The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
Update 10/14: Linked to articles on FL S DeAngelo Hadley, CA WR Shaquelle Evans, MD LB Jelani Jenkins, MD DE Jason Ankrah and CB Travis Hawkins, SC OL Quinton Washington, FL RB Vincent Smith, another on MD CB Travis Hawkins,
Added GA S Donovan Tate.
I should talk about MN WR Bryce McNeal. Ah, well, it happened: decommit. Removed McNeal from committed.
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting board lives here.
I was going to talk about how serious the Bryce McNeal situation was and how leery I was of that particular situation, but McNeal beat me to the punch by decommitting. His top five is now M, Minnesota, Cal, Colorado, and Florida. McNeal on M:
GH: Has your relationship with Coach Rodriguez changed at all?
BM: No, my relationships with Coach Rodriguez and Coach Dews are the same as when they started to recruit me, I don’t have any different views of them, and I hope they don’t have any different views of me.
GH: So they didn’t recruit over you or anything like that?
BM: No, not at all.
GH: Is Michigan still going to be one of the schools you are considering?
BM: I am still interested in Michigan and am keeping them in the mix, I just am not committed to them anymore. They are still in my top 5 schools.
This one is somewhere between the Newsome situation (he was gone-gone) and the Campbell situation (where he is expected to recommit). McNeal could end up back in the fold.
…but if you made me bet, I'd bet against it. The way this played out is bad according to heuristics: McNeal committed, and said he was solid, then said he would take some visits, then backed off that after a conversation with the Michigan coaches. The contents of that conversation were part reassurance and part "if you take visits we have to start recruiting other wide receivers."
This latter part was evidently enough to get him off the idea of visiting. This is no longer the case. I have some scuttlebutt on this that's vague but not encouraging; I think Colorado and Minnesota are more likely than M at this point.
Number one, set a course for wailing and gnashing, warp nine. Engage.
The upshot if McNeal is gone-gone.
Well… it's not good, obviously. At the moment McNeal is Michigan's second highest rated recruit and the only outside wide receiver in the class aside from camp commit Dewayne Peace, who may end up a defensive back. Losing McNeal would be (is?) a significant blow.
That blow is lessened because Michigan already has two high-quality outside receivers committed to the 2010 class, though, and should be okay to bridge the gap between the current players and the 2010 kids. If Junior Hemingway gets a medical redshirt, he and Stonum will both be around in 2010 on the outside.
Could Michigan get in on another wide receiver? They probably would; they might look at MI WR Cameron Gordon in a different light now. They're still chasing LA WR Rueben Randle but that looks doubtful; Michigan might go after someone committed to another school.
MD DE Jason Ankrah and MD CB Travis Hawkins visited for the Illinois game and had nice things to say:
“I think that they are going to be a powerhouse in the next few years,” said Hawkins, a 5-foot-10, 181-pound, four-star cornerback prospect. "Most of the players said when you have a new coach coming in, you have to get used to him, and that's what they did. Overall, they said they liked the school, and even though they are young this year, they are going to get after it next year, and they are going to be dangerous."
But, yeah, I don't think we get either. Ankrah tried to commit to Penn State earlier and was rebuffed but PSU has picked up the interest again and Hawkins just visited Oregon. Upon his return, a quote:
When asked which visit he liked best, Michigan or Oregon, Hawkins said, "I liked the Michigan academics better. But other than that, Oregon was better."
Probably not someone who ends up at M.
We can take a break from the doom and gloom to note that SC OL Quinton Washington had very positive things to say about his visit:
"People in the stands were chanting Quinton's name," coach Art Craig said. "Q, wear the blue, wear the blue. And it wasn't rehearsed. I've got to give coach Rodriguez and his staff a hand. They did a job. They were genuine with what they wanted. To my understanding, he's their number one lineman they are going after in the nation. That's point blank what coach Rodriguez told me Friday night."
Craig said Washington took everything in and was very impressed. "He felt very at ease with them," he said. "He was very impressed with the facilities. They are building a second indoor facility. They are adding 100 skyboxes. They just opened a new academic learning center. He's a man of few words. When I asked him if they are in there with him, he said, coach, how can they not be?"
Washington is a guard recruit; he hasn't scheduled any official visits other than M yet but intends to. The instate schools were supposed to get a couple; that was before Tommy Bowden got axed.
