Michigan crossed the halfway mark of 2015-16 Thursday at Purdue in a game that unfortunately encapsulated much of the season thus far: a shorthanded Wolverine squad turned in a strong offensive performance (accounting for context here) that fell short of covering for their defensive shortcomings against a quality opponent.
While it hasn't been a bad year—Michigan is 12-4; they were 10-6 at this point last season with two awful losses—it hasn't been the bounce-back many expected. The Wolverines have beaten the teams they should beat, but they've yet to take down a top-50 KenPom opponent in four tries, and that'll have to change if they want to make a tourney run.
So what's gone well, what hasn't, and what will swing this season one way or the other?
WHAT'S LIL WAYNE 2005-09
All photos: Patrick Barron/MGoBlog
Caris LeVert. Aside from a woeful performance at SMU, LeVert has been one of the best and most consistent players in the country. He boasts the third-best offensive rating among players who use at least 24% of their team's possessions, per KenPom. His drives are more productive than ever before; instead of snaking his way towards the basket, LeVert is getting there more directly, finishing at the highest rate of his career (77.4% at the rim, per hoop-math), and posting the assist-to-turnover rate of a good point guard—which he functions as for this team, something equally evident in his absence as his presence.
When healthy, LeVert has looked like the potential All-American we hoped he'd become, a triple-double threat any time he steps on the court. Unfortunately, the "when healthy" caveat is now required; I'll cover that in another section.
Duncan Robinson. This is Robinson's definitely-not-altered shot chart from Shot Analytics:
One could leave it at that and conclude Robinson has exceeded expectations. In the beginning of the season, there wouldn't have been much more to say anyway; through the first four games he attempted 16 three-pointers and four two-pointers while failing to tally an assist. Robinson has at least one assist in ten of the 12 games since that point, however, and he's used the threat of his outside shot to generate opportunities for himself and others closer to the tin.
Robinson is quietly improving defensively, too, though he set the bar quite low to start the year. His lethal efficiency on offense more than makes up for that; it's hard to complain about a player who's first nationally in ORtg, eFG%, and True Shooting %.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur Rahkman. The bright spot in an otherwise dreadful game at Purdue, Rahk was the only Wolverine who could get to the hoop and finish in LeVert's absence. In the two games since LeVert's injury, Rahk is 11/15 on two-pointers, 4/8 on threes, 5/6 from the line, and he hasn't recorded a turnover. While it'd be great to see Rahk pass the, um, rock a little more—only Aubrey Dawkins has a lower assist rate among non-centers—his ability to generate buckets on his own is huge coming off the bench, and as his outside shots develops (11/29 this season) he could carve out a huge role for himself.
Three-point shooting. Michigan is shooting 43% from beyond the arc as a team. Four high-volume shooters—Robinson, LeVert, Dawkins, and Derrick Walton—are making 45% or better. It boggles the mind to consider where the team's numbers would be if Zak Irvin (15/59) had been shooting like he did as an underclassman.
[Hit THE JUMP for the bad and the we're-not-sure-yet.]
HT Liz Crowe for finding the photo
Harbaugh? A few weeks back a member of the planning committee for Ann Arbor Pioneer's annual athletic department fundraiser thingy pinged me all excited about something. With this year's event taking place the same weekend as the Harbros' "Greatest Coaching Clinic of All-Time" it was the perfect opportunity to induct two of the greatest athletes to ever wear the purple (not Ravens). I found this cool, and they said we get to announce it.
When? If you're not otherwise tied up on Friday, March 11 at 5:30 p.m…
What? …then come see Jim and John Harbaugh inducted into the Pioneer Hall of Fame. There will be a dinner, VIP pre-party, and some gift bags to serve as the fundraiser.
Fundraiser? This costs money? That's kinda the point: this is how they annually raise money for the Pioneer teams. If you would like to trade money for meeting Jim and John Harbaugh (and, like, us), then you can do that beforehand. Hold on I got a flier for this:
There. Click that and you'll get to the Facebook page. There will be information updates there as the rest of this comes together.
Is there a basketball game then? We're probably good. There's a sliiiight chance that Michigan will be in the Big Ten tournament's 6:30 game. I say "slight" with extra-i's because M would have to be either the #10, #7, or #2 seed.
But I'm a Huron alum! Then come wearing a #17 River Rats jersey.
How about gratuitous photos of Young Harbaughs? Don't mind if I do.
Rashan Gary panic(!)
