good luck with that
Earlier in the year this space featured a post detailing the carnage that had been wrought on the offensive line by poor recruiting, player development, and retention. As I was watching two sophomores and a redshirt senior who's not exactly ticketed for pro stardom, it occurred to me that the situation at LB was equally dire.
A season-by-season accounting with available players in bold:
2004 (would be fifth year seniors)
- Chris Graham didn't redshirt and is thus out of eligibility. Not that having him around would have helped much.
- John Thompson is the current starting SLB. He was a low-three star recruit.
- Brandon Logan is the only LB recruit in the class. A meh three star recruit, he was clearly not going to be a player from day one.
- Cobrani Mixon transfers to Cincinnati after a semester.
- Quintin Patilla moves to fullback, then transfers to GVSU.
- Obi Ezeh, a meh recruit, is the starting MLB.
- Jonas Mouton is a big recruit rated around #50 as a S. He is the starting WLB.
- Michigan's first JUCO in ten years, Austin Panter, arrives.
- Marell Evans is an unrated two-star with other offers from Temple and Buffalo.
- Brandon Herron is a meh three-star who redshirts; he hasn't been seen or heard from so far.
- Taylor Hill transfers.
- Marcus Witherspoon has Clearinghouse issues and ends up at Rutgers.
- JB Fitzgerald is playing on special teams as a freshman.
- Kenny Demens is looking likely to redshirt.
So, yeah… of course they're bad. Michigan has one four-star recruit on the roster outside of a JUCO and a true freshman, and has all of four guys with more than a year of experience in the program, one of whom has never threatened to get off special teams. So you're relying on either 1) an unheralded recruit being really good really fast or 2) all three of your upperclassmen being hits.
Neither one nor two has occurred, and finding a strongside LB next year is going to be problematic; the losses of Hill and Witherspoon are going to be damaging.
Update 10/7: Linked to articles on MD LB Jelani Jenkins (video interview), SC S Devontae Holloman, TX S Craig Loston, MN WR Bryce McNeal, SC DE Sam Montgomery, MI DT Will Campbell, video of OH RB Fitzgerald Toussaint. Moved 2010 MI WR Jeremy Jackson to committed on the nonexistent 2010 board.
Editorial Opinion: A mostly quiet week. MD DE Jason Ankrah and MD CB Travis Hawkins visited for the Illinois game, and there are a number of articles up on the recruiting sites about their trips. Sounds like Michigan has a decent, not great, shot at both. 2010 MI WR Jeremy Jackson, son of running backs coach Fred Jackson, committed last week, too.
Oh: Recruiting board lives here.
Michigan's in on three five stars: MI DT Will Campbell is widely expected to recommit; LA WR Rueben Randle is regarded as a longshot, and MD LB Jelani Jenkins is a mystery. Here's Jenkins after a recent win over DeMatha:
The Washington Post took the opportunity provided by that ESPN2-televised game to write up a mondo article on Jenkins and the immense pressure he's put under by the recruiting process. If you really want to parse finely, this could be construed as good:
And then there's Jelani's father, Maurice Jenkins, the finely dressed entrepreneur whose background as both an artist and architect best qualifies him to manage the whole process. He leaned against the fence surrounding Good Counsel's field 20 minutes before kickoff against Paul VI and watched his son run through pregame drills.
Minutes earlier, he had met with coaches from Notre Dame and Maryland who had come to watch Jelani. Hours earlier, he had spoken to UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel on the phone. Days earlier, he had chatted with a coach from Michigan, one of a handful of recruiters he said he's in touch with about once a week.
There is also more on The Matrix, the Jenkins family's highly elaborate school-measurement device:
In the following months, Maurice crafted a three-page matrix that reduced the recruiting chaos surrounding his son into a simple diagram. The columns list each school in nearly every division I-A conference. Programs that offer Jelani a scholarship are highlighted in yellow, which include nine Atlantic Coast Conference schools, six schools each from the Big Ten, Big East and Southeastern conferences, as well as four from the Pacific-10 and a pair from the Big 12. Notre Dame, an independent, also is highlighted.
The rows separate categories, such as diversity, U.S. News & World Report academic rankings, number of NFL draft picks in the past five years and graduation rates. "It gives us a snapshot of the things that are important to us," Maurice said of the matrix.
There is an engineer somewhere in that family, this I guarantee.
