It's home-opener week, which seems like a great time to start looking at cumulative stats. This will be one of a few of these I do over the rest of the season.
Baseball has a long lived on the forefront of statistics in sports. From the heavy emphasis on batting over .300 or advanced sabermetrics, baseball's history is forever linked with teaching kids that not all math is useless. In honor of that longstanding tradition, today we look at some stats from our baseball team and then wonder what the hell they might mean. College baseball stats are not just loosely kept, but they fluctuate wildly over periods of time.
First, because of the nature of college baseball's shortened season (compared to major leagues), pitching statistics don't really offer enough data until very late in the season, if at all. There's just not enough to say about 17 innings of work for a starter or 8 innings, if that, for a reliever. So we're going to focus on just batting statistics in this and most future posts of this type.
Second, college baseball stats are very basic. There is no way to track pitches accurately without either a dedicated sports information director or someone at games. It's painstakingly, eye-gouging-ly monotonous to calculate batting averages with runners in scoring position. You have to hope your team has play-by-play on the bottom of their box score, and then you have to read through each at-bat, and all surrounding at-bats in order to come up with the raw data. Just to come up with the data that I have, I had to go through each box score and type in each statistic to have a game log for each player.
This is just the way things are.
The first thing I always like to post is a track on how our team batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage have progressed over the season.
This year I've tried to add a fourth line to represent the quality of competition Michigan has faced. The purple line represents RPI, with a team registering a 1.000 as the #1 team in the nation, a team at .500 being the 151th team in the nation, and a team scoring zero as the 302nd team in the nation, with the RPI coming from Boyd's World (in this case, the data was taken on Sunday 3/21). I felt this would help identify certain peaks and valleys as a reference.
Other than the realization that we've played a tough schedule this year, what jumps out to me is the lower slugging percentage. Last year, Michigan regularly slugged around .475. The last graphic I made last year was this one, 37 games through the season:
We're slugging just over .440 this season, where last season was spent hovering around .475. Sure, the competition has gotten a bit tougher, but something else seems spotty here. We'll look at the slugging percentage and other non-Excel visualizations after the jump…
I’ve talked to a few people about spring practice and some of the early enrollees' progress. There’s nothing earth shattering, since we’re basically only 5 practices in, but here’s what I’ve been hearing so far.
- Stephen Hopkins has actually lost 15 pounds; he’s at about 228 now.
- Christian Pace has already gained 15 pounds.
- Jerald Robinson has gained somewhere between 10-15 pounds, and has been mentioned quite a bit. A lot of buzz around him, and the catches he’s made.
- Anthony LaLota is up around 260 pounds now. Unfortunately, he has an elbow injury.
- Cameron Gordon is the most surprising for everyone. His name keeps coming up. I’ve heard that he tackles well and has really good coverage skills. The people I’ve talked to say he’s just a natural ball hawk. Good decision to move him to safety.
- The offense looks more in sync than last year, despite Molk being out. It’s practice, though, so everyone looks good. It feels like there’s a lot of competition out there.
- A lot of the early enrollees have a chip on their shoulder. They want to play early.
- Pat Omameh has impressed everybody. Everyone has described him as “huge.”
- Justin Turner is progressing as well as everyone has hoped. There is no reason for concern
with him. I think everyone had high expectations for him, and he seems to be meeting those.
- Jeremy Gallon has been practicing really well. The person I spoke with about him said he’s really fast, and coming along nicely.
- JT Floyd has been working really hard to see the field. He’s a case where he has more confidence this year, which will help. He understands more of what he’s doing this year.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Bemidji State
NCAA First Round
Michigan vs Miami/UAH
Hypothetical NCAA Second Round
|WHERE||Fort Wayne, Indiana|
|WHEN||Saturday, March 27th 7:30 PM
Hypothetically, Sunday March 28th 8 PM.
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
|TELEVISION||Saturday: ESPN360, Fox Sports North, Comcast Local
The Bemidji State Beavers were the darlings of last year's Opposite Day NCAA tournament, the 16th seed who knocked off national #1 Notre Dame and thumped Cornell to make the Frozen Four. Air Force's upset streak stopped at one game and thus did not occasion a series of "what's Bemidji State" articles. (This literally happened.) Also people are aware of what Air Force is. My favorite: the New York Times article entitled "Bemidji State Awakens From Incongruous Dream." College hockey as brought to you by Michele Gondry.
Put that from your mind. Those games were not flukes. The combined score of those games was 9-2 Bemidji. Further indication of that: they used that regional as a springboard to a season that is by far the best in school history and is only the second time a team outside a major conference has acquired an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament*. Remember how Michigan's loss to Air Force acted as a harbinger for this season? Yeah, that's Bemidji State. They are Cinderella no more.
