Just a year ago, the Michigan basketball team was fresh off their first NCAA Tournament appearance in a decade and expectations were high in Ann Arbor. Two walkons and a Canadian (CJ Lee, David Merritt, and Jevohn Shepherd) were the only departures, and the Wolverines were ready to take the next step forward.
So that went well, right?
Not so much, no.
Michigan sputtered the entire year, unable to find the spark that they'd ridden the previous season thanks in large part to their inability to find the bottom of the net. In retrospect, it should have been obvious: though they weren't frequently deployed, CJ Lee, David Merritt, and Kelvin Grady (who quit the team and eventually joined the football squad instead) were the team's best 3-point shooters. They were also the only point guards on the roster. Maybe those freshman phenoms from Indiana weren't as magical as it seemed.
The Wolverines turned their highest expectations in several years into a 15-17 record. Some losses were embarrassing, and the near upsets of Michigan State and Ohio State both ended with painful daggers from the opponent--one from mid-court.
Manny Harris has taken his talents to the Cleveland Cavaliers. DeShawn Sims took his to Greece, then back to America. Zack Gibson graduated, Anthony Wright is playing out his final year of eligibility at Toledo, Laval Lucas-Perry will ride the bench at Oakland for a season, and the most experienced players in Ann Arbor (outside of the opponents) are a pair of 3-star juniors and a sophomore.
Expectations are low this season, and understandably so. But does that mean Michigan fans should simply forget about the men of Crisler? Zack Novak has thrown himself on the floor, been elbowed in the face, and guarded guys half-a-foot taller than him too many times to be ignored. Stu Douglass has nailed one too many clutch shots, and learned one too many new positions (they call this one "point guard," whatever that is) for this team to simply fade away. Top recruits Evan Smotrycz and Tim Hardaway Jr. did not sign up to lose games wearing the maize and blue. These players want to win big games, and they'll probably do it at times this year.
We don't know who will be the stars, or which freshmen will perform. We don't know if Michigan's inexperienced bigs will be able to slow down the likes of Syracuse, Illinois, and Purdue. We don't know if the Wolverines will finally be able to find the bottom of the net after a year of searching, but coming up with mostly iron. We don't know if they'll run an effective 1-3-1 and force opponent turnovers. We don't know what to expect from this team.
Ever the optimist, I think this team will surprise a couple opponents [Ed-M: "Surprise" as in "beat" or as in "ha, bet you didn't know some of us shave!"?]. However, with such a young roster, there's no doubt that they'll be upset themselves. The one thing they can promise, though, is that they'll be fun to watch. Maybe not in every individual game, but seeing these young players grow over the course of the season should be an entertaining - if often frustrating - experience all its own.
And though I mean it every time I say it, this one may come from a little deeper in the heart: Go Blue.
This is real? Um, so, this is apparently what Michigan is wearing for the Big Chill:
That is hideous. It's going to be the worst thing I ever see a Michigan team wear live. That's not a Wolverine. It's a ferret or something, and the day-glo yellow is something Oregon would be comfortable with, and I can see the 1980s Vancouver Canucks think the shoulder striping is wicked.
Other people like it, I guess, but man… put me in the "no" column.
Maybe yes, maybe no. Depending on how you define luck, Michigan has either been lucky or unlucky. The lucky part: Michigan is 4-0 in close games, though I think defining the UMass game as "close" is a stretch since onside kicks are recovered about 10% of the time when the opponent knows it's coming. If the UMass game was close than Michigan's games against Penn State and Iowa were close since Michigan had ample opportunity to get a stop that would give them a chance to tie.
Anyway, so they're 3-0 in close games but they're also hammering opponents in total yards and have been undone by yet another ugly turnover margin and terrible special teams. Braves and Birds puts together a chart with various interesting numbers:
To the chart we go!
YPP Off. YPP Def. YPP Mar. Sagarin SRS Ohio State 6.1 4.2 +1.9 88.22 15.36 Iowa 6.2 4.9 +1.3 86.17 15.29 Mich. State 6.0 5.2 +.8 79.56 12.16 Wisconsin 5.9 5.4 +.5 79.37 11.59 Illinois 5.1 5.2 -.1 79.29 9.06 Michigan 6.9 6.3 +.6 74.48 5.21 Penn State 5.5 5.9 -.4 73.84 5.02 NW 5.4 5.8 -.4 66.94 -0.63 Indiana 4.7 7.3 -2.6 63.63 -0.08 Purdue 4.2 5.3 -1.1 59.62 -6.07 Minn. 5.0 6.4 -1.4 58.57 -9.43
(Note: the yardage numbers come only from games against BCS conference opponents. This includes games against Notre Dame.)
