this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
3/7/2009 – Michigan 67, Minnesota 64 – 19-12, 9-9 Big Ten
One of the bizarre things I love is soccer, and one of the bizarre things about soccer I love is the weird British permutations of American sports lingo that get deployed during the course of same and the bizarre permutation I love most is the phrase "get in!"
"Get in!" appears to be the stuffy British equivalent of "GOLAZO," deployed for goals of such spectacular mind-bending quality that a mere "goal" or "gol" is totally insufficient, the existence of such things being another major reason I love soccer. The thing that's bizarre about "get in" is this: it's invariably shouted after the ball has, in fact, gotten in. The ball will get in, and then the suddenly very electric and not at all somnambulant announcer will exclaim "GET IN!"
I think this is because some things you dare not hope for, especially in a game in which goals come so rarely and have this potential to rearrange the universe. Sometimes the situation develops in such a way that the arc of the ball is so improbable and so important and the whole thing is so unlikely that you dare not express hope lest it be wrenched cruelly from you. You can see the curve of the future; you cannot let it enter your heart until the net ripples and the impossible is before you, horned mermaid nuclear spaceship captains and all.
There's three minutes left and Michigan leads Minnesota by two. Manny Harris, a meh at best three-point shooter, takes a pass in the corner and unwisely decides to rise and fire—again. The ball arcs. Someone in the bar has just shouted "C'mon FRESH." If time ever stopped, surely it would do so now.
It's a terrible shot. I mean, just terrible. There are more than twenty seconds on the shot clock and Harris has the ball. He gives a jab step, I guess, but there's a guy in his face and Harris is a 31% three-point shooter and in this game he's two of seven on his way to two of eight and in all ways this is a slow motion 'nooooooooo' situation. Someone hit the abort button. This ship will self destruct in ten seconds.
I am a Michigan fan, so I know how this story goes: long rebound, fast break the other way, transition and-one layup that puts Minnesota ahead for good. Maybe there's a missed wide open dunk for Michigan, or Manny Harris is attacked with a machete and given a technical for spraying blood on the great and powerful Hightower, but those are just details. I know what happens next.
It's just that arc, you know. It looks pretty good. It looks true.
The thing with "get in" is that what has gone down is so good you have to retroactively hope for it, to rearrange yourself into a person so wildly stupid that they would actually believe such a thing is possible.
Last year Michigan was 10-22, more dire than any product put out by Tommy Amaker. Amaker, in fact, kicked the crap out of them in his new job at Harvard. It was one of their eight wins. This year Michigan has two walk-ons splitting most of the point guard minutes, no seniors outside of them seeing any time at all, and a 6'5" freshman guard playing power forward. I mean:
This is a team on the cusp of the NCAA tournament, and they were down twelve halfway through the second half of a road game against a probable NCAA tourney participant.
Beat Iowa and it's over. Get in.
- Every once in a while there's a moment that immeasurably improved by your presence in a sports bar when it happens, and that Minnesota prayer from near halfcourt that went right in moments after Tubby had called timeout was one. The entire bar went "ohhhhhhhh!" in this perfect way. Then there was a brief "Tubb-y, Tubb-y" chant.
- Wow: 100% wrong about Sims in the preview, eh? I've been trying to figure out which totally average NBA bench player Sims reminds me of and it's a tight race between Joe Smith and post-knee-ravaging Antonio McDyess. He's got an NBA shot but I don't know if he's big enough or active enough to be worth having on the roster.
- 100% right about those turnovers, though. It's not often you get a win when the opponent shoots 55% and rebounds half their misses. You kind of have to get 17 turnovers in a 56-possession game.
- Much more detail on this later, but I spent a large chunk of the weekend pondering the bubble and 1) we're obviously in good shape now but 2) we really, really don't want to lose to Iowa, who we just lost to without two of their best players. We might still get in but it's going to be tooth and nail.
