Part the Second of the basketball preview. Previously: Media Day
Not to be one of those schools that looks at its football team headed to a weak bowl or worse in November and says "Hey, basketball," but...
Though the Europe trip accelerated the learning process for a young Michigan team, this is still a squad whose elder statesmen (and only players with experience at all) equal two juniors and a sophomore.
Darius Morris - So.
Darius took on a big role for this Michigan team as a true freshman last year, splitting point guard duties with Stu Douglass. Morris, like many freshmen (aside from the one-and-done types), came into college with a lot to learn, and struggled through some growing pains last year. He showed flashes of brilliance, and if he can play with a calm demeanor (and maybe shoot a little better) a second-year leap is in order.
He had an 84/51assist/turnover ratio, and if that improves in his second season, the improvement from the floor is bonus. He finished shooting 52.34 eFG% last year. Like everyone else was dismal from behind the arc. Michigan's coaches have praised the improvement of his shot during the offseason, saying Darius put in the work to become more consistent. Beilein has said that he doesn't need to be a shooter, just a guy who can make defenses pay if they don't play him right.
Morris's stats on the Europe trip don't inspire confidence, unfortunately. He finished with an eFG of 29.41% and made only a third of his free throws. Without making excuses there are mitigating factors, such as the 24-second clock leaving Michigan's offense scrambling to get off a shot - that burden falls primarily on the point guard - and playing against teams that have been together for more than 10 practices, are a few years older, etc. That sample size is small.
Stu Douglass - Jr.
Stu played much of last year at the point guard position, which he didn't play in high school. He had some success but the move probably contributed to his struggles shooting. He did find a surprising ability to defend a lot of very good players, particularly in the Big Ten.
He had a dismal 45.37 eFG% despite being Michigan's most effective 3-point shooter among regular contributors at 32.9%. That means he was just plain bad from inside the arc, partially a product of playing point guard for the first time (and being saddled with some last-second plays against the shot clock, like Morris was in Europe).
This season, Stu will again have to play some point guard in place of Darius Morris, but will hopefully spend more at his more natural 2-guard position. His shooting might improve accordingly, which could make him a very real threat from outside the arc. If his stats in Europe are any indication, his three-point shot may be on the upswing. He shot 40% from behind the arc, 46.67% after the first game.
Tim Hardaway Jr. - Fr.
Hardaway has been a pleasant surprise since he set foot on campus in July. The son of the former NBA guard doesn't have the same crossover dribble that made his father famous, but he's a good shooter who led the Wolverines in scoring on their trip to Europe at a 57.35 eFG%.
For the Wolverines to exceed (low) pre-season expectations, Hardaway will have to continue his strong performances to date, and keep up his scoring and all-around production. He was second on the squad in rebounding, fourth in assists, and amongst the PT leaders in Europe.
Zack Novak - Jr.
The contributions of Zack Novak over the past two years have been admirable, as he's mostly played out of position at the 4, guarding guys who are at least half a foot taller than him. With a bit of frontcourt depth on the team, he may finally be able to play at a more natural position.
A position change for Novak means his production will be a bit of a question mark. Over the past couple of seasons, Beilein has attributed Novak's shooting troubles to getting worn out on the defensive end of the floor. With that no longer an issue, he could develop into a solid offensive player and secondary option.
We already know Zack's going to be tough on both ends of the floor, and he has underrated athleticism. He was already pulling down decent rebounding numbers while being boxed out by much bigger players.
Matt Vogrich - So.
Vogrich came into Michigan as a pure shooter, and Wolverine fans though something along the lines of "a 6-4 white guy who can shoot the hell out of the ball: a perfect John Beilein recruit!" But it was clear from the start that Vogrich didn't have a college-ready body, and he struggled enough defensively that he only averaged a couple minutes a game in 30 appearances.
A shooter he is though, as he nailed 39% of his 28 3-pointers a season ago, and ended up with a 53.57 eFG%. After a year of conditioning and practice time, he should be more physically able to handle playing both sides of the court at this level, and should be a major contributor this season.
In Europe, Matt started every game, averaging over 20 minutes a game. He made the most of that time, shooting 72 eFG%, and leading the team in... rebounds? If he continues to do that over the course of the season, it probably means Michigan is getting killed on the glass. If he's got a 72 eFG% Michigan's blazing from outside, though.
