mesmerism! presidential assassinations! circuses on fire!
Even though Michigan’s basketball season has come to its sad end, college basketball is still at a fever pitch – after the 48 games last weekend, sixteen teams are left with Final Four (and possibly National Championship) aspirations. I’m here to sort out which teams you should be rooting for; of course, it’s a free country and you’re perfectly at liberty to root for whoever you want. There’s no set criteria here, and I’ll try to avoid personal biases as much as possible for the most part. The list came together quite quickly, and without further ado, here it is:
1. Wichita State
Fred VanVleet is a badass. Is that a Dutch name, Freddy? If so, you’re joining the pantheon of West Michigan Hoops idols alongside Kaman, Korver, and – sigh – Neitzel.
Wichita State tops the list for several reasons:
They eliminated Tom Crean and Indiana.
Their win over Kansas was one of the better early round games in recent memory, if only for the storyline: due to scheduling disputes, the teams hadn’t played each other since the early nineties, despite Wichita State’s emergence into a legitimately great program in recent years. The committee faced a lot of criticism for some dubious selections and seedings this year, but KU – WSU in the 2 / 7 game was a gift from the basketball gods.
And they gave Kansas that work. Wichita State looked like they were clearly better than the Jayhawks and watching the Shockers go to work behind Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, their normal stars, and Tekele Cotton, typically a defense-first pest on the wing. After trailing 24-16 early in the game, Wichita State outscored Kansas by 21 points.
Demerits come because of the relative lack of trash talk after the game by Wichita State players. I guess they’re better men than me because I would be woofing about how Kansas was right in being afraid to play us.
I still feel like the Shockers’ draw last season was patently unfair.
Looking ahead past Notre Dame, there’s the potential for an absolutely outstanding Elite Eight game between Kentucky and Wichita State: the Wildcats ended WSU’s undefeated year last season and even though WSU is worse and UK is better, it would still be a good contest – Wichita State’s backcourt is probably better than Kentucky’s and the Shockers are seventh nationally in Kenpom, perfectly within range of the Cats. An upset there would be one for the ages.
Even with all of those legitimate points in their favor, Wichita State is just a very fun team to watch for some basic reasons: very good point guard play, unselfish ball movement, stingy defense, and that unmistakable underdog je ne sais quoi.
Buddy, my favorite non-Michigan college hoops player, after hitting the game-winner against Kansas in the season finale.
I’ll be up front in admitting my Sooner love here – my grandfather graduated from OU with the help of the GI Bill, he’s a diehard fan who had football and basketball tickets for decades, and I grew up with Oklahoma as a clear but definite #2 behind Michigan. BOOMER!
But seriously, check the schedule and Oklahoma plays… Michigan State. As expected, the media follow-up to MSU’s upset win over Virginia has fixated on the “Tom Izzo is a March God” phenomenon, and frankly, who wouldn’t like to see that nipped in the bud as soon as possible? For that reason and that reason alone, you should all be joining in and rooting for Oklahoma – it’s them, or it’s State.
Beyond that though, OU is an objectively likable team. Fast-talking Bahamian swingman Buddy Hield was named Big XII player of the year as a junior and even though he’s a serial whiner, his game is enough to redeem him and then some. For some reason, I fixate on a possible parallel between he and an idealized Zak Irvin; Hield’s usage was at levels Zak’s will never reach, but watch the way they play and let me know if I’m just imagining this or not. Flanking Hield is Houston transfer Tashawn Thomas, and for those of you that appreciate a bruising, classic four man, Thomas is your guy. He’s a load on the low block and helps anchor the Sooner defense alongside Ryan Spangler (who looks like a stereotypical Oklahoman).
There are other dudes: Jordan Woodard, a tiny, audacious and fearless point guard with a frustrating propensity for turnovers; Isaiah Cousins, a chucker who’s hitting 45% of his threes as the two guard; Frank Booker, who hit some big shots in a win over Dayton; and backup big man Khadeem Lattin, the grandson of the starting center on Texas Western’s trailblazing national title team (Khadeem lists Glory Road as his favorite movie on OU’s official site because of course). Lon Kruger is a Beileinesque head coach in that he’s been a successful nomad and seems like a fairly decent dude, as far as I know.