Mylan Hicks could be an important prospect for Michigan’s future. Mylan is a 2010 cornerback prospect out of Detroit Renaissance. Not only could Hicks fill a need at corner, but could help Michigan break up a pipeline that MSU seems to be building with his school. Take a look at his highlight film, and the conversation we had.
TOM: How is recruiting going for you so far, do you like the process?
MYLAN: It’s just a process you have to be patient with. I’m not in a big rush. I’m just going to sit back and wait for the offers to come in.
TOM: Have your teammates been helping you, or trying to persuade you?
MYLAN: Ishmael Thomas and Jared Hunter are in my class. Lawrence Thomas is in the 2011 class. We decided that every camp we go to, we’ll go together. I’m not sure if we’ll be a package deal, I don’t think any of us really know where we want to go. MSU is trying to build a pipeline from Renaissance.
TOM: Who are the leaders right now? Who are you hoping to hear from?
MYLAN: Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Minnesota, Vanderbilt, Toledo. I don’t really have an order. I definitely want to stay in the Midwest, but distance isn’t a factor. It would just be good to stay in state. I’m going to check out Vanderbilt on the 21st, and I’ve already been to Toledo. If anyone asks to see me, I’ll go.
TOM: You play RB, CB, and you also run track. What are you primarily getting recruited for in college?
MYLAN: Primarily a corner. Some schools have said I could be an athlete. I want to play corner though, and if I could return punts I’d like that too. I like to have the ball.
TOM: How has track helped you with football?
MYLAN: It gets you in shape to be ready for the whole season. It helps for me because I play both ways, and you do a lot of running at corner. I rarely came off the field, so it has kept me in the right shape to make plays.
TOM: What camps and combines are you going to this summer?
MYLAN: A camp in Columbus, the Badger camp. The Nike camp, the Michigan and MSU camps.
TOM: What kind of time table do you have as far as a decision?
MYLAN: After my senior season. I’m not in a rush.
TOM: What factors will play into who you choose?
MYLAN: I’m not really leaning anywhere; I’m equal with everyone right now. It depends on the relationship with the coaching staff, and whether or not I have a chance to play.
TOM: Being from Michigan, how do you think U of M and MSU compare as far as recruiting in state players?
MYLAN: I would say that both programs want kids to stay in state, obviously. I know for a fact that MSU is making an honest attempt to keep them in state. I’ve seen a lot of kids go to Michigan too though. I visited Michigan 2 weeks ago, and met Coach Rod. They’re all real cool guys, and they’re trying to keep everyone. I don’t think either school is doing a better job than the other.
TOM: What’s the perception of Michigan and MSU from your point of view? Did last season affect you, for either school?
MYLAN: Michigan has the winning history, the bowls, and championships. MSU is on the upcoming, and I think winning is in their future. Michigan just went through a transition, and so last season definitely didn’t affect me at all.
Well, how about that? Bernie Mac is back, and given all the crazy stuff on the bubble of late you have to think Michigan is in no matter what now. In. In.
And you can't have one without the other…
Right: you may have the ball, Gopher, but Manny Harris is about to have your teeth.
|WHAT||Michigan @ Minnesota|
|WHERE||Williams Arena, Minneapolis MN|
|WHEN||Noon, March 7th 2009|
|THE LINE||Ask Jamiemac|
|KENPOM||Minnesota 66, M 61 (28% chance)|
|TELEVISION||Nationwide on ESPN|
Sims is in tough. By this point we know a few things about DeShawn Sims, and one of them is that he gets swallowed up by actual big and tough shot-blocky types. Ideally he'd be playing with an actual center next to him who would occupy that player, but he's not so hypothetical center isn't.
Minnesota has a number of big and tough shot-blocky types, and though they're young they're ridiculously blocky: Minnesota is #1 nationwide in block percentage, sending back an astounding 19.2% of opponents' shots. That seems like a preposterous typo, but it's not. (The national average is 8.8%.)
