"What (Michigan coaches) told me is that they're focusing on point guards right now, but if anything opens up, they'll definitely come back on and recruit me as hard as they were," said Towns
Chris Graham has just had tragedy befall his family:
NFL hopeful and local son Chris Graham tragically lost his sister, Jacqueline Love, in a house fire this past week -- a portable kerosene heater was the cause of the accident. Jacqueline, a single mom, leaves behind her 10-year old daughter, Jada Love. The child escaped the fire with minor injuries, but lost all of her belongings. The family is now struggling to pay for a funeral and has asked for the public's help in raising funds.
Donations can be sent to this address:
c/o Jeff Terry
4345 Forrest Manor Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46222
Glasnost. It's no secret that Michigan has, until recently, operated at a level of paranoia and secretiveness rivaled only by Scientology. What's a secret? Everything else. Enter Rich Rodriguez as Gorbachev, and the walls come tumbling down:
For decades, the program operated under a shroud of secrecy that led to extremely limited media access. Last week, however, this reporter was able to walk right into the Schembechler complex, speak with not only the head coach but also the assistants and -- drum roll, please -- watch an entire Michigan practice.
That's Stewart Mandel, who -- like many members of the media -- has long been crotchety about Carr's... uh... crotchet-osity. Or whatever. You try turning that into an object.
Fans have been clamoring for more openness for a long time, for selfish reasons like it's nice to hear things like this:
Led up front by veterans Tim Jamison, Terrance Taylor, Will Johnson and Brandon Graham, and with both Trent and freshman All-America Donovan Warren (by far the most impressive player in practice) at cornerback, a dominant defense will likely be Michigan's best hope for a respectable transition season.
Fans love any piece of information they can get their greasy mitts on; Carr and company thought it detrimental to the program. Why? I don't know. I don't think they considered Michigan's media profile particularly important -- which it wasn't in 1969, the last time anyone updated the drapes or changed the culture around these parts -- and were loathe to let anyone know about Michigan's very tricky secrets like "run left on first play of game every game".
In 2008, things are different. Pete Carroll and Urban Meyer turned their programs into media darlings by 1) winning and 2) being accessible and, in Carroll's case, thinking everything is awesome. That tie you're wearing? Awesome. The donut you're eating? Awesome. Snoop Dogg? Awesome. Result: Shelly Smith is surgically attached to Trojan football and recruits all over the country spurn the local schools to be sixth on the depth chart. Not that I'm bitter or anything.
A quick check of any message board on the planet will reveal that every fan thinks the media is biased against their team. Incontrovertible proof: You can go to NDNation and read not-irregular complaints that NBC is biased against Notre Dame. QED, MFer. In reality, the media is mostly biased in favor of itself. Carr made their job hard by staring holes in their face whenever they asked an impertinent question and hardly ever providing the sort of access that makes a good story. Result: generally negative coverage of the program in the media. Rodriguez says "come in and watch this and I'll tell jokes about the Lion King." Result: stuff like the Mandel piece above. Media-friendly is the way to go.
Speaking of the media... the Daily meta-interviewed some of the Ann Arbor News interviewees and turned up something unethical:
Kolarik said he was misled by Ann Arbor News reporter John Heuser, who interviewed him for the story, about the article's subject matter.
"He told me it was going to be a tribute to Hagen's retirement, because he retired from one of his jobs this past fall," Kolarik said.
Kinesiology sophomore Greg Mathews, a wide receiver on the Michigan football team who was also quoted in the story, said he too felt misled about the focus of the story.
Mathews said the Ann Arbor News reporter who interviewed him - he said he didn't know who that was - told him the story would be a tribute to Prof. Hagen because he had retired from his position in the Society for Research in Child Development in the beginning of September.
I wonder if I Are Serious Editor has stopped spending every moment agonizing over Michigan's "culture of denial" and can now focus some time on an investigation that turned up almost nothing, outed embarrassing GPAs of innocent students in violation of federal law, and used unethical reporting tactics to get incriminating quotes from students who thought they were doing a professor of theirs a favor.
