Previously tackled: the forwards.
Senior Chris Summers. Summers was the captain and played 40 games, but finished with just 16 points (four goals and eight assists) and could only manage a +5. Though he'll be missed—first round draft picks who see out their eligibility at Michigan are rare indeed—his level of impact wasn't such that some combination of touted incoming freshmen and development from returning players can't pick up the slack. I'm not sure you'd be able to tell who the first-round pick was on Michigan's defense last year if you didn't know already.
That said, Michigan's most veteran defensemen are now Tristin Llewellyn and Chad Langlais. Neither are exactly defensive stalwarts. Well, Llewellyn is except when he's really not being a defensive stalwart. As we'll see below there is some uncertainty about who gets put on the ice when the opponent's danger lines are out.
Senior Steve Kampfer. Statistically, Kampfer was the best defenseman on the team. He led Michigan defensemen in +/- (+18) and points (3-23-26) last year. Those are rudimentary stats for defenders, but I didn't get the same feeling that he should somehow play better as I did with Summers. Kampfer also loosed "THAT IS WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT" in the aftermath of ending Michigan State's season. That is what I am talking about.
Jon Merrill, USNTDP. Merrill's stock has dropped a little bit since his commitment at 15, but nowhere near as much as Moffatt's. Merrill's slid to a mid-to-late first rounder, but… hey… that's still pretty good. As a bonus, his game is highly cerebral and he should be able to step onto the second, or even first, pairing without much of a transition period:
"He's very intelligent on both sides of the puck, makes good decisions, and defensively is good about keeping himself in good position," USNTDP U-18 coach Kurt Kleinendorst said. "There are a lot of things to appreciate about his game, including his size (6-foot-3 1/4, 198 pounds) and his dedication in the weight room."
And I still remember the incredible back-and-forth cycling that drove Minnesota to national titles when Hobey winner Jordan Leopold was around, so I love this comparison:
"He plays the game a lot like Jordan Leopold," said Central Scouting's Jack Barzee, who specializes in U.S. prospects. "He plays weaving and diving, sneaking and thinking, gaining the zone and moving the puck ahead and right on the tape to a guy. He's skilled and he's really come a long way in his development."
After Merrill was one of the best players on the USA U18 team that destroyed all comers except Sweden, who they still beat for the gold medal, he moved up from a fringe first-rounder to what sounds like will be a solid selection in the 10-15 range. The praise was rapturous:
Jon Merrill, LD -- USA Under 18
Regarded as one of the best defenseman prospects coming out of the US this year, Merrill looks to have leapfrogged his competition and could be debated as being one of the top three best defensive prospects in the entire draft. Merrill was simply dominant in Belarus and his ability to play in all situations, including running the power play, certainly makes him all the more valuable. Merrill is explosive, gets the puck on net and creates lanes all over the ice. He is effective and reliable defensively and proves to be very difficult to win space against. Scouts are salivating at the chance to add Merrill to their rosters, as he is already a dominant player but still has a lot of room for improvement. This kid is for real.
Merrill should step right into the lineup and could be the team's top blueliner by midseason. He's the most highly-touted D to enter the program since JMFJ.
Mac Bennett, USHL. Bennett, who was drafted in the third round by the Canadiens in '09, is the rare Michigan recruit who comes to Michigan a full year after the NHL got a crack at him. The last player to do it was Kevin Quick, who lasted a few months before he stole Carl Hagelin's credit card and shuffled off to the CHL. Before that he was pretty good.
Anyway. Bennett's rep is a slick puck-moving offensive defenseman. Here's a scouting report from James Stachowiak, the Official Cedar Rapids Contact of MGoBlog:
Bennett has been in the top defensive pairing for the RoughRiders all season and his play earned him a spot on the USHL All Star team. Bennett is typically paired up against the top scoring line for the opposing team, often logging the most minutes of any defenseman, and he still led Rider defensemen and finished 8th in the USHL with a +17 plus minus rating. He is a very good defensive defenseman with good ice awareness and vision on the offensive end. Numerous times this year he has hit a forward in stride with a blue line to blue line pass that lead to a breakaway.
For much of the second half of the season he has been captaining what has been referred to as the 1A powerplay unit and his presence on that unit gave it a real spark. On the powerplay, he has been good at taking advantage of opportunities to crash the net from the backside and score. Although he can lay the big hit, he also plays incredibly smart defense. He has only taken 34 penalty minutes on the season. He will be physical when called upon, but is not an enforcer.
He doesn't have the hardest shot either. In an impromptu hardest shot contest at practice where each player got three shots clocked on a radar gun, he hot 86, 88, and 84 MPH, five other Riders were able to crack 90 MPH.
Bennett does a good job of keeping everything in front of him and to the outside, has enough speed to get back into the play on the rare occasion when he turns it over, and has the makings of a very solid defenseman for Michigan.
Solid defense would be a major step forward for Bennett, who entered his NHL draft year with a reputation as a gunslinger. Red Line Report's Kyle Woodlief:
Woodlief said that he does not like Bennett’s “lack of discipline in the defensive end. He’s more like a forward playing defense.’’
