1. Troy Smith, OSU.
Like SMQB I find myself somewhat underwhelmed by Smith. It would be nice if the Ohio State defense would deign to give up 20 or 30 points with some consistency so we could witness Smith in something other than garbage time. His numbers remain impressive but somewhat underwhelming. He's been efficient, which is nice, but outside of a dancing, impossible touchdown throw against Penn State, Smith's Heisman campaign has been -- say it with me -- "workmanlike." Smith's top qualification is as the most senior and recognizable Buckeye, an avatar of dominance more than a proprietor thereof.
2. Lamarr Woodley, Michigan.
Two more sacks, an additional tackle for loss, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. Woodley's doing the avatar thing for the Michigan defense, yes, but he's got 11 sacks and is nigh guaranteed to shatter the Michigan single-season sack record. And let me assure you that his numbers are not hollow. I chart his contributions on a weekly basis. For each sack there are two hurries; for each TFL there are two tackles deposited in the backfield and two running plays strung out.
3. Reggie Nelson, Florida.
The image at right is a lie. Reggie Nelson does not smile. He only shows you his teeth so you can get a preview of the last thing your jugular is ever going to feel. I am resigned to the fact that I am a sucker for dreadlocked, trash-talking safeties who play 15 yards off the line of scrimmage and are clearly direct descendants of the Mongol Horde. Nelson's motto is "If it moves, hit it. If it's still moving, talk about its mom." He's got four interceptions, has caused a couple more, and has blown up countless other plays. Florida's cornerbacks are questionable but they have the fifth best passing efficiency defense in the country. Nelson, more than any other Gator, is responsible.
4. Marshawn Lynch, Cal
With the decline and fall of the Peterson empire, Lynch is very probably the best back in the country. Sure, sure, Steve Slaton and all that, but even though the Pac-10 is not exactly defense central it's certainly much better than clown colleges who have opposed WVU to date.
5. Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech
I dunno. I hate that Reggie Ball ignored him for the entire Clemson game. I wish he was on a team with a functional, non-Lollipop Guild quarterback and a reasonable offensive gameplan. He's still a force of nature and a guaranteed top five NFL draft pick. If a bionic receiver enters your life and there's no one around to throw him the ball, does he deserve a MaxwellPundit vote?
Yes, this one's really boring since Michigan is completely done on this side of the ball outside of the offensive line.
Since Last Update: Status quo.
Needs: Major. Only Jason Forcier and David Cone, two middling recruits, will be around when Henne leaves.
Commitments: Human catapult Ryan Mallett, who you must have heard about already.
Projection: We're done.
Panic: None. Michigan targeted Mallet for years; he fits perfectly into the offense; he was the coaches' first choice.
Since Last Update: Commitments from three-stars Marquis Maze and Avery Horn. Dropped by virtually everyone else.
Needs: With two recruits and two in the last class, Michigan is done.
Commitments: Maze's story is remarkably similar to that of Mike Hart: he is a tiny man playing for a tiny school and getting little in the way of attention. He gets around 15 touches a game and usually racks up something like 150 yards runnning around the same bewildered, tiny white guys who featured in Hart's high school highlight clips. Maze is smaller and quicker than Hart, more a dart than an inexplicable bull. A good comparison: minute but electric Brandon James, the lilliputian man you may have seen returning kicks for Florida this year. It's unlikely he's ever the feature back but should see a lot of time as a returner and trick play factory.
Avery Horn is another middling recruit, offered by much of the Pac-10 but not USC or Cal. Smallish (5'10") but fast and reported to have a bruising running style, Horn could be the next Jerome Jackson. There are worse things.
Prospects: Californian Curtis Shaw still lists Michigan but any further commitments are doubtful.
Projection: We're done.
Panic: None, though neither recruit seems on a track to stardom. I adore the idea of Marquis Maze in all his tiny, touchdown-creating wonder.
Since Last Update: Status Quo.
Needs: Would be nice to get a good one. Redshirt freshman Andre Criswell was a last second recruit who never played fullback before arriving at Michigan, and there's little else on the roster.
Commitments: For what it's worth, Vince Helmuth was offered on junior day, is busy running over Michigan high schools, and is ranked the #1 fullback in the country by most who bother to rank 'em. So we've got that going for us.
Projection: We're done.
