"He makes it really easy on you as a coach because he has tremendous football instincts," Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh said. "Things come really naturally to him. He doesn't have to see things too many times. He has a good sense for how things should look and feel, and he's a tough, physical guy."
The fortune cookie of articles. Does it seem like this description of Shaun Alexander's recruitment should end with "…in bed"?
Alexander drove through a snowstorm to Michigan, where the school’s recruiting hostesses greeted him in their standard-issued khaki pants and golf shirts.
A week later, Alabama representatives picked him up in a private jet. On the way to Tuscaloosa, the pilot slid over and let Alexander fly. Once on campus he was greeted by a group of sundress-wearing co-eds named the ’Bama Belles. The young lady assigned to Alexander was the reigning Miss Alabama runner-up.
I'm pretty sure I know what that infamous golf shirt outfit looks like (right):
Michigan has since replaced those shapeless… items with something more appealing. Maybe they allow the hostesses to wear something other than cotton garbage bags these days.
Michigan would get the last laugh when Ryan Pfluger shanked an extra point in the first overtime of the 2000 Orange Bowl, and in 2004 the NCAA would significantly restrict the ability of schools like Alabama to fete their recruits Paris Hilton-style.
Show me your jets. There's been a lot of scuttlebutt about how Michael Shaw's injuries saw his abilities decrease in his intermittently-impressive freshman year, but I believe this is the first confirmation of such a thing from the man himself:
"I remember the Minnesota game, and nine times out of 10 that's a touchdown," Shaw said, referring to his 48-yard run, which led to his season-best 71-yard day. "I broke a long run and got dragged from behind. It was then that I was like, 'I'm really hurting. I've never not been able to run, not been able to explode.' " …
"I had significant playing time last year," Shaw said. "With those two guys (Minor and Brown) in front of me, it's up for grabs, and camp is a great platform for me to show I can still play and I'm ready. ... I'm about 90%. I'll be 100% by camp."
Yes. Remember that Mike Shaw is also made of dilithium. Last year he fumbled and disastrously tried to bounce it outside a few times each, but when he wasn't forcing facepalms out of the fanbase he was slashing into the secondary and picking up 20 or so yards a couple times per game.
Shaw's unlikely to wrest the starting job away from the two seniors unless both succumb to injuries. A good sophomore year would see Shaw remain healthy, rip off the occasional long run whilst spotting the two co-starters, and throw down the gauntlet for anyone who presumes to challenge him in 2010.
More for the great leap forward. The latest effort of Football Outsiders' college guru Bill Conolly tackles tailbacks and has a number of data points relevant to Michigan. The stat in question is "Points Over Expectation." The brief summary: it's a metric that rewards you for rushing for lots of yards over many carries. It's something midway between YPC and yardage. (You can get a longer explanation at the link above.)
The notes of interest:
- Sam McGuffie checked in with the seventh-worst POE number in the country last year.
- Brandon Minor had the 12th-best POE number, and is the tenth-best returning tailback.
- Javon Ringer ran a lot, but to little effect:
Ringer was fourth in the country in rushing yards last year, but where did he stack up in POE? A whopping 137th, between Ball State backup Cory Sykes and Colorado backup Demetrius Sumler. Ringer's 390 carries merited a POE of -0.3, meaning an average college running back would have put up exactly what he did in 390 carries. While there is certainly skill (or at least good genes) involved in managing 30 carries per game without breaking down, it is unlikely that the skills Ringer possesses will in any way translate to pro success
In football numbers always require interpretation. Mine: the difference between McGuffie and Minor is partially, maybe even mostly, due to the radical improvement of Michigan's offensive line as the season progressed. The vast bulk of Minor's carries came in the second, effective half of the season. McGuffie was stuck running behind some super-confused guys.
But, man, the size of that gap is epic. Minor was more effective by leaps and bounds. This may something anyone who watched the two could tell you anecdotally, but if last year's Michigan's running game was the 12th-most effective in the country when Minor got the ball that's an accomplishment nearing magnificence. I've been making the case here that we should expect the rushing offense to take a considerable step forward this year; these numbers support that, possibly even to an extent I haven't dared suggest.
On Ringer: I think most people who saw a lot of Ringer would disagree with Connolly's conclusion at least somewhat. Ringer's lack of per-carry production was a product of extreme overuse, predictable playcalling, and being backed by the "threat" of Brian Hoyer*. I've also heard from a couple of educated Michigan State fans that the reason last year's Michigan State team had about one run play—power off tackle—was the ineptness of the offensive line. That's all they could do. He was not put in a position where he could succeed, and he managed to get drafted despite Dantonio treating him like a pack mule. Ringer has talent—probably not NFL-level, but you could say that about a lot of tailbacks with much better POE numbers.