If nothing else, root hard for the Sooners against Michigan State, but I’m hopeful that you’ll stick around if they advance. OU is a frustrating team – at their best, they look like a reasonably-priced knockoff Kentucky (though with a more fun, guard-oriented offense); at their worst, it looks like it’s the first time they played together. Come for the Spartan haterade, stay for the roller coaster.
FUTURE PISTON STANLEY JOHNSON. PLEASE. GIVE US STANLEY.
Yes, Michigan got stomped by these guys. No, I can’t really hold it against them.
Arizona is the trendy pick as Kentucky’s best foil, especially after Villanova crashed and burned and Wisconsin struggled to overwhelm a pesky Oregon squad. Look at the frontcourt and you’ll see why: veteran seven-footer Kaleb “Zeus” Tarczewski mans the paint and protects the rim and he’s joined by two versatile – not to mention big and athletic – power forwards, Brandon Ashley and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. One-and-done freshman big Aaron Gordon was replaced by one-and-done freshman wing Stanley Johnson, who’s currently second-place in Kenpom’s NPOY algorithm and is an absolute joy to watch. He did dunk all over Michigan a few times, but hopefully he’ll be putting on the Piston red, white, and blue for the next decade or so.
Like the teams above, the Wildcats make the list because of Basketball Reasons as well as situational circumstances. They have just enough shooting – thanks Gabe York! – to augment their elite frontcourt; they have a scrappy floor general who just plays the game the right way, bringing his hard-hat and lunch pail to the court every day (I sense a lot of Aaron Craft white guy platitudes for T.J. McConnell from the national media). They’re one of the few tolerable blue-bloods (or the next tier down, depending on your perspective) and if you’re a fan of good basketball, you’ll like Pomeroy’s second-rated team. Oh, and they wound up knocking out Ohio State and making D’Angelo Russell’s college finale a miserable game.
Plenty of teams can beat Kentucky – hello home OT win over Ole Miss minus their star player in that overtime, or a road OT win over Texas A&M, who didn’t make the tournament – even though most almost certainly wouldn’t. If you don’t like Kentucky, Arizona is the team to circle: they may very well be the Cats’ equals more or less. And if they lose to UK in the Final Four, at least they’ll have given Kentucky the toughest test possible before the coronation.
I know plenty of you hate Wisconsin and they’re on track to face the Badgers in the Elite Eight. So there’s that too.
[After the jump, 4 through 8]
This should be how we remember Devin Funchess. It is not. [Fuller]
Losing isn't conducive to hero worship. This is, perhaps, an obvious point. For every Minnesota-era Kevin Garnett, a beloved star on a bad team, there are many New York Carmelo Anthonys, nitpicked and questioned to an unreasonable degree while surrounded by lesser talents, hampered by poor coaching, or both.
Which brings me to Devin Funchess. In 2013, Funchess could do no wrong as the matchup nightmare foil to Jeremy Gallon's production by precision. Expectations entering last season were so high Brian had to repeatedly clarify that Calvin Johnson comparisons weren't entirely reasonable:
So Devin Funchess probably isn't Calvin Johnson. Michigan should try to prove that assertion wrong. Expect something between first team All Big Ten and an All-American followed by an early entry into the NFL draft. He may even win the Mackey award, because people don't pay attention.
Funchess's 2014 initially met expectations; he looked like a man among boys while scoring a trio of touchdowns in the opener against Appalachian State. Funchess managed 107 yards against Notre Dame as Michigan got whomped, but the seeds of discontent were planted:
Devin Funchess tore ligaments, crack bone in a toe in the ND game. Took a shot in the toe before Utah. Re-injured it. Never got better
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) March 21, 2015
We didn't know this, of course, because Brady Hoke didn't talk about injuries. "He's fine," Hoke said, days before he'd hold Funchess out of the Miami (OH) game.
