The audacity of lacrosse. Run, don't walk, to Patrick Hruby's Page 2 article on Mike Legg's famous lacrosse-style goal. It's as told by the participants, with Hruby mostly staying out of the way and allowing Legg, Morrison, Turco, Victimized Minnesota Goalie, Berenson, and Guy Legg Learned It From tell the story:
LEGG: "We're in the playoffs, so I had been telling myself, 'Don't even think about it. Get that crap out of your head. Don't do anything silly. If there's even a half-open player, try to get the puck to him.'"
MORRISON: "I was sneaking into the point."
LEGG: "I looked around and didn't really see anybody open."
MORRISON: "All of a sudden, Mike leaned down and scooped it."
BERENSON: "I thought, 'Oh my God, he's going to try it.' I saw him shoot it 100 times in practice, just fooling around. I hadn't coached him into it."
It's 5000 words. Turco says "it took a long time for Mike's party to mellow out" at one point. It's epic. I suggest you peruse it, because you will enjoy it or find out you are a robot. (HT: MGoUser Blueintheface.)
While we're on hockey, AnnArbor.com scored an excusive interview with Berenson in anticipation of the Frozen Four (where Miami got what was coming to them, BTW). Let's skip over the "argh we won" bits:
Q: Considering all the disappointment that surrounded Michigan's football and men's basketball teams, do you think your team provided some ray of hope this year?
A: That's what people are telling me and that's what the last month of the season did for Michigan. That helped carry the torch high and gave a lot of Michigan fans pride in Michigan sports. You never know how your season is going to end, but ours ended - up until that last goal - on such an up note. It wasn't just one weekend. It was four weekends and it just kept picking up and people got into it. I think it was great for Michigan.
It sounds like they'll platoon Hunwick and Hogan like they did with Sauer and Hogan a couple years ago.
Further detail. Michigan's made its coordinators available over the past couple weeks and during the brief segments when they aren't admonishing fans not to get caught up in a wholesale scheme change (or "tweak" according to Greg Robinson) they're throwing out a few guys who seem to be developing. Greg Robinson dropped a couple names to Rittenberg yesterday, and not just Cam Gordon:
The competition at middle linebacker is really heating up between Obi Ezeh and Kenny Demens, who has come on strong this spring. "This is a dogfight," Robinson said. "And I like it. It's amazing when you have competition, how much the improvement comes."
The other Gordon, JT Floyd, and Teric Jones also get positive mentions; Justin Turner remains worryingly unmentioned. It's weird that Demens goes from buried behind a walk-on to pushing for a starting job over the course of a couple months, but I'll take it. If Demens can develop into a contributor Michigan's linebacker depth chart looks considerably less frightening.
On the other side of the ball, Calvin Magee's press conference was bulleted in this space a couple days ago. Here's a transcript for the detail oriented. And here's a pull quote:
“Terrence is really playing well this spring … I mean, really well,” said Magee. “Having Jeremy Gallon off his redshirt year, too, we have a number of guys I feel real comfortable about.
“Terrence is interesting, because Year one it was a competition. He just happened to get injured. Year two it was another competition with Tay Odoms, and he got dinged up again and missed some time, allowing Roy Roundtree to show his stuff.”
A lot of people, including yours truly, had written Robinson off after a redshirt freshman year in which he did nothing. Magee repeatedly emphasizing his breakout bodes well. If the guy can catch he's got some crazy moves.
Leverage. When the NHL instituted a salary cap as part of a massive revamp of their collective bargaining agreement, the end result appeared to be very bad for college teams hoping to keep their seniors around. It appeared that the rookie cap and service-time-based arbitration would combine with near-instant free agency for college kids who play out their eligibility to give give both player and team powerful incentive to sign before the prospect's senior year.
It hasn't quite worked out like that. TJ Hensick, Kevin Porter, Chad Kolarik, and Chris Summers have all stuck around for four years and it looks like Michigan will retain its 2011 seniors as well (knock on wood). While players still regularly sign early, it's not epidemic.
Why? Oilers draftee Riley Nash, a late first rounder who just finished his junior year at Cornell, provides an interesting case study. One: I didn't know that an entry-level contract is three years if you sign before your senior year but two if you sign after. You have the same opportunity to become an RFA no matter when you sign. Two: a college player has crazy leverage because he can play his final year and become a free agent immediately afterwards.
