"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Pushback from the Michigan athletic department on the UMass thing:
"That's not true -- not even close," Draper said. "We're talking to them, (but) not for that date."
Michigan, he said, intends to make the season opener the "dedication" game for the stadium, which is currently under construction, adding suites and a new press box.
"We're trying to do something special," said Draper, who indicated Michigan is talking to a "couple teams" for that day.
Since Michigan hasn't played a nonconference game on the road outside of South Bend since 2003 and teams you could designate "special" would probably demand a return game, I can't imagine what that would be. Western and Eastern… at the same time?
This doesn't change the fact that scheduling UMass would be totally lame, but at least there's the hint of an outline of an actual BCS opponent in Draper's words. Now watch them schedule Ohio Wesleyan.
Update 4/21: Linked to articles on SC QB Cornelius Jones, OL Brent Benedict, FL RB Cassius McDowell, SC S Bashaud Breeland, FL S Marvin Robinson (w/ mention of FL RB Roy Finch), PA CB Brandon Ifill, FL WR Kenny Shaw (second), QBs Munchie Legaux and Barry Brunetti, MN OL Seantrel Henderson.
Removed IN OL James Hurst(UNC), OH LB Scott McVey(OSU), SC OL AJ Cann (not in top seven).
As always, some links via Varsity Blue.
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting board lives here.
No real surprises: Hurst never showed much interest in Michigan, McVey was ticketed to OSU from the start, and Cann's from SC so it can't be that surprising Michigan isn't strong with him. There were some flimsy rumors Cann was interested in M, I guess. As far as drops from the board go, none of the above are surprising or particularly meaningful.
Soon to be in this section, though is, SC S Bashaud Breeland, who has a top three of South Carolina, Clemson, and Virginia Tech. Slouching towards board removal, he.
Hello? Or no?
TOM: So are you officially committed, or just high on Michigan?
TRAVIS: I'm committed. I talked to Coach Rodriguez today, and told him the news. They just told me to call him back after the spring. He wants me to make sure that I made the right decision, and not make a bad move.
So… uh. What is this? Neither Scout or Rivals considers Williams committed yet, so I'll go with them and leave him uncommitted on the board. And what's going on with Michigan telling Williams to wait? They brought him up, offered him, and then said "wait just a second" when he was ready to accept the offer. Two possibilities:
- They're a little leery of kids they haven't built a relationship with yet jumping on an offer because it looks like a nice offer. Williams is expected to get an array of offers in the near future, any of which could look more attractive if he wants to stay closer to home.
- This is a slow-play and Michigan might try to gently disengage itself if the bigger fish on the corner board land in the boat. Williams' other offers are Kansas State, Indiana, and Miami of Ohio (Not That Miami of Ohio).
Either way, this is sort of what I was talking about earlier: Michigan's offering a bunch of kids but it doesn't seem like they mean it with all of them, which will lead to more uncomfortable situations like this in the future.
As to Williams himself: yes, those other offers and his lack of a ranking aren't terribly exciting. We'll see if this supposed offer wave comes in and who's on it. A debate about Rodriguez's recruiting style and the large number of commitments without serious offers other than Michigan is outside the scope of this post, but will probably get addressed sometime soon.
Sticking With It
“The Michigan visit was real exciting,” said Wilson. “I was real happy and glad to be up there, to see the Big House, meet all the coaches, and talk to the players.”
…hey, that sounds pretty good still. Wilson plans on taking officials to Stanford—who mom would like to get a look—Tennessee, and M with the final two slots undecided. Miami (That Miami) is also a main contender since he's from, you know, Miami. He doesn't need to take an official to a local school. Wilson has backed off the "Michigan leads" talk for now.
Please Stick With It
This is something I overlooked in last week's roundup, but hey this is good($):
Dallas (Tex.) Skyline running back Tony Drake made a quick decision for Michigan after receiving his first offer of the process from the Wolverines last month. Now, Drake's teammate at Skyline, four-star linebacker Corey Nelson, is also professing strong interest in Michigan.
Headline of that article states Nelson "has Michigan at the top." This is good since Nelson is currently Rivals' #24 player in the class of 2010. If he holds that spot he'd be a five star by year's end. (He isn't now because Rivals usually starts the list of five stars smaller and expands it as the year goes by.)
Caveats apply: long way out, guys shift all the time, lead without a visit is particularly flimsy, etc. Still a good spot to be in with Nelson.
Michigan's maintaining its lead for SC QB/ATH Cornelius Jones:
“I had just got back to playing football and trying to learn everything that I thought it was something good, but I didn’t know how big at the time,” he said. “I realized after getting back into (the game) that it would be an honor to play in that jersey. I mean they’ve had national championships and Heisman trophy winners.”
