Notes from Rich Rodriguez's press conference and the first day of spring practice. Follow me on Twitter (@varsityblue) for live updates.
- Injuries: David Molk and Vincent Smith are out for spring with knee injuries. Junior Hemingway and Brandon Herron had recent knee surgeries, hopefully Hemingway will be able to make it back for the end of spring practice. Zac Johnson and Mike Martin are limited (non-contact) for the spring with shoulder injuries.
- Nick Sheridan and Bryan Wright are no longer on the football team. Sheridan wants to go into coaching, but he can't work with the football team now, since he hasn't graduated. Wright's persistent back issues have led him to give up the game, and he's going to graduate and move on.
- Position changes: Cameron Gordon has been moved to safety, as has Teric Jones. This means Troy Woolfolk and Justin Turner will both play corner this spring. There's the potential that one or both of them can move to safety down the road.
- Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson are options 1 and 2 at quarterback. When Denard isn't taking snaps, he's too valuable to take off the field, and they'll give him some run at wide receiver (there's enough running back depth that they won't need him there). Devin Gardner has a great work ethic, and he'll be willing to earn any playing time he might get. Rodriguez is glad he could get in for spring, because there's a lot to learn.
- At the running back position, a number of guys are competing with Vincent Smith out for spring practice. Michael Shaw, Mike Cox, and Fitzgerald Toussaint will fill in, along with the two freshmen (Austin White and Stephen Hopkins), and there's a chance that some slot receivers get reps at that position as well.
- The team knows that they always have something to prove. Even if Michigan had performed better on the field in the past two years, there's always something to prove.
- Brendan Gibbons and Will Hagerup were the only two kicking specialists mentioned. Gibbons seems to be the favorite at kicker, and Hagerup won't arrive until fall, but will probably punt.
- Many offensive linemen worked hard to improve their bodies in the off-season, especially the freshmen Quinton Washington, Taylor Lewan, and Michael Schofield. They'll be in the mix for some playing time.
- Elsewhere on the offensive line, Rocko Khoury, Elliott Mealer, and Christian Pace will play center with Molk out for spring. Rodriguez likes to have four guys who can snap the ball. When Molk is healthy in the fall, there's a good chance that he'll be one of the best centers in the Big Ten.
- Brandon Graham will be missed from both a production and leadership standpoint. On the field, Ryan Van Bergen, Greg Banks, Adam Patterson, and even Craig Roh will play his old spot. RVB and Banks will play both inside and outside on the DL. As for leadership, the veterans will have to step up, even though there's a very small group of seniors this year.
- The defense should be able to take a step forward in the second year under the same defensive coordinator. A few schemes will be tweaked, but they'll try to keep them simpler, because there's a good chance some true freshmen will have to fill in this fall. The coaches are going to try for a bigger rotation defensively, so more guys will see the field.
- "Buying in" is not an issue for this team (anymore?), things now come down to a matter of executing properly to improve performance in games.
As for practice, most of the useful information will probably come from the pictures, but a couple quick observations:
- Vincent Smith was wearing a red jersey, but in his football gear. Dave Molk was practicing snaps.
- Nick Sheridan was hanging around watching in street clothes.
- Stephen Hopkins is frickin' huge. That kid will be a tank with the ball in his hands.
- Gardner's throwing motion looks improved from the end of his high school season. Once he is able to get actual coaching, it should continue getting better.
- I thought Christian Pace looked much bigger than he did on Signing Day, though it may have just been the difference in wardrobe (warmups on Signing Day). He didn't even look like an offensive lineman in February.
Apologies if the quality is a little worse than usual; I don't have the mad editing skillz that Paul does.
They're having the usual press conference and 30 minutes of drills and whatnot today, on the first day of spring practice, but there are a couple bits that have already come down. One is an updated spring roster that's missing Nick Sheridan—who is becoming a GA—and kicker Bryan Wright. Wright would have been a redshirt senior next year; apparently he's taking his degree and heading out. Wright did kickoffs last year, FWIW.
- As expected, Cam Gordon is listed at S. So are Brandin Hawthorne and Teric Jones.
- Mike Jones is listed at linebacker.
- Ryan Van Bergen is listed as a defensive end, providing yet further confirmation that he is the Graham apparent. Steve Watson, who was a quick end last year, is probably headed for strongside DE this year—he's listed at 257 and a DE.
Not a ton we didn't know about there. Roh and Herron are listed as linebackers, but they were listed as linebackers last year.
Significant weight changes:
|Ryan Van Bergen||271||280||+9|
All weight changes, positive or negative, will be portrayed as positive by fluff articles. The names that jump off this list to me are…
- Tate Forcier: slightly less likely to get broken in two.