Bennett is a strong skater –– he has “jets,’’ Woodlief said. “He’s able to create odd-man rushes with his wheels,’’ he said, and “he can handle the puck at high speed.’’
Meanwhile, USHR praised his college upside even before his USHL year:
5’11”. 170 lb. Hotchkiss defenseman and Michigan recruit Mac Bennett is a smooth skater who reads plays smartly, and excels in the transition game. He’s going to be an excellent college player. Smallish for a pro defenseman, but rates highly in every other are, so he will be drafted.
He should be as ready to step into the lineup as Merrill. Slight downer: Bennett makes no bones about his desire to jump to the NHL as soon as its feasible. Two years is your over/under on his tenure at Michigan.
Kevin Clare, USNTDP. Clare's stock dropped significantly over the past year. He went from 132nd in the CSB midterm rankings to entirely omitted; by the end of the year he was the only NTDP defenseman not to make the U18 World Championships team. He's mostly been skating with the U17s. None of these are good indicators.
Though the ISS's January mention of him as a "falling" prospect concerns itself with the sexual harassment incident he was involved in (it got Jacob Fallon booted from the NTDP), they also mention his falling offensive productivity. Why that would be a big deal isn't clear, though. Clare's rep is a purely defensive defenseman.
On the other hand, Clare ended up 31st on College Hockey 24-7's top 50 list, ahead of Moffatt and Fallon, and the CSB plunge is probably excessive given that people were talking Clare up as a potential late first-round pick a year ago and one of the guys who pays close attention to the NTDP was still suggesting he'd be off the board in the third as late as January. There's also some increasingly old fluff from the New York Daily News and USA Hockey.
We'll get a much better read on Clare's stock and prospects for playing time this fall by the NHL draft. Third round = serious contender. Not drafted = redshirt.
With just two defensemen outgoing and three incoming, Michigan will have a roster crunch. I'm not sure if Lee Moffie is going to get a regular shift next year and I think Michigan might actually redshirt Clare. Michigan hasn't redshirted a guy since Riley Olson way back in the day.
Three potential pairings, none of which seem that much better or worse than any other:
The idea of Llewellyn still gives me hives but he did play really well at the Joe and in the NCAA tournament and will be entering his senior year. He brings a physical element—and the penalties that go with it—that no one else except maybe Pateryn does. Paired with Merrill, he might get away with some of his unwise decisions—and if Hagelin's out there his backchecking could neutralize those. I'd still be more comfortable with Llewellyn out there against grinders and whatnot; we'll see how it plays out. Given his inconsistency he could be anywhere from the (very nominally) top pairing to the press box.
Merrill is a version of JMFJ minus the deranged genius. Michigan will lean on him heavily.
This pairing actually existed most of last year and seemed to work out fine, though Burlon did not make the impact expected given his excellent freshman year and status as a second-round pick. He still finished with a 3-11-14 and +12. He played ever game, blocked more shots than anyone except Kampfer, and took fewer penalties per game than any Michigan defender. It wasn't a lost season by any means; it was just something short of the pure breakout that Burlon hinted at in '08-'09.
Langlais is Langlais at this point: small, dynamic with the puck, clever passer, fairly responsible. I suggested he could move to forward since he's the best puckhandler on the team, but Derek Deblois coming in early would seem to put the kibosh on that idea. Hopefully he'll be less penalty-prone as a senior.
Pateryn is pretty boring when he's not sweeping down from the point to score a game-winning goal. Since his JMFJ-like pillaging of Northern Michigan remains the only goal of his Michigan career, that's most of the time. He racked up 1-5-6 in 33 games last year, finishing +8. That boredom has its uses, though. Pateryn had just 18 penalty minutes, which is a third of Llewellyn's total. Both played 33 games.
I'd like to see Pateryn tried out on against some top lines here and there: all of his scratches took place in the first half of last year, and from there he was a more-reliable version of Llewellyn. He's got tremendous size and seems to be on an upward track. If his skating isn't a problem he could move up to be the sensible guy next to Merrill.
As for Bennett, see above. He's a version of Langlais with enough size to draw NHL notice. His post-draft year of junior is unusual for a Michigan player; as a result he should come in ready to play. Hopefully that will be enough to knock Winnett off the power play.
The leftovers. I can't believe I can't find a spot for a kid who had 4-8-12 in just 29 games as a freshman but Bennett is definitely going to play and Merrill is definitely going to play and Llewellyn appears to have finally earned the coaches' trust. Injury, Llewellyn's inevitable game or three where he does something unfortunate and gets pulled, and maybe some of the same from others will see Moffie draw into maybe half of the games. It could be more if he shores up the defensive issues that got him benched despite his scoring tear.
As for Clare, we'll see how much his stock has actually dropped at the draft. I'd think someone gets redshirted this year just because Michigan can do it. If Clare does not have serious NHL prospects any more it will probably be him. If he does you're not going to get five years out of him anyway so you might see Moffie put in mothballs. It seems a waste of eligibility to have one of them play five games or whatever. I bet Michigan did not expect to hold on to Burlon this long.
As for Clare: Michigan has the luxury of redshirting him. Will they actually use it?