The end result of this? Mo' money. Mudcrutch has assembled a chart showing the amount of money late first rounders have signed for recently* and color coded it for easy pattern recognition. Orange are kids in college, purple juniors, and blue euros. I make it small in order to hit you over the head with the conclusion:
College kids (and Euros) get better bonuses because they have attractive options other than signing. Junior kids just go back in the draft, where they invariably get taken lower and paid less. The difference even clearer if you remove goalies. Goalies almost never play in the NHL during their initial contract and the top two junior players on the list are goalies.
If you squint hard or click for big you'll note some familiar names: Mitera, Summers, Cogliano, and Pacioretty all appear on the list, with Mitera and Summers—both seniors with the option to become free agents—hovering near the top of the list. Cogliano (sophomore) is a bit farther down and Pacioretty (freshman) is the last blip of orange on the chart. The upshot: unless a college player sticks on an NHL roster they don't lose much if any money by sticking around because their increased bonus leverage makes up for the relatively paltry AHL salaries they'd be pulling down. Instead of being a death knell for college seniors, the CBA actually provides some incentive for collegians to stay in school until they are NHL-ready.
Question: Summers has a two-year deal, but Mitera signed for three. Both waited until after their seniors years to do so. Why are the contracts different lengths?
UPDATE: Contract length is based on age. Mitera signed at 21, Summers at 22. When you're 22 the entry-level contract is two years. Thanks to emailer Brendan Baker.
*(There is a rookie cap that all almost all these contracts reach, but NHL teams can offer a wide array of bonuses if the want that are easily achievable by someone playing in the NHL.)
The final revamp. AnnArbor.com caught a Brandon appearance in which he said a number of interesting things, amongst them some more detail on what they plan to do to Crisler in the relatively near future:
“And then the third phase will be absolutely a complete remodel of the facility where you would potentially bust out the concourses and you would create the bigger circulation space,” Brandon said. “More restrooms, capacity, more amenities, better food service, maybe some kind of club-seating opportunities for those who are interested in that experience. Really making it a modern arena for the purpose of big-time college basketball. And that’s ultimately where we’d love to go with Crisler Arena because the program deserves that.”
This cannot happen fast enough.
Etc.: Big Ten baseball teams are operating a serious disadvantage because of restricted oversigning. This is less "cram the academically questionable in" and more "scramble for leftovers after unexpected signings".
Via Friend of the Blog Craig Ross, offensive and defensive red zone efficiency in last year's Big Ten:
- Opp = number of redzone opportunities.
- FGM = made field goals.
- Poss Pts = possible points
- RZEff = Pts / Poss Pots
- Trad = The traditional, stupid way of calculating red zone efficiency: (TD + FGM) / Opp.
Note how dumb the traditional measures of redzone efficiency can be: Michigan State finished ninth in the league in points gained as a percentage of the maximum and third by traditional measures.
It doesn't matter which metric you use, though: Michigan is thunderously last in this category. That's not a huge surprise when you're as turnover-plagued as Michigan was. Add on the First And Goal Of Doom against Illinois and there you go.
No surprises here. Defensive red zone efficiency seems much better correlated with overall performance than the offensive variety, Illinis respectability nonwithstanding. Michigan isn't last by a mile this time, but they're not far off the bottom. No fancy explanations needed here: the defense sucked anywhere on the field last year.
Just start screaming now. It will save time. PPT is "points per trip," and it hates you:
On average, Michigan gave up 2 more points per redzone trip than they got. Over the course of the season this cost them 122(!!!) points relative to the opposition.
I don't have any idea how much year-to-year correlation there is in this stat, but if I had to guess I'd say there was a moderate amount. It's not as loopy as turnover margin, certainly—Wisconsin's always going to be good inside the five—but I bet crazy numbers like Michigan's have a tendency to head for average the next year. Let's hope so, anyway.
After dispatching Central Michigan in a rainy midweek game, Michigan resumes conference play in Ann Arbor this weekend against Purdue in the conference home opener. In an effort to get a feel for Purdue, I did a Q&A with Hammer & Rails writer TMill to get a glimpse of how Purdue's season is going.
