6 number is accurate (and especially if 6-7 is the right height), and the Wolverines are likely going to have a pair of senior starters in Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield. On the other hand, the interior OL will be decimated by graduation.
Although "it's too early to tell" is basically accurate for all Hello posts, without knowing who else will end up in this class of linemen, we can't even peg a definitive position for Braden.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Needs MOAR linemen. The Wolverines will probably take 5 or 6 on the offensive line in this class, thanks to the above-mentioned graduations on the way. Braden is a combo player, which means the maize-and-blue can still take many more interior AND exterior OL.
From a less pragmatic standpoint, the commitment of Braden breaks the seal on the class of 2012, and makes fans feel a lot better about recruiting early in this cycle. Hopefully, it'll get the ball rolling for other commits as well.
Michigan's ground game stopped being effective in 1995.
I'm not sure if Jon Chait was reacting to the latest MANBALL quote from Brady Hoke or not, but when an article titled "You Can't Go Home Again" pops up the day after Michigan's new head coach says this:
"Once we get the power play down, then we'll go to the next phase. You know, because we're gonna run the power play."…
"We don't have a lot of fullbacks." Hopkins works out well at FB "for a lot of the old 49ers stuff" with split backs. Hoke wants fullbacks to block so hard they "come in at about 6-3, and leave the program at 6-1." …
It's hard to think otherwise. Of course, even ESPN folk have picked up on Hoke's love affair with the word "toughness"—the article could have been spurred by anything Hoke's said over the last three months. There are consistent reports that Hoke makes condescending comments about the spread at alumni events. Manball? Manball.
Some people love this. In my mind they all look like this…
yes, that's the Beckmann aficionado
…and could be coaching Purdue. I would not want to get in a conversation with any of these people because they would have very strong opinions about things they know nothing about. They would repeat inane aphorisms as if those were the final word on any subject, and they would regard any dispute as evidence of a diseased mind. I have talked to these people on the radio some. It's not fun. I close my eyes and imagine the exact dimensions and color of their mustaches. They are boringly consistent.
My hope is Hoke is a brilliant, innocent-as-snow delegator or a con man. He's got a quarterback who was an All-American as a true sophomore last year because of his legs. He's got an offensive coordinator whose track record suggests he prefers to air it out and that things get desperately bad when MANBALL advocates push him away from his mad bombing ways. He's got a set of running backs best described as underwhelming, a center who can teleport his way into tough reach blocks, and a guard who can block Manti Te'o twenty yards downfield. If the offseason could be spent fixing whatever it is that causes Robinson to turn the ball over willy-nilly, Michigan's offense would be insane. According to statistical things it already is.
Switching to an actual pro-style offense would be doing exactly what Michigan did last year when it installed the 3-3-5 despite the total unsuitability of its personnel for the scheme. It would be exactly as stupid. It can't be as bad statistically because instead of true freshman two star Ray Vinopal backed up by a duck, next to a walk on, and vaguely in front of more freshmen you have ten returning starters and Denard Robinson, but it would be just as dumb. If Hoke's bravado about being a bunch of tough bastards who love grinding out four yards on a power play is true I'm worried for the immediate and long term future of the program in the same way I was when hiring Greg Robinson caused me to dig out a picture of Tweek.
On the other hand, Beckmann aficionados love that stuff, and so do the newspapers that are no longer read by anyone other than Beckmann aficionados. English has developed lingo to distinguish words meant to be true from words meant to produce inoffensive newspaper blather: the latter is coachspeak. Rich Rodriguez was beyond awful at coachspeak. Hoke is a grand master. When IBM develops "Jim" and challenges Hoke to a duel, Watson-style, Hoke will destroy his opponent so badly smoke will come out of its nonexistent ears like that robot asked to rhyme something with "orange" in a story I read when I was eight. Hoke will lament Jim's lack of toughness.
This is a real skill the last three years have shown is way more important than you'd think. It's a relief when every press conference is Hoke being gently tickled on the belly and fed peeled grapes, and telling everyone you're establishing a mindset of toughness is fine. It's something that will help the program in the long run.
As long as you don't believe yourself. It won't help as much as winning a crapton of games, and even if the defense gets vastly better the best way to do that next year is to have an offense that puts up points, and the best way to do that is to very gently shift the offense towards your long term vision while still keeping Denard in the Heisman race.
This isn't 2008, when Michigan was screwed no matter what offense they put in. Getting Michigan's offense to go from explosive but inconsistent to world-destroying is a matter of getting a kicker, finding a good running back, working on Denard's reads and accuracy, and leaving everything else the hell alone. Michigan can't reasonably do that because they've got new coaches, but how hard is it to run a QB lead draw and follow that with QB Lead Oh Noes? The secret of Michigan's 2010 offense is that the zone read was hardly used. The other secret is it was a power running offense, one more effective than anything Michigan's run in at least the last decade and probably a lot longer.
