in town for free camps
Lists are one of the hackiest forms of writing anything, but I, too, succumb to the occasional bout of offseason glazomania. The following five players are the people on the team who should be happiest about the start of the Rodriguez era.
Included in these evaluations are recruits who picked Michigan before the changeover; those who signed up afterwards knew what they were getting into and are thus disqualified.
5. Corey Zirbel. You wouldn't know it from the deep insecurity emanating from any Michigan fan considering the 2008 offensive line, but M has a top-100 tackle entering his fourth year in the program ready to step into Jake Long's oversized shoes. The problem is that top-100 tackle is Corey Zirbel.
Zirbel, reportedly frustrated by his inability to move up on the depth chart, believed that the existing Michigan coaches had already decided he was not going to contribute; his effort thus flagged. Now he's starting with a fresh slate in a new offense and there's a big vacancy at left tackle (and, if Steve Schilling's pass protection doesn't improve, maybe right tackle*). It's now or never for him.
*(implication is that Schilling starts at RG, not loses his starting spot entirely.)
4. Avery Horn. The word on Horn from fall practices was "fast as hell, tiny, has no idea what he's doing." The redshirt that followed would normally be a red flag for a program bound and determined to see anyone with a chance of contributing blow a year of eligibility on special teams. Add in Michigan's historical inability to make use of tiny fast guys and Horn's middling guru rankings and you have a recipe for a mediocre career of about 50 carries and a brief stint as a returner ended by a single fumble.
Enter Rodriguez, who hears "fast as hell" and falls into a reverie that makes the buts inaudible. Though Horn has a lot of competition with three juniors in front of him and the McGuffie-Shaw-Cox class behind him, his career prognosis got a lot better when Rodriguez was hired.
3. Marcus Witherspoon. Witherspoon is something of an OLB/DE tweener, a high school defensive end who most project to OLB in college because of his size. Usually this would entail a year or two of learning just WTF "coverage" is and maybe some discussion of "angles" and "not being Chris Graham", and that was likely to be the case with Witherspoon. But when Michigan landed Stanford's Scott Shafer they picked up what looks to be one of the nation's most blitz-happy defensive coordinators. Marcus Witherspoon had 27 sacks as a senior. Marcus Witherspoon likes rushing the passer. Marcus Witherspoon should be happy.
2. Slocum, Kates, Taylor, Jamison, Graham... basically any DL who survive. Though Michigan defensive line finally started moving away from its 90s paradigm of blue-collar white guys who the NFL wouldn't draft in a hundred years, motivation and weight issues still plagued them. Not that this is unusual: you show me a program without at least one 350-pound waddler whose idea of exercise is picking up three Big Macs at once and I'll show you a school with a direction in its name and maybe a "State," too.
But Michigan's program seemed especially content with rolls of blubber around their linemen's midsection. Anyone who had the misfortune to tune into one of many, many Brent Musberger segments on former defensive tackle and moonwalking expert Pat Massey's rigorous weight-gain program knows this. According to Musberger, Massey was told to eat a whole pizza every night in an effort to keep his weight above 285. Pizza? This is the diabolical plan of secret master Mike Gittleson? Argh! Last year even purported speed rusher Tim Jamsion looked pregnant, gut hanging over his belt.
I don't know how much impact Mike "Satan" Barwis is actually going to have, but I am sure that the canary in this particular coalmine will be the composition and performance of the defensive line, and that Mike Barwis eats your soul if you think midnight pizza is a workout regimen.
1. Sam McGuffie. This blog has already chronicled the division of opinion on Mr. McGuffie, which is wide as the sea. The one thing everyone did agree on: get this guy and space and let him spin like a top, and you've probably got something. Skeptical Rivals analysts openly questioned why McGuffie wasn't heading to some place like Texas Tech, where he could become the next Wes Welker. (Welker -- surprise! -- is also white.)
And, you know, they kind of had a point. On the face of it, McGuffie heading to the Michigan zone game, where he would almost never be the target of a a pass (in the last two years, screen attempts by Michigan have collapsed) or be directed to get out to the corner, didn't make a whole lot of sense. Though he's got some nasty cuts, McGuffie is no Mike Hart. When someone hits him, McGuffie just goes down. The thing that struck me when I watched the video from his final playoff victory: "jesus, that guy's tiny." And so he is. Also tiny: Noel Devine.
Please note that grades handed out are strictly results-based. Obviously any recruiting class that undergoes a coaching changeover is going to suffer; given the circumstances faced Michigan did very well.
I know it's a month after signing day, but Pryor's still out there: 2008 is not over. The 1,000 foot view of this recruiting class with links to the street-level:
- Quarterbacks: D. Once Mallett transferred and Rodriguez came in, this became the biggest area of need by a mile. The results: one guy who might be six feet tall and might be able to throw. I like Justin Feagin as a player and a person (and by "person" I mean "disembodied quote machine"), but not so much as the QB recruiting class that will transition us into the RichRod era. Obviously getting Pryor, even with all the warning flags, bumps this up.