Funchess didn't look the same for the rest of the season. He didn't record another 100-yard game until the season finale at Ohio State; he reached the end zone just once after the opener. With the offense—and the season, and the Hoke era—crumbling around him, the focus turned to his occasional drops and a perceived lack of effort. Save for Devin Gardner and the coaching staff, Funchess drew more ire from fans than any other member of the program.
Never mind that he clearly played hurt. Never mind that his quarterback had the worst year of his career. Never mind that his catch rate actually improved from 53% to 62% despite him being targeted on nearly a third of Michigan's passes—and even more frequently on passing downs, when it became obvious to all that the ball was going his way. Never mind that when Gardner threw his second interception against Northwestern, Funchess blew through two block attempts, chased down Ibraheim Campbell after a 78-yard return, and laid a lick on him for good measure:
This didn't fit the narrative. Funchess wasn't an otherworldly talent gamely battling through injury in a lost season even if it meant hurting his draft stock. He was a prima donna wide receiver who hadn't earned that status, a guy who didn't care about winning, if you interpreted an unfortunate postgame presser soundbite as so many did.
When Funchess declared for the NFL draft, the reaction from many Michigan fans wasn't one of disappointment or sadness; instead, the news was met with indifference or, quite often, a list of all the reasons why he'd fail as a pro. That list got longer when he ran a disappointing 4.7-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine a month ago. It was only after, when his draft stock and earning potential had taken a serious hit, that we learned he was still recovering from an injury of which we never knew the full extent.
I can't say for certain whether Funchess will succeed in the NFL. If I had to guess, though, I think he will. At his best, his combination of size, speed, and body control is up there with anyone; we just didn't get to see him at his best last year for reasons almost entirely out of his control. If he works through his too-frequent battles with butterfingers, he's got the potential to be a defense-bending number one receiver.
In an alternate universe, Funchess may very well be Braylon Edwards, whose game was eerily similar right down to the frustrating drops. We remember Braylon in a very different light; winning helps quite a lot, as does avoiding injury and being surrounded on all sides by NFL talent. I hope we'll come around on Funchess and similarly celebrate his accomplishments instead of bashing him for failures not of his own doing. If, and hopefully when, he's skying over NFL defenders like so many Mountaineers, we'll be glad we did.
No this isn't a "3-4"; well it is a 3-man front with the nose over the center,
but not a 3-4, let me explain.
Various people reporting back from practice have noticed three (or fewer) guys with their hands down, and said "oh they're going 3-4." Soon enough people pick up on this, figure a new DC means a new defense, and whiteboards across the state get sales points erased in favor of X's and O's with arrows diving between X's.
Mattison was asked about the 3-4 look in his breakout Q&A and had this to say:
"We ran that last year. What we're doing on defense is trying to see what scheme fits the players."
I know we've hashed the 4-3 under a bunch on this site but I could never walk by a boardroom with football drawings on it (this is probably why I lost that job) so here we go again.
Everyone Runs Everything. Calling a defense a "3-4" or "4-3" or any one thing at this level is not ever going to be accurate, because defenses change up gaps and show different looks so offensive linemen won't know exactly who's got what gap every time. In the process of showing that you might be running 3-4, sometimes you actually have guys two-gapping. If you have a really special player you might do that even more. But general rule is everyone runs everything, and the best you can do to describe any single defense is what their base is. Everything else will stem from the base.
Alignment vs. Philosophy
Alignment is where you put your players before the snap; philosophy is what they're being tasked with. The two-gapping philosophy has become synonymous with the 3-4 alignment, and the one-gapping philosophy is thus tied to the 4-3. The major difference between these philosophies is understood better by using the "gap" terms.