The administration is also looking for whoever leaked student's transcripts to the press -- which, like keeping an amphibious rodent for, uh... domestic... within the city limits, isn't legal -- and will undoubtedly fire the guy.
You remember how the News complained about the University being unresponsive and turned down an interview with Mary Sue Coleman because the U wanted it over email?
Heuser did not return multiple phone calls seeking comment.
Jim Knight, managing editor of The Ann Arbor News, did not return repeated calls for comment last night.
Mmm, like rain on your wedding day except actually ironic.
Side note: back in October, Heuser acted like a dick during a press conference and got snipped at by Carr.
Why not? Rakes of Mallow, in the midst of complaining about Notre Dame basketball's nonconference schedule -- 250th in all the land:
Big Ten teams- A few years ago, the Irish played both Indiana and Michigan, a trend that sadly stopped the last couple seasons. While the team may eventually face Tom Crean's Indiana Hoosiers in Maui (one NCAA win in five seasons! As long as he can get Dwyane Wade to come to Bloomington, great hire, Hoosiers!), what's the reason for not facing Michigan, Indiana and/or Purdue on a yearly basis?
Word. Michigan and ND just locked themselves into a football contract that expires when the sun does; they're also in the same hockey conference. Why don't they play Notre Dame every year? There's an existing rivalry between the schools, ND is nearby, and the ND program is respectable but not exactly Duke or UCLA.
I briefly inhabited the city of Cork, wherein an unpleasant woman showed me a room with black plastic where a window should go, the view was nice but I decamped to Galway and that was Cork. The most bizarre biographical factoid about MGoBlog bete noire John Pollack, he of "Save the Big House" and Tiananmen Square fame: he built a boat
out of wine corks and floated it down some river. No, seriously. If you don't believe me, believe 20/20:
Pollack's childhood fantasy was to build his very own boat and sail off on a magical adventure, and he made that dream a reality.
20/20 thinks this is cute; around these parts not so much.
Hockey FR. Yost Built has "Going Upstairs" posted for Michigan's regional games and plans like editions for Michigan's games against Notre Dame this year; surprisingly there was no mention of how frustrating the refereeing was during the Clarkson game. Clarkson, like Michigan State, specialized in "good defense," which means grabbing and clutching and grabbing and interfering juuust short of a penalty unless the game is undergoing one of its periodic crackdowns on obstruction. They also specialized in punching guys in the face, which only got called sometimes.
But he had the benefit of replay, and concluded:
I should also point out that I don't think the officiating was nearly as bad as I thought it was the first time I watched the game. Most of the ones we got replays for were legit calls. A couple of bad missed calls, but overall a pretty well-officiated game, despite my earlier comments.
Ohhhhhhhh... As mentioned on the sidebar yesterday, MSU's Jeff Abdelkader signed with the Red Wings and will not return for his senior season. Yost Built notes that there is a guy on the RCMB claiming sophomore defenseman Mike Ratchuk has signed with the Flyers. Since the same guy reported both the Abdelkader and Brian Lerg (who signed with Edmonton) signings hours before the news became public, it's probably legit.
With Tim Kennedy widely expected to sign with Buffalo, State will enter next year minus four of its top five scorers, three of its defensemen, and some pointless fourth-liner. If Jeff Petry -- who, IMO, was terrific in what I saw of him -- signs with Edmonton, they might have a rough year.
Oh... snap? Jim Tressel:
"Is there a gentleman's agreement between Big Ten coaches that once a player verbally commits to a school, the other coaches are supposedly hands off?"
This was Tressel's answer, after about a one-second pause.
"I guess only between the gentlemen."
OSU's Scout site refers to this as a "thinly veiled dig"; the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, linked above, is more circumspect. Is it? It seems remarkably hypocritical to imply you're ethically superior to another coach when you yourself just tried the exact same trick. (Columbus OL Patrick Omameh picked up an OSU offer the day before signing day, just like Michigan and snake-oil-eruption-causing Roy Roundtree.) And it seems out of character for Jim Tressel, Most Boring Man On The Planet.
