to play football, not to play trumpet
Thank Jesus. Paul Maguire will blight your television screens far less often this fall:
Although not formally announced, ESPN's Mike Soltys confirmed Sunday that college football analyst Paul Maguire, 70, will have a "reduced role" this season. Rather than having a full slate of games, says Soltys, Maguire will work only "the occasional game and do some studio shows and radio."
As long as that "occasional game" is the Society of Eastern European Panhandling Midgets versus Regan Pornography Czar Ed Meese's Metacarpals, I'm okay with it. Anything less obscure and we have issues. Just keep him away from the otherwise excellent Nessler-Griese pairing. And all other ones involving the Big Ten.
Side note: Maguire is 70! That guy is hitting up the Just For Men like crazy.
Hype video. Haven't had one of these for a while, and this one is well-executed:
(So… yeah, the top recommended Youtube video I'm getting for this: "So Ronrey." Is this because I posted about soccer earlier?)
Wait… what? The Free Press on Tim Hardaway Jr's commitment, screencapped because they'll probably fix it now:
It appears someone let a spellchecker loose on that article with "replace all" checked, or something. I'm at a loss how "Smotrycz" can become "Metrics" and "ESPN" can become "SPUN," though the latter is a serendipitous slam at the Favre-Owens Network. Evan Metrics sounds like a superhero from Square One who goes around teaching people about kilograms and centiliters; I suggest people condemned to write Smotrycz for the next four and a half years band together and force him to officially change his name. We'll buy him a Zorro mask and a meter stick in exchange.
M-Boned. So, yeah, the athletic department has switched official providers of Michigan apparel from the locally-owned M-Den to the Jerry Jones-owned and spammy-sounding "eSports Partners." The reason is the same reason it always is: money. eSports Partners has guaranteed millions that the M-Den could not, though I strongly suggest that the Athletic Department keep its PIN numbers to itself. Be suspicious of any barristers, yo.
There can be no better reason to do it than someone else's reason not to. Outgoing Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen is not well-loved by his fan constituents, who have to turn to Fox Sports Atlantic to catch any Pac-10 game not involving USC. And I don't think we should be big fans, either. TSN's Dave Curtis has an exit interview of sorts:
Q: So what are the chances of a playoff down the road?
A: We get playoff proposals around the calendar, with many more coming in the late fall. There just isn't anything that would be good in our opinion. We would have to go to 16 teams. The political pressure for participation would be even more intense than in the BCS. You'd have to play the games until the championship on campuses, so you'd be playing games at Michigan and Ohio State, weather-wise, in late December or January. Most of the TV time periods that are attractive then are taken by the NFL. There are some many factors that people never consider.
Well, one: that's just, like, his opinion, man, that you'd "have to" go to 16 teams. Why would the political pressure for participation be more intense? And why couldn't you structure a playoff such that everyone worthy is included? This is common anti-playoff gambit: you can't have a good playoff that makes sense, you have to have a stupid one because of fuzzy reasons I will not justify. In it is an admission that a properly structured playoff would be awesome.
Two: the bolded section is one of the best aspects of a true playoff. Who hates it when NFL playoff games are rough and tumble affairs on the frozen tundra of Lambeau? Oh, that's right: no one.
Low places. Vegas has released a bunch of win over-unders. Your most relevant set:
Over 6 reg season wins -165
Under 6 reg season wins +135
Six seems low but you have to bet 165 to win 100, so it's not a great deal or anything. Still… if anyone wants to do the Forbidden Thing and wager on your own team, there you go.
Etc.: I've mentioned the hole Kiffin finds himself in re: QB recruiting before; Bleed Scarlet has a terrific overview of the situation, which after the commitment of Barry Brunetti to West Virginia comes down to hoping Jesse Scroggins does not pick USC as expected or grabbing a flier. The WLA reviews Rich Rodriguez. There are holes in Michigan's recruitin' bucket.
The Michigan Daily reports this doozy of a rumor:
Some sources tell me that the Athletic Department is looking into a home game against the University of Georgia in 2010, one that would also bring the Wolverines to Athens in 2011.
Whaaaa? A quick check of Georgia's future schedules reveals an open date in 2010 but the opening week of the season is currently filled by Louisiana Lafayette. UGA's other nonconference games that year are @ Colorado and @ Georgia Tech. In 2011, Georgia's schedule is already complete, with home games against Louisville, GT and a couple of cupcakes lined up.