Panic: None. Though fullback isn't the most critical position on the field, it's a nice little bonus to have an excellent one locked up.
Since Last Update: Taurian Washington committed to OSU; Michigan picked up Junior Hemingway and Toney Clemons.
Needs: Well... I didn't think they were huge since Michigan will have three wideouts with sophomore eligibility next year (Laterryal Savoy, Antonio Bass, and Greg Mathews) but evidently the coaches disagreed. Depending on how you define various players, Michigan could have as many as six WR commitments. Realistically that number is three, but still...
Commitments: James Rogers, Junior Hemingway, and Toney Clemons. (Marquis Maze is filed under RB, Martell Webb under TE, and Zion Babb at DB.) Rogers may be a sleeper, but Michigan has a good track record with kids they unearth at summer camp and his offer when Michigan had three or four high-profile targets leaning towards them bodes well. He's virtually guaranteed to redshirt -- he plays RB for his high school team -- but has the athletic ability to contribute. Hemingway and Clemons are reportedly near clones of each other: loping downfield threats with great leaping ability, body control, and hands. Clemons is also supposed to be raw; Hemingway more polished. Depending on who you listen to, they're incredibly great or just good. Time will tell.
Prospects: Marques Simas dropped us or we got full or whatever. In any case, he's no longer interested and we don't have the scholarship to offer him anyway.
Projection: We're done.
Panic: None. An excellent haul, especially since "polish" tends to be overrated for WRs, IMO, and no one in this class is going to be pressed into serious duty until they've been on campus for a couple years.
Since Last Update: Status quo.
Needs: Somewhere between moderate and major, depending on the suitability of the recently-moved Chris McLaurin and the academic status of Quintin Woods.
Commitments: Steve Watson from Colorado and Martell Webb from Michigan. Webb, like Carson Butler, plays WR for his high school team but at 6'5" and 210 pounds is probably going to end up a receiving tight end in college, but only after a redshirt year. Watson, the son of a former Broncos wide receiver and current assistant coach also named Steve Watson, is 240 and already a tight end for his team. He'll be more ready to play than Webb but according to the guru sites has a significantly lower ceiling.
Panic: None. Webb has a ton of potential and Watson is a nice backup plan or bookend. With Butler just a freshman they'll have time to develop.
Since Last Update: Lee Ziemba decided to stay in the south. Steve Wisnewski dropped us because we were too similar to Penn State -- except that losing three out of four years thing.
Needs: Three to five players just like every year.
Commitments: Center Dave Molk, slightly undersized but ranked highly by Scout despite that. Rivals is less sunny.
Prospects: John Elliot, a highly touted tackle from New York, has us on a list of seven teams that will be cut to four shortly. Matt Romine, equally touted but from Oklahoma, is deciding between Michigan, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma, but we're probably third in that group.
On the interior, the only name who's been mentioned as a visitor is Arizona's Jaivorio Burkes... who didn't actually visit. He needs a test score of some description -- I'm pretty sure he just needs a score, no matter what it is -- before he can take official visits. He'll come in at some point later.
Projection: I doubt we get Romine. Elliot's made some rumblings about staying closer to home. Burkes I don't know much about. Confidence level is low.
Panic: Major. Molk is nice but has size limitations that may cap his ceiling, though he would seem a good fit for the zone game if it sticks around that long. We have no commitments other than him and only a 50/50 shot of landing even one of Elliot/Rom
ine/Burkes. Yes, offensive line is a hard position to project, but there's a difference between low-rated guys Michigan picks out of the crowd early and the situation they find themselves in now with few players interested and fewer still likely to commit. Michigan's in damage control mode.
B+, down from A- earlier in the year. That A- assumed someone would come along on the offensive line; no one has. Still, Michigan filled the most important position in football with an OMG shirtless recruit well suited for their offense. They picked up a bevy of potential vertical threats to go with Mallett, an interesting jack of all trades who looks to be Breaston's heir apparent, and the closest thing to a blue-chip fullback you can have.
Still: one offensive line commitment and no others appear to be on the way. This... is not so good.
Further DVR issues mean a UFR delay; apologies. Tomorrow.
- RULE 3-2-5E: I was silently thankful for the rule changes during the Northwestern game; they may have prevented my feet from freezing solid and falling off.
- BRIAN HOYER: Making room for another.
- MARIO'S TRAITOROUS KNEE: Is getting less traitorous by the day. He's praticing and may return this weekend.
