a terrible blight on our fine country
MONDAY MONDAY MONDAY! This is probably going to be way less blood-spattered than the average person who might care about this would like, but it should be entertaining anyway: I'll be on Bacon's show on WTKA this afternoon… with Jim Carty! Carty's on at the beginning of the 4PM hour and I'll be joining him midway through. You can probably guess the topic: the dissolution of the Ann Arbor News. No, I'm not planning on getting into a really complicated discussion about the academics investigation that 15 minutes on a radio show can't do justice.
(One of these days, I promise, I will be on the radio to talk about football. Again, it's April.)
Christening. It looks like Michigan's going to open up their spectacular new renovated stadium next year with a terrific game against traditional power Massachusetts:
According to a source, it was Michigan that approached UMass about the game, which would be played at Michigan Stadium, which holds 106,201 for football.
“We’d like to, we want to, and we’re looking into it,” said UMass spokesman Jason Yellin.
Lame. Might as well get the yearly complaint out of the way: this is the worst thing about college football. Bill Martin's decision to extend the ND series until the sun expands was fine as long as Michigan would occasionally schedule an interesting second game, but that looks like it's never going to happen. When is Michigan going to agree to any series against an opponent respectable enough to demand a return game, even if it's a 2-for-1 situation? It doesn't have to be USC, but this is awful.
Two changes that will never get made that would improve things immeasurably: banning I-AA games and instituting a maximum of seven home games (or a minimum of five true road games, which would prevent things like Michigan vs New Mexico State at Ford Field from evading the directive). Since exactly zero people in the NCAA's hierarchy care about the people who pay for the entire enterprise, this will never happen.
Leaving as fast as possible in as many ways as possible. Lane Kiffin caused defections at Tennessee are up to a spectacular nine now, which is a lot more folk a lot faster than Rodriguez "ran off," to use the parlance of people who don't know what they're talking about. The latest is QB BJ Coleman, who actually appears to have gotten run off:
“It’s the best move for me,” Coleman told The Free-Press. “What changed my mind is, after this spring, I don’t see myself getting a fair shake. Based on conversations with coaches and things that happened this spring, I feel the staff has goals that do not include me."
This brings Tennessee down to two scholarship quarterbacks, one of whom is terrible senior Jonathan Crompton. And yet Kiffin said no thanks to the two committed quarterbacks he inherited from Fulmer, including top-100 guy Tajh Boyd. Relevance to Michigan? Slight. I guess he's taking a lot of heat that might otherwise be directed at Rodriguez.
Despite the irrelevance, the mention is because he's instantly the most fascinating head coach in college football. He committed yet another stupid, minor recruiting violation recently, by the way. Of course he did. This could go towards Spurrier direction or John L Smith; I have no idea which it will be.
Smotcyz! Smotycrz! Smotycz! Smotrycz! There's an inside view into my Smotrycz spelling process for you. I plan on charging 9.95 a month for things like that soon*, so soak it up now while it's free.
Anyway, Michigan's most recent commit had another AAU weekend and there were a couple reports. This is from NBE:
Good height, but needs to get physically stronger before the Big 10. His size and skill away from the basket makes it look like he was made for John Beilein’s system and he should get the most of his strengths at Michigan. Showed ability to slash to the basket, but needs to finish more often once in the paint, as evidenced by failing to convert on an easy lay-up. Added strength will help.
Kind of sounds like Deshawn Sims, no? Smotrycz is taller but probably not as athletic. Meanwhile at NERR:
Evan Smotrycz was the catalyst as the Michigan bound forward really brought his game to another level. Not only was he making shots from the perimeter, but he also showed a much improved dribble drive game, as he was able to break his man down with a right to left cross-over on more than one occasion. But it wasn’t just his ability to score off the dribble that was so impressive as he also passed the ball tremendously well, acting as a facilitator in the second half with his ability to create open looks for his teammates.
Evan Smotrycz picked up right where he left off a day earlier as he was outstanding for the second consecutive day, making shots, breaking people down off the dribble, and passing the ball very well. It was his consistent excellence throughout the course of the weekend that helped propel the Rivals all the way to the finals before finally losing to a New Jersey Celtics team that featured top 50 junior Kyrie Irving and the nation’s top sophomore Michael Gilchrist.
