I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
Offseason Blogpoll Roundtable action on at Schembechler Hall... my contribution below.
1) It's early, but thus far, which offseason change or changes in college football are you most excited about?
You mean other than this?
I'm nigh-tingly with anticipation over the coming season because it appears to be the most wide open college football has been in recent memory. Last year's national championship race was all chalk -- USC and Texas started #1 and #2 and finished #2 and #1. That made for a great Rose Bowl but a dull season, one much like the two seasons before it. USC's recent dominance has been boring. For the first time in three years they don't enter the season as a prohibitive favorite for the national championship game.
In their stead? No one. Glorious, glorious no one. This year, you could pick any two of about fifteen teams and no one could call you insane. It's morning in college football again.
2) With spring practice underway, what are the three concerns about your team that are causing you the most anxiety? (USC fans can't just list the departures of Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, and LenDale White.)
3. Where have you gone, Ian Gold?
Last year was not a banner one for Michigan's outside linebackers. Then-sophomore Chris Graham was invisible all year. Then-junior Prescott Burgess alternated plays that showed off his impressive athleticism with boneheaded decisions. As a result, the run defense was horrible despite featuring three guys -- Branch, Watson, and Woodley -- on the DL who are going to play in the NFL for a long time. Granted, part of the problem was the gaping hole in the line named Pat Massey, but I don't have to worry about him any more. He graduated. Graham and Burgess return. They'll have to play much better for the defense to improve meaningfully.
2. The offensive line
...was repulsive. Jake Long's moved to left tackle, which makes me nervous about both tackles spots instead of just one. Career backup Mark Bihl has been thrust forward into the starting lineup as of right now -- a bad sign. The other problem areas on the team have new coaches, but the OL is still coached by Andy Moeller -- no wide-eyed hope in the new sheriff a la the defense. A lot can go wrong here.
1. Chad Henne.
It's not an exaggeration to say that if Chad Henne was even average last year, Michigan would have ended up at least 9-3. Games against Notre Dame, Wisconsin, and Minnesota were there for the taking if only Henne could have thrown to Jason Avant instead of Tacopants, Avant's imaginary eleven-foot-tall friend. Henne's shortcomings forced Michigan to become highly dependent on WR screens that opponents will have figured out in '06.
Tracking his progression over the course of the season's UFRs is somewhat encouraging -- Henne was magnificent against Ohio State in a losing effort -- but the preponderance of the evidence is frightening for Michigan fans. He's got to improve.
3) Care to take a stab at a preseason top five?
Not really, as an endeavor to do so will probably look silly by October, let alone January. Who's number one? Do you go with a team based around defense that returns two starters (Ohio State), a team down six first rounders (USC), a team starting either a redshirt or true freshman at QB (Texas), a team that has media-darling-flop written all over it (WVU), or a team whose sparkly helmets have the chattering class all-a-tizzy for not much of an actual reason (ND), or someone from the SEC meatgrinder? The Florida triumverate? FSU still features Jeff Bowden, Miami fired everyone except Coker, and Florida's quarterback is choosing which frilly sundress to wear to the debutantes' ball. Penn State? New QB, largely new lines on both sides of the ball, entirely new secondary. Michigan? 7-5 last year. Tennessee? Worse. The Pac-10 outside of USC? Riiiiight.
But I'm going to throw some darts anyway. A rough guideline:
- An experienced, non-sucky QB. I don't know if Henne fits in this category or not. Brady Quinn does; Troy Smith does. Drew Weatherford does not. I don't think Leak does, either, as he seems to be the exact wrong quarterback for Meyer's offense.
- Returning players who achieved non-mirage results. OSU and ND get punished here, since both offenses were greatly aided by a slate of terrible defenses. ND's defense was terrible; OSU's defense is gone. Texas ran rougshod over a meh Big 12 and that tall gazelle dude is gone. USC plays in the Pac 10. Etc.
- No units that can be considered huge red flags. The general theory is that if you have a major weakness you will get gutted by it at least once. Even USC's killer offense of killer doom couldn't keep USC's pass defense from costing it the Rose Bowl (and almost several other games).