- TRAITOROUS WR LIMBS: In general: Mario's leg, Breaston's arms, Bass's leg, and if you'd like to throw in Ecker's leg, Massey's arm, and Arrington's head (not technically a "limb," though) go right ahead.
- RUNRUNRUNRUNRUN: It's dull, it hurts our offense, and it could break Mike Hart if we do it too much before OSU.
- OCTOBER: I'm fairly sure that the weather has been uniformly overcast and miserable for something like three weeks now.
- Uh... LSU's persistent reluctance to beat anybody at all keeps dropping them down. They're probably better than that, but who knows?
- Everything else is fairly rote, I guess. I'm surprised everything is basically what I thought last week updated with a few events, like Clemson getting crooshed and USC finally dropping the game they've threatened to all year.
- Didn't see much except the 3:30-7 window -- home football and (ugh) hockey.
10/28/2006 - Michigan 17-3 Northwestern - 9-0, 6-0
You would think a poncho is something you can't screw up. Take some flexible plastic, punch one to three holes in it, and enjoy a waterproof exterior when the 35-degree rain comes down. Is it possible to get a poncho wrong?
Unfortunately, I can testify that it is. Unearthed from ancient reserves, I donned something that can be described as a poncho but could be more accurately be titled "grounds for murder." Made of a thick, stiff plastic, the thing projected out from my shoulders at a ninety-degree angle for a few inches. Its sides were left entirely open, one half-inch-long nub of ratty velcro the only concession to the idea of closure. When the wind blew -- which was constantly -- the Grounds for Murder flapped wildly, protecting my grumpy person in no way whatsoever. I sat on the poncho. People in front of me stood; I stood. I sat again. Wind kicked up and Grounds for Murder flapped again. I watched dropped passes and fumbles and an offense seemingly unearthed from the 1920s. I sat in the dreary rain. I coughed and ejected mucus, leftover goo from my midweek near-death experience. I was cranky. No doubt the following has been colored by that -- fair warning.
Even though I wrote something along the lines of "this is going to be boring and frustrating and we'll run all day" the day before, I was still surprised and dismayed. Michigan fans have split into two warring groups, one running around declaring Mike DeBord to be the devil, the other dismissing the game as a meaningless blip. Personally? I'm torn.
Mike DeBord does have some pointy-horn qualities about him. The kind of contemptuous gameplan assembled today is one reason we generally lose to some team we shouldn't. Michigan's bizarre strategy when coming up against obviously inferior teams is to run as much as possible, reducing the number of possessions in a game, giving away much of our advantage on offense by being remarkably predictable, and getting ourselves locked in close games. While the strategy reduces the chances of disaster but increases the chances said disaster will be fatal instead of annoying. It's dumb.
And don't give me guff about hiding the playbook for Ohio State. The Rosetta Stone to our offense is not a first-down slant. Throwing one will not cause the scales to fall from Tressel's eyes. Also not something to provide guff-like substance about: Mike DeBord's record as offensive coordinator, now something like 41-5 (I cannot be bothered to look it up, since it's a crap stat). DeBord's been OC here for four years and has had the good fortune to coach opposite two of the finest defenses in Michigan history. He's a pitcher who gets 8 runs a game from his offense: his win-loss record is virtually meaningless. If he didn't have a gaudy record it would be conclusive proof that he is inept.
So all these things are true. One of the crosses Michigan fans must bear is the nasty, dull, too close for comfort win over clearly inferior competition. It's our version of the Spartan collapse. But Michigan does not play like this against opponents it respects. I would like to have my cake and eat it, too: I don't like DeBord but it won't matter against Ohio State, a team that even he has to take seriously. Michigan's gameplans are only expectation-scorning things against the Northwesterns of the world.
Also: no Riley, Manningham, Ecker, or Massey. Arrington with reduced playing time. Hart dinged up and Super Fumble Brothers replacing him. Miserable, miserable weather. Excuses a-plenty are available if you wish to use them. But, really: Michigan's playcalling put it in a situation much like last year where they were forced to make several third-down conversions per drive. With the weather, the missing personnel, and the execution errors, the offense on homecoming was indeed a blast from the past: 2005.
The defense of a more distant, more powerful vintage, and we'll ride it as far as it takes us.
Hopefully light on "aaaaargh."