Michigan's yards per play margin is on par with the weaker teams challenging for the conference title and well clear of the conference rabble, even with a defense far worse than anyone save Indiana and Minnesota. Where Michigan falls apart are the places not found on the chart, in turnovers and special teams. At least this year there's a clear reason for the turnover margin: the defense. Michigan's lost 17 turnovers this year; the NCAA average is 15.75. The defense has only acquired ten. Assuming Denard can lower his interception rate like most quarterbacks do, next year Michigan can finally approach turnover parity if the defense takes the significant step forward it could.
Anyway, B&B pulled out this chart because he'd created one for the SEC as a vehicle to discuss whether Georgia had been unlucky (conclusion: yes) and tried to figure out if the same was true for Michigan. He concludes it's a mixed bag and I agree; Michigan may have been unlucky to suffer scads of turnovers against MSU and Iowa but since a lot of those TOs resulted from Denard's now-established tendency to throw behind his receiver that's more an effect of talent limitations than bloody fate.
There's significantly more wobble in the TO numbers than most anything else year to year but certain things do reliably cause turnovers: quarterback inexperience and pressure. Michigan's had a lot of inexperience, little pressure on the opponent, and little pressure on Michigan. Results are average TO numbers against and terrible for.
Arithmetic, yo. The fundamental flaw with Spread Is Dead rhetoric is a fundamental change in the nature of offense when the quarterback can both run and throw. In an article for the Wolverine, Jon Chait gets the point across:
It's worth keeping all this in mind when you hear sports commentators announce that defenses have "caught up to the spread." It's partially true, but only partially… The part they haven't caught up to is having a quarterback in the shotgun who can read an un-blocked defender and keep the ball on almost any running play. That is the real game-changer in the spread system. It alters the entire arithmetic of the game, allowing the offense to always have enough blockers to account for the defenders in the box, while also forcing defenses into stripped-down pass coverages. Defenses can't catch up to this dynamic because you can't "catch up to" arithmetic.
The most striking thing about the Rodriguez videos everyone pored over in the aftermath of his hire was his assumption about the number of safeties he would face: one… or zero? That's the arithmetic that sees Michigan averaging over six yards a carry along with two other true spread 'n' shreds (Oregon and Auburn) and two other teams whose quarterbacks average just under 100 yards a game (Nevada and Nebraska). At the same time Michigan averages 9.2(!) YPA, because the safety question is now one or zero instead of one or two*.
*(With some limited exceptions, like Iowa. Iowa gave up over 500 yards only to see Michigan thwart itself spectacularly; since the 28 they gave up there was only exceeded by Wisconsin—Arizona got a ton of points on ST—that's kinda sorta a reason the question about safeties has changed.)
Gapping it. Given the first two bullets this table from Doctor Saturday won't be a surprise:
The Mathete's been tracking this disparity too and by his numbers, which go back to 2002, Michigan has a bigger gap between O and D performance than anyone. In my eyes this is a reason to keep Rodriguez around since it should be easier to find an average defense with an established elite offensive mind in place than revamp the program considerably.
Ballin' out of control. If you didn't see this happen you are like me but I can appreciate it in retrospect:
Your offense has the ball on its own 12-yard line with a 30-28 lead and 3:39 to play in the fourth quarter. The defense has just used the first of three timeouts. Your quarterback, who you've already tried to bench on two separate occasions this season before injuries forced him back into the lineup, completes an eight-yard pass on 3rd-and-9. You let the clock run down to 2:50, then call your first timeout. Now facing a 4th-and-1 from your own 19-yard line with a two-point lead and less than three minutes to play, do you:
a) Punt and play defense;
b) Line up like you're going for it in an effort to draw the defense offsides, then use your second timeout and punt if the defense doesn't jump;
c) Seriously, anything other than a punt risks a turnover with the ball already in prime position for the game-winning field goal. Just kick it already;
d) Are we really still debating this?
e) Spit as hard as you can and actually go for it.
Randy Edsall and mansome Jordan Todman went for it, got four yards, and got to kneel out the game after another couple first downs. This is spectacular for the following reasons:
- Todman finished with 37 carries for 220 yards and had already established he was capable of running down Pitt's throat
- Tino Sunseri had completed 20 of 28 passes for 220 yards and had just brought Pitt within two two minutes ago.
- If you don't make it you sell out to stop them from getting a first down and get the ball back with a shot at the win, but…
- It's fourth and one and your tailback has 200 yards. You're going to make it.
You could tell Zook wanted to go for it on several fourth and ones Michigan forced, but the closest he came to pulling the trigger was taking a delay of game on one. A tip of the cap to Edsall for overcoming his dread and getting a well-deserved win. People invariably call this "guts" or "balls" and while it is gutsy it's also the right call. God, I just thought about Lloyd Carr punting from the OSU 34 in 2005.
NEW TOPIC: no Big East team now has fewer than three losses and 8-4 looks like the best case scenario for the conference champion. Fire the Big East.