TMill is just getting into his fledgling baseball coverage over the last week due to some sort of basketball tournament-thing that's been going on, but he's got a better idea of where the baseball team is compared to most outsiders.
No return Q&A will be going on at H&R, so I'll conclude the Purdue preview tomorrow with my series thoughts.
Content after a jump:
Before we get into discussion of the deeper issues facing Michigan lacrosse, Let's take a look at this weekend's opponents. Colorado has been struggling throughout this year, badly enough to change coaches mid-season. Colorado State, on the other hand, has been excellent. They are ranked #2 and are undefeated on the season in the competitive Rocky Mountain Lacrosse Conference.
Friday, 7pm MDT,
Franklin Field KITTREDGE FIELD, Boulder CO.
Record: 2-5 (0-2 RMLC)
Rankings: Prodigy #22, LaxPower #15, Computer #14
Common Opponents: W 17-7 Simon Fraser
Previous Meetings: 2009 Regular Season (video highlights), 2009 MCLA Playoffs (liveblog).
I've talked a few times about how Colorado is a team in disarray. They fired their first-year head coach just a couple games into the season and have limped to a 2-5 record against MCLA teams this year. Those two wins, however, came against respectable competition (Simon Fraser and Lindenwood), so it's not like the Buffaloes are incapable of beating top teams.
Offensively, junior attack James Blackburn, a 2009 Honorable Mention All-American, leads the team with 2.71 points per game, and freshman Doug Lilburne isn't far behind at 2.29. Those are the only two CU players over two points per game, however, and the offensive production has really struggled, with the Buffs only breaking into double digits in their two victories on the year. sophomore middies Nick Kupcewicz has impressed, but was suspended for last week's game against Colorado State.
On defense, senior Mike Britt was named an MCLA 1st-Team All-American last year, and his classmate Mike Geocaris earned an Honorable Mention distinction. Sophomore defensive mid Ryan Emerson leads the team in ground balls, closely followed by freshman LSM Hap Knowles. In goal, 4th-year sophomore William Brown and freshman Bradley Macnee have gotten the most playing time. Brown has the higher save percentage, but facies more shots, giving up 8.6 goals per game.
Michigan should be able to emerge victorious in this contest. The Buffaloes are talented, but haven't been playing like it yet this year, and are just enter the second week in the system of new head coach Mike Ryder. The Wolverines' ride should be able to prevent an unsettled CU clear from reaching respectable numbers, and Michigan has proven to be able to turn defense into offense, as well as scoring on established possessions. [Ed: CSU and the possibility of a D-I move after the jump.]
The media got a chance to talk to Michigan Offensive Coordinator Calvin Magee earlier today. Note from his press conference follow.
- There have been a lot of fun competitions to watch at every position. Nobody wins or loses a starting spot in spring football. Guys have the summer to improve their bodies, and position battles really take place in fall camp. The next five spring practices still give guys a chance to emerge.
- There have been a number of injuries that have given younger guys a chance to prove themselves this spring, specifically center (David Molk) and Outside Wideout (JR Hemingway and Je'Ron Stokes).
- As much of a jump in offensive production as there was from Year One to Year Two (from 109th to 59th in total offense, from 101st to 41st in scoring offense), Magee hopes there will be equal improvement between last year and Year Three. There is finally returning experience at important positions, and guys that have had three years in the system. They finally aren't starting fresh.
- The early enrollees are adjusting to the pace and physicality of college ball. The coaches need to keep reminding themselves that these guys are basically still high schoolers.
- Magee and Rodriguez have never butted heads about playcalling. When you gameplan the right way, you know going into a game what you're going to do. The only thing that can get frustrating is when the execution isn't good.
- South Florida first contacted Magee about applying for their head coaching job, not the other way around (Skip Holtz eventually won the position). Magee lived 15 years in Tampa, so he is familiar with the area, and actually graduated from USF while he was playing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Interviewing for the job was a good experience, but he doesn't really think about becoming a head coach that frequently, aside from a long-term career goal. He just worries about doing what he can at Michigan: "Man, we're about to do what we're supposed to do here." He didn't want to leave unfinished business in Ann Arbor.
- Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson are both getting time running with the 1s in practice. Now that they have game experience, the coaches are really working on their mechanics and fundamentals. Splitting time with the 1s gives both a chance to compete.
- Tate Forcier "played like a freshman" last year at times. He faced new coverages every week, and it takes time to teach a kid everything.
- Denard Robinson is learning the entire offense. They didn't plan to only have him run QB sweeps, etc., last year, but that's just what happened. He will have a much better comfort level with the offense this year, with spring practice, game experience, and film study.
- Devin Gardner has been good. He's very competitive, and he wants to compete with the other two guys right away. He's not going to sit behind them without doing everything he can to compete with them first. Magee would like to see him compete for the starting job in the fall, because it means that there are several viable options at QB. If he plays well enough to get onto the field, they don't have a problem not redshirting him.
- Experience at quarterback will give the coaches much more comfort with their play calls. They'll be confident with the entire playbook.
- The competition is heating up, and it's fun to watch. The coaches would love to have three or four options in the season. Guys who can play multiple roles within the offense give the team some flexibility.
- Mike Cox is a powerful guy, who is very physically talented. Last year, he maybe thought that it wasn't "his turn" yet, and he'd have to wait for Minor and Brown. The coaches had to make sure he realized that if he can compete and earn the job, it's his, no matter what. He's taken that attitude to heart this spring.
- Vincent Smith will be back in fall camp, competing with everyone else for a starting role.
- Fitzgerald Toussaint needs to keep learning the playbook, and he'll be good to go. He's done a good job with that so far.
- The coaches know what Mark Moundros is capable of, but with him moonlighting at linebacker this spring, it's given John McColgan a chance to get a lot of reps, and getting that experience in practice will really help him down the road.
Slots, Tight Ends, and Wideouts
- When they recruit slots, a lot of the guys can also play outside receiver positions, so they've moved there for spring with the injuries to Hemingway and Stokes. Roy Roundtree's "been mostly all outside right now." He was originally recruited as an outside receiver, so he can play both positions.
- Terrence Robinson is playing really well this spring. His first year, he was in a competition with Martavious Odoms for a starting spot, but got injured. A similar thing happened last year, which led to the emergence of Roy Roundtree. He's finally healthy, and can do a lot of different things.
- Jeremy Gallon is coming off a redshirt, and should have a chance to contribute at multiple positions. Like Odoms and Robinson, he's a very shifty guy, with a lot of ability.
- The tight end position has been really good to watch this spring. Magee isn't sure which of the two main guys (Kevin Koger and Martell Webb) is better. Webb is turning into a real team leader.
- The three redshirt freshmen coming up are very good. Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield showed their talent on the scout team last year, and it's fun to watch them compete in the offense. They are a little immature (though they weigh more than they look - they aren't far off from their target weights), but very competitive. Lewan has been playing left tackle, and Schofield right tackle. Quinton Washington had been doing well, but he's been a little banged up.
- David Molk's injury has given some other centers a chance to get reps. Rocko Khoury has been getting a lot of time, and Elliott Mealer is playing in there as well. They're building depth at center.
- Mark Huyge and Perry Dorrestein have "been fine this spring." It's their third year in the system, so they understand what the coaches want.
- Steve Schilling is playing as well as he ever has since this coaching staff has been in town. He's turning into a real leader on the offense.
- Last year, there were too many injuries to have any real competition on the offensive line. This year, it's much better, and the competition is fun to watch.
Assorted items of possibly dubious validity that have darkened my inbox about spring practice. Are these accurate? Useful? Worth reading? Possibly not. Will at least one player who these reports suggest will be a ninja spend his career doing nothing? Yes. Will you absorb the reports voraciously anyway? Absolutely!
I'm on the record as skeptical that Denard Robinson presents a serious threat to Tate Forcier, but multiple sources here and elsewhere keep saying it looks even, or even advantage Robinson, thus far. Robinson's got a zippy arm that bests Forcier when it comes to short-range oomph and has vastly improved his accuracy. This makes him a plausible quarterback. He remains ridiculously fast, and is actually running the read option now.