- Hemingway, Moore, and Webb are now strapping fellows indeed. I can't imagine Hemingway is going to be much of a deep threat at 227; if he is he's going to explode. You can tack freshman Stephen Hopkins in here, too: he's listed at 236. That's a battering ram of a tailback.
- Losing Brandon Graham sucks hard but replacing his 263 pounds with Will Campbell's 324 and tacking on 21 pounds (Mike Martin gained a single pound) elsewhere on the line yields a starting defensive line twenty pounds heavier on average than last year's. The backups all put on six to ten pounds as well, and will presumably get bigger by August.
- The line should be about the same size. Ortmann (284) and Moosman (293) exit and are likely to be replaced by Omameh (293) and Barnum (282). Schilling is about the same size. Molk is actually lighter, though I assume that's an effect of his injury-wracked year and rehab more than a goal. The only presumptive starter who will be a lot bigger is potential RT Mark Huyge, up 17. The new kids will continue to put on weight and Molk should regain what he lost, so overall it will be a little bigger but not by much.
- Schofield and Lewan probably need another year.
- I can't imagine that Michigan actually wanted Leach to get smaller.
- It's good that Michigan is putting weight on Will Campbell now instead of taking it off, right?
This concludes your vastly too detailed review of the spring roster. Carry on.
Coming into the year, expectations were high for the Michigan basketball team. They were fresh off their first NCAA Tournament appearance in a decade, returning two of the best players in the Big Ten. They had to replace only walk-ons and a Canadian.
So that worked out great, right? Most Michigan fans probably would have told you that #15 in the nation was too high, but nobody would have had the audacity to tell you that the Wolverines would remain mostly healthy and still limp to a sub-.500 record. In its 18 defeats, the Michigan basketball team had found just about every way to lose. There was the time they were run off the court by an inferior opponent, the time they stayed in the game against a much better opponent despite missing one of their best players, the time they almost upset their instate rival but fell just short, and all variety of just not being the better team. Also times where Evan Turner hit a 37-foot prayer at the buzzer.
There have to be reasons for these things happening, and no, Idiot Message Board Guy, that reason is not "JOHN BEILEIN SHOULD BE FIRED OMG."
As with most John Beilein teams, Michigan was expected to bomb away from deep this year, and bomb away they did. Unfortunately, nobody seemed to tell them that they were supposed to, like, make some of those shots. For the season, they shot 41.6% from the field, and 29.9% from long range. This constituted 43.2% of their shots. Put it all together, and it results in a crappy 48.1 eFG% on the season. That's good for about 230th in the country. Last year, they shot 50.3 eFG%, and finished 117th.
For individual changes in shooting, I think we're going to need a...
Chart. Players are arranged by the number of shots they took in 2009-10.
|Player||2008-09 eFG%||2009-10 eFG%|
Every returning player except Manny Harris and Zack Gibson saw a reduction in their shooting percentage from last year to this. I didn't check how many of those dropoffs are statistically significant (I imagine not very many of them, if any).
Also, for all the talk about how Michigan "only lost two walkons," everyone seems to have forgotten (and I'm guilty of this as well) that Kelvin Grady was an important part of last year's team, and a true point guard with some experience could have helped Michigan a ton this year. While some of the variation is probably luck, a team-wide regression points to poorer overall shot quality, and that starts with the gutted point guard position. This is true both with and without the ball: last year Lee, Grady, and Merritt were 1-2-3 in three point shooting. The three headed point guard took more threes than anyone on the team—172—and made more of them. This year the point guard was no-shoot Darius Morris and two guys, Laval Lucas-Perry and Stu Douglass, who struggled massively with at the spot.
OK, so I take it back: injuries actually might have played a significant role in the season. Michigan was expecting to have at least one more big man in Ben Cronin, and maybe another in Jordan Morgan. Cronin, a true seven-footer, saw his season (and probably career) come to an end in November thanks to a recurring hip problem that surgery couldn't repair. Morgan is just a freshman, and probably wouldn't have played a significant role on the team even if he hadn't had a shoulder injury that forced surgery and a redshirt.
With Zack Gibson and Deshawn Sims Michigan's only players above 6-8 (and in Sims's case, he's only listed as so), this team was never going to be able to play big. Sure, they could have used Gibson and Sims together a bit more, but that also carried a risk of one of them getting in foul trouble and not having either of them when the other needed a rest.
Zack Novak is not a true power forward. Anybody who has watched the game of basketball and notice that he doesn't even graze 6-5 can tell you that. But Michigan didn't have a ton of (read: any) other options. Criticizing Novak for not being tall enough seems a little unfair, since I think that's mostly out of his control.