Scrub is a guy who can't get no love from me. Pro bowl cornerback supposed height chart from Touch The Banner:
Not much to tell except once you start getting shorter than 5'10" your shot at the super big time gets dim. I'd like to see an equivalent of this with All Conference teams to see what the breakdown is there. I bet it's shorter.
Four verts. Remember that second and twenty two Illinois converted easily? Yeah, that was four verticals against cover three, I think, and that didn't work so well. Here's a primer on what to do about it—mostly get those linebackers ten yards deep as soon as they read pass. In that down and distance that should have been "before the snap," but Michigan had them all tight and they didn't get sufficient distance, or a chuck, and Vinopal was way too deep, and bang.
Etc.: Soony Saad shot Michigan past MSU in the Big Ten soccer tournament yesterday despite Justin Meram getting a second yellow for celebration after he tied the game. They play Wisconsin today for a shot at the final. The bagpipe rendition of Amazing Grace from last weekend. Holdin' the Rope reminisces about childhood visits to West Lafayette. An interview with Jon Falk.
|WHAT||Michigan at Purdue|
|WHERE||Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, IN|
|WHEN||Noon Eastern, November 13th 2010|
|THE LINE||Michigan -13|
|TELEVISION||Big Ten Network|
40% chance of rain
Run Offense vs. Purdue
At this point Michigan's rushing offense is what it is: ridiculous. Last week Denard Robinson had the worst day of his career (as a starter, anyway) on the ground and Michigan still put up 4.9 YPC against a team giving up more than a yard less than that against other opponents. With the longest run of the day Stephen Hopkins rumbling for 32 on an early zone stretch, Michigan's production was consistent and replicable across 53 carries. Michigan is 9th in rushing offense and in an exclusive club of teams averaging over six yards a carry. (The others: Nevada, Auburn, Oregon, and Nebraska. The spread is dead.) They are on pace to obliterate the best Michigan rushing offense of the past ten years.
On the other side of the ball, Purdue's run defense is surprisingly adept for a team coming off three consecutive bombings at the hands of ground-oriented opponents Ohio State, Illinois, and Wisconsin. The Boilers are 49th in raw yardage and 34th in YPC, though that latter number is heavily distorted by Purdue's ravenous appetite for sacks (sixth nationally). The Boilers in Big Ten games and against common opponent Notre Dame:
Taking out the sacks makes a huge difference, revealing Purdue to be a thoroughly mediocre run defense that is going to give up four and a half yards a carry to just about everyone.
When I looked at Purdue's humiliating defeat to Toledo (I mean lol amirite who loses to Toledo?) in the bye week I paid scant attention to the Boilers defense, declaring it awful minus Ryan Kerrigan. I think I shorted at least one player in doing that: DT Kawaan Short is a consistent penetrator of the type that's given Michigan problems the last two weeks, albeit one who's probably not in the class of Ollie Ogbu or Corey Liuget. The rest of Purdue's defense is unremarkable; linebackers get their tackles shed, the other DT is a freshman, and the safeties don't leap out at you.
The one concerning bit is that Northwestern, the purest spread n shred on the list (though not very pure under Persa), got clunked. I'm not sure how much relevance that has, but it's a note of concern. Another strategy note: since Marve went down Purdue's moved to an Illinois-style offense with a lot of midline and inverted veer. Michigan tried those a few times against Illinois until Martez Wilson exchanged with another linebacker and baited Robinson into a two yard run, at which point they decided that throwing this new stuff up against the core competency of Illinois was not such a good idea. I'd bet on a similar fate for the newfangled tomorrow.
Key Matchup: David Molk versus Gaston. Last week Molk abused redshirt freshman Akeem Spence on a series of stretch plays. He now gets another freshman tackle, and one who probably isn't as good. Short can play but if Michigan can stretch the field away from him and get Gaston locked behind Molk it's not going to matter and Michigan will have the usual cruise.
Pass Offense vs. Purdue
By far the best aspect of Purdue's team is their pass rush. As mentioned, they're sixth nationally in sacks acquired. Ryan Kerrigan leads the way with 7.5; Short has an impressive six from the interior. No one else has more than two but Purdue deploys an array of effective blitzes that have seen 11 players other than Short and Kerrigan register sacks.
Since Purdue's secondary depth chart doesn't look that much different than Michigan's (or at least didn't before the JT Floyd injury), you can explain probably 80% of Purdue's respectable pass defense numbers by pointing at the line. Unfortunately for the Boilers their efficiency numbers are what you'd expect for a secondary with one upperclass cornerback in the two deep, that a backup. They're 96th—i.e., essentially as bad as Michigan. Because NCAA stats are dumb they don't account for the sacks, but the numbers suggest that when you get a pass off it's likely to be complete and go a long way. Results:
For reference, the average YPA for a D-I team this year is 7.3. That's one good performance, a couple average-ish ones, two bad ones, and one debacle.
