"The face of the operation is Briatore (referred to exclusively in the film by his colleagues and angry, chanting detractors as "Flavio"), an anthropomorphic radish who spends most of his time at QPR plotting to fire all of the managers."
Last year I attempted to coin a clever nickname for the Feagin-Threet quarterback pairing: "Dual Threet." Dual is now a slot receiver and Threet is moseying on out of town, possibly to North Dakota State if you believe random guys on a message board. (Do not believe random guys on a message board. Believe specific guys on a message board.) So it goes for Michigan in the past couple years.
I've been a stalwart supporter of Rich Rodriguez since his arrival. I didn't think Ryan Mallett's departure was his fault, nor did he have much of an opportunity to land a dual-threat guy in the month or so he had to finish off Michigan's 2008 recruiting class. The one guy it seemed he did have a chance with, BJ Daniels, ended up at South Florida amidst a flurry of payoff rumors that even The Wolverine—normally a place that shies away from incendiary allegations like that—lent credence to. The hand he was dealt was an exceptionally poor one. I can find no better way to sum it up than this: how many walk-on quarterbacks can you remember at power (or even decent) programs, and how did they do?
I've got exactly two:
- Notre Dame's Matt Lovecchio, AKA A Major Reason Ty Willingham Was Fired.
- UCLA's McLeod Bethel-Thompson, AKA The Only Reason Notre Dame Beat A BCS Opponent In 2007.
There's almost no precedent for a quarterback situation like the one Michigan faced in 2008, and almost no way to claw yourself out of a hole that vast at the most important position on the field. Once that hand was dealt, Rodriguez was dead meat.
So the reasonable criticism of Rodriguez are mostly confined to his role in setting up his hand: "running off" Mallett, the Boren defection, the fruitless chase of Pryor, and so on and so forth. I didn't find any of these arguments compelling, since I knew Mallett had a foot and a half out the door even when Carr was running the team and that the Borens had major daddy issues and the options outside of Pryor were about nil. The decision to hire Shafer was a poor one, and that seemed like it should be held against Rodriguez. Other than that, it was Angry Michigan Whatever Hating God all the way.
You can tell there's a but coming, so: but. But the Threet transfer bothers me. Even with the recruitment of Forcier and Robinson, Threet is the most experienced quarterback on the roster by two years and has some decent starting experience. He will find no better situation wherever he transfers unless it's to some podunk I-AA school. The transfer makes little sense for him personally or professionally unless there's something behind the scenes we don't know about.
Meanwhile, Michigan now finds itself down to two true freshmen before they have to drag out another walkon, be it Nick Sheridan or Nader Furrha or whoever. Even if Threet was mostly poor a year ago, he was obviously far superior to the alternative, and at worst he would be the backup next year. With Denard Robinson something of a project, every one of Michigan's egg is now in Tate Forcier's basket. Threet leaving the program is an obvious negative.
So it doesn't make sense on anyone's part. Why did it happen? I go back to a quote from Calvin Magee in the aftermath of the Michigan State game. Dan Feldman's Daily article on the transfer highlights it:
By staying and giving Michigan another feasible option besides Sheridan, Threet opened himself to public criticism from the Wolverines’ coaches. Offensive coordinator Calvin Magee described Threet’s three-interception performance against Michigan State on Oct. 25 as “inconsistent, like it always is.”
Man, that's pretty rough. Behind-the-scenes reports from insiders always said Threet had major confidence issues and didn't respond well to this staff's high pressure style. Maybe they tried to adapt. That evidently didn't last, so Threet decided he'd be better off elsewhere.
It's obvious neither side had much faith in the other. That's not unexpected given the rickety nature of the pairing, but I can't help but think that Bo or Lloyd would have found a way to finesse it better. I don't know. Maybe I've been talking to John U. Bacon too much.
- Pretty sure Matt Hayes has no idea that Nick Sheridan is a walk-on. Asked "what does the Threet transfer mean for M" he responded "It means Nick Sheridan, who shared time with Threet last fall, is next out the door." This is unlikely unless Sheridan wants to go to UM-Dearborn or something.
- Maize 'n' Brew blows up a pretty dumb Blade article on the transfer. HT to them for the NDSU link, too.