To add Michigan, Georgia would have to…
- accept three nonconference road games against legit opponents in 2010,
- accept three nonconference home games against legit opponents in 2011,
- move the Louisiana Lafayette game, and
- cancel an existing 2011 game.
The former two would be unusual for any college football team not named USC. The latter two cost money. The athletic department can "look into" a home-and-home with Georgia all they want, but UGA is an poor fit for a home-and-home over the next couple years. They are not likely to go for it; if they do they're likely to demand exorbitant terms that Michigan will balk at.
Articles on CT LB Khari Fortt, OH CB commit Courtney Avery (second), OH DT Jibreel Black, PA QB Malik Stokes, CA RB Dietrich Riley, LA WR commit Drew Dileo, FL RB Eduardo Clements, OH RB Andre Givens, GA DE Henry Anderson, NY DE Dominique Easley.
Removed DC LB Javarie Johnson(Miami), FL CB Lo Wood (ND), FL RB Roy Finch (OK), OH LB Jordan Hicks (dropped M), OH DE Jibreel Black (IU!?), MI RB Nick Hill (MSU), FL WR OJ Ross (M outside of top 5), MD S Lamarcus Coker (dropped M), FL WR Chris Dunkley (dropped M).
Added GA DT Mike Thornton, FL WR Quinton Dunbar.
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting board lives here. Not a whole lot of movement this week except in one direction: off the board.
An interesting week in departures. FL WR OJ Ross listed a top five without Michigan in it; though I'd usually wait for a couple more articles that were more explicit, I'm being ruthless on the WR board given all the commits. He's gone. OH LB Jordan Hicks not including Michigan amongst his final six was no surprise, and FL CB Lo Wood's commitment to ND had been expected for a while. Michigan will pick up corners rated higher than Wood, whose early hype gave way to eh ratings and a lack of in-state interest. So yeah no surprises there. Four removals are of note, though:
FL RB Roy Finch committed to Oklahoma. If Michigan wasn't going to get Finch, and there wasn't any interest expressed there, that's the best spot for him to go as it might cause some wobble in the commitment of CA RB and former Forcier teammate Brennan Clay. Possibly-dubious rumors that Clay's commitment is not rock solid persist.
MI RB Nick Hill committed to Michigan State. Hill camped at Michigan and did not get an offer, at which point State swooped in for the rebound. More on Hill in the section on tailbacks.
OH DT/DE Jibreel Black committed to… Indiana? WTF? That one hurts. Black had sliced his list to Cinci, Kentucky, Indiana, State, and M, and unless there's an ulterior motive on a list like that, that usually presages a commitment to M. Black was a three-and-a-half star sort who would have been an excellent fit as the three-tech DT in Michigan's new defense; instead he's signed up to get his head caved in for four years. There's no accounting for taste.
Black's ulterior motive, by the way: his older brother currently plays for IU.
DC LB Javarie Johnson committed to Miami. That also hurts. Johnson showed well at camps and had high upside; he reacted so positively to his Michigan unofficial that one of his coaches told a Scout guy that he had committed. Instead he's off to Miami, depriving Michigan's recruiting board of a badly needed athletic strongside linebacker type.
Eeee eeee eeee
Yet more recruitin' video on MI QB Devin Gardner, seen here throwing some passes at the Sound Mind/Sound Body camp. More impressive are the clips of Gardner playing receiver; he looks like Braylon crossed with a bull.
You know how Ohio State got a fade touchdown in their bowl game last year by having Boeckman chuck it to Pryor? Yeah, I think we should teach Devin Gardner the fade route. Here's what I'd say if I was Tony Dews: "go over there and run to the corner of the endzone. Then be 6'5" and capable of leaping over most of Andorra."
So Nick Hill goes off the board to State, and we're one step closer to completing the odd reversal from early expectations. MI RB Austin White committing to Michigan would be the final step. He remains a Michigan lean:
… U-M’s best chance is with White, who has been a slight Michigan lean since the spring.
Since it's White who's got the higher recruiting rankings and better offers I'm fine with that; also White's camp performance was considerably better than Hill's.
The other big fish Michigan is in the mix for is FL RB Eduardo Clements, who camped and now has a solid top three of Georgia, Michigan, and Miami. Clements on M:
“The whole coaching staff is a great group of guys. The things Coach Rich (Rodriguez) is trying to do with the offense this year, and the guys from Miami (area) who are there now look like they will play early. I just liked the whole campus and the whole atmosphere.”
That's not a final list above, however, and Clements currently plans on taking all his officials. Michigan will get a return visit. Since Clements was thought to be favoring Georgia before his camp swing, that's a win.
