"Jim's a tough guy and you can see his personality is all over this football team," Fitzgerald said.
|WHAT||#8 Michigan H&H vs #1 Notre Dame|
|WHERE||Joyce Ice Arena (Friday)/Yost Ice Arena (Saturday)|
|WHEN||8:05 PM Friday, 7:35 PM Saturday|
|THE LINE||Uh… do they have college hockey lines?|
|TELEVISION||Friday on CBS College Sports, Saturday on FSN|
Michigan's currently third in the CCHA by percentages—they trail a few teams on which they have two or even four games in hand—and seventh in the pairwise. Though Notre Dame has all but clinched the regular season CCHA crown, this coming weekend means a great deal for the team.
One: it's Notre Dame. Screw those guys in the ear. Two: this is probably the best team Michigan will play all year. They're 19-3-3, unbeaten in 20, #1 in the polls, and a solid #1 seed in the Pairwise. Three: this is the team that knocked Michigan out of the NCAA tourney. See earlier statement about ears and screwing therein. Four: it's hard to tell exactly what's going to go down with the wacky Pairwise this early, but a sweep here and Michigan—believe it or not—is well-positioned to acquire a #1 seed when the tournament arrives. (For one: it'll be really tough for ND to win the comparison when they're 0-2 against M, pending a potential matchup at the Joe.)
About that sweep, though: the last time Notre Dame lost was October 25th. Miami completed a weekend sweep of 3-2, and since then it's been 17-0-3. Though ND's competition since hasn't been rough—mostly bad CCHA teams with UMD and BC interspersed—any win streak of that length says volumes about a team. Michigan just gacked one away to BGSU, after all. This team is the class of the league and perhaps the nation, and if we're being honest with ourselves a split would be just fine thanks.
The key to their success? They really don't give up that many goals. They've given up more than three just one time the entire season, and that was in the season opener (a 5-2 loss at Denver). They've only given up 3 goals on five occasions. They've held an opponent to 0 or 1 goals on fourteen occasions.
That bodes unwell for a Michigan team that has struggled to score against teams as weak as Northern Michigan, Western Michigan, and Bowling Green. First goal will be even more critical than it usually is.
I assume we'll see Hogan, since the last time Michigan ran up against Notre Dame Billy Sauer went all Nickelback on us. (Side note: that post is on the first page of Google hits for "Nickelback sucks"; I could, if I so chose, declare victory and retire a satisfied man.)
Mitera inches closer. Mitera has hit the ice at Yost with the team. Red would like you to hold your horses, though:
"It’s good, but Mitera’s not ‘back’ back,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “It’s all a matter of getting into full practice, full tempo, full intensity and then full contact. I think he’s fine. It’s just a matter of him and the doctors getting confidence.
“He looks fine and he feels fine, but he’s not in shape.”
The Daily links an earlier article in which Mitera said he was aiming to return for the last weekend of the regular season against Ferris, but the latest info from Mel Pearson projected Mitera to return as early as two weekends from now against Nebraska-Omaha.
Return of the jack. Corey Tropp has returned to his USHL team, although he remains "enrolled" at Michigan State. He plans to return next year, but that's not decided:
The plan right now is we’ll sit down and talk at the end of the season. They have to make a decision and I’ll have to make a decision on what I think’s best for me.
Tropp does not come off well in that interview, BTW. Red said his last bit on this stuff, if you're interested in that. (Hoover Street Rag also has a comprehensive recap of the various and sundry reactions.)
Meanwhile, Steve Kampfer testified in court about that other head trauma and Bruce Kampfer has been banned from "most buildings on Michigan's campus"—I bet he can still go to the FXB! Michigan also plans yet another of their periodic crackdowns on potty-mouthed Michigan students:
On Thursday, an e-mail was sent to U-M students reminding them of the warning printed on the backs of their game tickets, which in part reads that "management reserves the right to eject any person whose conduct management deems disorderly, obnoxious or unbecoming. ... We will eject, without warning, individuals who use profane language and/or make obscene gestures."