…means you have one to three defensive linemen responsible for controlling a blocker instead of a gap between those blockers. His job is to get into that guy and be in a position to tackle if the run goes to either side. He's not left out to dry; the two-gap philosophy gives you a free hitter from the second level who watches the play then reacts. Think of it as man defense for run fits, i.e. the defenders all have a certain offensive player they're responsible for beating, the free hitter's being the ballcarrier.
You can do this if you have a super large nose tackle, the classic example being Wilfork on the Patriots. You can look at the above diagram and see the downside of two-gapping: if that left guard releases and the center holds up, you have a blocker eating your free hitter downfield. Two-gapping is a luxury you can have if the guy you have two-gapping is able to do it effectively.
A two-gapping defensive lineman needs to get that control established early, so lining up directly over the guy he's going to control is rather important. So a base 3-4, two-gapping defense will line up almost always with the nose tackle directly over the center, thus threatening the two-gap assignment, and still in position to change it up.
Remember that these are not set-in-stone gap assignments, just common ones. You change these up from play to play.
This is your basic "everyone has a gap" defense and the philosophy behind both the 4-3 even/over and 4-3 under. It is zone defense of run fits. Coaches who use this as their base, however, call it the more "aggressive," because football coaches describe the way they eat an ice cream cone "aggressive," yes, but also because the linebackers and linemen aren't diagnosing anything before taking their first steps of the play.
Instructively, one of the terms used often for the 4-3 over is the "Miami 4-3" because Jimmy Johnson used it to great effect when he had access to a lot of very athletic yet not very coachable defensive players. The concept was fast guys hitting their gaps and penetrating upfield to cause disruption.
You'll note that the 4-3 under picture is nearly identical to the 3-4, one-gapping example image above. That's pretty much what a 4-3 under is: a nose tackle and two large DL who set up in a position to take on double-teams so the LBs can attack their gaps. Philosophically everyone has one gap, but guys start taking on different roles: the NT is shaded to strongside so he'll need to be a bit more of a plugger; the SDE is further inside and has to be able to take on doubles like a DT; the other DT is further out and can be a little more end-ish; the WDE has a one-on-one battle with the OT, and can be a little more linebackerish; and the SAM has to be part-DE to compensate for the fact that he's the edge defender instead of the SDE.
Because it looks so much like the 3-4 defense it can threated to do 3-4 things. That gets us to the point of what Durkin does with his defenses, and what Michigan is expected to do this year: threaten two-gapping as a changeup.
Here's a play from Florida-FSU last year and you'll recognize the alignment as 3-4 (or would be 3-4 except weakside OLB is pulled for a nickel):
Nose tackle is right over the center. Ends are right over the tackles. You are thinking all sorts of Wilforky things. But this is still a one-gapping defense and you'll see why off the snap:
Right there is a good shot of the roles of 4-3 under defenders. The NT and 3-tech have double-teams; as long as they don't give up ground and stay engaged with those dudes they're keeping the LBs clean and keeping their holes closed. The five-tech has a guard (he'd be doubled if the run was going the other way), and the two MLB-types (the WLB and MLB) can flow into gaps (the MLB is blitzing his). The SAM has his edge. The difference here is the WDE has been pulled for a nickel, a dramatization of the fact that a 4-3 under WDE is often in coverage.
Here's how it's drawn up:
(orange arrow means player's in zone coverage and watching his gap; black=rushing).
On that play the nickelback (5'10"/206 junior Brian Poole, Florida's hybrid space player) came down inside and got blocked by the slot receiver, giving up the edge and leading to a big run since the free safety was deep in coverage. If not for that, Poole should have been in perfect position to hold this down.
You Sure Durkin is a 4-3 Guy?
Durkin likes to accomplish the base thing from a gazillion different looks; I predict defensive UFRs with regular opening shots of Brian trying to name things. Here are the formations for every play leading up to that one:
What defense is this? It's a philosophically 4-3 (one-gapping) multiple-front thing that likes to have speed on the edges, either from standup WDE/SAMs or putting hybrid space players in there with edge responsibility. IE what Michigan's been since 2011.
