Mike Lantry, 1972
I am a bit leery of starting a regular mailbag column since I'm just a guy and answering questions from (hypothetically) adoring readers is sort of arrogant, but from time to time people ask questions and I want to answer them and if I'm going to do that I may as well post it, so here we go. Go go runon sentence.
I enjoyed your first-hand comments from the Spring Game. Any feelings about Carlos Brown's role on this team? On the official Michigan site, they list Brown as a RB/DB. I know you said he pulled off a big run in the game but with Hart likely here for the next two years, plus Kevin Grady (who we all assume will be a stud at some point), plus Mister Simpson and Brandon Minor (although these guys could end up at FB?) how does Brown fit in? Let's knock on wood and assume Hart is healthy all year and Grady gets it together. They have that 1-2 punch plus Alijah Bradley for mop-up duty. Does it make sense to move Brown to DB? What are you personal feelings on it, and what do you think U of M will do with him?
Brown is a running back first and foremost, but the way Michigan has had him practice in the spring raises an interesting question or two. Brown's seen time at tailback, quarterback (in the Bass package), and defensive back. Brown was recruited as a running back and, as a high school quarterback, is a logical guy to take over the spot vacated by Bass and his mangled knee, but what about defensive back? What's up with that?
A theory: going into the spring Michigan was terribly unsure about its corner depth and Brown was the only player from the offense who had the size/speed combination to play corner. Take a look at the healthy backups at RB and WR: Arrington, Savoy, Grady, Simpson, Bradley, Tabb -- not a rich field of possibilities. Tabb is the only one who even seems plausible, but deduction eliminates him: as a fifth year senior with speed to burn, he must not be able to cut, otherwise he'd be more than bench fodder. (Though Dutch was healthy enough to drop several passes during the scrimmage, he was recovering from a knee scope at the start of spring.)
With Sears and Stewart both garnering positive reviews during spring the immediate need for corners seems to have been addressed, so Brown can return to offense for now and stay there. The only situation in which he would get shifted would be a catostrophic recruiting year that yielded only one or (gasp) zero high-profile corners.
Will he redshirt? It seems unlikely. Brown showed up in January for a reason; unfortunately that reason appears to be "wasting a redshirt year." As NP mentioned, Michigan has two solid backs in front of Brown and a change-of-pace in Alijah Bradley. Any carries Brown picks up could be distributed amongst the four (or five, pending the uncertain status of Jerome Jackson) backs in front of him. You could make an argument that getting a player on the field in his true freshman year, even for token snaps, better prepares him to make a contribution as a sophomore. Braylon Edwards saw sporadic time as a freshman and then blew up for 1,000 yards as a sophomore. However, Brown doesn't find himself in the same situation Edwards did, where he was the heir apparent at WR and needed in the following year. Grady's a sophomore, Hart a junior. There's time to develop him.
As for Simpson and Minor, both are running backs at the moment. Simpson seems too short to be a thumping, Chris Floyd-type mauler, and Minor was promised a shot at RB -- something his high school career implies he richly deserves. He's a lock to redshirt and then hopefully he'll reprise Leroy Hoard.
I'm not exactly sure what those bemoaning the demise of the Michigan program based on the mediocre results of this years draft -- Avant and Watson in the fourth, Massaquoi in the seventh -- expected this weekend. Perhaps Watson could have gone higher, but NFL teams seem to have wised up about lazy guys with tons of potential. Avant was never going to go very high because he's slow. Massaquoi getting drafted is a better result than most expected.
But the OMG Buckeyes had OMG everyone drafted and therefore the world's ending. Again, what did the panickers expect would happen when nine starters from OSU's admittedly badass defense were draft eligible? The draft merely provides a platform for those who bitch constantly to bitch with some data backing them up, as if "7-5" isn't a much more relevant data point. Also, there's this data point from last year: 2, as in the number of Ohio State players featured in the 2005 NFL draft. One of those players: kicker Mike Nugent. The other: Maurice Clarett.
This space strives to be reasonably balanced about all things largely because relentless neg- or pos-itivity is almost always irrational and therefore infuriating; I find this desire places me in the 95th percentile of Michigan (Internet) fans on the Pollyanna scale. I find this extraordinarily annoying. The facts of the matter are this:
- Michigan had an epically bad season last year that still featured seven wins.
- This was the worst season in 21 years.
- Getting there took an epic rash of injuries and late game misfortune not likely to repeat.
- No one good left the team other than Avant, Stenavich, and Watson.
- Jim Herrmann is gone.
- Mike Hart is healthy.
- Lloyd Carr still coaches like he's got Charles Woodson and Glen Steele on his defense.
- The offensive line is no more stable than JoePa's grip on reality.