Michigan's now 14th in passer efficiency, mixing hilariously wide open touchdowns with a healthy dose of efficient chain-moving curls and a smattering of frustrating incompletions/interceptions on plays that could or should be hilariously wide open touchdowns. Darryl Stonum and Junior Hemingway are decent or slightly better Big Ten receivers, and infamous snake oil recipient Roy Roundtree just blew up the single-game Michigan receiving record. Denard Robinson has some accuracy issues and still reads defenses slowly from time to time but has completed a mindboggling leap to become the #11 passer in the country. Meanwhile, Michigan's line and the terror inspired by the possibility of a Robinson scramble sees Michigan tied for fourth nationally with just four sacks allowed.
This should be a good matchup for Michigan because their passing game manages to get big plays without exposing the quarterback to a lot of pressure. QB Lead Oh Noes is a quick pass that gets big chunks and general terror about Denard means that unless Michigan gets stuck in a passing down the defensive linemen are operating at a severe disadvantage when it comes to getting to the QB. The reason Denard never scrambles is because defenses are scared of getting out of position; if the big thing is getting passes off this is advantage Michigan.
Key Matchup: Denard versus His Mechanical Issues That This Guy Explains And Mean That He Leaves Balls Behind His Receivers Not Infrequently. The biggest issue with the offense right now is Denard not taking opportunities in the passing game. This is a little tiny bacteria of an issue compared to everything on defense but it's there.
Run Defense vs. Purdue
As mentioned, after Marve went down Purdue basically installed the Juice Williams offense, figuring that if Williams and his flippers where arms should go could survive in the Big Ten it must be a pretty good bet when you're down to third-string freshmen and worse. They run a lot of inverted veer and midline, with the quarterback picking up 10-15 carries a game. The rest go to gritty, heady Dan Dierking and a rotating cast of wide receivers, fullbacks, and even quarterbacks(!) with crushed fingers who can't pass. Nine players got carries against Illinois. Meanwhile, the offensive line moved a 6-6 guy to center and is starting a converted defensive tackle.
This rickety contraption wouldn't be street legal in Bangkok but Danny Hope's managed to eke a somewhat good running game out of it. You will yawn expansively at this given Michigan's numbers: they are 39th nationally at about 4.5 YPC. Okay, vast quantities of those yards came against Northwestern and Minnesota and Ohio State hit them over the head and Robinson and Dierking combined for 86 yards on 28 carries against Wisconsin. But still: 4.5 YPC in a car with wheels made of toothpaste. This is MacGuyver level coaching.
Such a mutable running game is difficult to get a grasp on but the Wisconsin game is most recent and provides a blueprint. Dierking will get 15-20 carries and will get about what his blocking gives him. Robinson will get another ten and do the same; he's not on the same level as the athletic Henry. Backups will get another ten carries, some of the end-around variety, and at the end of the day Purdue will have a lot of of zero to three yard carries and a few that break longer. These longer runs will likely be around 20 yards—there was one 60 yarder for Al-Terek McBurse against Illinois but Purdue lacks gamebreakers in a serious way.
Michigan's run defense is susceptible to breakdowns, especially on the edge, and will probably give Purdue a number of opportunities to break those long-ish runs. On the other hand, since Kenny Demens came into the starting lineup quick bursts into the interior of the defense have been few and far between—I can't actually think of any—and this should go like a slightly crappier version of the Wisconsin and Illinois games, where bursts give up yards here and there but there's a lot of third and medium.
Key Matchup: Cam Gordon and Jordan Kovacs containing the veer and any options that Purdue pulls out after seeing it work for Illinois. Keep them inside and Michigan should do well.
Pass Defense vs. Purdue
When Marve went down against Toledo, Purdue was forced to go with third-stringer Rob Henry, a redshirt freshman currently rocking a 51% completion rate and a 5.1 YPA reminiscent of Michigan's Sheridan/Threet combo in 2008. Then Ohio State crushed his finger, forcing the Boilers to peel the redshirt off true freshman Sean Robinson. Robinson is currently rocking a 47% completion rate and averaging an amazing 3.3 YPA. He's got 4 interceptions against two touchdowns. This is Purdue's 2010 season in a nutshell:
That's fourth string freshman QB Robinson entering a mesh point with third string freshman QB Rob Henry in a real game. A Purdue blog looking for a season postmortem could do worse than just posting that picture.
Henry got some spot duty two weeks ago at Illinois, playing the first series despite not being able to throw and then featuring as an anti-wildcat by lining up next to Robinson as a running back, but has not thrown a ball the last two weeks. His projected return was for tomorrow but the Purdue depth chart lists him behind Robinson and in an OR situation with redshirt freshman walk-on Skyler Titus. Robinson is expected to start.