It kinda sounds like a dig, though. And by God I hope it is. MGoBlog's policy on trash talk is "trash talk is awesome, always."
Etc.: Tyler Sellhorn explains the flexbone, may be of relevance to option-interested Michigan fans.
While Isaiah Bell and Teric Jones are "under the radar" "sleepers" at this point in time, Justin Turner is "wicked sweet" and "maybe the best prospect in Ohio." He's currently #42 in the Rivals 100, and #137 at Scout. ESPN has him on their watch list for their top 150, saying thusly($):
Great blend of size and speed at defensive back and possesses a coveted frame for a cover corner. ... Very athletic in deep coverage with proper positioning, good range and ball skills. Excellent leaper who knows how to high-point the football. ... Turner is blessed with great athleticism and could be molded into a good corner at the next level, particularly in zone schemes, but his measurables, range and physicality are exciting when projecting as a college safety.
Turner's a generic DB, I guess; with the commitment of Bell I've moved turner to corner on the board. If Turner can be an effective corner with his size (6'2") he's a potential high first round draft pick and All-American. Hey, take it from him:
Amazingly enough, Turner never played cornerback until last season. However, the switch from safety to cornerback proved to be almost flawless, as he finished with a team-best three interceptions to go with four pass break-ups, a forced fumble, 32 solo tackles and 12 assisted stops. He added five tackles for loss and a quarterback pressure.
"All of these coaches, they like big corners," Turner said. "You really don't see 6-3 corners. The corners are usually 5-10, 6-foot. Once they see a 6-3 corner on the field with good footwork, I think it catches their eyes."
The same article notes offers from Michigan, Ohio State, MSU, Illinois, Pitt, and West Virginia as of a couple weeks ago and states M, OSU, and ZookU were recruiting him as a corner. SI's Andy Staples mentioned him in an early look at 2009's top prospects:
Justin Turner from Massillon (Ohio), has safety size (6-2, 190) and cornerback speed. He's also an excellent kick returner.
The ESPN scouting report also mentioned he could be a special teams "stud" -- ooh la la -- FWIW. Michigan will be spoilt for choice on kick returners in the near future.
- There's an interview with Turner on what looks like a school-sponsored site devoted to Massillon basketball; in it you can discover his love for math, Madden, and spaghetti.
- Fluff article from Yappi.com, from his sophomore year.
- Tremendously long article from "Massillon Proud" after his freshman year. Mom, though misguided in her college preferences, is hard on him about grades:
"Grades is a number one priority and he must maintain a certain grade point average in the classroom. If he does not, there will be a problem," she said. "If he does not meet standards, he will lose some privileges such as no Playstation. Grades are #1."
"Right now, he has maintained a 3.0 average. When we went to parent-teacher conferences, his teachers all had good praise for him."
No playstation! Monster! Also, probably no issues with qualifying.
- Scouting Ohio, as per usual, has highlights.
Editorial Opinion: It's never bad to pick up a top 50 player, especially from Ohio, and it's good that Turner was quickly reassured about Michigan after the coaching switch. If Turner can hack it as a cornerback he's got NFL all-pro protential (obviously that's way, way off).
Potentially interesting side notes: after a huge post-Marlin-Jackson drought on top corner prospects this is the third year in a row Michigan's picked up a blue chip at the position. And of Michigan's 11 under Rodriguez, six are from Ohio. This shouldn't come as a surprise since Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida (where he's also had good success) were Rodriguez's main stomping grounds at WVU. Pennsylvania's lagging a bit here.
Finally, an update on Isaiah Bell. Helpful readers point out that ESPN just slapped up an evaluation of Bell, placing them on their top 150 watch list and gushing:
I don't know if the "I" in Isaiah stands for interception or the "B" in Bell means big playmaker, but one thing for certain, this guy is a good football player. He shows outstanding ball skills and at 6'2" and two hundred pounds he is a big safety. Rules the secondary as a free safety. ... A magnificent kickoff return specialist. ... Bell will be a big time player at a big time college.
