Mike Lantry, 1972
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.)
4/25/2006 - Edmonton 4-3 Detroit (2OT) - Edmonton leads 2-1
First perhaps I must explain something, having received a request or two to turn my attention Wings-ward during the collegiate-sports-free zone we have now entered: I hate the Red Wings. This came as a bit of a surprise when it first happened. I had never disassociated myself from a team solely because I found them distasteful, but after a long series of futile deadline deals and outlandish contracts for elderly stars I found that I could stands quite a lot but I could stands no more. The acquisition of Chris Chelios, who was a dirty hateful hack in Chicago and still is, was the powerful last straw that severed my last tie to the Winged Wheel.
Why? One theory is the baseball theory. I have long harbored no interest whatsoever for baseball except a violent hatred for the Yankees and everything they stand for. By the time I had divorced the Wings I had taken to calling them the New York Hockey Yankees. I know, it's weird, and you can probably defend a lot of things short of spending sixteen million dollars -- half Edmonton's entire payroll -- for Dominik Hasek and Curtis Joseph as wise moves that weren't out of whack with NHL pay scales, but then you'd have to ignore that $80 million total and stick your fingers in your ears and go "la la la can't hear you" whenever someone tried to explain basic concepts of economics to you. And you don't want to do that, do you?
However, I think that was probably just a cover. Fans, like extremely political people, can justify just about anything if they have a mind to. Rationality and balance have no place in sports fandom, so there must have been something emotional at the root. You can find that root in the fans. Consider, for a moment, the two arenas: the two games at the Joe were tepid affairs with a lower bowl just as half-empty as it is during the regular season. Lawyers chat on the phone with trophy wives. Real estate agents look bored, holding daiquiris. The biggest reaction from the crowd comes when an obese man named "Mo Cheese" pretends he's in a paint shaker for 30 seconds. Rexall Place is full to the brim with howling banshees attempting to scream the opponent to death.
Never ever would have happened without the lockout.
All hail the lockout. Long live the lockout.
One place -- the one with the half-empty lower bowl -- has the audacity to call itself Hockeytown and then studiously ignore all in-state hockey that is not the Wings despite having two of the top programs in college hockey. Meanwhile, in Minnesota they sell out the XCel center for high school games. One place is the northernmost city with a professional sports team in North America, a place that scrapped year after year to keep a team and the memory of Gretzky. The Oilers are owned by thirty-four Edmonton businessmen. Before the lockout, every year they were called up and asked to put in tens of thousands of dollars to keep the club going. Without that lockout there would be no hockey in Edmonton today, and no one would ever again wear a jersey that looked like Gretzky's. The profligate spending of the Red Wings and other teams of their ilk contributed greatly to that.
No other team, however, was as successful, as profligate, and as local to me as Detroit. So you'll forgive me if I find Red Wing fandom fundamentally shallow, false, and destructive. It obviously isn't. But it's hard to see that when Doug Weight gets traded for bits and pieces. The thing begins to grate on you after a while.
OMG I love the Wings!!! An' an' an' daquiris an' an' my lawyer husband. We go to nearly a third of the home games... well, we go to about half of a third of the home games.
Ma'am, I'm sorry, but you're going to have to eat this Dennis Dodd.
My hate waxes and wanes based on the current lineup on the ice -- I feel downright heelish about it when Yzerman is out there, but whenever Chelios or the ghost of Darien Hatcher is present my hate grows strong like bull -- but hate it is. And it just so happens that stripped of my NHL fandom, the wheel spun and landed in a strange place that happens to be the home of the team the Wings are currently down two games to one to: Edmonton, a place I have never been. At the time I had never been within 500 miles of it.
No doubt the primary reason for this affection was the presence of Mike Comrie, who was Michigan's star for my first two years at Yost Ice Arena. Comrie was an impossible whirling dervish of a collegiate player who, despite being small and slow, was an audacious stickhandler, passer, and shooter who almost won the Hobey Baker as a sophomore. The Mike Comrie experience was an overwhelming one for someone who had never seen hockey in person before, especially not seven rows from the ice. When Comrie bolted for the OHL for bargaining leverage, I was mildly upset, but knew that he would be in the NHL sooner rather than later.
By the time I had finally kicked the Wings to the curb, Comrie was the Oilers' second-line center mere months after signing a pro contract. College guys like Comrie, Weight, Poti, Horcoff, Grier, and Marchant littered the roster. The trap is still a dirty, controversial word in the city to this day. In the playoffs they faced Dallas, and easy target for transitional hatred as an ex-Wing fan. It was all lined up, and when the CBC announcers had to strain to make themselves heard over the crowd, well, I was sold. At the start I watched to see Comrie, but it mattered little that a couple years later he would hold out for buckets of money Edmonton didn't have and get traded. I was rooting for the jersey by then, because I felt it stood for something other than "we can pay these guys a buttload of money."
So. When Jarrett Stoll shoveled a rebound past Legace in the second overtime last night I had a series of involuntary spasms reminiscent of Elaine Benes attempting to dance. I know it's totally weird, but:
HA HA HA HA HA HA. HA.
We now return to blogging not designed to infuriate most readers.