I'm getting a little skeptical of these reports from NERR because identical ones are showing up at Scott Hazelton's site. Hazelton runs a basketball school/camp sort of business and Smotrycz is a protégé. The glowing reports might not be 100% fair and balanced, then. Might want to scale those down to places where Smotrycz is not a titan astride basketball.
That's not to say the last two weeks haven't been very good for public perception of Smotrycz's game: every national pundit who's offered an opinion has been extremely positive, and most have brought him up apropos of nothing except his ability to ball.
In other basketball recruiting. UMHoops has a wider roundup for those interested, with the most important development being the apparent cooling off between NY PF Will Regan and Michigan. Regan's latest top five doesn't include Michigan. With Michigan still hot on the heels of Trey Zeigler and in need of another point guard after Kelvin Grady's transfer, both open slots in this class are probably going to guards or wings, which Regan is not.
Grady's transfer brings the 2010 class to at least three spots. I've suggested in the past that Michigan might take four depending on the NBA status of Manny Harris and the fifth year status of Anthony Wright, but it's been pointed out to me that Michigan would then be approaching the loaded instate class of 2011 with just one open slot unless there was unexpected attrition. That's something they probably won't want to do unless the hypothetical 2010 player they're taking is freakin' awesome.
More media machinating. So: a kind mention from John Bacon on his weekly NPR commentary (transcript here) amidst his take on the Ann Arbor News is going kaput. Carty takes issue with some of the numbers:
I'm a little skeptical that, as John claims, more people read MGoBlog during football season than purchase the Ann Arbor News (this is a metrics issue, not a shot at MGoBlog, but a question about the difficulty of measuring individual Internet visitors, vs. the 250,000-plus people a week who you know bought the News, because you have their money).
Carty's right as to the difficulty of measuring the relative readership across mediums. My stats are public in two flavors:
- Sitemeter, which measures pageviews and visits, and
- Quantcast, which does an awful lot of complicated stuff to come up with some demographic numbers.
The upshot, as far as I can tell: the blog does about 2 million pageviews a month now. By traditional internet accounting these hits come from about 110,000 monthly uniques, but Quantcast thinks that's about 2x too generous as far as the number of actual people who check the site. The Ann Arbor News has a circulation of about 45k, which by standard industry math corresponds to sixty trillion readers. So… draw your own conclusions. The mere fact that it's plausible is probably more interesting than the current winner.
More JMFC, and friends. To hockey recruiting now: Jack Campbell was interviewed by the Wolverine, and certainly sounds like a guy who will end up on campus by his scouting reports on teammates current and future:
Merrill - absolute stud. Enough said. Next JMFJ.
This is a man who is into Michigan hockey. The second, premium section of the interview($) contains another statement similar to the one discussed earlier, where Campbell professes his loyalty for Michigan before mentioning the dark possibility that the team that drafts him will be really into Sutter brothers and want him elsewhere. Chances of a defection remain slim but nonzero.
Elsewhere, 2010 D Kevin Clare was the subject of an extensive Red Line Report profile. After JMFJ2.0 and Adam Clendening were called up to the U18 team, Clare was handed increased responsibility on both ends of the ice and responded:
“With the departure of those two skilled players, Kevin has completely stepped up his game and shown to everybody that he has a lot more to his game than just being a hard-nosed, tough defenseman,” remarked U-17 assistant coach John Wroblewski. “He is exceptional with the puck, cool under pressure and can handle the power play very well.” …
“We look at him to be one of the harder players, to set the tone physically and to make sure that the opponent knew when he was on the ice,” Wroblewski said. “The biggest thing with Kevin is lately he has shown such a great ability to go back for pucks and just read the situation on the breakout. As a defenseman, it is invaluable to have that knowledge and presence back there.
“On the opposite end of the puck, he has shown an absolute knack for knowing when to step up into the play and delivering pucks to the net. That has made him a great asset on the power play as well as 5-on-5.”
Cool biographical tidbit: Clare's father is Irish, as in from-Ireland Irish, and played Gaelic football, but didn't want Clare to get into it because there's no professional opportunities.
I wonder how many more times they're going to announce this:
"In order to address the speculation around DeShawn and Manny's future we are announcing that both these young men have decided to continue their respective educational paths here at the University of Michigan," Beilein said in a statement. "Since the completion of our season we have gathered enough information for everyone to feel good about this decision. I am anxious to see their continued growth and I am excited to coach these two, as well as the rest of the team next season."
