"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
picture via Philly.com
This past weekend was huge for the final push in Michigan recruiting class. The next couple weekends could be equally big for the Wolverines. One of the big names taking a visit is PA WR Je'ron Stokes. Stokes is committed to Tennessee but looking around in the wake of the Vols coaching change. I spoke with Je'Ron Stokes about the upcoming visit, here's what he had to say...
TOM: What are the main reasons that made you decide to start taking visits?
JE’RON: My main reason was that I just wanted to be sure about the decision I make. I’ve been committed for so long, and so early. I’ve only gotten to see one place. Things changed, and this is a business decision. The quarterback situation, I thought was wrong, but the coach has a lot on his plate, and he wants to do what he feels is best for the team. It was kind of a 50/50 thing, after awhile it didn’t bother me how he handled it.
TOM: What is your official status with Tennessee?
JE’RON: I really don’t know. I’m still committed, I just want to take some visits and make sure I’m making the best decision.
TOM: Has Lane Kiffin done anything to try and keep you at Tennessee?
JE’RON: Oh yea, he’s spoken with my family. He’s making some good efforts; I’ve met a few of his staff and everything. It’s kind of like starting a new relationship
TOM: You’re visiting Michigan this weekend, what are you looking to get out of the visit? What other schools do you plan on visiting?
JE’RON: Everybody’s going to have good academics; this is the highest level of college football you could play in. So I’m looking for relationships with the people, players, and coaches. The town, just how the overall atmosphere. I’m going to visit Illinois, Penn State, and maybe Georgia. I probably will take a visit to Penn State; I’m not 100% on that yet.
TOM: Is there anything specifically that you’re excited to see, or that you want the coaches to focus on?
JE’RON: Not really, just want to see everything. Just kind of see the whole package.
TOM: Are there any other recruits that you’ve developed a friendship with recently?
JE’RON: I met some people at the All American Game, Jeremy Jackson, and a lot of people. Too many to name. Will Campbell too, he’s a funny guy.
TOM: Since you were concerned about Tennessee’s lack of a quarterback, have you spoken to any of the QB’s from the schools you’re visiting? Have you talked to Tate Forcier at all?
JE’RON: I haven’t. I know the new quarterback at Penn State, Kevin Newsome, but other than that no. We worked together a few times. I’m going to talk to the quarterbacks at the visit, and get a feel for them just as players and people.
TOM: The schools that are left rank them in order of who excites you the most, or who you are most curious about.
JE’RON: Honestly I don’t even know, I’m curious about all of them. I really can’t do that right now.
TOM: When do you think you’ll make your decision?
JE’RON: Most likely not until signing day.
TOM: If any of these visits blow you away, do you think you’ll commit on the spot?
JE’RON: No, I’m going to take my time. I’ll talk to my family about everything, and make sure it’s right.
TOM: With your recruiting, are you kind of blazing the trail for your brother Malik? Do you think he’ll follow, or do his own thing?
JE’RON: Where ever God leads him. He’s going to make the best decision for him, where ever he wants to go. We played together in high school so it’d be nice, but I want him to do what’s right for him.
The novelty of the national championship game in 3-D drew in a couple bloggers whose opinions I respect, and their reviews were pretty much the same: the 3-D effect is cool but most prominent when you're on a sideline shot, which is a crappy angle to watch a game from. Both Dr. Saturday and Bill Harris of Dubious Quality seemed disappointed with the direction, which is to be expected when you're testing out a system FROM THE FUTURE.
But what struck me was the way in which the spare production values seemed a benefit, not a drawback. Dr. Saturday:
I don't know that the "feel" had as much to do with the 3-D, though, as it did with the shockingly spare production. The broadcast usually lingered on the field during TV timeouts, stealing shots of players huddling on the sideline, cheerleaders (who look great, although they kept showing the Florida cheerleaders in much longer takes than necessary, and never made it around to Oklahoma's squad) and the crowd. Sometimes they caught coaches arguing with the refs or doing something interesting. You can see 3-D Tim Tebow hovering at the edge of the offensive huddle, waiting until the last possible second to take his headset off. There were no wooshing graphics or promos to fill empty space, only the announcers, Kenny Albert and Tim Ryan, who were often silent for long stretches during these timeouts. The feeling was exactly what you'd experience during a TV timeout if you were actually in the stadium, which may not sound like much fun. But compared to the usual cacophony of commercials, I really appreciated the broadcast remaining almost entirely on the scene without the usual bells and whistles.