Areas for improvement: throwing on the run, reading defenses—when the D deviates from its vanilla schemes Robinson has a nasty tendency to throw it directly at defenders—and pocket awareness. On long throws he still has a tendency to throw ropes that give receivers little opportunity to adjust to inaccurate balls.
There has been little chatter about Forcier, with some observers theorizing he's still dealing with the after-effects of his shoulder injury and others claiming he's totally healthy and just not progressing as fast as Robinson. That latter makes some sense, as Forcier has been exposed to high-level coaching for years. He's a lot closer to his ceiling than Robinson.
Despite all the Robinson talk, most people are hesitant to suggest he would actually start. Michigan is installing the 3-3-5 and running vanilla coverages. There's a long way to go from seeming competent in spring to being the starting quarterback. More realistic is a continued timeshare with Robinson moonlighting at other skill positions when Tate is at the helm.
Devin Gardner, meanwhile, looks like a freshman. He needs work on his mechanics, doesn't know the offense that well, and is clearly behind the two sophomores. He's running a lot of those Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Zone Stretch plays that Robinson was relegated to last year. If Denard can establish himself a viable option Gardner seems headed for a redshirt. His long term potential remains totally sweet.
It sounds like Mike Cox is the tentative leader at this point. He alternates punishing Minor RAGE runs with mental mistakes that undoubtedly have Rodriguez throwing his hat and saying he's dang-diddly-anged disappointed in the young man. Cox has the best combination of size and speed, and that uncanny balance he flashed during some of his garbage-time runs is no fluke. Caveat: Vincent Smith is sometimes suggested as the probable starter. Cox is entering his third year in the program so the mental mistakes may be a long term issue, unfortunately.
Michael Shaw is next in the pecking order, less likely to break a tackle than Cox but more likely to take something a long way. He's also been mentioned as a player who needs to work on the mental side of the game some.
Stephen Hopkins is getting the sort of reviews you expect him to: he is a horse, a load, a freight train, a moose, etc. He will run straight ahead until he falls over or he burrows into the wall in the endzone. If Cox doesn't establish himself as a short yardage back, the duties will likely fall to Hopkins.
Toussaint comes in for cursory "looked good" praise but it seems like he's trailing the relative veterans. White is probably redshirting.
Wideouts and Tight Ends
Hard to tell anything with Hemingway and Stokes out; in their absence Roy Roundtree is practicing outside and drawing mixed reviews. Drops are supposed to be an issue with everyone, but Roundtree gets more stick for it than others.
Mixed reviews on Darryl Stonum, with a couple reports citing his obvious physical superiority to the rest of the WRs and projecting a strong season. Again, hard to tell absent his most serious competition.
Roundtree may stick outside even after the injured return because Odoms, Gallon, and Robinson are all having strong springs. Robinson and Grady are taking a number of snaps in the backfield—think Darius Reynaud—and doing well with it. Both were high school tailbacks. Robinson and Gallon seem to have the inside track on punt returns.
Tight ends are the same as they were last year. It sounds like they're focusing more on the slots this year.
The interior line remains as expected: Schilling, Molk Placeholder, Omameh, with both guards coming in for regular praise and the Placeholder (Khoury, mostly) having issues snapping the ball. That's supposedly getting better.
On the outside there's been some shuffling with Dorrestein and Huyge flopping left to right at times. This may be due to Taylor Lewan's (right) quick emergence. He's been called an "obvious future star" and "reminiscent of Jake Long." Reports are still conflicting on his readiness but all agree that his upside is as rapturous as the recruiting gurus promised; it seems like it's matter of time before he claims the left tackle spot. That timeframe may be September or it may be next year. The most recent move suggests the move may come sooner rather than later. Flipping Huyge to the right seems to be an effort to get Michigan's best five on the field. If I had to bet, I'd go with Lewan as the starting LT against UConn.
Washington (when healthy) and Schofield have also gotten good reviews; that whole class seems to be panning out so far. Huyge and Dorrestein haven't been the subject of much chatter good or bad. With the quarterbacks focusing on shorter routes the opportunities for serious pass protection have been intermittent.
Renaldo Sagesse continues to play well. Will Campbell is huge and still working on technique issues but much better both physically and mentally; it sounds like those two will be the NT platoon. I'm pretty confident they'll be a good one. That leaves Van Bergen and Martin outside with Banks and Patterson backing up. It's hard to tell how much of the praise for each of the senior backups is real, but given how Sagesse played last year I think he can hang. Patterson and Banks I don't know about.