Earlier this year, MN WR commit Bryce McNeal announced he was still committed to Michigan but would take some visits, the hastily backed off that position. Now the visits are back on:
His recruiting could get interesting since he is committed to Michigan but still plans to take visits.
This obviously lowers the chances McNeal ends up signing with Michigan, but the announced visits are to Colorado and Minnesota… I'm not exactly writing him off.
FWIW, the rest of that mini-scouting report on McNeal:
ASSETS: Has excellent hands and change of direction. He also runs effortlessly after the catch.
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT: He needs to be more aggressive and emotional, along with adding about 10 to 15 pounds.
MOST IMPRESSIVE PLAY: The first time he touched the ball was in the second quarter on a punt return of 25 yards and you could see he was just a natural running with the ball in his hands.
CONCLUSION: Even though he does not play in the highest level of football in Minnesota, you can still see a special athlete every time he catches a pass or returns a kickoff or punt.
How many more?
Varsity Blue wonders if the class is close to full…
With the recent commitment of Cass Tech's Thomas Gordon, it appears that the 2009 recruiting class is nearly full. Assuming William Campbell recommits to Michigan (which appears likely but certainly not set in stone), Michigan may save a couple slots for surprises from top prospects.
…but I say it isn't. My current count of open slots on the board is 20, and that's not counting a number of pretty obvious departures: a couple senior non-contributors with a fifth year of eligibility, some running back who finds himself on a depth chart behind up to nine others, and a certain tight end the coaching staff is fed up with. There will likely be another unexpected departure or two, bringing Michigan's total to around 25 and possibly even more.
Michigan has 18 commits at the moment. One man's semi-informed guess at the remainder of the class:
- Will Campbell.
- Two or three OL from the following list: Taylor Lewan, Quinton Washington, Travis Bond, and Chris Freeman.
- A third defensive end: Jason Ankrah, Sam Montgomery, Will Hill, or Mystery Recruit
- Another linebacker, hopefully Jelani Jenkins by maybe Mike Marry or Hawatha Bell.
- Two more defensive backs. Most likely: Vlad Emilien and some random corner. Also, the suddenly mysterious Dennis Thames is out there.
Helpful scouting-report type object on 2010 FL WR Ricardo Miller:
“The main thing that stands out about Ricardo is he is the best route runner I’ve seen in the entire state of Florida, which is impressive because we’ve got a lot of great receivers this year,” commented FlaVarsity.com publisher Michael Langston. “He reminds me a lot of (Mario) Manningham who used to be at Michigan.”
Suffuse yourself hey hey hey hey.
Seven minutes of Fitzgerald Toussaint highlights… NOW!
Etc.: SC DE Sam Montgomery still planning a visit.
Notes: Probably the biggest "wha?" in the poll is Cal's rocket sled to #13 after being omitted from the last poll. Take a look at the schedule: a loss to Maryland, then wins over ASU, Michigan State, Colorado State, and Washington State. The only non-BCS team in the bunch is respectable and there are a couple of wins over solid BCS programs. Yes, there is an inexplicable loss to Maryland, but scan down the list and you'll find a bunch of paper tigers and teams with equally inexplicable losses (hello, East Carolina!).
I just can't rank Auburn anymore when their offense is as dysfunctional as Michigan's and they're now a two-loss team separated from four losses by a gift touchdown and the lack of another Mississippi State safety. Read this and prepare to have your opinion of Tommy Tuberville lowered significantly unless you're a 'Bama fan, in which case read it and have your opinion confirmed despite the whole six game win streak thing.
BYU, IMO, is far too high, as Dr. Saturday points out that BYU's schedule is pretty weak: dead last to the computers. Yes, they've beaten UCLA and Washington, but UCLA and Washington are pretty bad. BYU isn't Hawaii last year or anything, but they're probably not deserving of #6.
I sort of missed that Oregon lost to USC 44-10; they won't be in the final poll.
If you happen to subscribe to every BlogPoll voter's RSS feed like I do this announcement will come as no surprise, but you're probably sane and thus do not so here goes: effective this week, the BlogPoll will appear at CBS Sports. An initial Monday poll is up right now, actually.
The process will go like this in the future:
- Bloggers post initial ballots by Monday at noon; this gets packaged into CBS's weekly poll feature.
- Readers at CBS will be encouraged to look at the various ballots and perhaps argue their case to non-believers.