(Also, that post's comments have one of the best descriptions of a blog I've ever seen: EDSBS is "college football smashed through a Decemberists song.")
And Bill Harris:
The biggest difference, and this is what surprised me most, was in the presentation. No scoreboard overlay. Almost no statistical overlays. In other words, we didn't see a bunch of useless crap and network pimping on the screen. No American Idol overlays. No website whoring. No stupid-ass, giant arrows on the field telling us down and distance, just like the scoreboard overlay is already telling us. All we saw was football.
That was absolutely great.
Harris sums up pithily: "there is zero respect for content these days."
Maybe the revolutionary aspect of this 3D experience isn't Captain EO in helmets but an alternative broadcast that diehards can access in exchange for money. If you were a Florida or Oklahoma fan, how much would you have paid to exchange the Fox broadcast with something pitched at your interests instead of people who watch college football once a year?
I've mentioned this before: the problem with sports broadcasting is that people who already care have to watch. They have no alternative. So broadcasters are free to wholly ignore their wishes and cater their coverage to people who don't care, with a heavy slice of corporate whoredom. QED: Monday Night Football's weekly 15-minute interview with a celebrity totally unrelated to football.
But we're entering an age where virtually anyone can broadcast in real time over the internet, when television bandwidth and sophistication can easily provide for alternative views on the game. How long will it take before someone creates an alternative broadcast a little more sophisticated than "Orson and Peter get drunk during a bowl game"? (Which is great but probably not something you can monetize.)
I hope the answer to this is "not long." Someone, anyone, create a pilot program, a PPV version of a game available for free except with, like, Sean McDonough and Chris Spielman and no ads and no Tebotheosis and no impulse for me to put the TV on mute. This equals cash money for you.
Tom Deinhart is hanging out at the coaching convention and says:
Michigan's search for a defensive coordinator continues. Two names making the rounds: former Michigan defensive coordinator Jim Herrmann, who coached linebackers for the New York Jets this season, and Florida safeties coach Chuck Heater.
Of course, everyone's first reaction to Jim Herrmann is "aigh!" Then everyone thinks about the 2005 season and doubles down on "aigh!" And then, no doubt, this will all be put behind us shortly. Herrmann makes no sense in a number of ways. After Rodriguez took a gamble on Scott Shafer that ended in dissention and disaster, he's repeatedly stressed fit and comfort as primary criteria in the DC search. AFAIK, he's never interacted with Herrmann. Also, Michigan fans were ready to run Herrmann out of town on a rail in 2005. A return would be awkward, to say the least.
Heater, on the other hand, is an interesting guy. He's an alum, the starting wingback on the 1974 team (he's sitting next to Dennis Franklin in the front row wearing #28 in this afro-tastic team photo). Since graduation he's been an assistant at a thousand different schools: Northern Arizona, Toledo, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Colorado State, Colorado, Washington, Utah, and Florida. Aside from a couple brief stints as a RB coach and one year as a DC at Toledo he's been a secondary coach for the entirety of his career; he's also held the title "recruiting coordinator" for the past ten years, a span that covers jobs at four different schools. Much has been made of the close relationship between Meyer and Rodriguez and their respective staffs; chances are Rodriguez knows Heater pretty well.
The pro column: Heater's a career college assistant and alum who's been a key part of the Meyer recruiting machine for the past five years. He'll help out Michigan's Florida recruiting significantly, and he's been a part of what's normally a vicious Florida defense.
The con column: no DC experience, obviously, and it's questionable how much impact he's had on a coaching staff with Charlie Strong and Greg Mattison and so forth and so on.
Accidental news. Buried in a local-kid-does-good article on Junior Hemingway was this significant piece of news:
Hemingway, who was red-shirted this past season after suffering an acromioclavicular (AC) joint sprain in his shoulder and then getting sick is looking forward to helping Michigan overcome a dismal 3-9 campaign this past season.