While I sympathize with the administration about the issue, (if not in the specific instance that occurred Saturday) the way they go about this is the same half-ass tough guy thing every time. It never works and it won't work this time either. Kicking out a dozen kids doing the penalty box cheer does nothing. Either carrot-and-stick the whole student section—and there should be a "carrot" part—into compliance or give up.
(Kampfer testimony HT: Michigan Hockey Net.)
It's near signing day so the news is a bit more likely to expire before I can throw it at you so how about a special pre-weekend recruitin' blast? We established baseline expectations going into the final week of recruiting on Monday, so consider any unmentioned recruit to be status quo.
I've ceased updating the board, as it will be obsolete in under a week. Anyway, the changes:
The vibes on PA WR Je'Ron Stokes continue to be very good. The latest bit of public information comes from Bill Kurelic:
Stokes says he will decide between Tennessee, Michigan, Illinois and Georgia, but speculation has him changing his commitment from the Volunteers to the Wolverines when he announces his final decision next week.
Stokes may take a visit to Georgia this weekend but that's up in the air. Penn State is out, leaving Michigan geographically best situated; Tennessee's quarterback situation also has Stokes a bit leery. There have been a lot of favorable indicators here, like Tennessee message boards basically writing him off. Signs point to huzzah.
The status of the Deerfield Beach duo of FL QB Denard Robinson and FL CB Adrian Witty is also nearing consensus. The Wolverine's Josh Helmholdt:
Robinson, a quarterback, and Witty, a cornerback, are good friends off the field and want to attend the same school together. Only Michigan and Kansas State have offered both. Florida is also a contender for Robinson, but this one looks like it will go in Michigan’s favor.
The local paper echoes, saying it looks "more and more likely" Robinson picks M, which would naturally bring Witty along. Scout's Allen Wallace says Kansas State is "the major competition for Michigan here." Even Florida sites are down on their chances:
[Robinson] is a game changer who will be a big-time player (although maybe not at the QB position) on the next level. While Florida is still in play here, I feel like it is more likely that Robinson will end up at Kansas State or Michigan on National Signing Day.
At this point it's fair to say that Robinson and Witty going somewhere else would be something of a shock. Not quite as much as "Beaver to Conference USA," but, hey, whatever.
(There is one dissenter, but given the tidal wave of opinion going against this guy I bet dollars to donuts that he's just out of the loop.)
SC OL Quinton Washington has cut a couple schools. Michigan is left standing in good position:
Washington has cut Clemson and Tennessee and will make his decision from USC, Michigan and Miami. USC and Michigan are the top two but he will visit Miami this weekend.
His coach seems to think it's tight:
"Michigan and South Carolina have done an outstanding job recruiting him. I wouldn't want to be him right now."
South Carolina message boards are considerably more chipper about Washington than UT boards are about Stokes, FWIW. (For perspective: "OMG he's ours" is the standard position of all message boards and should be taken as an absence of good news rather than a presence of bad news.)
Stock Stubbornly Immobile, Like Gene Keady's Hair
LA DT DeQuinta Jones took his official and, like many southern kids, was surprised he was not eaten by a polar bear:
“Snow was piled up everywhere,” said Jones, who verbally committed to the Wolverines over the summer. “But it really wasn’t that cold to me.”
One of the highlights of the trip for the handful of recruits was getting to pay a visit to coach Rich Rodriguez’s home. “We went to coach Rodriguez’s house and played pool,” Jones said. “It’s a three-story mansion.”Overall, Jones says his visit, “went real good.”
Prognosis remains the same here: likely but not definitely Michigan.
SC DE Sam Montgomery has cut Oregon from his list but the buzz on this one is pointing to North Carolina, they of the overflowing class and few spots. ESPN's JC Shurburtt says Michigan also trails another school:
While it's still a situation where anything could happen, several reliable sources have said that the recruitment of Under Armour All-American defensive end Sam Montgomery (Greenwood, S.C./Greenwood) focuses on three programs: North Carolina, LSU and Michigan. Most believe the Tar Heels and Tigers to be the frontrunners.
There's still a chance here but it's a slim one unless UNC DL coach John Blake gets hired by the Jets. Blake has just shot down those rumors.
