At press time, Harbaugh had sent Michigan’s athletic department an envelope containing a heavily annotated seating chart, a list of the 63,000 seat views he had found unsatisfactory, and a glowing 70-page report on section 25, row 12, seat 9, which he claimed is “exactly what the great sport of football is all about.”
I'm preparing the 2010 recruiting board for a debut (hopefully) next week and along the way have assembled relevant information for you perusal as to what Michigan needs and looks likely to acquire in the near future.
Twelve seniors graduate and there are currently four(-ish) open scholarships with three unused from the 2009 class and the transfer of Steven Threet. Redshirted seniors pursuing a fifth year will be David Cone, Perry Dorrestein, Steve Schilling, John Ferrara, Bryan Wright, Greg Banks, and Jonas Mouton. Cone and Wright are obvious candidates for a firm handshake and well wishes, but everyone else figures to be of use.
So peg the initial number at 18. Normal attrition should see that get to 22 or so and another year in which 25 scholarships come open is possible.
Quarterback: Very high. There are only two scholarship QBs on the roster. Michigan has already offered six QBs and will be looking to take at least two and maybe more if some of them can be moved elsewhere.
Running back: Moderate. Three players graduate and Michigan lost two running backs to transfer in the offseason but Michael Shaw, Mike Cox, and the three freshman remain. Michigan will probably take two, hopefully one of extremely high caliber.
Outside receiver: High, but with three four-star-plus commitments already there's not much to worry about except decommits.
Slot receiver: Moderate. If Jeremy Gallon makes it in Michigan will have three underclass guys at the spot and should be okay to forgo a slot if they want, but they'll probably take one. Rich Rodriguez is really into slot receiver pokemon.
Tight end: Low. Michigan threw an offer out to OH TE Alex Smith, who committed to Cincinnati already, so they're not entirely out of the market but the starter is a sophomore and he's got a redshirt freshman behind him. If they find a guy they like they might take him but they're not going to kill themselves about it.
Offensive line: Moderate, but only because offensive line never goes below "moderate." With nine recruits in the last three classes and a hidden gem or two amongst a wide array of four-star sorts Michigan doesn't need a huge influx of players. You always want three guys at OL, though.
Defensive tackle: Very high. Michigan's inability to hold on to defensive tackle recruits not named Will Campbell leaves Michigan with nothing past the two-deep. Even though no one graduates this year, DT is probably the thinnest spot on the team outside of quarterback.
Defensive end: High. Michigan picked up two desperately-needed prospects in Craig Roh and Anthony Lalota but the position remains very thin. Adam Patterson and Brandon Graham graduate; at least two here.
Linebacker: High in the middle, as Michigan didn't take one last year, and low-ish on the outside, where they took three or four depending on the final disposition of MI WR Cameron Gordon.
Cornerback: High. I'm on the paranoid side when it comes to cornerbacks: I want a thousand, I want a thousand every year, and this is a year so I want a thousand. Last year Michigan picked up one near-five star in OH CB Justin Turner and one complete flier who may be a safety in FL CB Adrian Witty. This year there are no seniors but depth is somewhat lacking and Donovan Warren may be an NFL draft flight risk, so I'd like to see at least two and, since I'm paranoid, three would be better.
Safety: High. Two prospects join up this year and Michigan has but one senior, the much-maligned Stevie Brown. I'd like to see two or even three players here, too. Paranoia.
In table format, with names of note:
|QB||Very high||2||MI QB Devin Gardner||SC QB Cornelius Jones||FL QB Jeffrey Godfrey|
|RB||Moderate||2||MI RB Austin White||MI RB Nick Hill||FL RB Corvin Lamb|
|WR||Met||3||FL WR Ricardo Miller||MI WR Jeremy Jackson||OH WR Jerald Robinson|
|Slot||Moderate||1||FL WR Kenny Shaw||MI WR Dior Mathis||FL WR De'Joshua Johnson|
|OL||Moderate||3||NC OL Robert Crisp||FL OL Chaz Green||OH OL Andrew Donnal|
|DE||High||2||OH DE Derrick Bryant||MI DE Will Gholston||MI DE CJ Olayanin|
|DT||High||2||MI DT Jonathan Hankins|
|LB||Low||2||MI LB Austin Gray||OH LB Antonio Kinard||MI LB Daniel Easterly|
|CB||High||2||FL CB Lo Wood||PA CB Cullen Christian|
|S||High||2||FL S Marvin Robinson||PA S Brandon Ifill||OH S LaTwan Anderson|
That adds up to 21 plus a punter.