A month or so ago I noted a change in the redshirting rules that would allow Hemingway to claim a his; without that change he would have been SOL.
Yes, please. Rich Rodriguez is probably in favor of this piece of legislation coming to college football conferences around the country:
The American Football Coaches Association has forwarded a proposal for an early signing day for college football recruits and it wil [sic] be reviewed by conference commissioners this Thursday.
"We're looking for an early signing day in the third week of December," Rob Ianello, Notre Dame assistant and head of the AFCA FBS Assistant Coaches Committee, said at the coaches convention in Nashville. "There are more than 1,000 verbal committments [sic] right now, and about 15 per school. Why not sign them? Is it a reservation or a committment [sic]? What we're seeing is oversigning and late switches. An earlier signing day would also be cost effective."
Not sure what an early signing period would do to stem oversigning, which South Carolina and North Carolina are now enthusiastically participating in, but Ianello's point on some "commitments" being more like reservations and not, you know, mutual is well made. I don't think there can be a whole lot of complaint about the date proposed, as it's not all that early: virtually all coaching switches will have taken place by that time.
Also, Joe Schad needs one of those red-squiggly spell-check things.
Mid-CSB. The NHL Central Scouting Bureau's midseason rankings are out and a number of future Wolverines are listed:
- NTDP forward Chris Brown is #29
- NTDP forward Kevin Lynch is #83
- NTDP forward AJ Treais is #205
- USHL defenseman Lee Moffie is #210 (last).
The CSB produces separate lists for North American and European skaters, so mentally add about 50% to everyone's ranking for their projected draft slot. Brown looks like a solid second-rounder, Lynch should go in the middle rounds, and Treais and Moffie are likely to go undrafted.
Departures of note. A host of early departures and transfers have gone down; these have been noted on the sidebar, but a recap of the departed:
- Draft: Wisconsin RB PJ Hill, Ohio State RB Beanie Wells, PSU DE Aaron Maybin (maybe)
- Transfer: Iowa QB Jake Christensen
A few more Penn State and Ohio State players are expected to declare before the January 15th deadline.
There is also everyone's favorite: a Notre Dame player leaving school for "personal reasons" but expected to return after those personal reasons get some flimsy grades at a JUCO. This time it's sophomore CB Gary Gray.
Juxtaposition. I've always thought of Gregg Doyel as a Christopher Hitchens for sports, except with severe brain damage where Hitchens keeps his cigarettes and vast hatred of the Catholic church. This is a pretty awesome demonstration of that idea:
This game will be sensational, that’s all I know. But the arrogant assumption that Florida’s defense will be the difference makes me giggle.
Because the truth is, the difference really could be Florida’s defense.
After it gets its ass kicked by the best offense in college football history.
Florida, of course, got its ass kicked to the tune of 14 points.
Is Doyel stupid enough deploy those one-sentence paragraphs following that shot at an "arrogant assumption" without it being an attention-getting schtick? Eh… no. Doyel, more than any other sportswriter I've had the misfortune to stumble across, seems to glory in the hatred of all things.
So, yeah, Boston College fans should cower at this bad boy:
So stop the bellyaching about civil liberties and Boston College's intolerance and poor little Jagodzinski's rights and boo and hoo. Stop it right now. If you've already bitched to someone, you sound ridiculous. Shut your mouth and don't make that mistake again. If you've not bitched about it, consider yourself fortunate. It's not too late to change your mind, or in lieu of that, it's not too late to just sit this one out. Shut up. Keep your opinion to yourself.
Because you're wrong.
Jagodzinski was wrong.
This is the problem with legacy media on the internet: when you attack a ridiculous strawman like "people are whining about Jeff Jagodzinski's civil rights" without so much as a single link an example, you look like an idiot. You confirm that by following your ridiculous strawman with those two beauty one-sentence paragraphs, and you chisel it in stone if you marshal these two examples as evidence:
Florida bent over while Billy Donovan flirted with NBA jobs, took the Orlando Magic job, and then changed his mind and came back to school. Apparently he had it pretty good in a beautiful college town where he had won back-to-back national championships. Who knew?