So it's not a huge surprise that Sims was not a huge factor in the first game. He had twelve points, but was just 3 of 11 inside the arc. I don't think we're going to get much inside.
Threes should be open, though. Michigan won handily against the Gophers by chucking it from deep, going 13-28 on threes. Grady was 3 of 3, Novak 6 of 10, Sims 2 of 5, Douglass 2 of 6. Lee and Harris both took two and missed both.
This was not totally anomalous. Though Minnesota opponents only make a slightly above-average number of threes, the Gophers do yield almost 37% of their FGs from long range, 284th nationally. Given all the shotblocking inside, there is a huge gap between the average return of a three (1.04 points) and a two (.86). This matches up well with Michigan's shoot-first-cross-halfcourt-later style,
Defensively, we are going to have to force turnovers. Minnesota coughs up a ton of them and though they don't shoot particularly well, be it from two or three, they crash the boards like a mother—63rd in offensive rebounding—even against teams not featuring 6'5" 'power forward' and a point guard rotation of Doc, Dopey, and Grumpy.
Michigan doesn't force a ton of turnovers yet—they're still too small for that zone to be really bothersome—but they get their share. Minnesota is 311th in steals allowed; each one of those allows Michigan to run the floor and avoid the aforementioned blocky guys. In a game that figures to be tight, the difference between two steal+layups and four is likely the difference between victory and defeat.
Uh… Kelvin Grady maybe? Grady's ability to push the ball upcourt lightning-quick could help here, right? I've seen so many threes launched over a helpless David Merritt that I can't think Grady's actually worse defensively.
Bizarre outlier! Minnesota, despite being huge and blocky and so forth and so on, is a below average defensive rebounding team. Ah, check that: I remember Brent Petway. These things are probably related. When four guys are skying to swat a ball anything that gets past their outstretched limbs is probably landing in the opponent's hands.
This disadvantage does not play particularly well into our hands, since we hardly ever crash the boards. It'll be interesting to see if Beilein changes his usual strategy here in search of an easy putback or two. Same with the Grady thing.
And, of course, the eternal question: How badly will Manny Harris's entire family be sodomized at courtside in front of everyone by every Gopher, roving bands of Minnesota students, Jim Delany, the ghost of Hubert H. Humphery, and the fabric of the land itself before one of the refs calling the game notices and calls a theatric technical on a Michigan assistant coach?
Eh, survey says probably pretty bad. Harris had an ugly game against Minnesota last time, going 2 of 8 and getting to the line just twice. Minnesota's slightly above average in FTA/FGA this year.
And I suppose I have to venture a prediction. I don't think we win. Relying on deep chucks on the road is a recipe for trouble, and that seems to go double for weird arenas like Williams, where the elevated floor puts weird juju into shooters or something. Michigan usually goes as Sims and Harris go—the last Minnesota game was a rare exception afforded by the scorching three-point shooting—and this doesn't look like a good situation for either.
But basketball is weird and all that. And there will be no liveblog. In fact, I'm going to go around town and find people with "cover it live" in their browser histories and give them wedgies, starting with me. So we can't lose.
I was just reading your early recruiting analysis on 2010, and I was curious how we are allowed to offer so many scholarships. You noted that we had 17-20 to give, yet we have offered 46 by my rough count on your board.
Are there rules by the NCAA or conferences on how many scholarships a school can offer over their limit? If we receive our 17-20 commits and we do not have any more available scholarships, do we simply have to say, "No thank you" to anyone else who is considering their previously offered scholarship? (As opposed to Alabama's method)
Scholarship offers have no legal or NCAA standing until a school faxes a letter of intent to the player on signing day. Until that time, they're just fancy letters indicating a school would like you to play for them… if they don't change their mind by the time you make up yours, and you don't throw a cherry bomb at a six-year-old, and you don't flunk out.