At this point I think Jones isn't a true QB recruit, but an ATH recruit who will be given a shot at QB who could end up anywhere from WR to DB to LB.
Michigan's also on top for FL RB Cassius McDowell:
"Michigan is my No. 1 school right now. Everybody else is even. I would like to follow my teammate. I like the cold weather and the spread offense."
McDowell is from Deerfield Beach, where Michigan scooped the package of Denard Robinson and Adrian Witty last year. He's just picked up a South Carolina offer, too.
FL WR Kenny Shaw, a now-former teammate of Ricardo Miller, maintained Michigan as his early leader before flipping over to become a strong Florida State lean at the same time he blew up at a bunch of camps and combines and the like. His situation is not promising unless you're a Florida State fan:
Shaw visited FSU unofficially last month, and wanted to pull the trigger then.
"Honestly the reason was my parents," Shaw said. "They wanted me to wait it out, take my visits over the summer, and then make a decision after my senior year."
I guess that gives Michigan time to get him up for a visit or even an official, at which point Miller can hypnotize him and implant "Bobby Bowden will kill your NFL aspirations* and possibly dribble on you" in his subconscious mind; other than that there doesn't seem to be much chance.
*(kidding, Seminole fans!)
Meanwhile, PA CB Brandon Ifill, teammate of lock-o-licious PA CB Cullen Christian, has a leader:
"I really liked Maryland," Ifill said. "I was really impressed with what I saw. I was impressed with the coaching staff and the campus. Right now my favorite would probably be Maryland."
Michigan is still in it, though, as an earlier article indicates:
Ifill says Pitt and Michigan are next on his list, right behind Maryland.
"I haven't been to Michigan yet," he said. "I want to try to get up there in the summer."
Michigan's got upward mobility what with being in the top three without a visit, especially with Christian's evident enthusiasm for winged helmets. 50-50 Michigan surges into a lead if he takes that visit; Michigan's in pretty decent position with him still.
FL S commit Marvin Robinson attended a combine and showed well:
Michigan commit Marvin Robinson (Winter Haven, Fla./Lake Region) stood out with the defensive backs. He is a physically imposing and athletic safety prospect. He showed good ball skills and moved well. On film, he displays a good feel for the game. In talking with Robinson after the camp, he said he still wants improve on his ability to read plays.
(That article also mentions FL RB Roy Finch as the best back at the camp. Michigan shot him an offer, but that's all we know about him at this point.) There were premium reports to the same effect, but with added stuff that says "future linebacker" if you squint hard and read between the lines. Some of the folks at Tomahawk Nation also took in the festivities and were kind enough to email impressions: outstanding athlete probably ticketed for linebacker. Think Mouton.
MONDAY MONDAY MONDAY! This is probably going to be way less blood-spattered than the average person who might care about this would like, but it should be entertaining anyway: I'll be on Bacon's show on WTKA this afternoon… with Jim Carty! Carty's on at the beginning of the 4PM hour and I'll be joining him midway through. You can probably guess the topic: the dissolution of the Ann Arbor News. No, I'm not planning on getting into a really complicated discussion about the academics investigation that 15 minutes on a radio show can't do justice.
(One of these days, I promise, I will be on the radio to talk about football. Again, it's April.)
Christening. It looks like Michigan's going to open up their spectacular new renovated stadium next year with a terrific game against traditional power Massachusetts:
According to a source, it was Michigan that approached UMass about the game, which would be played at Michigan Stadium, which holds 106,201 for football.
“We’d like to, we want to, and we’re looking into it,” said UMass spokesman Jason Yellin.
Lame. Might as well get the yearly complaint out of the way: this is the worst thing about college football. Bill Martin's decision to extend the ND series until the sun expands was fine as long as Michigan would occasionally schedule an interesting second game, but that looks like it's never going to happen. When is Michigan going to agree to any series against an opponent respectable enough to demand a return game, even if it's a 2-for-1 situation? It doesn't have to be USC, but this is awful.
Two changes that will never get made that would improve things immeasurably: banning I-AA games and instituting a maximum of seven home games (or a minimum of five true road games, which would prevent things like Michigan vs New Mexico State at Ford Field from evading the directive). Since exactly zero people in the NCAA's hierarchy care about the people who pay for the entire enterprise, this will never happen.