Florida is… uh… 14-2 at the moment.
Louisville bent over while Bobby Petrino batted eyes at every school that could find his phone number -- and then, after redoing his contract and giving him every little thing his heart could desire, Louisville watched him leave for the Atlanta Falcons.
…and Agrokrag, his replacement, is 11-13. In Petrino's final season at Louisville—which AD Gregg Doyel would never have given him—the Cardinals were… uh… 12-1 and won the Orange Bowl. Not so much on the good examples there.
1/9/2009 – Michigan 5, Miami 1 – 14-7, 9-5 CCHA
1/10/2009 – Michigan 64, Iowa 49 – 13-3, 3-1 Big Ten
1/10/2009 – Michigan 4, Miami 0, 15-7, 10-5 CCHA
So one of the parents in the Miami student section forlornly held the above banner aloft throughout Michigan's 5-1 asskicking on Saturday. About halfway through someone told her she was making an idiot of herself and she pointed it the right way, but it was too late: Fun With Palindromes was born.
Hello, weekend. You start late but finish smoooooth. Three Michigan sporting events lead to three blowouts, two of them absolutely critical, and it's all endorphins. I find it really hard to write columns I think are worthy of the "column-type thing" tag week in and week out during the longer and less intense hockey and basketball seasons, so this one's an assemblage of bullets.
Hell, yes. Michigan got a little lucky this weekend when Miami lost Carter Camper and Justin Mercier, their #1 and #3 scorers, for the Sunday matinee, but 9-1 over the course of the weekend brooks no serious "buts." Michigan owned the Redhawks, flat out, and that's a huge step forward from their series earlier in the year when it was the Wolverines scraping one goal across 120 minutes.
Michigan is still way, way behind Notre Dame in the race for the CCHA title, but they cleared one huge hurdle with that sweep. Sweep ND in a home-and-home in three weeks and Michigan is six back—assuming equal points in the next four—but with two in hand. That's a hill to climb; it's doable, though.
More realistically, the sweep puts Michigan in a strong position to finish top-four in conference and get a first round bye; it also will be very helpful at the end of the year when the pairwise somewhat arbitrarily hews the weak from the strong and assembles a tournament field. The PWR is still extremely unstable—even at the end of the year it's moderately unstable—but at the moment Michigan is a shocking sixth despite their rough start. If only Miami hadn't gacked away its holiday tourney despite outshooting their opponents by about 3-1 each night.
Hogan. This weekend was the first during which I felt Hogan seemed a superior alternative to Sauer. Lost amongst the Mingo-witnessed flurry of goals on Saturday was Hogan's solid play on a number of quality Miami chances that kept the door shut; that game could easily have been 3-3 after five minutes instead of 3-0. On Sunday Hogan didn't have a lot of rubber but when Michigan led 1-0 he made an outstanding stop moving side to side by closing the five-hole.
Yost Built mentioned this:
He's not remotely flashy, but he goes out and wins. Also, he hasn't given up a soft goal since the game at Munn over a month ago. Then again, he's only given up two goals since that game at Munn, which is kind of awesome.
Yes. Hogan was giving up a soft-ish goal per game early in the year, and now he's not, at all. I think that's at least somewhat luck; it's not all luck.
Skaters. I was feeling very good about calling Brandon Burlon the breakout player of the second half when he had a goal and an assist five minutes into the weekend, but did anyone else think the rest of his Saturday was kind of rough? Miami's heavy forechecking forced a lot of turnovers out of him, and the rest of the team. On Sunday it appeared that Michigan had figured it out (or Miami was tired or losing Camper and Mercier was a death blow) and was breaking the zone with ease; on Saturday there were a lot of ugly turnovers.
The other guy who leapt out did so on the penalty kill: Tim Miller, who got multiple standing ovations whilst sucking away Miami PP time in the corners. He would have had a great shorthanded goal if Langseth hadn't taken it away, which Miller was still bitching at him about as the team left the ice on Sunday. Miller was making a hockey stop as the pass came across the ice and deflected the puck into the net, a situation that is explicitly allowed by the change in the rule:
To make this rule as clear as possible, the group proposed adjustments to its rules that will allow all goals scored as a result of deflections. This will include deflections off an attacking player who is in the act of stopping, provided neither skate is used to direct the puck into the net. Pucks that are directed or kicked with the skate moving toward the goal will not be allowed.
