...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
Elsewhere in preferred walk-on land: a helpful emailer indicates that Michigan has also gained the services of one Jeff Ziegler from Dexter. Ziegler still isn't Griese -- who turned down some other legitimate D-I offers -- as an exhaustive search turns up only an offer from D-II Grand Valley and a quasi-greyshirt offer from Akron (sort of like what they do with kickers: come in for a year and then we'll give you a scholarship), but there was at least some level of interest in him out there. Said helpful emailer -- whose actual email I've lost, so if you're out there and would like your shout-out drop me another line -- says
He had been looking at a few other Big Ten schools Iowa, MSU, and Purdue. Extremely raw and can throw the ball a mile. Was named to the 2006 All Star Roster for Michigan, and was 2005 All-State Honorable Mention. He's also a very good basketball player, leading his team into the regional finals at Dexter.
Craig Wind of MichiganPreps.com summed Ziegler up($) like so:
Ziegler would be a really terrific GLIAC quarterback. He would be a pretty good MAC quarterback.
Grand Valley is a GLIAC and D-II power, so that seems to be a fairly accurate assessement. Google turned up this encouraging snippet from a Dexter Leader article:
In Dreadnaught varsity football news, senior-to-be quarterback Jeff Ziegler (6-foot-5, 205) received an award as one of the top signal callers at the five-day University of Michigan camp last month.
"There were 265 quarterbacks at the camp," Barbieri said. "He was in the top 10."
Ziegler is being recruited by numerous Division I schools, including the Big Ten's Purdue University.
On June 18, Dexter participated in a 7-on-7 passing camp at Michigan State University. The Dreadnaughts won all four of their games at the 30-team camp.
The Leader also has a story on a wild Arenaball victory -- final score 45-41 -- for Dexter over Saline.
In sum: if Lee Mondol got filed under Jeff Kastl, file Ziegler under Spencer Brinton.
PS: Was there some Kids In The Hall-related Ziegler hilarity? Or am I hallucinating things?
We are all susceptible to offseason glazomania, even kids who are too cool for conventional sportswriting-school like moi. At least this one will be backed by paragraphs instead of inane one-sentence trash-talking.
The Criteria: Massive year-to-year roster turnover, somewhere between 30 and 40 major contributors per team, and the every-game-a-playoff regular season conspire to make the beginning of a college football season a uniquely stressful event for the fan. Across the nation, the mental well-being of slightly unbalanced folk depends on an array of unknown players like That Guy Wearing #21, Wait, That's Not Jason Avant, and Number 65 Is A Bit Of A Fatty, Isn't He(?). Every team has an set of unseen players suddenly thrust into the spotlight due to the graduation (or, in the case of Tennessee, arrest) of seniors that have gone before them. Some have more thrust upon them than others.
What follows are the five guys who I will identify via the program during warmups before the Vanderbilt game and watch intently, scanning for signs of future greatness, hoping that one day I'll repeat this process, thinking to myself "Wait, That's Not That Guy Who Wasn't Jason Avant." Or something. If you got through that sentence without a double-take I owe you a cookie.
In general, these players are
- at a position of need either this year or next,
- inexperienced, and
- hyped up by either recruiting services or the offseason insider brigade.
This isn't really a list of future stars in a predictive sense -- I make no guarantees, having seen about as much of the following players as you have -- but it is one in a hopeful sense. The overall tenor here is captured well by the pictures below: Taylor and Jamison are featured crushing the offensive linemen of... Eastern Michigan.
Anyway, on with the show:
5. DT Terrance Taylor, sophomore
Will probably play mini-Gabe Watson this year as the Michigan defensive tackles go from rather deep to rather thin. Alan Branch is a lock to start, then come Taylor and fellow sophomore Will Johnson. After that is your proverbial question mark.
Taylor and Johnson will probably see almost equal amounts of time; what gives Taylor the nod here are the Buynanesque tall tales that follow in his wake. He was a three-time state powerlifting champ. He was the best heavyweight wrestler in the state. There are 1,291 objects in this room that Taylor can digest, including the room. &c. He'll have to take a major step forward from his freshman season, in which he occasionally held the point of attack admirably but made no plays behind the line, to become an impact player, but first offseason in a college program, Steve Stripling is a coaching God, Alan Branch, etc.: he's got a shot.
4. WR Adrian Arrington, redshirt sophomore
This probably would have been Antonio Bass were it not for Bass's severe knee injury. Bass was a tantalizing novelty act a year ago who looked to get involved as an actual wide receiver in '06. Unfortunately, he's shelved indefinitely with some sort of nasty knee injury.
