If you had 36 minutes in the "how long would it take a Jackson to wildly overstate the ability of Thomas Rawls*" pool, collect your winnings:
“Honestly, I did get a chance to watch Mark Ingram a few times,” [Fred Jackson Jr.] told The Flint Journal. “Mark is probably one of the best guys ever to come through here. Mark was great, but there’s something about this kid Thomas. If I was to compare them as high school backs, give me Thomas Rawls.”
He's like a Heisman trophy winner… except fast!
*[No offense intended to Rawls. All comments in this post reference the Jackson family's unique gift for shameless hyperbole and are not meant to reflect cynicism on the part of the author. The author legitimately enjoys this meme. He would find it sad if the Jackson family ever said a tailback was "okay." The author's life story was encapsulated in a Kids In The Hall sketch once. Hoke uber alles.]
Over the course of the recruiting process, MI RB Thomas Rawls has made it no secret that he'd commit to Michigan if he had the chance. Michigan has offered, and according to the Detroit News, Rawls will be a Wolverine. Apparently his coach was unable to contain the excitement until Thomas's press conference, at which Rivals confirmed he committed to Michigan.
|3*, #77 RB, #15 Instate||3*, 5.6, #20 Instate||3*, 76, #81 RB|
The sites are in agreement: Thomas Rawls stands 5-10, and about 215 pounds. Their rankings of him aren't very high, but there are some reasons for that. Scout openly downgrades players for being academic risks (which is stupid, because it's easy for the layman to tell whether or not he ultimately enrolls at school - rankings should be about skill, not some abstract "value" parameter), and ESPN says that he deserves to see his stock higher than it is, apparently not realizing that they're the ones ranking these kids. More from ESPN:
He is a physically imposing back with good downhill attributes. Hits the hole with authority and flashes good downhill burst and momentum. Quick to see and hit the cutback. A decisive and aggressive runner who is constantly heading North with square shoulder pads and good lean. Displays good explosive out of his cuts and can change speeds to elude.
So far, so good. Weaknesses?
Breaks consistent first contact but did not see the pile pushing power we were expecting. Competition at times appears inferior.
So, uh "AWESOME, except he plays against crappy competition" means he's the 81st-best RB in the country? Color me skeptical on their methodology (more on it in the next section). They also say he has the speed to break big runs against high schoolers, but may not be able to continue at the next level - a more reasonable criticism.
If that's the extent of their criticisms, sign me up for a guy with the upside that a bowling ball-type guy with all the positive attributes listed in the top section.
Scout asks Rawls to talk about his own game:
“I’m a power back and a speed back. I’m also pretty elusive. I can break tackles and always find a crease.”
The elusiveness might be overstated, as that's one of ESPN's criticisms of Thomas, but the combo of speed and power seems to be right in line with scouting reports.
A lack of offers may have kept his overall rankings low, but somewhere in the 3-star range - just a bit higher in the pecking order - seems to be legit to me.
[Ed.: Touch The Banner may provide some insight into the rankings that ESPN's boosterism does not: "Many fans want to compare Rawls to Mark Ingram, the Flint product who won the Heisman for Alabama in 2009. Admittedly, Rawls and Ingram have some physical similarities. Both are approximately the same height and even have similar gaits. But Ingram (who was a 4-star recruit) is and was quicker than Rawls. Michigan fans might not like me for saying this, but Rawls reminds me of Kevin Grady."
OTOH, LeVeon Bell.]
Central Michigan was Rawls's only offer almost through the entire recruiting process. Though Michigan didn't offer until close to the end, they were always right there for him.
Why so few offers? His grades have been a question mark, and that scared away a lot of schools. He insists he'll qualify to play as a freshman, so hopefully it won't be an issue. The lack of offers is part of what kept his rankings low, so look at it with a critical eye.
Sophomore and junior stats from Scout:
Thoimas Rawls made All-State Honorable Mention, All-Conference and All-City for his sophomore and junior seasons. As a junior, he rushed for 1,056 yards and 16 TD's on 138 carries and recorded 101 tackles. He says he can bench 285-pounds, squats 405 and has a 34-inch vertical jump.
And as a senior:
1,585 yards rushing on 450 carries; 21 touchdowns
He broke the single-game rushing record that a guy named Mark Ingram held for the Flint area, running for 343 yards and 5 TDs.