- The Ann Arbor News thinks there's "no heir apparent," which, could not be more wrong since there is one obvious guy who is obviously the starter now.
- But, hey, Forcier seems slightly more confident than Threet (link ibid): "In this offense, there's always somebody open. You should never throw an incompletion.'' Forcier's cockiness should serve him well.
- Chengelis says you shouldn't anoint either freshman your lord and savior yet.
- DocSat has a take as well.
Mitera not ready. Mark Mitera has returned to full practices with the team but Berenson says he won't play this weekend against Ohio State:
He’s (been) a partial practice player. Now, we need to get him into the whole mix and see him fall down, get hit and realize he’s fine. He needs confidence so he can be himself. If he can’t be himself, then he’s not going to help the team.
Berenson seemed to think a return against Ferris State was probable, though:
“We’re going to day-to-day, week-to-week with him,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said, mentioning in passing that Mitera would probably be back by the end of the season.
That Daily post also contains a quote downplaying Chris Summers' potential return to forward. Which, like, good, because scratching a fourth-liner instead of Pateryn or Llewellyn doesn't seem worth the uncertainty of moving your best defender to a third-line forward spot.
About this time of year I start seriously breaking down the various possibilities in the PWR rankings that choose and seed the tournament field; this will be coming up later in the week. To whet your math-dork appetite, however, the Hoover Street Rag talks about the various components of the PWR and how very unstable they are. (One clarification: Miami's TUC record is actually 6-4-2, but head to head games are excluded from that category in each individual comparison, leaving Miami at 4-2-2 for the purposes of its Michigan comparison. Michigan has a slim edge that doesn't count until Miami takes on Ohio State in the final week of the regular season.)
The upshot: Michigan's put itself in a good spot but has in no way separated itself from a pack of chasing teams. A season-ending stumble and Michigan will probably find itself a two seed. Also, next weekend you're pulling for Ohio State.
(Trivial side note: Michigan is one of only two teams in the NCAA without a tie. The other is Princeton, an Ivy school that plays a restricted schedule.)
Bad decision delayed. The NCAA's potentially disastrous implementation of a "regionalization" scheme that would see teams funneled into the nearest available regional with little regard to seeding has been delayed at least a year:
The Championships/Sports Management Cabinet is voting this week on whether to make regionalization of brackets something that is mandated across most NCAA sports. If they do, Cady said it wouldn't take hold until next year.
But even then, because of the cooperation the committee received on delaying it until next year, Cady is optimistic that the more drastic regionalization proposals will not be passed, and instead hockey will be allowed its compromise proposal.
"I feel very good they did listen to us," Cady said. "I think we can make significant improvements to cut costs, and still keep the integrity alive with such a small bracket."
The NCAA's "compromise" is to seed the field as they've done before but move teams around based on their geographical location as long as they don't cause first-round intra-conference matchups. How bad is this? It depends heavily on how geographically diverse the seeding bands are. If every 2-seed is in the West it doesn't matter. Here's a look at what that proposal would do to this week's pairwise. Here's a comparison of brackets. The left one is under the current rules; the right one is under the revised ones.
|4||15||Air Force*||4||15||Air Force*|
|3||12||North Dakota||3||12||North Dakota|
|1||4||Notre Dame||1||4||Notre Dame|
Well, that's an anti-climax. As you can see, in this bracket there are no changes. However, this is a hugely restricted bracket since three hosts are in and most of the potential moves butt up against intra-conference matchup problems. For instance, Vermont would normally be swapped into Bridgeport or Manchester under the new rules but can't be sent because UNH is hosting as a three seed in Manchester—intra-conference matchup—and Yale is hosting as a three in Bridgeport. North Dakota can't move to either of the West regionals because that would cause an intra-conference ECAC matchup. Similarly, it works out such that neither of the top two seeds, who have earned the right to face the weak auto-bid teams, gets robbed of that opportunity.
But if Minnesota moves up to a three seed you could easily see Air Force shipped to Minneapolis to play the #4 overall seed. If the hosting restrictions weren't so, uh, restrictive, you could see a lot of swapping going on and a segregation akin to that one tournament they had a few years ago where all the eastern teams played in the East regionals and all the western ones played in the West regionals, which was terrible.