- Revised ballots are still due at 10 AM Wednesday, and that's when the full poll will be posted with your standard commentary. This will happen at CBS.
This is something of a milestone for bloggers, as a mainstream site is partnering with a wide swath of the internet's wild west and giving some credence to the idea that maybe there is something different and, if not necessarily better, at least interesting enough to pay attention to there.
What they'll find is that the sausage is really close to the surface, with weird ballots and omissions and unabashed homerism and unabashed anti-homerism in the wake of humiliating defeat. They'll find that there's not a lot of room for strenuous disagreement between the BP and the AP because wins and losses rule all, unless you're a coach. They'll find a healthy skepticism for light schedules, tribes of resume-voting zealots. And hopefully they'll find intelligent coverage of their favorite team.
This would not have been possible without the enthusiastic support of voters new and old, even the ones I regularly battle over their voting philosophies, and I'd like to thank everyone for their participation.
Hello Vogrich. One bit of good news from the weekend: the basketball team picked up a commitment from IL SG Matt Vogrich, the #100 recruit in the country to Scout and #131 to Rivals. If this offer sheet is anywhere near accurate, he's more impressive than his rankings:
Vogrich said he's picked up offers from Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Northwestern, Baylor, Minnesota, Bucknell, Saint Louis, William & Mary, Valparaiso, Colorado, Iowa and Providence. Notre Dame, Michigan, UCLA, Stanford and Virginia are also in the picture.
Vogrich claimed he was down to Michigan and Stanford just before he committed, but that course of events leads me to believe Stanford told him they didn't have room. UMHoops has plenty more; he's supposed to be a bomber who's a power-mushroom version of Stu Douglass.
Michigan has one slot left in the class of '09 and is looking for a forward. Two names for you: unranked Will Barrett, who's deciding between Michigan and the Ivy League, and Aussie C Angus Brandt, a sleeper sort who's an AAU teammate of Vogrich and sounds like the better option. BONUS: as an Australian he has no conception of which teams are any good.
Old guys. Alumni cheerleaders rock:
ITYSO. After the Auburn trip I mentioned that Tommy Tuberville was Lloyd Carr and he was trying to turn Tony Franklin into Mike DeBord, but I had no idea how right that was. The always-illuminating Smart Football:
Every coach I speak to says the same thing: I don't know what they are doing at Auburn, but it ain't the Airraid. So what's going on? I'm not an insider, but my best sense is that the other coaches on the staff (including Tuberville) never bought into the system - maybe because Franklin did a poor job selling it internally, or maybe he thought he didn't have to - and now their offense is simply a muddle, a grab-bag of pseudo-spread garbage. This seems to be general sentiment among the smart money in football.
Relevance to Michigan: low, I guess.
Hockey! I missed the announcement that the game against Waterloo was moved up an hour, so I only saw half of the Sunday game, but I did take in the entirety of the USNTDP game.
Approximate forward lines:
Random Grab Bag (Lebler, Fardig, Ciraulo, Winnett, Wohlberg, Glendening)
- My main concern with this year's edition of Michigan hockey is the potential lack of a no-holds-barred superstar, something that hasn't happened in the ten years I've been following the team. Pacioretty would have been that guy if he had stayed; in his stead there doesn't seem to be that one guy you have to key on if you're an opponent.
- That said, if they can assemble a good third line this team will roll the lines and just depth-charge opponents into submission.
- One guy I'm keeping an eye on to see if he develops is Ben Winnett. He was a big scorer in junior and a fourth round draft pick, but had a meh freshman season with a 6-5-11. The initial returns were not good, with Winnett stuck on a non-scoring line and not doing much of note.
- If I had to bet I'd say the winners in the massive free-for-all to decide the bottom four forwards (I assume Miller and Czarnik are safely in) will be Winnett, Fardig, Naurato, and Wohlberg with Lebler and Glendening scratching out games here and there.
- Freshman defenseman Greg Pateryn got smoked on the Waterloo goal, allowing his man to drag the puck across his face and get to the net.
- To that point: I bet Pateryn gets the least the playing time this year amongst the seven blueliners. He looked far less composed than Burlon.
- Scooter was pretty rough against the USA team, coughing the puck up several times.
- None of the freshmen made much of an impression on me; a friend was impressed with Burlon and thought Glendening could be a find for a guy who's not getting much scholarship money.