Meanwhile, OH RB Andre Givens is concentrating on the Big East($); his Michigan offer may not come with a lot of recruiting behind it as Michigan focuses on White and Clements.
That article cited above with an Austin White lean also has less salutary news on a couple of instate prospects:
[Dior] Mathis has recently expressed a strong affinity for Oregon, while [CJ] Olaniyan appears to be favoring Michigan State and Penn State.
FWIW. That would be a major change on Mathis; Olaniyan is supposed to be pretty wide open still; he's only moved to Michigan in the last few years and doesn't have any particular affinity for the local programs.
From the South But Not Married To It
Ah, so this is why Michigan's got a half-decent shot at GA DE Henry Anderson:
Both of Anderson's parents graduated from Wisconsin and he plans to head to Madison in the near future for an unofficial visit and then narrow his list further. Anderson is looking for the best school for him on an off the field. He plans to major in either business or political science and then head to law school once his playing days are over.
Michigan is in a leading group of eight.
Shirtlessness is contagious
We have our first OMG shirtless punter ever:
That's WI P Will Hagerup, who has a Michigan offer and appears to be the top punter in the country according to issued offers. He took a visit to campus recently, perhaps attempting to gather information on the program so he can decide whether he wants to commit before Michigan offers MI P Mike Sadler and other folks. I bet something shakes out soon here.
Ah so, hello, eventually
Here's a new cornerback on the radar who favors Michigan and will probably commit soon:
[Greg] Brown’s first scholarship offer came from Central Michigan. While he was camping in the state of Michigan, Brown came away with two new scholarship offers.
“Michigan State and Michigan, they both offered after camp,” Brown said. “Michigan is my favorite. I’m probably going to decide pretty soon.”
Hey, cool. Small catch: Brown is a member of the class of 2011. IE: a rising junior. So, yeah. Not of immediate help. But a couple Big Ten offers by the summer of your junior year presages a nice ranking when it comes time for that, and Brown is from Fremont Ross, the home of a slightly good cornerback named Woodson.
Etc.: Fluff on NY DE Dominique Easley; don't get your hopes up there. CT LB Khari Fortt speculated to Penn State. FL WR Quinton Dunbar plans an official visit, FWIW. Highly likely to stay in-state. Fluffs one and two on OH CB commit Courtney Avery. This article on LA WR commit Drew Dileo has the worst tile ever. CA RB/S Dietrich Riley smoked the USC Rising Stars camp.
Ohio defensive end Derrick Bryant said Michigan lead very early in the recruiting cycle, but decided against a commitment and has recently claimed to be more open in the rare instances the recruiting sites have nailed him down for an interview. Tom caught up with him recently, however, and got the latest.
A note: though Michigan told Holmes Onwukaife his spot was filled, Bryant is regarded by as a strongside defensive end. Michigan needs guys on the strongside.
TOM: We haven’t heard much from you, what’s been going on?
DERRICK: I have about 13 or 14 offers right now. Michigan is still one of my favorites. I just recently got UCLA, Oregon, Purdue, and North Carolina. Those are the latest ones. I’d like to go back to Michigan this summer, and take another visit. I’m not sure if I’m going to take any visits this summer though.
TOM: Ok, so what are your plans for the summer?
DERRICK: I’ll pretty much do my research, talk to the coaches, and get ready for the season.
TOM: Do you know which schools are going to get an official visit?
DERRICK: I’m going to take on to UCLA, Oregon, and North Carolina since they’re all far. I was told by someone that I should use my official visits for the far schools, and visit the closer ones like Michigan on my own. It’s easier that way, since the officials are paid for.
TOM: I haven’t seen your name at any camps either. Have you been to any camps yet?
DERRICK: I’m just going to be a monster in the weight room, and getting ready for the season. I’m happy with the offers I have, and I want to make a decision off the list I already have. The schools that have talked to me already, are the schools I want to choose from. I’m not doing any camps or combines. I don’t really need to prove anything else to anybody, and I plan on having a break out season this year too.
TOM: What’s your timeline look like for making a decision?
DERRICK: I would like to do it midway through my season. That’s why I told all the coaches that I want to come to campus early, so I can decide. I’m looking at the depth charts pretty close. Oregon and UCLA have been talking about playing time and how many other defensive ends they’ll have once I get up there.
TOM: So, what happened? Michigan was on top, you even said you think you’d fit like a glove, and then you went quiet.