Even though it's early there are still a number of players out there with offers who name Michigan their leader or in a reduced leading group. In order of most confidence to least:
FL (or MI) WR Ricardo Miller. Miller's one of the top ten prospects in Florida and widely regarded to be a top 50 overall player. He's also moving to Ann Arbor this summer to play at Huron, so, yeah, not going to decommit.
MI WR Jeremy Jackson. Fred Jackson's kid and a future Ricardo Miller teammate (at two different locations), Jackson's supposed to be a mid- or even low-four star prospect. This belies some truly impressive reported offers: Texas, LSU, Florida.
OH WR Jerald Robinson. Robinson committed about two seconds after picking up his Michigan offer; he's currently rated a borderline four-star, as near as I can tell.
Persons I Expect Will Be Part Of The Class
FL CB Lo Wood. Wood has repeatedly claimed Michigan his leader and holds an offer. He's from Apopka, Jeremy Gallon's school, and there's a lot of scuttlebutt that indicates he's Michigan bound.
FL WR Kenny Shaw. Shaw is a 5'11" slot guy who is the soon to be former teammate of Ricardo Miller, who's moving to Ann Arbor this summer, and he's named Michigan his clear leader a couple times recently.
PA CB Cullen Christian. Christian has also named Michigan his leader repeatedly. Early reports have he and his teammate Brandon Ifill #9 and #10 in PA, which would make them solid four-stars in a good year in-state and borderline ones in an average one.
PA S Brandon Ifill. Christian's teammate, he's named Michigan part of a leading group of two in two separate articles recently; in one article the other contender was Maryland and in the other it was Pitt. Ifill's also a wide receiver; Michigan is obviously focusing on defense with him.
OH DE Derrick Bryant. Bryant named Michigan his leader and even went so far as to suggest he'd be an early commit. Though he's backed off the latter part of that stance, Michigan remains in good shape for Bryant. Bryant's a Rivals 250 to watch guy who has a shot at the top 100.
MI RB Nick Hill. Hill doesn't have an offer yet; if he did he'd probably be just below Wood, as everyone has assured the Michigan fanbase that Hill is a longtime Michigan fan who won't wait long if/when he gets his offer.
Persons Who Are Fairly Likely To Be Part Of The Class
FL S Marvin Robinson. After being proclaimed a Michigan lock for years Robinson has opened up his recruiting a little bit. There's been an undercurrent supporting UNC; his high school coach is an Ohio State fan; etc etc. Still, there are many positive vibes on Robinson that remain current.
SC QB Cornelius Jones. For whatever reason Michigan chucked an unofficial offer at Jones before he'd even stepped foot on a football field, and reconfirmed that offer after he had an impressive junior season. Michigan leads and it'll be hard for the likes of Duke and Wake Forest to pick him off.
FL QB Jeffery Godfrey. Godfrey has a clear #1 according to Michigan's Rivals site, so you know who that #1 is from that article's provenance. The main issue with Godfrey and Jones may be the looming presence of instate QB Devin Gardner, a guy Michigan wants badly. Michigan may forestall taking an early commit from a quarterback as they wait for the big fish, or Michigan could add a guy later in the recruiting season that might spur an already-committed player to reconsider.
MI CB/WR Dior Mathis. Mathis is this year's big Cass Tech prospect, a pint-sized corner/slot receiver who's slighter but faster than close analogue Boubacar Cissoko. Mathis was infatuated with Miami (That Miami) growing up and was initially planning on an early commit, but the flood of Michigan folks at Cass managed to forestall that. Now presumed to be a Michigan-Miami battle.
Persons Of General Interest
MI QB Devin Gardner. Gardner's played it close to the vest so far, but has totally dropped Ohio State from consideration after they were slow to offer. He's got offers from everywhere else and is by no means a lock, but Michigan offers an attractive depth chart close to home and has been pursuing him hard.
MI DE Will Gholston. Gholston is 1) a 6'7" wrecking machine at linebacker and 2) supposedly a heavy Michigan State lean. (He goes to Southeastern, which is coached by an MSU equivalent of Tom Wilcher, and rumor has it he even lives with one of their Sparty, no(!) coaches.) Michigan is pursuing, though it may be futile.
MI RB Austin White. White and Hill are the top two backs in the state; Michigan is pursuing both, but White already has two brothers at State and will clearly be an uphill battle.