Record. 23-9-4, 14-3-1 CHA. Who cares about the CHA, though? It's more telling to look at Bemidji's 14 nonconference games against WCHA and CCHA opponents as a hodgepodge conference schedule. Those opponents ranked from best to worst according to KRACH:
|KRACH||Team||Game 1||Game 2|
|7||Minnesota-Duluth||W 4-1||W 5-4 (ot)|
|8||Northern Michigan||T 3-3||W 5-0|
|12||Minnesota||L 1-4||W 6-2|
|19||Nebraska Omaha||W 3-1||L 2-3|
|23||Ohio State||L 1-2||--|
|25||Minnesota State||L 1-5||L 2-3|
|37||Western Michigan||T 0-0||W 3-0|
That's a weighted average of 17.2. The CCHA's conference average is 21.1. In those games, the Beavers were 7-5-2 and had a goal differential of +9. Extrapolated over a 28-game season, BSU's goal differential against a CCHA-ish schedule would be +18—better than Michigan's by four. They'd be 14-10-4. If shootouts are a 50-50 proposition they'd land 48 points, which would tie them with Northern Michigan for fourth in the league.
Don't be fooled by the conference affiliation. Bemidji's body of work is better than Michigan's this year and they earned their at-large bid without assistance from Pairwise oddities.
My longstanding bitch about KRACH is that it weights schedule strength way too heavily**—if it was used to determine the NCAA tournament, 18-19-4 Minnesota would be a three seed—and therefore is too enthusiastic about the WCHA teams Bemidji played this year, but even at worst Bemidji's nonconference schedule is about on par with the average CCHA team's. BSU played the first, fourth, sixth, eighth, and twelfth place teams in the CCHA and the fourth, seventh, and eighth-place teams in the WCHA. That's a great spread if we're going to make up a Hypothetical CCHA Bemidji State (HCCHABSU), which we totally are.
College Hockey Stats conveniently separates conference stats on its team pages, so I'll take a look at BSU's overall stats and then the HCCHABSU alternate universe. The latter includes the 14 games charted above plus BSU's conference tournament games and a season-opening sweep of Air Force (total goals there: 10-4). Air Force was a good Atlantic Hockey team but didn't win any of their six nonconference games.
Those four games should drag those schedule numbers down a bit and be a close approximation of BSU's performance as a CCHA team. We'll prioritize those 18 games on the assumption they're a more realistic picture of BSU's ability than 18 games against UAH, Robert Morris, and Niagara.
Recent form. Patchy. In their last six games they're 2-2-2, splitting at Nebraska-Omaha (something Michigan could not do) and getting a win and a tie at Alabama-Huntsville before their disappointing CHA tournament, which featured an opening-round loss against Niagara and a third-place game tie against a Robert Morris team that sucked against teams not named Miami and had zero to play for. (Bemidji was playing for seeding.) Even before that disappointing weekend, BSU coach Tom Serratore was fretting about his team's play:
“When you start looking at wins/losses over the regular season – you don’t just think so much about that you won, but how you won. We talked about it with the team this week – when was the last time we put two really good back-to-back games together? Maybe it was at Western Michigan in January.
“We’re aware of that, and also aware that now is the time to really step it up. It’s the same formula – pay attention to detail, play with intensity; establish the forecheck; put pressure on the defense; get good goaltending and special teams play.”
In that CHA tourney fail, shots did favor the Beavers. BSU outshot Niagara 36-25 in the semi and 36-32 in the third place game. Against Robert Morris, starting goalie Dan "Scott" Bakala got chased five minutes into the third after giving up three goals in a two-minute span.
FWIW, The three weeks before the recent 2-2-2 stretch were a sweep of Niagara and two consecutive splits against Robert Morris.
Dangermen. I've searched high and low for something more illuminating than pure stats on the Beavers, but there is no BSU blog and the only newspaper coverage consists of local gamers devoid of analysis. USCHO's forum remains as pointless as it usually is, so stats will have to do.
Junior Matt Read, pictured above scoring BSU's only goal in their national semifinal against Miami, is the guy at the top of the heap with a 19-21-40 line in 36 games. Junior Ian Lowe actually bested Read in goals with 20, but only had ten assists. First-team All CHA defenseman Brad Hunt had a 7-26-33 line and is by far their most active defender. No other D had more than one goal and none cracked ten points. Look for him on the power play.
Outside of conference play, BSU averaged 3.11 goals per game. Read was still the top scorer with 17 points, just one shy of a PPG. Everyone's points suffer but it doesn't appear that there's anyone who loses more than you would expect. Their guys are their guys.