DERRICK: There was a point in time, when I was going to get it over with and commit. Michigan is still one of my top schools. My coaches and my Dad, who was recruited for basketball, told me to just wait, because there might be another school that I like too. I need to look at it as a football player and student, rather than just a fan, because I’m a very big Michigan fan. I’m going to be there the next four years, so it’s important. When I went to Michigan for the spring game, I loved everything, so they’re still one of my favorites. It wasn’t anything negative, I just want to wait.
TOM: What aspects of the other schools have you been looking at?
DERRICK: I would like to take my official visits first before I can answer that. I haven’t seen everything about all the schools. Every coach says they’re the best, and they have this and that. I want to go on as many visits and see everything for myself.
TOM: Which schools have caught your interest the most?
DERRICK: Michigan, Oregon, UCLA, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas. Those are the top schools right now.
TOM: When is your recruitment going to pick back up?
DERRICK: Probably the end of summer is when you’ll be hearing from me again. I’ll start to pick it back up then, so I can stay focused on my season next year. I’d like to start getting it back on track, so I can build some more relationships with coaches and everything.
6/28/2009 – USA 2, Brazil 3 – Confederations Cup Runners Up
Note: yeah, this is Off Topic, but 1) this is also way more interesting than anything else going on at the moment, 2) I reserve the right to wander off the reservation in the hard offseason, and 3) I'm slightly tired of recruiting-recruiting-recruiting. Aren't you? Coming up tomorrow: Wednesday Recruitin'!
Here's Clint Dempsey holding the "bronze ball" bestowed on the FIFA-approved third-best player at the Confederations Cup. Here is a brief list of the folks Dempsey finished in front of:
- That white guy on South Africa
- Everyone on Brazil not named Kaka or Fabiano
That is an impressive array of players to beat out. And yet Dempsey looks like he's auditioning for The Hangover 2 or Fully, Completely Baked. This is because the United States has just found out that there is a way to lose to Brazil 3-2 and feel agonized, that, yes, there is such a thing as crashing out for you who thought yourself immune.
Sitting there in the aftermath of Brazil's comeback was one of the strangest feelings I've had as a sports fan. To demonstrate: I was going to put an adjective on "comeback" there and considered both "stunning" and "inevitable." Words literally fail. Maybe there's something in German for it. Schiessenkopffrauballsdammit: the feeling you have when the incredibly improbable thing you dreaded and feared comes to pass, just like you knew it would. (See: 2005 Ohio State game.)
That was the nature of this deeply bizarre tournament. Bludgeoned and discarded in the first games, the United States retroactively justified my friend's terror that the Honduras game would not end with a result and that this would surely put the Nats in an honest-to-god World Cup qualification dogfight—in CONCACAF! Late in the dire Brazil drubbing, another friend asked me what we should do and I succumbed to pure reactionary talk-radio blithering: "Fire Bradley," I muttered, and said no more.
From that moment on the US put together the most brilliant two-and-a-half game run in probably their entire history: 3-0 over Egypt, 2-0 over Spain, and 2-0 over Brazil. Yeah, they were on the back foot for about 60 minutes of the Spain game, but dos a cero is dos a cero. If only soccer finals were 45 minutes long. (While we're at it: if only soccer finals were 45 minutes long and banned people fluent in Portuguese.)
They are not, and we are left with our schiessenkopffrauballsdammit.
I don't have any other soccer team. The nearest MLS team are in Chicago and Columbus and Toronto, none of which I can root for on geographical principle. If I was to pick up one of the big four in the EPL I might as well just go the whole nine yards, buy a Yankees hat, USC jersey, Duke shorts, and Lakers shoes, and shoot myself.
But what's the point of rooting for Fulham? Good job lads, you didn't get sent to purgatory… this year. European soccer is structured such that you can either pick the Yankees or the Toledo Mud Hens. The Mud Hens have as much of a chance at winning the World Series as Wigan has of winning the Premiership. But Wigan fans don't seem to mind. Win some games, lose some games, sing about Emile Heskey emerging from a radioactive lagoon during a terrible thunderstorm, end of story let's get a pint.
On the other hand, even the lowliest American franchise has aspirations to greatness. A few years ago the Penguins were awful enough to get like three consecutive top-three picks. The Patriots were a laughingstock for most of their existence. The Spurs were some random team in San Antonio before Tim Duncan arrived. The Cardinals won the World Series despite being like four games above .500. Everyone can strive. Even Clippers fans eagerly await the day Donald Sterling dies. "Look at the Blackhawks!" they say before returning to Bill Simmons' annual fantasy football draft-stravaganza. This is a blessing and a curse.