Was Tristin Llewellyn Re-Education Camp Happy Time as effective as it appeared? I don't think so. We've seen three years of Llewellyn's play and he was making some pretty mind-boggling decisions as late as the Munn Takeover—remember the boarding call when Michigan was already killing a penalty?—so his last four games only push the needle slightly towards reliability. It was just about pegged on the wrong end of that scale; he will be frustrating as per usual. At least Michigan has a lot of options should his processor short out this year.
How quickly can the freshmen be really good? Very. Merrill just got done pwning the world and has spent the last one and a half years going up against college kids—he got dragged up to the U18s late in his U17 season. Sometimes defensemen get picked high because of what they will be someday; Merrill appears to be something already. He's not going to spin around kids in the neutral zone and get away with it but he's not going to totally abandon decorum, either.
Bennett, meanwhile, is going to be 19 when he hits campus and has just spent a year being heavily relied upon by a USHL team. He might need a little while to get his defense up to a collegiate standard; an instant impact is still likely on the power play and against third lines.
Can someone already on the team improve radically? Three candidates:
- Burlon, who is one of those guys you're just waiting to go "click" and turn into a machine.
- Pateryn, who has an NHL-type frame at a long-armed 6'3" and 210 pounds and developed into a reliable guy in his own zone during his sophomore year.
- Moffie, who just needs to learn how to play defense.
All of these guys are not going to take major leaps forward; one might. I've got my money on Pateryn, a guy who quietly erased anyone who attempted to rush him last year.
Worries? There's no one you can look at and think "this is Miami's top line, let's put X and Y out." Merrill might be one of those guys; Pateryn could be the other. If it's not it might be Llewellyn, which will lead to Bad Things from time to time. Wither Jay Vancik?
In a recent forum post I put out a request for diary ideas and Brian requested a deeper look at special teams. So here goes.
As any good Michigan fan knows, punting from the opponents 35 yard line is excruciating to watch. But how painful is it?
As you can see above, net punting holds pretty steady in the 37-38 yard range all the way till around the 40 yard line. At that point it drops a couple yards into 35 yards per punt range. It’s when you get to midfield that the averages really start to tank. Over the next 15-20 yards of the field, the average drops from 35 yards per punt all the way down to 20. This is somewhat obvious as the field shrinks the longer punts turn into touchbacks where they would have been 50 yarders on the other side of the field.
But lets look at it another way. On average, where can you expect to start your defensive drive based on where you are punting from.
It’s a pretty linear relationship all the way to midfield and then it stops. On your side of the field, one more yard on offense takes one away from the opposition if you have to punt. You get to the other side of the field and that relationship disappears. At the 50, the other team will, on average, start their next drive at the 16. If you drive all way inside the opponent’s 35 and decide your punter is still the best call, the 16 becomes the 12. The 15-20 yards of offense only translate into about 4 yards of worse field position for the other team. A punt from the 37 should realistically only be expected to cover a net of 25.
All of this is accounted for in my special teams rankings. Punters evaluations on each punt are measured on gross distance, net distance and then compared to punts from that spot on the field. A punt from your own 20 yards that nets 35 is below average but a punt from the opponents 40 that has a net of 30 is above average.
Last year, Georgia led the nation in my measurements in gross punting, it was worth 8.2 points above average on the season. Zoltan came in 7th (1st in the Big 10) at 4.3 points above average.
Punt returners and coverage teams are evaluated in the same manner. A 50 yard punt that isn’t a touchback or out of bounds (but including fair catches and downed punts) will average 6 yards per return but a 30 yard punt should only expect a 2 yard return. Again, teams are only evaluated against the situation they are given, a 4 yard return on a 50 yard punt is a positive play for the coverage team and a negative one for the return team. A 4 yard return on a 30 yard punt is a negative for the coverage team and a positive for the return team. I don’t currently have a way to split the value between the punter and the coverage, so the coverage is a joint metric.
LSU led the nation last year, gaining 9.7 points more than average on their punt coverage. Michigan came in 28th, 3.7 point above average.
What ultimately matters is the total punting rating, the combination of the punt and the cover. Michigan’s combined value of 8.0 points above average was 3rd nationally behind only Oklahoma and Missouri.
Michigan was somewhat unique in that even when adjusting the coverage rating for distance of punt, there is a negative correlation between punt coverage and gross punting. Possibly meaning that the punters getting the most distance on their punts are doing so by kicking more returnable punts than their peers who aren’t kicking as far as consistently.
Michigan did not fare so well on the returning end of the punt game. Michigan averaged a mere 2.35 yards of return per punt (excluding touchbacks and out of bounds) and was 3.9 points below average on the season. LSU again led the nation with 19.3 points above average for their return team.
Kick - Offs
I approached the kick off in the same manner as the punt, with the obvious exception that almost all kick offs are from a fixed spot on the field.
Unlike punting, kick offs have a correlation between good kick offs and good coverage, even when adjusting coverage for kick length. Good kick off specialists provide a more coverable kick than when weaker kickers get a kick of the same distance.
Michigan had another strong showing out of their kick off teams. Ranking 16th nationally at 6.3 points above average. The coverage wasn’t as good, 1.6 paa and 49th nationally. The 7.9 paa was 25th overall in a category that was dominated by Nebraska. Nebraska’s kickoff team was worth 27.9 paa on the season. 50 of their 74 kickoffs either went for touchbacks or were stopped inside of the 20 yardline.
