"Though I received no official response to these sophisticated and elegant tweets to the Illini Athletic Department, I would like to think that Beckman spent the evening prank calling everyone in Illinois named George McLellan and then ordering an absurd amount of hats off an internet haberdashery to hoard in his home's hat annex."
The analysis is fair enough, but could you have possibly been more condescending?
Ouch. That was not my intent but unfortunately was the result. Occasionally in the pursuit of a good line or five the tenor of an article will veer off course. For that I'm sorry. In an attempt to make good, I'll respond to the saner comments and emails I received. First a comment from PSUMike of Hail To The Lion:
I think Morelli is going to surprise a lot of people. Like Lane pointed out, he didn't get on the field much because doing so would have meant benching Michael Robinson, who finished 5th in the Heisman voting. He only got to play during garbage time against Cinn, Central Michigan, and Illinois. His combined stats were 13-20 155 yds 1 TD 0 INT. Not bad considering Joe's tendency to pull in the offensive reins when he's up. He didn't light anyone up but he didn't let them get back in the game either. In the games I saw him, including the spring game, he showed good footwork and confidence. His release was quick and his passes were on time with good armstrength. As good as MRob was, he was horrible throwing the ball. His best passes were when he heaved it up and let his Butler and Williams run under it.
I remain skeptical about Morelli but admit that the evidence against is as flimsy as the evidence for. We must agree to disagree. The season will prove one of us wrong. If it heartens you, given my track record it will probably be me.
Hunt is a good back, but he's not a star. He will churn out 4 and 5 yard gains all day, but he won't break a 50 yd run. But that's all Hall will ask him to do. Keep the offense out of 3rd and long and let the WR's go for the big plays. ...
You're right the offensive line is the big question mark. But then they were the big question mark going into last year too. They weren't great but they weren't bad either. I can't see this group being worse than last year.
Really? Offensive linemen tend to be the slowest developing players on the field other than maybe quarterbacks. Going from four seniors, a junior, and years of starting experience to Levi Brown and four guys who haven't started a game in their lives is going to be a huge dropoff. If Morelli lives up to expectations that will be offset by a much improved passing game, but a tetchy offensive line and the loss of Robinson's 800 yards means that the run game will be hard pressed to come anywhere near its performance of a year ago. If Hunt was the sort of back to make things for himself I could see something effective emerge, but he seems like the kind of guy who needs the hole to be precisely where it's supposed to be.
On defense, we lose three starters on the D-Line, but return Jay Alford who had 8.5 sacks and 11.5 TFL last year. Ed Johnson is returning and should be a force in the middle. I also expect some of their freshmen recruits to step in and make a contribution by the start of Big Ten play. The LB's will be fantastic. I'm glad to see you recognize that.
The DB's are a question. No doubt. They have talent, but they lack experience. Fortunately, you can coach the latter and not the former.
There is still a steep dropoff from Hali to either the journeymen veterans currently in place or freshmen, no matter how highly touted Maurice Evans is. As for the DBs, I'm not sure how much raw talent there is other than Justin King -- and I don't think anyone else does either. The remainder of the secondary had middling guru ratings and was stuck behind Phillips, Lowry et al over the past few years. It could be rough to start.
My prediction is 10-2. We will split the ND and OSU games. Win one and lose one. Don't ask me which but I hope it's ND. God I hate them. I think we will beat you guys. We're due and we're hungry. Penn State is tired of hearing the press tell us you own us. But I think we will slip somewhere along the line and lose to either Wisconsin, Purdue or Minnesota.
I think beating ND is going to be a very tough task on the road with a quarterback getting his first experience against a real opponent. The young secondary and (projected) flimsy pass rush don't match up well against Quinn, Smarjadskazieksa, and company. Obviously PSU has a chance, but I think that's a loss.
As for Michigan, I don't think PSU will be any hungrier to beat Michigan than they were last year or the last seven times they played. A night game at the Beav will be Edmonton-Stanley-Cup-Finals insane, granted, but the game is still played on the field. On said field, I think the Michigan defensive line will give PSU all kinds of problems. Hunt isn't the kind of back to exploit Michigan's dodgy outside linebackers with uncovered bounce-outs. Derrick Williams will be matched up against Leon Hall, who is pretty good. If Henne is on I think Michigan wins -- a big if given last year, granted.