This is an NCAA-wide cost savings mechanism, but the hockey tournament is one of the few that actually makes money, and it should be left alone. If the NCAA is really going to push it they should abolish that idiotic St. Louis regional coming up, which is going to be abandoned, and should really consider awarding the #1 seeds home regionals, which would make more money and provide greater protection to top seeds.
(HT: 60 Minutes.)
I'm just going to pretend his name has an I in it. Michigan's got a few open scholarships they might hand out if the right player gets the right test score, and one of those is SC ATH Larry Raper. We should know about Raper today:
Michigan coaches told Larry Raper that they will have a decision tomorrow. They are deciding whether or not to offer him. He told me, as well as others, that he will commit if offered.
Raper was a Clemson commitment until the Bowden firing, at which point the Tigers decided they didn't want him. He looked unlikely to qualify until his most recent test score, which explains why he's still out there and why his offers are currently Toledo and South Carolina State. Raper quote:
“Some in-state people swung and missed again,'' he said.
The most intriguing current situation for Raper is Michigan, which reportedly still has some scholarships available for next season.
“The thing with Michigan has been going on now for about two weeks,'' Norman said. “We've had conversations as late as last Thursday. To my knowledge, they have not tendered an offer. But they told me they do have scholarship money left.''
Michigan's looking at Raper as a cornerback.
Just one question this time, because I figure it's a pretty specialized one most will care not at all about.
Brian,So we've been following the successful and mildly popular club hockey team at Penn State for some time now. Well the boosters have been relentless and the optimism surrounding a jump to D1 increased significantly with the announcement of a 'study' commissioned for a new rink.So the question, if things do in fact pan out, is where Penn State might belong. Hockey has it's own set of traditions and powerhouses, not to mention recent realignment. With the current shake up, is there even room in the current system for a new major program?And regardless of that answer, do you think the Big Ten schools would be willing to give up their current rivals and history for a Big Ten hockey conference, similar to a move the Big East recently made in lacrosse? Right off the bat there is the possibility for a six team league, perhaps small enough to allow for a large set of traditional non-BT games to be played. It might also help spur Illinois to make the jump, as they are currently in a similar situation to Penn State.I'll hang up and listen. Thanks.
Black Shoe Diaries
Kevin's stumbled onto one of the most controversial topics in college hockey: a Big Ten hockey conference, and more generally realignment. With the dissolution of the always-unstable CHA and the flight of its members to safe havens—Robert Morris and Niagara will bring Atlantic Hockey to 12 members, Bemijdi State looks like it will squeeze into the WCHA, and Alabama-Huntsville is trying to get into the CCHA—college hockey finds itself hopelessly gridlocked. Any school looking to start a new program has no place to go, as every conference save Hockey East is full, and Hockey East doesn't seem inclined to expand.
Any program willing to take up the daunting task of starting an expensive sport and balancing the Title IX implications out would face a near-pointless life as an independent. Much cost, no benefit, no expansion.
The obvious solution is to carve up the two western conferences into three eight-team entities, and the most obvious way to do that is to yank the Big Ten teams out with a couple tag-alongs and create a Big Ten hockey conference. However, the problems with that are numerous and severe:
- Only five Big Ten schools currently field hockey teams; the minimum is six. Adding Penn State would solve that issue that but even a six-team conference is pretty slim. And I'm not sure about this but I don't think you could actually add non-Big Ten schools to the conference and still call it the Big Ten.
- Removing Michigan, Ohio State, and Michigan State from the CCHA would gut that league, hurting the bottom line of the various small Michigan schools in it. That could lead to programs folding. The recent rise of Miami and Notre Dame may make this less of an issue.
- Wisconsin and Minnesota have longstanding rivalries with North Dakota, Colorado College, and Denver they would be loathe to give up. Minnesota also serves in a similar capacity as M and MSU do to the wide variety of Minnesota schools that populate the WCHA.
- Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin are all traditional powerhouses. The gap between those four and the remainder of the league would likely be severe. Penn State and any other ambitious Big Ten school, far from traditional recruiting grounds and bereft of D-I history, would likely be signing up to play doormat.
