This has been the hot rumor the past couple days and TomVH has confirmed that redshirt freshman safety/LB Brandon Smith has received transfer papers and is looking to move on. Hurray.
Smith was a top-100 "athlete" in the hybrid Rodriguez/Carr class who technically committed after the transition had been announced but, like JT Floyd, was a Carr recruit all the way who was just stringing out his commitment for reasons unknown. So this could be a "Carr guy" moving on to a place he'd rather be. In any case it's the departure of one of the most highly rated players in a class entering its third year at a position, be it linebacker or safety, of desperate need.
Smith didn't seem to be working out, as he was too big and slow for safety and spent his game as a quasi—linebacker starter on skates, but there's zero upside here. He could have put on 20-30 pounds easily—his "frame" was a reason he was rated so highly—and eventually turned into a contributor at linebacker. At the very least he would have been a relatively veteran body on a defense that needs every last potential contributor. BONUS: Michigan can't even add anyone to replace him because of a mysterious but apparently real oversigning change that prevents Big Ten teams from backdating players who enroll early*. DOUBLE BONUS: Before the season I took a look at Michigan's APR and concluded that sanctions resulting from transfers were unlikely, but the attrition has continued at a pace that makes me nervous.
*(Which will definitely help the struggling conference compete nationally.)
Michigan 67, Arkansas Pine Bluff 53
Michigan 4-3 (0-0 Big Ten)
Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims must be secret identities of each other or something, because it seems impossible for them to show up at the same time. Today, they took turns with Sims dominating the first half and Harris taking over after the break. Manny may look like the star, since the Wolverines only outscored the Golden Lions in the second frame, but both played a big role.
The defense played a big part as well, sparking much of the second-half offense, and limiting Pine Bluff to just 21 second-half points. "Our offense, I feel, kinda came out of our defense. We got some turnovers, and we got them started. We've just gotta keep pressing, and eventually they're gonna wear down," said Stu Douglass.
The shooting is still awful, with the team making only a quarter of their threes, and finishing with an overall field goal percentage of 42.9%. The reason had very little to do with the shots that were available, either. Running the offense, there were a number of open looks, but the shooters couldn't knock them down. Last year showed that these guys can shoot the ball, and hopefully the slump can end sooner rather than later.
- The rotation is still really thin. I would have liked to see more than 7 guys play double-digit minutes (Douglass and Gibson were the only bench players to earn the distinction). A lack of depth will really hurt this team once Big Ten play rolls around.
- Anthony Wright was... Anthony Wright-y. He was 0-5 from the floor, and looked poor on defense. This time, I guess he had a pretty good excuse, as he missed practice this week for the birth of his daughter.
- LLP was in foul trouble for a while, but I thought he played really well when he was in. A couple big shots started the game, and he looked really active on defense.
- The team still looked like they were suffering through mental lapses and a lack of focus at times. Fortunately, Arkansas Pine Bluff is not a team that's going to make them pay too badly.
- Stu Douglass had some pretty good passes, including a superfluous behind-the-back to Manny on a fastbreak. It was encouraging to see him capable of distributing the ball.
- Shooters passed on a number of open looks. It's not too serious an issue, but I hope it's not a lack of confidence. The only way to break their shooting slump is to keep shooting.
"CJ and David were two great leaders, and for us to fulfill what they did for the team, we have to do collectively." Deshawn Sims, on filling the leadership void on the team.
"Coach said we would play from the inside out today, and we were able to execute the gameplan, and it worked for us in the first half." Deshawn Sims.
"The urgency has to be different from here on out. We can't control the wins and losses, but we definitely control the effort and urgency." Deshawn Sims.
"We were a lot more focused in the second half, especially defensively." Stu Douglass
"Just keep shooting. I feel like I've been talking about it enough, and it's getting a little old. I'm a little upset with myself - I'm very upset with myself." Stu Douglass, on the shooting slump.
"We're trying to go back to the basics now, just hitting the open guy when he's open. We've pretty much restarted. Getting the fundamentals down again, that's what we're working on." Zack Novak
"There were times last year, in the middle of the year, where we didn't look very good either. The last three games, we didn't really look like us, but chemsitry-wise, I think this team could be really good." Zack Novak
"I was trying to be more aggressive, but at the same time I was trying to look for my teammates." Manny Harris, on coming out big after a weak first half.