Two Big Ten teams I think might be considered if you're desperate:
- Wisconsin. Major failing on the last point, as the secondary was awful last year and is now featuring a converted safety "best known for his special teams contributions" as the nickelback. But... John Stocco went from one of the nation's worst quarterbacks to one of the most efficient (7th nationwide),. The defense returns eight starters and should get defensive ends Matt Shaugnessy and Jamal Cooper back from knee injuries. Mammoth, kickass LT Joe Thomas's ACL tear prevented him from escaping to the NFL. If the Badgers can replace, er, every skill position player, they should be excellent. So maybe not.
- Michigan. I know, I know. LLLLLoyd. Hear me out. Michigan played most of 2005 without its two best offensive players (Mike Hart and Jake Long), suffered through the nation's most difficult schedule, and lost only two players Michigan fans will miss even slightly next year (Gabe Watson and Jason Avant). Jim Herrmann and his mustache now ply their trade with the New York Jets. There are no red flag units; Henne has two years of experience; the roster should be significantly older and better; Michigan suffered outrageously at the hands of random chance a year ago. While they were (evidently) highly overrated to begin last year, chances are that they'll be underrated to start this one. This is the time to buy low. Caveat: @ ND, @ PSU, @ OSU.
Anyway, in the spirit of finding out exactly how dumb I am:
1. er... LSU?
2. um... Oklahoma?
3. well... Ohio State?
4. pfft... USC?
5. uh... Wisconsin?
The LA Times reports that Ventura, California QB Lee Mondol is going to play at Michigan:
Lee Mondol, a senior quarterback at Ventura, has committed to Michigan. Mondol led Ventura to an 11-2 record last season and a berth in the Southern Section Division IV final. He threw for 3,172 yards and 35 touchdowns and ran for five other scores.
Points of clarification:
- He's a 2006 recruit -- not contemporaneous with Mallet, et al.
- If he's not a walk-on I'll read Drew Sharp.
This guy is probably less the next Drew Henson and more the next Jeff Kastl, but information is forthcoming anyway.
Update: Go figure: there is a freakin' motherload of information on Mondol. Comprehensive season stats? Check. Copious high quality video (and pictures)? Check. Images of him smiting his opponents with eye-lasers? Check. There's also this Scout article. (Bonus note: his profile has "size" in the "areas for improvement" field... good luck with that.)
In sum: walk-on. Unlikely to see the field, even though he seems to have unusually good credentials for a non-scholarship kid. Bler bler bler Griese bler.
A note: yes, I saw the Sharp article, and yes, it is beneath comment. If you subscribe to the Free Press, you support this man's salary. You should stop.
We have a winner. For not going blue (a sin I myself was guilty of), being apropos, and mocking an extremely deserving target, UM SQuad is the winner of the inaugural MGoBlog Caption Contest:
"Hey everyone, look at my impression of Kellen Winslow on a motorcycle"
We also would have accepted "Jay Williams." SQuad gets this bag of absolutely nothing.
History will be made tonight when South Carolina meets Michigan for the prestigious NIT championship at Madison Square Garden. Which titanic, er, titan of the hardwood will win the nation's admiration and respect? Which team will proudly hang a banner in front of a throng of fervent supporters next fall? Which team gets the free hats? Find out tonight at 7PM on ESPN... a significant portion of the world will be watching.
Meanwhile, if you seek NIT coverage galore look no further than the blogosphere. While the Detroit papers are content to mock and ignore, the blogs mock and attend, which makes all the difference. This applies to Johnny at RBUAS literally, as dude is going to be rocking a press pass at MSG this very night. He promises blowout coverage unparalleled anywhere and references to empty bras. Chris Dilks (also of WCH) manages to turn in an irony-free column about enjoying this NIT run -- to my knowledge an accomplishment unmatched anywhere in the media, mainstream or not.
(Probably) the last links to this Cowherd thing: The House Rock Built took a break from diagramming Charlie Weis's innovative small intestine to write the definitive We Is Blogs And We Is Stayin' article; Salon's King Kaufman interviews Benny & Yost (warning: creepy Basic Instinct ad) from the MZone.
"We're loyal," Taylor said. "That's the difference. We're loyal."