Specific mentions of RVB have been few and far between. Banks and Patterson are getting talked up publicly but aren't drawing a ton of hype on background.
This comes with a "just spring" warning since he was buried all of last year, but Kenny Demens is getting a significant amount of buzz and is taking some of Ezeh's snaps with the first team. The scheme change may suit him: the Casteel-style 3-3-5 doesn't need a huge MLB, just a tough guy willing to plug his face on a guard and make the nose tackle right all the time. His speed and blitzing is a good fit for the new system. He's been laying his share of thumping hits.
Other than that, it's MOTS in the linebacking corps, with Mouton and Ezeh seeming like Mouton and Ezeh. If there have been any adjustment pains for Craig Roh they haven't made it into the wide world. He seems to be doing very well. Adding 20 pounds turns him from overmatched but promising into beast, apparently. From the inbox's lips to God's ears.
The Cam Gordon hype train continues unabated, with words like "excellent," "natural," and "seems vaguely like an actual safety" getting thrown around. (Latter praise invented by me to tamp own expectations down.) ESPN's Adam Rittenberg gets in on the act:
Safety Cameron Gordon, a converted wide receiver, drew praise from Rodriguez and several players I spoke with.
Most positive reports about receivers read "hauled in pass and was disemboweled by Gordon, but held on." Caveat: all the quarterback reports indicate that Michigan is working on short stuff incessantly, so opportunities to get dragged way out of position and give up, oh, I don't know, a third and thirty-seven conversion have been limited.
With Emilien out with another injury, Brandin Hawthorne is second-team at deep safety. Rodriguez has been wary about the lack of depth there.
Troy Woolfolk is about on par where he was last year: pretty good Big Ten corner, may have a bit more upside than that as a senior. Then there's JT Floyd. He is "vastly improved." I know. I'm skeptical, too. According to Rittenberg, Woolfolk had praise for Floyd as well.
The bad news: Justin Turner gets a universal "meh," with a couple of reports indicating that a 6'2", 210-pound corner is not likely to work out and a position move is in the cards once the quartet of freshman corners hits campus in fall. One talks up James Rogers, his teammate on the second team, in favor of him. Bleah. As of now the third string corners are walk-ons so Turner continues to labor at a position it seems he doesn't have the quicks for. With Gordon developing a death grip on deep safety, Turner's best shot at playing time in the near future may be as a spur or bandit.
As far as the hybrid SSs go: Jordan Kovacs has the weakside spot (bandit) locked down. This is no surprise for anyone who saw him play there as a freshman walk-on. That box safety thing is tailor made for him. The other side is a total mess, with Mike Williams giving way to a combination of redshirt freshman Thomas Gordon and walk-on Floyd Simmons. It's unclear whether the Williams demotion is a temporary thing due to injury (Williams is in green) or a long term move to other players, but it seems like it's closer to the latter. The Hawthorne move leaves a couple of marginal players duking it out at a spot that requires dealing with a lot of blocks. Reports have neither been positive or negative. They mostly confine themselves to who's playing where. Gordon has laid a couple pops, apparently.
I wouldn't be surprised to see someone move to the spur for fall; Carvin Johnson and Marvin Robinson will have opportunities to earn immediate starting jobs.
With Will Hagerup not enrolled yet, there's not much you can tell about the punters. On the Huge Show yesterday Rodriguez said he was the most likely freshman to start (surprise!), so it sounds like there isn't anyone in camp threatening to make an Olesnavage-like move.
Placekicking, on the other hand, has everyone it's going to have and the initial reviews are seriously negative. Brendan Gibbons is reputed to have a big leg but questionable accuracy. Field goals have been something of a fire drill so far. Here's a terror-inducing Rodriguez quote:
"The kicking game is a concern simply because we've been inconsistent in practice. I couldn't tell you who our starting kicker is. It changes in 15 minutes. I don't know if that's going to be resolved until the fall. Brendan Gibbons has a strong leg, but he's been back and forth. Other special teams, we've got athletes, but the kicking and punting is not at the point where we feel comfortable."