Emphasis mine, cause, like, dude. ESPN's entry into college recruiting has been interesting contrast with Scout and Rivals. The latter are generally rah rah about everything and anyone; ESPN takes a much more critical look at players in their scouting reports. I've never seen anything so cheerleadery from them. Two possibilities: this guy will fly up recruiting boards or ESPN just hired a new guy who doesn't quite get it.
There's also this from Duane Long, now an analyst at Bucknuts:
29. **** Isaiah Bell (6-2, 215, S; Youngstown Liberty)
Simply put, Isaiah Bell is the best safety nobody is talking about.
He has the instincts of a linebacker against the run and is a very good sized safety. The 6-2, 215 pounds seems a bit on the small side. He looks to be a bigger kid but Liberty head coach Jeff Whitaker reports accurate heights and weights.
Bell has the wingspan of a lineman. In fact, I would not be surprised if he ends up growing into a linebacker. He has a nice frame and I have noticed these long limbed kids tend to fill out a good bit. He is big enough to take on blockers and still make plays but he is fast enough to make plays in the open field. Once he finds the ball, he closes like nobody's business.
But Bell has such tremendous ball skills that he could just as easily be a free safety. He has the best ball skills I have seen from a projected safety in this class.
He returned two interceptions for scores last year, including one for 102 yards, and one punt. He has more return yards off of interceptions, punts and kickoff returns than any player in this top 100.
Maybe Michigan got their teeth into a real player before he got a lot of attention?
I was going to update the recruiting board but a computer crash ate it. So: #$*((#$. Delay.
Tickets. Have received several emails about the best ticket strategy for the Frozen Four, so: I'm not an expert since I've only gone to one, that in Buffalo in 2003, but that experience leads me to believe that tickets will be available in abundance. In Buffalo you couldn't throw a rock without hitting someone hawking 4 tickets; some guys were carrying around enormous packets.
We ended up buying lower-bowl seats right behind the net where Jason Ryznar's goal was waved off (woo!) for face value; when the immense depression of that game's OT loss combined with the lethal carnie strip of "attractions" on the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls border to force us home ASAP we left our (stupidly, arrogantly purchased) tickets for the final with my brother, who ended up selling them for just over half of face.
With both Colorado schools bombing out in the regionals (thanks, MSU and Wisconsin!) the situation in Denver is likely to be similar. BC is half a continent away and Notre Dame fans barely know they have a hockey program. The other ND and Michigan figure to bring large contingents, but Buffalo was much closer to participating programs and the aforementioned scenario played out.
So given all that, I'm pretty comfortable with the idea of heading out there with the intention of buying tickets on the street. Unfortunately, this year the second semi ends within an hour of the first one and there is a single ticket for both. In previous years there had been separate tickets. This scuttles the post-semi dump wherein fans of the losing team sell tickets to the second semi.
We're going to print out a Pepsi center seating chart and go for the gusto. IIRC, the athletic department tickets were lower-bowl but in the corners in Buffalo.
What? Notre Dame is selling your standard a "woo frozen four shirt" on their official site. But apparently they got theirs from a mirror universe:
This seemed like an easy opportunity to make fun, but on closer inspection it's just weird. Michigan goes out in the first round to Northeastern, which didn't even make the tournament. Northeastern then plays Wisconsin, which beat UMass -- also not in the tournament. In fact, every first-round game is wrong and the only thing the shirt got right was a second-round matchup between ND and State going to ND. So that's... bizarre. It's as if they said "hey, no one's going to believe ND is in the Frozen Four anyway, let's just go all the way with this."
Movin' on up. I previously speculated that Brandon Minor might be headed elsewhere because of the shift in offensive philosophy; initial returns on that are as good as "Porter is a creation of Hensick":
Junior running back Brandon Minor and senior cornerback Morgan Trent have become early vocal leaders of the team, Rodriguez said.