An email from John Uhl:
I don't share all your pessimism about PSU's team and the final results this year, but, hey, you're entitled to your opinion. Your analysis is well researched. What many seem to ignore is that PSU was one of the absolute elite teams (they have played and beaten the best in college football over the years and in bowl games) for a long, long time and then they ran in to some lousy recruiting and coaching decisions which resulted in a horrible 3-4 years. The old man has turned the reins over to some very capable ass't coaches and, well, you saw the results last year. Galen Hall is an offensive genius. Expect very good things from this year's team .They are LOADED with talent on both sides of the ball. AND, attitude! To expect a repeat of last year is unrealistic, but if Morelli hits the ground runnin', who knows.
Hope you're in Happy Valley for the night game with your team. It will be an experience you will NEVER forget. The streak ends this year. Ask OSU what the atmosphere is like. Hell, ask ESPN's Game Day crew.
I did totally overlook the presence of Galen Hall. The PSU offense did perk up under his leadership and was decent despite having little raw material to work with. His track record at Florida, aside from the rampant cheating, was impressive. If my PSU preview turns out to be exceedingly pessimistic at the end of the year it'll probably be because of that.
Another email from Robert Croumathel, though with fewer comments as I've already expressed my opinion on Morelli and Hunt, etc:
I don't know about the X's and O's, but Morelli has the best young arm I've seen at Penn State in a very long time. No big wind up and slow-motion release. Just three steps back, read, and boom. Honestly, he's got the quickest release I've seen since Dan Marino, which is so important in preventing defenders from jumping the play. If he can learn to look off his receivers, he's got some pretty good guys to throw to, so I suspect the passing game will be fine.
Tony Hunt is a complete back, meaning he can hit the crease with speed and power and also take out a linebacker when required. Yah, we played some weak defenses, but so did everyone else in the Big Ten, as you pointed out. Tony gained over 1,000 yards in the Big Ten, which puts him in some pretty good company. If you watch him for awhile you'll see he runs with heart and toughness, as opposed to Austin Scott, who avoids the contact whenever possible.
The O-line has to grow up quickly, but the strength of our defense will keep us in games. So a 9-win season is very doable, and I think we will lay a beating on ND, a
s will Michigan.
I bet the Pitt fans are thrilled with the Dan Marino comparison.
One defender you didn't mention is safety Mark Rubin. You should watch for this guy. He was a receiver who broke his ankle in the pre-season last year and missed the entire season. He's been moved to safety, and if he can learn his assignments he will be a terrific safety. He can punish people back there.
Noted, though I think any impact Rubin makes will be next year at the earliest, as he's coming off a serious injury, moving positions, and stuck behind a couple seniors.
One last thing - I've never held anything against Chad Henne, and I don't know a single Penn State fan who does. Sure I was disappointed, and it would've been great if he had landed in the SEC, but after his stellar Freshman season, it was apparent that he absolutely made the right choice.
This I am glad to hear, but obviously you haven't been to BWI. Something about the Internet fanbase that has sprung up around BWI is deeply wrong and there's an unparalleled hatred for all things block M there. Even on places like the OZone there is some underlying respect, heavily cloaked though it may be.
Sorry about the slowdown. Attempting to prepare for the WSOP and get the BlogPoll organized and significantly less crappy to deal with are dual time sinks of impressive stature.
NCAA reviews continue apace: House Rock Built gives it a general thumbs up but says an old problem has not gone away:
The Game Seems to be Very Long-Bomb Oriented: Maybe it's just because I was playing as Notre Dame, but there doesn't seem to be a correction on the oversimplicity in hucking the ball deep
SMQB (@ EDSBS) says same old, same old:
Final verdict: this one unfortunately has few changes from NCAA 2006 and looks like it has the potential to grow boring more quickly than previous versions. Hell, I may not even hit 500 games before NCAA Football 2008 comes out.
Dubious Quality has a comprehensive 360 review that highlights a particular pet peeve of mine:
And on the face of it, NCAA 2007 is missing a ton of features I want in a game. Features like:
--sim to end (and a jump-in feature as well)
--multiple camera angles (there is ONE freaking camera angle in the 360 version)
--ability to watch a CPU vs. CPU game (somebody find the stoned employee who took out this feature, and thanks for screwing us on slider development)
Seriously. How hard is it to give you an option to scrub out the rest of a game that's 49-7 at halftime? My dynasties inevitably die because I just can't stand going through the motions for half the time I'm actually playing the game whether I'm vastly up or down. I think that's the final straw for me: no '07.