Colton Christian - Fr.
We don't know a whole lot about Christian outside of his recruiting profile because he was limited in pre-Europe practice by an injured hamstring that kept him out of all the games across the pond. He's a primarily defensive player with good athleticism and an improving offensive game. He will split time with Smotrycz at the four, with only occasional appearances at that spot from Novak.
Evan Smotrycz - Fr.
Michigan got in on Smotrycz (mnenomic: Shoot More On The Run You Cocaine Zombie) before the recruiting services though of him as a hot commodity, but they came around by Signing Day, He eventually landed at four stars, and Rivals' #59 player nationally. In Europe, he was the team's fifth-leading scorer on an eFG of 40.38%. He's a big player, and has the athleticism to be a scorer, but from what I saw in summer practices he's still got some learning to do to become a true post threat, especially in a physical league like the Big Ten (unlike in football, the distinction is accurate in basketball).
Blake McLimans - Fr.
As pointed out by Dylan at UMHoops, McLimans is one of the oldest freshmen in the nation, with a year of prep school and a redshirt under his belt. He should be ready to contribute physically (though he had trouble with sprint drills in summer practices), and the question is whether his lack of on-court experience will hinder him.
Among the centers, he's the best shooter, which should give him a leg up on a John Beilein team. He got the most playing time in Europe, getting all four starts. He's also the most experienced, which is scary because at right is the closest thing I have to an action shot of him.
Jordan Morgan - Fr.
A decent recruit coming out of high school, Jordan Morgan's career-to-date has been sidetracked by one injury after another (he redshirted as a true freshman last year). He told me at media day that he's finally healthy, and ready to contribute. He's the most traditional post player of Michigan's centers, and likely the best rebounder.
In Europe, Jordan shot the ball very well (I assume mostly easy finishes under the basket), but didn't attempt a single three-pointer.
Jon Horford - Fr.
Horford was a project coming out of high school, albeit one with decent skill and bloodlines (you may have heard of his father Tito or brother Al). He is need of some physical development and skill work before being ready to play. Michigan probably won't have the luxury of redshirting him, and the coaching staff has talked up his willingness to put in the work in order to improve, so he should be able to get some minutes. They'll probably be the least of the three.
I don't intend to insult Josh Bartelstein, Corey Person, and Eso Akunne by including them in their own separate, branded category, but if the Wolverines are forced to rely on these guys as much more than practice players this season, it means something has gone David Cone wrong.
They'll all get a few minutes here and there to rest the rotation players, and may even have a few moments in the spotlight, but their primary duty will be preparing the other guys in practice. Combined, they averaged less than two minutes on the court per games last season.
It's been real, jihad guy and generic Barwis picture.
When this was breaking last night I was trudging through the fourth quarter of the Penn State game, gin in hand, and didn't feel like rushing to do anything except maybe to throw up. But it happened and it's over and the news is good, and by good we mean "exactly what everyone expected" but at least all those wild theories about how the NCAA is going to blow up the program and make an example out of Rodriguez are gone:
The NCAA has concluded that Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez did not fail to promote an atmosphere of compliance, a previous allegation that the school challenged, a source close to the situation said Wednesday night.
Other reports state that the NCAA has accepted the self imposed penalties and added a third year of probation. The official release will happen at 3 PM, but Michigan's leaking all the relevant details early. If you'll allow me a moment of self-congratulation, that's exactly what was projected around these parts when Michigan announced its response to the notice of allegations.
Our long and winding journey that started with wildly overheated allegations and ends with some misinterpreted stretching and excessively involved grad assistant ends. After this afternoon's flurry of redundancy there are no more news events to push this to the forefront, so Michigan can get on with the reductions quietly and the proverbial dark cloud hanging over the program can finally evaporate.
I can't emphasize enough how much of a steaming crock of crap the initial Free Press story was and how richly everyone involved with it deserves to be fired, but at least they immolated the idea that journalistic ethics are a reason to read boring neutral "objective" copy and stupid 600-word columns dashed off without an ounce of research. They also drove a ton of traffic here as Michigan fans looked for accurate projections of what was going to happen, and in doing so obliterated the idea that bias, which this place has in spades, necessarily leads to inaccuracy. So thanks for that. Send me your resumes in five years when you all lose your jobs; I'll get back to you with all possible speed.