- Running Backs: A. Sam McGuffie has the potential to be Michigan's Noel Devine; I am driving his bandwagon. Michael Shaw may be a slot receiver -- though with Terrence Robinson and Martavious Odoms I think he'll start off in the backfield -- and may be a running back but is definitely fast, fast, fast. Picking him off from Penn State at the last minute was a major boost. Mike Cox provides depth.
- Wide Receivers: A. Darryl Stonum was heavily pursued by USC and Florida and has the ability to be a gamebreaker in the mold of Edwards or Manningham. Roy Roundtree is a possession complement to Stonum. And the two slot guys are exciting, man.
- Tight Ends: A. Brandon Moore slipped as the year went on but had the offers of an enormous national recruit by the time he committed to Michigan; a lot of potential that may go to waste. Michigan won a head-to-head battle against Ohio State for Kevin Koger, a guy just outside of the top 100 to both recruiting sites.
- Offensive Line: B+. Numbers and some quality. Dann O'Neill is a critical recruit, an impact left tackle. The late steal of Ricky Barnum gives Michigan one of the highest-rated interior linemen in the country. Mealer, Omameh, Wermers, and Khoury are in the nebulous mass of OL who can contribute; the way each was recruited implies that they're all worth having around to see if they pan out. Would have been nice to pick up a Zebrie Sanders or Lane Clelland instead of Khoury.
- Defensive Line: D. Michigan only needed one DT and filled that need with Mike Martin, a low downside, moderate upside sort who's very likely to be a multiyear starter. At DT, he alone warrants an A- given the four sophomores in front of him. DE, however, was a crying need and Michigan got no one, which is an F-.
- Linebacker: A-. Michigan needed some quality here and got it. Fitzgerald is a near-blue chip who picked M over Florida and Rutgers; I expect he'll get early PT and battle for a starting spot this fall unless Johnny Thompson turns a corner most think he's already skidded past. Marcus Witherspoon may be a DE, or may be Shawn Crable (who, come to think of it, might have been a DE). Michigan also got him away from Florida. Kenny Demens is kinda shortish but brings wood when he tackles; hopefully he's not Chris Graham redux. Taylor Hill is an edge terror.
- Cornerback: B+. Boubacar Cissoko is a smurf but is otherwise a perfect corner. If he can overcome the smurf thing he'll be smurfy. JT Floyd is generally regarded as slow and didn't get a ton of interest from anyone other than UT and M. Would like to have seen one more high caliber player here.
- Safety: B. Brandon Smith is a moderately shirtless recruit who slipped in the rankings throughout the year as he played all sorts of things for his high school team, including kick returner and quarterback. Though he might take some work he has the athletic ability to be an excellent safety. Again, would have liked to see another player here.
(Specialists were N/A this year with both starters returning.)
An overall grade: B+. There are two howling holes and I wanted one more four-star recruit in the secondary; other than that Michigan did very well. They held on to every recruit the Carr staff brought in except a QB (John Wienke) who no longer fit the system and an h-back (Christian Wilson) who Rodriguez just didn't appear interested in for whatever reason. The Rodriguez closing surge (LB Hill, CB Floyd, QB Feagin, WR Roundtree, RB Shaw, WR Robinson, WR Odoms, OL Barnum, OL Omameh) brought 3-4 of the speed players Rodriguez needs on his offense with McGuffie and Stonum already in the class; it also added two more OL to a group that badly needed more bodies. I was continually skeptical Michigan could fill a 25-man class with quality players, or even get close: they did.
I didn't expound on the WRs when their time came, so let me do that now:
Wide receivers: Stonum has the same high profile and potential as any of the guys who wore #1 (or should have) in years past. He enrolled early and will participate in spring practice; I expect he'll see Mario-esque playing time as a freshman and have a similar career path. Every indicator from offers to guru ratings to high school performance to personality is positive. I expect he'll be a huge success. Roundtree does not have the ceiling Stonum does and is going to have to put in serious time in the weightroom before he finds himself on the field; once there he can be a solid #2 in the realm of Mathews or Avant.
And the slot guys are awesome. Please take this with something of a grain of salt -- I am and have always been irrationally in favor of little ankle-breakers -- but man, I think these guys are good. After I did the WR summary I was stumbling around Scout and ran across a bunch of Klein Oak-Team About To Be Bludgeoned highlight reels (for those who subscribe, they're here: versus Spring, Woodlands, and Magnolia). Sometimes guys turn in dud performances in a single game or their 50 yard touchdown run is a simple matter of taking it off tackle and being faster than everyone who's not going to a BCS school, but in each of these highlight packages Robinson did something sweet.