LA LB Barkevious Mingo is taking a visit to… uh… UConn this weekend. That's probably not relevant. Also probably not relevant: Michigan in Mingo's recruitment. OH OL Marcus Hall has basically dropped Michigan, as expected.
LA WR Travante Stallworth reconfirmed his commitment to Auburn; he's out. LA DE Benny Logan got his LSU offer and committed.
A 2010 Item
Lest you think that FL WR commit Ricardo Miller is not big time:
This morning, Miller picked up a scholarship offer from LSU. This afternoon, Alabama faxed a written scholarship offer to his school. He is firm to the Wolverines.
That's pre-signing day offers from Alabama, LSU, Florida, and, of course, Michigan. Ricardo Miller is big time.
For the first time in more than 20 years, Michigan State could have a recruiting class better than Michigan's.
Scout ranks Michigan's class #16; State is sitting at #35. Rivals ranks Michigan's class #7 and State's #15. As mentioned above, Michigan looks to add three or four highly rated players before signing day. State is basically done. In no way is this assertion accurate except in the mind of Tom Lemming, who is creepy.
Steve Schilling, various, reaction to walk-on playing at left tackle.
Offensive line is the position group least understood by the average fan (and this blogger), but even the vast ignorance of the unwashed could not delude us into thinking this was a promising situation:
LT Yr. LG Yr. C Yr. RG Yr. RT Yr. Mark Ortmann Jr.* Tim McAvoy Jr.* David Molk Fr.* David Moosman So.* Steve Schilling So.* Perry Dorrestein So.* Ricky Barnum Fr.* Rocko Khoury Fr. John Ferrara So.* Dann O'Neill Fr.
Perhaps the saddest indicator of the potential looming tragedy that is the Michigan offensive line is this: last year this depth chart went three deep. There’s no one but freshmen unlisted this year and, uh… four freshmen in the actual two-deep as hypothesized above.
One returning starter, one backstabbing departure, and one unfortunate knee injury left Michigan one mishap away from starting John Ferrara, defensive tackle until two weeks ago, at guard. This was grim.
A brief tour of individual expectations reinforces. At tackle, Steve Schilling was "frankly bad" as a freshman, though there were a lot of reasons to believe he would take a significant step forward. Mark Ortmann was "stuck behind the uninspiring Schilling" and the starting left tackle "virtually by default."
On the interior, there was hardly any data except "none of these players could beat out Alex Mitchell and Jeremy Ciulla." Moosman "could be good" given his guru ratings and experience; McAvoy got a "lord knows if he's going to be any good," and Molk came in for equal parts skepticism and hope:
He fits much better in this system than Carr’s, as it emphasizes his mobility and places a much smaller premium on size, but Rodriguez made it clear he was battling John Ferrara for a starting job. Two weeks ago Ferrara was a defensive lineman. Crap.
There are virtually no backups as long as Cory Zirbel's knee injury persists, and the word from Rodriguez is that could be the entire season. Mark Huyge exists, I guess.
And unto the breach they went.
That's Not Surprising At All, Unfortunately
Well, yeah, it was a disaster. The Utah UFR:
Offensive line: their overall suck was obviously part of the gameplan in a huge way; I expect that will seriously impinge on Michigan’s attempts to forge an offense all year. Like 2005 except worse.
…the offensive line is bad for reasons other than execution. It is bad because the players on it are small or underpowered or just plain bad.
But wait! We played Notre Dame!
Michigan had great success with the zone stretch and occasional dive because Molk and either McAvoy or Moosman spent the day crushing the playside DT downfield. With good kickouts from the tackles and Notre Dame defenders keeping contain on Threet, McGuffie got into the secondary time and again.
Everything was fixed forever until the next week against Wisconsin:
That was the story of Wisconsin's defense: their active defensive tackles murdered Michigan's interior line all day against both the pass and the run. Notice that Michigan's second-half run game was successful largely when it completely avoided Wisconsin DTs or fooled them into slanting away from the play. For example, the Minor touchdown run was a counter to the zone stretch the Wisconsin D was expecting.