You, being a Michigan fan, have probably already read the article wherein Clemson recruit Jamie Cumbie describes Notre Dame's post-commit negative recruiting:
"They were sending me postcards like a month after I committed," said the 6-7, 255-pound Cumbie, who was a first-team Parade All-American. "The only school that tried to keep recruiting me was Notre Dame. It really didn't bother me."
Cumbie said the Fighting Irish coaching staff, led by enormously fat head coach Charlie Weis, also engaged in some negative recruiting on his visit to South Bend, Ind.
"They had a piece of paper, and it broke down advantages and disadvantages. It said Notre Dame was televised every weekend, every Saturday. Then they said Clemson has a horrible education."
Well, House Rock Built has acquired a copy of said letter; you can see enormously fat Charlie Weis' dastardly scribbles with your own eyes.
Okay, Mike, we acknowledge you as hard. So, yeah... Alex Legion's commitment spurred TSN's Mike DeCourcy to pen this love letter to Amaker:
It has become another terrific July for Michigan coach Tommy Amaker. If only every month could be July. If only the Wolverines were not forced to deal with the months of November, December, January and February.
Of course, we already know they're not asked to do anything important in March.
Michigan received a re-commitment this week from guard prospect Alex Legion...Legion had chosen the Wolverines last November, reconsidered in the spring, but now says he's certain he wants to play for Michigan.
For a moment there, I thought he'd come to his senses.
And while this, like claiming a Clemson education isn't exactly the Ivy leagues, is objectively true it seems sort of unnecessary, doesn't it? Either DeCourcy was put up to this by TSN honchos who demand he generate sports-radio style "reaction" or his online dating profile lists his hobbies as "torturing kittens," "eating kittens," and "making fun of men largely indistinguishable from kittens apropos of basically nothing."
(Via the Diag)
Speaking of apropos of nothing: watch the Tour De France tonight. 8PM OLN.
'07 hoops recruit Scott Martin announces tomorrow; according to Chris Balas "all signs point to" Purdue, thus making the potential existence of a mysterious fourth scholarship moot. Also, sophomore Jevohn Shepherd made the Canadian national basketball team, which probably says more about Canada than Shepherd.
This is too easy, but Lloyd Carr did get a Big Ten ref fired because he only has one eye (hhhhhyyyyyarrrrr!). In situations like this the difficulty is not in coming up with a joke but picking from a panoply of options, but, really, how can you improve on this:
In the spring of 2000, an accident caused him to lose one eye. He returned to his job that season â€” without informing his bosses of the accident â€” and contends that in the five years that he worked with one eye â€” which included officiating two Bowl games â€” reviews of his work were, "on average, substantially better than the reviews he received in the eight years preceeding the loss of his eye."
O RLY? Maybe that says less about this pirate/referee and more about the poo-flinging monkeys in charge of these things. This guy had ONE EYE! And NO ONE NOTICED FOR FIVE YEARS! This isn't a discrete tatoo on the small of his back. This is a major vision impediment anyone throwing a football at this particular referee would have immediately picked up upon. And yet his continued employment. This is objectively hilarious to neutral observers, but not to me after the Peko/Bass incidents. No wonder we had the Jim Augustines of the world inflicted upon us.
Just call him "Citizen," hopefully. The Wolverine's Michael Spath offers some consolation for the hockey team in the wake of forward recruit Trevor Lewis' defection: hyped recruit Pat Kane is going to college and will choose between BU and Michigan. Kane was an '07 recruit but will accelerate his education and enter school in January, which would make him available for the second half of the season should he choose Michigan... and now there's a scholarship waiting for him.
Unless your Internet connection is under a rock, you're probably aware that yesterday was Christmas In July, AKA NCAA release day. Reviews from mainstream sites are full-body massages to EA, so you might want to monitor The Blog For The Sports Gamer closely over the next few days. Three oft-cranky reviewers stand poised to offer, you know, stuff that actually helps you determine whether it's worth buying or not. They've already started. The 614 also has some first impressions.