I know the offers weren't the sort you get excited about (BC and Wake), but Robinson had to sit out his junior year because of a transfer. Since recruiting in Texas is so screwed up, by the time Robinson started lighting up opponents UT and A&M and OU were sitting on 25-man classes or whatever and going "whoah... f***!" Both recruiting services had him a four star largely because of his size, which is understandable, but Robinson's going to a system that wants him just the way he is and has a specific role for a guy with exactly his skillset. He's a five star in the Rodriguez system. Think Steve Breaston, hopefully during his freshman year when we all thought he was Black Jesus.
Klein Oak had a weird rotation going where they had a zone-read offense featuring Robinson and Hales alternate with a more conventional shotgun passing attack where some white guy would throw the ball (on third and long, probably); when this happened Robinson was a s
lot receiver. So he's not totally unfamiliar with what he's going to be doing this fall; I expect to see a lot out of him.
And then there's Odoms, who didn't do anything amazing on film and is short and is just the kind of guy who goes out there and reels in long touchdown catches. If I'm just totally wrong about Robinson they've still got this guy from the muck who everyone except ESPN thinks is the fastest electron they've seen this year.
2009? The board is under assembly and reaching the point at which it will be relased into the wild; probably sometime early next week. Varsity Blue has beaten me to the punch on this and has been flaunting a 2009 board for a few weeks. Though it's redundant to maintain my own, the board is the framework of the recruiting coverage around these parts. Maybe we can wiki-ize it or something and work on the same one.
Anyway, I'll accompany that with a look at Michigan's needs, early prospects, and various recruiting issues facing the program.
We're #2. And yesterday's big news:
The University has reached a settlement that ends the lawsuit over Michigan Stadium's accessibility to disabled fans - and, for the time being, will end the Big House's reign as the largest football stadium in the country.
The pre-settlement project estimate said the stadium's capacity by the conclusion of the project in 2010 would top 108,000, an addition of 500 seats from the start of the project. But because today's settlement will remove an estimated 1,500 seats from the bowl, it's unclear whether that will be enough to make Michigan Stadium the biggest again.
"Over time, we again expect to have the largest capacity of any stadium in the country," Hage said. "We have to wait until 2010 to see how the new seating shakes out."
(FYI: The Daily article is the most informative and in-depth of any provided by news-gathering organizations, which continues a trend started earlier in the year: the Daily out-covered everyone on the Michigan Stadium renovations. Not bad.)
Sounds like there is going to be some hurried rejiggering in the works. I don't know where Hage & Co are going to shake 1,000 extra seats out of the renovation plans unless they cut down on the individual seat expansion. Slimfast for everyone!
I already have requests for snark in both text and t-shirt form in my inbox, but in a foray into Actual Journalism undertaken last summer I conversed with the Bernstein in charge of the case
and came away under the impression that the university was going to have to give ground to a real concern. Notre Dame Stadium is far closer to the 1% mendoza line mandated by the ADA; so is Ohio Stadium. There was no way Michigan was going to weasel out of similar compliance. (Given the parameters of the renovation, the "but it's just repair!" line provided by the U was definitely weaselly.) So no snark here.
Hurdled. Michigan's been working on the renovations for three months now, but the lawsuit still hovered as a possible roadblock to the luxury boxes. With yesterday's resolution, the final hurdle has been cleared and the disingenuous teeth-gnashing of John Pollack -- hero of Tienanmen Square -- and the rest of the "Save" The Big House crew is now wholly impotent and, as such, can be enjoyed in a spirit of schadenfreude. It's a go. Hurrah.
(Why yes to luxury boxes? See here.)
Mailbag addendum. A theory forwarded along from the OZone:
He's never been a guy who recruits blue chips. He runs a system that depends on selfless guys who play team ball and shoot 3s. He's always been a guy who beats you with inferior talent.
But the big advantage of coaching at UM is proximity to Detroit, which produces a ton of blue-chip talent. So how does he make sense there?
Now you have Bielien going out of state to recruit mid-major talent that fits his system. Usually you see the opposite -- coaches in areas that don't produce a lot of 5-star types going out of state to recruit them. Weird.
Sort of reminds me of Eldon Miller -- great at coaching plucky overachievers, lousy at coaching NBA prospects. Wonder if Bielien is another guy who can mold bad talent into a decent team, decent talent into a decent team, and great talent into a decent team.
This, of course, re: the recruitment of Zack Novak and other decidedly melanin-light players. Disagreements:
- Michigan already needed plenty of help going into the year, then lost Kendrick Price, Jerrett Smith, and K'len Morris during the year. Since almost everyone with decent offers signs in the fall period, Beilein has few options other than the "mid-major" talent that's still hanging around. All the high major talent is signed.