Michigan YPC Career Leaders Since 1949 (min: 100 carries)
Michigan YPC, Team, Since 2001
Borges should install his passing game immediately and Michigan should start running power schemes more frequently—power did feature occasionally last year—if they want to, but lining up under center to hand it off to Vincent Smith isn't going to be any better of an idea in 2011 than it was in 2010.
You can run a "pro-style" offense, but run it from the shotgun and run downhill using Denard Robinson as one of three primary tailbacks. You can't get rid of the scare quotes because he's Denard Robinson. If you do run a no-scare-quotes pro-style offense he's not Denard Robinson anymore. He's the guy handing off and you're walking back into the days where Michigan averaged less than four yards per carry and ran 65% of the time.
I think Borges knows this, but Hoke's coachspeak is going to make this the most terrifying spring game of all time.
Oh, I'm an idiot. WCBN's fundraising drive lasts until March 20th, which is… um… four days ago. I said I'd give them a plug. This is it. Their online donation form is still up, though, so this isn't completely useless.
Pads! OH MY GOD IT'S SPRING PRACTICE VIDEO
Excellent savvy on the part of the athletic department to defuse any panic about Michigan wearing white pants this fall. Someone in the department has learned about the internet.
The Wolverine Blog has some spring practice content up, with five guys with the most to lose and most to gain. Maize and Blue Nation has had "whispers come across his desk" that may be random unreliable internet stuff but include reassuring comments like "Craig Roh three point stance" and "Thomas Gordon seeming competent at safety."
Think about that bit: Thomas Gordon seems like the most likely of what will be three or four moved linebackers to be a competent free safety due to his size, speed, and high school position. He was a strongside linebacker last year. Cam Gordon is a strapping guy headed for 230 pounds everyone thought would play linebacker even when he was a receiver. He started at free safety. This year we might (will probably?) see those guys switch positions.
/shakes fist at sky
The second-dumbest thing. Apparently I'm not done with people who say stupid things about Jalen Rose, but what am I supposed to do when Jason Whitlock writes this?
And if it’s clear Rose and Jimmy King were speaking in past tense, there would’ve been no need for Rose to send Hill and Jay Williams tweets before the documentary aired explaining that’s how the Fab Five felt 20 years ago.
Or it was clear but since it was not explicit Rose made it so before the damn thing ever came out, for all the good that did. Whitlock then goes on with his usual condescending What Ails Black Folk crusade because that's what he does. Here's Dave Zirin at the Nation—high up on the list of websites I never thought I'd have cause to link to on MGoBlog—annihilating Whitlock*.
Meanwhile, Frank Beckmann should drop the "mann" from his last name:
I love that Jack Sharp looks like he could be Purdue's head coach. I don't love that a guy closely associated with the University is essentially Glenn Beck.
*[This is not an endorsement of the Nation's opinion on anything other than Jason Whitlock. I still remember that back in the day the most ludicrously communist Daily columnist during my time as an undergrad got a coveted internship there that he used to write more ludicrously communist pieces. It is a silly place.]
Bah, Burlon. Brandon Burlon's strep infection/bad reaction to antibiotics is probably going to knock him out for the entire weekend. Red's already said playing Friday is out of the question and this doesn't sound like he's going to be able to go at all:
Burlon — out of the lineup for both games this past weekend at Joe Louis Arena — has been plagued by an “inflamed esophagus,” according to Michigan coach Red Berenson.
The junior defenseman has been in and out of the hospital since last Monday when he came down with strep throat. He’s had trouble eating solid food and has lost about 15 pounds over the past week.
Also in that article: Shawn Hunwick is having a mid-life crisis because he never wants to leave Michigan. His first action is taking a fifth year. Suggestion: master's degree. It worked for me.
Gotta collect 'em all. Ray Vinopal's transfer destination is Pitt, which is indeed closer to home—it's about an hour—and also features a bunch of Michigan's former coaches, including his position coach. Because this is a Michigan safety we're talking about he will become an All-American now that he's free from the clutches of Angry Michigan Safety-Hating God.
Guh. You don't even need to know what SDPI is to know this is true:
/shakes fist at Greg Robinson hire
/also 3-3-5 installation
/actually hasn't stopped shaking fist since January 2nd
Even more hockey recruiting. The United States of Hockey checked out a recent NTDP game and reports back on goalie John Gibson, amongst others:
John Gibson: The big goaltender looks like a pro goalie when he plays. He takes up so much net whether he’s standing up or on his knees. During the shootout, when he came out to challenge, I think the net basically disappeared. When I say the moves Gaudreau and Girgensons put on Gibson were nasty, I mean… just filthy. The big guy made 35 saves, including several key stops late.