There was a disturbance in the Force late last week that you may have felt. A full explanation is forthcoming because you better believe we're going full Kremlinology on NJ DE Rashan Gary's recruitment.
So: A couple of Ole Miss guys ballz'd Gary to the Rebels, which set off distressing rumbles from the wing of the Michigan fanbase that takes after Tweek. This was compounded when Chris Balas did the thing he frequently does where he furrows his brow at the $EC and makes grim noises about things going off the rails because people are cheating. That came just a couple days after his colleague Tim Sullivan said it would be "all but impossible" for anyone to catch up, went off like a bomb, and was deleted after a sorry-not-sorry apology didn't calm the Ann Arbor Torch & Pitchfork crowd.
In the aftermath both Scout and Rivals have reaffirmed their strong belief that Michigan leads for Gary. We're pretty good at the Crystal Ball stuff because we read between the lines, so here's my thinking. Who you talk to is as important as what you say. Rationale for Ole Miss ball flip:
The relationship the Ole Miss coaching staff has with Rashan's mother, Jennifer Coney, who is instrumental in his recruitment, is the predominant reason. It is very strong.
Okay. May be true. If it was true she might be talking to Ole Miss sites. But to my knowledge the ball-flipper's never talked to her. (After the Ole Miss official she talked to Wiltfong.) Instead it's Sam Webb who posts article after article featuring her thoughts on Gary's recruitment. One side has some vague second or third hand feelings. The other is talking to the horse's mouth. Don't panic. Crootin.
Gary visiting or not visiting or visiting
Michigan's going to have to fend off some schools, though. Gary has a line of coaches on the way in…
"Dabo Swinney is coming, (Jim) Harbaugh is coming, (Gus) Malzahn is coming, (Nick) Saban is coming, Urban Meyer is coming," Gary's mother Jennifer Coney told NJ.com. "I don't know. There aren't enough days for everyone to come, but everybody wants to come and put their last pitch in."
…and a couple officials left. One is to USC, the other still undecided but maybe Clemson, and this is a bit of a twist:
"I'll probably take a couple non-officials to the three that I'm looking at, like a student of the day visit," said Gary. "So from there, after I take those visits, I should have a good idea of where I'm going."
That's not great news since it looked like Michigan was going to be the only school to get an unofficial. I'm a bit skeptical this tour is going to happen—a lot of recruits plan to do a bunch of stuff and then scale it back—and in fact as of yesterday that plan had been pared back. An Ole Miss Scout guy said there were no unofficials scheduled, even to Michigan, causing another round of fainting and autodefenestrations, but Gary's coach told TomVH that his visit schedule looked pretty good for Michigan:
Rashan Gary leaves Thurs for USC official, unofficial to Michigan Jan. 23 is set, last official still up in the air pic.twitter.com/oWH9fnmzXW
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) January 10, 2016
Lorenz reiterates that he expects Gary along with teammates WR Donald Stewart, 2017 LB Drew Singleton, and maybe 2017 DT Corey Bolds on the 22nd. That is the most current intel. If he sticks to that we're golden.
But I learned how to spell it
Nobody really knows who leads for TX DE Levi Onwuzurike, but the previous roundup mentioned that various camps were split between his recruitment being a Michigan/Baylor battle and a Michigan/Washington battle. The implication there was obviously nice.
That appears to have been misplaced hope, as Steve Lorenz reports that Michigan "appears" to be out for Onwuzurike. That comes on the heels of a Washington 247 site interview with him—again, who you talk to is important. In it he says he's "80 percent sure" where he's going. I assume that's the Huskies*.
If Michigan is out for Onwuzurike attention turns to AZ DE Connor Murphy, FL DE Joshua Uche, and California teammates Devin Asiasi and Boss Tagaloa. Asiasi wants to play TE and Tagaloa is a DT, but Michigan already has a couple DEs in the class so like whatever man. Speaking of those guys…
*[Doubly annoying because I was going to sleuth the bad news based on "who you talk to" before Lorenz stole my thunder, such as it is. /shakes fist for various reasons]
Asiasi to visit like a Boss
Go Blue? 〽️ pic.twitter.com/CpcuZHssdD
— Devin Asiasi ⛅️ (@asibo_) January 8, 2016
Steve Lorenz reports that Asiasi has dropped his Alabama visit and will make it out to Ann Arbor for an official on the 22nd. So will Tagaloa, who named Michigan in a top five back in November. At the time Scout's Greg Biggins thought it was a UCLA-M battle, but that was before a USC offer came in.