That's a week or two old. This is new:
Defensive standouts: Rodriguez listed fifth-year senior John Thompson, redshirt sophomore Obi Ezeh and junior Stevie Brown as the defensive players who have stood out in the spring.
Thompson is trying to take the starting middle linebacker job from Ezeh, who was a Freshman All-American last year. Redshirt sophomore Jonas Mouton and sophomore Marell Evans appear to be leading the way at the outside spots. Rodriguez said the linebacker corps was one of the deepest units on the team.
How are these items related? Evans and Minor both attended Varina High in Virginia. Minor was generally well regarded -- a mid four-star, IIRC, though some sites rated him as fullback -- while Evans was virtually ignored. How ignored? He's the first two-star Michigan prospect (kickers excluded) since Andre Criswell two years before, and Criswell was a last-second edition. Michigan can get a commit from the most obscure Estonian and Rivals will give Argpan Ekerbajain a third star if given a couple weeks to re-evaluate him. Evans, not so much. Michigan recruited Evans specifically because Brandon Minor told them he outworked Brandon Minor; I probably should have given him more credit.
I find the leaders at linebacker interesting for these reasons:
- Jonas Mouton was just a redshirt freshman last year but I'm going to be pretty ticked if he has a good to excellent debut season; last year he was stuck behind a mediocre to bad Chris Graham. Since the coaches were willing to boot Graham to the bench in 2007 I think he got something less than the full-on Massey treatment and Mouton might have a year like Ezeh in 2008: "promising" but pretty meh.
- Johnny Thompson and Obi Ezeh both impressing and Evans being the leader at strongside linebacker. Ezeh was a SAM until the dire situation at MLB forced him over. Presumably either he or Thompson could shift back. So if Evans does get to start he's beaten out either a returning starter or (more likely) a fifth year senior with spot starts to date.
Varsity Blue has some video from spring practice. Remember that year in NCAA when 1) John Navarre was Michigan's quarterback and 2) the option was unstoppable anyway? Yeah, watching David Cone run a triple option brings back the memories:
There's another set of clips at VB. I watched them, for what little value that provided. Main impression: holy God, Jason Kates still blocks out the sun.
I usually don't go in for the predictable photoshopped baby in the aftermath of someone bailing or complaining or something, but good freakin' lord this is creepy:
Mmm, that's good nightmare fuel. Image you'll see in your sleep tonight prompted by this Matt Hayes article in which he checks out Michigan practice and finds a distinct lack of blood orgies.
Etc.: MVictors actually cased Saline High's football field in an effort to scout out spots from which you, the fre
nzied, BTN-less Michigan nut, can espy Michigan's spring game. The internet at its best.
Who is Isaiah Bell? A guy who's likely to play safety. This is about all we know at the moment. Rivals knew nothing of his existence until he committed to Michigan. ESPN doesn't have a scouting report. Scout is similarly silent.
There is this article from a local paper:
It's been hard for Liberty's Isaiah Bell to choose which team to root for in the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry since he started watching football as a kid.
His mother is a Wolverine fan, while his father cheers for the scarlet and gray.
But after 16 years, he has finally picked a team in one of the biggest rivalries in college football.
Michigan's won two of these house divided situations in the past few days: OH DB Justin Turner's mom was pro-OSU while his father was pro-Michigan.
More useful items from the article: Bell didn't play offense last year, when he was 6'3" and around 180 pounds. This year he's around 215 and will get a shot somewhere, presumably wide receiver with two D-I prospects already vying for time in Liberty's backfield, about whom more later.
First, an awesome quote from the same piece:
''He can run the football, there's no doubt about that. We saw that when he returned kicks and punts. He's got great hands, we saw that in his interceptions. And he's also in the running for the quarterback spot. How that turns out is entirely up to how he and the team progresses.''
Bell, who had ''dozens of Division [-I, presumably, sic -ed]offers,'' according to Whittaker, said he wants to play safety at Michigan, and wherever else the Wolverines need him. He said first-year coach Rich Rodriguez was the primary reason he decided to play for Michigan.