"It's going to get better. It's still kinda sore, but I can play on it." Manny Harris on his hamstring.
"We'll work it out. It's just how the game's going right now. The good part is we were able to get the win." Manny Harris, on being out of sync with Deshawn Sims.
The Wolverines travel to Utah on Wednesday. The game can be seen at 9:00 Eastern on CBS College Sports.
GBW is reporting that OH S Ray Vinopal has committed to Michigan($). Either that or they just like posting stories titled simply "Ray Vinopal!" Informative update coming.
GURU RATINGS & CHATTER
|2*, #144 S||2*, NR||2*, 68, #254 ATH|
All right… yeah. So Vinopal is a "sleeper" if you want to be kind or a "MAC prospect" if you're not a Michigan fan. But hey, he's basically Ted Ginn!
I saw Vinopal take an end around for a touchdown against MY Irish (St. Vincent St. Mary). The kid is ridiculously fast. He's one of those kids who you get into school and worry about a position later.
I hate to throw the comparison out there, but he reminds me of a shorter Ted Ginn.
Doesn't have the same top end speed IMO, but a very very good football player.
Oh. So, like, a slow Ted Ginn. More, because as long as we're taking a comment from a random Notre Dame message board it might as well be the whole thing:
People forget Ginn was a top cornerback coming out of high school, and switched to WR as a freshman. I could see the same thing with Ray. People will look at his size and say corner, but I think he'd be deadly in the slot and as a returner.
ESPN, for its part, does not reference Ted Ginn in its evaluation of the #254 "athlete" in the country:
Lacks desired length and height as a high-point safety as well. He is an active run defender who will come down and fill hard; provides good secondary support. Shows adequate closing burst and makes solid contact as a tackler with better-than-adequate pop. Overall underneath range and speed is good but he does not fill with great downhill burst and sharp angles; loses outside leverage on the ball at times. … Lacks quick diagnosing and reaction skills which is a concern. Not a guy who projects well playing down over the top of slots in man coverage schemes and feel he could struggle mirroring/breaking down on quicker skill players in space.
That is Jordan Kovacs. I don't know, maybe this evaluation was pre-senior season and he got a lot better, warranting the interest from major programs this fall, but that's the least enthusiastic ESPN scouting report this guy has ever seen.
They aren't encouraging, as Vinopal was a sleeper going into his senior season and despite "interest" from a number of local power programs it doesn't appear that any other than Michigan pulled the trigger. So, the teams beaten out: Bowling Green, Kent State, and Air Force.
For what it's worth, Vinopal claimed that Notre Dame—where he visited for the USC game—and Pitt were considering him after his strong senior year. Wisconsin also might have offered in July or something, but it's unclear.
No senior stats yet but here's his junior year:
After intercepting two passes his sophomore season, the 5-foot-11 and 185-pound Vinopal had another interception his junior season and had three games in which he made over 10 tackles. Vinopal also rushed for 1,112 yards and scored 12 times.
FAKE 40 TIME
How about a spectacularly FAKE combine from Vinopal's freshman year?
Also deserving special mention was freshman ATH Ray Vinopal of Cardinal Mooney in Ohio. At 5-foot-9 ½ and 178-pounds, he had a 28.5-inch vertical, 9-foot broad, 4.45 shuttle, 4.56 40, and 30 reps at 135-pounds.
4.56 40 as a freshman gets four FAKES out of five.
Vinopal is the guy running around with a huge arrow over his head:
And some pass coverage:
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Well… if you care about recruiting rankings, Vinopal is clearly the least exciting recruit in the class. That ESPN evaluation checks off all the things you don't want to hear about a recruit: small, slow, confused, etc. And on film he really does look like Kovacs. But there's a reason I don't watch recruiting film: I am a blogger. Obviously Michigan and a couple other schools looking at Vinopal thought there was something there, but recruiting rankings are meaningful things and a Brandent Englemon is a best-case scenario here.