I'm '07 free at the moment. I've bought the last two versions of the game and been disappointed there's no difficultly level between "piteously easy" and "scream at the console and then hide the game so you can't play it any more." I'm waiting to see whether that's fixed or not. Also, if I bought it now Blogpollers could kiss goodbye a ballot entry form that's not a giant pain in the ass. So there's that.
I've made my feelings on Frank Deford known already. The man is exactly like Barbaro from his beloved horse racing: the attention paid to him, all of which is wasted, is vastly out of proportion to all reason and everyone, including the subject, would probably be happier if he was just put down. And that was before today's column/NPR piece on luxury boxes at Michigan Stadium. I'm sure you can guess which site he comes down on. He even throws in two totally hilarious parody songs and, like everyone else on the inane side of the debate, greatly overstates the aesthetic beauty of Michigan Stadium:
The Big House is a huge oval, and the luxury boxes, totaling 425,000 square feet, would do great aesthetic violence to the classic old bowl. Since the game-day pieds-Ã -terre would cost so much to build, it's dubious they can even actually make the university any money -- and that, after all, is the whole purpose of luxury boxes.
Note that Deford buys the "they won't make money" argument from anti-box crusaders hook, line, and sinker, because who are you going to trust, a self-made millionaire who was head of the USOC or some former speechwriter with a six-page website?
The most irritating thing about anti-box crusaders is that they position themselves as the True Defenders of the Michigan Faith when the choice presented is between an egalitarian crowd watching Michigan lose and a crowd locked in desperate class war watching Michigan win. I'll take the class war, especially because I'll be sitting in the same seats either way.
Etc.: Citizen-Patriot article quotes yet another claim from Carr that Antonio Bass was going to be a major part of the offensive game plan this fall; Burnt Orange Nation considers the Michigan talent gap or lack thereof (RTWT); SI/Athlon's Michigan preview says some things but this is the big conclusion: "Mental toughness and leadership will be especially critical this season when the Wolverines face traditional rivals Notre Dame, Penn State and Ohio State on the road." Way to go out on a limb, kids.
.....And don't click here.
Right. Alex Legion is once again a Michigan commitment. Time to go scrub the archives of any nastiness about him... okay doublechecking displays snide comments about Amaker, a tendency to be creeped out about Tim Green, and buckets o' despair but nothing nasty. Celebrate restraint!
Legion's shocking de-un-re-commit will wrap up guard recruiting for '07. Michigan has Grady, Harris, and Legion ready to come in, knock on wood. There has been speculation that a fourth scholarship may be available but that's hazy at the moment. Any such existing scholarship would be earmarked for a post.
Um, like, good job Amaker.
So, yeah, this is a ripoff of the annual NY Press nastiness.
50-41: The Merely Annoying
For putting this list together. What a bitter, jealous, lonely, unsuccessful person I must be.
49. Bill Simmons
Unlike most of the howling masses of the blogosphere, I don't HATE HATE HATE Simmons, but good lord the man has gotten irritating over the last year. Some of that is merely familiarity with his work breeding contempt -- Rocky references just don't have the same punch they used to -- but most of it is his nigh-constant self-aggrandizement. Ok, Bill, you invented the "running diary" and it's very gracious of you to not get angry when other people ape your unique format, but don't you think that's a lot like taking a bottle of whiskey and inventing "whiskey in a glass"? We're not exactly talking calculus here, and even that was independently invented by two guys.
48. Christiano Ronaldo
No doubt he's being furiously scribbled in at #1 on the British analogue of this list, but since America won't see him for another four years he's stuck down here. Ronaldo symbolizes everything that the US hates about soccer: diving, whinging, pouting, infinite useless stepovers, and ridiculous greasy hair. He was the worst offender on a Portuguese World Cup team that inspired hundreds of "Beautiful Game Turns Ugly" headlines in every language from English to Esperanto. It would have been justice if Rooney's errant foot had struck home on Ronaldo.
A heaping hill of unknown losers stringing for prep tee-ball and Jason Whitlock, SportsJournalists.com overflows with riveting topics like the irrelevancy of the Internet, the charms of towns that had a horse until they ate it, and people wondering whether or not they're making more than minimum wage. They're the only group on the Internet more self-congratulatory than bloggers.