Usually offer letters have some language indicating this. The relevant paragraph from Michigan's offer to Tate Forcier:
This award is contingent upon the satisfactory conclusion of your junior and senior years, both academically and athletically. NCAA minimum academic standards must be satisfied and internal admissions requirements must be met. This letter remains viable until such time as NCAA rule 15.5.5 regarding squad limits (85 total) would appear to be compromised. Therefore, as a necessary consequence, grants may only be awarded based on availability.
Basically: don't flunk out and don't wait for someone else to take your spot… oh, and don't suck at sports. Until a letter of intent is signed, the school has zero obligation to the player. Which, yes, can suck for the player.
Offers get pulled all the time, and when this happens to an uncommitted prospect for whatever reason it's always uncontroversial, as it should be. The player in question hasn't promised you anything and hasn't accepted your promise. Sometimes players try to commit only to be told they can't, and sometimes this causes bad feelings. Legendary Michigan cases involve Tennessee OL Brent Trott, who never had a Michigan offer, and a Florida linebacker named Justice whose first name escapes me who tried to commit and was told the inn was full. Both of those players had time to go elsewhere, and did, but were noisily displeased for a brief time.
Where it gets touchy sometimes is when players who have issued a verbal commitment are told they no longer have an offer. Sometimes this is due to academics or extra-curricular issues: in 2008 Ohio State pulled Devoe Torrence's offer when he got in some nasty legal trouble and this year OSU safety commit Bradley McDougald was told to head elsewhere after he was caught with weed. (He ended up at Kansas.) That's legit. But sometimes kids just get their offer pulled through no fault of their own. This happened at South Carolina last year and caused a minor stink.
In those cases there are no official repercussions but the PR hit is usually enough to keep schools in line. For one, South Carolina is never getting a kid from that high school again.
As to Michigan: if three quarterback recruits decide they want to commit tomorrow… well, Michigan will take them. Bad example. But if hypothetical eager QB #4 rings up Rich Rodriguez, Rodriguez is going to have to say "sorry." A commitment is a mutual thing, albeit one with no legal standing whatsoever.
I'm originally from Minnesota, and I still listen to the MN local radio. One morning show is a big fan of Denard Span, an up an coming player for the Twins. They created this bit, which also seems appropriate for the Michigan faithful who are excited for Denard Robinson. Enjoy!
Download, if you are so inclined (right click and "save as")
1) I predict that song makes an appearance during football liveblogging at some point this year.
2) When that song went to to the Betty Ford Center and came out the other end "Let's Get It Started" and was deployed as the theme song of the NBA Playoffs, was it the most impressive/ridiculous corporate rehab ever? I, being of sound mind and distance from preteens, had never heard the original ("Let's Get Retarded," an ode to pot*/alcohol) and it seemed like a perfect prefab song from a major label crapband. Then I find it's about basically the opposite of starting anything, it's about killing your brain. The mind boggles.
2a) Who would have thought that three or so years later that song would stand out as clearly the best and most appropriate NBA Playoffs theme song yet? Tom Petty? What?
*(Windows Live Writer has an auto-substitute list you can set up. IE: whenever I type recruiting board it points at the recruiting board automatically, or Varsity Blue or MVictors or, uh, Threetsheridammit chart. So that's why that. I would have deleted it but for the lulz.)
And how about an update on the last mailbag:
The Shegoses are from Flint. Matt and Duke ( I think) are the referees, I can't remember if Duke is the nickname for Mark Shegos or if Mark is a separate 3rd Shegos. For what it's worth, my uncle knows them and they are all very nice. They've been involved with hockey for time out of mind, although in my humble opinion, nice though they may be, they've never been the best officials. I think I heard the Shegos chant for the first time in the early 90's- anyway, it is definitely tongue in cheek. We did NOT actually want Shegos. Here's some fun Shegos opinions from a Sparty blog a few years back, where they also assert that "You can't drink all day if you don't start in the morning."