As such the spotlight shifts to redshirt sophomore Adrian Arrington, a willow-thin recruit from Iowa who spent much of last year either hurt or suspended (he did not make the bowl trip). Before his injury Arrington was on the fast track, seeing token time as Michigan's traditional Future Star Wideout Wasting His Redshirt Year in '04 and generating extensive practice buzz before his nasty ankle sprain on the eve of the '05 season. Arrington has resumed his buzz-generating ways this spring, at times looking like the defacto #1 wide receiver. He certainly has the rep as a Rivals 100 selection from an oft-ignored slice of the country. With Avant gone and Breaston looking unlikely to ever become a primary weapon, the opportunity is there.
3. DE Tim Jamison, redshirt sophomore
Dios mio, man.
The 2006 equivalent of Pat Massey playing over Branch or Watson would be Rondell Biggs or Jeremy Van Alstyne -- hell, anyone -- usurping Tim Jamison's position opposite Lamarr Woodley. No offense to Biggs or Van Alstyne, but Jamison proved last year that he is a wild talent capable of bending space and time to suit his violently disruptive needs.
...okay, he proved exactly none of that. That's how hype trains get out of control. Jamison was a bit player who was probably down the depth chart for a good reason (though the Massey thing does throw the decision-making ability of those in charge of defensive personnel into question, granted). A sure thing he is not. But he turned in enough plays to make one wonder who that #91 dude was, and those plays seem more sustainable than those turned in by Shawn Crable from the standup DT spot. More than once the seemingly undersized Jamison burst into offensive tackles so quickly they were on their heels before they knew exactly what hit them and why it was trying to gnaw their face off.
The knock on Jamison is consistent play against the run, but he did not seem out of place a year ago when run at; chances are he starts.
2. TE Carson Butler, redshirt freshman
Antonio Gates created a new in-crowd for tight ends: undersized-but-athletic power forwards. Butler was an undersized-but-athletic power forward at Detroit Renaissance who didn't play football until his senior year of high school. When he did he ended up a hilariously oversized (6'6", 240) wide receiver crushing terrified 5'8" white guys in Detroit's PSL.
We've heard this story before: late-offered, raw as hell instate sleeper with ridiculous athleticism. Take Braylon Edwards, add two inches and 30 pounds, and move him to tight end. That's Carson Butler, except this Braylon is the one who walked onto the field as a sophomore, untested but damn impressive lookin'. Whether that translates into production is anyone's guess. Butler is still sushi-grade raw and had a rep for slacking in high school. With Tyler Ecker and Mike Massey in front of him, Butler may not see a ton of time, but he has a higher ceiling than just about anyone on the team.
1. CB Johnny Sears, redshirt freshman
Another OMG sleeper from the class of 2004, Sears was a Michigan commitment before playing a single varsity football game for Fresno Edison in California. (A junior-year transfer forced him to play JV.) Then-defensive backs coach Ron English stumbled upon him whilst recruiting in California, saw him practice, and offered on the spot. We are, indeed, talking about practice. Sears accepted soon after, but was largely an afterthought as Michigan chased highly-touted recruits like Justin King and Victor Harris. King went to Penn State just in time to get ownzored by Mario Manningham. Harris stayed home and went to VT. Okay, no problem, we'll just recruit Darrin Walls and Jai Eugene in... er. Right.
Walls went to ND; Eugene committed but then made a last-second switch to LSU. As a result, visions of Todd Howard now dance in the heads of forward-looking, paranoid Michigan fans. Michigan's total failure to recruit a cornerback last year leaves the defensive backfield looking like so past projected starters Leon Hall and Morgan Trent:
- Redshirt sophomore Charles Stewart, a low-four star recruit from 2003 who saw not one meaningful snap a year ago despite Michigan clearly requiring more DB depth than the starters plus nickel-back Trent.
- Redshirt freshman Chris Richards, who may or may not weigh more than Alyssa Milano.
Yikes. With Hall a senior, Michigan is going to start one of those three or a tr
ue freshman in '07. Stewart's lack of playing time is an indicator that he is not likely to contribute outside of special teams*. Richards is a project. What's left is Sears, who is reputed to be a freaky stud freak.
So he's it for now: invisible but jet-fast Sears is going to be the most critical new face you see next year. He will see much time against the suddenly spread-happy Big Ten, and if he does not perform, Michigan's secondary will be an achilles heel in Henne and Hart's senior year. That would not be good eats.
*(This may no longer be true, as helpful email indicates Stewart may be able to hack it at corner. I'm still suspicious.)
Omissions: Zoltan Mesko (Ross Ryan has the punting on lockdown, IMO), Mario Manningham (has already demonstrated his talent), Justin Boren, Steve Schilling, and Alex Mitchell (maybe next year), Carlos Brown (third string at best this year), John Thompson (tough one, but Taylor has a clearer path to PT), Brandon Graham (ditto).