46. Jenn Sterger
Okay, we get it: your fake ta-tas and faux lesbianism bring all the boys to the yard. No doubt Myron Rolle will get an outsanding education from you sooner or later. But what separates Jenn from thousands of other nubile young sorostitutes across the country? Nothing except front-row seats at Florida State games and an exhibitionary streak unusual even for hos. Why, then, is Sports Illustrated running an advice column "by" her? And why won't she respond to my emails?
45. NFL Owners
For many reasons, but primarily for confirming once and for all that their idea of fun is a Soviet one by cracking down on touchdown celebration impresario Chad Johnson. Thanks for giving Johnson's various props, dances, and signs a patina of outlaw cool, but maybe the stick in your collective ass could be whittled into something less all-encompassing.
44. Colin Cowherd
A blogospheric persona non grata after the MZone incident, Cowherd manages to combine stupendous ignorance with a propensity for ALL CAPS EMAIL that marks him indelibly as one of the internet retarded. Probably wouldn't have made the list without the plagiarism but his sins go so much deeper than that. Ask Fire Joe Morgan:
I wish I could convey his strained, howling voice...the condescending way he makes his points, as if he were speaking to a four year-old...the way his arrogance and self-assuredness positively oozes through one's car speakers as he blathers on.
43. Dennis Rodman
JUST GO AWAY.
42. Sean Avery
The NHL has a rich tradition of employing little hateable bastards, but Sean Avery takes it several steps too far. Avery's no-class on-ice demeanor extends to his daily life, whether it's blithering on like he's not two steps away from one of those Geico commercials with the cavemen during the lockout about lies, calling the NHL's French Canadian players visor-wearing nancyboys or terming Edmonton Oiler Georges Laraque a "monkey." No-talent midget Avery is the NHL's most hated player, which is saying something.
Add in his inexplicable success with primo Hollywood ass like Elisha friggin' Cuthbert (@ right) and a list without Sean Avery is no list at all.
41. Joe Theismann and Paul Maguire
Who was stupid enough to recreate "The Odd Couple" and pair them as color announcers for nationally broadcasted football games? Well, the same man who was stupid enough to hire Stephen A. Smith, but more on both of them later. Theismann and Maguire -- the nation's foremost argument against gay marriage -- expend more energy needling each other than paying attention to the game. On their own, they're annoying, but together they form a Voltron-like vortex of suck that threatens to consume any who stumble across the critical late-season Lions-Browns matchup.
The moderately good news is that these two tools no longer have to sit in close proximity to each other for three hours at a time every week; the bad news is that now they're split up it's that much harder to avoid them. The spectre of Maguire now haunts college football. Pray for us.
Over the past week I've gotten a few emails that deserve responses in full; a couple are irritated Penn State fans who will get their say in a couple days. The other is from Don Hamm and is reproduced below with fisk comments (but friendly-like) interspersed:
I'd be curious about your take on CFN's All-Americans relative to the supposedly top-5 talent at Michigan. There is a notable lack of Michigan players on the list, and the only one meriting even an honorable mention is Hart.
Omission from CFN's list doesn't bother me so much. As I've written in the past, CFN is useless. They try to churn as much "content" out as possible in order to generate hits -- Orson has characterized this as "heavily caffinated Fiutak sitting in his basement pumping out copy" or some such thing, though he found it endearing instead of annoying -- and toss lists out that reuse the same banal capsule text every day, because there's nothing that gets the fan linkage like "love" from some ridiculous website. It's impossible to take anything they say seriously when every other word is "consistency," "nasty," "athletic," or another sports-cliche word employed to fill space without actually communicating ideas.
So, yeah, I take that particular omission with a grain of salt.
Your larger point, though...
Being a UM fan has its frustrations, many of which you write incisively about. One of them for me is the alleged talent at UM that's relentlessly hyped by UM fans everywhere. Every year I hear fan after fan assert that "Michigan has more/as much talent than anyone in the country", which is then used to buttress the analysis of Lloyd Carr as an incompetent coach whose staff can't develop the truckloads of NFL-caliber talent they recruit. I remember clearly hearing a caller to WTKA saying after the game last year that UM has better talent at every position on the field, both offensively and defensively, than Wisconsin. All he could point to are the recruiting rankings, which I am viewing these days with great suspicion. Of course, he then went on to lambaste Carr & Co. as dumb meatheads who can't coach the 5-star talent they've got at every position.