FL CB Mywan Jackson has been all over the map of late, first almost committing to Michigan, then being very high on Auburn, then declaring UNC his leader and basically dropping Auburn. So, like… weird. He's got a teammate, FL S Angelo Hadley, who's also scouting around for schools and he's got Jackson's favorites on his final list:
Armwood safety Angelo Hadley, whom rivals.com rates as the state's 90th best senior prospect, has narrowed his list of potential colleges to four: Florida, Georgia, Michigan and North Carolina.
"It's going to be one of those four," Hadley told the Times on Tuesday.
Florida hasn't offered yet; if they do I assume they're the choice. When a kid lists a school that hasn't offered amongst a small set of favorites who have, that's usually the preferred destination. If they don't, well, Michigan's got a shot.
Etc.: Fluff on FL RB commit Vincent Smith; GA QB/S/WR Donovan Tate has M as one of three officials lined up but is a big-time baseball prospect. I can't see him coming to a northern school, and the chances he goes to any school are slim since he's supposed to be a top-ten pick in the MLB draft.
10/11/2008 – Michigan 4, St. Lawrence 3 – 1-0
10/12/2008 – Michigan 5, St. Lawrence 3 – 2-0
Impressions from opening weekend:
SICK. Aaron Palushaj put Michigan up 4-3 on Saturday with the best goal I've seen at Yost since Mike Cammalleri beat two guys and scored from his knees against Michigan State. I'm going to try this MGoBlue embed one more time, but if it doesn't work here's a direct link to Saturday's highlights:
The sickness is at around 2:23.
Yes, Yost Built. Yes, I think having Mark Mitera's knee implode when you're already skating Eric Elmblad because Llewellyn and Burlon are out justifies the term Angry Michigan Defenseman Hating God. And if it didn't, well:
Junior defenseman Steve Kampfer suffered an injury Saturday night in the wee hours of the morning and will miss a significant amount of time. Berenson could not disclose the injury at this time but is extremely frustrated. No word on the cause of the injury.
That's four defensemen getting whacked in under a week, the most impressive run of malevolent fate to befall a Michigan team since that a 5'6" Jewish kid was running the point against Michigan State.
If they do rehab, he could wear a brace and play at some point in 2009. If he does surgery, it's also likely he will return but probably not until much later. Berenson obviously wants to do what's right by the kid.
Yes, he could get a medical redshirt if he wanted one but I think it's much more likely he signs with an NHL team after the season. The reason surgery isn't a given is because Mitera isn't going to take a medical redshirt.
As for the other guys: Llewellyn played Saturday and is evidently fine. Burlon has a sprained ankle and had his foot in a boot as of Friday; sounds like he's out for at least a few weeks.
New rules. A big thumbs up to the new faceoff rules:
- When you take a penalty the ensuing faceoff is always in your defensive zone.
- All faceoffs come from one of the nine faceoff circles.
- No changes on icing.
#3 had been very successful in the NHL and you probably know all about it; there were a couple instances Friday that the crew screwed up but that's a minor issue. They probably shouldn't have TV timeouts after an icing anymore, though.
As for the other two, they eliminate a number of boring neutral ice faceoffs; rule #2 does away with those extraordinarily annoying faceoffs a couple feet inside the offensive zone that always result in the puck ending up at center ice if "won."
And there are two referees now, which wasn't a disaster. It seems clear there is a lead referee and a guy who's sort of a backup plan, as both weekends have seen one ref make the vast bulk of the calls. Then again, when Mark Wilkins is one ref and Not Mark Wilkins is the other ref, Mark Wilkins is always going to make the majority of the calls.
No, seriously, at one point Saturday the teams played three-on-three.
New guys. Robbie Czarnik didn't score but he looked pretty darn slick out there. Losing Summers to the defense means he's probably going to have a rotating cast of pluggers on his line this year, but he looks like he could warrant significant power play time and maybe combine with Winnett and Turnbull or Miller or whoever to create a dangerous second line. I wonder if they'll futz with positions a little bit here? It seems like Caporusso is always playing with two guys who can't do much with the plays he sets up. I'd sort of like to see Caporusso, Czarnik, and Winnett give it a try. I dunno.