It'll be interesting to see whether the repertoire expands next year or if they're the new Rock, Rock, Rock of the Big Ten. I lean towards the latter. Dantonio may have herded the cats at State into something resembling a competent defense, but offensive creativity does not seem like a specialty.
*(Brandon Minor gets to deploy all these excuses as well since Michigan ran two-thirds of the time when he was the feature tailback, largely because the alternative was having Threet or Sheridan throw. And yet… the numbers. I'm going to go breathe into a paper bag for a while and then write "I will NOT predict 9-3" on a chalkboard 500 times.)
Ah, Doyel. I've previously called Gregg Doyel a junior-high version of Christopher Hitchens and that he remains, but goddamn if it isn't satisfying to read a Christopher Hitchens piece when his strident personal morality happens to intersect with yours. So, yeah, Doyel's latest is a rip job on the inane Meyer-to-ND meme personally started by professional provocateur Paul Finebaum, and I like it.
I want to highlight this bit:
Finebaum's source? He doesn't mention one. Because he doesn't have one. His source is either Spurrier's "rumor down there," or that vast empty space Finebaum calls his skull. …
the Meyer rumor won't leave. Newspapers in Gainesville, Fla., Nashville, Tenn., and Orlando, Fla., have written about it, all in the past six days. Why? Because of Spurrier. And Finebaum.
This is pretty much the exact thing newspaper partisans get upset about when a baseless rumor flies about the blogosphere, reproducing willy-nilly despite a total lack of evidence or credibility. This is not a bug unique to the internet. Like everything else, it just happens much more slowly in newspapers.
In a way it's even more likely to result in untruthiness. Scratch the right sort of Notre Dame, Michigan State, or Ohio State fan and eventually he'll say something along the lines of "lol, Shredriguez" because last year a West Virginia newspaper published an embarrassingly credulous story about Rodriguez invading the Sacred Single Hardcopy Room and destroying all evidence that West Virginia even had a football program. The thing in question takes on a patina of reality due to the institutional momentum behind such a meme—it in a newspaper, it must be true—even if it's purest crap.
Etc.: Terrific UMHoops post on the three-point line move and Michigan's bombing ways.
Coyotes second-rounder Chris Brown came in for some goalie-running praise yesterday, and today there's an Arizona Republic article that expands on the Michigan-Phoenix connection. The most newsworthy item comes towards the end, where the 'Yotes GM and Brown discuss their mutual plan for his development:
Maloney admits he would "stunned" if Brown spends four years at the collegiate level. …
"He needs some time, I hope it's sooner rather than later, but I'm hesitant to say because none of us can predict what's going to happen, but I don't see him - his game, his drive, I think is more suited to pro hockey than college hockey.
"But it's certainly not going to hurt to give him the practice time the next couple of years, and at one of the best programs in the nation, which is good."
So… two and out, in Phoenix's estimation. For his part, Brown says he's planning on four years… "right now." His quote doesn't sound like a guy who will be around in 2012, though:
The ultimate goal is obviously to get to the Phoenix Coyotes and the NHL, play year by year, talk to the coaching staff on both sides and see what happens," he said.
We are warned, not that a second-rounder leaving after two years is a surprise.
Elsewhere, Canadiens draftee Mac Bennett impressed:
The biggest surprise of scrimmage day was Mac Bennett. The 17-year-old high school player looked extremely comfortable on the ice, with poise to match his older peers.
"I'm pretty calm with the puck. I wasn't expecting to be as calm with it as I was here," said Bennett.
Timmins agrees, saying "Mac looks like he's been here for a couple of development camps. He has a lot of poise and ability for his young age."
I'm still a little jittery about Bennett and the CHL—not because I have any information or anything, just general paranoia. Feeding the paranoia is this article, which I missed when it came out right after the NHL draft:
If Charlie Henry has his way, Michigan recruit Mac Bennett will never play in Ann Arbor. … Henry feels that the young defencemen will develop faster if he skips college and plays for the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
"He has really good offensive skills, but he needs to improve on defence and he can do it with us," said Henry, who is general manager of the Olympiques.
Trevor Timmins, the Canadiens' director of player personnel, said he wouldn't presume to tell a player where he should go, but he did concede that the talent level in the Quebec league is higher.
At least it's the Q, which is something of a shambles relative to the OHL and doesn't have nearly the level of success at recruiting Americans away from collegiate commitments that a few OHL teams do. But if anyone's going to get behind the highly questionable idea that the overall difficulty of playing in the Q is equivalent to college hockey—where the vast bulk of the players are also undrafted but happen to be three or four years older—it's the Canadiens. I'll breathe easier once Bennett is safely in Cedar Rapids.