- I think this would be offset by the increased interest and revenue, but travel costs would go up significantly.
I'd love to see it happen. Four games against each opponent would leave the departed powers with plenty of nonconference opportunities (14) to visit schools left in the cold by the move. The WCHA would be just fine anchored by North Dakota, CC, and DU—all extremely strong, established programs. The CCHA could do okay, too, as long as Jeff Jackson and Enrico Blasi stay put.
However, it would be a cataclysmic change and seems highly unlikely. The best hope for college hockey expansion appears to be the far-off idea that a cluster of Canadian universities will join the NCAA a few years down the road and ramp up D-I hockey programs, possibly taking the Alaska teams with them and opening up a couple slots for new programs.
The other option for Penn State is for it to form the basis of a new conference. Niagara and Robert Morris would probably leap at the opportunity, as Atlantic Hockey has restrictions on scholarship numbers below that of the NCAA. Huntsville would sign up, too, but then you've got to find two more schools from somewhere. That was the problem the CHA had: teams would come and go and come and go and the league's future was never assured. A Penn State-anchored league wouldn't have that problem, if only because teams in it would have no other options.
The bottom line is this: the current landscape in college hockey is exceptionally unfriendly to expansion and Penn State is probably going to find it unfeasible unless it can find another major state school (Illinois? Syracuse?) willing to start up a program at the same time and be the co-anchor of a new conference. Unless someone very weird and very rich and very into college hockey expansion dies, I don't see that happening.
Previously: Vlad Emilien.
|Orlando, Florida - 6'2" 200
|Scout||3*, #49 S|
|Rivals||3*, #25 S|
|ESPN||77, #55 S|
|Other Suitors||Auburn, Kentucky, ND
(no offer), UNC, Wake, USF
|Mike Jones Commits To Michigan|
Early enrollee. Orlando Edgewater (Greg Mathews).
Ah, Mike Jones, he of the accursed Google-proof name that is not Frobozz Tamoshanter.
Though Jones is listed as a safety by everyone, everyone also expects he'll move down to linebacker immediately. He's already 200+ pounds and 6'2"; in a year or two he'll be 215 or 220 and decidedly ponderous for a safety: it's OLB for him, a la Jonas Mouton. Jones' opinion of himself points the same way:
"I'm a hitter," Jones said. "I hit real hard and I've got good speed. I react to the ball real quick and have great instincts."
He admits he wants to improve on his covering skills. "I'd like to work on my footwork and steps."
Rivals.com analyst Michael Langston:
"Mike's just a great player,” Langston said. “He's listed as a safety, but he pretty much plays a rover linebacker at Edgewater. He's a really hard hitter, but also a really good cover guy. He's not going to cover like a corner, but he can cover for his size. They can use him that way if they need someone to fill that void."
He is a defensive back who could easily grow into an outside linebacker. He is every bit of 6’3, 205 lbs. He is a very rangy kid who could end up at 235-240 lbs. He can run well and loves to make contact, and his best attribute is that he loves to hit.
So: not a safety. A linebacker. Probably. Coach again (link ibid):
I believe they are going to stick him at strong safety first and see how he adapts to that position, which I believe will fit their style. We run the same type of defense that Coach Rodriguez ran at West Virginia (3-3-5) so he has been one of those outside linebacker / safeties for four years, and I believe he could play either position at the college level.
This is a theme with Michigan's linebacker recruiting this year: hybrid cover guys you can run out there in the spread. These guys are basically the opposite of Johnny Thompson, and the one guy who isn't a high school safety (Hawthorne) is actually the smallest of the bunch.
As far as how good he is, he received fairly early offers from Auburn and North Carolina along with a number of other teams not as imposing on the recruiting trail, plus heavy interest from Notre Dame that did not actually materialize into an offer. Or may have. There was some confusion about that, and though newspaper comment sections are pretty much the worst places on the internet this actually sounds very plausible as to what went down
The guru ratings above are all pretty meh, but he does have a mitigating circumstance: his junior year was cut short by a shoulder injury. In the five games he played he had 56(!) tackles, eight(!) sacks, and four forced fumbles.
Random biographical note: Jones' father was a first-round NFL draft pick who played for the Steelers, Patriots, and Dolphins over the course of a nine-year career.