Lorenz says Michigan has some optimism here. They do want to play together and Asiasi badly wants to play tight end; they're also NorCal guys familiar with Harbaugh's work with Stanford and the 49ers. Get the visit, see what happens. FWIW, USC gets the last word with both on the 29th.
One potential hitch in the previous bullet point
Allen's YMRMFSPA is 100% guaranteed to be Ian Bunting
Asiasi's official is set for the 22nd. MO TE Chase Allen is coming in the week prior, and Steve Wiltfong hears that Allen is a "huge, huge lean" to M. Presumably he will commit on the visit, occupying Michigan's final(?) tight end slot in the class.
This is good. Allen's picked up offers from Nebraska, Mizzou and Oklahoma State in addition to the back-to-back Michigan and FSU offers. He is under the radar because he split his time between basketball and football in high school, choosing AAU over football camps and the like. He's a high upside, high academic guy who Michigan seems eager to take.
But it does make you wonder if Michigan will still be in the running for Asiasi and potentially Tagaloa the week after. On the one hand, if there's a school in the country that can make good on TE promises it's Michigan, and they could take Asiasi as an ATH. On the other, at some point you can't cram more guys in the phonebooth.
Cram cram cram cram cram (brief pause) cram cram cram
Speaking of said phonebooth, Wiltfong also recently ballz'd NJ WR Donald Stewart to Michigan. Stewart is a Paramus guy who Michigan looked good for early and then faded for as people assumed he would go to Stanford. I and most other people had written him off entirely until he announced a Michigan official, also on the 22nd.
I can't imagine FL WR Pie Young and Stewart fit into the same class at this juncture unless there's unexpected attrition and have no idea who's preferred. Young just re-iterated that Michigan leads at the South Florida Express tryouts (he was a spectator) but it is possible that Young's spot is accounted for since Michigan just picked up two slot types in TN WR Nate Johnson and CA WR Dylan Crawford. He did just announce a suite of officials to USC, Louisville, and Tennessee. He is a NSD decision; that may result in Young finding there's no room in the phonebooth.
In yet further cram news, Wiltfong also believes Michigan has a "great shot" with PA ATH Khaleke Hudson; he would pick M if forced to make a CB pick. Penn State losing DC John Shoop to Tennessee at this late stage has got to help. As mentioned last week, I loved Hudson in the Semper Fi bowl and am pro-get-him.
cram cram cram cram
More crammin' with positive Long vibes
— Scott Bell (@sbell021) January 9, 2016
CA CB David Long continues to trend towards Michigan. Lorenz joins Wiltfong and Barton Simmons with a ballz in favor of M after doing the proverbial digging, and Sam's gut is all like yeah:
@SamWebb77 on Army All-American DB David Long: "My gut tells me Michigan is looking very good for him"
— The Michigan Insider (@michiganinsider) January 8, 2016
That isn't "he is going to commit" but it ain't bad; I interpret that to mean he is set on Michigan but he has that official to Washington left and people can change their minds.
If he even takes it, that is. Rivals's Blair Angulo joins the chorus of folks expecting Long to commit to Michigan, and he's hearing that might come in the next week. That would obviously preempt a Washington visit. Probably, anyway. Crootin and all.
Assumption on the situation: Long has decided on Michigan but wants to follow through with a visit he told Washington he would make. He is considering dropping it because it's a waste of time for everyone. If he does indeed go to Seattle then UW might have a shot, but this feels like an inverse Nauta.
Evans solid again
IN WR Chris Evans got a once-coveted OSU offer and for a moment there it looked like he was set to visit on the 15th and presumably flip, but he changed course and will stick with his commitment:
Thankful and Grateful for the offer but my home is Michigan!〽️
— Chris Evans (@Kidnplay_abc123) January 8, 2016
Wiltfong reports that Michigan is indeed bringing him in on offense while the OSU offer was as a defensive back.
Meanwhile other wobblers are status quo. We'll see what this weekend brings with visits.
Further Crawford evals
A bit more on CA WR commit Dylan Crawford, Michigan's prize from the Army game:
“Crawford has been very good this week,” Farrell said. “He catches everything, that’s the thing with him. I haven’t seen him really drop anything. He’s not the fastest, he’s not the biggest, but he’s a good technician. He’s a smart kid. He’ll fit right in with what Harbaugh wants to do because he’s a willing blocker as well. I think he’s a well-rounded receiver.”
He was mentioned as a top performer on Thursday:
He looked to go through the motions throughout much of the first two days of practice, but he took his game to new heights on day three. His effort really stood out today. He got free a lot during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 and made sure to finish each run when the ball came his way.