Michigan probably won't get everyone in the "I expect they'll commit" category, but they'll probably pick up all but one or two. Since all of those folks seem like solid four-star sorts except maybe Hill, that would be an excellent eight- or nine- four star start with very little in the way of low-rated downers. Add in Robinson and a quarterback or two and that's most of the top half of a top-ten class, minus the one or two five stars. The initial returns are promising.
Disclaimer: a lot of this information, especially about how high-ranked these kids are going to be, is extremely speculative.
Programming Note: I'll be on WTKA with John U Bacon this afternoon from 4-5. WTKA streams live for those in the diaspora.
It wasn't a total head implosion weekend. Lost in the dual frustrations from hockey and basketball was the baseball team's strong start: 4-0 against an array of Big East teams (and, oddly, Purdue), including two walk-off wins to open the season. Formerlyanonymous is now blogging up a storm about the baseball team at Varsity Blue; his article on the weekend is probably the most detailed recap of a Michigan baseball weekend ever written(!).
Michigan is in Jacksonville Wednesday through Sunday taking on a wide array of meh-sounding teams: North Florida, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Jacksonville, and Akron. Their major opportunity to get some committee-impressing nonconference wins comes in mid-March when Michigan goes to Arizona for a three-game series.
Hello again, Elliot. Elliot Mealer's unfortunate life story has made him perhaps the most-chronicled anonymous redshirt freshman offensive linemen ever(!). His local paper has a story on him, and this one deviates from the usual fluff and goes for a couple of interesting quotes:
"The speed of the game is just incredibly different from high school," reflected Mealer. "I talked to guys who I had played with at Wauseon and told them about the first time I faced speed in practice. I was playing left tackle against Tim Jamison (2008 starting defensive end). He comes at me and in high school you are taught to get your hands on him and move, but he slapped my hands down before I ever got them up. The next thing I realize I'm on the ground asking what happened and he's sacking the quarterback."
There's also a story about John Thompson crushing Mealer backwards, causing him to wonder if he'd been concussed; it's a step up from the usual stuff you get in these things.
One downer: it sounds like Mealer's on-field future may have been damaged by the car crash.
For Mealer, the challenge is restoring lost shoulder strength which may never return.
"The team has been doing a lot of upper arm strengthening in the weight room, but I'm not allowed to start that until after spring break (Feb. 20-28)," said Mealer. "At that time, I will start out with two to three days of upper body strength training and I'm not sure how long that will last, but it could last my whole career just to stay on top of it."
Mealer was a top-250 sort who certainly projected to playing time; with lingering effects from the injury he won't be in the conversation to start this year, at the very least.
…Rodriguez is in danger of falling behind in the spread offense arms race in terms of sophistication. I discussed that phenomena with Purdue as a pass-first spread team over the last decade, but it's of a slightly different order with Michigan. In the spread's nascent days, the spread-to-run innovators included Rodriguez and Kevin Wilson and Randy Walker at Northwestern, with Urban Meyer following shortly after. Wilson is now at OU and of course Meyer is at Florida. Compare their offenses with Rodriguez's: there's not much difference from a run-game standpoint (though Meyer and OU mix up their sets a bit more and use more tight-ends now), but the passing games have seen a wide departure. Wilson now uses what Chuck Long put in at OU, with some schematic residue lingering from Mike Leach and Mark Mangino, while Meyer, along with Dan Mullen and Mike Sanford, assembled a pro-style one-back approach gleaned from John L. Smith and Scott Linehan from Louisville and Joe Tiller and Jim Chaney from Purdue. I can't say I'm a huge fan of Meyer's passing game, but it's definitely more sophisticated than what Rodriguez has going on.
But Rodriguez is a bright guy and his passing game originally derived from (though is a long way now) the old run and shoot. So you'd think he could remedy this. Yet with nothing but true freshman, that evolution will have to wait. The longer they wait, however, the farther behind they fall.
This is more of a restated concern than a new one, and it's worth pointing out that the situation Rodriguez inherited last year was not conducive demonstrating any sort of great leap forward in passing sophistication. The larger issue is that Rodriguez, scrambling to do a thousand different things to reshape the Michigan football program, is probably not spending a lot of time keeping ahead of the game. It's all conjecture until walk-ons have been banished from the depth chart, but it's worth keeping an eye on.
I'm hoping this is more of a Pat White effect than a Rich Rodriguez one; West Virginia's passing offense of late didn't look sophisticated because 1) it didn't have to be and 2) it didn't play into White's strengths. Even if White did well at the combine keep in mind that Rodriguez was deploying the guy as a freshman/sophomore/junior, so the bulk of his recent forays into passing games were with a wobbly underclass jet engine; risk would be stupid in a situation like that. Tate Forcier, the most accurate passer EVER, figures to change that equation significantly.