Why Larry Foote? ESPN spends most of its evaluation talking about what a terrifying blitzer Jones is; Foote was a terrifying blitzer who was about the same size and weight as Jones' potential down the road. Foote was also a moderately hyped recruit making a shift from safety to linebacker. (IIRC, that was a long time ago.)
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Jones is at a big Florida school and is probably pretty well scouted, but the junior year injury and his decision to avoid camps put some wobble in his ranking.
General Excitement Level: Eh; I'm expecting one of the OLB recruts to pan out in a big way, one to be okay, and one to wash out.
Projection: A redshirt or special teams duty in year one followed by a year behind Mouton; in 2010 will go to war for the starting job.
YMRMFSPA = "you may remember me from such players as." Note that this is not supposed to be a projection of success; we only know how successful players play, as unsuccessful ones don't.
|Lauderhill, Florida - 6'0" 186
|Scout||3*, #42 S|
|Rivals||4*, #14 S|
|ESPN||80, #22 S|
|Other Suitors||Ohio State, Wisconsin, Tennessee,
South Carolina, Stanford
|TomVH interviews Vlad; MGoBlog commit article.|
|Notes||Best name in the class; early enroller.|
Emilien seemed ticketed for Ohio State before a senior-year injury knocked him out and the Buckeyes accepted a slew of defensive back commitments. He received a mid-march offer from OSU and favored the Buckeyes for a long time, but never pulled the trigger. Offers followed from Tennessee, South Carolina, USF, Auburn, and Illinois before Michigan followed suit in late April. LSU followed up with one.
It was at this point Emilien and OSU started drifting apart, as he remained uncommitted while six other DBs signed up. After some on-again, off-again stuff—due in part to some malfeasance on the part of OH S Bradley McDougald, then an OSU commit—Ohio State reappeared on his list for good at about the same time Michigan got back on it. After officials to Wisconsin and Michigan, Emilien picked M the day after the OSU game.
The ACL tear that held Emilien out his senior season, and two big schools' reaction to it, may have made the difference:
"It meant a lot to me that U-M stayed loyal to me after I hurt my knee ... others stopped recruiting me at that time and that hurt. Michigan stayed with me; they showed me they will still be with me in tough times as well as good."
So: that's a wide selection of impressive early offers and continued, if intermittent, Ohio State pursuit despite their flood of defensive backs. Plus you've got two sites giving him four stars despite the injury. Sounds good, but we're probably going to have to wait to see him on the field. Coach quote:
"Vlad is still just really developing,'' Davis said. "He was a running back as a freshman. I think he has the potential to be just like [current Gator] Major Wright.''
Major Wright, you say?
Of course, Wright was a major (ha!) reason Florida's secondary was so toasty crisp in 2007—Citrus Bowl what—and he didn't spend his senior year on the sideline. Emilien's early enrollment is probably not enough to offset inexperience and any lingering effects from the injury.
But he'll work when he gets here:
WHAT I DO TO STAY IN SHAPE: "I'm a workaholic; basically all I do is train, train, train. I wake up at 5 a.m. and go train. I run track, too, so I'm trying to keep myself in shape for that. I lift weights. Go on the track and do a couple of 400s to keep my endurance up. I run a couple of 110s, because that's what they run in college. I've got to get used to the college life and make sure my speed is up."
Pray to Baby Jesus that he got an A in geometry; if he does we've got something here.
Why Jamar Adams? Approximately same build, same sort of early offer, and he's the only Michigan safety in the last ten years that wouldn't be an insult.
Guru Reliability: Low. Wide spread and a senior-year injury.
General Excitement Level: Moderate Plus. OSU safeties not named Jamario O'Neal have played out of all proportion to their rankings for years now and I'm extremely happy to pry a guy they thought was worthy of a March offer out of their hands. Probably underrated, but the knee injury increases the chances he won't live up to those offers.
Projection: Either sparing special teams time as a freshman or (hopefully) a redshirt. In 2010 will be a major threat to start at strong safety, though he might have to fight Brandon Smith to get a job.
it comes. it is the glendening. prepare your rosewater. [er: commenters point out this is actually Wohlberg, which is true.]