- Though the state of Michigan has a rep for producing basketball talent, the 2008 class suuuuuuuuuuucks. There are two top 150 guys, a Utah commit (who, naturally, Tommy Amaker was wary of) in the 80s and MSU commit Draymond Green at #122. Everyone else in-state is Zack Novak at best.
- Michigan is still scared to death of the Ed Martin thing from ten years ago and is running a program so squeaky-clean they've basically written themselves out of every high profile basketball recruit ever. All you need to know about Michigan's paranoia is this: Tommy Amaker was hired by Harvard and immediately ratcheted up the skeeziness.
The point about the "all talent -> decent team" thing may be true but we don't know it yet. IMO, Beilein gets a pass for this recruiting class as long as the kids he brings in are system fits and contributors. If the 2009 class looks similarly uninspiring -- and with Michigan not being mentioned by any high profile players, that seems likely -- I'll be concerned. If the 2010 class is a third, I'll be worried.
Wiggle? Western College Hockey notes an interesting decision in the women's ice hockey bracket: Clarkson was excluded in favor of Dartmouth despite Clarkson being ahead in the PWR and winning the Clarkson-Dartmouth comparison. The PWR is usually followed to the letter when choosing and seeding NCAA hockey tournaments, but the committee does have some leeway.
Some years ago the first-place Atlantic Hockey team could have guaranteed its crappy conference two bids by losing in the AH playoff final, which would have made the playoff champ a TUC and thus boosted the first-place team's TUC record high enough to make it a 3-seed. The committee made it clear that even if the upset transpired only one AH team was getting into the tourney.
Might this open the door for, like, a non WCHA team a bit? There are still seven WCHA teams in the tourney and there remains a strong possibility someone with a record below .500 will squeeze in. Declaring team X out by fiat would open a can of worms, but... maybe said worms should be opened?
Injury. Scooter Vaughn broke his jaw wrestling playfully with a teammate. Which... like. Jesus. He's out this weekend but may return next week or the week after, depending on the type of surgery and the amount of pain he's in.*
On the other side of the coin, Chad Kolarik continues to make noise like he is available this weekend:
"We'll see as the week goes on," Kolarik said. "... It's not 100 percent, but it's getting there."
Kolarik continues to get treatment on his hamstring twice a day.
He's hoping to make a final appearance at Yost Ice Arena this weekend, something that didn't look possible when he crumpled to the ice there in mid-February.
"I didn't want to go out getting carried off the ice like that," Kolarik said. "It's definitely a goal of mine to be out there and hopefully win a playoff series."
With Vaughn out, Eric Elmblad draws into the lineup for the first time in his Michigan career. He might steal five or six minutes against UNO's fourth line; expect to see a lot of the other five guys. Danny Fardig, normally a fourth-line forward, is also a possibility.
A final item: Max Pacioretty was named to the CCHA All
-Rookie team, so good for him, but wasn't Aaron Palushaj jobbed out of a spot? Palushaj tied NMU's Mark Olver for most points by a freshman in all games and was second to Pacioretty if only conference games are considered. Meh.
*(Side note: I scalped a ticket for the Friday Ferris game, and after the transaction the black scalper-guy I got the ticket from gave us a hearty "Go Scooter!")
Brian,It's probably too early to have much of a take on 2009 recruiting at this point but MSU's two recent RB "commitments" got me to thinking... For as long as I can recall, UM has dominated in-state recruiting. In the past it hadn't been that big a deal because the state would produce about one bigtime recruit each year and maybe a couple other decent ones if we were lucky. Here's how I remember it off the top of my head (UM commits in bold, others in red):98 Drew Henson99 TJ Duckett00 Charles Rogers01 Ernest Shazor; other notable - Kelly Baraka02 Gabe Watson; other notable - Drew Stanton (was he in this class?)03 LaMarr Woodley; other notables - Doug Van Dyke (Purdue), Jake Long, Jim Presley04 Will Johnson; other (sort of) notables - Morgan Trent,
Roger Allison, Alex Mitchell [correction, Mitchell was the top prospect in the state. Allison was like 8 or 9. -ed]05 Kevin Grady; other notables - Terrance Taylor, Antonio Bass06 Brandon Graham07 Ronald Johnson (USC); other notables - Dionte Allen (FSU), Joseph Barksdale (LSU)08 Nick Perry (USC); other notables - Boubacar Cissoko, Dann O'Neill09 William Campbell...Basically, that's major pwnage from 98 until 06 (Duckett was an MSU legacy and Rogers was from Saginaw, and a shady prima donna). But in more recent years, as the State of Michigan has been producing more topflight talent, UM's grip on in-state recruiting has loosened. Normally this would only be mildly bothersome and written off as aberrational (such were my thoughts in 07 and w/re: Perry this year).But with the coaching/offensive philosophy change, I wonder what's going to happen as we move forward. Simply put, certain offensive players won't want to go to UM anymore -- e.g. dropback passers, certain WRs, and bigger RBs like Edwin Baker and Larry Caper in the 09 class. Maybe that's not such a big deal. A quick look back shows