All of these things except the last two argue that 2005 was a momentary speedbump and not the start of a Penn State-like collapse. Carr's coaching style is not optimized for winning, but realistically it will come into play in only a few games and cost us one. Making your in-depth analysis of the Michigan team based entirely on Carr being the worst coach in D-I football is a juvenile attempt to prevent Mr. Cranky's feelings from getting hurt when the football team doesn't win by six touchdowns and spell out "Mr. Cranky Is Our Bestest Friend" at halftime. It's not that bad.
What is concerning: three Michigan offensive linemen graduated and none were drafted. A near-crippled Leo Henige can't be expected to continue his football career, but Matt Lentz and Adam Stenavich started for three years and were not found worthy by the NFL. Stenavich measured in at 6'4" and was never exactly a punishing run blocker, making a transitition to guard unlikely, but he was still a good performer over a long span of time and got not even a seventh-round sniff. Lentz moves like a wounded duck and was a turnstile for most of the year, so his fate is no surprise, but it says a lot about how far the once-mighty offensive line has fallen when the starting guards are Henige and Lentz. One can only hope that their backups make massive strides in the offseason, because they couldn't have been very good and stay on the bench.
This is the space designated for complaining about S&C, but I don't know anything about it so I won't bother. What I do know: Michigan's offensive line is by far the biggest question mark on the team going into 2006. Bo is spinning in his grave. Yes, he clambered down into it specifically to spin at the offensive line, then popped back out for lunch.
Update 4/28: Removed AL CB Phelon Jones(Miami), MI QB Justin Siller(dropped us), NY QB Mike Paulus (ditto, due to Mallett), and VA QB Peter Lalich (UVA). Moved Ryan Mallett to committed. Also linked to Texarkana Gazette article on his commitment, a second article from the Gazette, and an article on Josh Oglesby -- M in top six.
Editorial Opinion: Actual recruiting news other than OMG Mallett has clattered to a near-halt at this point. It will pick up around camp. I've sliced most of the high profile quarterbacks from the board save Bostick, but he'll probably go sooner rather than later. Given Michigan's late scramble for a second quarterback, any quarterback, in last year's class it seems likely that Michigan will continue to pursue a number of less highly touted prospects -- I wouldn't be surprised if someone gets a camp offer, perhaps Adrian's Stephen Threet.
Oglesby remains guarded, but the overall tenor of internet discussion points to Wisconsin. That's the basest of speculation and not to be taken as gospel.
Update: Good gravy: mere moments after this post goes up, Oglesby commits to Wisconsin. Basest Internet speculation now declares that I have won the lottery.
... nothing? Damn.
ESPN has started their recruit grading process and likes both VanBergen and Chambers fairly well, giving them both 79 -- all numbers this year are out of 100 instead of 10 for some reason -- but are less sold on Mallett than most, giving him an 82. For comparison, last year Cobrani Mixon, Brandon Minor, and Greg Mathews all got 79s from ESPN; there were no 82s but Adam Patterson got an 83 and Mouton, Schilling, and Brown all got 81s. Feldman's latest blog entry has the following excerpt on Mallett:
"He can make any throw and has a quick release. Shows great zip on the deep out, shows touch on the vertical ball and does an outstanding job of leading his receivers on crossing routes. Is tough in the pocket, will take some hits and will continue to step into his throws. ... He's one of the few quarterbacks in this class who can probably single-handedly beat you with his arm, but he's also one of the few quarterbacks who will struggle to buy a lot of second chance opportunities with his feet."
A strange trend: hello Northwestern. No fewer than three prominent kids Michigan is recruiting have visited Evanston or are listing Northwestern prominently: California CB Michael Williams, Florida LB/S Lorenzo Edwards, and Ohio RB Brandon Saine. Both Williams and Edwards swung by the Midwest to visit ND, Michigan, and Northwestern. Saine has the Wildcats in the top four. If any of the aforementioned mention academics as a priority I might believe them. Same for Michigan LB Chris Colasanti, who visited Stanford.
Finally, I would write off Michigan's chances with Detroit Mumford cornerback Cedric Everson if I was you. Everson is busy touring the country and hasn't mentioned Michigan in a while. Georgia Tech fans are abuzz (HA! I kill me!) over a recent trip that garnered raves.
Option 1: Socialism
The NCAA can do this -- they enforce letters of intent, game limits, sanction bowls, etc. They have the power to make teams honor the contracts they sign and even restrict the number of home games a team plays. Options:
- Restrict teams to two or (preferably) one guarantee games per year.
- Create a "letter of scheduling intent" that's binding. Teams can move games around, but they have to play 'em at some point, say five years after the game was originally scheduled.
- Put a hard limit on the number of home games... six or seven, likely seven.
Draconian measures all, but the NCAA has the power to make players sit out when they transfer and enforce binding letters of intent.