FAKE 40 TIME
4.5, per the premium sites. That's pretty darn good for a running back with Rawls's size. Of course, his reputation is as a guy who's pretty fast for his size, so I guess it makes sense. Three FAKEs out of five.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Michigan is in need of a power back, especially with the move to a pro-style offense. Michael Cox has shown flashes, but those have only been against the worst competition on the schedule. The previous coaching staff didn't trust his blocking or hands enough to play him on any regular basis.
However, Stephen Hopkins may have a lock on the starting (power back) position, and as an academic risk, it's probably for the best that Rawls takes a redshirt year to focus on academics and adjust to college life. That will also give him the chance to undergo a year of college weight training, and get acclimated with the playbook before he's ever expected to do anything on the field.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan really needs a defensive tackle and a tight end, but everything else going forward is pretty much gravy. There are five prospects - Fisher, Clark, Willingham, Barnett, and Cooper - still out there (that we know of), and the Wolverines should have room in the class to take them all, should they be so lucky.
Darius Morris had a triple-double against Iowa—just the third in the program's history—and I managed to completely omit any mention of this when I talked about the game. In an effort to repair the fail here it is in its entirety thanks to UMHoops and Josh Houchin:
It got fancy in there for a moment. Almost as if someone was… dancing.
quien es mas macho? always pick the man with the giant gold medallion.
When Doctor Saturday heralded this offseason as oversigning's moment in the sun I thought that was true, but that a lot of sturm und drang would amount to nothing much. A couple Outside The Lines pieces by ESPN and articles demonstrating Alabama players' remarkable misfortune when it comes to medical scholarships would move chatter from disgruntled blogs to media flamethrowers and people in Alabama would not care at all and fin. I might be wrong. It looks like the media pressure has moved chatter from disgruntled blogs to disgruntled… SEC power brokers?
"I don't think the rule we passed is going to solve the problem," Florida President Bernie Machen says. "There are still universities that will oversign and it's going to end up with a student athlete being left out. I think we either have to get the universities to be more serious about it, or the league and the NCAA are going to have to pass more stringent punishments for those who do oversign."
McGarity also said that Georgia football will not allow oversigning -- a practice that some programs participate in and is garnering more attention by both media and regulating bodies. “We will not sign more than 85 scholarship football players,” he noted.
That moved fast.
Once people in positions of power in the SEC start grumbling about a practice, the chance for a meaningful change has come. (Point to Braves & Birds for saying "the programs that ought to be the most aggressive in condemning oversigning are Florida and Georgia" since they're the exceptions to the rule in the SEC. The sources here are not a coincidence.)
That's especially true when the league just put in place some cosmetic modifications by capping letters of intent at 28. These didn't take. Journalists said "hey, wait a minute" when they multiply 28 by four and get a number that's well north of 85 but not well north of the number of kids most SEC schools have promised an education over the last relevant period. SEC schools averaged 27.6 signees from 2002-2010.
More importantly, you now have an SEC athletic director who's bluntly stating the real issue* and saying his team won't partake, and an SEC president who is on the warpath. There's someone calling into Finebaum right now and saying BUT PAWWWWWL, BERNIE MACHEN'S JUST DOING THIS BECAUSE IT HELPS FLORIDA. Even if they're right, being in a position to rail because other rich people are doing shitty things to poor ones—and you're not—justifies itself. Florida's Machiavellian brilliance in is in not being Machievellian.
So we seem to be at a point where kids complaining about getting booted off their not-for-profit educational institution's sporting team leads to action. The Bylaw Blog has migrated to the official NCAA site and provides some indication of what might be feasible to the current membership in a post on oversigning. The strictest version of his proposal:
GIAs to Current SAs with Eligibility Remaining Next Year + Signed Scholarships by Prospects ≤ NCAA Limit
In English this is:
You can't sign a kid to a LOI or scholarship agreement unless you have room right now.
IE, "the Big Ten." Hockey fans might remember Brandon Burlon not signing when the rest of his class did because he was ticketed for a full scholarship Michigan did not have at that instant. (He signed later when Kevin Quick was booted after he stole a teammate's credit card.) In football this is the Big Ten's policy—they theoretically relaxed it by allowing oversigning up to 88, but explaining where you will get the money is onerous and public and it's uncertain if anyone's actually used the option yet.
Even that's a little soft for my tastes, but it would be a massive step in the right direction. Today it seems like it's one coming in the not-too-distant future.
*[The NCAA's 25-per-class limit serves as an unfortunate distraction here because people point out that's an arbitrary rule no one should care about, which is true. If you have 30 open spots it's not unethical to squeeze as many players in as possible, and people attack that strawman as if you're trying to clutch pearls but failing to because you're deranged. Even when that's not happening there's no particular reason for Get The Picture to focus on 25 as a magic number.]