The Hagelin Solution is likely to be deployed against Read, Lowe, and Jordan George; BSU's second line has some pop but is averaging .5 PPG or less in the Hypothetical CCHA portion of the schedule. As it was against Northern Michigan, Michigan's third line of Lebler-Treais-Brown should have a significant advantage over Bemidji's third and fourth liners.
Goalie and defense and whatnot. Bakala (above) has an impressive .919 save percentage (11th nationally) and a 2.27 GAA. He's got a freshman backup who saw about seven games' worth of time this year, but Michigan figures to have chased Bakala if we see him. The good news: Hypothetical CCHA Dan "Scott" Bakala's save percentage is only .906. That would be 48th nationally.
Shawn Hunwick doesn't have enough games to qualify for the stats, but his current .912 is around 30th nationally. This marks one of the first times this year the opponent's goaltender will enter the game with save percentage lower than Michigan's. Hypothetically.
On defense, Hunt and Ryan Adams are the top pair; Hunt is the guy with all the points but Adams's +23 leads defensemen. Hunt is six back. Junior Dan MacIntyre and freshman Jake Areshenko are the second pairing; both are +11 overall. HCCHA versions average a +6, so they're not gits outside of the CHA. Both are extreme stay-at-home types, though: between them they have nine points. McIntyre's six came in just 17 games, FWIW.
Meanwhile, Michigan should get senior captain Chris Summers back:
The Milan native skated at the Joe last Saturday before the team’s game against the Wildcats and Berenson said he would probably be back for next weekend’s game (or games) in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Excellent jinx avoidance by the Daily there. Elsewhere, AnnArbor.com makes Summers' return seem considerably more doubtful; Mike Spath says he "should" be back. The ayes have it. With Tristin Llewellyn earning the coaches' trust over the second half of the season, Summers's return should send freshman Lee Moffie to the press box.
Michigan's defense has cut down on the dumb penalties and turnovers during Michigan's blazing finish, but they remain susceptible to forechecking pressure and can leave the team caught in its own zone. Bemidji might have one or two lines capable of applying this pressure—it's impossible to tell given the information out there—but it's doubtful they can hem Michigan in for long stretches.
Special teams. Power play opportunities per game:
|PP For / G||4.6||5.6|
|PP Ag / G||4.9||5.3|
(Above numbers HCCHABSU; overall numbers are basically identical.)
Overall, Bemidji State finds itself 25th nationally on the power play at 19%. HCCHABSU, however, is 40th at 16.9%. Same story on the penalty kill: BSU drops from 12th (84.8%) to 35th (80.3%). Meanwhile, Michigan's been dropping on the penalty kill but rising on the power play. The kill has fallen to 8th nationally from a high of third and now sits at 86.5 percent. The Caporusso-enlivened powerplay is up to 17th at 19.6 percent.
All these numbers are encouraging: Michigan converts and kills better than Bemidji and is in the black when it comes to power play opportunities; BSU, hypothetical or not, is in the red. This is a significant advantage for Michigan.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Do whatever the hell it is you have been doing lately. This is what they have been doing lately:
“Their speed gave us big problems,” Kyle said. “They got pucks behind us, they forechecked … they had great back pressure, stole the puck from us numerous times coming up ice, and we failed to get pucks in the zone and generate a forecheck.”
Essentially, they have cloned Carl Hagelin and put him on three lines. Michigan's speed from lines one to four is causing neutral and defensive zone turnovers galore, preventing organized breakouts from the opposition, and keeping the action largely confined to the opponent's side of the ice. Even a team as good as Miami ended their recent game with Michigan on the short end in shots and (eyeballing it) attack time; Lake State, Michigan State, and Northern Michigan could barely generate an offensive rush.
If Michigan can pull that trick off against Bemidji—and they've just done in four consecutive games against opponents either as good or better than them—they will again be staring at a major advantage in shots and attack time. This usually results in a win.
For God's sake, score or something. This has been less of an issue lately with Louie Caporusso's re-emergence, but you and I and everyone who's watched this team is petrified that the final shots will read 35-12 and the scoreboard will betray us. Hell, until Caporusso leapt off the bench with under a minute left in the second period of the CCHA Championship game, I was expecting to lose that game 1-0 with a 3-1 advantage in shots on goal.
Michigan's low shooting percentage is a real thing to fear. Their best player (Hagelin) is currently chugging along at 11% and there's a guy on the second line (Glendening) with a 7%. First liner Kevin Lynch is also sporting an ugly 8% conversion rate. Michigan is short a sniper and a half this year. Converting that presumed territorial dominance into goals is by no means guaranteed.