Leaving as fast as possible in as many ways as possible. Lane Kiffin caused defections at Tennessee are up to a spectacular nine now, which is a lot more folk a lot faster than Rodriguez "ran off," to use the parlance of people who don't know what they're talking about. The latest is QB BJ Coleman, who actually appears to have gotten run off:
“It’s the best move for me,” Coleman told The Free-Press. “What changed my mind is, after this spring, I don’t see myself getting a fair shake. Based on conversations with coaches and things that happened this spring, I feel the staff has goals that do not include me."
This brings Tennessee down to two scholarship quarterbacks, one of whom is terrible senior Jonathan Crompton. And yet Kiffin said no thanks to the two committed quarterbacks he inherited from Fulmer, including top-100 guy Tajh Boyd. Relevance to Michigan? Slight. I guess he's taking a lot of heat that might otherwise be directed at Rodriguez.
Despite the irrelevance, the mention is because he's instantly the most fascinating head coach in college football. He committed yet another stupid, minor recruiting violation recently, by the way. Of course he did. This could go towards Spurrier direction or John L Smith; I have no idea which it will be.
Smotcyz! Smotycrz! Smotycz! Smotrycz! There's an inside view into my Smotrycz spelling process for you. I plan on charging 9.95 a month for things like that soon*, so soak it up now while it's free.
Anyway, Michigan's most recent commit had another AAU weekend and there were a couple reports. This is from NBE:
Good height, but needs to get physically stronger before the Big 10. His size and skill away from the basket makes it look like he was made for John Beilein’s system and he should get the most of his strengths at Michigan. Showed ability to slash to the basket, but needs to finish more often once in the paint, as evidenced by failing to convert on an easy lay-up. Added strength will help.
Kind of sounds like Deshawn Sims, no? Smotrycz is taller but probably not as athletic. Meanwhile at NERR:
Evan Smotrycz was the catalyst as the Michigan bound forward really brought his game to another level. Not only was he making shots from the perimeter, but he also showed a much improved dribble drive game, as he was able to break his man down with a right to left cross-over on more than one occasion. But it wasn’t just his ability to score off the dribble that was so impressive as he also passed the ball tremendously well, acting as a facilitator in the second half with his ability to create open looks for his teammates.
Evan Smotrycz picked up right where he left off a day earlier as he was outstanding for the second consecutive day, making shots, breaking people down off the dribble, and passing the ball very well. It was his consistent excellence throughout the course of the weekend that helped propel the Rivals all the way to the finals before finally losing to a New Jersey Celtics team that featured top 50 junior Kyrie Irving and the nation’s top sophomore Michael Gilchrist.
I'm getting a little skeptical of these reports from NERR because identical ones are showing up at Scott Hazelton's site. Hazelton runs a basketball school/camp sort of business and Smotrycz is a protégé. The glowing reports might not be 100% fair and balanced, then. Might want to scale those down to places where Smotrycz is not a titan astride basketball.
That's not to say the last two weeks haven't been very good for public perception of Smotrycz's game: every national pundit who's offered an opinion has been extremely positive, and most have brought him up apropos of nothing except his ability to ball.
In other basketball recruiting. UMHoops has a wider roundup for those interested, with the most important development being the apparent cooling off between NY PF Will Regan and Michigan. Regan's latest top five doesn't include Michigan. With Michigan still hot on the heels of Trey Zeigler and in need of another point guard after Kelvin Grady's transfer, both open slots in this class are probably going to guards or wings, which Regan is not.
Grady's transfer brings the 2010 class to at least three spots. I've suggested in the past that Michigan might take four depending on the NBA status of Manny Harris and the fifth year status of Anthony Wright, but it's been pointed out to me that Michigan would then be approaching the loaded instate class of 2011 with just one open slot unless there was unexpected attrition. That's something they probably won't want to do unless the hypothetical 2010 player they're taking is freakin' awesome.
More media machinating. So: a kind mention from John Bacon on his weekly NPR commentary (transcript here) amidst his take on the Ann Arbor News is going kaput. Carty takes issue with some of the numbers:
I'm a little skeptical that, as John claims, more people read MGoBlog during football season than purchase the Ann Arbor News (this is a metrics issue, not a shot at MGoBlog, but a question about the difficulty of measuring individual Internet visitors, vs. the 250,000-plus people a week who you know bought the News, because you have their money).
Carty's right as to the difficulty of measuring the relative readership across mediums. My stats are public in two flavors:
- Sitemeter, which measures pageviews and visits, and
- Quantcast, which does an awful lot of complicated stuff to come up with some demographic numbers.
The upshot, as far as I can tell: the blog does about 2 million pageviews a month now. By traditional internet accounting these hits come from about 110,000 monthly uniques, but Quantcast thinks that's about 2x too generous as far as the number of actual people who check the site. The Ann Arbor News has a circulation of about 45k, which by standard industry math corresponds to sixty trillion readers. So… draw your own conclusions. The mere fact that it's plausible is probably more interesting than the current winner.