Crawford is now qualifying his plan to take officials with an "if". None have actually been set. Even if those happen Michigan is very likely to hang on to Crawford, especially if Long commits with him.
2017 combine happens, articles are written
A caution: at this juncture a lot of out-of-state players have offers but have never been to Ann Arbor. Michigan might be their biggest offer right now. Meanwhile Michigan might have offered as a way to pique a kid's interest while they continue to evaluate a bunch of targets.
So even kids who say Michigan leads aren't that likely to end up in the class. Michigan might end up turning down the heat; they might pick up offers closer to home that are the ones they actually want. (In state or proximate is different, as they've been on campus and Michigan can and will take those prospects now.)
- MI WR Donovan Peoples-Jones releases a top ten with Michigan in it. Fast forward to Signing Day for that guy.
- TX DT Marvin Wilson has Michigan on his radar but a top four of LSU, FSU, USC, and Bama. Wilson is one of the top 2017 prospects in the country.
- MO WR Jaevon McQuitty really really liked his Michigan offer, telling Brice Marich that he tried to tell his parents but he couldn't because he was "shaking too much." Tentatively plans to visit in March.
- FL OL Cesar Ruiz says he's tight with "like five" Michigan commits in this class since he just relocated from New Jersey to play at IMG. Maintains no leaders and will take his time. PSU, M, and UNC may be a tentative top three.
- FL WR/DB CJ Cotman tells Josh Henschke that Michigan is the school he's "really leaning on"(?) because he likes Harbaugh and Partridge a lot. Cotman has early offers from OSU, Oregon and FSU along with M and looks like he'll be a big-timer. Hopefully leaning on someone is good. Someone who is familiar with the rap music please tell me.
- FL WR Joshua Palmer names Michigan his leader. Michigan is currently his biggest offer, as he's a three-star type at the moment. Moved from Canada to St. Thomas Acquinas in an effort to get recruited, so Michigan is closer to home than southern schools.
- TX RB Kennedy Brooks names Washington and Michigan his leaders, thus continuing this weird recruiting rivalry we've got with UDub.
VA LB Jaquan Yulee decommitted from Alabama and Michigan is "in the picture." We'll see if he sets an official. Webb says that Michigan State is in the picture with MI CB Lavert Hill, "not that Michigan State is now the favorite or anything." Still expect Hill to Michigan. In that vein, TX DT commit Jordan Elliott says “I think we are about to get about three more commits. Big time guys, DBs."
Balas says TX OL grad transfer Jake Raulerson is "trending" towards Michigan. He visits this weekend. As a grad transfer he can take his time deciding, especially if he needs to finish this semester at Texas.
Rivals reported that M had offered MD OL Stephen Spanellis, a Virginia commit and teammate of MD OL commit Devery Hamilton. Nobody else has confirmed that.
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HELLO: DYLAN CRAWFORD
Michigan added another All-American to the class this afternoon when Rancho Santa Maragarita (CA) Catholic WR Dylan Crawford announced his pledge during the first quarter of the Army game. Crawford is the 24th commit in the 2016 class and the fourth at receiver, joinging Brad Hawkins, Nate Johnson, and Ahmir Mitchell (as well as ATH Chris Evans, who's expected to compete at the slot).
The Wolverines have long been at or near the top of the list for Crawford, and when fellow finalist Oregon filled up their receiver spots, it became apparent he'd choose Michigan. He's mentioned that he'd still like to take visits to Georgia, Miami, UCLA, and Washington; we'll see if that comes to pass now that he's a commit.
4*, #24 WR,
4*, #25 WR,
4*, 82, #23 WR,
4*, 94, #21 WR,
4*, #20 WR,
Crawford's rankings are so consistent across the board that both his position and overall ranks on the 247 Composite are higher than those given to him by any of the four recruiting services.
He's been to enough camps that there's a close agreement on his size: the consensus is he's 6'1" and somewhere in the 185-pound range. He weighed in at 183 at The Opening in July.
Crawford has been a frequent camp participant over the last couple years, so there's no shortage of scouting reports on him. Scout's Brandon Huffman pegged him as a national-level recruit back in the summer of 2014, when Crawford was one of the top underclassmen at the Oregon NFTC:
Crawford was neck-and-neck with [Trevon] Sidney, his good friend, for most of the afternoon, and the only thing that really separated them were just a couple of more acrobatic catches that Sidney made. But Crawford was just as consistent, just as explosive and just as polished as Sidney was. We've seen Crawford a ton this spring and this may have been the best we've seen him throughout. He's every bit the national recruit he's already become.