What About 3-3-5?
The 3-3-5 stack also uses two-gapping as a base threat, though neither Rocky Long nor Jeff Casteel have often had access to a nose tackle capable of doing it consistently. The point of the 3-3-5 is it gives up starting position for the threat of attacking from anywhere.
Remember how GERG was terrible at this? It's because he was a 4-3 coach teaching 4-3 philosophy, and that took away the unpredictability of this defense.
Stuff for a good cause. The UM Alumni Club of DC has an annual auction to raise money for the scholarships they endow. It's going on now, and includes things like signed Jake Long and Denard Robinson NFL jerseys, tickets to various games next year, and Michigan jenga. 100% of proceeds help kids go to M. Bid on everything.
Except the jenga. I will cut you if you try to take it from me.
Exit the one thing I liked. I liked the "Legends" jerseys for the most part. Having a QB wearing 98 was unique, and Michigan does not have much recognition of the guys who have had jerseys retired. While yanking numbers around annually was a bit much, I thought it was a nice reminder of those who had gone before. No more?
So, it sounds like Michigan's Legends Jerseys, a staple under Brady Hoke, are no more. pic.twitter.com/FZ5eNryUzJ
— Brent Yarina (@BTNBrentYarina) March 23, 2015
I understand that we are going to discard many Brady Hoke staples with prejudice. Incessant second and eleven: seeya. Touching your armpits after observing another sack: GTFO. Allowing 400 passing yards to Rutgers: toodleoo. But in this one case I feel we may be throwing the staple out with the staplewater.
Also heavily rumored. Michigan may be rejoining the ranks of the bestickered helmets.
I'm in the middle here. I like throwback stuff; I like clean, simple stuff. I would prefer helmet stickers made occasional re-appearances for uniformz games, but that's not really how helmet stickers work.
Swat swat swat swat swat. If you follow me on twitter you know the existence of the UC Irvine Anteaters was killing me as they pushed Louisville to the limit in their first-round tourney outing. Irvine has a 6'8" guy… and two 6'10" guys… and a 7'2" guy… and a 7'6" guy. As someone who has pined for a rim protector ever since it became clear Michigan basketball was going to have a really good offense even if their center's game is limited to finishing around the hoop, I was having tiny little conniption fit about a tiny school that had never been to the tournament grabbing enormous people left and right.
Anyway, long story short Jon Teske is tall and alters shots:
Michigan pledge Jon Teske scored 12 points and blocked six shots in the loss, but had a much greater impact than the numbers might indicate.
Though he was credited for only six blocks, the seven-footer (Rivals.com's No. 96 junion nationally) altered at least a dozen shots near the rim with his ridiculous wingspan and was whistled for two fouls on which it appeared he had all ball.
The first two of those were against Esa Ahmad, a WVU-bound forward who Michigan recruited for a minute several months ago. Teske's currently enduring the usual crazy zone defenses that high school teams deploy when facing someone of his size, and he is a young guy who's still growing. Whatever he's going to be is still a long way off—hopefully that includes college-level rim protection duties.
If it isn't broke but could use some improvement, add gradually. Doesn't have the ring of "if it isn't broke, break it" but has the salutary benefit of applying to Michigan football instead of disruptive "sharing economy" Silicon Valley startups. And it's what DJ Durkin is doing to the defense:
"I wouldn't say we're doing 'most' of either (scheme), if there's a defense that fits a scheme and it exposes something with the offense, we'll play it," senior linebacker Joe Bolden said earlier this spring. "Some plays we'll be in 3-4, another we'll be in 4-3. Just depends on personnel, what the other team runs. The scouting reports in the fall will determine what we play. And, if we're playing a 3-4 better, why would we do a 4-3? And just the same the other way.
"I really don't think it's that hard to grasp, personally."
Michigan's defense won't be exactly the same next season, but it won't be drastically different either. More importantly for Durkin, though, the experience level is high.