So, for all the coach-fans that say Michigan should have gone big or pounded inside more or whatever, they really couldn't do it much more than they did. They went to Sims early in nearly every game, but the opponents would figure it out in short order, and the option would disappear when shooters didn't emerge as a serious threat. At 6'8"-ish, Sims always struggled against guys pushing seven feet tall and no amount of development can fix that when you're the biggest guy on the court.
It's natural to look at the coaching of this team as a potential weakness. For all the limitations of this roster, it was mostly Beilein-assembled, particularly the guys who we were supposed to be relying on as shooters and either couldn't find the basket (Stu Douglass, Zack Novak) or the court (Matt Vogrich).
On a micro scale, there were individual strategic decisions in games that probably didn't make a lot of sense, either. Something with some guy named Turner comes to mind, I don't really remember. But for every one of those, there was probably a positive moment that either went unnoticed or, in one painful instance, un-capitalized upon.
At this point, it's far too early to even consider ditching the only coach who's taken Michigan to the tournament in the past decade. He has a track record of success at every level, and he hasn't done anything yet to show he's not capable of accomplishing that in Ann Arbor. For those who say "well he only lost walk-ons from a tournament team and went under .500," I reply: dude, you do realize that you just said this guy took a team to the tournament as he was forced to play walk-ons extensive time, right? As much as this team may have underachieved, it only looks worse because last year's squad overachieved so much by comparison.
There have been a lot of accusations over the past couple days that Michigan "underachieved" this year, which duh. However, those who say "Michigan only lost walk-ons off a tournament team should be in the tournament, bro" need to keep in mind that, as much as this team underachieved, last year's squad most definitely overachieved.
Luck most certainly played a role (F you, Evan Turner), and fortunately, Ken Pomeroy has a "Luck Rating" which measures a team's performance against expectation based on Pomeroy's rankings. Last year, Michigan was +0.004 in luck, 131st in the nation. This year? -0.086, 330th out of 347 D-1 teams. This team was horrifically unlucky this year, and slightly lucky last year, making the quality difference between the teams look much more severe than it actually was. In the end, Michigan finished 50th last year and 60th this year. The slide was real but not as severe as the numbers suggested.
For the record, this year's painfully inconsistent team was 238th in "Consistency" to Pomeroy. Last year's was actually worse at 266th.
Can It Get Better Next Year?
As the perpetually optimistic Michigan fan, I am inclined to say yes without even really thinking about the question. [Ed.: An exercise for the reader: if Tim is still perpetually optimistic, what short of a nuclear explosion centered on Michigan Stadium could cause him to lose this trait?] This team has to improve, right?
That partially hinges on the professional whims of Manny Harris. The eyeball test says he needs a senior, but he may be ready to move on. For what it's worth, Sam Webb suggests it's 65-35 Manny stays. The recruitment of Trey Zeigler is another huge factor, as he would be an instant-impact type.
The roster composition should be different next year either way, as Jordan Morgan and Blake McLimans will add some size. For the first time in Beilein's career at Michigan he'll have a true 4 for his system in the form of incoming freshman Evan "Metrics" Smotrycz. They'll have to be ready to contribute, since both of Michigan's post players are moving on after this season.
Michigan's shooting should (hopefully) improve after a decided downturn this year, and the roster should be much more experienced as long as Manny returns. Assuming "luck" is essentially random, the pendulum should swing back the other way (though that's not guaranteed - look at the football teams' turnover margin this fall), and hopefully break even at worst. If Manny comes back, it should be season in which Michigan contends for the NCAA tourney. Life on the bubble isn't satisfying four years into Beilein's tenure, but that's life.
The 2009-10 athletic season is on its way out, and bright times are ahead.
[Ed.: FL RB Demetrius Hart was high on every Michigan fan's list of desired and expected commits early in the recruiting cycle, but that was before a flurry of articles in which Michigan found itself on the outside looking in of a top three consisting of Alabama, Auburn, and Florida. Tom caught up with Hart and discovered a recent change in plans that should see Michigan re-enter Hart's recruitment as a serious player. Without further ado.]
TOM: There’s a rumor going around that you’re coming up to Michigan soon?
DEMETRIUS: Yeah, we’re coming up April 16th. I just wanted to see Ricardo, and see the spring game and everything. We’re all family, so we look out for each other. My mom is like Ricardo’s Aunt, so we’re all close like that.
TOM: What prompted this visit?
DEMETRIUS: My mom is going to have a meeting with Coach Rod, and talk to him about everything that’s been going on. She has a lot of say in this, so she needs to figure some things out. She wants to know about the allegations, and their plans for the future, and what they’re going to do from here on out.
TOM: Michigan’s out of your top three right now, but can this visit get them back in?