More attrition? Buried in this recruiting chat from Josh Helmholdt is an interesting bit of speculation:
The WR position was a disappointment this past year, so I certainly understand the need to recruit as many WR's as possible. Also, the depth at the slot WR position is shallow and could get even thinner before the freshmen come in next year.
That points squarely the departure of a slot receiver currently on the team. Martavious Odoms was Michigan's leading receiver a year ago and has two teammates joining him, so it's unlikely to be him. Terrance Robinson is a redshirt freshman who didn't play because of injury. Rodriguez recruited him to play in the slot, too. He's probably going to stick around and try to earn playing time. There's only one other guy on the roster who played in the slot last year: Toney Clemons. There have been erratic transfer rumors about Clemons for months now, but never anything concrete. This is also not concrete, obviously, but Helmholdt doesn't just say things without sourcing.
In a word: ugh. You probably know the story: Michigan led by four with a minute left, then Iowa got back to back trips to the line, one of which was a 50-50 play on a drive, the other a loose ball foul on Sims after Manny Harris didn't get the exact same call Iowa just got. The number of calls Manny Harris doesn't get continually astounds me. My favorite in this game was the charging call he got when some Iowa guy planted himself under the basket.
Then Michigan's attempt at a buzzer-beater degenerates into Harris launching an off-balance three from four feet behind the line, Harris is benched for the entirety of overtime, Iowa hits a wide array of circus shots, and Michigan's bid is on serious life support. I blame myself for hosting a liveblog.
Beilein in the aftermath:
"I didn't think (Harris) was really playing well. He didn't look fresh, he wasn't himself, and so we decided to go in another direction," Beilein said. "We really thought it would help us, but (Iowa) went on a run just like they did at the beginning of the game when he was in there.
"I wouldn't be too concerned about (Harris not playing in overtime). We needed to score some points and Manny wasn't in a good rhythm at that time."
That might make sense if the guy you stuck in the lineup in Harris' stead wasn't David Merritt, with whom I am developing the exact same relationship I had with Pat Massey: though he must be a tremendous individual I want his eligibility to expire immediately so the coach can't keep throwing him out there and causing me psychic distress. (I will never understand this year's rotation, specifically the inability of Jevohn Shepherd to get minutes over the two tiny walkons despite playing pretty well when he gets on the floor. Lord knows if he was closing out three-point shooters in the corner that Iowa guy named Bullwinkle would have had more difficulties.)
But setting aside the choice of replacement, was Beilein 100% wrong? I don't think so. Harris takes terrible shots in every game when he gets frustrated or complacent or feels he won't get a call (which he won't, but eh) and has moments of defensive laxness and is just generally a really frustrating player. Having Harris out there wouldn't have helped that much, anyway. Iowa couldn't miss in overtime, and Harris was not going to bring Michigan's offensive efficiency up to a level at which it could compete.
Beilein's obviously not 100% right, either. If he thought Michigan had a better chance to win with David Merritt on the floor, he's nuts. More likely he had about reached his limit and sat him in what appears to be a fit of pique. I get that: Harris at the moment is a basketball doppelganger of Braylon Edwards in his afro phase, when he was benched because he and Carr weren't "on the same page" despite his clear superiority to Michigan's other receiving options. Edwards wised up and blew up. Harris? We'll see.
I would have preferred the teachable moment had not come in overtime of a crucial road game, though. You know.
Okay. What now? The prevailing assumption was that Michigan had to split its final four games and then not die against Indiana or, uh, Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament to assure itself a bid. That still holds, but winning two of Purdue, @ Wisconsin, and @ Minnesota is a vastly tougher proposition than winning one. Kenpom has us at 32% against Purdue, 18% against Wisconsin, and 25% against Minnesota. 8-10 isn't going to do it without an improbable Big Ten Tourney run, especially because the committee has been de-emphasizing conference tourneys in recent years.
In short: we're screwed.
First and foremost, Big Ten officiating is a joke. As someone mentioned, all those moving screens called on us, but when Merritt is running the baseline in the 1-3-1 and the Iowa post player is in the middle of turning his back and knocks Merritt completely off his route to the shooter, there’s no call. The last foul that they called on Sims to put Gatens to the line was just flat terrible. And Manny still isn’t getting calls in the lane. The charge they called on him early was pretty bad; he was already in the air by the time the Iowa player slid over and got set.
So I have three options:
- Spend another 1000 words complaining that college hockey/basketball referees have it in for me, personally, even though I didn't do anything to them.