Camp out in your own crease and watch it like a hawk. I agree 100% with BWS's assessment of Hunwick's primary flaw:
there's a pretty obvious fundamental flaw in the way he handles rebounds, and it's not something that works itself out with more playing time. Hunwick attacks shots. Given his size, he might have to. He can't sit back in the net and direct rebounds the way larger goalies can. This is not to say that coming out and challenging shots is wrong (in fact, it's one of the strongest parts of his game), but Hunwick has to exert himself so much--stretching to make a save, moving quickly to cover the corners, etc.--that steering rebounds to the corners and out of danger is something he seems unable to do.
Michigan has remedied this by collapsing on the slot and frantically clearing everything, but eventually kicking every somewhat dangerous shot out into the slot is going to burn you. I don't think Hunwick can do anything about this unless he grows a half-foot in the next few days. They'll have to continue to play panicked and hope the rebounds land on their sticks, not the opponents'.
It's worked so far.
Fort Wayne's arena hosts all manner of events—the D-League's Mad Ants call it home!—and has a reputation for erratic ice conditions. Slow ice would neutralize Michigan's blazing speed and would probably be bad. So this is good news:
After months of planning, coliseum staff started preparing the arena immediately after Sunday's Mad Ants game was completed. The floorboards were removed, the hockey boards put back up and then two Zamboni machines started shaving down the ice to a 1/2 -inch level. The Komets' advertising was removed, the remaining ice was painted white and new NCAA logos were placed. Then hoses were used to start building new ice.
While General Manager Randy Brown and his staff hosted a conference call with NCAA officials Monday afternoon to discuss hotels and travel plans for the teams, the Zambonis returned to work on specific spots and add the final few layers. The Komets and recreational hockey leagues will break in the ice this week before Friday's tournament practices start at 11:30 a.m.
“We want to have the Komets and some other uses skating on it so it is well broken in by the time we get to our practice sessions on Friday,” Brown said. “The worst thing you can do is have green ice, new ice. We don't want to have that.”
This should mean good ice for the teams.
A Regrettable Thing I Have To Say Of A Prediction-Type Variety
Bemidji made the Frozen Four last year and Michigan went out at the hands of Air Force, and Bemidji's body of work is indeed stronger than Michigan's, all things considered. HOWEVA, I must regretfully inform readers that as I have researched Bemidji State's season I have become increasingly confident that Michigan should win.
This is all based on the assumption that Michigan will play like they played the last six to ten games of their season, which is basically how they played the rest of the year plus a ton of defensive responsibility and Louie Caporusso sniping. Michigan should have a major advantage in shots and chances, but that's proven to be insufficient time and again this year. The difference has been Michigan's almost total dominance the last few games. They've leap past their crappy shooting percentage and crappy save percentage by making the ice so lopsided it doesn't matter. Do that and they're 80% of the way to a Miami rematch. Play an even game and they're 40-60 dogs.
Sadly, I'm thinking the former. Please don't throw me into the fiery furnace if it doesn't happen.
Entirely Hypothetical And Not At All God-Taunting Section About Potential Second Game
Please ignore the section behind the curtain, Temporarily Benevolent Michigan Walk-On Tolerating God
If Michigan does get by Bemidji State, the bracket sets up in a convenient fashion for previewers: Michigan's second opponent will either be CCHA league champion Miami—previewed thoroughly on Friday around these parts—or Alabama-Huntsville.
If it's Huntsville, this is what you need to know: Huntsville is a bad CHA team that has just pulled off the bar-none greatest upset in NCAA hockey tournament history. Michigan should thwack them mercilessly. You should make friends with a Miami fan so that five years from now, when he's all but forgotten it, you can subtly bring it up and watch bits of his brain splatter across a three-county area.
In the exceedingly likely event of a Miami win, they are almost the exact same team that was so terrifying on Friday:
The ferocity with which Miami pwned the CCHA has to be approaching record territory. They had 70 points, 20 more than second-place Michigan State. Their conference goal differential was +61. Michigan and Northern tied for second in that category at +14. This may be the best CCHA team since Brendan Morrison and company.
The only thing that's different is a 1-1 record and –2 goal differential against Michigan and Ferris State that makes them slightly less terrifying. And the possibility that nominal backup goalie Connor Knapp starts. Knapp got the start against Ferris in the CCHA consolation game and held the Bulldogs to one goal… on 13 shots. That's not exactly standing on your head but it is the second week in a row Knapp has come on in relief of Cody Reichard after Reichard gave up five goals. In the most recent case it's hard to blame him for any of Michigan's goals save one (the Lebler tip that went five-hole) and even that's a tough deflection to handle. I don't think it matters much who plays; both are amongst the national leaders in save percentage.