DEMETRIUS: Definitely. I mean, Michigan has always been the best for me, but like I said, my mom needs to hear some things. I already talked to Coach Rod about everything, so he knows what’s up. After she talks to him, then we’ll sit down and talk and figure it out. I’ve always loved Michigan, though.
TOM: After this visit, what happens from here?
DEMETRIUS: I had a timeline, but I’m not sure. I want to take this visit, then one to Alabama. After that, I’m just going to go with the flow, and see what happens.
It has been a long journey through the desert but finally there is a t-shirt that says "Space, Bitches!" in commemoration of Michigan's killer Apollo PSA. Yea, and it came down from the mountain and it was good:
In commemoration, we'll make this MGoBlog Yahoo tourney bracket an officially sponsored thing. Top five get a freebie Space shirt and the winner gets a bonus of his or her choosing. Group #36042, password "mgoblog." Get to thy brackets.
Truth. From the message board: a post entitled "Jake Long is bigger than you" that is 100% truth.
The third guy in that line is a 6'1", 235 pound former D-III linebacker.
[David Chappelle racist white guy voice] "They have such animal passions." [/dcrwgv] One of the main tensions on the message boards around here is between people who reflexively attack people who write anything even slightly negative about Michigan and people who push back at them. I thought the latter group was more correct after the signing day press conference when Dave Birkett went into I Are Serious Reporter mode and latched onto Rodriguez's pant leg for a series of questions about Demar Dorsey.
Yeah, it was kind of a dick move, but if you're going to add every reporter who sees a piece of meat and goes after it to the enemies list there isn't going to be anyone left off that list in short order. QED: even Angelique Chengelis got knocked around after she said the Victors Rally was dumb. Birkett was one of the people pointing out that the ridiculous Freep story about Rodriguez invoking Hurricane Katrina left out that thing called context.
This from the latest chat on AnnArbor.com, however, is indefensible. Birkett is out and pops back in. He offers this apropos of nothing:
Dave Birkett: Sorry had to run for a more. A buddy came over to look at my home repair issue. I'm back.
Dave Birkett: If anyone needs any home improvement done, try Nelson Home Improvement. I've been using them for years.
Dave Birkett: And thanks Demar, I'll see you here shortly. No need to bring your crowbar.
There is absolutely no context for that. So… wow. Cheapshotting a kid who hasn't even enrolled, you've never talked to, and is trying to turn his life around. Classy. How about we wait for Dorsey to do something, maybe?
First in line. Due to a walk-on snafu, Michigan is only going to be able to enroll 26 of their 27 players this fall. This will leave at least one scholarship open, and the guy at the top of the list will surprise no one:
UM coach Rich Rodriguez maintained throughout the season that it's his intention to include Kovacs among his scholarship players. That process has seemingly progressed this offseason.
"He'll have the first one available in the fall, and it looks like one will be available," Rodriguez said. "I'm hoping it will be available for this summer because he's earned one."
I've seen a couple people react to this article as if Kovacs is now a full scholarship player, but that does not seem to be the case. If Michigan actually has 85 scholarship players on the roster in 2011, Kovacs will have to pay his way. Given the way Michigan recruits—not oversigning like a mother—that's not likely.
Also in that article is a rundown of the players who will be unavailable for spring: Brandon Herron, Mike Martin, Vincent Smith, and David Molk. Junior Hemingway has a minor injury and will miss a week or two.
No thanks. Chengelis suggests the spring game should be held at night. I'm not one of those guys who hates night games, but that seems like an epically bad idea. Reasons:
- In April it's often really nice out during the day and super cold at night. One of the main draws of the game is to have an excuse to sit outside in the spring sun after the traditional Michigan hibernation period.
- Attendance would be depressed since people aren't going to get a hotel room for the spring game.
- Michigan would have to shell out for portable lights.
- Any Michigan football game that starts after 3:30 is like feeding Gizmo after midnight. Do you want a zombie apocalypse?
I would like to see Michigan push the start time back to two or three so I can take the rare opportunity to tailgate properly.
In which you prove their point anyway. WLA tiff with the Buckeye Battle Cry, the new-ish SBNation Ohio State blog. In sum: WLA posts picture of Kevin from the Office on blog to imply that while the "writers" there are probably not handicapped that's something you would need careful examination and probably a DNA test to confirm. Kevin from the Office deletes, bans, and then contacts the poster's employer.
I'm not sure why SBN even has an Ohio State blog if that was the best one they could sign up. Talk about damaging your brand.
Etc.: Jimmy King interviewed by Lost Lettermen. New blog by a diarist around here is up: Wolverine Tactics opines on what to do with Denard. Discount tickets available for the CCHA Championships. Markus previews UConn. Yes, in March.