- Ignore the fact we got hosed and write a bunch of words about something else.
- Do an uber-bullets with a little of 1 but mostly 2.
Since I've already done #1 and #2 we'll do #3, keep the bitching a little muted, and coldly evaluate where things stand.
Somehow it didn't hurt us much. Michigan is still tied for second in the PWR rankings , but this time they're tied with Notre Dame. Since Notre Dame has the comparison, they would win the tiebreaker and get to go to Grand Rapids. There's still a long way to go and a lot of bits to flip, obviously, but Michigan didn't shoot down into the two-seeds like I feared.
…on the surface. Where the two hose-jobs from the CCHA really hurt is in the details. Michigan's comparison with ND:
Even if Michigan picks up an extra point when ND gets enough TUC games for that factor to count, the Common Opponents factor is gone and Michigan would have to pass ND in RPI to take the comparison. That's going to be very tough, since ND has about a two game lead. ND is playing Michigan State this weekend, unfortunately, and will be hard pressed to leave any points on the ice.
Getting hosed has basically cost us the ND comparison and with it just about any chance Michigan ends up in Grand Rapids. Without the four (FOUR! FOUR! FOUR! FOUR!) preposterously allowed/disallowed goals Michigan has endured over the last month Michigan is up 3-1 in this comparison and just about impregnable.
So our best hope is for something weird in ND's comparisons. The reason Notre Dame is tied with Michigan, not ahead of them, is their comparison with Vermont, which they lose despite a massive RPI advantage:
This is a PWR specialty: ignoring a huge gap in one category that takes every game into account—RPI—in favor of two narrow gaps in categories featuring far fewer games. Notre Dame has some vulnerable comparisons:
- Miami swept ND, so that comparison is tied at two. There is no TUC comparison because ND is only 6-3 for that comparison (H2H wins are removed from TUC, for some reason). Miami has two against OSU; sweep there and find an ND TUC loss or two somewhere and Miami can take it.
- ND also lost to Denver earlier in the year; that COP comparison is tied and the TUC opponents are borderline.
- Minnesota is tied w/ Notre Dame on Common Opponents and both finish their season with teams the other has played, so there's some wiggle. Minnesota is currently .500 against TUC and has an opportunity to better themselves.
- NoDak has a TUC edge and is tied on COP, but ND plays MSU this weekend and getting more than a split would give it to ND.
- Northeastern wins COP and is slightly behind in TUC.
None of these comparisons is particularly close to flipping—and the Vermont one is basically a coin toss—but if ND ends up losing any two of these and Michigan holds on to its current spot GR is possible. It's not likely, but it's possible. You're rooting for the six teams listed above and Michigan State.
And about the stuff on the ice.
It's nice that the grinders are scoring and so forth and so on, but Palushaj and Caporusso haven't been scoring of late and that has to give you some pause. The thing this Michigan team lacks is that one top-end forward that you desperately want on the ice when you're trailing late. See: Hensick, Porter, Kolarik, Cammalleri, Comrie, et al. This year I know I'd like to see Caporusso and Palushaj and Sidekick, I guess, but more because I know they have a lot of points and must obviously be pretty good at getting them. They lack that je ne sais quoi.
Yes, this may be a dumb criticism to level at two guys tied for sixth nationally in scoring.
We suck so bad on two on ones. Speaking of: the Hensick years totally spoiled me as far as two-on-ones go. Hensick had the magical ability to maneuver himself in such a way that the defender couldn't block the pass nor could the goalie poke it and then it was just on the other guy's stick and all the other guy had to do was shovel it into an open net. They had a ridiculous conversion rate on those. This year I can't remember a single goal from a two-on-one. I'm not even totally excited about them anymore.
Okay, the goalie debate is not so much a debate. Hogan played very well on the weekend, though I'd prefer it if he stopped letting pucks leak through his body and ponderously wander towards the net where they can be illegally kicked in. Assuming that's a fluke, though, whatever questions there were in the goalie situation after Hogan gave up 3 goals on 11 shots against UNO and got pulled were resolved when 1) it was clear Hogan was ill last week and 2) he had a couple of impressive games against OSU. Even if the two were playing at exactly the same level, you go with the guy who hasn't imploded in the last two NCAA tournaments.
Brandon Naurato? It's not quite the same as benching Manny Harris for overtime, but the inexplicable reinsertion of Brandon Naurato into the lineup was, well, inexplicable. Even if Lebler is injured or something, I'd go with Ciraulo, who's done something other than take bad penalties in the past six months.