More JMFC, and friends. To hockey recruiting now: Jack Campbell was interviewed by the Wolverine, and certainly sounds like a guy who will end up on campus by his scouting reports on teammates current and future:
Merrill - absolute stud. Enough said. Next JMFJ.
This is a man who is into Michigan hockey. The second, premium section of the interview($) contains another statement similar to the one discussed earlier, where Campbell professes his loyalty for Michigan before mentioning the dark possibility that the team that drafts him will be really into Sutter brothers and want him elsewhere. Chances of a defection remain slim but nonzero.
Elsewhere, 2010 D Kevin Clare was the subject of an extensive Red Line Report profile. After JMFJ2.0 and Adam Clendening were called up to the U18 team, Clare was handed increased responsibility on both ends of the ice and responded:
“With the departure of those two skilled players, Kevin has completely stepped up his game and shown to everybody that he has a lot more to his game than just being a hard-nosed, tough defenseman,” remarked U-17 assistant coach John Wroblewski. “He is exceptional with the puck, cool under pressure and can handle the power play very well.” …
“We look at him to be one of the harder players, to set the tone physically and to make sure that the opponent knew when he was on the ice,” Wroblewski said. “The biggest thing with Kevin is lately he has shown such a great ability to go back for pucks and just read the situation on the breakout. As a defenseman, it is invaluable to have that knowledge and presence back there.
“On the opposite end of the puck, he has shown an absolute knack for knowing when to step up into the play and delivering pucks to the net. That has made him a great asset on the power play as well as 5-on-5.”
Cool biographical tidbit: Clare's father is Irish, as in from-Ireland Irish, and played Gaelic football, but didn't want Clare to get into it because there's no professional opportunities.
I wonder how many more times they're going to announce this:
"In order to address the speculation around DeShawn and Manny's future we are announcing that both these young men have decided to continue their respective educational paths here at the University of Michigan," Beilein said in a statement. "Since the completion of our season we have gathered enough information for everyone to feel good about this decision. I am anxious to see their continued growth and I am excited to coach these two, as well as the rest of the team next season."
Probably zero since the deadline is in two days, but this is like the third time they've done it so there's still hope.
2010 uber-goalie commit Jack Campbell in the Free Press:
“I’ll be a high-end pick in the 2010 (NHL) draft. It really depends on what the NHL team wants me to do. The only thing I can say is I’m loyal to Michigan. I want to be in a Michigan jersey.”
The Daily's Nicole Auerbach, perhaps prompted by the article's attention-grabbing "Campbell could play at Michigan or in OHL" headline:
So what does this kind of a comment mean? It could just be a kid in the spotlight who isn’t sure what to do yet. It could be an indication that Campbell might not stick around all four years at Michigan. Or it could be his way of saying he’s excited about Michigan (maybe not).
This guy's response: Campbell wants to play at Michigan unless some NHL team really wants him to sign right away. This would, presumably, rule out an OHL defection unless the drafting team is just really insanely pro-CHL and also wanted to get their relationship with Campbell off on the wrong foot. There is only one precedent for a Michigan player getting signed by an NHL team and shipped to Canadian juniors, and that's Trevor Lewis, a late first-rounder a couple years ago who the Kings signed immediately. Lewis was rumored to be academically ineligible, FWIW, something that cost Michigan a couple of kids in the late 90s.
So while Campbell could be signed and shipped, I'd worry more if a statement like that came from Merrill or Moffatt. High draft pick skaters are occasionally signed immediately and put in the NHL. Not so with goalies. Goalies develop more slowly and last a lot longer. For example, Al Montoya was the fifth pick in the draft and didn't sign until after his junior year, though he probably could have (and should have) gone after two. While I'm not expecting Campbell gets a degree from Michigan without correspondence courses, I'll take two years from Campbell happily.
Bonus: NHL teams now have a strong incentive to not play their prospects in their 18 and 19 year old seasons because that starts their free agency clock sooner. The team that drafts Campbell will have the choice of developing him on Michigan's dime or theirs; I'm betting they'll pick Michigan unless it's the goddamn Kings.
Also from the Free Press article:
"For me, playing near my hometown of Port Huron was a big thing, so my family who supported me all these years could see me play. I was a State fan growing up. My dad attended Michigan State and my cousin, Marshall Campbell, played football there."
Ouch. Thank you Comley clap clap clapclapclap. If Campbell matriculates and gets drafted as high as it appears he will, that would make two high first-rounders at Michigan with fathers who attended State. (JMFJ is the other.)