AAAAAARGH. Your loyalty was a major component of the disaster the last eight years have been, you twat. (via The Diag, now officially a quasi-blog for having no external links, linking only to major media stories, and having no comments).
Update 3/29: Added CA RB Marc Tyler. Linked to (fairly content free) John Clay profile -- he's good. Also found an unexpected bounty of interesting information at HornFans. Check IBFC for some analysis of Ryan Mallet's situation; there's also a huge post on Clay from one of the proprietors of WisFootball.net. More Mallet: opening it up? Still Texas and Michigan only? It is the mystery.
Editorial Opinion: Tyler's been listing us for a while, but I've refrained from adding him because I think he's an extreme longshot. His father played at UCLA. He's from California. He goes to the same school as Jimmy Clausen, who will attend either USC or ND, and lists both of those schools. He plans on taking an official, though...
"Michigan is another school I like," he said. "I don't know a whole lot about the place. They've had a lot of great guys come out of there. Plus, Coach (Lloyd) Carr is such a great coach. It would be great to play for him. I want to take an official visit out there for sure so I can see for myself what they have to offer.
... so on the board he goes.
Relevant excerpt from the post on John Clay:
I work for a high school football site out of Wisconsin and I've actually had a phone interview with John Clay in the past. ...
John Clay is probably the best player ever to come out of Wisconsin high school football. He not only is one of the top RB's in the nation, but he is also the top DE in Wisconsin. I have his film and his combination of size and speed is just amazing. He was named 1st team all-state as a sophomore (very rare in Wisconsin), and then named the state POY as a junior. ...
Clay has scholarship offers from Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio State. He is expecting another one soon from Michigan.
In my phone interview with Clay, which I believe was in January, he told me he would like to stay in "Big Ten Country." I was told he grew up as both a Wisconsin and Michigan fan. In the past he has attended Wisconsin's camp and attended their Junior Day. He also plans on visiting Michigan sometime in the near future with teammate Matt Simmons.
According to Simmons, the writer of the article about Clay and Texas kind of chopped his comments up and Clay wasn't too happy with the result.
Personally I think all signs are pointing to Clay ending up at Wisconsin or Michigan. He grew up as a fan of both. He is also close to his parents and so he would either be staying in-state, or attending a collge that isn't too far away.
The site he references is WisFootball.net, which looks fairly serious. Call it UV3, since the information about Clay's eventual destination is only a third party's speculation, but in terms of Internets credibility that's at least a four.
Mallet... well, this is probably a great example of recruiting excess that shouldn't be given attention, but depending on who you talk to he's "opening it up" or "not opening anything it all." This has caused needless consternation and likely means precisely nothing. What is interesting is another thread from HornFans.com on Mallet's situation:
I just spoke with a close friend of Ryan's mom who said that she had spoken with Mrs Mallet this morning. Word is that they're "not too happy with Texas". Said that "they" gave them 24 hours to accept/reject the offer.
That would be good.
(HT to IBFC, which first brought it to general attention.)
All this is FWIW; I think the general opinion of the Internets is that Mallet is going to Michigan and any other result would be a shock. Disclaimer: shocks happen.
3/28/2006 - Michigan 66-43 Old Dominion - We Be In Da Final
Ownzoring the NIT
The cognitive dissonance of this year's NIT would be much like that I would have experienced watching the Lions beat the Saints late last year if
- I cared about the Lions in the slightest
- I had so little to do that I would actually bother watching a Lions-Saints game.
- I mean, seriously, am I in traction in this hypothetical scenario? Do I have legs? A channel other than "worst football games of all time"?
At least, I'm guessing it's similar. It's an uncomfortable experience watching a game featuring one of your teams and not knowing whether or not you'd like them to lose. It goes against years of training.
Unlike the Lions, no rational case can be made for Michigan losing, especially when they have an important recruit watching their games -- there's no draft position to tank, there is a little money to be made -- but... still. Should Michigan beat South Carolina on Thursday, Michigan basketball will briefly surface in the national consciousness, but only for some halfhearted mocking. Signatures across the RCMB will be littered with sarcastic paeans to Tommy Amaker's Izzonian dominance of the NIT. Michigan will have confirmed that it blew a shot at its first tournament since the Long Long Ago. On the upside: free hats.