That said, sometimes guys fall through the cracks and a lot of successful defenses are built from parts like Tyler Sash and whoever Wisconsin's running out there these days. The odds are against Vinopal, but that's not a guarantee.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
You can write off the renewed Oh S LaTwan Anderson interest: with Vinopal's addition, Michigan has six defensive backs in this class and is primed to add a seventh in FL CB Tony Grimes. More likely, Marvin Robinson will find himself at linebacker before long.
More interesting is the scholarship situation: Vinopal is the 23rd commitment and three guys are expected to commit sooner or later, pushing Michigan over 25 and necessitating someone coming in on a grayshirt if there is no attrition. Vinopal may be that grayshirt candidate, come to think of it. It's clear that Michigan will sign 28 this year with three guys aware that they are candidates to grayshirt if everyone gets in. Vinopal and the two guys currently unqualified are the most likely.
Etc.: Photo gallery of a Mooney blowout has several pictures of Vinopal.
|WHAT||#36/31 Michigan v. Arkansas Pine Bluff|
|WHERE||Ann Arbor, MI|
|WHEN||2:00 PM EST
December 5th, 2009
|THE LINE||No line, junkie|
*Line provided by online sports betting site Sportsbetting.com.
The Wolverines are officially slumping. They have 3 losses in 3 games, at least one of them to inferior competition. The shooting has been bad, the defense has been terrible, and nothing has seemed to go right for the Wolverines.
Last year, they were a much better squad with more space between games, and the hectic travel schedule from the weekend may have given them less time to prepare for Boston College than they would have liked. A pair of off days, both at home, may give the team a little time to recharge the battery, and Pine Bluff isn't exactly Boston College in terms of talent.
DeShawn Sims and the snipers for Michigan really need to get going in this contest, and it might not be too difficult to do. As we'll see in a moment, this is a really bad defensive team.
Arkansas Pine Bluff
The Golden Lions had opened their season with 5 consecutive losses, all of them coming on the road. In fact, they don't play a home game until their 15th contest of the season(!). Colorado and Denver took down Pine Bluff on a road trip through the Centennial State, and the Golden Lions have also fallen in El Paso, Akron, and Tempe.
Guards Savalance Townsend and Terrence Calvin lead Pine Bluff in scoring, and Calvin, a senior point guard, is also the assist leader. 6-8 post man Lebaron Weathers is the key inside presence, tied for third in points per game and leading the Golden Lions in rebounding. Fellow senior Tyree Glass stands 6-7, and gets the third most minutes of any Golden Lion (behind only the two guards).
It's far enough into the year that tempo-free stats might mean something, so here's the first tempo-free breakdown of the season. If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Arkansas Pine Bluff: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Pine Bluff Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. PB Def eFG%||260||337||M|
|Mich Def eFG% v. PB eFG%||232||254||M|
|Mich TO% v. PB Def TO%||2||328||MMMM|
|Mich Def TO% v. PB TO%||41||313||MMM|
|Mich OReb% v. PB DReb%||242||1||PPP|
|Mich DReb% v. PB OReb%||326||81||PPP|
|Mich FTR v. PB Opp FTR||295||342||M|
|Mich Opp FTR v. PB FTR||10||133||MM|
|Mich AdjO v. PB AdjD||157||215||M|
|Mich AdjD v. PB AdjO||111||225||MM|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.
So, Pine Bluff is kind of horrible, and they've been horrible against competition that isn't very good itself. The only thing that the Golden Lions are pretty good at is rebounding the ball. This should be highly effective against Michigan, of course, as the Wolverines aren't really known for crashing the boards. Michigan has a huge advantage in nearly every single other category, and if this game is even close, it might be an omen for a long season.
This game may not be the one that gets DeShawn Sims really rolling, as the Golden Lions have multiple players with decent enough size. However, if Michigan chooses to play two big men at once, they'll probably be able to overpower the overmatched Golden Lions. That should open up the three point line, as should the mere fact that the Lions have already given up 30% 3-point shooting to opponents, playing less talented teams than Michigan.
This looks like the type of game that is frustratingly close for a few minutes, before the Wolverines really start to pull away.