The North Dakota playoff game at Yost in 1998 saw two Michigan goals waved off (I think both in the second period), inciting the crowd to a state of near-riotousness. They were not as bad as the ones which happened this year because at least they were judgment calls, but they did bring the crowd into a frenzied state. By the way, I was sitting right behind the Michigan penalty box for that game and Bobby Hayes used words I did not know when describing the officials- and I was living in South Quad at the time, I knew LOTS of fun words.
For people who don't mind being adventurous about Frozen Four tickets, I was one of those who bought way too many a few years back when all those WCHA teams played in Columbus. Ok, I get it, WCHA in Columbus, but demand was none. At least for that event, I can confirm that they were much less than face value. I stood outside trying to sell the tickets for like 3 hours and eventually was trying to give them away and couldn't. I think those willing to be patient can get tickets for a few dollars each, especially if your game is the late game.
On the Frozen Four thing, which I promise is advice for the entire universe and not an implication that Michigan will make it to DC, or, for that matter, not sack the program tomorrow: an excellent strategy if you're the late game is to camp outside the building after the early game ends; disgusted fans of the losing team will be exiting and selling at cheapo prices. Problem: last year there was no opportunity to do this because the semifinals were one ticket.
As to the Shegos brothers, the response received about them was totally outstanding. Some, like Jack, thought it was a sarcastic Shegos-oriented insult. Some thought there was one Shegos who was definitively better than the other Shegos and he was the one being chanted for at all times. And some thought it was an actual desire for a referee who wasn't Mark Wilkins (or, more cynically, attended Michigan, which at least one Shegos did). All of which adds up to a cheer that thousands of people are doing over a decade with completely different ideas of why they're chanting it.
|Pahokee, Florida - 6'0" 181
|Scout||3*, #33 WLB|
|Rivals||3*, #35 OLB|
|ESPN||78, #39 OLB|
|Other Suitors||Tennessee, WVU, USF, Louisville|
|Notes||Early enrollee. Pahokee (Odoms, Smith). Florida small schools defender of year. Also: shirtless.|
Brandin Hawthorne is the one linebacker recruit in the class who actually played, you know, linebacker in high school and is scheduled to do so in college. Isaiah Bell and Mike Jones were safeties; high school linebacker Cameron Gordon is going to play wide receiver, at least for a while.
Irony enters the party now: Hawthorne is smaller than all of those guys. Generously listed at 6-foot-nothing, Hawthorne is safety- or even corner-sized. He was used mostly as a lightning-quick wrecking ball at Pahokee; check his eyepopping TFL stats:
Hawthorne finished last year [his junior season] with 80 tackles, and 31 of those were for losses. He forced two fumbles and recovered two more last season.
So he's just like Shawn Crable, if Crable was six to eight inches shorter. So he's just like Chris Graham, if Hawthorne was a stiff, clunky guy incapable of shedding blockers and not much for changing direction. He's not like either, actually. I mean, just look at the guy. Linebacker? In college? Er. There's a reason Hawthorne is well down in the rankings. When you have to make statements like this…
“Don’t let size fool you,” Hawthorne said. “There’s a grown man inside me.”
…you're going to be fighting an uphill battle. Also, you have something in common with Charlie Weis.
However, there are other reasons, reasons he got offers from Michigan and a wide variety of other schools:
On the college scene, Hawthorne's ''stock is exploding,'' according to Blue Devils coach Blaze Thompson. Hawthorne is ranked No. 17 on recruiting analyst Larry Blustein's Palm Beach list. He also has received plenty of offers, but has ''only five that I'm really concerned about'' -- Michigan, South Florida, Louisville, Tennessee and West Virginia.
His teammates certainly aren't surprised at the attention.
''Brandin's a monster,'' [Pahokee corner Willie] Hickman said. ``He goes 100 percent -- the whole play, the whole game -- he's just a monster. It's good to have him on your team. You don't have to sit around and wait for somebody else to make the play, because he's going to make the play.''