that the only guys UM would have missed out on over the last decade or so are Henson, Duckett, Grady, and Johnson, two of whom they lost anyway. And indeed, the biggest fish of 09 has already committed to UM (though he's a defensive player). But here's what I worry about:UM used to offer every in-state player who was any good, regardless of position. With the spread, however, more thought is put into personnel that "fits" the offense. That's fine, but it's my belief that such emphasis on fit will eventually hurt UM's place in the in-state recruiting. Obviously, MSU will never surpass UM in the long run but now there is much more opportunity for them to gain momentum in any one year.Look at this year -- they already have commitments from two of the (arguably) best players in the state. It doesn't matter that UM didn't really want those guys because it sets up the illusion that "something special" is happening at MSU. Such an attitude is completely unfounded but could spread to other recruits. Then, all of a sudden, guys who should be UM locks might [stupidly] start looking at MSU as a viable option. And if MSU is able to get something going, then what stops other (read: better) schools from getting in there too. Just look at what USC has done the last few years. Frankly, I am uncomfortable with other programs thinking they can come in and try to get recruits that in the past would have been Blue all the way. I prefer the old design, where MSU knew its place and was content with nothing better than UM's scraps; and where other schools knew not to bother because all of the bluechippers were pegged for UM.Anyway, that's a super long email. I'm actually not too panicked about any of this because it's probably not a huge deal. But I just wanted to see if someone else had an opinion on these concerns. What do you think?Best,Mark BilskiUM '01
Mark points out one of the hidden costs of moving to the spread offense: a partial withdrawal of the boot Michigan placed firmly upon State's neck after the Charles Rogers class. The instate dynamic now returns to something like the days when John L Smith was running his crazy, sometimes crazily effective, spread offense and Michigan was running the pro-style attack it adopted in the late 80s. Certain players who were Not A Fit for Michigan but pretty good prospects in their own right found an attractive instate option under the mad hatter. Similarly, State now has free reign to nail down Michigan's new Not A Fit prospects -- quarterbacks with a tendency to chew their cud, Caulcrick/Hunt style mashers, and uninterestingly slow tight ends -- without interference from big brother. Call this the "Better Fit Effect."
How big of an effect is it? Eh... the results of Michigan State's better-fit haul under JLS: QB Keith Nichol, a top 100 QB who liked the idea of being the next Stanton and committed to MSU his junior year. (JLS would be fired before Nichol signed his LOI; he decommitted and went to Oklahoma.) That's, like, a guy in four years. Off the top of my head I can't think of a single other player State picked up because of the divide in offensive philosophy. Heck, Antonio Bass was a top 50 recruit who wanted to play quarterback and he still chose Michigan.
Michigan State's already got at least one guy from the BFE this year: the instate QB named Maxwell, a true water buffalo sort. If Carr and Co. were still around Maxwell might be holding out for a camp offer or something; with Rodriguez he knows the chances of picking up an offer are none and none. Depending on what you believe about Larry Caper and Michigan's Jonas-Gray-like interest in him, he might be a second.
So at most it appears to be a couple kids here and there. Defenders and offensive linemen won't care. Fast little bastard wide receivers and dual-threat QBs will pick Michigan if Michigan is interested. Traditional wide receivers will probably be unaffected. Running backs will split based on perceived fit and opportunity. Michigan's ceded the lumbering sorts that make a power running game go. Okay.
The instate recruiting swing because of a better offense never materialized under JLS despite the same split between offensive philosophies, and it won't happen under Dantonio -- or if it does, it won't be because of the spread and shred.
There's another salutary factor here: the past three years have provided an unheard of bumper crop of recruits. Michigan has the two top-rated backs in-state (for the moment, at least) and Michigan doesn't even have to leave the State to find the guy who turned in the fastest 40 time at the Army All-American combine. That would be Will Campbell's Cass Tech teammate Teric Jones.
This is the third year in a row that Michigan will be pursuing a half-dozen plan A recruits within state borders. That's a remarkable turnaround from the 2006 class when Michigan had little interest
in anyone other than Brandon Graham until they turned up a few prospects at summer camp, or the 2005 class when Michigan swept the three top-100 guys and then grabbed Chris McLaurin and Carson Butler as late sleeper sorts, or 2004, when Michigan again swept the top three and then got picky because future immortals Carl Grimes, Dwayne Holmes, and Justin Hoskins were the next three kids in the rankings. In the past it was extremely important for Michigan to lock down the two or three real in-state blue chips; now they can miss a few and still find the 6 or so kids instate they usually do.