I asked one of the team staffers if Gibson was excited about his season and his commitment to Michigan. The reply, “Gibby doesn’t get excited about much of anything.”
So Gibson is the exact opposite of Shawn Hunwick. Warning: don't read the bits on Rocco Grimaldi. They will make you sad he is headed for North Dakota.
Kenpom is the bible. Pete Thamel's NYT article on how accepted Kenpom is amongst college basketball coaches makes me wonder what it will take for halftime statistics to feature offensive rebounding percentage. The brilliant/frustrating thing about tempo-free numbers is that they're stupidly easy to explain (with the admittedly vast exception of "offensive rating"): we took this number, and then we divided it by something. This allows coaches to say things like this:
“I’m not a math geek,” said the George Mason assistant coach Chris Caputo, who does all of the team’s scouting reports. “But it gives me a quick statistical synopsis of who they are before we watch tape and personnel. What do they do well? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Where do their points come from? It’s a snapshot of relevant statistics.”
No football or baseball coach that confesses he looks at advanced metrics would start off his statement "I'm not a math geek," or at least they'd obviously be lying. With Kenpom it's plausible Caputo just knows how to divide.
The frustrating part about all this is how stubborn the broadcasting establishment is about incorporating this stuff. I'm tired of seeing "FG%" next to "three pointers" and trying to figure out on the fly what each team's percentage on twos is.
Ain't nobody there. Mmmm fluffy headline:
Brady Hoke reaffirms Wolverines' love for recruiting from Detroit
I'll take that over "Darius Morris can't be sure he's returning to Michigan State" any day, though. The Hoke Media 180 continues unabated. Let's hope it's as important as the media thinks it is.
Etc.: Northwestern won't be adding D-I hockey either. Notre Dame seems to be preparing for life without Michael Floyd. Minnesota and Wisconsin nonconference schedule issues. Derek Dooley gets a "year zero," which seems fair but makes me think about Nick Sheridan. The Hoover Street Rag has fired up its annual hockey tournament preview. Yost Built on the BTHC—FWIW, I doubt that both Alaska schools will end up in the same conference because I don't think you can exempt four games up there, thus depriving them of their main enticement.
Notes from Brady Hoke's meeting with the media today. Photo from file.
Ray Vinopal is no longer with the team. "Ray decided to go back Youngstown. You know, that issue's more a family issue."
Injuries: Christian Pace is doing individual drills only. "Molk's the other guy who hasn't done anything but some individual. He'll be fine by Tuesday." - hamstring tweak. Troy Woolfolk is doing a little group work, mostly individual. JT Floyd doing less group stuff than Troy. Mike Shaw is doing alternate conditioning things. Next week, he'll do more with the cast on. "I think we're OK health-wise. I don't think we're anything of real significance yet."
"We wouldn't play a game" for the spring 'game' with the team's current injury level. Would do more situational scrimmage-type stuff. With only 11 more practice days, "I doubt if we'll play a game game. I'd like to, but we don't have enough depth."
No new position changes. There may be some later in the spring when they've had more of a chance to evaluate.
During the spring, "we'll put [a depth chart] out. Nothing's given. You're gonna have to earn it." If you end spring as a starter, you better keep working over the summer, and in fall camp, because you have to earn your job.
Wants to install 50-60% of offense and defense in spring (Al Borges would like to get 65% of the offense in). You can install more in the fall as you're gameplanning. "Once we get the power play down, then we'll go to the next phase. You know, because we're gonna run the power play." [ed: This is a very MANBALL quote.]
QBs: "I think both of them have done a good job. I think you look at, the different things are a little more under center, obviously. The ball mechanics and footwork... all those technical things that go along with it. So, I think they've both done a good job, they're both very capable of being tremendous quarterbacks in this offense."
RBs: "I wouldn't wanna say any of them's any better than the other ones. Vince [Smith] has done a good job, [Stephen] Hopkins has come on, Fitz [Toussaint] had a good day in there with a couple good runs, and Michael Cox is a guy that has some outstanding ability, and we've just gotta keep progressing with him."
Fullbacks: "We don't have a lot of fullbacks." Hopkins works out well at FB "for a lot of the old 49ers stuff" with split backs. Hoke wants fullbacks to block so hard they "come in at about 6-3, and leave the program at 6-1." Wisconsin fullbacks get shorter as the years go on.
WRs: "They have to do both" block and catch. They have the most bodies there and at safety. Lots of competition, so guys they have to block well and catch well to see the field.
Lines: "We just don't have a whole lot of bodies there... That's always, up there, because you need a lot of bodies on both sides." They need to address it in future recruiting. With Molk and Pace out, Rocko Khoury is getting most snaps at center. Patrick Omameh is getting a lot of reps with limited line depth.