Next year's projected top five:
5. Zoltan Mesko
4. Ron Johnson/Dionte Allen (that's good, Brian, start anticipating the play of uncommitted recruits. Extreme sanity there. No need for pills of some sort. No way. Nope.)
3. Justin Boren
2. Antonio Bass
1. Brandon Graham
I am the master of inadvertent delegation. Two posts that I don't have to add anything to: Maize 'n' Brew has a full-blown NIT recap up that pre-emptively obsoletes any I could concoct; Yost Built does season grades for the hockey team's defense and goaltending. Forwards are coming.
I promise I am using the time I would have spent on these things productively (more data bashing, FYI).
I never loved grainy three-inch video before
Paris Hilton March Madness On Demand. Millions agreed with me, including CBS honchos with big plans for MMOD next year. Most critically: still free.
I refuse to believe this on general principles, but The Wolverine's Michael Spath says that this could be the first offseason in a long time that Michigan hockey escapes unscathed from:
While there has been word this week that T.J. is gone, he took notice Tuesday when Jack decided to stay. Likewise, Hunwick saw the commitment Johnson was making and now seems eager to stick around. Really, Hensick is the bigger of the two flight risks, but he's been in and around Yost this week and the feeling is he will not leave.
The feeling actually is that there will not be ANY early departures for the pro ranks.
Since this is the academic year '05-'06 and you are a Michigan fan, you are undoubtedly wondering "what's the catch?" The catch is this:
there could be an early depature or two, most likely MacVoy or Naurato because of issues with playing time and a desire for a new opportunity somewhere else. In fact, there is a VERY strong sentiment that MacVoy won't be around in two years.
To boot, Spath says '07 prospect Pat Kane -- the NTDP U17 team's leading scorer last year -- is leaning towards the OHL over Michigan.
One other note: the Edmonton Oilers will (again) not have an AHL affiliate next year, which further lessens the chance that Andrew Cogliano will jump. That seemed like a pretty unlikely prospect in the first place. Now the chances are remote.
Etc.: A brief video package on incoming LB Brandon Graham (you'll have to find the link -- it's an annnoying popup); The Indianapolis Star breaks down athletic department budgets: Michigan has the second most profitable department in the country with a $17 million dollar surplus.
The title of this book, in full:
Innocence in the Red Zone
The Adversity and Opportunity of Bobby Williams: the Story of an African-American Coach in Big Time College Football
The cover quote:
"After coaching 47 years and being the real life white coach depicted in 'Remember the Titans,' I can see parallels in the struggles of my high school mentor and Bobby Williams. This book pulls o punches but entertains and informs with wit -- a real reality book."
Bill Yoast, former football coach at T.C. Williams High School, Alexandria, Virginia, about whom the movie "Remember the Titans" was written in conjuction with the African American head coach that replacd him.
The author is a visiting professor at Lewis & Clark University and, yes, a graduate of Michigan State. He also "has attributes of a Renaissance Man," according to his book-blog -- as I'm reading The Baroque Cycle this makes me think he likes big poofy wigs, smallpox, and piracy.
Where to even begin? This can only be a book that attempts to convince the reader that Bobby Williams' tumultuous career as Michigan State's head coach was ended prematurely by insidious racism instead of
- losing your starting quarterback to cocaine or alcohol or weed or all of the above, depending on who you talk to,
- having your captain drag a cop down the street during what was, until then, a routine traffic stop,
- having two other contributors quit the team,
- taking a team thought to be a Big Ten contender and turning in a 3-8 record
- losing to your main rival 49-3,
- responding to the question "have you lost control of this team?" with a thrilling rhetorical gambit: "I don't know*," aaaaand
- looking likely to burst into tears at any moment.
No doubt there's a case to be made that black coaches are systematically discriminated against, but using Bobby Williams as your battleground? Half a league, half a league, half a league onward.
*(Much like "Are you a God?" the question "Have you lost control of this team?" has only one answer, Ray.)
Offseason Blogpoll Roundtable action on at Schembechler Hall... my contribution below.
1) It's early, but thus far, which offseason change or changes in college football are you most excited about?
You mean other than this?
I'm nigh-tingly with anticipation over the coming season because it appears to be the most wide open college football has been in recent memory. Last year's national championship race was all chalk -- USC and Texas started #1 and #2 and finished #2 and #1. That made for a great Rose Bowl but a dull season, one much like the two seasons before it. USC's recent dominance has been boring. For the first time in three years they don't enter the season as a prohibitive favorite for the national championship game.
In their stead? No one. Glorious, glorious no one. This year, you could pick any two of about fifteen teams and no one could call you insane. It's morning in college football again.
2) With spring practice underway, what are the three concerns about your team that are causing you the most anxiety? (USC fans can't just list the departures of Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, and LenDale White.)