You will note the total absence of Justin Siller from this conversation, which is because Siller is still not recovered from a high ankle sprain suffered earlier in the year:
"And we're still not sure where Siller or Rob Henry is at. They weren't able to go on Saturday, and that was only a couple of days ago. I don't know how much their status has changed since then. Both did a little bit on Saturday, but were a long way away from full speed."
You may surreptitiously high-five yourself about this even if it is gauche.
Compounding difficulties for Purdue is a similar ravaging of their receiver position. #1 Keith Smith has missed the entire year due to a knee injury. Siller, who was their second or third guy, is out. Freshman OJ Ross, who you may remember Michigan recruiting for a while last year, is out. That leaves Cortez Smith, now far and away the top downfield threat, Antavian Edison, and tight end Kyle Adams as the main threats. All are averaging around ten yards a catch save Adams, who is somehow managing six yards per. Some of these numbers in the Purdue passing game are amazing.
So. Michigan faces a true freshman quarterback down approximately his top three targets behind a mediocre line (45th in sacks allowed) and I've given you the stats and I know what you're thinking: you hate it when I point out that this upcoming passing attack is awful because then that passing attack goes B-A-N-A-N-A-S on Michigan's secondary and you're just watching it thinking "oh my God this is a walk-on or freshman oh my God." I'm sorry. I cannot change Sean Robinson's age or career YPA.
So… is this a team Michigan can post a respectable result against? And by respectable I mean "allow Robinson double his YPA"? If there's anyone on the schedule this is true for, it's Purdue. If. The Mathlete should have replaced this graph with a picture of a pillow fight:
Yakety sax all around here.
Key Matchup: Um. What do you go with when the opposing QB is averaging 3.3 YPA? Tackling, I guess. Underneath tackling.
Purdue's return game is awful (105th punts, 112th kicks) and their punting mediocre (65th), so Michigan's array of confused and alarmed on special teams should be able to see them start some drives on or around their 20. As per usual, massive advantage opponent when it comes to field goals: Carson Wiggs is 10 of 14 on the year.
Key Matchup: STOP KICKING THE DAMN BALL
this is the purdue running game
- Michigan turns Sean Robinson into Sean "P Diddy" Combs, and by that I mean a real quarterback for some reason.
- Every Purdue drive starts in Michigan territory because Michigan starts hitting their kickoffs backwards.
- Insane fate demons decree Michigan turnoverfest.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Taylor Lewan thunks Kerrigan a la Clayborn.
- Purdue brings a guy into the box and Michigan gets the crazy open guys again.
- Molk's matchup against that freshman DT goes like you might expect.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 3 (Baseline 5; –1 for Seriously This Time The Fourth String Quarterback Is Really Bad, Guys, Seriously, –1 for And Almost Literally Every Offensive Skill Position Starter Is Out, –1 for Purdue Secondary = Michigan Secondary, –1 Remember When We Lost To Toledo? Yeah, We Weren't Very Good Then, +1 for General Overconfidence Check, +1 for Turnover/Special Teams Facepunchin' Spectacular, –1 for But Purdue's Pretty Much The Same When It Comes To The Facepunchin', +1 for That Feeling In The Pit Of Your Stomach, You Know What I'm Talking About.)
Desperate need to win level: 10 (Baseline 5; +1 Constant Rich Rodriguez Job Reclamation Project, +1 for Winning Season OMG, +1 for It Was Nice To Have A Week Where People Whined About A Victory And How It Shouldn't Save Rich Rodriguez's Job, Relatively Anyway, +1 for If We Lose To This M.A.S.H. Unit It Will Be Very Sad, +1 for Danny Hope Comeuppance Ahoy)
Loss will cause me to... resign myself to the end. Of Rich Rodriguez, people, not me.
Win will cause me to... OH MY GOD PETE FIUTAK THINKS WE'RE GOING TO THE INSIGHT BOWL YESSSSSSSSSS.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Vegas, statistics, and common opponent comparisons…
- Michigan beats Notre Dame 28-24, Purdue loses 23-12
- Michigan beats Illinois 67-65, Purdue loses 44-10
…all suggest a comfortable Michigan win. You're nervous, I'm nervous, everyone's waiting for the other shoe to flutter in the window and smack us in the face with a six-turnover day during which Lewan takes sixteen penalties and a disastrous chest bump sees all three Michigan quarterbacks tear ACLs.
But this is not reason! People! Set aside your paranoid fantasies, no matter how justified, and partake of a team that is somewhat hopeful because last week they were within a touchdown of Wisconsin late and only lost by three touchdowns. Even if their incredible passing YPA gets much better, there's no way Purdue can keep pace with Michigan's offense unless most of the aforementioned things happen.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Forcier enters the game by choice for a drive or two.
- Lewan mostly shuts off Kerrigan if they match the two up, but gives up at least one ugly sack or holding call.