That's the long way of saying I'm not particularly concerned. State's exploited a one-time window provided by the staff switchover to good effect; now that a young, energetic, and exciting Michigan staff is building relationships in the state things should return to normal.
I know I wrote to you about our gymnastics team once before. At the risk of being terribly annoying, I have to try just one more time because I think this is worth mentioning. Our gymnasts continue on undefeated, even after facing the #1 team in the country last Saturday.
"The University of Georgia women's gymnastics team came into Michigan's Crisler Arena on Friday night as the three-time defending NCAA champion and the No. 1-ranked team in the GymInfo national poll. The Bulldogs went home with a 197.6-196.95 loss to the No. 4 Wolverines." mlive.com
I am a recent alumnus of the University of Michigan. I was raised in the Wolverine tradition of academic and athletic excellence. I have extreme pride in not only our football program, but in all Michigan sports. This gymnastics team is no exception. They are OUTSTANDING this season and have been outstanding for as long as I can remember. Since I am also a Pats fan, I'm a little wary of planning a parade while my team is 15-0, but isn't that an amazing accomplishment? I can only hope the best is yet to come at the Big Ten and NCAA Championships. Let's give these fine young ladies the recognition they deserve.
Indeed, it is. I linked the gymnastic team's accomplishments in the sidebar but they deserve a broader hearing. Heck, their fans are getting harassed for being too rowdy when they go on the road (for a given definition of "rowdy"); non-student basketball fans could learn a thing or two from them.
Their next home meet is at 6:00 next weekend, the 22nd. This is an unfortunate overlap with what will hopefully be the hockey team's shot at the CCHA playoff crown, but the Big Ten championships are the next weekend at 2. Bound to be less depressing than the basketball team.
This next one is a reference to the home video footage of the 1959 OSU game posted in this space a couple weeks ago. I wondered what the students were assembling with their placards; I got a pretty cool reminiscence of Michigan football of old:
The "Polarbear" 1959 Michigan-Ohio State footage brought back some pleasant memories. That game was during my junior year. I was in the student section on November 21st, 1959, hoping for but not really expecting a Michigan win. In those years Michigan had sunk to a second-tier B10 program. In the late 50s and early 60s, Wisconsin (B10 Champion in '59), Iowa (B10 co-Champion 1960), and Minnesota (NC 1960) were among the first-tier teams. In 1959 M finished 4-5, but the Buckeyes did even worse, at 3-5-1.
Anyway, a couple things still stand out about that game, which the Wolverines won 23-14. First, the limited substitution rule was in effect, which meant that many of the team members were two-way players. Michigan QB Stan Noskin played safety when M went on defense. During that '59 game Stan intercepted a pass in the end zone that was otherwise a sure Buckeye TD. It was a game-changing play: maybe not quite up to Charles Woodson standards, but it went a long way toward preserving the Michigan victory.
Second, before each game the stadium staff would set up wooden folding chairs along both sidelines. I don't remember who was supposed to sit in them, but there they were, neatly lined up on either side of the player's benches. At one point during that '59 game Woody, clad as always in his white short-sleeved shirt and his blue cap, became so frustrated with what was occurring on the field that he picked up one of those folding chairs and flung it about 15 yards down the eastern sideline, toward the north end zone. Fortunately no one was injured.
As far as what the card section was supposed to display in that film, I can't help much. I recall that the efforts to organize and to implement the card section were at best only partially successful. Few students were really interested in holding up cards during the game when they could be drinking and socializing. In 1959 the rules regarding what liquid refreshment one could bring into the stadium were lax to nonexistent. Beer-filled coolers were not uncommon; some students would even bring gin and vermouth into the stadium and enjoy a martini or two during the game. It was a different time.
There's also this:
The placards were done by the students in the Card Section. Ran from about the 20-30 yard line. If you were a Freshman ( as I was that year), it got you seats on the 20 as opposed to behind the goal post. You flashed cards during half time. I do not remember when they stopped but I was in it for 3 years. As I recall, we won that game in Bump Elliott's first year. It went down hill for the team after that until the 1964 team that went to the Rose Bowl and if not for a 1 point loss to Purdue ( Bob Griese), we would have won the National Championship.
The general conclusion is "who knows what's on the damn flashcards? Let's have a martini." Word.
Really really? Like really? The Free Press cites an anonymous source and cribs from the subscription-only Sports Business Journal about the Big Ten Network potentially coming to an irritating corporate monolith near you:
The Big Ten Network appears on its way to most homes in Michigan.
According to a source close to the negotiations, Comcast and the BTN have made significant progress toward a deal and only an unforeseen setback would prevent it from being on the cable system by football season.
This would appear to be Comcast caving on their sport-tier-only proposal... mostly:
Sports Business Journal, which reported a deal was close in its Monday edition, said Comcast has agreed to place the network on expanded basic in most of the Big Ten footprint, but not all.