(HT: Yost Built.)
So ESPN spent the first five or ten minutes of College Football Live yesterday talking about how screwed Michigan was because "another player(!!!)" was leaving Michigan, never mind that Wermers' departure was officially announced two months ago. But you get a couple of quotes from a kid transferring into the MAC and the universe is ending.
I don't think it matters much in the grand scheme of things because only one thing—winning—matters much in the grand scheme of things. That does not mean it's not annoying as hell. The part that's still lodged in the ol' craw at the moment is that "not my crowd" statement. What crowd? By the time Wermers announced he'd transfer, the only Rodriguez recruits that had made it to campus were the guys he filled out Carr's last class with and the early-enrollers.
Those players are as follows.
2008: Ricky Barnum, Justin Feagin, Martavious Odoms, Patrick Omameh, Terrence Robinson, Mike Shaw, Roy Roundtree, and Taylor Hill. (I'm not including Brandon Smith and JT Floyd, who were technically uncommitted when the switch happened but were more Carr recruits than Rodriguez recruits.)
2009: Vlad Emilien, Tate Forcier, Anthony LaLota, Will Campbell, Vincent Smith, Brandin Hawthorne, Mike Jones.
Who constitutes the infamous crowd here? We're looking for players that don't fit the profile of a typical Michigan recruit. So not these folks: Hill transferred after about two seconds, Omameh is an engineer, Shaw was a Penn State commit who Carr had offered, Roundtree was a Purdue commit,—both were teammates of Carr commit Brandon Moore—Campbell was basically a Carr recruit, Emilien is an honors student, and so are LaLota and Jones. Both of LaLota and Jones were picking between ND and Michigan.* And Forcier is the younger brother of a Carr recruit.
I really doubt there was any culture shock from the arrival of guys from Ohio and guys who strongly considered Notre Dame. That's been the pattern of the program for years.
The remainder: the Pahokee guys, Feagin, Barnum. And I guess Terrence Robinson. It's hard to interpret Wermers' "crowd" in a way that doesn't mean poor black kids from Florida, and I guess Terrence Robinson.
Which is all the long way of saying that 19 year olds should offer pat, positive answers and shut up, lest they say something that gives the wrong impression.
*(FWIW, Jones' decision was easy since ND did not offer.)
YEAH WE ARE VIRILE BY PROXY WOO
Stuck in. You know, Nick Sheridan's taken a lot of stick—some of it from this blog—for being the guy who was holding the hot potato when the quarterback carousel stopped and that's one hell of a mixed metaphor but there you go. And he's been discarded as a viable starting option this year by everyone—including this blog. Despite this, he keeps on working:
"Because I wasn't heavily recruited, because I wasn't given a scholarship out of high school, they assume I just stumbled into this opportunity," Sheridan said, his voice rising as he defended his position on the team. "People said that all the time, 'You just want to be a coach, right? So football isn't that important to you.'
"Being the quarterback here is the most important thing to me. Going through an experience here with the Michigan program will serve me well in the future, when I want to be a coach. It's not an ulterior motive for me to want to be on the team."
That's from an excellent Chengelis article on Sheridan that paints him as CJ Lee in pads.
(But, no, I still don't see him as a viable starting option.)
Yeah, nevermind that. Remember a few weeks ago when Leonardo Dicaprio sported a Michigan hat whilst courtside at a Lakers game? Did it mean anything? Is Dicaprio a Michigan fan? Does he even know he's wearing a Michigan hat?
No, no, and no, given the West Virginia hat he's sporting now and the… er… discontent between the two fanbases. Further evidence of Dicaprio's indifference: before the Michigan/West Virginia swing he was rocking an FAU Owls hat, which… really?
Also: yes, that's the lunkhead brother from My Name Is Earl.
It could be big. Manny Harris came away from the That Guy Dunks On LeBron Academy hauling a sack of effusive praise behind him. One evaluation:
One of the most athletic players in attendance, Manny Harris showed a lightning quick first step and terrific leaping ability. While Harris’ narrow frame and poor wingspan aren’t going to help him out much on the defensive side of the ball, he did show the ability to make tough shots, which he seems to settle for quite often. An extremely talented scorer regardless, Harris is likely to emerge as one of the top players in the Big 10 this year, even if his NBA potential is still a matter of debate.
-DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris both look really good this week. No doubt Michigan fans would like to see them look really good a little more consistently. Having seen their squad on both side of 20-point spreads against my Nittany Lions last year, I can vouch for the inconsistency.
If Zach Gibson can take the Graham Brown/Chris Young memorial Gumpy White Post Senior Leap and Darius Morris can provide a secondary threat to create and score, Michigan will be in business next year. Challenge for the Big Ten title business? Maybe if they're lucky and healthy.