- Robinson goes ham on the ground—150 more.
- Michigan, 35-24.
Both premium sites are reporting that FL CB Dallas Crawford has committed to Michigan. Yay!
|3*, #32 CB||3*, 5.7, #23 CB||4*, 80, #8 CB, #142 Overall|
Scout blurb on Crawford:
Crawford is an elite play-maker at QB and DB. He is a three year starter at QB, but projects to DB or WR at the next level. He has a tremendous natural ability to break on the football and can elevate to go get it(with great hands). His instincts are second to none and he has excellent pop as a tackler. Crawford lacks ideal height at 5'10, but is very strong on that frame. -Geoff Vogt, Florida Recruiting Analyst
They list his strengths as "Burst out of Breaks," "Instincts," and (perhaps most importantly for Michigan fans) "Tackling Ability." His only area for improvement is "Size," which, good luck with that.
As for that size, he's listed at 5-9 180 by Scout, and 5-10 185 by Rivals and ESPN, so I'll side with the majority there and give him the extra inch and five pounds. ESPN's evaluations are always breathless, but their talk on Crawford goes beyond that:
Crawford is simply one of the more instinctive defensive backs we have seen around the football in this class. A great overall athlete with excellent footwork and ball skills.
Before going any further, these are the things Michigan fans have been complaining about for the current DBs, no? Of course the height could be an issue, but ESPN says that he "plays taller." Without lifting their entire evaluation, we skip right to the moneyshot:
Crawford is still very scheme versatile as he could play corner or safety, a potentially great nickel and just a valuable defender in sub-packages. Simply a great playmaker with a nose for the football and some coveted intangibles.
Michigan picked up some smaller (Avery and Talbott) and a taller corner in the class of 2010, but Crawford is the third smurf-ish DB in the 2011 group. There's a chance he could stay at safety in college, but it seems more likely that he ends up on the corner.
Crawford's coach compares him favorably to Brodrick Jenkins, a South Fort Meyers product who now plies his trade at West Virginia:
“I tell all the programs that Dallas is as good as Brodrick. You better take him,” Redhead said. “He’s very talented. He’s got great grades. He’s going to make a great DB, slot receiver/running back in college. He’s just one of the best athletes, period.”
Crawford is also a productive QB for his high school, something that often correlates with good instincts (see: Avery, Courtney). He was profiled as the area's Most Outstanding Athlete as a junior:
It’s rare to see a quarterback, particularly one as gifted as Crawford, play so much on both sides of the ball. Coaches don’t like to risk injury to their star players more than they have to. For Redhead, though, it’s a risk he’s willing to take. Crawford’s athleticism at all positions make him a threat whenever he’s on the field, and Redhead says he’d be dumb not to let Crawford realize his full potential.
“He’s not going to help us standing next to me on the sidelines,” Redhead said. “He does some things I don’t think are possible. He’ll do some things where you say, ‘Don’t do that,’ but he comes out smelling like a rose. He’s so athletic and such a hard worker that it’s just easier for him.”
“Dallas is a phenomenal player,” Barron Collier coach Mark Ivey said. “He has an extremely strong arm and such great, athletic foot work. On defense, he’s an extremely powerful hitter.”
While he’s more than happy to help his team score points, Crawford calls himself a defensive player at heart. Being a quarterback has made him a better safety, he said, allowing him know what the opposing signal-caller is thinking.
An athlete that's too good to ever take off the field? An offensive star who considers him self more natural on defense? Yes, please.
Crawford's offer list has many mid-to-high level BCS programs, but very few upper echelon schools. Rivals has Georgia Tech, Iowa, Miami (YTM), and North Carolina as headliners, though Scout also credits him with LSU and Tennessee.
Crawford picked Michigan over the Hurricanes and Hawkeyes, not a bad pair of schools to beat out for a DB. That top three extended back to the summer.
Crawford's primary duty for South Fort Meyers is at quarterback, and he threw for 2,629 yards and 25 TDs while running for 422 yards and 5 TDs as a junior. On the defensive side of the ball, Crawford finished his junior year with 43 tackles and 10(!) interceptions, so he's no slouch as a high school DB, either. He was first-team all-state as an athlete, and the area defensive player of the year and 1st-team QB, all-district at free safety, and the Broxson Award winner as the Area MVP. Accolades: he has them.
He's been putting up good numbers in his senior season as well, so tune in for Friday Night Lights early next week to find out.
FAKE 40 TIME
None of the recruiting sites have a listed 40 time for Crawford, which makes them not so much fake but imaginary. I'll use my powers to credit him with a 4.1-second time, so I can dole out the coveted five FAKEs out of five to myself.
Realistically, he's a guy known more for his quickness and football speed than being a straight-line burner, so a time in the mid 4.5s is probably likely. Sam Webb estimates this much in the Detroit News.