And again it's what Michigan is going to try to do with that alignment that matters.
Neither option is good here. Funchess revealed that he had a boo-boo last year:
Devin Funchess tore ligaments, crack bone in a toe in the ND game. Took a shot in the toe before Utah. Re-injured it. Never got better
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) March 21, 2015
So either that happened when he was inexplicably playing in garbage time or had already happened by the time he was inexplicably playing in garbage time.
I mean, come on. I'd like to see the NCAA burn as much as the next guy but this is laying it on a little thick:
Khari Harding transferred from Auburn to Tulsa to be closer to his ailing father and maximize his dad’s chances to watch him play live next fall.
Under a new NCAA amendment ratified this week, the latter apparently won’t be possible. The NCAA eliminated immediate eligibility hardship waivers for Football Bowl Subdivision transfers.
The rule change is effective immediately, so it doesn’t matter that Harding — whose father Corie is battling cancer for a second time — has been taking classes at Tulsa for two months before the amendment was ratified.
Surely the ability to go to school for free in immediate proximity to your dad so you can see him all the time is the important thing here, not the fact that your football career is going to be delayed by a year. You could argue that the redshirt is actually a benefit.
Andy Staples disagrees with the above paragraph and proposes one weird trick for transfer rules that would handle cases like this by devolving the responsibility to people a bit less bureaucratic. In bullets:
1. Schools may not prevent athletes from transferring to another school and receiving financial aid.
2. The player must sit out the following season. (With only one possible exception.)
3. The athletic director at the previous school signs a form allowing the transferring player to play immediately.
I'd be fine with that. The NCAA couldn't do anything to prevent conference rules from kicking in further restrictions (IIRC the SEC does not allow grad transfers between its institutions; the Big Ten has some restrictions that may or may not apply to Jake Rudock), so if you are concerned about the dread specter of Smotrycz proliferation don't be.
Big Puppy, NBA edition. Just a matter of time before he has his own t-shirts and line of dog food and possibly several different breeds of dog all competing to be renamed McGary:
3. Mitch McGary Running
It’s like the Kramer painting: You can’t look away.
Look at all that churning effort, the weirdly stiff arms and hands, the eager glance backward that says, “Please pass me the ball, I’m open, I’m running really fast, so fast, like the wind, am I going to get the ball?” He’s like a dog looking for a Frisbee.
Jokes aside, big men who run the floor suck in defenders and open up shots for teammates. Good on the rookie for playing out the ball.
Yes, he's a purebred McGary. He generates possessions and feels at an elite level.
NO I WILL NEVER GET OVER IT STOP ASKING. Why has Al Borges never recruited a quarterback who could be considered successful*? Well, it may have something to do with his long-time association with Steve Clarkson, who seems to have fobbed off all his lower-level prospects on mister gullible. This Steve Clarkson as portrayed in Bruce Feldman's "The QB" and reviewed by Spencer Hall:
3. Dilfer's just one of the QB whisperers profiled, a group of guys who all come across with drastically different results. George Whitfield, the man on ESPN chasing guys around with a broom, comes off as half-cracked, but still seemingly legit. The guy who pronounced Tim Tebow's throwing motion to be fixed after three months or so of work, Tom House, might be the biggest beneficiary here: a flaky ex-pitcher with piles of data, a messy office to match, and a stellar roster of clients who quietly swear by him. In contrast, Steve Clarkson, the man who brought Jimmy Clausen to the world, comes off as a money-hoovering huckster prone to announcing any client as "the next [STAR QB GOES HERE]" if given enough cash. Feldman doesn't even have to try, really. You just write down Clarkson's quotes and they do their own work.
Clausen was actually pretty good, if not at all deserving of his hype level. The other guys…
*["successful" is here short for "was the clear starter for his team as an upperclassman."
I only kind of hate Wisconsin basketball. I apologize to that one guy whose entire question to me was a statement about said hatred, but Wisconsin is so fascinated by the NCAA stenographer that Nigel Hayes is answering questions like this:
I didn't know you had to capitalize xylophone. But that's why I'm not a stenographer.