...is a fundamental, difficult one that deserves an airing. Michigan, like Notre Dame, has found itself in a weird limbo in the last several years wherein expectations vastly exceeded results. (Michigan's limbo has been far shorter and less severe.) The response from the fanbases has always, always, always been to crucify the coach for his many failings.* The idea that our valiant warrior-poets are just plain bad at football never seems to cross the mind of the fan, because good God, how do you fix that? Any idiot can fix the coaching -- run more! pass more! -- but acknowledging the many and variegated flaws up and down the roster is the kind of thing that sinks future seasons. Humans naturally shy away from information that causes pain, so every unproven who-dat is a future All-American.
As a result, "Team X which incidentally is the team I support has as much talent as anyone in the country" is not a phenomenon unique to Michigan fans. Most fans overrate their team's prospects every season, then blow up at the meathead coach when the results do not conform to their impossibly inflated expectations. Every year is "the year" for every team across the country -- the year they win the National Championship or go to a New Year's day bowl game or any bowl game or show some signs of life -- until the harsh light of reality sets in for most. The easiest thing to do at that point is lash out at the coach, because you can fire the coach.
A balanced perspective of available talent is the least likely thing for any passionate fan to have. How do we work towards this?
*(And yes, I am just as if not more guilty than the next fan in this area. A Jake Long-less Michigan line at the beginning of '05? Well that sounds pretty good, let's give it a 4/5!)
While it's certainly not the only measure, to me the most telling measure of real talent (encompassing things both mental and physical) is how the professional scouts in the NFL regard it on draft day. And it's on this basis that I've been questioning this assessment of UM talent as being so superior to the teams they play. Note that I'm NOT saying that UM has no talent; I'm simply saying that our alleged talent superiority is just that: alleged.
Here are the draft-day results for the 03, 04, 05, and 06 NFL drafts for 5 Big Ten schools:
Iowa: 17 players selected
Purdue: 15 players selected
Wisconsin: 19 players selected
Ohio State: 31 players selected
Michigan: 16 players selected
Call me crazy, but I just don't see any evidence of the vaunted superiority of UM's talent, especially in comparison to Senator Tressel's bunch.
The NFL draft is not always the best measure of college talent, but it is a fairly good indicator of which players are the most physically dominant. A raw count over four years leaves a lot out. Let's do eight, which encompasses the entire Carr era, and give points based on draft position.
Edmonton Oiler fans often kick around charts like so...
...that clearly indicate an exponential relationship between pick placement and major-league success. The NFL has institutionalized such knowledge in the famous value sheet teams use when swapping picks back and forth; on it the first pick in the draft is six times more valuable than the first pick in he second round. So let's do this right: teams get points equal to the value on the sheet for draft picks. ... and holy God, that's a lot of calculator work. Plus the different values NFL teams place on certain positions -- centers hardly ever go in the first round, for instance -- could make the calculation even harder. I'll take a raincheck on it, but I can tell you that by eyeballing it that OSU would finish first by a wide margin, Michigan would be comfortably second, and then the other Big Ten contenders would trail the Big Two.
Perhaps in that light the streak against Ohio State makes some sense, but I believe that the NFL numbers, even in the four year period cited, show something of a talent edge for Michigan. But not a large enough one to warrant that sports-talk radio stupidity from above. The sad truth of the matter is that if the NFL metric is accurate, 9-3 is the record Michigan fans should expect and talk radio should be full of dudes saying "well, it was a good try."
Now I know that many would reply by saying, "well, UM has the talent, but they just don't know how to develop it at all." I have my doubts about certain aspects of the UM coaching staff; I don't have much confidence in the o-line coaching at the moment, and I think it's pretty clear our S&C is behind the times. The problem I have with the "Carr can't coach and develop" theme is that the logical result of this assessment is that UM would have relatively few players drafted, which is not the case. We simply don't have the superiority that so many allege.
Taking it further, I'm convinced by things I read on draft day and after that a big reason that UM does not have a draft-day superiority (and recent success against bowl teams and OSU) is very simple: speed. Maybe this is an indictment of Gittelson, but if there is any one physical attribute that is least improvable by coaching I would have to think it's speed. Every year you read about some 220 lb freshman some
where who after 3 years is a 295 lb behemoth at right tackle, but I don't think any S&C guy is going to turn our typically ponderous linebackers (Prescott Burgess comes to mind) into legit 4.7 demons. Marginal improvements maybe, but that's it. Why else was Jarrett Irons not even able to last through an NFL training camp? Why did Marquise Walker not make it? What's the knock on Jason Avant? Why has Ian Gold made it, by contrast?