This team is likely to be successful but it might be a team that wins a lot of games 3-1 instead of 5-3.
9/4/2008 – Michigan 20, Illinois 45 – 2-3, 1-1 Big Ten
Any attempt to list the full dossier of Michigan errors over the past few weeks would provoke a cascade of emotions from the reader starting with rage and ending with full-bore ennui. Along the way we'd touch grim sarcasm, depression, contempt, fatalism, resignation, dread, and a whole host of other things that in no way relate to happiness.
So let's skip it and just say there have been a lot.
It seemed like youthful nerves or inexperience in the first couple games. Against Notre Dame it seemed like the usual screwing over by Angry Michigan Ball-Oiling God. And, hey, we beat Wisconsin and the negative events therein were supplanted in our minds by the Thompson return and the unlikely Threet gallop and so on.
All of it could have been unfortunate randomness. The true abilities of Michigan's team would be unleashed as soon as they stopped turning the ball over every ten seconds or busting coverages that left, say, a guy running wide open downfield on fourth and ten. If they don't put themselves in a 21-0 hole against Notre Dame, if they just complete those bubble screens, if they don't suck on this play or that play &c &c &c.
As more evidence piled up it became harder and harder to justify the vague hope Michigan was a competent team stuck in Charlie Weis's body (it's like Innerspace except there's no machine to shrink you), but we endured. We are fans. Until such time as you declare EVERYTHING TO BE BROKEN because THIS IS THE WORST TEAM EVER and EVERYONE MUST BE FIRED NOW NOW NOW, people strive to find whatever hope they can. And also: how can kick returners just flat dropping the ball be a replicable event? Seriously. I want to know this.
But now it's pretty hard to come to any conclusion other than "they just suck." The last straw on my pet camel's back was Steven Threet dropping back to pass with Michigan down 45-20. Untouched, he cocked his arm to throw and fumbled backwards for the fifth time in approximately four games of play. This, like Ryan Mallett's mystifying inability to receive a snap, is now an event that will happen on a depressingly regular basis. There are similar events scheduled all over the field—especially in the secondary, where someone (Charles Stewart) has miraculously supplanted Stevie Brown as the whipping safety du jour.
We've passed the point where these things could be random chance. It's just a bad team. This revelation will probably be met with "duh" from everyone who's not a Michigan fan, what with skill positions that usually read junior, freshman, freshman, freshman, freshman, freshman and a coaching transition and, oh, I don't know, the nation's 110th best turnover margin. But, hey, we beat Wisconsin and for sports fans even lead balloons float when filled with hope.
My balloon is now filled with a sticky gray-green substance that smells like sewage and glows when the moon is gibbous. Saturday's event was tough to watch. While the long term outlook isn't affected much by the pratfalls to date, it's still no fun to watch 25-point beatings. Sadly, I just want to fast forward to 2010.
- I think Juice Williams may have the greatest ball fakes I've ever seen live. You know that thing where the cameraman follows someone who ends up not having the ball and freaks out when this becomes clear? I did that on like half of Illinois' runs. It was really annoying when I'd be watching the running back get tackled for no gain only for Williams to have the ball and run for a first down.
- Missing Hemingway and Stonum was a big deal, since it's obvious why Savoy can't get off the bench. Apparently the TV guys criticized the coaching on his long-bomb drop; I think the more plausible explanation is that a redshirt junior who hasn't seen any time is probably not very good.
- Holy Lord did Michigan get jacked on at least three different pass interference calls. Greg Mathews was obviously hit early on an unsuccessful third down conversion. Illinois got bailed out on third down by a PI call on a ball yards behind the receiver. Donovan Warren got shoved not once but twice on a downfield jump ball and drew no flag. The first two either ended Michigan or extended Illinois drives. The latter set up a third and two instead of a second and seventeen; the next play was the dagger Williams scramble.
- Michigan again used that goofy formation where Greg Mathews is 1) split out and 2) covered up by a receiver outside of him. They ran twice for minimal yardage. WTF?
- Despite Odoms' fumble he should definitely keep the return job. He consistently broke through the first wave of defenders and acquired Michigan excellent field position. The fumble just appeared to be a guy putting his helmet on the ball, which usually can't be helped.
- Perhaps the most disturbing event on the day was Illinois dominating the Michigan offensive line. The Illini had been shredded by all previous opponents. The offensive line is going to be an anchor around this team's neck for the remainder of the year.