Probably zero since the deadline is in two days, but this is like the third time they've done it so there's still hope.
2010 uber-goalie commit Jack Campbell in the Free Press:
“I’ll be a high-end pick in the 2010 (NHL) draft. It really depends on what the NHL team wants me to do. The only thing I can say is I’m loyal to Michigan. I want to be in a Michigan jersey.”
The Daily's Nicole Auerbach, perhaps prompted by the article's attention-grabbing "Campbell could play at Michigan or in OHL" headline:
So what does this kind of a comment mean? It could just be a kid in the spotlight who isn’t sure what to do yet. It could be an indication that Campbell might not stick around all four years at Michigan. Or it could be his way of saying he’s excited about Michigan (maybe not).
This guy's response: Campbell wants to play at Michigan unless some NHL team really wants him to sign right away. This would, presumably, rule out an OHL defection unless the drafting team is just really insanely pro-CHL and also wanted to get their relationship with Campbell off on the wrong foot. There is only one precedent for a Michigan player getting signed by an NHL team and shipped to Canadian juniors, and that's Trevor Lewis, a late first-rounder a couple years ago who the Kings signed immediately. Lewis was rumored to be academically ineligible, FWIW, something that cost Michigan a couple of kids in the late 90s.
So while Campbell could be signed and shipped, I'd worry more if a statement like that came from Merrill or Moffatt. High draft pick skaters are occasionally signed immediately and put in the NHL. Not so with goalies. Goalies develop more slowly and last a lot longer. For example, Al Montoya was the fifth pick in the draft and didn't sign until after his junior year, though he probably could have (and should have) gone after two. While I'm not expecting Campbell gets a degree from Michigan without correspondence courses, I'll take two years from Campbell happily.
Bonus: NHL teams now have a strong incentive to not play their prospects in their 18 and 19 year old seasons because that starts their free agency clock sooner. The team that drafts Campbell will have the choice of developing him on Michigan's dime or theirs; I'm betting they'll pick Michigan unless it's the goddamn Kings.
Also from the Free Press article:
"For me, playing near my hometown of Port Huron was a big thing, so my family who supported me all these years could see me play. I was a State fan growing up. My dad attended Michigan State and my cousin, Marshall Campbell, played football there."
Ouch. Thank you Comley clap clap clapclapclap. If Campbell matriculates and gets drafted as high as it appears he will, that would make two high first-rounders at Michigan with fathers who attended State. (JMFJ is the other.)
I'd love to get all up on my high horse about this undeniably douchy move by Thad Matta…
When Cameron Wright got off the phone with Ohio State men's basketball coach Thad Matta on Tuesday night, the junior guard from Benedictine knew he was not going to fulfill his dream of playing basketball for the Buckeyes. …
While recruits in football and basketball backing out of non-binding oral commitments isn't unusual, this wasn't a case of a kid changing his mind. Ever since OSU assistant John Groce, the primary recruiter for Wright, left to become the head coach at Ohio last June, Wright said contact from the Buckeyes had been sparse, and the call from Matta on Tuesday led to the final parting.
"I was definitely going to stick with Ohio State," said Wright.
…except I'm pretty sure Michigan did something subtler but similar with DeWayne Peace and Jordan Barnes, football recruits of yesteryear who decommitted in a fashion something less than voluntary. Peace had a conversation like this at some point:
Michigan: We'd like you to play defensive back.
Peace: Didn't I tell you I wanted to be a receiver?
Peace: Excuse me, I have to call Kansas.
Barnes, meanwhile, cited a wholesale lack of contact from the Michigan staff when he decommitted.* (He would later end up at Oklahoma State.) In both these cases Michigan didn't actually call up and say "you can't come here anymore," which makes their actions fractionally less douchy than those of Matta, but it's basically the same thing: whoops, can I have that scholarship back?
This might not be a trend yet, but it will be one soon, and then it will just be a fact of life. It's inevitable what with recruiting schedules moving so far forward, especially in basketball. Wright committed a year and a half ago(!). In the interim he went from highly touted to anonymous three-star. If you're a Michigan basketball fan you're probably thinking "I sort of wish Amaker had the balls to do that with Jerrett Smith," which assumes that Amaker would actually have replaced Smith with someone better but whatever. I feel you.