The Wolverine kick return team was a respectable 36th overall, 2.6 paa. Cincinnati dominated the country at 19.7 paa.
Field goal kickers have never really had a good stat with which to measure them by. So much depends on where you are kicking from. Leigh Tiffin from Alabama garnered All-American honors despite missing 4 extra points and making 24 of his 30 field goals from inside 40 yards. Meanwhile in the same conference, Blair Walsh from Georgia makes a nation leading 12 field goals of 40 yards or longer versus only one miss from the same distance and is perfect on extra points and doesn’t even sniff All-American. Walsh’s performance gave Georgia 21.6 paa where Tiffin providing a respectable but not that close 7.4 paa. So how do you evaluate kickers. The easiest way would be to put up a chart.
A nice straight line, right? Look closely at the attempts and something changes around the 30 yard line. With the 30 as a general benchmark, coaches become more and more reluctant to trot the kicker out from that distance or beyond. With this selection bias, the true field goal percentage of field goals from 47 yards and longer is almost certainly overstated. By only getting attempts from the better kickers, the percentage is artificially high.
So now it’s time for a new chart, right?
Using the assumed misses from coaches foregoing the field goal, the true field goal percent drops. The straight line out to the 25-30 yard line goes south fast as the distance is stretched.
Last year Michigan’s kicking game came in at 44th with 1.6 paa on the season.
In attempting to determine how much coaches were passing up field goals in “no man’s land” I did also produce one more interesting but not necessarily special teams chart. The 4th down decision chart.
Between the 3 and 25 yard lines its a consistent trend, 80-85% field goal attempt 15-20 % go for the touchdown. It rises to 60/40 at the 2 and flips to 20/80 at the 1. The going for it actually peaks between 30 and 35 as more coaches don’t really know what to do so they just go for it.
Final Thoughts and Notes
There are a couple of things not included in this analysis. Exception plays such as blocked punts and kicks and their returns, fumbled returns (not that those ever happen) and the like are all excluded. These play obviously have huge impacts on the game in which they occur but they are so rare and have little or no impact on other plays of that type that they are excluded . The very best teams in the country may block 4-5 kicks in a season and for all but a few teams, these plays have virtually no net effect.
In general, for any one special team unit, the difference between average and the best and worst is about 2 touchdowns in either direction over the course of the season. Being the best at special teams is worth about a half game a season versus the average team and a full game a season versus the worst team. If there is one unit to excel at, the opportunity is on the kickoff team where last year there was a 53 point differential between the best (Nebraska) and the worst (West Viriginia).
Marvin in. There were some rumblings that incoming S recruit Marvin Robinson might have some academic issues after his plan to enroll early didn't come off. As seen on the board, these appear to have been false. Robinson just told Rivals he will be on campus June 1st($), whereupon he will try to take Jordan Kovacs's spot at bandit.
The More You Know, As Presented By Lil Wayne.
repeat after us: that's not my weed no matter how much my hat implies it is.
Notre Dame tight end Mike Ragone is the earthly avatar of New Jersey. Also he is a backup Notre Dame tight end, so he will get in minor trouble with recreational substances and get hellaciously disproportionate justice in return. The minor trouble with recreational substances:
The trooper making the stop smelled marijuana, searched the car and found two baggies of a leafy substance in the purse of Ragone’s girlfriend. A field test indicated it was marijuana.
According to probable cause affidavits filed by Trooper Tony LoMonaco, Ragone gave the baggies to his girlfriend to hide in her purse as they were being pulled over. LoMonaco said Ragone waived his right to remain silent and said the marijuana belonged to him.
Someone is not familiar with the concept of a weed carrier.
If precedent holds, Ragone is likely to be suspended for a year because the institution of Notre Dame has just finished watching Reefer Madness for the third time this week, finding nothing even mildly humorous therein. This would make him the third second-string Notre Dame tight end to feel ND's boot on his neck for typical student hijinks: Will Yeatman got booted in 2008 for moped DUI (seriously: moped DUI) and Joseph Fauria transferred to UCLA after he got suspended for something undisclosed; he dropped some bombs on the way out.
Q: Why is it always the backup tight end? Why can't it be the quarterback?
Christian said Beilein told him his role as a freshman could be to guard an opponent’s forwards, rebound, box out and offensively play around the high post.
His high school coach (Bellvue, not Hargrave) provides some additional information that suggests things by omitting them:
“Really athletic,” O’Connor said. “6-foot-6, long. Fills the lanes really well, rebounds really well, can defend people on the interior and out on the perimeter. He can defend inside and out.”
Mention of offensive skills: nonexistent. Even so, if Christian can be a 6-6 all-purpose defensive stopper and rebounder that's something unique on the team. His addition seems worthwhile as long as it doesn't impact Michigan's ability to take two more players in the 2011 class (which already features Carlton Brundidge). This would require a transfer or Laval Lucas-Perry not getting a fifth year.