If there is a second-round Michigan-Miami matchup, don't let the CCHA semifinal fool you. It will be a war. In the last matchup Michigan had a fitness edge with Miami's previous series going three games and featuring some overtime play while Michigan skated maybe a game and a half against a fairly pathetic effort from Michigan State. In this hypothetical matchup, Miami will have slightly more rest since they play early and probably won't have to expend too much energy in the third. Michigan now has confidence from outplaying Miami in two of three matchups this year, but they still lost two of those games and it's not like MU fluked its way to a +61 goal differential.
Home crowd or not, Michigan remains an underdog against the Redhawks—albeit a slighter one than they were at the Joe.
*Niagara was the first way back in 2000, the second year they even existed. They won the CHA but the conference hadn't been around long enough to get an automatic bid. Amazingly, they qualified via the PWR into a twelve-team tournament and beat HE champ UNH in the first round.
**I know that KRACH is recursive and internally consistent and therefore correct by definition, but that doesn't mean it correctly weights the amount of randomness in hockey. When you get highly segregated clusters of information, you can considerably overrate the strength of the links between the two. Any rating system that deigns to assert that nine of the sixteen teams in a hypothetically national tourney should be from a ten-team WCHA is wrong.
There are versions of KRACH that add fictional results against teams that don't exist that significantly reduce this effect. Anyway, if KRACH was really about who the best team was it would take goal differential into account. Poster quakk, who KRACHed college football last year, might jump in with some arguments about this.
After a couple hectic weeks, this update is a more manageable. For all your recruiting needs, Don't forget about the 2011 Michigan Football Recruiting Board. It should be up to date, but if it's not, let me know. The technology has been acting wacky lately.
Demetrius Hart: The Saga Continues
The ongoing saga of FL RB Demetrius Hart (top right)continues, but this week's update brings an interesting quote from his teammate, FL S Hasean Clinton-Dix (bottom right):
"[I]f we feel like it's comfortable for both of us then that's what we're going to do," Clinton-Dix said of he and Hart attending the same school. "Like say we wanted to go to Florida. If he felt comfortable and I felt comfortable and that's where we want to be, then that's what we're going to do. But if I feel comfortable at Michigan and he feels comfortable at Illinois or somewhere, then we're just going to split up and keep in contact."
It's widely believed that Hart is the prospect with higher interest in Michigan (they're back in his top 3, for the record), so for Clinton-Dix to mention that the Wolverines have a chance to end up high on his list re-opens the possibility of a package deal for the pair, as long as Hart's spring game visit goes well. Of course, mentioning Michigan as a possibility is far different from saying they're one of his top schools: Clinton-Dix still maintains Alabama as his favorite.
I'm of the opinion that the spring game visit is not quite as important as how Michigan performs on the field this season. If they win, Michigan's shot is great. Otherwise, not so much. Hart is rumbling about a commit in the near future but also says he will take all five official visits, so that would be one of those soft commits.
Visits! Offers! Much, Much More!
MI DE Brennen Beyer plans to make a decision before the start of his senior season ($, info in header). Of course, Michigan fans are probably disappointed that he hasn't made a commitment yet, as he's been favoring the Wolverines and it seemed like a February decision was likely. However, I did see him at Michigan's practice yesterday, and he plans to be in Ann Arbor for the scrimmage on Saturday.
PA DE Deion Barnes plans to visit Ann Arbor for the Michigan Spring Game (April 17th, 1PM). Barnes attends Philadelphia Northeast High School, the alma mater of Michigan sophomore WR Je'Ron Stokes. Barnes is also firneds with Stokes' little brother, PA QB Malik Stokes.
FL WR Ja'Juan Story should be a bigtime prospect (as early offers from schools like Florida State and North Carolina imply), and both the Wolverines and Buckeyes have joined the fray.
The Buckeyes offered him a scholarship Tuesday and the Wolverines followed with an offer Thursday, Nature Coast assistant Robert Kazmier said. Story also received an offer from Georgia Tech last week.
"He's hot commodity," Kazmier said.
Michigan will probably take just one more outside receiver in this class with Shawn Conway already committed. MI WR DeAnthony Arnett is the elephant in the room, so to speak. It'll be interesting to see how the coaching staff manages all these offers to receivers.
mgoblog's own TomVH talked to FL QB Kevin Sousa, who's been hearing more from Michigan lately. His coach says that he's a perfect fit for a spread-option offense, and thinks that Michigan is Kevin's leader right now. If Michigan offers, there's a good chance he'd end up in Blue.
TX LB Anthony Wallace should be one of the top linebacker prospects in the nation, and he plans to make a visit to Michigan over the summer ($, info in header). He's a high school teammate of erstwhile Michigan commit Tony Drake, who ended up signing with (and qualifying at) Colorado State.