Hockey won four straight. I'm staring at a box score that shows Michigan down 2-0 after seven minutes and then this:
Travis Turnbull (Louie Caporusso, David Wohlberg) PPG 15:04
Brian Lebler (Travis Turnbull, Robbie Czarnik) 16:44
Luke Glendening (Louie Caporusso) GWG 15:32
Luke Glendening (Louie Caporusso, David Wohlberg) ENG
That's the equivalent of basketball winning with 30 points from David Merritt. The night before Michigan pulled Hogan after he gave up 3 goals on eleven shots and put in Sauer for the third and then Sauer went out and won the next night. The once-settled goalie situation now seems unsettled, but four wins over decent competition is four wins. Michigan has now moved into third place in the CCHA and has nearly clinched the first-round bye. Notre Dame is six clear and is all but assured the regular season crown—things would be much more interesting with competent refereeing a couple weeks ago—and Miami remains a game ahead of M.
[Update: Hogan had the flu and pulled himself out, apparently.]
…and moved way up in the Pairwise. The win streak has moved Michigan into outstanding position in the pairwise. They're second overall now, somehow, and Notre Dame has fallen to fourth. If the season ended today, Michigan would finally get to stay home and play in the Grand Rapids regional.
I'll spare you the details as to how the bracket is formed—those interested can get them at USCHO—but forming a coherent one is tough at the moment because three teams currently in the tournament are guaranteed hosts: Minnesota, Yale, and UNH. Michigan's bracket on a pure seeding basis is frickin' righteous:
15. AH autobid (probably Air Force)
However, Yale has to be in Bridgeport and there can't be a first-round intra-conference matchup, so someone would have to get swapped out or in. The thing that seems to make the most sense right now is swapping Yale into BU's bracket and Denver into Michigan's, but all this stuff is going to change a thousand times before the end of the season. It's not worth getting exercised about.
You want Notre Dame to lose, lose, lose, as if they slide ahead of Michigan in the PWR they'll get the spot in Grand Rapids and Michigan is getting shipped. (Probably. The rule book no longer demands that #1 seeds get placed in order of seeding.) Also feel free to root against UNH, as their hold on the tournament is tenuous at the moment and their exclusion would help Michigan not get hosed.
The margins in the PWR are always thin, so Michigan has a lot to play for in the final couple weeks of the season and the playoffs. They've got a couple of road games against Ohio State—which has to be kicking itself after it took a 3-2 lead against ND with under three minutes left, then took a spearing(!) major, let the game get tied up with a second left, and lost in OT—and the season-ending home and home against Ferris. OSU is solidly on the bubble for the tournament and will be playing for its season against Michigan; Michigan will be playing to keep pole position for Grand Rapids. Should be an excellent series, and both games are televised.
Mark Mitera's prognosis got grimmer. Michael Spath:
When [Mitera] met with the entire media about three weeks ago, he was energized and talking about a mid-February return. Not so Monday. Admits getting back into playing shape is much harder than he anticipated. Looks good when he does skate, but his stamina is lacking severely. Said today he wasn't even sure he'd be back for the final weekend of the regular season Feb. 27-28.
Spath updated that with a quote from one of the coaches stating that if Mitera was ready for the CCHA playoffs he'd play in them—and remember they'll have two weeks to prepare after the Ferris series—with the most likely lineup change being Chris Summers to forward.
I'm not wild about that idea since Summers has been excellent on D and the return of Mitera would be an opportunity to sit the penalty- and mistake-prone Llewellyn (although he may have played better the past couple weeks); meanwhile the Michigan grinders like Winnett and Fardig and Ciraulo and Glendening have all been playing well.
Michigan picked up a depth forward for next year. Chris Heisenberg is now listing Lindsay Sparks as a Michigan commitment. Sparks was committed to Brown until his M switch. Yost Built has more on Sparks; sounds like he'll be a depth forward. Maybe John Shouneyia upside?
Notre Dame announced a new arena. Ding, dong, the Joyce is dead. Jeff Jackson has already made them a power and they'll be one until he retires; the new arena should help him recruit. The CCHA's days as the Big Two and little ten (or eight or nine) are over; Miami and ND are here to stay.