Here's a contrarian theory that I'll offer to have knocked down: Lloyd Carr is greatly OVER-rated as a recruiter of true talent, especially with regard to speed and quickness. Meaning that he's UNDER-rated as a game-day coach. I'm not saying he's actually one of the best 10 in the country, but that he's not the clueless dope so many say he is.
Well, to some extent I agree. The vast talent gap Michigan is supposed to have does not exist. The talent advantages Michigan has against Iowa and Wisconsin are incremental at best. And clearly Carr has some idea what he's doing: blah blah blah National Championship blah blah winning percentage blah.
However, a brief survey of Michigan horrors over the past few years shows losses decided by horrible special teams play, horrible late-game performance, and plain horrible luck. A speed deficiency never seemed to be the problem except in very specific cases, e.g. Markus Curry versus Keary Colbert or Vince Young versus Anybody. Michigan's losing streak against OSU seems directly attributable to getting our asses kicked on the lines -- something like 2.0 yards per carry for Michigan over the past two years while OSU was busy grinding out 99 yard drives in '04 -- and the similarly disappointing results against Notre Dame have been due less to overwhelming speed and more to plain old idiocy, bad luck, and the general bloody-mindedness of the universe. After all, one of the trademarks of Michigan football for the past decade or so is that there is always one utterly terrifying receiver on the field. He's 6'4", runs like a gazelle, has arrogance issues, &c. Is that not emblematic of team speed?
I might agree that we've been lacking speed on defense, but was Zach Kaufman's problem speed or general crappiness? How about Todd Howard? Or any safety we've put on the field for the past five years? (Engelmon/Barringer/Adams/Harrison evaluations still pending.)
As for Carr, his extreme stubbornness loses Michigan games. One would think that Carr would pull the plug on Wacky Iowa Punt Formation after the first two or three attempts were nearly blocked. Surely after the first actual block. But no: it took a second blocked punt and a humiliating loss for Carr to scrap it. Similarly, his loyalty to crappy coaches (Herrmann), crappy players (Massey), and crappy pooch punts has cost Michigan for years. The coaches put the defense in a position to fail time and again this year and then acted surprised when they failed.
A final example: UM won the Big Ten title in '03 and played a clearly superior and dominant USC team in the Rose Bowl. In truth, the game wasn't as close as the score, but we certainly were far more competitive than Oklahoma was a year later against USC.
Yet we were able to do all this with three senior defensive lineman (Heuer, Stevens, and Bowman) and one sophomore (Massey), none of whom even got a whiff on their draft days. I read some pre-draft scouting reports on Bowman and Heuer, and it was clear these guys were going to have a tough time landing free-agent spots, let alone get drafted. Yet somehow UM was able to win 10 games, and if it wasn't for our special teams meltdowns against Oregon and Iowa (perhaps thanks to Lloyd's inexplicable selection of the thoroughly unqualified Boccher as ST coach) we might have gone into the Rose Bowl undefeated.
So tell me how I'm wrong and that our talent really is 5-stars across the board. Maybe fodder for one of your articles?
All college teams not named after prophylactics have guys like Heuer, Stevens, Bowman, et al, who have no chance in the NFL but are able to not suck enough so that players like Braylon can bash some heads. That's where the NFL draft anaylsis falls short: it's one thing if those guys are Bowman and Heuer -- competent -- but another entirely if they're Massey or Courtney Morgan. This is where I think a large portion of Michigan's talent advantage lies in most years: they never have to put Jaren Hayes on the field. It was the 2005 team's misfortune to have three Hayes clones start (Henige, Lentz, and Massey) plus one guy who spent the year transforming from Optimus Prime to Hayes at random (Henne).
The Jaren Hayes effect combines with game theory errors I believe Carr makes on a regular basis to lend hope that in a couple years when some hot young thing is the new Michigan coach, there will be reason to move the expectation baseline away from 9-3. But of course I think that: I'm a fan.
I throw the question open to any and all commenters and bloggers: is Michigan's talent advantage overstated? What is a reasonable expectation for the team this year and in any given year? Will that expectation rise if some dreamy new coach takes the helm?