Note: no UFR today, as the torrent got down late Monday and I couldn't do the first half then. Hopefully both halves tomorrow.
You'll have to forgive the picture quality on this one—both of these are low-quality torrents. Just like Michigan's defense. AMIRITE!
So in the game column this week I complained about the alignment of the middle linebacker in this bastardized version of the 3-3-5. Michigan has him maybe a yard behind the nose tackle, like so:
This creates a major vulnerability against misdirection, as we'll see. This play is a first and ten on Penn State's first drive. They've driven it into the Michigan half of the field because of depressing things, and more depressing things will happen. This isn't one of them. Michigan shows a two-deep with six in the box, but moves Kovacs down late to add a seventh guy, which gives Michigan the formation above versus Penn State's ace 3-wide.
At the snap the offset fullback heads inside the tackle to his side. You can see the handoff is going to be made to the right side of McGloin. Linebackers start scraping as each and every DE attempts to take on two blockers:
Here's the handoff point. The fullback is hitting the backside B gap, which makes me think this is a called counter play. Where's Demens?
Demens has taken a step towards the line of scrimmage and has hit a guard. Now… he hit the backside guard, the one that PSU is cutting towards. He read the play, but he's a linebacker two yards from the LOS meeting a guard with a free release who's much bigger than him. Momentum means that the best he can do is bounce off it and attempt to flow down the line. (This is much more apparent in the video below.)
The play cuts back as designed. Roh has attacked a frontside gap. Martin and Demens are caught up in the wash on the interior, and Mouton, who was scraping along well back of everyone else, is going to eat the fullback four yards downfield:
The saving grace here is Kovacs, who sifts through the blockers and makes a mediocre ankle tackle that the RB (Royster, I think) steps through:
Demens and others finish it off but after four yards:
Michigan got away with this by putting an extra player in the box late. When Penn State was not caught in a bad playcall, counters like this gashed Michigan all night.
Here's the video:
I don't have an exact replica of this from Rodriguez's WVU days but here's an inside zone Rutgers ran in their 2007 game. Rutgers was no joke on the ground in '07. Ray Rice was around and the Scarlet Knights finished 26th nationally.
The first thing that's obvious is that the MLB is six yards off the line of scrimmage, not two. Also despite playing against a bigger set—Rutgers has a tight end on the field instead of a third wide receiver—West Virginia maintains two deep safeties:
At the snap WVU has shifted to an aggressive look with the OLBs and the spur at the LOS; the MLB has moved up a yard:
At the snap six players attack the line, giving all but one WVU DL a one-on-one matchup:
This is a similar setup, really: inside zone. Main difference is that there is an inline TE instead of a fullback on the backside, but they block the backside end above. The playside end is about to beat a Rutgers tackle to the inside. Note the MLB two yards away from the LOS now—where Demens started the play—after the handoff. He's scraping to the hole. A Rice cutback would be somewhat problematic for him but he's not likely to get a lineman in his face:
MLB has now engaged an OL at the LOS. Rutgers tackle is totally beaten and forces Rice to start cutting:
There are four WVU guys in the area:
And Rice goes down shortly after he crosses the LOS:
On the day Rutgers would get 183 rushing yards, but Mike Teel completed under 50% of his passes and threw two interceptions on a 128 yard passing day because WVU left the safeties back the whole time. West Virginia won 31-3. Their rushing defense was 18th nationally.
- It seemed like Michigan was using Jonas Mouton like WVU used their MLB in the 3-3-5. Except Mouton was four yards off the LOS, not six, and not aligned in the middle of the field. So if he's going to get to anything on the frontside he has to run hard, which means he is susceptible to cutbacks.
- I don't think Demens ever had a prayer of dealing with a cutback or counter because of his alignment. One step to the playside and he's a yard away from the LOS about to get swallowed by a guard.