That was the low point for the offensive line, as the interior got whipped all day and it was only some spectacular flukes that put Michigan's offense in gear at the end of the game. Oh, and an INT returned for a touchdown. From there things began to improve bit by bit.
Ortmann was not the answer at left tackle and is—along with McAvoy or Ferrara or whoever you consider to be the incumbent left guard—the starter with his job most under threat. In that surprisingly excellent performance against Penn State there was one sore spot:
Here's your PROTECTION METRIC: 15/21, Team –1, Ortmann -5.
That might look ugly, but –5 of that game on two plays where Ortmann was beaten badly by Evans, one of which resulted in the game-killing sack/fumble. Everyone else was actually pretty decent.
Meanwhile, against Michigan State he checked in as a "goat."
The left side of the line is killing Michigan; I'd be surprised to see Ortmann keep his job once Dorrestein his healthy, and they've been trying to replace McAvoy all year.
Ortmann will be a senior this year and probably won't improve a ton; if he's running at all close with Omameh or O'Neill or anyone younger than him it wouldn't be surprising to see Rodriguez go with the option who will be of some use down the road.
Schilling was better than he was a year ago, but he didn't make that great leap forward we were vaguely hoping for. His run blocking came in for praise against, uh, Toledo, but there were a lot of minuses assigned to him in protection. The Michigan State UFR was pretty ugly:
And PROTECTION METRIC: 34/47. Ortmann –6, Schilling –5, Team –1, Moosman –1. Note that the tackles were often put in tough spots by the snap-jumping. Also note that a lot of this was against three-man rushes and the overall picture was pretty grim.
(This is the same performance that got Ortmann chastized above, FWIW.) Though the team exploded for 35 points against Purdue—punt return TD, remember—even then I noted how freaked out the OTs made me:
I am leery of both tackles these days, BTW, and wouldn't be surprised to see some sort of reconfiguration that sees Schilling slide inside to guard next year. At least they'll have some options other than "you appear to be healthy and were not a defensive tackle two weeks ago."
I've moved more towards surprise as regards that a reconfiguration, but more because I doubt Michigan finds better options at tackle than anything else.
Anyone who read this blog over the season probably remembers its growing appreciation for relatively tiny David Molk, the nimble center who occasionally got blown back directly into the running back but more often just barely held his ground so that the ballcarrier could shoot through a crease (and more often than not into unblocked second-level defenders, be they safeties or linebackers).
His agility helped him make a lot of tough reach blocks. One particular QB off tackle against Penn State spurred a Picture Pages in which he was the focus. The summary:
I think Molk might be pretty good once he is enormous-er. I brought this up earlier in the year, but Molk was a fringe top-100 guy who was the only real OL recruit brought in after the shift to zone blocking. He got dinged later in the year for being small, but in a system like this where he's reach-blocking all day his agility is an asset. Time and again against Penn State he successful executed these blocks, springing people into the secondary. Against Notre Dame he did the same thing.
(FWIW, Molk had another good seal in a Toledo edition of Picture Pages.) Molk was just "all right" against Michigan State—depressingly, that statement showed in the "heroes" section—and was a major culprit in the hammering handed out by Wisconsin; increased size and strength are a must going forward.
Moosman was "all right" against Michigan State, too, and hardly comes in for mention in any of the post-game "you didn't read the play summaries because you're not insane" sections. This was because he was usually okay to decent, unremarkable in a year when most of the remarks were going to be negative.
And, well, I don't need UFRs to tell you that left guard Tim McAvoy wasn't particularly good. McAvoy got pulled in just about every game the last half of the season as Michigan rotated through Dorrestein, Ferrara, and I think I even saw Mark Huyge out there a few times in an attempt to find a suitable player.
2009, And Beyond
Everyone returns, and perhaps more importantly a fleet of redshirt freshmen will vie for playing time. Michigan will be more experienced and deeper; they will all have a year in the system under their belts. Coupled with the notable improvement at the end of the year, this presages a great leap forward. They could even be… sigh… average.