The curse section is provided Brian Phillips on the outstanding Run of Play:
I'm more interested in seeing the run through this tournament, and the Spain game above all, as something to celebrate for its own sake, without thinking about next year or whether it's safe to nudge up my expectations. I'm sure I'm not alone in that, but partly thanks to Bradley's understandable emphasis in his postgame remarks, so much of the coverage has skirted the "what does this mean?" question that I've spent most of the last 24 hours wanting to take an anchorperson by his lapels and scream "We #$*%ing BEAT SPAIN! Doesn't that matter more than abstract 'potential'?"
Yes, because it probably doesn't mean much in the scheme of things. Spain and Brazil showed their quality, and while it's great the US beat one and took the other to the limit, what that says is that the US can scrap with teams better than they are. The World Cup group is going to have between one and three teams better than the Nats, and there will be scrapping.
This is foreign to the national state of mind. The United States does not scrap except maybe in rhythmic gymnastics and kayaking and other things dreamed up by commies trying to get up to par in gold medals. When the US decided to get super-serious about soccer, they dreamed up "Project 2010," which was supposed to "ensure the US Men's National team was a legitimate threat to win the World Cup by 2010," emphasis mine because WTF? Win? We are Americans, and it doesn't matter if we have the resources of the Kansas City Royals. We have Yankee dreams.
So what the Brazil game was was a chance. A stupid, improbable chance built on equal parts grit, skill, and astounding luck; a chance to slay two giants back-to-back and scramble up to the pinnacle of world football for somewhere between sixty seconds and a day before the ground gave way and it was back to Grenada and Haiti. So I appreciate *#$&ing beating Spain but also feel like Dempsey above, holding a trophy he had no right to expect and thinking of what might have been.
- So a major reason this post exists was the large influx of soccer emails into the inbox. Aaron Rennie's contribution: "The first half was like the best blowjob you've had in your life; the second was discovering you got it from a dude." Funny, but it's not like I started questioning which team I was rooting for later. I have my cool group of local friends because a couple people knew I liked soccer and needed someone to watch it with and joined up with us; I feel I owe Arriaga II, God of Soccer, a tribute.
- You know, I had bought into Harkes' gratuitously negative take on Dempsey in the Egypt match—when I deigned to tweet about the 3-0 win, I mentioned Dempsey had been "terrible" or "awful" or something like that—but then I re-watched the first half a couple days ago and saw him set up the US's two best scoring opportunities of the first half with incisive passes. There really needs to be a Nats UFR.
- …which might fall to me, actually. I'm seriously considering starting up a USMNT blog with a couple friends (so that the burden on me is not extensive enough to hamper MGoActivities, of course). Name suggestions welcome.
- I wasn't thrilled with Bocanegra at left back but that might have something to do with the fact he was coming off injury and playing against Spain and Brazil; he was clearly less overmatched than Bornstein. Bocanegra-Demerit-Onyewu-Spector/Cherundolo should be the backline going forward, with Hedjuk around to come on as a lead-protecting substitute and all around insane hairy guy.
- Bornstein, meanwhile, might see his spot yoinked by Edgar Castillo, the Texican left back who appears frozen out of Los Douchebags' plans. That would make the USA 2/2 on grabbing newly-eligible defectors.
- Argh Rossi.
- Actually read some insane Big Soccer criticisms in the wake of the first couple matches directed at Howard because "the book" on him had become clear: shoot miraculous 30-yarders. When that's all they can say about you…
- What happens when Ching is available? Davies ran around and did some stuff and scored an Eckstein goal and had that gorgeous assist to Donovan. But Jozy's not much of a holding or linkup forward right now. He is a beast who is fast and huge and could conceivably function as a Charlie Davies who ate a steroid-laced power mushroom. Ching and Jozy worked very well together before Ching's injury, and then you get to bring Davies' pace off the bench.
- Similarly, once Edu and Jermaine Jones start pushing for central midfield slots the competition will be as brutal as it gets on the US National Team. Clark might get pushed to the bench even after turning in a very strong Confederations Cup; he's not likely to go without a fight.
- Side benefit: you've seen the last of Kljestan against teams outside of CONCACAF. (Or I'll die.)
- Jozy watch: Villareal just sold Nihat. He was injury-plagued and not a consistent starter, but maybe that opens up space for Altidore to be a consistent substitute?
- While we're at it, Dan Levy has an excellent article at TSB on ESPN's impact on the Future we're trying so hard not to consider at the moment.