Define "fair." The welcome news that the NCAA hockey committee is seriously considering dumping the failed regionals format for home series was covered on Friday. It's a move that makes sense on multiple levels. One of them is that going to less random format than one-and-done hockey properly rewards teams that have suggested they are amongst the best in the country. This is an asset in a sport that's so much of a random number generator that this year's NHL playoffs saw exactly one team of each seed advance to the second round.
So this is a supremely annoying argument:
Going to a 16-team four-regional format in 2003 was a signature moment for the sport. It eliminated byes, and at the same time, portended the move away from on-campus regionals as much as possible, eliminating a sore spot and unfair advantage. …
In Brad Schlossman's Grand Forks Herald report, he noted that from 1988-91, top seeds — which had a bye AND a best-of-3 quarterfinal home series — reached the Frozen Four 87.5 percent of the time. After the NCAA went away from best-of-3 series, starting in 1992, until the tournament expanded to 16 teams, the No. 1 seeds — which had a first-round bye only — reached the Frozen Four 65.9 percent of the time. Since then, needing to play two games, like everyone else, and not getting to play them at home as often, it's only 46.9 percent of the time.
But why is that bad? The whole point was to remove the unfair advantage of the top seed. This is what so many people clamored for. This would seem like a step backwards.
Argh. It is only an "unfair advantage" if the top seeds had not, you know, earned them by virtue of their play. You might as well say it's unfair that Michigan gets all those recruits. Honestly, if a four seed has no chance of winning a best two-of-three series on the road against a good team it shouldn't be in the tournament at all. In the NHL, the road team wins 45% of the time. If you want to make it fairer, the "road" team can get last change and the various other small advantages given the home team in game two.
Hockey's just too random to make any determination about a team's strength relative to another in sixty minutes. Over the course of a whole season, however, teams certainly distance themselves from others. The current tournament format tries as hard as it can to discard all that information about who is the best team in favor of weighted plinko, which yields tournaments so chaotic that they render regular season results virtually meaningless. This is "fair" according to the above argument.
Moving to home best-of-three regionals is more profitable, more exciting, provides fans a better experience, creates a tournament that is less likely to be the functional equivalent of a blender, and makes the regular season more meaningful. Protests that the Pairwise system is not precise enough to distinguish between 8 and 9 (or 7 and 10 and maybe even 6 and 11) are accurate, which is why the committee should move to a PWR system that is less stupid. If changing the tournament forces the powers that be to consider the many ways in which the Pairwise is flawed, it's a double win.
Define "rules." Literally. Also in the realm of college hockey changes, the committee is meeting for their bi-annual review. There is the usual fretting about player safety that will result in some vague redefinition of things that are already penalties. Other than that, though, there are some meaningful changes being discussed:
- Going to half-shields instead of full cages.
- Reducing ties by modifying the overtime session without resorting to the shootout: "There seemed to be more interest in reducing the number of tie games. In other words, not finishing the game with a shootout, but maybe tweaking the overtime rules that we have in place so more games end in overtime.” The proposals on the table are a mishmash of lengthening overtime to ten minutes and playing OT 4-on-4.
I think that's the right track. Shootouts are random and they're only acceptable in the CCHA because they don't count for the pairwise.
- The CCHA is the only league against the two-ref, two-linesman system, so at least they know they're icing some confused mofos.
- They're considering tweaking icing with weird rules about imaginary lines (to reduce whistles) or eliminating the wave-off if an attacking player misses a pass (to increase whistles) or removing the ability of a shorthanded team to ice it on a power play. The first two are dumb, but the latter is interesting to me: I bet they added the icing exception way back in the day because tired teams on the penalty kill were just going to ice it anyway and it was a way to not have ten of them in a two-minute span. Now that they've removed the ability to change after an icing, teams on the PK would have to legitimately attempt to clear the zone.
- It seems like they're going to get the d-zone dump over the boards right: "It looked like from the survey results that over half of the people would like to see something, but not a penalty. They’d like to make it so that they can’t change their players." This is right on. Make it icing, basically. Remove the incentive to do it without implementing the Dumbest Penalty In Sports.
- ARGH ARGH ARGH: "Requiring a team that has a delayed penalty in effect to clear the puck out of its defensive zone to get the whistle instead of merely gaining possession. That’s another topic that didn’t garner much in the way of support." Guessing one Red Berenson brought this up—it's something I suggested after the Miami debacle. There is no reason not to implement this immediately.
- They're also considering making all goals off skates legit, which they should do. Skate on ice: legit goal.
It sounds like at least a few of these will get implemented, and I like virtually all of them. (There is a goofy proposal to ban people from diving on the ice to block a shot, but there's no way that gets passed.)
As always, the 2011 Michigan Football Recruiting Board lives here.
Recruiting multiple players from the same school (Trotwood-Madison, Pahokee) has been a go-to strategy for this recruiting staff, and that trend looks to continue in the 2011 recruiting haul.
The latest pair comes from Florida's Hollywood Chaminade high school, in FL WR Curt "Spiffy" Evans (pictured at right) and S Jonathan Aiken. Their teammate, QB Jerrard Randall, also has Michigan interest. Though we knew about Aiken's offer last week, Evans received one at the same time:
I opened mine first and they were identical envelopes so I was like “Whoa!”. I gave him the letter and he was like “Man you’re big time, you got Michigan!”.