The Big Uglies
It should be very clear that Michigan's coaching staff understands that they have a pretty dire need for some offensive linemen, given the fact that I've had to devote a segment of the recruiting update to that position group in each of the past few weeks. No insult intended by the heading, by the way, I'm sure some of them are very handsome gentlemen.
Scout.com Midwest regional manager Allen Trieu added: "He's very athletic. He has great foot speed and agility for a bigger kid. Plus he's tough as nails. He's a guy that plays the game 100 percent, full bore all the time. If there's anything he needs to do, it's adding some weight. He's about 260 and you'd like to see that number go up while also keeping his speed.
"I think he's a high level college prospect on both sides of the ball, but I like him a little more on offense. I think he's a top five player in the state."
Next on the recruiting agenda for Zettel is learning as much about as many of his suitors as possible in the coming months. His decision timeline calls for him to make a choice prior his senior season. That means it could be late summer before he selects a school.
He originally planned a quicker decision because he didn't want Michigan's class to fill up (which, hint freakin' hint), but the Wolverines have told him they'll be able to save a spot in the 2011 class whenever he's ready to decide. I imagine he'll still get a commitment over with (to Michigan or another school) before his senior season. He visited for Notre Dame's Junior Day over the weekend, but did not receive an offer.
MI OL Bryan Bell has a top two of Michigan and Michigan State. He grew up a Wolverines fan, but doesn't yet hold an offer from the maize and blue. He plans to visit Ann Arbor for multiple spring practice sessions.
AZ OL Cyrus Hobbi gives a little lip service to academics:
"I want to be able to have a back-up plan if football doesn’t work out for me so education will always be key for me. I also want to go somewhere that I know I can get along well with the coaching staff and mix in well. The overall enviornment of the program will be key for me."
He also made similar comments to VolNation. Michigan is among his offers, but he hasn't stated whether Ann Arbor will be a stop on his summer tour. He has also been invited to participate in the Army All-American game, and will have to choose between that and the Under Armour game.
NM OL Matt Hegarty received a Michigan offer last week ($, info in header), and he was slated to visit Ann Arbor over the weekend, in conjunction with his junior day visit to Notre Dame. He didn't manage to make it, but may try for a return trip.
OH OL Michael Bennett has Michigan interest - and a timetable to make a decision ($, info in header). That likely means he'll be deciding sooner rather than later. He holds a Michigan offer, and wil try to visit Michigan sometime this spring.
Michigan is still one of the leaders for AZ OL Andre Yruretagoyena.
Michigan has offered an offensive lineman from Indiana ($, info in header). Detective work says it's IN OL Joel Hale.
MI Ath/TE/LB Taiwan Jones committed to Michigan State.
The Wolverines have apparently offered FL RB/Ath DeVondrick Nealy. Michigan has offered SC WR Charone Peak. Michigan has offered FL CB Nick Waisome. MD Ath Deandre Scott visited for the Night of Champions ($, info in header). Michigan apparently offered FL LB Keith Lewis last week. FL LB Kent Turene is still hearing from Michigan, but they haven't extended an offer yet. FL RB Mike Bellamy has interest in Michigan ($, info in header), and is planning a visit. Rivals is now showing an offer for FL DE Giorgio Newberry. Brief Michigan mention on a Phoenix-area website talking about the Wolverines' presence in the area over the past couple classes.
Earlier in the year I took a cue from Michigan's odd announcement of Adam Braithwaite as an OLB/safeties coach to theorize that Michigan was adopting something half 3-3-5 stack, half 4-3. You can put whatever label you want on it, but it's apparently similar to what Virginia Tech runs. After yesterday's press conference, though, the prevailing opinion is that Michigan's defense is going to be half 3-3-5, half 3-3-5. This, for the Ohio State fans stopping by, is 100% 3-3-5.
Wha? Aigh! Justin Siller! No—
Evidence for the switch is plentiful. In this episode of "Inside Michigan Football," Troy Woolfolk talks about "the new defense":
In yesterday's press conference the players all made references to the 3-3-5. The usual array of practice reports coming from shadowy trenchcoated internet folk all say that not only is Michigan running the 3-3-5 in practice, that's all they're running. This is no longer in the realm of rumor.
Is it in the realm of sense? I don't know. The major reasons I and other tea leaf readers were banking on an aggressive 4-2-5 were threefold: it's basically what Michigan was trying to run most of last year, available bodies on the defensive line point towards an undershifted four-man front, and Michigan's latest recruiting class features a zillion guys who were told they would be "quick" ends a la Roh.
The 3-3-5 as a base set obliterates the quick. Michigan cobbles theirs together by dropping Roh back to one of the outside linebacker spots. The defensive end spot not occupied by Ryan Van Bergen is now going to be a Banks/Patterson platoon or a 294-pound Mike Martin. Since 3-3-5 defensive ends are not lumbering quasi-DTs like 3-4 defensive ends (more about this later), Martin seems like a questionable fit at end; the alternative is platooning Martin and Campbell, two of the most physically dominant players on the team.