At some point I'd rather just forget last season happened; instead I am contractually obligated to scream "why couldn't you do that against Minnesota?" every time Courtney Sims shows off his impressive skill level. Michigan's thumping of ODU was mindbending. I could not decide whether each progressive basket made me pleased or angry. I'm confused. I want a banana.
Also: caption contest!
I don't suppose alumni dancing arrests qualify for the Fulmer Cup? Lincoln shot alert: yes, Dhani Jones got arrested for his irrepressible need to dance. West Side Story's casting director on line two.
Patrick Beverly: still not named "Eric," despite my attempts to convince the world otherwise. Things on the recruting front for Er-- er... Mr. Beverly appear to be going very well:
"I really just want him to go visit the three schools he's going to visit and then let him compare," [Beverly's coach Lamont] Bryant explained. "He doesn't have anything to compare it with. Your first visit is always your big visit. Once he goes to St. John's and Arkansas, he'll have something to compare it to. But Michigan looks good. He really likes it."
Less encouragingly, Keith Langlois says '07 commit Kelvin Grady "might have been the seventh-best point guard" at the state basketball finals this past weekend. That's not quite fair since there was only one junior on Langlois' list of better-than-Grady -- MSU commitment Kalin Lucas -- but it's still less than wonderful.
This is stupid:
In a sign of growing campus resistance to the Athletic Department's proposal to build luxury boxes in Michigan Stadium, 33 past and present faculty members have signed a letter urging the University Board of Regents to reject the private boxes.
Joey already demolished this; I co-sign.
And now for something completely obsessive. Michigan's roster has been updated with new weights (and heights, I believe). A favorite pastime of the deranged is to read far too much into listed positions, heights, and weights, as getting information out of Fort Schembechler is harder than a contrived similie that references hilarious pop culture. In that vein:
- Any worry that Michigan would senselessly put Alan Branch at DE should be put to bed: he's listed at 330 pounds. It should then be awoken: his position is listed as DE/DT.
- Redshirt freshmen James McKinney (279 lbs.) and Eugene Germany (ditto) are both bulking up to the point where DT may be a possiblity.
- McKinney, Tim Jamison, and Chris McLaurin are all listed at the anachronistic RLB position... as is Lamarr Woodley. Hopefully that does not imply those three guys get to watch Biggs and Van Alstyne play unsexy librarian at DE. Quiero dual headhunters. Also of note: both Jamison and McLaurin are up to that 240-250 range at which you're leery about every additional pound robbing them of explosiveness.
- Grady's down to 216. No word on whether he's gotten contacts.
- Wasn't Brandon Harrison listed at 5'10" last year? I seem to remember many jokes about lifts and such coming from OSU fans. Apparently that fanciful notion has been discarded: he's back down to a Bob Sanders-esque 5'8". Now if he could only play like Sanders.
- Marques Walton's problem was supposed to be mondo-overweightness, but he's listed at a (relatively) svelte 291.
Our Fairly Brief National Bout of Pissiness is Over. Cowherd was brought to heel by the Internet hordes. Our next stop: the White House. The MZone emerges from their bunker. Hey Jenny Slater gets a link for incorporating Melissa Theriau into the proceedings.
Etc.: Yost's getting a second locker room; from now on players will enter at opposite ends of the ice. File under wishful thinking:
The new locker room should improve Michigan's chances of hosting an NCAA Tournament regional. Yost has hosted five such regionals - the last in 2002 - but there were serious problems with finding adequate locker room space for all of the teams. ...
"It certainly won't hurt (our chances) of hosting another regional," [associate executive AD Michael] Stevenson said.
Since the general opinion of the college hockey world is that it will be a cold day in hell when Yost gets another regionals bid, Stevenson is technically right. The lowest a "chance" can go is axiomatically zero.
Braylon Edwards is endowing a scholarship for the #1 jersey -- check out the sweet video with AC and BE on the Braylon Edwards Foundation's website; Maize 'n' Brew re-works some musical memery; Michigan students, James Bond, Legos == A Good Time.