The pair might visit this summer, though it sounds like Michigan might be window dressing, at least for Evans:
I want to talk to the coach and find out what day they would want me up there and basically go from there. We’re going up to camp at Ohio State and Notre Dame so we might be able to get up there then...
One of my personal favorites now, well two really, are Vanderbilt and Alabama just because of where I’m from and because I’ve been talking to Vanderbilt a whole lot. Plus their academics really impress me. But these offers like from Michigan, I push them in front of some of the smaller schools just because of who they are.
Though Aiken seems to be playing a similar tune:
I mean, if I can get that one, that means I can get more. So I’m just seeing what I can do to get the biggest schools. Michigan is one of the biggest but now I’m starting to hear from schools on the west coast like UCLA. So I’m just trying to see what else I can get.
Their interest seemed much more genuine when Evans talked to Tom last week:
TOM: Since all of you have Michigan offers, have you talked about going to school together?
SPIFFY: Yeah, we’ve talked about it. If it happens, it would be nice, but it’s not something we’re really trying to do. All three of us are going to take an official to Michigan, though. We already decided that. We actually might try to drive up to Michigan for a summer camp, too [Evans also told SoFlaFootball that a Michigan camp visit is definite.]...
TOM: Yeah, it sounds like Michigan might have a good chance then?
SPIFFY: Michigan has a real good chance. I need to get to know the coaches, and see how that progresses, and see the campus. But, yeah, they have a good chance. I actually talked to Denard Robinson a little while ago. I know him, I’m not really good friends with him, but he was telling me how great it is up there, and that was cool to hear from a Florida kid.
And the same deal when Tom spoke with Aiken (right):
"Me and Spiffy were both excited about Michigan. I watch Michigan all the time on TV, and I think it would be great to play in that maize and blue. I'm probably going to wait until signing day, just to make sure everything's right. Curt and I want to go to the same school, too, so that's a good opportunity for us."
"I read MGoBlog all the time, actually."
In another potential package deal that we're already familiar with, FL WR Sammy Watkins will reveal a public top 10 soon. It is expected to include Michigan, as both he and FL DB/Ath Dallas Crawford are high on the Wolverines following their spring game visit. I wouldn't get your hopes up just yet on both, though.
OH OL Aundrey Walker is the subject of the latest Sam Webb column in The Detroit News. Walker on his game:
"I'm 6-6, 355, and I'm a mean streaker," he said with a laugh. "I like to dog people -- pancake people, lay on top of them, and talk. That's what I do! Blow people off the ball, drive them down the field 20 yards, and then slam them! That's what I do (laughing). That's what God created. I learned from the cradle. My father was a football
player. He was a mean-streaker too. I've just got the attitude to be a dog."
And Scout.com's Bill Greene on Walker:
"Walker is a mauler on the football field, and while his technique might need work, there is no doubting his physical ability," Greene said. "He plays hard and he comes off the ball with a nasty attitude looking to dominate his opponent. Off the field, he is well-spoken, intelligent and a leader. It's no wonder he has schools across the country chasing after him."
Walker admits to loving the Buckeyes in the article, unsurprising for a recruit out of Cleveland Glenville. He'll also wait until the end of the process to make a selection, and though it's likely he'll pick OSU, he's at least giving Michigan more of a chance than Glenville guys have in the recent past. MGoBoard's Magnus evaluates Walker's teammate, OH QB Cardale Jones, on Touch the Banner. [Ed: Dude, Walker isn't coming here.]
And for less-positive package deal news, it appears as though LA S Renaldo Thomas and LA OL Trai Turner may be coming off the board soon. Though Turner has mentioned wanting to visit Michigan, Thomas is expected to commit to LSU this week, and one of his teammates ($, info in header) will probably join him. All signs point to that being Turner. No impending decision is expected for the third St. Augustine prospect with a Michigan offer, LA OL Jonah Austin.
Michigan is in good shape with NC QB Marquise Williams. The Scout article linked is available for free, and reveals that Williams has a top 3 of North Carolina, Michigan, and Notre Dame.
Savon did well enough last fall to rush for 1,544 yards (7.3 yards per carry) and 22 touchdowns.
"He's sort of a bigger Silas Redd," said Mike Farrell of Rivals.com. "He doesn't have the same feet but definitely a little more size and is a little stronger. He also has a knack about him balance-wise, he's really hard to bring down. He's like Marcus Lattimore because he does everything well but also has a knack for bouncing off tackles and gaining three, four yards every time."
"I've been talking to all of the coaches, saying, 'Why is Savon No. 1 your charts?' The most popular answer is that while one (tailback) may have speed and one may have power, they say Savon, more than the others, has a very uncanny sense of balance, and they say that's something you can't teach. He'll run past you, run over you and run around you, and his yards after contact are ridiculous."
That's some serious love from analysts. It's not clear how in-the-mix for Huggins Michigan actually is, but he won't make a decision until February, so there's plenty of time before we find out. Check out his sophomore and junior highlights to see what the coaches are apparently drooling over.