Coyotes of the distant, distant future. Phoenix loves them some Michigan players, having drafted Chad Kolarik, Kevin Porter, Chris Summers, and incoming freshman Chris Brown and traded for goalie Al Montoya. They also love leaving their kids in school, which you go 'Yotes. They recently had a prospects camp attended by both Summers and Brown. The Coyotes' GM on Summers:
Maloney said he thinks at least six of the defensemen at the camp will reach the NHL some day, including Chris Summers, who will return to the University of Michigan for his senior season in the fall.
“He may be the best skating defenseman in college hockey and he plays with an edge,” Maloney said. “He’ll be with us at the end of this year for sure. He’s a guy that we’ll be excited to add.”
"With us"? As in "with us in Phoenix?" Eh… probably not unless the Coyotes are eliminated from playoff contention and just playing out the string. Nevertheless, commendation for his talent.
Maloney on Brown—the article is a profile so there's considerably more at the link:
“Chris comes to us as advertised,” Maloney said last week. “You know you watch him and when you first see him he looks a little rough skill-wise, but then you see him play and he’s very strong with the stick and has a heavy shot. What impresses me is he just goes to the net. He’s run over the goalies four or five times here and I think that’s just Chris. He charges the net and we really don’t have anybody like him in our prospect system, you know, a guy that just charges the net hard and then might stay around and have a conversation about it if anybody wants to talk about it… he’s still young and he’s evolving, but I’ve really liked what I’ve seen of Chris at this camp.”
Brown sounds like a fan favorite in the making, and a guy that opponents love to hate. Think Ryznar or Nystrom, but hopefully with a little more offensive pop.
As you can tell from the message board, Justin Turner has proven the opposability of his thumbs and passed the Ohio MEAP equivalent. The epinion purveyors at Go Blue Michigan Wolverine were out front on this one, so congrats to them for breaking it.
That resolves the last eligibility question in Michigan's 2009 class; all have made it to campus. Divers alarums.
The doorbell rang and now I'm sitting outside here with no one to talk to except a burning bag of what I'm sure is poop. How are you doing, poop? Well? That's nice to hear. Would you like to spend the next four years lifting until you explode? Oh. Ok then.
Fun day to be out of pocket, as I missed another offensive lineman burning his bridges on his way out the door:
"I really didn't get along with the new coaches," Wermers said. "They were bringing in a lot of different kids that were not my kind of crowd. Coach Carr's staff was a whole different ballgame. It was like a family. But when Rodriguez came in it was a whole different feeling. It was more of a business.
"I figured I'd get out while I could."
I especially like the last sentence, which conjures up images of a daring midnight escape from Barwis wolves. Elliot Mealer stumbles fatally, falling a step behind. From the shadows, a flash. Mealer finds himself pinned to the ground, left to think about what awaits him…
…"Save yourself," Mealer cries weakly. "Get out while you can." In the dusky background, there is the shimmer of metal and a faint cackling. The last thing Wermers sees before tearing into the night is Mealer being hooked to a squat rack; both men's eyes fill with tears.
Passing through the thick foliage, Wermers vows revenge. I'm going to find someone from the Northwest Indiana Times, he thinks. And then we'll see what the score is.
But seriously folks: there were hints of this on the premium message boards when Wermers' departure was announced. One of Wermers' uncles, who had provided updates on his recruitment and was therefore established, posted a long thing about how Wermers felt the program was too hard and wouldn't let him do what he wanted to academically and that this was very bad. That went over about as well as you might expect.
The overall theme from "it's more of a business" and the uncle-based complaints: the program asked too much from Wermers, especially if he wasn't going to be on the two-deep, and he'd rather boot to a MAC team where he can see the field and enjoy Ball State's fine programs in broadcast journalism or whatever.
And, really, okay. If the program's too high a bar for some guys who signed up for a different coaching staff, that's fine. The academic complain is hard to reconcile with Patrick Omameh, engineer and future starting tackle. The "not my kind of crowd" reference is pure red meat for rivals, but can we like, you know, wait for any of these supposedly bad kids to rack up a single Fulmer Cup point before we run screaming from them? Yes, their dreadlocks are very scary. No, that doesn't mean they're evil. And I have heard Ohio State recruits cite "it's more of a business" as a reason they picked OSU.
I understand some bitterness is natural when you end up in a program you didn't really sign up for and don't like the new guys. But you'll have to do better than some references to Those People and veiled complaints that things are too hard to impress at this point. I will start getting concerned if players Rodriguez recruited start leaving the program or Michigan makes anything more than the tiniest one-point dent in the Fulmer Cup.