What's inevitable is also totally unfortunate, though. Wright's depressed final quote isn't going to be showing up in any annoying commercials starring violin-playing Asian soccer virtuosos:
"At the end of the day, it's all a business."
I thought the entire point was that it wasn't, in fact, a business. Upon this rests the entire near-fiction, not to mention the NCAA's tax-exempt status: that, in the end, the best interests of the student-athlete are paramount. That once you tell this Wright kid he can play basketball at Ohio State, he gets to unless he fails social studies six times or gets so high he can touch the sun.
As a fan I'd meet this news with two different emotions. One: hurray, it's more likely the team will be good. Two: boo, it's going to be harder to cheer for them when the ghost of Cameron Wright is sitting next to the walk-ons in a Cleveland State jersey. Everyone has a different balance there; mine slants heavily towards #2.
So it's good to be a fan of a university that did not actually run Jerrett Smith off, at least not before he got to campus. Smith's now a bench player at Grand Valley State after being booted for failing to meet standards set by Beilein. This also happened to Kendrick Price. Their removal from the team was not voluntary, but that seems fine as long as the standards are uniform and don't include things like "be useful on the court." Given the continued presence of Anthony Wright (before the Oklahoma game, at least), it's safe to say this isn't one of the standards.
Rodriguez's dance with the decommits hews closer to a line I'm uncomfortable with but still ends up on the right side of the line. If you don't think a kid can contribute or doesn't fit in your offense, it's best to tell them and let them make up their own mind. It's better to find out Michigan thinks you're a defensive back before signing day, after all, and unless you're being dishonest about that—which we'll never have any way of knowing—that's probably a net benefit. Peace is now a receiver at a place he'd rather be.
Barnes' case is murkier but there, too, Michigan let the guy make up his own mind. They helped along by making him feel unwanted, and while I'd prefer it if Michigan waited long enough to make sure they really wanted everyone they offered that kind of scrupulousness would put them behind the eight-ball, and as long as you don't actually yank the offer the kid's making a choice.
Do I have a larger point here? This is where the larger point goes. I don't know. I was just going to turn this into a UV bit and then it ended up pushing 1000 words, so you've read to the end and I should have a point.
I guess it's this: I don't want Michigan to be the sort of program that can pull what Matta just did. While I'm fine up to a point with the occasional moral compromise required to stay atop the shifting sands of Lemming-era recruiting, Rodriguez's tendency to shotgun offers out and let God sort 'em out later seems like a strategy that will lead to more uncomfortable situations not unlike a middle school dance: one party is desperately trying to extricate themselves from a situation they didn't think through before they checked the box that said "yes I like you."
*(I can no longer find a link for this, unfortunately. I have referenced it before, though. At the time of the decommit there was an Indy Star article that was pretty blunt about it.)
|Orland Park, Illinois - 6'6" 272
|Scout||4*, #10 OT, #135 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #18 OT, #221 overall|
|ESPN||77, #42 OT|
|Others||#171 to Takkle|
|Other Suitors||Notre Dame, Penn State, Miami|
|June commit article.|
|Notes||Little brother is an OL prospect in class of 2010.|
Michigan didn't need a huge offensive line class one year after taking six big uglies and graduating zero, but you never want fewer than three and you always want quality. Michigan picked up three four-stars: check. Michael Schofield was the first. Schofield holds the record for most unexpectedly annoying name to google because he shares a name with some character on "Prison Break," but the assembled intel follows. Warning: this stuff is always sparser for offensive linemen, whose skills remain arcane to all but a select few.
Schofield's rankings are all over the board, with ESPN saying "meh," Rivals saying "hey, pretty good," and Scout very enthusiastic indeed. Scout's rating was a huge late change, too, as when Schofield committed they had him an anonymous three star. Then Schofield attended a high school all star game in Hawaii (good choice, that) and seriously outperformed then five-star Morgan Moses($). Scout shot him up to the #10 tackle in the country.
College coaches didnt wait that long, as by June Schofield had picked up offers from Michigan, Penn State, Notre Dame, Miami (That Miami), Oregon, and a dozen others.