- Michigan plays Demens at the same depth in their other line alignments. 3-4:
Paired with the disconnect in WVU's 3-3-5 this signals shoehorning to me. Demens should be at a certain depth in more conventional sets and putting him six yards back would confuse him in pass drops, run fills, etc, but in the 3-3-5 he takes one step and there's a lineman releasing free into him. In these sets he's got a chance to scrape without dealing with an unblocked OL all the time. So…
- Michigan's deployment of the 3-3-5 isn't really a 3-3-5. I don't know what it is, but that whole attacking from everywhere, making different fronts, blitzing, getting guys through the line unblocked thing is something you can see on a fairly typical WVU play above. There are six guys on the LOS threatening and a dedicated cleanup guy behind them with the space and time to get anywhere along the line. Michigan is a passive three man line with guys you can easily single block (but get to double if you want) and linebackers who are living a nightmare. It's incoherent, and Michigan going back to it after having a fairly solid day against Iowa basing almost exclusively from traditional fronts is a miniature version of what happened against Purdue in 2008. Michigan's 3-3-5 is a 3-4 with linebackers in places that don't make sense.
- Michigan only escapes the above play by outnumbering the offense. No one on the defense beat their counterpart. Everyone was blocked out of the play, which means you can't win unless you've got an extra guy, which means you can't play two deep without getting smashed.
- I have no idea what Greg Robinson is trying to accomplish. This puts me in the same situation as Greg Robinson.
Remember, all-time updates can be found on the 2011 Michigan Football Recruiting Board. If you have any recruiting tips or questions, you can e-mail them to me at [email protected] or tweet @varsityblue. For game updates on Wolverine commits, check out the F riday Night Lights series.
Visits Off, Visits On
Though Tom devoted his weekly update to the extensive visitors list from Dr. Phillips, those players are no longer planning to attend the Illinois game this weekend. It sounds like a scheduling issue - making it into Ann Arbor by noon when you play a game the night before is tough - but Michigan had better start putting some wins together if recruiting is to continue.
Speaking of those non-visitors this weekend, Michigan's top recruit FL RB Demetrius Hart - gulp - might be reconsidering his commitment. [Ed-M: I had to guess this is the link he meant. Tim?] Pls win, team.
OH QB Cardale Jones might visit Ann Arbor on December 10th ($, info in header).
Michigan's coaches were trying to get IL OL Chris Bryant into town this weekend, but he's not sure if he'll be able to work out the scheduling with his game Friday night. Illinois is also on his list of favorites, so it could be a particularly interesting game if he makes it.
AZ OL Cyrus Hobbi, who has been quiet regarding Michigan lately, is still trying to work on a Michigan visit.
Though Michigan still leads, Michigan State is "closing the gap" in the recruitment of MI DE/OL Anthony Zettel. He has trimmed his list to Michigan, MSU, Penn State, Iowa, and USC, and will take his official visit to Ann Arbor for the Big Chill.
...And Here's The Kicker!
According to Sam Webb on the WTKA Recruiting Roundup this morning, CA K Matt Goudis will visit this weekend. He's currently a Boise State commit, unrated by Rivals and ESPN but the #5 kicker nationally to Scout.
A tipster in Florida tells us that FL K Dan Grochowski is hearing from Michigan:
Michigan asked for film on FG from the ground (not a tee) and they provided that including a 60 yarder that was good (from a kicking camp). "Michigan is recruiting the right way", according to the brother, Michigan is not making promises or talking shit to Dan they are talking to coaches and have indicated that if the film looks good and Dan is interested an offer might be coming. One negative for Michigan is that they do not have a kicking coach. He also indicated that Dan DVR's EVERY MI game and watches the game during the week with his entire family.
A local fluff article fills in some details on Grochowski's abilities.
Since he's not coming to Michigan either way, allow me to link an article about MI K Kyle Brindza and be sad.
Rivals runs down a list of East Coast prospects, including a few of interest to Michigan. NC QB Marquise Williams:
Sources say that Virginia Tech has a slight lead over Michigan and North Carolina, with LSU trying to make a push and N.C. State hoping he takes his official in mid-November. As time passes, it seems less likely that Williams will stick with the Heels.
...and moving on to NC WR/LB Kris Frost:
If Michigan finishes strong, Frost is likely to end up in Ann Arbor. However, his other favorite is Auburn and it could end up playing for a national title... Frost will take an official to Ann Arbor in November and also take an official to Auburn.
Finally, VA LB Curtis Grant hasn't officially eliminated Michigan, and Rivals reports they're still in the mix, so it's notable that he's been selected to the Army All-American Bowl.
MI RB Thomas Rawls has been named the MVP of his league. That's unsurprising, as he's been smashing local records left and right.
Michigan and West Virginia still lead for FL Slot WR Prince Holloway, but he has added Florida and USF to his list ($, info in header). Those schools have the advantage of location over his top schools.