Crawford played his high school ball with Stanford QB commit and one-time Michigan target KJ Costello, and the pair were tough to stop on the 7-on-7 circuit. 247's Barton Simmons saw him as a versatile threat who can line up outside or in the slot after the Pylon 7-on-7 tourney. Rivals' Blair Angulo on the SoCal Elite tourney last March:
Crawford is one of Costello's favorite targets, everybody knows it, and not many people seem able to stop it. He's a strong route runner where he cuts extraordinarily well and he does a great job setting up cornerbacks. The four-star is also exceptional at catching low passes by getting his hands under the ball and scooping it. Sometimes, he lets the ball get into his body, but most of the time Crawford rips it out of the air and has proven time and again to be a top-notch receiver.
In addition to his route-running and catching radius, Crawford impressed Angulo with his big-play ability later in the camp season at the RCS Los Angeles:
The group of receivers was loaded, but Crawford managed to stick out once again with his ability to stretch the field. The four-star wideout made numerous plays deep, including a few leaping catches that appeared effortless. Crawford has a well-rounded repertoire that should make him one of the most productive players in the area once he regains eligibility this fall following his offseason transfer.
The returns haven't always been positive on the camp trail; Crawford has been a little quiet at a couple of the bigger events. 247 moved him down after The Opening despite great test results:
While Santa Margarita (Calif.) Catholic receiver Dylan Crawford put together strong testing numbers, making the Top 10 of the entire camp, he was quiet during the 7on7 portion and never really asserted himself. We still love Crawford's ability and athletic traits but he's dropped outside the Top100 until we see the production improve.
While this is on a limited sample, Rivals had him as a "stock down" guy after Monday's Army game practice because of issues hanging on to the football:
Physically the 6-foot-1, 175-pound Crawford was one of the most impressive looking wide receivers on the West. He has an easy, fluid stride and gets in and out of his breaks well. The issue Monday was Crawford fighting the football. Even easy passes with no defensive backs in the vicinity were being dropped, and priority No. 1 for a wide receiver is catching the football.
Crawford bounced back on Thursday, earning a top performer spot for the West squad from 247:
Strong performance from the California wide receiver. He looked to go through the motions throughout much of the first two days of practice, but he took his game to new heights on day three. His effort really stood out today. He got free a lot during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 and made sure to finish each run when the ball came his way. That effort will help him find the field early next year, whether that’s at Michigan, USC, Oregon, Arizona State, Stanford, or another top program.
ESPN really likes Crawford's route-running and doesn't seem too concerned with his hands:
Is very shifty with wiggle and fluid change-of-direction to use at the top of stems into and out of breaks. Comes off the ball rapidly and can get on the toes of defenders quickly to eat up cushion, attack alignment and get vertical. Wins a lot of deep routes with a step or so largely in part to proper technique. Is likely quicker than fast overall, but knows how to use his feet, hips and burst to gain separation.
Possesses efficient and reliable ball skills on both sides of the ball. Is very adept at tracking the deep ball over the shoulder. Shows good focus when contested. Has a reasonably wide catch radius to adjust to balls thrown outside of his frame. Transitions quickly after the tuck. Looks to be more comfortable plucking on the move than coming back to the football.
Rivals noted another strong aspect of Crawford's skill-set when Angulo scouted a Santa Margarita Catholic game in September:
Four-star wide receiver Dylan Crawford didn't have a big night as a pass catcher but he still left his mark, paving the way for some big runs with effective blocking on the edge. The Rivals250 prospect was not only willing to block, but also fiery when it came to the task. He said afterward he realizes receivers have to be well rounded at the next level and he has worked hard at making his presence felt even when the ball isn't in the air.
In a game where Angulo said Costello struggled to find a rhythm, Crawford still made an impact in a victory.
As long as his hands don't become an issue—and it sounds like his issues at Monday's Army practice were out of character—Crawford boasts all the skills necessary to make an early impact for Michigan as a slot receiver.
Crawford held offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Miami, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon, Oregon State, SMU, Stanford, Tennessee, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, and Washington State—a great selection of West Coast offers with some strong national programs also involved.
Crawford and Costello are far from alone as Santa Margarita Catholic prospects who've earned a spot on Power 5 programs. The school also produced current USC center Max Tuerk, former San Diego State and current Dallas Cowboys tight end Gavin Escobar, and ten other Power 5 signees since 2002, according to the Rivals database.