FL RB Demetrius Hart's on-again, off-again impending commit to the Wolverines may be in an off-again phase, as Tom shares that he might not be able to make it up for the BBQ. Still, he's expected to eventually join Michigan, prompting Alabama writers to sound like a snubbed lover:
Originally, he was expected to bring teammate Dee Hart, a standout running back, to Alabama with him, but it appears as though Michigan will somehow track down Hart. Apparently there is some family relations within the program extending way back before his high school years. For most Alabama fans this could serve as a sigh of relief. Dee is an impressive player in his own right, however I think the Tide has their sights set elsewhere.
"I don't know what he sees in those losers. Whatever, we weren't that into him, anyway." Nice try, bro.
Michigan has offered NC TE Drew Owens ($, info in header). It's clear that they definitely want a tight end in this class unless they're looking at all of these offered guys as potential position switchers.
I missed this when it happened over a week ago, but it now appears as though IL DE/LB James Adeyanju has received a Michigan offer. Tom briefly mentioned him in his look at defensive line recruiting as an unoffered prospect. Adeyanju's brother, Victor, played at Indiana and is now in the NFL with the St. Louis Rams.
NC LB Kris Frost tells Tom he's "still loving Michigan." Our contacts in North Carolina tell mgoblog that Frost is a heavy Michigan lean, but will extend the recruiting process to get all the perks.
In The Army Now
The US Army All-American Bowl sent out a wave of "nominations" recently, including not only a number of Michigan targets, but also a couple commits. OH CB Greg Brown has now received a nomination, and we already knew MI CB Delonte Hollowell had already been invited to participate. Speaking of Hollowell, he has an updated junior highlight reel:
400 nominations to the game went out last week, so we'll hold off on reporting every single guy who has Michigan interest until that number is pared down a bit. Most of the top guys that Michigan is pursuing have been invited (or are already committed to ESPN's game).
Top 6 Lists
This normally wouldn't get its own header, but an oddly high number of prospects have released lists of exactly six schools, so here goes:
MI OL Anthony Zettel has a top 6, which I'll assume consists of Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, and a couple other schools.
MI RB Justice Hayes has a top 6, including Michigan.
One of the nation's top defensive linemen, FL DT Tim Jernigan, has Michigan in a top 6 along with Florida (the presumed favorite), Alabama, Florida State, LSU, and Southern Cal. He says all those schools are even, and they're the only ones that he's still considering.
Michigan is not in the top three of FL WR Ja'juan Story, but Tom says they're in the top 10. PA DE Shawn Oakman has to choose whether to play basketball or football at the next level. Michigan is showing interest in PA RB/LB Brandon Cottom, but hasn't yet offered ($, info in header). Some Michigan targets impressed at the ESPN RISE camp at Ohio State. The Skyline Chili Ohio Crosstown Showdown (where Paul and I saw Terry Talbott's Huber Heights Wayne team play last year) has announced its schedule for 2010. No current Michigan commits are playing. Michigan coaches drop in on OH WR Devin Smith ($, info in header). AZ OL Andre Yruretagoyena is still thinking about Michigan ($, info in header).
In a (thankfully brief) ceremony yesterday, the next phase of Michigan's basketball programs kicked off with the groundbreaking on a new practice facility.
Though most Athletic Department representatives didn't say it raises expectations - they want to win every game, every year, how can you get higher than that? - the facility will help both the men's and women's programs reach new levels of success. The expectations haven't changed, but the ability to reach them has improved. There are two ways in which the facility will help the program: getting top recruits on campus, and helping them improve once they're Wolverines.
AD David Brandon summed up the recruiting benefit simply, saying "I always look at these things from the perspective of a recruit." Young kids will want to see that the school is trying to help them reach their goals on the basketball court before they ever consider committing to Michigan. Men's coach John Beilein said that recruits don't talk about the lack of a practice facility, but their silence speaks volumes.
Once top recruits are on campus, the new practice facility will be a huge benefit to improving their game. The main gym at Crisler Arena is the only basketball court on Michigan's Athletic campus (depending on what you consider the free-for-all gyms at the IM Building). Now, there will be courts to use for practice even when Crisler Arena is occupied by other events. Players will also have access to practice facilities during non-peak hours, meaning it's easier for them to take the classes they want. The players will also be practicing in the same facility that their coaches work, which isn't the case right now. Currently, the coaches' offices are in the main athletic department complex.
Though the schedule is not set in stone, the completion date for the project is in Fall of 2011. There's a good chance construction goes ahead of schedule, as it has for the Michigan Stadium Project, but the coaches are telling 2011 recruits that the facility should be done around the time they enter school.
Yay, we will finally have a practice facility!
Side Note: According to Associate AD Joe Parker, 59 of the 81 suites in Michigan Stadium are committed. All but two of those have been paid for. There will be an open house in June for those who have committed to suites or club seats to come sit in their seats and see what the view will be like. For more info, head to michiganstadiumproject.com.
We won't replicate Dylan's googlestalk of Colton Christian, Michigan's latest basketball recruit, but a guy did just sign with Michigan's basketball program. This is news. The high-level view: Christian is a 6'7" SF/PF who decommitted from Tulane after their coach was fired, visited and was offered by Penn State (meh) and Cal (hey maybe), and committed to Michigan after an official visit this weekend. He's a two star or unranked to Scout and Rivals and an 85—whatever that means—to ESPN.