FL DT Tim Jernigan clarifies Florida's standing on his list to Ed Aschoff:
Thursday, Jernigan maintained that Florida is still a school outside of his favorite list, but hasn’t completely taken the Gators off his radar.
“Could things change? Of course, yes, it can change,” Jernigan told reporters following Columbia’s 25-11 loss to Jacksonville Ed White. “I still have three months and I still keep in contact with some of the coaches down there. It’s not like I blew them completely away, but I have my favorite four.”
With his high school season reaching an early end, Jernigan's decision timeframe has accelerated. Playing time will be his main consideration, which means Michigan should be ridiculously difficult to top. For the record, his coach says he "really enjoyed" his time in Ann Arbor, and the decision will come "down to the wire."
Tom spoke with recent offeree MI LB Desmond Morgan about his recruitment. The moneyshot:
TOM: Since you're a Michigan fan a lot of people think that it would make sense to commit right away, and get it over with. Is that how you feel it will play out?
DESMOND: No, before the recruiting process started my dad and I said that we were going to take our time with everything, and just let it play out. We still want to stick to that game plan, and just see how it goes. .. We want to go up to Michigan, probably after my season, and meet with the coaches, see the facilities, and everything that Michigan has to offer. I want to make sure I feel comfortable with everything, and not just make a rash decision.
Although he isn't saying Michigan leads, it certainly sounds like that's the case. Depending on how things play out over the rest of the season, there's a good chance he ends up in maize and blue. Local fluff on the offer. Desmond led his team to an upset of Grand Haven in round 1 of the state playoffs.
Josh Helmholdt updates the recruitment of FL CB Dallas Crawford and his teammate WR Sammy Watkins in the Free Press.
Both players says they will be making their college selections independent of one another, but they are close friends who have taken several trips together. If one commits before the other, that school will likely become to team to beat for the remaining half of the pair.
That quote is particularly encouraging, given that Crawford has named Michigan his leader. The pair is planning a winter trip to Ann Arbor, their third visit this year.
Michigan still leads for LA CB Daren Kitchen, he tells Sam Webb ($, info in header). The possibility for an instant commitment from Kitchen may be why the staff is confident in waiting to offer him.
Happy Trails, OH LB Sean Duggan, who committed to Boston College.
Local fluff on Austintown (OH) Fitch High School, which hosts a trio of Michigan targets in RB William Mahone, QB Demitrious Davis, and WR/DB Chris Davis. Tom also talked about Mahone in his weekly update.
Chicago Simeon is loaded with prospects this year, including a talented signal caller in 2012's Robert Gregory:
This season, Gregory has led Simeon to a 9-0 record by throwing 23 touchdown passes and rushing for 17 scores.
Among the schools showing interest in Gregory are Notre Dame, Northwestern, Iowa, Purdue, Michigan State and Arizona. For now Gregory prefers to focus on his junior football season rather than recruiting, but he did say he likes Oregon, Michigan and Ohio State.
Should Michigan land Bryant, they'll have a leg up on both Gregory and 2012 OL Jordan Diamond.
PA OL Tyler Alt was on hand to see Michigan fall at Penn State ($, info in header). Alt's dad e-mails us to inform that Tyler has been invited to the US Army Junior Combine.
IL DT Tommy Schutt holds a Michigan offer.
out of date
HAI GUYS I BET YOU LIKE GOOD NEWS. Troy Woolfolk's twitter:
Things just got worse for Michigan fans. Can't elaborate that's all I'm saying.
UMGoBlog's got a rumor that this is in reference to JT Floyd's ankle, supposedly in a nonfunctional state after practice today. Tom got an independently sourced email saying the same thing. Player on team saying bad news + two different sources with identical stories about what that bad news is == 99% true e-rumor.
So JT Floyd is probably done for the year. One of three freshman will start opposite James Rogers. I'm working my way through the Penn State game tape and am not sure how much this actually hurts but it's not good. Your available non-freshman cornerback on the roster is James Rogers. That is all.
UPDATE: Woolfolk is hurriedly backtracking, which may be CYA but may not. Downgrade your likelihood somewhat here. I probably wouldn't have posted this without that third bit but the two standing are melding with other stuff around the internets and this is still likely to be true.
UPDATE II: So the "out for year" bit seems unknown. Definitely out for Saturday, though.