Here's his junior year:
I couldn't find any free senior video on the tubes.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Though Delonte Hollowell is ranked higher by Rivals, I think Crawford is probably the better corner in this class, and the most ready to earn immediate playing time. Instincts and quickness should help him to a key role on special teams as a true freshman, on coverage teams and potentially as a return guy. Michigan has three freshman corners this year that are all playing, and JT Floyd and Troy Woolfolk will both return from injury next year. There may be the luxury of a redshirt, as playing time in the secondary will be hard to come by in his first season, except in blowouts (unless the "undersized safety" suggestion by ESPN comes to fruition).
If Crawford doesn't redshirt, he'll have a bit of experience going into his sophomore year, with one of the corner positions opening up. He'll be in a battle with Courtney Avery, Terrence Talbott, and Cullen Christian for that spot. As a junior and senior, he'll get significant minutes in the secondary, even if he doesn't have a starting job.
Should he redshirt as a freshman, he'll get a bit of playing time on special teams and mop-up duty when he sees the field in 2012, then push for more playing time each year before locking down a spot as a junior and senior.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan's recruiting at the corner position is almost certainly finished barring attrition or position changes, though they'll probably look for a safety or two to finish out the secondary. That means defensive line and linebacker become the areas of extreme focus. Michigan has about 21 scholarships to give out, and with 12 guys committed (13 if you count Antonio Kinard), they can be pretty selective about who gets the final spots.
...Speaking of players to fill the final spots, Crawford is teammates and friends with top WR/S Sammy Watkins. Landing Dallas may help the Wolverines beat Miami and Clemson for Watkins, which would be a major bonus to picking up a solid DB. Scout's experts think Watkins may follow Crawford.
OUT (0% PLAY)
|Jared Van Slyke||Clavicle|
|Troy Woolfolk||Cruel Deity|
QUESTIONABLE (50% PLAY)
PROBABLE (75% PLAY)
Nothing new in the "out" category, except a distinct lack of Fitzgerald Toussaint, who is... (gasp) probable! Perry Dorrestein and Mark Huyge have been about equally effective, so Dorrestein's status isn't a huge deal one way or the other.
The big question mark is Jonas Mouton, who has been Michigan's best (yet simultaneously worst) linebacker this season. If he can't go, expect to see more of Obi Ezeh and JB Fitzgerald, and maybe even Craig Roh playing extensively at linebacker.
South Carolina Upstate
Nov 13 (Saturday), 7pm.
2009-10 Record: 6-23 (6-14 Atlantic Sun)
Final 2010 Kenpom rank: 280
Key returning players: G Ryan LeGates, F Mezie Uzochukwu, G Josh Chavis.
The USC Upstate Spartans were a very bad basketball team last year, and are likely to see a repeat of that this season, after losing their top two players in 7-3 center Nick Schneiders and 6-5 forward Pat Posey. The Spartans (Not Those Spartans) were horrible on offense, but mediocre defensively, so this should be a good first test for the Wolverines' young offense.
Nov 18, 7pm.
2009-10 Record: 14-16 (6-10 MAC)
Final 2010 Kenpom rank: 206
Key returning players: F Scott Thomas, G Jordon Crawford, F Danny McElroy.
BGSU was below-average both offensively and defensively. They lose the two tallest players from last year's squad in 6-9 centers Otis Polk (a major contributor to the team) and Marc Larson (a role player). They'll have to replace that size with 6-10 freshman Cameron Black and 6-8 senior Mike Dabney, who is in his first year on the squad. With starting guard Jordon Crawford coming in at just 5-6, this will be one of the smaller teams the Wolverines play all year.
Nov 21, 7pm.
2009-10 Record: 8-21 (5-13 Big South)
Final 2010 Kenpom Rank: 331
Key returning players: F Jonathan Moore, G David Brown.
The opening rounds of the Legends Classic does Michigan's RPI no favors, as Bowling Green is followed by Gardner Webb, yet another horrible team. The Runnin' Bulldogs were terrible last year against a ridiculously easy schedule, finishing in the bottom 30 teams in offensive efficiency and the bottom 15 in defensive efficiency. It couldn't get any worse, right? Well, first-year coach Chris Holtmann also loses 4 of the 6 most-deployed players from last season's squad. If this game is anything other than a walk in the park, there's big trouble ahead for the Wolverines.
Nov 26, 8pm (Atlantic City, NJ) - Legends Classic.
2009-10 Record: 30-5 (15-3 Big East)
Final 2010 Kenpom Rank: 4
Key Returning Players: G Scoop Jardine (at right), G Brandon Triche, F Mookie Jones.