That's odd. What areas of the Big Ten footprint wouldn't be covered? Parts of Pennsylvania, maybe, and Ames, Iowa, I guess.
A wholly uneducated hunch on the Comcast reversal: with AT&T bringing U-Verse online and Verizon's FIOS service rapidly expanding its footprint, Comcast doesn't want to give the apartment-bound and tree-blocked a further reason to switch.
As always, take this with a hefty dose of skepticism.
Update! Might want to ratchet down the skepticism. The Sporting News has the full text of the SBJ article, and it's convincing.
Tell me about the rabbits. EDSBS linked up this ESPN feature on Muck City, Florida, where they 1) play football, 2) play football, and 3) chase rabbits around. This is the home of incoming WR recruit Martavious Odoms:
Super secret alias. So if you go puttering along for information on new basketball recruit Zack Novak, you get this near-blank AAU profile page that reveals the secret true identity of "Zack Novak"...
More serious like, there's a surprising profusion of information on a guy who claimed offers from Ball State, Colorado State, Valpo, Oakland, and the Fort Wayne version of the confusing "Indiana-Purdue" chain of alphabet soup public schools at the time of his commitment.
One: dude scores lots, averaging over 28 points a game and shooting better than 40% from three. Two: he is either a 6'5" shooting guard or a "smallish 6'3" swingman"; given the offers it's probably the latter. Three: he is "a smart kid and an American," according to the same article. Good to know Indiana (motto: "Easy to leave!") remains a part of the union. Four: uh...
"Coach (Bob) Buscher told me I had a nice butt," Novak said. "Guys might be bigger than me but I can get lower to the ground."
So there you go.
In the realm of effusive quotes we have Bob Gibson:
"Novak is an outstanding catch-and-shoot wing player," ESPN.com's national recruiting director Bob Gibbons said. "He appears to be an ideal player for coach John Beilein's style of play."
Head coach Tom Peller:
"You know the rule, give it to Zack and get out of the way," Peller said. "In my opinion, he's the best all-around player in Northwest Indiana. His outside shooting is so much more consistent. He's very, very good inside and he has a tremendous driving game. He's truly the complete package now."
The same coach who was checkin' out Novak's assets earlier:
"He's the best player in the conference and by far the best warrior," he said. "We tried to stop him but he plays all over the court. We should take a lesson from him."
Some guy named "Bigfoot" on a Ball State message board who knows the family:
I would add to what PL BSU said that Michigan recently had Zach go through some sort of a work out highlighting his ball handling and shooting skills. I heard they are looking to improve their outside shooting and feel Zach may fit that bill. I also was told that Zach really lit the gym up in this workout with his outside shot to the point that he got in a groove that even Zach was surprised about. I was told he hit 16 of 21 shots from what would be the equivalent of an NBA 3 from various spots on the floor. I guess in the shooting side of the work out he hit nearly 80% of his shots from various ranges.
I understand he an the Michigan Coach even chuckled about it but none the less it was a very impressive shooting performance.
Someone mentioned a comparison of Novak to Tom Coverdale which strikes a cord with me. Zach would be a much bigger version but there are similarities. Zach would be more versatile player IMO as he can go down low and score in a crowd with his strength (has strong thighs and calves) as well as upper body for a HS kid. I would see Zach as a real threat with a three guard offense in particular. It would take a very athletic defender with size to handle him at a small three position.
I also heard Zach is still growing not that his current 6'4" height wouldn't work already for us.
If we can sign him I think people will some day wonder why he was not better known. Being
a four year starter at a large school like Chesterton that plays in a tough league speaks volumes about his ability. He was not only a starter in his early years but was a prolific scorer even then.
Another one for the potential whitewash down the road. I'll reserve judgement on Beilein's recruiting until these guys actually get in and play for a year or two; though their rankings are universally meh Beilein has made his living finding and coaching up kids like this.
Outposts. Spartans have finally started slouching into the blogosphere, and though they're the last Big Ten school to find representation their initial attempt is a good one: Spartan Weblog is a tempo-free-focused basketball blog in the vein of Big Ten Wonk that hates Drew Sharp and has affectionate, obscure acronyms for dear, departed Wonk. Recommended.
Also, frequent MGoBlog commentator gsimmons85 has started up his own blog. The prose is rough but the technical detail is... uh... detailed. As an honest-to-god football coach, his knowledge outstrips mine; also recommended. Sample posts here and here.
Finally, there is a blog called MGoSwim that covers Michigan swimming. Check the freaky banner: it moves.
Hockey. Michigan had a bye week as the bottom eight teams in the CCHA opened the playoffs. The top seeds all held so Michigan gets #8 Nebraska-Omaha, which is a significantly tougher draw than any of the potential matchups against teams 9-12. Despite finishing eighth, UNO was just a couple games below .500 in-conference and played Michigan tough in their series earlier in the year. Yost Built has details.