Anyway, I still hate that they get away with the Wisconsin Chest Bump all the dang time but I have always coveted their bigs and I find them relatively tolerable when Michigan is not playing them. This has been a difficult confession. Share yours in the comments!
Etc.: Yes, please. Stopping taxpayer money from being spent on stadiums should be a bipartisan thing right? Jim Boeheim is just kind of this dude who doesn't like NCAA rules. Gasaway on the SCORING CRISIS. Relevant to our current situation: the rise of the vagabond QB. Congrats to Carol Hutchins on her 1400th win, a 20-0(!) bombing of OSU.
When I weep on national television I only get scorn.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
Michigan 5, Wisconsin 1
Michigan 1 Wisconsin 0 PPG 14:45 Hyman (20) from Larkin (30) and Werenski (16)
The puck rims around the boards off of an errant shot and is picked up by Boo Nieves. He passes to Zach Werenski at the point, who holds it just long enough to get the high defender moving before passing to Dylan Larkin on the wing.
Larkin somehow sneaks a shot underneath a charging defender. Zach Hyman is doing an excellent job screening in front, safely tucked underneath the defense and in front of Joel Rumpel. Larkin’s shot is deflects off of Hyman’s stick and under Rumpel’s pads.
The puck hits the bar in the back of the net and bounces out. Hyman slides to his right and backhands it in for good measure; after all, it’d be hard to disallow a goal on review if it goes in twice. Unless the ref meant to blow the whistle. I rescind my earlier comment.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the tournament]
Price Names Michigan Leader
It's not common for a Big Ten school to make an early move on a top prospect from deep in SEC country, but top-75 GA OT EJ Price isn't a normal SEC prospect—he's a Michigan native, and that's clearly helping the Wolverines in their pursuit. After Price had previously put Michigan in a tie atop his list with Auburn, he's now got the Wolverines out in front of the Tigers and Georgia, and told 247's Kipp Adams why that's now the case ($):
"The new coaching staff with Jim Harbaugh coming in," Price said. "I like Tim Drevno, the new offensive coordinator as well. With him being the offensive coordinator and the offensive line coach, it's going to be a benefit for me because you know he's going to focus on the offensive line. Just being that I'm from Michigan originally, there's a lot to think about. They've been hitting me up lately."
While there's a long way to go, there's also a lot to be excited about here; namely, Price is coming off recent visits to his two other top contenders, Auburn and Georgia, and has seen both of those schools several times while he's yet to make the trip to Ann Arbor. Usually Michigan has to work from behind when hosting out-of-region prospects; that doesn't look like it'll be the case here.
Costello To Announce Soon
In less positive news, Michigan's top target at quarterback, top-50 CA QB KJ Costello, will announce his decision on Thursday in a 5:45 ET ceremony at his school, per Scout's Greg Biggins ($). Michigan, Stanford, and USC are his three finalists, but it's expected his decision will come down to the two California schools, especially since Costello wasn't able to set up a return trip to Ann Arbor before making his choice.
That means the leading candidate to take a spot in the class at quarterback is still four-star IN QB Brandon Peters, who'll visit for the spring game and recently named Michigan to his top five, per BigRedReport's Bryan Munson ($):
"My top five are Michigan, Nebraska, LSU, Indiana and Wisconsin," Peters said. "These are the schools recruiting me the hardest and also the schools that I have built the best relationships with as well."
Peters also plans to visit Nebraska for their spring game the week after Michigan's; while there's a lot of optimism about M's chances, it doesn't quite look like a slam dunk, though of course a visit can change that outlook in a hurry.
Michigan's chances don't look so good for four-star NJ QB Jarrett Guarantano, who told Rivals' Mike Farrell in a video interview that his top three consists of Rutgers, Tennessee, and Ohio State ($). He's long been considered a longshot.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]