At left tackle, Ortmann and Perry Dorrestein will battle Patrick Omameh and possibly Dann O'Neill for the starting job. Though Ortmann was clearly the first-choice option a year ago, his uneven performance opens the door. Dorrestein was functional when forced into the lineup; the relentless, surprising practice praise for unheralded freshman Omameh indicates he may be a factor as early as next year. (O'Neill is generally believed to need another year of seasoning.)
Unless there's a miracle renaissance and there are a ton of good options on the outside, Schilling will return at right tackle. He did get better last year, and should get better still as a junior.
The interior will be in flux until the Western game and probably for several weeks after. Moosman and Molk return. Moosman seems safe, as he can play any of the three spots on the interior. My impression is that he was regarded Michigan's best offensive lineman a year ago. Molk will field a challenge from redshirt freshman Rocko Khoury, but I think he's done well for himself and will hold his job. Left guard will be a wild free-for-all between oft-pulled Tim McAvoy, former DT John Ferrara, redshirt freshman Ricky Barnum, and perhaps a cast of others including Khoury and the rest of the freshman brigade. I don't think it will be McAvoy; other than that I don't know if anyone can tell you who or what is going on.
At the very least, depth and experience will make this unit considerably more functional than it was a year ago. Further development under Barwis and the steps made late in the year under Frey are encouraging. This should be the most improved position on the team. God help us if it isn't.
1/29/2009 – Michigan Not That Many, Ohio State Many – 14-7, 4-5 Big Ten
You're just an old man. And you don't appear to be a 6'10" shotblocking menace, either. Jerk!
Well, that appears to be that. Other than Iowa and Northwestern there doesn't appear to be a game on the schedule Michigan should win. Michigan's schedule is way backloaded and they could not afford to lose to Penn State or get swept by Ohio State and lose at home to Wisconsin. It's asking too much of them to win another five Big Ten games and arrive at the magic .500 conference record: it's the NIT for us.
And that's disappointing, sure, but they were supposed to be an NIT team when the year started and will be one when it finishes. Ekpe Udoh's transfer left… well, you know the deal. You've seen the team play in the Big Ten. Sometimes it looks like a really good AAU team has wandered onto the court in Michigan's uniforms. Sometimes Kelvin Grady ends up trying to check a seven-footer under the basket. They're too small and young and all that.
There isn't that much more to say. The problems are glaring. The starting power forward is a 6'4" freshman. They were 0-11 from 3 in the first half and are now 222nd in the country in three-point shooting at a measly 32.5%. They're sixth in number of threes launched and that number keeps going up. (It's now at 47.3%.) Whatever mojo they had earlier is obviously gone and doesn't seem like it's coming back. The defense is really terrible for obvious reasons.
I feel like I'm repeating myself. Does it feel like I'm repeating myself? I don't have much to say about the team other than "well, obviously." That Indiana game was a clear as day warning, and I said this then and said it now. I appear to be out of things to say re: this team.
It's just too bad it was a mirage.
- Novak should be suspended a game for the elbow.
- Harris is proving he's a good player who's nowhere near ready for the NBA of late: 3-18 in his last two games and though he put up 22 and 12 against Ohio State those came with ten(!) turnovers. The ultimate crap scenario is for Michigan to miss the tourney and then for one (or even both) of the stars to leave. I think that's getting less likely as we continue and they play more and more poorly, but stranger things have happened.
- I guess I don't understand the offense when it so often finds one guy inside the arc and four guys spaced around the three point line. Other teams will cut to the basket with much greater frequency. Is that by design? Or does it just reflect on the general youth of the team?
- I don't even know if the team is going to be any better defensively next year. They'll get Morgan and McLimans and Cronin and should return everyone except the sparingly-deployed Jevohn Shepherd, but man, all three of those big men are major projects.
- What happened to LLP? Yeesh.
Hail to the Victors 2009 is on, and it will be like 2007 and 2008 except with more DEATH. This year I thought I'd do something novel: ask the world if they'd like to contribute. A lot of it is written by myself and a number of contributors are returning, so there aren't a whole lot of spots open, but there are a few.
If you're interested in contributing email me the following:
- An article proposal: basically an idea, some explanation, and a suggested length from 2200 to 4400 words.
- A writing sample or, better, a blog URL.