According to MaxPreps, Crawford caught 51 passes for 822 yards (16.1 YPC) and seven touchdowns in ten games as a senior.
FAKE 40 TIME
Crawford posted the fifth-best SPARQ score during initial testing at The Opening last summer despite some trying circumstances, per Scout's Greg Biggins:
Dylan Crawford was one of 10 participants out of the 166 who tested to qualify for NIKE Football Rating Championship. At 6-1.5, 183 pounds, the athlete clocked a 4.45-40, 4.01 in the shuttle, jumped 37” in the vertical and threw the power ball 42’.
“I just got out of a walking boot that I was in for three weeks too,” Crawford said during the event. “I wasn’t able to run at all for the last month, this was really the first time I was able to do it so I was definitely happy with how I did. I know I can run even faster too so it was very encouraging for me to make the top 10 out here.”
Crawford didn't quite perform as well in the finals, posting a 4.61 40 and a 4.23 shuttle, though he improved his power ball toss (44.5') and vertical leap (40.1"). Posting a zero-FAKE, electronically timed 4.45 40-yard dash coming off an injury is pretty darn impressive regardless, especially in combination with those other testing scores.
Mid-season senior highlights:
Full junior highlights:
Sophomore highlights can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
As the highest-ranked and most polished of Michigan's current receiver commits, Crawford appears to have the best chance to see the field as a freshman. Grant Perry is the only player on the roster who's seen snaps in the slot, where Crawford best projects. Crawford, Nate Johnson, and Chris Evans should battle with Perry for that job and perhaps some backup snaps if the coaches want to utilize the position more in 2016.
Crawford is also a candidate to compete on the outside when Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh graduate after the 2016 season. With his skill and versatility, it's hard not to see him making an impact—and perhaps locking down a starting job—by his second year on campus.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
With Signing Day less than a month away, Michigan has narrowed their focus to a small group of prospects to close out the class. While the class now stands at 24 commits out of a planned class of 27, a few more spots are expected to open up due to attrition from within the class. There's a slim, but non-zero, chance that Michigan adds a huge piece to the class later this afternoon in five-star GA TE Isaac Nauta, who's expected to choose Georgia but has indicated his final decision was much more difficult than many thought. He'll announce sometime during the fourth quarter of the Army game.
Other top targets include five-star DT Rashan Gary, four-star CB David Long, four-star CB Lavert Hill, four-star ATH Jordan Fuller, four-star WDE Levi Onwuzurike, four-star WDE Connor Murphy, four-star TE Devin Asiasi, four-star DT/OL Boss Tagaloa, four-star ILB Dontavoius Jackson, four-star TE Jacob Mathis, three-star ILB Jonathan Jones, three-star WR Pie Young, three-star OLB Khaleke Hudson, and three-star TE Chase Allen.
Here's the class as it currently stands:
On the roundtable this week:
- Craig is back in Hawaii
- Sam is at the Army game
- We talk with Ira about the bowl game, the future, and some basketball in there at the end
- I hope you're so warm you sleep the whole time
THE USUAL LINKS
John Baxter has returned to USC after one year as Michigan's special teams coach. This is not ideal. Despite some late hiccups, Baxter was a godsend for a special teams unit that was amongst the country's worst under Brady Hoke. Michigan went from 66th to 16th in special teams efficiency in a single year under Baxter. Since most of the hiccups were acts of God* rather than strategic or coaching errors he largely lived up to the hype even if Michigan didn't block a billion kicks.
In his absence, Michigan looks set to give Chris Partridge a full assistant job.
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) January 8, 2016
This is good for recruiting. What it means for special teams is unknown—Partridge is likely to come in as a linebackers coach. Jay Harbaugh will probably pick up some of the slack since TE/ST is a common combination, and then you might see Mike Zordich chip in since Michigan is splitting the secondary.
There will probably be a drop. Baxter is the best at what he does and there was a flood of fond goodbyes from Michigan players on twitter—he was well liked. As long as Michigan doesn't go back to NFL punting I'll be happy.
If Michigan does end up promoting Partridge they will need a new recruiting coordinator. Devin Bush Sr., who built Flanagan High into a power from very little, has been rumored to be a candidate for a job even if this hadn't happened. Now you might want to pencil him in. He's basically a Florida version of Partridge. Michigan will hope to make up for Baxter's loss with a crootin bump.
*[Dropped snaps, missed tackles, and ridiculously bad refereeing against MSU, Indiana, and Rutgers, respectively. Michigan got a punt blocked against Penn State that was due to bad tactics.]