''They remind me of the coaching staff at Liberty,'' Bell said. ''It wasn't just a coaching staff, they work like a family in terms and looking out for each other.''
Blood orgies are a family value.
Other pieces of information:
- Bell plays at Liberty High in Youngstown with two other potential D-I prospects, including a running back/slot guy fantastically named "Fitzgerald Toussaint." Though Michigan's luck with awesomely named running backs has been middling -- Mister Simpson transferred to Cincinnati after a year -- Toussaint is a pretty slick running back. Check out his Scouting Ohio video.
The other guy is Julius Ferrell, who will split time with Toussaint this fall. Ferrell is a fullback who "loves hitting" and may be a fit for the Owen Schmitt role; Michigan should be able to sell the idea he'll actually get carries, along with the presence of a teammate. Both are potential Big Ten prospects; Toussaint already has a Michigan offer.
Not exactly "I heart Hart."
Editorial Opinion: Likely to be an anonymous three-star safety recruit; I generally prefer to get my anonymous three star safety recruits early in the recruiting cycle since the early offer usually means greater confidence in the eyes of the staff. This one comes with a Trotwood-like bonus, as Liberty is in possession of two more kids who are potential Michigan recruits.
Who is Teric Jones? An enigma wrapped in a riddle covered in sinew and bone and tendon that moves fast.
The Jones experience in youtube summary:
One off-tackle run in a JV game.
Jones' junior year was spent as Indiana commit Cortez Smith's backup, limiting his guru exposure. Then he did this at the Army All-American junior combine:
Although small in stature, running back Teric Jones came up big everywhere else. His 4.47 40-yard dash time was the fastest heard about all day and he put those numbers to practice in the one-on-one drills, catching several long passes down the sidelines after leaving defenders behind.
"I wanted to let everyone know that I am one of the top backs in the nation," Jones said. "I wanted to show my speed and agility and show that I am a big playmaker."
That 4.47 has been quoted as a 4.37 elsewhere, but, as always, the actual 40 time isn't the important thing. It's your 40 relative to everyone else's, and amongst a sampling of the nation's best junior recruits Jones was #1. Interest picked up after that.
Scout put together some video:
Pete Carroll was TOTALLY STOKED ABOUT HIM:
Trojans Come Calling for Jones
Detroit Cass Tech RB Teric Jones gets some love from the left coast
-by MichiganVarsity.com Mar 5, 2008
And so forth and so on. Fortunately, Jones proved to be a non-communist and stayed home.
For those concerned about his lack of status on Scout and Rivals, ESPN is already on the ball with a highly positive scouting report($):
Can attack a defense in a number of ways as a runner. Perimeter speed to take it the distance on the outside, suddenness and body-tilt to slice through the small creases in-line and deceptive strength breaking tackles. Has a natural smoothness and fluidity to him as a runner and shows good body control. A true weapon and homerun threat in space with his great burst and acceleration.
There are some concerns about his apparently inability to fight through tacklers for extra yards, but we all know the Rodriguez offense is light on pounding interior runs for the Slaton-Devine "superback" sorts. Jones is in ESPN's top 150 watch list.
Editorial Opinion: Jones' lack of playing time makes him a small risk, but he seems like a perfect fit for the spread 'n' shred and has the potential to move way up in guru estimations with a breakout senior season. He'll probably be a three star until fall; if he does well he may end up in the 100-200 range.
A potential side benefit: OMG shirtless DT Will Campbell is a Michigan verbal, but makes noises about going on visits to USC and other warm places. This is probably only a minor concern -- Brandon Graham was also an all-everything five star, also committed early, also claimed he would take trips, and then didn't go anywhere -- but it's nice to have a friend and teammate in his ear about Michigan.
Let's map out this sequence of events:
1) Justin Boren decries a "lack of family values" in the Michigan program, citing Rodriguez's unusual practice methods...
...and decides to transfer.
2) OH DB Justin Turner commits to Michigan.
3) MI RB Teric Jones commits to Michigan.
4) OH S Isaiah Bell commits to Michigan.
Blood orgies are good for business.