The inception of the LOI is a good model for what we're talking about here. Before the LOI, teams could poach players up until they showed up on campus. When a few teams started doing so, more teams followed in order to keep their programs on a level playing field, a situation directly analagous to some teams' attempts to schedule their way to fun and profit by lining up patsies. Once a few major contenders smoothed the path to the national championship game, everyone followed because it was in their interest. The NCAA finds themselves in a situation where each team's desire for individual profit hurts the overall product. The argument for scheduling restrictions is similar to that which compels professional leagues to implement salary caps: the main product of sports association is competition; maximizing that competition benefits everyone.
Note that any of these draconian measures will probably hurt a large number of low-level D-I football teams and possibly send a dozen or more down to I-AA, and we should be fine with that. There are no inalienable rights to D-I football. The Sun Belt should know better.
Option 2: Restructuring
Outside of a fairly unlikely NCAA smackdown the best chance for meaningful nonconference games is to make them... er... less meaningful. As of now any non-conference loss is almost a deathblow to one's national championship chances; at the very least it leaves no room for error. Short of making national championships unimportant, the only way to fix this is to expand the playoff system to more than two teams. Yes, "playoff." We've already established what the BCS is. Now we're just arguing quantity.
An eight team playoff -- one of the much-discussed topics of last offseason -- would hurt the unique tension of the regular season somewhat but would reduce the pressure to schedule nonconference games that appear to be easy wins, as there's always the conference championship escape hatch. That combined with increased demand for televisable games going forward could shift the nonconference equation enough to make competitive games the preferred option for power schools. As discussed before, the playoff should be structured to preserve the tension of the regular season as much as possible, which means major advantages bestowed upon the top teams: home games in the first and second round.
Pointless, all of this, but it's a long way to September.
Since there hasn't been an Unverified Voracity in a while, some of these links might fall under the category of Lincoln shot.
Feldman sure does talk about Michigan a lot, and this is probably why:
In truth, I get more e-mails from frustrated Michigan fans than any other.
And this is probably why that happens:
"Consistently, this is the most underachieving program in the country," says one NFL scout. "Although FSU seems to be closing the gap a little."
Yerk. Not so appealing. However, Feldman's next entry also provides an important bit of information that should reassure most:
The big break-through guy for him sounds like DE-OLB Tim Jamison. English must've used the word "explosive" five different times while talking about him. Between Jamison, LaMarr Woodley and Shawn Crable, the Wolverines have a ton of talent there that English should be able to shift all over the place and cause a lot of headaches for opposing QBs.
Steepled fingers: "exxxxcellent." Attempting to determine whether the defense will come together is a fruitless task, but at least we appear ready to put the best players out there. Also garnering praise from English are Branch (duh) and Charles Stewart, who has "has really matured and now has a better understanding of the defense."
One more item on Mallett: he is likely going to be a January enrollee (scroll down) a la Grady, Brown, and Boren.
Further evidence that Ohio State is a bit of a southern outlier. I mean, you got the cheatin', chewin', and cheerin' already. Now this...
...which must adorn rec-rooms all over rural Ohio. Deadspin has that story and also pictures of a Nugent action figure. Dios mio, man.
College hockey is the popular place to be of late, says the Grand Forks Herald... but the precarious status of the CHA conference threatens the further expansion of the Great Unknown Game and by proxy the 16-team tournament. Air Force is leaving the conference to join Atlantic Hockey (for some reason... AH does have Army), leaving the CHA one team short of the six required for autobid status. They can continue on for a couple years at reduced capacity, but college hockey has a problem that isn't going away any time soon.
There are four power conferences, and they're all essentially full. The CHA is a monstrosity cobbled together featuring teams from Alabama, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania that exists solely to house teams that have nowhere else to go. Any school looking to add hockey glances at the situation and backs out -- realignment is a requirement.
Ginorbous Etc: Maize 'n' Brew discusses the Graham Brown-as-TE theory; The Sun-Times profiles Jason Avant; Joey scouts Deshawn Sims (who has signed a letter of intent, people); Wheatley is back to finish his degree; Vijay takes apart the Weis made Brady theory of maximum annoyance.
All hail Vijay, for he is beneficient and wise, having figured out the proper way to make torrents of old Michigan games for the masses. He has posted a torrent for the Michigan-Auburn Citrus Bowl of 2001 here for your downloading pleasure.
Some of you may be asking "what is a torrent and how much spyware does it come with?" Happily the answers are "total awesomeness" and "zero." BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer networking protocol that drastically reduces load for servers by using the largely dormant upstream capacity of other downloaders. In short, everyone downloads from one originator and everyone else downloading at the same time.
To use Bittorrent, you need a client program -- I use Azureus* -- and a torrent to download. Download and install your client, click on the torrent link, and viola: extremely large file on your hard drive. The most important thing to do when you download a torrent is to stay on the line after the download is complete, thus allowing other downloaders to use your bandwidth. This is called seeding. The more seeds, the faster everyone gets the file and the more the love gets spread.
*(Azureus is written in Java, so you may need the Java runtime if you haven't installed it already.)