ESPN, oddly, had few concerns about size($), at least in the long term:
Hawthorne possesses all the physical tools for a college program to mold into a disruptive perimeter player at the next level if they are patient with his development. He can run, close, and hit and has incredible upside. Tall, rangy frame with a very long wingspan; should play at close to 225-pounds at next level while retaining his good play speed and athleticism.
They did say he needed "major bulk and size" before he was college-ready, but was "greatly underrated and is a definite late bloomer with a ton of natural gifts to develop at the next level." They then rated him the #39 OLB, which is about where everyone else rated him. So go figure.
Teammate and recruiting kerfuffle origin Nu'Keese Richardson echoes the "monster" diagnosis:
"I've never seen anyone hit like Hawthorne, even Janoris," Richardson said. "Brandin Hawthorne will make you think twice about coming his way."
So does his coach:
Pahokee coach Blaze Thompson has a nickname for senior linebacker Brandin Hawthorne.
It's "psycho." But he means that in the nicest way.
And so does he (link ibid):
"He says that because there's nothing I fear," Hawthorne said. "I don't care how big you are, I'm a get you."
I'm a get you. Those four words come from a kid in Pahokee, Florida, where the only industry just got bought by the government and linebackers get murdered for being in the wrong part of the muck and kids chase rabbits for something to do, and represent the vast gulf in culture between the old guard and the new better than anything I've run across so far. Hawthorne's home life… probably a bit different from your average Massey or Boren. The fact that Hawthorne and Smith fit in so well with the coaches recruiting them they would commit to Michigan sight unseen (and, unlike DeQuinta Jones, stick to that commitment) indicates a shift in philosophy. It's not seismic if you've got Forcier and LaLota and Roh and Turner and Gordon and etc etc etc, but it's real.
I've brought this up before in these profiles: Michigan is recruiting kids with an eye towards the future of offense, and this is most obvious at linebacker, where corner-sized Hawthorne is the only high school linebacker arriving. They are also recruiting kids who don't have much other than football, for whom buy-in is not an option to think about if they don't want to go plow driveways for dad.
I like Hawthorne's attitude and ability to turn opponents into random high-velocity subatomic particles; I like the fact Michigan jumped on him with an early offer and pursued him without reservation. I like the fact he has a place he'd like to visit but not live. I wish he had more than one big offer (Tennessee) outside of Michigan, and wish he wasn't so small. Hawthorne seems rated about right to me, and is a guy who is about 50-50 between starting and fading into Bolivian.
Why Ian Gold? It's not a very good comparison, since Gold was moved from running back, but Gold was an undersized but quick WLB, good in coverage and a dangerous blitzer.
Guru Reliability: High. No reason he'd be overlooked.
General Excitement Level: I have hard time getting over how small he is. On the other hand, Hawthorne seems likely to make the most out of his physical attributes, and if ESPN thinks he's got the frame that's a good sign. Here's a passage that sums all that up:
When Cardinal Newman hosted Pahokee this year, Crusaders kicker and punter Brendan Gibbons was rumored to be headed to Michigan. Blue Devils linebacker Brandin Hawthorne, one of this area's meanest hitters, already had made an oral commitment to the Wolverines.
So when Hawthorne had a chance to drill Gibbons after a punt - which he did at least once the previous season - he let up. "I'm not going to knock you out this time since you're going to Michigan," Hawthorne said after the play.
Gibbons was grateful, although at 6-foot-0, 212 pounds he is roughly Hawthorne's size.
I dunno, evil, vicious, bullet… kicker-sized linebacker. Moderate, I guess. Anyone you're expecting to put 40 pounds on may come out the other end of that incapable of moving his neck and stuff.
Projection: Very, very probable redshirt, and then I think he'll have to wait for Mouton to graduate. Redshirt sophomore before he's got a real shot at the field; may be better suited for a 3-3-5 than a more traditional D.