Here's a backhanded compliment from Tom Lemming:
“He’s the first good catch for Michigan out of Chicago in some time,” recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said. “In one or two years, he can really develop into an All-American. He has a lot of potential.” …
… it wasn’t his makeup [uh? –ed] that caught the attention of recruiters, rather it was his feet.
“When you watch him on film, he can really move,” Lemming said. “He can slide and mirror.”
Michigan's offensive scheme prizes agility in its linemen. This would seem to be a good fit, especially because this seems insane for a guy who's now 6'6", 275:
In his first two years at Sandburg, Schofield ran the 110 high hurdles for the Eagles’ track team, winning a conference title his freshman year and finishing second his sophomore season. He also moved up to the varsity team for the state tournament during his sophomore year, finishing sixth in sectionals.
“[College recruiters] like hearing he ran track his freshman and sophomore years,” said Sandburg football coach Dave Wierzal, who also coaches Schofield in track. “After his sophomore year, he continued to fill out and grew taller. He turned out to be really something to get excited about.”
Lemming also adds he has "perfect size" for left tackle.
While there has been some buzz that Quinton Washington could step right onto the field this fall*, this is Rodriguez on Schofield at the signing day press conference:
”Very aggresive, physical player. … He’ll grow into the type of player that we want. … The foundation that we’re building up front is key to our offense.”
That says redshirt. This Rivals AMP piece echoes the above, emphasizing his mobility, upside, and need to see a college strength and conditioning program:
Especially impressive when double team blocking or down blocking on the of tackle play. Could come out of his stance lower with more knee bend but does a great job of hand control. Really works his hands into the frame of the defender and doesn't allow defensive man to spin out of the block. Moves feet well and gets great knock back off the line of scrimmage. Runs well for a large lineman; gives effort downfield to get the extra block. Has even showed the ability to cover punts. Pass protection is sound; sets back and, as in the run game, has active hands in stopping and controlling the pass rusher. Has a tendency to over extend at times allowing defender the opportunity to go underneath.
Pretty positive and then… eh… 77. I think a large portion of the difference here is ESPN's tendency to fire and forget on a scouting report; it seems like there's a lot more movement on Rivals and Scout and Schofield was a guy who didn't start rising nationally until he hit the camp circuit hard in the summer between his junior and senior years. Both Rivals and Scout evaluations are based on tape and in-person sessions, with Rivals being the first to rate him highly and Scout coming around later; ESPN's ranking seems like it's based on old information.
In any case, Schofield is highly-rated by two of the three scouting services, seems a good fit for the offense, and has a lot of nice offers. The chance of success here is high.
Why Jeff Backus? Well, I dunno. There aren't many differences between the playing styles of offensive linemen that filter down to the layman's level. So that's just a shot in the dark, really.
Guru Reliability: Moderate; big spread in the rankings here.
General Excitement Level: As high as it gets for non-slam dunk offensive linemen. Schofield is a highly-rated kid with a lot of nice offers who seems to fit the offense precisely, but offensive linemen are hard to project.
Projection: Obvious redshirt and then a candidate to start at left tackle as a freshman; more realistically will probably have to wait until his sophomore year.
*(This is doubtful given the excellent depth on the interior created by Steve Schilling's move and Washington's lack of an early enrollment, but the possibility has been thrown out there. That gives an indication of readiness, if nothing else.)
PROTIP: Don't do a google image search for "burst cyst." Here's a kitten instead:
I'll be in therapy the rest of the day.
Uptick. Last weekend was a big one on the AAU circuit, and recent Michigan commitment Evan Smotrycz made a statement at the Pitt Hoop Jam. ESPN's Reggie Rankin highlighted Smotrycz among a number of elite players he scouted, offering praise bordering on the effusive:
This super skilled combination forward has all the tools on the offense end of the floor. He is a perfect fit for the offensive system he will play in at Michigan. Smotrycz is a terrific 3-point shooter with NBA range. He has a quick trigger and the size to shoot over smaller defenders with ease. Smotrycz runs the lane in transition and does a great job of stretching the defense with his ability to make shots. Making plays off the dribble is also strength of Smotrycz’s. He is a very good ball handler and does a great job of creating space with scoring dribble moves that include a step back pull up jumper going to his left. He would be perfect in pick and pop situations as well. His skill set doesn’t stop with his scoring he is also a very good passer. He can drive, draw and kick in transition or in the half court where he has the ability to pass with either hand.