Let's cut to the chase: Tomorrow in this space, there shall be an all-day liveblog. We'll keep track of LOIs coming in, new commitments, and coverage in other media. It should be pretty easy for you to check in for a couple minutes at work to see what the latest news is.
I'll also be looking to deputize people to keep us filled in on ESPN's Signing Day coverage, in addition to the Big Ten Network's coverage, and even WTKA's Signing Day show (LIVE! From Banfield's Westside in Ann Arbor!). If you're interested in helping out, I'll take volunteers early in the morning.
or PM?) - MI OL Jake Fisher picks between Michigan and Oregon.
- Noon - MD DT Darian Cooper signs on ESPNU with Michigan, Georgia Tech, or Iowa.
- 7PM - CO LB Leilon Willingham announces from a top 5 of Michigan, Arizona State, Central Florida, Colorado, and Washington.
- OH TE/LB Frank Clark announces between Michigan and North Carolina at some point in the day.
All these times are subject to change, so keep an eye on the Latest Announcement Times forums thread for updates before tomorrow.
TX TE Chris Barnett will not pick between Arkansas and Michigan until later in the week. The Arkansas commit has targeted Saturday as a possible decision date. MI RB Thomas Rawls will commit later this afternoon (1:30pm) in a ceremony at his high school. Of course, The Detroit News's Tom Markowski already let the cat out of the bag. Hello: posts for all prospects who pick the Wolverines wll be linked in the liveblog.
And of course, we can't forget about all the prospects who have already made public commitments to the Wolverines:
- TX QB Russell Bellomy
- MI RB Justice Hayes
- OH OL Jack Miller
- IL OL Chris Bryant
- FL OL Tony Posada
- OH DT Chris Rock
- MI DE Brennen Beyer
- OH DE/TE Keith Heitzman
- TX LB Kellen Jones
- OH LB Antonio Poole
- MI LB Desmond Morgan
- MD CB Blake Countess
- MI CB Raymon Taylor
- MI CB Delonte Hollowell
- OH CB Tamani Carter
- CA K Matt Wile
As mentioned above, these prospects should be faxing in their Letters of Intent all morning, so we'll keep a running total of those received (and still pending) in the liveblog.
Other Items to Watch
The Michigan Athletic Department is holding a press conference at 2PM to discuss the new signees. The main portion should be available live online, but in past years, early enrollees and assistant coaches have been available to talk to the press after. I'll tweet updates from that portion of the day. Since there's only one prospect already enrolled (OH S Greg Brown), I'm not sure if they'll make him available.
And of course, we can't help but start looking forward to the next class. All this and your questions answered tomorrow on mgoblog!
I don't have anything sweeping to say about last weekend's basketball and hockey games that's not a replica of what I said over the past couple weeks. Depending on whether the hockey team is flinging in seemingly unplanned goals or not the team is either okay or difficult to watch, but they are winning just about as much as anyone else in the country so that's an improvement from last year. The basketball team is desperately young and looks it unless it's flinging in half its three pointers, which it has the last couple games.
But I did go to the Joe and Crisler over the weekend, so some assorted items.
Make it rain. I thought "7 of 17 is pretty good" at halftime, and then Michigan went 7 of 9 in the second half, finishing a second straight game with a 3PT% of essentially 50%. This is obviously unsustainable. The top shooting team in the country is Northern Arizona. They're making 45% from behind the arc… and are 312th in 3PA/FGA. Michigan's sixth in that category. The rims will go clang again when opponents are getting out on Michigan's shooters.
But they count just as much as all those jacked up threes they clattered off rims earlier in the year. Michigan's three point shooting has been steadily improving and now they can claim to be above average for what I believe is probably the first time in the Beilein era. They're up to 34.8%, good for #147. Smotrycz, Vogrich, Novak, and Douglass are all at or above 37%. The only sources of three-point shots that aren't net benefits are Morris, who's at 29% on slightly more than two per game, and Hardaway, who's at 31% with nearly six attempts per.
BTW, Michigan State is enduring an agonizingly similar stretch on defense—opponents are shooting essentially 50% on their last 71(!) attempts from three.
Hardaway volume redux. I don't think I had a problem with more than a couple of Hardaway's many, many shots against the Hawkeyes since he was either launching wide-open threes or dealing with a short shot clock. It's tough to complain when he was 5-10 from behind the arc.