In PWR news, North Dakota finally cooled off with a pair of draws against St. Cloud and dropped behind Michigan, but Colorado College swept Denver and moved into first. Michigan remains second; third-place New Hampshire split with Vermont.
In practical terms Michigan is about a half-game behind CC and a half-game ahead of UND. I think UNH's loss means Michigan will hold the comparison against the Wildcats as long as they reach the Joe.
Operation "Let's Not Play Wisconsin" took the week off, as the Badgers had a bye. St. Cloud's split against UND did push them past UW, so the Badgers will have to travel to St. Cloud in the first round of the WCHA playoffs.
Kolarik is skating around but still in pain; I highly doubt we see him this weekend.
Bracket. FWIW, the rejiggered brackets straight 1-16:
16 AH Autobid
8 St. Cloud
15 CHA Autobid
10 Michigan State
11 Minnesota State
4 North Dakota
BU is now the last team in the tournament; we still have 7 WCHA participants. Any time there are more than four teams per conference the NCAA will accept a first-round intraconference matchups, so we don't have to break the DU-Minnesota State or UND-UW games, but UNH and BU have to be split. If we flop UW and BU we break two intra-conference matchups and get an attractive bracket for Madison, but attendance nightmares in the East: Clarkson and BU are the only Eastern teams.
Does screwing Michigan help? (Remember, the committee loves screwing Michigan.) Maybe.
Option #2: If BU gets flopped with the CHA autobid, UNH can go to Worchester and Albany will have Clarkson and BU to go with the two Michigans. This scenario has an extra intra-WCHA first round game, though.
Option #3: flip Wisconsin into the M bracket, then flip BU into the UND bracket. This puts M in Madison against UW and allows UNH to stay home but creates an Albany bracket with 2 WCHA teams, Miami, and someone like Army.
Given last year's slavish adherence to their rickety system over attendance and logic, I think they'll go with the first option but swap the AH team into it for what marginal attendance and travel benefits it provides, leaving Michigan in this bracket:
4. Army (-ish)
3. Michigan State
I dislike the idea of Michigan State our bracket since they clearly know how to frustrate Michigan into a bad game; other than that, fairly appealing.
As always, this exercise was wholly useless.
Basketball. I did end up using those tickets that loomed in my drawer and was rewarded with a couple of wins and generally competitive basketball (fortunately, I was hundreds of miles away from Crisler during the Northwestern debacle), but the last ten minutes yesterday left a sour note. I can't summon the energy to construct a coherent column-thingy, but that's what bullets are for:
- Manny Harris had seven turnovers and no assists; nominal point guard Kelvin Grady had five and five. Twelve turnovers and five assist from the starting backcourt with nine points between them, all from Harris. Bleah, bleah, bleah. Did either of these guys improve as the season progressed?
To me, the key sequence in the game -- one that was emblematic of the entire season -- came midway through the second half. The score was tied and Purdue was inbounding from behind the Michigan basket. Harris and Grady got confused, leaving a soon-to-be red hot Purdue guard with a wide open three, which he nailed. Grady then took the ball out of bounds, panicked when he saw Harris being overplayed, and threw it directly to a Purdue defender instead of taking one of the 46 timeouts allotted. Result: layup, five point deficit that would quickly balloon to ten, lost game. It was strikingly reminiscent of the Boston College game earlier in the year, wherein Michigan hung around for approximately 30 minutes, then imploded in an Amakerian spurt of turnovers and stupidity.
He moves very well without the ball and also can create his own shot. But the thing that stood out the most was his passing ability, he is a very unselfish player for the high school level. I saw all those kids last year play that went to Purdue in this area and I would put him right up there with them.
Beilein still has two scholarships left for either '08 or '09; the general thought was he would take one more '08 kid and try to balance the classes somewhat but the Novak offer and commit when a couple higher-profile guys like Kyle Cassity are still out there implies that Beilein thinks he needs help now and will be taking a fourth '08 kid.
A dispiriting year for the basketball program. No one expected miracles but beating Harvard and Central and Northwestern shouldn't fall in the category of "miracle". From time to time the team showed a semblance of offensive organization not present under Amaker. Turnovers did fall dramatically. But a number of things did not change: Michigan was awful defending the three-pointer and on the boards, and for all the complaints about the Amaker offense consisting of 30 seconds of aimless dribbling and an off-balance three pointer, at no time did Michigan decide to launch so many ill-advised bombs as they did this year. After a 7 of 26 brickfest against Purdue, Michigan is now the 45th most three-happy team in the nation... and 310th in making 'em.
But, hey... free white guys!
Pryor... hasn't decided on a school, but has gotten in another fight after a basketball game. These red flags are reproducing like chlorine-fixing bacteria in an anaerobic environment.