The writing sample doesn't have to be relevant; I just want to know you can write. If you can snag an interview with a current or former player or coach that would be a major selling point.
I'm also looking for someone who's good with Illustrator to help out with a few diagrams.
Indeterminate issue. RSS subscribers may have noticed the disappearance of the daily mgo.licio.us linkdump. This is an issue on Feedburner's end and I can't do anything about it until they fix it. Sorry. I assume it will magically resume working at some point in the near future.
Also, while I'm talking about site stuff: the twitter feed is usually just a repackaged RSS feed, but I've wanted to make it more newsy, too. One manifestation of this: on signing day I'll be twittering news as it comes in.
Pre-emptive bombing. Signing day approacheth, so it's time for Dr. Saturday to do yet more research on the accuracy of recruiting rankings in a futile attempt to forestall those annoying columns from cranky newspapermen declaring that "recruiting rankings don't matter because Utah," to paraphrase DocSat. As per usual, the finding is that they're somewhere between useless and gospel. They are worth paying attention to but not worth pulling your hair out over, as the following table suggests:
That's a breakdown of 332 games between BCS opponents organized by gaps in overall recruiting rankings. It's flat until you get to 400+ points per year, which may sound like a big gap but isn't really: current #1 LSU has about 2500 points this year, which puts them about 400 points in front of #6 North Carolina. North Carolina, in turn, is about 400 points in front of #12 Oklahoma. That's at the bottom end of the range where recruiting ratings really start to get separation, but even if you increase it to 700 points—the midrange—we're talking about the gap between #7 M and #22 Mississippi State.
I'd like to see these things take things like opportunity costs and attrition into better account, as raw numbers indicate the SEC is washing out 50% more recruits than the Big Ten is, which leads to inflated recruiting rankings just because they've got more d00ds in their base.
Kampfer stuff. Red has (reluctantly, I'm sure) addressed the issue:
It all comes down to intent. Sometimes it's not what you do, it's why you do it. Or what it appears to be. I think this was the issue. This was not a pre-meditated thing, but it was an instant reaction, and it was ... too serious to overlook. You can't just say drawing blood. I mean, I hate to tell you this, but I put a kid's eye out one time by lifting a stick. And he wasn't expecting it, I lifted it too high, he lost an eye, and it was an accident. Everybody felt terrible. But, boy, when you swing your stick at someone's head intentionally, when he's down, someone that hasn't even done anything ... Anyway, I don't think we need to revisit it, but that was a serious incident. Very serious, and the kid will never do that again.
There's considerably more from him in the above-linked article; the other item that jumped out was a response to the question "Has the CCHA issued a warning for the next time the teams play?" Red said "they don't have to," basically, and continued:
We're not carrying anything over, and personally, I don't think Michigan State will be carrying anything over. So if we do play them in a game, I don't think you'll see anything. ... I don't think there's any real serious animosity. I mean, Kampfer's gotta just accept that it was a bad deal, the players have been punished, let's move on.
As for moving on, eh, the attempt is being made. The Ann Arbor police are "investigating" the incident—which seems like a 30-second process consisting entirely of watching the video, but whatever. Kampfer didn't skate yesterday; he's expected to give it a go today.
Game on, I assume. Ohio State has cancelled classes for a reason other than "it's Wednesday again": there's a big damn ice storm in town. There's been no indication this will affect tonight's basketball game (6:30, BTN), but it may seriously depress attendance, for whatever small benefit that might provide. Previews are up at UMHoops and Varsity Blue; Ohio State is favored by six.
Livin' on the edge. I'm having a hard time figuring out whether Tajh Boyd's commitment to Clemson is a good or bad thing. Ohio State was the other major contender and the Buckeye depth chart outside of Terrelle Pryor currently reads: 26-year-old walk-on and former baseball player Joe Bauserman. That's it. If Pryor gets injured or shoots a dog or something, it's freak-out time.
On the other hand, Michigan and Ohio State are battling for 2010 MI QB Devin Gardner, and depth charts and all that.
Etc.: Mock Rock is on February 3rd this year. Prepare your cringing-from-afar muscles.