After Beilein said he "almost" has a green light to shoot, which seems like a diplomatic way to say "has a little Stu Douglass disease going on" since apparently everyone else on the team has said light. Hardaway's got the worst two point pecentage on the team* to go with his below-average three pointers.
This isn't a knock on Hardaway's potential—if he can just get himself a little more under control and trust in the guys around him, those numbers should increase drastically. The individual stat that will bear the closest attention as Michigan goes into an important 2011-12 season is Hardaway's offensive efficiency rating. I'm betting it takes a big step forward and Michigan suddenly becomes a tough offense to deal with.
*[Colton Christian's 2-for-11 season excluded.]
Not Hassan Wasabi. I vaguely remember John Gasaway praising some Iowa freshman that Fran McCaffery took with him when he left Siena for Iowa, but didn't remember the name. So I spent a big chunk of the first half alternately angry at Michigan's defense and wondrous that a man named "Hassan Wasabi" was playing for Iowa instead of getting kicked in the face by Bruce Lee. (Or Vogrich @ right).
It eventually dawned on me that the guy's name was "Melsahn Basabe," which is still pretty awesome but doesn't quite live up to my misconceptions.
Also awesome: Basabe himself. If Iowa hadn't hired McCaffery he'd be destroying the MAAC, as Gasaway said. Hell, he's already doing that to the Big Ten: he's shooting 57%, around 100th nationally in OReb%, DReb%, and Blk%. He's a black hole with no assists and plenty of turnovers but dang, man. How was this guy ticketed for Siena?
Defense slowly evaporating. Of course, Michigan's defense had something to do with that. Whenever someone shoots 9 of 11 you've been pwned. Halfway through the conference schedule Michigan has flipped their scouting report from the nonconference—the defense is the relative weak point.
I couldn't tell you why other than to go "youth," but remember earlier in the year when I suggested Michigan would actually be a relatively big team this year? That's not happening because McLimans has played himself out of the rotation, Smotrycz has been erratic, and the two centers have been foul-prone. This results in quite a bit more of Zack Novak at the 4 than anyone wanted or predicted. The kicker: a good chunk of the time that lineup features Smotrycz as a hilariously undersized center. Result: effective height in the bottom third of the nation despite having an average height that's 42nd.
It's going to be up to the freshmen over 6'7" to make this better next year since both recruits are guards. The main problem to my eyes is that Smotrycz doesn't really have a backup. It's either Novak or Christian, neither of whom is a great option.
no blue line for you, except that means all blue line for everyone
Guuuughghghr. Michigan's played some entertaining low-scoring games—Friday against Alaska was one—but they've also played some clunkers, like that OT loss against Ohio State. That was a grunting nothing of a game played mostly between the blue lines that turned on some terrible goaltending. The game against the Joe was the latter. Scoring chances were few and far between anda lot of them were due to error more than someone actually doing something right.
Now I'm full-on worried. Michigan got outshot for the third straight game, this one against the tenth-place team in the CCHA. They've scored two goals in the last three games that weren't shots from the point, and while Caporusso's goal against MSU was a nice effort play by Scooter it was a play where a puck bounced fortuitously, not something Michigan had intent behind. You're going to get your share of those goals over the course of a season but it seems like teams that are Frozen Four good have more goals where plans were successfully executed. Michigan's had very few of those.
Lynch penalty shot. I had no real expectation he'd score, but the way that went down is a depressing summary of where the team is right now. Time was Michigan's second round picks were offensive machines; Michigan's are just guys. Lynch, Rust, Brown, Caporusso—all of them are second or third round draft picks that don't seem to do much in the offensive zone. All are getting outscored by Scooter. That's the big issue with the team—the guys who are supposed to carry the water offensively aren't. They've gotten away with it much of the year thanks to the defensive corps and Rust and Hagelin being an NHL checking line already.
Pairwise. One bad loss and Michigan slides down to ninth. As I said, when I first started looking at the thing a couple weeks ago Michigan was close to their apex with a lot of teams nipping at their heels. They cannot afford to struggle down the stretch.
Hello, Hunwick. Never say Shawn Hunwick can't take advantage of someone else's groin injury. His save percentage was hovering around .900 when Hogan went out. A couple months later he's at .923. Hogan's save percentage this year? .923. Hogan was dressed as the third goalie on Saturday and is close to returning but at this point it's hard to go with him over Hunwick—he's only played nine games in about the past year.