Though the Orange lost Wes Johnson and Andy Rautins to the NBA and Arinze Onuaku to expired eligibility, they were such a good team last year, and are a consistent enough power to replace those players (they landed the nation's #5 shooting guard in Dion Walters, #19 small forward in CJ Fair, and #2 center in Fabricio de Melo). By nearly every metric, The Orange (no longer -men) were and will be a better team than the Wolverines, and this should be a very tough game for John Beilein's crew to win.
Georgia Tech or UTEP
Nov 27 (Atlantic City, NJ) - Legends Classic.
Barring a major upset over Syracuse, Michigan will face the loser of Georgia Tech/UTEP in the consolation game of the Legends Classic. Georgia Tech was Kenpom's #27 team last year, while the Miners weren't far behind at #37.
Nov 30, 9pm - Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
2009-10 Record: 21-11 (9-7 ACC)
Final 2010 Kenpom Rank: 20
Key Returning Players: G Demontez Stitt, G Tanner Smith, F/C Devin Booker.
Clemson will try to avenge their 2009 Tournament loss to the Wolverines, while Michigan tries to make up for choking away their Big Ten/ACC Challenge game last year against Boston College. The Tigers lost 1st-round draft pick Trevor Booker from last year's team, but return most of a pretty good nucleus. Clemson was a tournament team yet again last year, and particularly excelled on the defensive end (where T. Booker was an All-Conference pick). The Tigers also lost David Potter, whose departure should mean more minutes for Devin Booker.
Dec 4, 1pm.
2009-10 Record: 21-8 (10-4 Ivy)
Final 2010 Kenpom Rank: 120
Key Returning Players: F Kyle Casey, F Keith Wright, G Dee Giger.
Tommy Amaker got revenge on his former employer by leading the Crimson to an upset just a year after getting fired by Michigan. Three short years later, he brings his squad into Crisler Arena to repeat the upset. However, Harvard lost guard Jeremy Lin in the offseason, by far their best player last year. They were decent offensively, and middle-of-the-pack on defense. They only beat one team in the Kenpom top 100 (Boston College, #62) last year, and a loss here would be an upset.
Dec 10, 6:30pm.
2009-10 Record: 14-17 (7-9 Mountain West)
Final 2010 Kenpom rank: 125
Key Returning Players: F Jay Watkins, G Chris Hines.
Michigan traveled out to Salt Lake City last fall and was embarrassed by a pretty bad Utah team in a game that Zack Novak missed with the flu. The Utes will come into Ann Arbor with a very different team, as Luka Drca and Kim Tillie have graduated, while Carlon Brown, Marshal Henderson, and Jordan Cyphers all left the program with eligibility remaining. Michigan's shooting was their downfall in Salt Lake City, and it remains to be seen if the new edition of the Wolverines will be any better in that regard.
North Carolina Central
Dec 14, 7pm.
2009-10 Record: 7-22 (Independent)
Final Kenpom rank: 338
Key Returning Players: NC Central's website doesn't have a 2010-11 roster up(!), so I'll assume every non-senior is back...
But it won't matter. NCC was a horrible basketball team last year, and it should be again this season. Four of the Eagles' seven wins came against non-D1 squads, and they were pasted by such college basketball luminaries as Savannah State and Longwood. They were a horrific team on offense, and a very bad one on defense, and that's a hole that will take more than one year to dig out of.
Dec 18, noon.
2009-10 Record: 26-9 (17-1 Summit)
Final Kenpom rank: 146
Key Returning Players: C Keith Benson, G Larry Wright, G Ledrick Eackles.
The Golden Grizzlies were an NCAA tournament team last year, and a pair of 5th-year seniors in Benson and Wright will try to return them to the promised land. Oakland was a decent offense (outside of their inability to shoot from deep), but a fairly bad defense. Also of note: former Wolverine Laval Lucas-Perry (pictured at right, photo by Paul Nelson of mgoblog) is now on Oakland's roster, though he won't be eligible to play this season.
Dec 23, 6pm.
2009-10 Record: 1-29 (1-17 Northeast)
Final Kenpom rank: 346 (of 347).
Key Returning Players: G Raphael Jordan, F Vlad Kondratyev, F Cecil Gresham, F Claybrin McMath, G Erick Smith.
Bryant was the second-worst team in the country last year, per Ken Pomeroy, so it could be a blessing and a curse that they have many of their major contributors back. Those players probably aren't very good, but there should be improvement in stability. The team's leader in minutes, Chris Birrell, is out the door, but there's really nowhere to go but up.
2009-10 Record: 33-3 (15-1 Big 12)
Final Kenpom rank: 2.
Key Returning Players: F Marcus Morris, C Markieff Morris, G Elijah Johnson.
Hide yo kids, hide yo wife. Despite Kansas losing several players to the NBA, this should be a snuff film masquerading as an intercollegiate sporting event.
The Big Ten comes after the jump, in order of first appearance against Michigan (aside from the two 1-plays, who come last).