The Unresolved Questions
Is this an alternate look or a base set? If it's a base set, how often will they deploy a four-man front?
Early indications are that Michigan will use it as a base set. One theory out there is that Michigan is running the 3-3-5 to the exclusion of other defenses because Mike Martin is out for spring. I don't think that makes sense. A team that spends all its time learning one set of responsibilities because one player is out for spring practice only to switch to a considerably different set in fall is a team that is going to get its coach fired at the end of the year. Teams don't devote the entirety of spring practice to a "new defense" that is then a changeup when the season comes.
Michigan used the 3-3-5 from time to time last year, most prominently in the Ohio State game when it was an effective base set that shut down Ohio State's I-formation running:
This is actually more of a 5-3 since the DEs are lined up over the guards and the box safeties are rolled up tight to the line of scrimmage, FWIW, but that's a matter of alignment against a run-heavy team. Note that Roh is an outside linebacker here.
This forced OSU into some bunch formations that forced Michigan out of the stack; OSU also attacked it by running single-back formations that are inherently strong against single deep safety defenses because of old-timey football wonk stuff. Buckeye Football Analysis has a deeper analysis if you're in the mood.
When OSU went unbalanced, Michigan responded by putting Roh's hand down and going back to their usual undershifted four-man line. For Michigan the personnel will be exactly the same, allowing them to shift between fronts at will. So if the 3-3-5 isn't working in a particular game or just turns out to be a bad idea, they aren't totally screwed.
They would be at least partially screwed, however, since they're piling more and more on the plates of linebackers who spent a lot of time last year wondering what to do (or decisively doing the wrong thing). The way West Virginia ran a 3-3-5 allows linebackers to be blitzing players who have to do a minimal amount of reading, but if it doesn't work then all that time will be time that could have spent fixing what ails Ezeh and Mouton in a 4-2-5.
I'm not thrilled that Michigan seems to be changing its defense again, especially since I've been pitching defensive coordinator continuity as a major reason Michigan's defense will improve in 2010, but given what they ran most of last year the only players who will be making major changes are the linebackers. In the West Virginia version of the 3-3-5, defensive ends are basically the same as they are in a 4-3. The nose tackle is more of a two-gap player if you can make him one, but that's not something that requires a lot of reading. So… yeah. Maybe it will work.
First things first, the Michigan Spring Game will now serve as a fundraiser for Mott Children's Hospital. Though the event will still be free to the public, they will have the opportunity to donate money to Mott as they enter - with incentives!
- $5 Donation - "All in for Michigan Towel"
- $20 Donation - "All in for Michigan, All in for Mott" T-Shirt
- $250 Donation - 4 Passes to a pre-season scrimmage(!)
- $500 Donation - 2 pre-game sideline passes to a 2010 football game (BGSU, UMass, Iowa, or Illinois).
The Beam Family of Brighton, MI will also match every donation that is made during the Spring Game. This fundraiser continues Michigan football's long-standing relationship with Mott.
The Spring Game festivities kick off an April 17th at 11AM, with the Alumni Flag Football Game (gates open at 10AM). The team takes the field for warmups around noon, and the game itself starts at 1. Unfortunately, the team doesn't have enough healthy players to be able to do a full scrimmage with teams divided up, but they'll do more offense v. defense things. In future years, a game-like scrimmage will be possible.
- Injuries: Vladimir Emilien and Jared Van Slyke both sprained knees, and are out a few weeks. They're hopeful that Emilien will be back for the final week of spring practice. Je'Ron Stokes sprained his ankle and Anthony LaLota injured his elbow, both should be out about a week. David Molk is able to run a bit and snap the ball, but he won't participate in any contact this spring. Everyone who had surgery in the off-season is progressing on schedule or even faster.
- The team will have three scrimmages this spring. This upcoming Saturday will be the first one. There will also be one the week before the spring game, and the Spring Game itself.
- Offense: Last year's offense was decent, but there were times (especially with turnovers) that they missed opportunities due to poor execution. This spring, they're focusing on improving that, as well as becoming more physical.
- Quarterbacks: Denard Robinson hasn't played anything other than QB so far this spring, but if it becomes clear he's not going to get tons of snaps there, he'll play other positions in addition. Devin Gardner is behind the other two QBs, as he still needs to learn the offense. His throwing mechanics are looking good though.
- Running Backs: Even the guys who have some experience are pretty young. Mike Cox has a very good opportunity this spring, and he should contribute this fall.