Wohlberg is tooling around on the fourth line but had a couple of impressive shifts where he got and kept control of the puck in some difficult situations. I missed most of Luke Glendening's reportedly impressive performance against Waterloo; he played Saturday and didn't do anything that left an impression on me.
As far as the defenders: Burlon didn't play and Pateryn got undressed on a goal Friday, then sat in favor of Elmblad Saturday. Pateryn wasn't supposed to come in this year and could be something of a work in progress; his draft status might be more representative of his size (an NHL-errific 6'5", 220) than his ability to play right now.
Emerging guys. Ben Winnett looked like a different player as a sophomore, far more capable when he got the puck and far more capable of putting himself in a spot to get it. I've mentioned this before, but he was a big scorer in junior and a fourth-round pick, so there's certainly some potential there for a breakout year if he gets the appropriate icetime.
The other two guys who jumped out—Rust and Hagelin—were no surprise given their position on the roster. I've been an avowed Hagelin fan since midway through last year and expect him to have a big year. He's almost Cogliano-fast, gives maximum effort on both ends of the ice, and has a pretty slick wrister.
I was never that high on Rust last year; this year he looks like a worthy #1 center.
Meanwhile, Eric Elmblad was solid both nights and appears to have gotten the nod over Pateryn on Saturday. Michigan is going to need him for an extended period of time now. He has to play as long as Burlon is out and may see significant time for the entire duration of Kampfer's injury, whatever it is.
Disappointing starts. Brandon Naurato deservedly ate bench after picking up two silly penalties in Friday's game, and this is probably irrelevant going forward but one SLU goal was a gift from Mitera. Scooter Vaughn got undressed on a couple of SLU goals Saturday.
But the biggest issue last weekend was not any individual player but the powerplay, a lame 1 for 19 on the weekend with the lone goal coming with eight seconds left in Saturday's game. I won't pretend to be some hockey wiz who can diagnose the issues but it occurred to me that there's not really a sniper on the team who can bomb one-timers, and this has been Michigan's PP strategy for the past couple years. Probably will take some time to adapt.
GOALIE WAR. Both candidates for the job gave up one soft goal, one okay goal, and one virtually unstoppable one. Sauer saw a lot more rubber; he has the tentative advantage, IMO.
Overall. That did not look like the #2 team in the country, and with three of the top six defensemen out for extended periods of time, including the captain, it's probably not going to look like that for much of the season. I went into the year expecting the team to win a lot of games 3-1, but now the "1" portion of that equation looks pretty shaky. Hopefully they can put themselves in a good position for when Kampfer and Mitera return, if Mitera can return at all.
The always-incorrect Gary Danielson:
"I said it before the season -- and I was out there by myself -- I think we've seen the spread has peaked, like the wishbone did in the mid-70s," Danielson said Thursday.
The top ten teams in total offense so far, spread teams in bold:
- Texas Tech
- Louisiana Lafayette
- Nevada (pistol variety)
- Oklahoma State
- Penn State
Might want to cancel the funeral.
Potentially notable movers:
- BYU continues to drop as it becomes clear how bad UCLA and Washington are and their competition drops to MW-level teams as others reach their conference schedules.
- North Carolina shoots into the poll after beating Notre Dame, but they were an omission last week and probably should have been around #20.
- My top three are very debatable; if you've got an argument for Penn State or Texas let me hear it.
- So too with four through eight… if you've got suggestions in there let me know.
10/11/2008 – Michigan 10, Toledo 13 – 2-4, 1-1 Big Ten
Not to turn this column into a running diary about Douchebags of Michigan Stadium, but after Kicking Competency Lopata went a long way towards being just KC again I attempted to bolt from the stadium as fast as possible. I got caught in the inevitable traffic jam a dozen or so rows up from my seats. A couple rows above me, a middle-aged man stood on a bench and booed and booed.
He was angry. I was angry.
I stooped to pick up whatever flingable bit of detritus I could find, seized upon an empty water bottle, and chucked it at the booer. I missed,* lightly damaging an older man a row behind him. But I did get his attention. And the old guy looked like he was on The Other Side, so eff him.
At this point a shouting match ensued. Shouting matches are never like they are on TV—laced with penetrating logical deductions that leave the yelled-at victim incapable of response—so I mostly just told him to shut up like 10 times consecutively.