So… yeah. Scouting reports make him sound like a less extreme version of Brent Petway:
Christian was super involved in most of his team’s plays, showing an extremely high motor on both ends of the floor. At 6′7, Christian is an undersized 4 who unfortunately doesn’t appear to have much length or strength to compensate. That said, he’s a solid athlete with a good second bounce around the basket, and he constantly puts all his physical tools to work with his relentless style of play.
Christian does the majority of his damage on the defensive end, attacking the glass, hustling back in transition, attacking passing lanes, and playing strong, fundamentally sound post defense.
IE, he can't actually jump over the backboard but has dribbled a basketball at least once in his life. That scouting report goes on to criticize Christian's limited offensive game; ESPN's evaluation, on the other hand, praises a "capable scorer on the block" with "range out to 18 feet." Dave Telep notes the last relative who-dat Beilein signed out of Hargrave was Joe Alexander, so there's that.
Christian's quite a comedown from Trey Zeigler or Casey Prather and Michigan has now put all their eggs in the Beilein Sleeper Evaluation basket, but at least he's another chunk of size added to the roster and a guy who can contribute in multiple ways even if his offensive game is relatively limited, which it might not be. Christian's coach at Hargrave says he's got an impressive skill package that no one got to see($) because they started three guards. Offhand comparison: former Iowa and future USC SF/PF Aaron Fuller? Beilein was after Fuller for a while.
This likely ends Michigan's pursuit of Isaiah Sykes—a kid who transferred to four different high schools has sketchy handlers, who knew—and probably finishes the class of 2010 unless Beilein stumbles across a 6'10" German who could go in the first round of the NBA draft in a few years. /dramatic sigh.
BONUS BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE: Before a post-grad year at Hargrave, you can see above that Christian was a Bellevue Wolverine. That's Steve Schilling's alma mater.
Ha Fooled You Here's Tim's Post On Christian
Definitely not a miscommunication at this here blog. Definitely an elaborate and incredibly early April Fool's joke that will go down as the greatest of all time.
|2*, NR PF||3*, NR PF (2009)||85|
This kid is under-the-radar enough that Rivals has his name wrong ("Christian Colton" they say, but his profile from pre-postgrad is a little more updated), though he was previously committed to Tulane. ESPN scouted him last November:
Christian plays a very efficient, and college ready, brand of basketball. He isn’t going to dominate the game with his scoring but has some inside-out skills and impacts the game in a variety of ways. He’s a capable scorer on the block with a little jump hook and can also step out to 18 feet and shoot. He’s strong and very athletic off of two feet, bodies up well defending the post, and rebounds out of his area.
From his original Tulane commitment article on Scout, Hargrave coach Kevin Keatts give a bit of praise:
“What makes him really good is that his motor runs all the time. He plays above the rim and he competes. I’ve had a few guys like him and they’ve always been successful.”
Draft Express seems somewhat down on his potential (HT UMHoops):
At 6′7, Christian is an undersized 4 who unfortunately doesn’t appear to have much length or strength to compensate. That said, he’s a solid athlete with a good second bounce around the basket, and he constantly puts all his physical tools to work with his relentless style of play...
Offensively, he appears a bit limited, not showing much prowess on his perimeter shot, and relying mostly on a turnaround jumper in the post, which he has limited success with. He is good on the offensive glass and finishing around the basket on cuts, but he clearly has a ways to go here.
Keatts also says he's clueless as to why Christian hadn't gotten more interest at the time. He squared off against Darius Morris in high school:
2010 Bellevue prospect Aaron Bright scored 18 points as did Michigan signee Darius Morris of Windward. The key to the win for Bellevue was the support Bright got from forward Colton Christian, who scored a game high 20 points. Strong and athletic, Christian played like a low to mid-major prospect in this game.
"Low to mid-major" isn't the most encouraging sign in the world, but he picked up a little more BCS-conference attention later in the process as we'll see from the...
Christian had been committed to Tulane, so obviously he held an offer from the Green Wave. Rivals lists his only other offer as coming from Appalachian State. Scout's listing is a little less panic-inducing, saying he held offers from the likes of Penn State and Cal.
This kid wasn't exactly being courted by the powerhouse teams of NCAA basketball, and it's not because of lack of exposure: Hargrave Academy routinely puts out D-1 talent. With Beilein's track record, I don't think that's too worrisome.
In his postgrad year at Hargrave Military Academy, UMHoops reports that Christian averaged 14 points and 14 rebounds per game. That's fairly impressive, considering he was playing alongside a number of 3- and 4-star recruits.
Zip ahead to #4, at 1:28 in.
There are also a couple game highlight videos out there, including when he played against Darius Morris.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Michigan is in need of size, and Christian provides it away from the center position. He'll probably be ready to play right away, though his upside and athleticism are more enticing than his ability as a true freshman.
He'll get some court time this year, probably in the 7-minute range on average, but as he is able to get into the weight room and practice gym to work on his body and his offensive game, he can become a significant contributor as an upperclassman.