Yost Built saw the thing many times on replay and sayeth:
Now, I can't remember how the rule reads, since I'm pretty sure they changed it after the title game last season. If the puck can't hit off a skate and go into the net at all anymore, then it was the right call, and just a stupid rule. If it's allowed to hit your skate and you just can't kick it, then it was a terrible call.
The rulebook sayeth: terrible call. Note: this is the second straight year Langseth cost Michigan a goal against Miami.
I bet this seemed like a good idea at the time. The program for the Miami game was very fussy about what you can call Miami of Oh—
Who's up for never calling Miami anything but Miami of Ohio (Not That Miami Of Ohio)? This guy.
Strategy. Here's a tip I've picked up from the local scribes: if a team completely destroys a respectable opponent mere days after you question how good they are, claim it was your criticism that focused them, forging them into the towers of steel they became. Y'all can thank yrs truly for that performance.
More seriously: yes, that was more like it. Michigan made a concerted effort to go inside to Sims, and though the reward was a lot of shots that went down and then infuriatingly rimmed out, the overall quality of looks they got was greatly increased.
One downer, and I again hate to bring this up given the box score, but I didn't like Manny's game in this one much more than I did in the other Big Ten games. He took four three-pointers, each of them with a hand in his face when he just decided to chuck instead of drive, and a lot of his offense came off of turnovers. Take those away and his shooting percentage dips precipitously. OTOH: Harris was super-active in the passing lanes and was the cause of at least four Iowa turnovers that turned into fast-break buckets, mostly by Harris.
I just worry what happens to his offensive efficiency when the opponent isn't as generous, is all. He has not been effective in the halfcourt in conference play.
Stu and Zack. The relative stars of the two Indiana freshmen have crossed since it looked like Douglass was going to be a gritty, tough-nosed gym rat with a high basketball IQ and Novak couldn't buy a bucket. Now it's Novak destined for vaguely uncomfortable praise and Douglass who looks like he'll be in a battle for playing time when Vogrich and Morris arrive (and, hopefully, no one leaves unexpectedly).
This is a really easy observation to make after Douglass took a couple threes from 27 feet and seemed largely responsible for Iowa's garbage-time comeback, but sometimes you have to pick the low-hanging fruit. Douglass' basketball IQ doesn't seem particularly high.
Or, rather, it seems wildly variable. He made two excellent passes in this game, and seems to thread a needle or throw an accurate bounce pass on the break just about every time he gets an opportunity; he also made a great cut to the basket when Novak was trapped and got a layup for his troubles. His future is up in the air. If Good Stu wins I think he can be a significant role player the next couple years and a solid starter as a senior. If Evil, 27-Footer-Chucking Stu wins he's likely to get the Shepherd treatment.
Novak, on the other hand, is the unathletic white guy who actually deserves the "he's white!" praise that will no doubt be heaped on him the next three and a half years. He harasses people into bad decisions, rebounds very well, and does—ugh—the little things that don't show up on the box score.
Great, now I have to take a shower to wash off the sportswriter cliche.
Wha? That was a charge on Manny—you know what I'm talking about—and a blocking foul on Gibson—you also know what I'm talking about. Not like it mattered, but, man… Big Ten referees, folks. Also, what was with the foul on the follow-through of a Novak three that wasn't a shooting foul? Have you ever seen that before? Will you ever see it again?
The near future. With Michigan's two must-wins against the lower echelon of the Big Ten out of the way, they've got a tough road game against Illinois that seems like a freebie. Win and that's great. Lose and, okay, you're still on track.
After that, though, is four game stretch with two against a struggling, depleted Ohio State team that seems NIT caliber at best and one each against Northwestern and Penn State. 3-1 is good, but 2-2 against those four teams with a fairly daunting homestretch (Purdue x2, MSU, UConn, Minn x2, @ Wisconsin with PSU, NW, and Iowa sprinkled in) and it'll be touch and go. I expect/hope they'll be 6-3 in conference at the midway mark.