On Jared Odrick's odd Big Ten DPOY victory:
Conferences, be they high school or college, have stupid political bylaws that determine all-conference teams (i.e. conference champs get to name 3 players to 1st team, 2 players to second team). The head scratchers like "Odrick: B11DPOTY" are usually negotiated settlements between coaches/SIDs (if you put my player up or vote for my player, i'll vote for yours) or actually written into the bylaws (i.e. your team is first in points against, you get to name B11DPOTY). Normally, those types of things result in a clear shake out. Sometimes when the margins are not obvious or the bylaws don't work out nice...the solutions are political (AKA stupid looking).
P.S. Is there hope for the defense to get better next year? Do you think Lloyd realized how bad the defense was going to be? and got out?
Odrick was just named first-team All America, too. Brandon Graham got jacked, not that there's any surprise in that.
As to the PS questions: yes, but not very good, probably yes he realized things weren't going to go swimmingly once he left, and no, that had nothing to do with his departure.
It seems as though most of the time Denard is in at quarterback, he is deployed in an otherwise empty backfield. This means that he either passes (infrequently) or runs. Any thoughts on why there is rarely a running back in the backfield with him. This means a read option is out the window. You would think that with his speed that this might be an effective attack. Is he having trouble making the reads in practice?
Two possibilities: Denard can't make the reads, or Michigan thinks he'll be more effective with the field more spread out. I don't get it, personally: Rodriguez broke out the zone read with Pat White early in his career.
That lack of zone read, more than anything else, makes me think Robinson is eventually destined to move to a Percy Harvin-esque slash WR/RB role. He's not running a run-crazy version of the base offense, he's running a no-decision, extremely predictable high school offense. Is there any way he advances enough without the benefit of a redshirt year to pass up Forcier or even Gardner, who's plenty familiar with the zone read in high school?
I think the answer to Denard Robinson is to give him a QB package but start the transition in earnest this offseason. Next year it's Tate and you try to redshirt Gardner, using Robinson as an all-purpose player.
Can we/should we take some comfort in looking at Oklahoma this year? They have an entrenched, top-tier coach, who is indisputably good at coaching in a big time conference. I haven’t looked at their roster, but I think its safe to assume they don’t have Michigan’s youth and under-scholarship issues. They were number two preseason, and when their quarterback goes down and have to play a freshmen, they’re 7-5.
(This email started under the premise that OU finished 6-6, which made the comparison better. I just realized that they finished 7-5, and literally crushed almost all the opponents in victory, and were close in every loss.)
Still, is the comparison valid? Take a national title contender, and put in a freshmen qb, and you are now a middling 7-5. Michigan has only freshmen qbs and 10 other glaring problems and ends up 5-7. Isn’t this actually par or slightly above? This whole thing is a full year longer than everyone expected. Last year was a black hole and this past season was year 1.
Well… no. As the emailer noted, despite their crappy record Oklahoma is an entirely different level from Michigan this year. Their peripheral stats show a team that's snakebit. Michigan's show a team that's just bad. We don't need to hack down to complicated statistical measures to do so:
|Pass Efficiency Defense||10||75|
Oklahoma's nonconference schedule included Miami (That Miami) and BYU, a Baby Seal U—Matt Guiterrez alma mater Idaho State—and bad CUSA team Tulsa, so the overall schedule is probably about as challenging as Michigan's. And there is no comparison. Michigan is better at three things: net punting, rushing offense, and kickoff returns. They are vastly worse in all of the big categories.
This is the flipside of pointing to Georgia Tech and declaring that it's easy to show up and contend for a conference championship in year two. Record isn't everything. Michigan's peripherals this year were really, really terrible; they indicate a team that is going to have to put in yet more time rebuilding. Oklahoma's probably going to leap back to BCS quality next year.
Comparisons to other programs who have struggled through mediocre years or other coaches who have struggled through an opening two seasons as poor as that of Rodriguez don't strike me as relevant. Michigan is in the midst of a unique, wrenching transition from 40 years of one thing to something almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. They started a walk-on quarterback. Three walk-ons played extensively on defense this year, one of them a freshman starter at safety. There are no meaningful comparisons; we just have to grit our teeth and hope it works out.
I agree with the timeline proposed by the emailer: Michigan is a full year behind schedule because of a combination of things. After the Utah game I said the program was under construction and would be finished in 2010; now that is fanciful. Obviously.
World Cup draw liveblog at The Sporting Blog. THEY'RE TALKING TO MORGAN FREEMAN WOO.