At some point he actually said "if this bothers you that much there must be something wrong with you," at which point my irony sensors exploded. It was sort of like this minus the laughter:
He did shut up, though, or at least direct his anger somewhere other than the field.
Anywhere large groups of Michigan fans interact has fallen into civil war, with people like this on one side…
Listen, I just wanted to vent. I have supported this team this year.
I supported them when Utah won, I supported them when Illinois blew us out of the frickin stadium.
This, I cannot support. I am absolutely disgusted with this.
In my opinion, Calvin Mcgee, Rich Rodriguez, and even Mike Barwis, yup, that's right, Mike Barwis, can go back to West Virginia where they came from.
…and bottle-chucking hippies on the other. That email hit my inbox yesterday around noon; I got a few others like that. You can check the increasingly annoying comments here, where virtually every thread descends into a flamewar within five posts.
And I don't get it. If you read this blog and think I will be at all sympathetic to the idea we should get rid of our extremely successful coach after one year (and hire who? and recruit who?) you have reading comprehension issues. If you use the words "unacceptable"—not actually in this email but man have I see that particular word everywhere in the past few days—and "disgusted" because Michigan's confused, young, and physically inadequate offense can't cobble together drives no matter who they go up against, do you realize that the core community of this blog, including the author, kind of loathes you? I am not on your side.
Sports suck sometimes, especially when you care so much about something you control not at all. I assure you that every Michigan fan was angry on Saturday, and every one had second thoughts about this New Era thing. Some of them chose to swallow that anger, and some chose to give it to someone else. What's the adult thing to do? What would those people in hats have done in 1935?
They would have sucked it up. So suck it up, you pansies. It hurts. Act like a man about it.**
Go do something else. This makes you mad. People say Hinterland is pretty good and it's only twenty bucks. Go play that. Go ride a bike. Or hike into the woods and look at the chipmunk-bears. Build 60-foot sculptures out of balsa wood and your shattered hopes. Just get off the goddamn internet.
Come back in fits and spurts and keep whatever connection you want to have with the program but don't hit that post button when the vein on your forehead is sticking out. It's not that important.
And what does "unacceptable" even mean, anyway? Okay, you do not accept the Toledo loss. And now…? You will inform the internet of this? I see. Congratulations. Go away.
*(Yes, I threw the bottle at Tacopants. If I was one of those guys calling for Threet's execution this would be the height of irony.)
**(Women, in my experience, do not have these issues.)
- There are also two camps about the defense: 1) they only gave up 6 points (really nine if you count the chip-shot FG Toledo missed) and that should obviously be good enough to beat Toledo. 2) That one guy caught 20 balls and they had something like 350 yards of offense. I lean towards two; the only reason Toledo didn't score more was Zoltan's munificence and some of their own incompetence. Though they figured out how to defend some of the play action rollout stuff late, it shouldn't take 5.5 games to come up with a response to the quarterback exiting the pocket. Too many opposing teams have been able to remove Michigan's defensive line from the game by leaving in blockers or hitting short passes or rolling the pocket, and Michigan's insistence on leaving in a thousand crappy linebackers against spread formations is maddening.
Scott Shafer was supposed to be an aggressive man-to-man guy, but Michigan this year has seen a ton of zone and a ton of three-man rushes. WTF?
- Also, on a late third and one Michigan had a three-man line in the game. Toledo ran and made it easily. WTF?
- The playcalling made a lot more sense once Threet's injury was revealed. Also Threet's horrible first few passes, though the endzone pick six wasn't inaccurate. If Nick Sheridan was in for reasons other than "starter incapacitated" even my enforced patience was going to be tried.
- No, this offense would not be any better if it was lining up under center every play and running isos. Banish this from your mind. When you have freshmen at quarterback and most of the skill positions and a line with something like 6 even quasi-reasonable options and the lone senior on the two-deep is the third-string tight end, you are going to be awful no matter what offensive philosophy you adopt. There are like two and a half good players on offense.
And what would that buy Michigan? A Motor City Bowl invite? I'd like to keep the bowl streak—not going to happen—but if the choice is between a crappy December bowl and some increased chance Michigan is great in 2010, I'll take the latter.
- I think that "pre-hab" stuff is well debunked.
- Cissoko seemed to do well, though it was tough to tell with all the zone.
Hello once again. As per usual: Live Blog Chaos Mitigation Post; festivities should start around 11:30.