Defensive line: "There's some guys who have played some significant minutes and downs up there that we've gotta get 'em better when you talk about the fundamentals of playing the position." Quinton Washington ("he shows up") and Richard Ash ("has made some progress") are doing well, you expect the 2 seniors to step up. "I think Will [Campbell] had some real good plays the other day, and he's gotta have more of those than bad plays."
Kicking game: "They're doing OK. We haven't gone full-bore into it... They have their specialists but we put a little live rush on them and those kinds of things yesterday." All the different elements (snap, hold, kick) need to come together.
There have been three practices so far, one in pads. "I've liked the tempo that we played with. I like how the guys are flying around to some extent. We've still got a lot that we've gotta get better at, and playing fanatical as a team."
"We're not playing as fast as we will" due to the nature of learning. Still pleased with the competition level. Guys come in wanting to improve every day.
How to cultivate a competitive atmosphere: "You do that by rewarding guys who play well, and guys who don't play as well, you maybe don't get as many snaps." In their situational drills (red zone, etc.), "There's consequences for losing." There is competition within positions and also offense v defense.
Smooth transition for Denard? "I think so." He sometimes has issues with rushing the footwork, but both QBs have handled it really well. Once in a while, Denard shows off those feet. "If you leave a little crease in there, he can go get it."
How have players responded to practice intensity? "They haven't come to see me about it. I guess it's been OK."
Any spring surprises? "Not yet. I think it's way too early to make any comment, to be honest with you. We're just really scratching the surface, in my opinion." General thoughts: "I think there's a little more, I think good and bad... You want to see some guys be a little more physical and a little more sudden in some of the things they're doing. At the same time, there's some other guys who have done a good job of being physical and the things that you're looking for."
By the end of spring, "We'll never be where I want us to be. Period. I know me." It's typical here, like it was with BSU and SDSU, they know where the team is starting and where they want to be when they finish spring. "We're where I thought we'd be right now, and where we thought we'd be."
There's a learning curve "paralysis by analysis" when installing new O and D. You see it more on the defensive side of the ball (which is by nature reactive). "From an offensive standpoint you may see it when the guys up front start movement patterns." Players over-thinking new plays, technique, etc. being a little different. "They're hungry, and they wanna learn. We just gotta keep as coaches doing a good job of being teachers."
Fundamentals and techniques of positions are the critical areas. Every position needs to know proper alignments, line splits, etc. Effort and toughness do not have any wiggle room for being less than perfect. The techniques and schemes are new, but effort and toughness do not change. How big is the gap between what players are doing and it should be done? "I don't know. The Grand Canyon size, right now." Players want to be coached and do it the right way. Guys who have played a lot might be further along, but may be slower learning a different way to do things.
They have 1-on-1 padded drills, not necessarily tackling all the time. "You're only limited to a certain amount [of full-contact practices], so you've gotta cherish those dates."
Had to move practice to 5:30 in the morning [ed: !!!] on Monday because 40-some players had Monday afternoon class. "Morning is my favorite time of day, but i worry about the other end of it for the kids" from an academic perspective.
It's important to practice outside in fall, but not so much in spring. "Previous experience here has told me you may get 6 times at the most to get out in the 15 days." The new indoor facility allows full kicking game, you can throw full deep routes without hitting the ceiling.
If you thought hiring Brady Hoke's 47-50 career record was an iffy move, you've got company. Not amongst your company is Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis, who just hired Tom Anastos to be Michigan State's head coach. Who is Tom Anastos? Exactly.
Anastos's career record is 0-0. He's spent the last 13 years taking the CCHA nowhere in particular as its commissioner. Before that he was president of the NAHL, which crumbled shortly after his departure and has been almost entirely supplanted by the USHL. According to HockeyDB his coaching credentials consist of a single season as a Michigan State assistant 20 years ago; before that he spent four years coaching UM-Dearborn's club(!) team.
To describe this as a shock doesn't do it justice. This is the equivalent of Michigan hiring Miami (Not That Miami) athletic director Brad Bates, a former Bo player, to coach the football team. If State had any hockey fans they'd be livid right now. They just hired a suit with literally zero track record to pick up the pieces left by Comley, thus proving their Corey Tropp curse isn't broken yet.
This rumor had been bouncing around the internet for long enough that it was hardly a rumor anymore, but Hoke has just confirmed it and now it's really not a rumor:
Hoke on Vinopal: "Ray decided to go back Youngstown. That issue's more a family issue."
Michigan loses both a two-star recruit no one expected would ever play and a guy who started half his freshman season, which says all you need to about last year's secondary. The free safety spot is manned by… uh… definitely somebody. I think we can safely assert Michigan will put eleven players on the field this fall. That's all we know. Since the depth chart by class has exactly one other body at the spot, that true freshman Minnesota decommit Tamani Carter, it's safe to say the eventual starter is kind of up in the air.