- Offensive Line: Perry Dorrestein and Mark Huyge are the veterans at the tackle positions. Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield will push them. The freshmen have gotten bigger, and will try to prove themselves this spring. If multiple guys at a position are able to help the team win, they'll play at tackle.
- Defense: They'll tweak defensive packages for the various offensive schemes they'll see this fall. The challenge is to have a wide enough variety of packages to be able to play every offense, while keeping the overall defense simple enough for the players to be able to learn it well.
- Defensive line: There isn't a lot of experienced depth on the offensive line, but that just means guys who need lots of reps this spring will be able to get them. Will Campbell is improving, he added a lot of strength to go with his weight this offseason. The coaches are excited to see what Anthony LaLota can do when he returns from injury, as he had a good offseason as well.
- Linebackers - Jonas Mouton and Obi Ezeh have impressed this spring, as has Mark Moundros, who is moonlighting at linebacker since the fullback doesn't play that many downs in this offense. Rodriguez thinks Mouton played well last year, but Obi seemed to falter down the stretch. One of the big factors in lackluster LB play last year was a lack of depth - the D would play well for a couple downs or even a few drives, then opposing offenses would have their way with them.
- Safeties - With Emilien and Van Slyke out, a number of younger guys are getting a chance to play this spring. Cameron Gordon is playing well at safety. Brandin Hawthorne will play both safety and hybrid.
- Corners: JT Floyd has been playing well this spring. The coaches are putting some real pressure on him, and he's responding well. Justin Turner is also getting a lot of reps.
- The offensive line intensity has been good in the first few days. There is a lot of depth, and the young guys are ready to prove themselves. The guys are ready to hit.
- Schilling is excited to be a leader on the offensive line. He has lots of experience, and the rest of the guys who have been around a while are helping the young offensive linemen come along for the future. Stephen is up to about 305 pounds, after playing last year around the 295 range.
- Taylor Lewan, Quinton Washington, and Michael Schofield are three of the hardest workers on the offensive line. Lewan and Washington in particular seem ready to prove they can contribute on the field. They're hoping to push for some playing time. Lewan has a nasty streak in the way he plays.
- The defense has been playing primarily a 3-3-5 this spring. Typically, Michigan's offensive front only sees odd front in passing situations, but Schilling thinks they'll be able to do a lot of good things out of this formation.
- Patrick Omameh is very comfortable at guard (from the way Schilling was talking, it sounds like this move is probably permanent). When Molk comes back from his injury, the interior of the offensive line will be very good. Molk played very well before getting injured, and Patrick finished the year very strong.
- The running backs got some reps last year, but Schilling is excited to see what they can do, especially with all the depth in the backfield. Michael Shaw is a good speed back, Cox and Toussaint can pound the ball well, and when he comes back, Vincent Smith can do it all - including catch out of the backfield.
- Schilling is bummed he won't be around for the first night game in Michigan Stadium. It's especially exciting for a game against a rival like Notre Dame. He'll try to make it back for the game if he can.
- This is Troy's first time in a 3-3-5 type of defense. It's the best formation for the personnel that this team has right now. Troy has built up a comfort level with Greg Robinson's coaching after being a bit skeptical at first last year. He likes the way GERG coaches, and believes in what he says. The coaches are working to make sure the players - especially the younger ones - are learning well.
- Switching positions all the time last year hurt him a bit, but for the long-term, it's actually been a help. At corner, he now understands what the safeties will be doing, and can trust in the scheme a bit more. He still has to work on his technique at corner a bit.
- Cameron Gordon has lots of natural ability, and is very good at reading his keys. JT Floyd has been looking really good lately, and understands the game a bit better. He had a nice interception the other day. Justin Turner is still young, but is coming along well. Mike Williams and Jordan Kovacs both like the positions they've moved to. For both of them, there's an emphasis at the new positions on coming up and making tackles, rather than playing in deep coverage. That plays to both of their strengths.
- With all the 3-3-5 talk, I've been assuming Craig Roh would mostly play with his hand down for more of a 4-2-5 look, but that wasn't the case. He was practicing with the other LBs, on the first unit with Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton.
- Tate Forcier is still clearly the best passer of the QBs. Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson were about even, with Devin maybe a liiitle more accurate (except on the longball, which he overthrew quite a bit). Denard probably has a much deeper understanding of the passing game, and would be more able to contribute.
- Looked like they might be preparing the throw it to the RBs a bit more this season. They went away from it a bit when Carlos Brown went out, but Vincent Smith did have a few catches last season.
- Mike Martin isn't practicing in the spring (shoulder surgery), but he was running laps around the indoor field. I guarantee you he's faster than me, despite being 300ish pounds and looking like the Hulk.
- MI DE Brennen Beyer was visiting practice today.