I'd love to get all up on my high horse about this undeniably douchy move by Thad Matta…
When Cameron Wright got off the phone with Ohio State men's basketball coach Thad Matta on Tuesday night, the junior guard from Benedictine knew he was not going to fulfill his dream of playing basketball for the Buckeyes. …
While recruits in football and basketball backing out of non-binding oral commitments isn't unusual, this wasn't a case of a kid changing his mind. Ever since OSU assistant John Groce, the primary recruiter for Wright, left to become the head coach at Ohio last June, Wright said contact from the Buckeyes had been sparse, and the call from Matta on Tuesday led to the final parting.
"I was definitely going to stick with Ohio State," said Wright.
…except I'm pretty sure Michigan did something subtler but similar with DeWayne Peace and Jordan Barnes, football recruits of yesteryear who decommitted in a fashion something less than voluntary. Peace had a conversation like this at some point:
Michigan: We'd like you to play defensive back.
Peace: Didn't I tell you I wanted to be a receiver?
Peace: Excuse me, I have to call Kansas.
Barnes, meanwhile, cited a wholesale lack of contact from the Michigan staff when he decommitted.* (He would later end up at Oklahoma State.) In both these cases Michigan didn't actually call up and say "you can't come here anymore," which makes their actions fractionally less douchy than those of Matta, but it's basically the same thing: whoops, can I have that scholarship back?
This might not be a trend yet, but it will be one soon, and then it will just be a fact of life. It's inevitable what with recruiting schedules moving so far forward, especially in basketball. Wright committed a year and a half ago(!). In the interim he went from highly touted to anonymous three-star. If you're a Michigan basketball fan you're probably thinking "I sort of wish Amaker had the balls to do that with Jerrett Smith," which assumes that Amaker would actually have replaced Smith with someone better but whatever. I feel you.
What's inevitable is also totally unfortunate, though. Wright's depressed final quote isn't going to be showing up in any annoying commercials starring violin-playing Asian soccer virtuosos:
"At the end of the day, it's all a business."
I thought the entire point was that it wasn't, in fact, a business. Upon this rests the entire near-fiction, not to mention the NCAA's tax-exempt status: that, in the end, the best interests of the student-athlete are paramount. That once you tell this Wright kid he can play basketball at Ohio State, he gets to unless he fails social studies six times or gets so high he can touch the sun.
As a fan I'd meet this news with two different emotions. One: hurray, it's more likely the team will be good. Two: boo, it's going to be harder to cheer for them when the ghost of Cameron Wright is sitting next to the walk-ons in a Cleveland State jersey. Everyone has a different balance there; mine slants heavily towards #2.
So it's good to be a fan of a university that did not actually run Jerrett Smith off, at least not before he got to campus. Smith's now a bench player at Grand Valley State after being booted for failing to meet standards set by Beilein. This also happened to Kendrick Price. Their removal from the team was not voluntary, but that seems fine as long as the standards are uniform and don't include things like "be useful on the court." Given the continued presence of Anthony Wright (before the Oklahoma game, at least), it's safe to say this isn't one of the standards.
Rodriguez's dance with the decommits hews closer to a line I'm uncomfortable with but still ends up on the right side of the line. If you don't think a kid can contribute or doesn't fit in your offense, it's best to tell them and let them make up their own mind. It's better to find out Michigan thinks you're a defensive back before signing day, after all, and unless you're being dishonest about that—which we'll never have any way of knowing—that's probably a net benefit. Peace is now a receiver at a place he'd rather be.
Barnes' case is murkier but there, too, Michigan let the guy make up his own mind. They helped along by making him feel unwanted, and while I'd prefer it if Michigan waited long enough to make sure they really wanted everyone they offered that kind of scrupulousness would put them behind the eight-ball, and as long as you don't actually yank the offer the kid's making a choice.
Do I have a larger point here? This is where the larger point goes. I don't know. I was just going to turn this into a UV bit and then it ended up pushing 1000 words, so you've read to the end and I should have a point.
I guess it's this: I don't want Michigan to be the sort of program that can pull what Matta just did. While I'm fine up to a point with the occasional moral compromise required to stay atop the shifting sands of Lemming-era recruiting, Rodriguez's tendency to shotgun offers out and let God sort 'em out later seems like a strategy that will lead to more uncomfortable situations not unlike a middle school dance: one party is desperately trying to extricate themselves from a situation they didn't think through before they checked the box that said "yes I like you."
*(I can no longer find a link for this, unfortunately. I have referenced it before, though. At the time of the decommit there was an Indy Star article that was pretty blunt about it.)