3. Where have you gone, Ian Gold?
Last year was not a banner one for Michigan's outside linebackers. Then-sophomore Chris Graham was invisible all year. Then-junior Prescott Burgess alternated plays that showed off his impressive athleticism with boneheaded decisions. As a result, the run defense was horrible despite featuring three guys -- Branch, Watson, and Woodley -- on the DL who are going to play in the NFL for a long time. Granted, part of the problem was the gaping hole in the line named Pat Massey, but I don't have to worry about him any more. He graduated. Graham and Burgess return. They'll have to play much better for the defense to improve meaningfully.
2. The offensive line
...was repulsive. Jake Long's moved to left tackle, which makes me nervous about both tackles spots instead of just one. Career backup Mark Bihl has been thrust forward into the starting lineup as of right now -- a bad sign. The other problem areas on the team have new coaches, but the OL is still coached by Andy Moeller -- no wide-eyed hope in the new sheriff a la the defense. A lot can go wrong here.
1. Chad Henne.
It's not an exaggeration to say that if Chad Henne was even average last year, Michigan would have ended up at least 9-3. Games against Notre Dame, Wisconsin, and Minnesota were there for the taking if only Henne could have thrown to Jason Avant instead of Tacopants, Avant's imaginary eleven-foot-tall friend. Henne's shortcomings forced Michigan to become highly dependent on WR screens that opponents will have figured out in '06.
Tracking his progression over the course of the season's UFRs is somewhat encouraging -- Henne was magnificent against Ohio State in a losing effort -- but the preponderance of the evidence is frightening for Michigan fans. He's got to improve.
3) Care to take a stab at a preseason top five?
Not really, as an endeavor to do so will probably look silly by October, let alone January. Who's number one? Do you go with a team based around defense that returns two starters (Ohio State), a team down six first rounders (USC), a team starting either a redshirt or true freshman at QB (Texas), a team that has media-darling-flop written all over it (WVU), or a team whose sparkly helmets have the chattering class all-a-tizzy for not much of an actual reason (ND), or someone from the SEC meatgrinder? The Florida triumverate? FSU still features Jeff Bowden, Miami fired everyone except Coker, and Florida's quarterback is choosing which frilly sundress to wear to the debutantes' ball. Penn State? New QB, largely new lines on both sides of the ball, entirely new secondary. Michigan? 7-5 last year. Tennessee? Worse. The Pac-10 outside of USC? Riiiiight.
But I'm going to throw some darts anyway. A rough guideline:
- An experienced, non-sucky QB. I don't know if Henne fits in this category or not. Brady Quinn does; Troy Smith does. Drew Weatherford does not. I don't think Leak does, either, as he seems to be the exact wrong quarterback for Meyer's offense.
- Returning players who achieved non-mirage results. OSU and ND get punished here, since both offenses were greatly aided by a slate of terrible defenses. ND's defense was terrible; OSU's defense is gone. Texas ran rougshod over a meh Big 12 and that tall gazelle dude is gone. USC plays in the Pac 10. Etc.
- No units that can be considered huge red flags. The general theory is that if you have a major weakness you will get gutted by it at least once. Even USC's killer offense of killer doom couldn't keep USC's pass defense from costing it the Rose Bowl (and almost several other games).
Two Big Ten teams I think might be considered if you're desperate:
- Wisconsin. Major failing on the last point, as the secondary was awful last year and is now featuring a converted safety "best known for his special teams contributions" as the nickelback. But... John Stocco went from one of the nation's worst quarterbacks to one of the most efficient (7th nationwide),. The defense returns eight starters and should get defensive ends Matt Shaugnessy and Jamal Cooper back from knee injuries. Mammoth, kickass LT Joe Thomas's ACL tear prevented him from escaping to the NFL. If the Badgers can replace, er, every skill position player, they should be excellent. So maybe not.
- Michigan. I know, I know. LLLLLoyd. Hear me out. Michigan played most of 2005 without its two best offensive players (Mike Hart and Jake Long), suffered through the nation's most difficult schedule, and lost only two players Michigan fans will miss even slightly next year (Gabe Watson and Jason Avant). Jim Herrmann and his mustache now ply their trade with the New York Jets. There are no red flag units; Henne has two years of experience; the roster should be significantly older and better; Michigan suffered outrageously at the hands of random chance a year ago. While they were (evidently) highly overrated to begin last year, chances are that they'll be underrated to start this one. This is the time to buy low. Caveat: @ ND, @ PSU, @ OSU.
Anyway, in the spirit of finding out exactly how dumb I am:
1. er... LSU?
2. um... Oklahoma?
3. well... Ohio State?
4. pfft... USC?
5. uh... Wisconsin?