At 6-foot-8, 200-pounds he’s a guy that moves very well, has great touch in the paint, but most importantly is a terrific shooter. His form is flawless and he finishes it off with a high release. The New Hampton (N.H.) School standout, who showed use of both hands around the basket, is capable of putting it on the decks for a few bounces and pulling up for jumpers as well.
NEBRR also quotes Hoopscoop's Clark Francis as "very intruiged" with Smotrycz, saying he projects as "more than just a good role player at the big time level." Everyone does say he needs to add strength, FWIW.
Maybe Beilein got on a player who was just about to blow up, as the kids say. A 6'9" small forward with diverse and sundry offensive skills sounds pretty freakin' good. ESPN's put him on their 150 watch list; it'll be interesting to see if the tourney springs him into Scout and Rivals' lists when they update. Rivals didn't actually have anyone there, BTW, so if Smotrycz ends up lower there than elsewhere that's probably why.
Elsewhere in basketball recruiting, I don't know if this guy knows anything specific about Trey Ziegler, Michigan's #1 remaining target in the 2010 class, but let's hope so:
Trey brings an impressive build to the guard position in which he operates. He might not look the part of a quick, agile guard, but he sure plays it. He had many defenders on their toes trying to cover him, and his ability to pull up for the jumper or drive the lane for the explosive dunk was something that almost seemed impossible to cover. He lacked hustle several times defensively, allowing breakaway layups from the opposition, but in his defense, did play all but two minutes of a 32 minute game Saturday afternoon. Although Michigan is the frontrunner for Zeigler now, he hasn’t yet committed and has left the door open for several Big East schools at this time.
There's also been an uptick in Detroit Country Day point guard Ray McCallum's interest in the Michigan program, though he still seems like a longshot. I'd be delighted to be 100% wrong about Beilein's recruiting chops.
Still 2010, but different. To the hockey class of that year: Jack Campbell is good. The USA U18 team just won the gold medal at the World Championships and Campbell's play is the talk of the tournament (even though the Russian goalie bizarrely made the all-tourney team despite a 5-0 thumping in the final). Western College Hockey:
I think the best thing you can say about a goalie is that his team won, and without him, they would have lost. In the semifinal against Canada, if the US is down by more than 1 goal midway through the third period, there is absolutely no chance they come back to win that game. Campbell made some great saves to keep his team in it long enough for the US powerplay to score a couple goals and steal the win.
Insert fervent prayer that the 2010 hockey class arrives on campus intact here. Campbell is establishing himself as possibly the top goalie in his draft class.
Not so fast on the not so fast. A curious report that included Michigan Stadium as one of a number of potential World Cup host sites was shot down by a second report playing Lee Corso. Now Lee Corso report has been Lee Corsoed:
"Anything we can do to support our region economically, we would very much like to do it," U-M athletic director Bill Martin said. "The timing of the event -- June, July -- would be perfect. But we'd have to build a platform up into the first 10 rows of seats to make the field wide enough."
I'm skeptical they'll actually get to host. There are 70 other potential sites, many of which wouldn't require that level of project. Erasing ten rows of seats might defeat the purpose of having such a huge stadium host, too. But there's a chance, and maybe they'd just do it for the meat-on-the-table aspect of having the biggest stadium in the country involved.
(HT: Michigan Sports Center.)
Forcier Forcier Forcier Forcier—A Snaaaaake! The Forcier "Weapon of Choice" video has been Walkenized. Ace for the win.
Speaking of Forciers, Rittenberg has more on the possible transfer of Jason back to Michigan. Apparently the "repeal" of the Mundy Rule that allowed graduated players to use their fifth year of eligibility somewhere else was something between a repeal and a, you know, non-repeal:
"Obviously, sports is going to end for me," Jason Forcier said. "You've got to accept the facts. But it doesn't change my passion for it. So if I can still be involved with it somehow, I feel like I can still participate.
"With the waiver, it would look good that I got into Michigan when I was an undergrad and I transferred to Stanford and did well there, graduated. They know it wouldn't be for a football issue."
So it appears the NCAA is making its decisions on a case-by-case basis now to prevent things like Florida pirating one of Utah's starting cornerbacks but allow transfers by players who have a legitimate academic reason to move.