Mike Lantry, 1972
The Problem With Season Previews
They all basically say the same thing. X is gone, Y impressed in the spring, check out A, B, and C to step up. Y, A, B, and C generally change from preview to preview as various writers throw darts at the team's roster.
Unfortunately, I've found that I can't avoid that formula. There's not much to write about if I don't. And, like basically everyone else, I haven't watched Indiana's practices or gone over Iowa's games from last year or put the time in to really understand what Wisconsin is trying to do and how likely they are to be successful. So this is something of an exercise in futility.
What I've tried to do to reduce the futility is something like what I did with the top 50 hockey recruits list... listen to the wisdom of crowds. I take input from the school's media guides, CFN and USA Today previews, and, importantly, I actually ask fans of the team for input and listen carefully to it--after nudging their expectations down a notch or two to dampen homerism. Why do I do this? Because I know damn well that every time a Michigan preview gets posted anywhere it immediately gets its errors torn to shreds by Michigan fans. A fan collective on any message board knows far more about its particular focus than any sportswriter does. The problem is separating out the over-optimistic rah-rah poofery from the legitimate information.
Another thing I've tried to do is not fall into the traps I commonly see others do. To wit:
- I won't focus on who's gone. Braylon Edwards won't be catching bombs from Chad Henne any more but what's more important is that Michigan returns Steve Breaston and Jason Avant. They'll hardly miss a beat.
- I'll try to provide a range of expectations and point out the things I believe a team has to do to reach the upper end of the range.
- I will revise. After each preview is posted I'll post it on the appropriate team's board and let the rip-fest begin. Anything of value I'll incorporate.
I rank each team's units (QB, RBs/FBs, WRs/TEs, OL, DL, LB, DB, Ret, K) on a five point scale like so:
1 - A unit with no experience at all or one that has been proven to be awful. Will probably be one of the worst in the conference. A glaring weakness.
2 - A unit that was shaky last year and doesn't look to improve much, or a lightly experienced group that could hold up if given a lot of support.
3 - Basically average.
4 - A good group of experienced players or a mix of experience and excellent potential, or a great group that's dangerously thin.
5 - Should be a top two unit in the conference. This unit returns a number of players who have proven themselves to be quality Big Ten players and has the depth to withstand an injury or two without a large dropoff in the quality of play.
I'm busy today writing up a detailed preview of Indiana Football, 2005. Particularly useful? No. But it's got to be done.
In lieu of fantastic content from me, then, check out some fantastic content from iBlog For Cookies. If you can stand it, that is. IBFC tackles the nasty subject of the linebackers failing to do much of anything good during the Rose Bowl. There is also more evidence that Ryan Mundy has never met an angle that he can't screw up.
Hopefully this Indiana thing will get done today, but I ain't promisin'.
Update 5/20: Removed IL WR Chris James after he committed to Illinois. Good get for Zook. Added note that AJ Wallace will attend summer camp. Added OH WR Robby Paris, OK QB Sam Bradford, GA DE Jermaine Cunningham.
I've had a fondness for the Bentley Historical Library ever since someone employed by it emailed the Every Three Weekly to request a copy of an issue they had somehow missed. We had never informed the Bentley of our existence, but that did not deter them from finding and salting away copies of our ridiculous little magazine for posterity's sake. I envisioned that millenia from now, after the inevitable nuclear holocaust caused by an Ohio State grad pushing a button he shouldn't and saying "duh-uh-uh want a cookie," the Bentley Library would stand alone in the post-apocalyptic horror show with things like "70 Laser Wielding Robots Not Loose On North Campus" encased safely behind plexiglass. I immediatey put the sword to about six "Bentley Library Found Useful By Useless Persons" articles, as it never pays to offend anybody with the good sense to archive your writings.
I had forgotten about my love for the Bentley until recently. I was searching for images of Desmond Howard to splice into the logo you see above and encountered a weird black and white headshot that I followed to the Bentley Image Bank, which I soon discovered was fantastic. You can see Fielding Yost buy a Liberty Bond, Tom Harmon doing his best Zoltan the Inconceivable impression, a panoramic view of the 1902 Rose Bowl (which was about as well attended as an MSU hockey game), or Michigan Stadium's first ever OSU game (note all the people wearing hats).
Red looks a little less cranky than usual.
This cover wins the prize for most inexplicable:
Why is a giant chicken skateboarding on the edge of the stadium? It is the mystery.
Giant Skateboarding Chicken excepted, I prefer the idiosyncratic drawings from the early years of Michigan football:
My favorite part of this one is the Michigan State players fleeing in terror. Second favorite is the World War I soldiers on the bottom with the silly hats and socks. Trench warfare is horrific, but that's no excuse to be badly dressed, gentlemen.
This man is definitely saying "I'm a plane! A great big plane with wings!" to himself.
Several of the covers during the 20s gloried in the art of the punt... no doubt something that warms the cockles of Carr's heart.
What's that? You're complaining about another image-heavy, content-light post? Fair enough, but that was a chicken on a skateboard on the cover of a Michigan football program. You should need a lie-down and perhaps some smelling salts.
Update: Commenters point out that the Chicken is the "San Diego Chicken," who was brought in to boost attendance for the Wayne State-Slippery Rock Band day, and that the Michigan Stadium picture pointed out isn't the first game but rather the dedication game during the stadium's first year.
Like I said earlier, it never ends. You're Ohio State. Defensive lineman Tim Schafer was arrested for brawling in the wee hours of the morning today. My favoirte detail: "Police say both men were bloody and had bite marks." Dude.
Also, USA Today cries foul about the OSU investigation turning up nothing of significance behind Maurice Clarett's allegations. Summer shaping up rather nasty for the Buckeyes.
While I'm out scouring the internet for goofy pictures of NBA players, The Blue-Gray Sky is putting me to shame. They've posted an awesome rundown of the top 50 recruits from the 2002 class. They classify players as injured, MIA (due to academics or bashin' people in the head), overrated, or basically correct. Only one Michigan recruit checks in on the list, #35 Gabe Watson. He gets a "correct" rating.
I had to double-check that, thinking that surely mighty Michigan reeled in more than one top-fifty player, but they're right. Watson was around #35 in the country. Matt Gutierrez checked in at #98. Those were the only two players Michigan landed in the top 100. Michigan's class that year ended up pretty ugly. Watson, Jason Avant, Steve Breaston, and Ruben Riley are the only guys who have contributed significantly up to this point. Jeremy Van Alystyne, David Harris, Carl Tabb, and Mike Kolodziej have been fringe contributors and will probably be useful players, perhaps starters, if they can stay healthy. The rest? Bupkis.
I wish they had classified players with a little more detail. Both Florida's Deshawn Wynn and Virginia's Kai Parham get dinged with "overrated," but Wynn has been a complete bust and Parham has been a steady performer. Maybe the gurus overrated Parham a bit but he's no waste of space. A minor quibble... the professionalism of BGS is astounding. Every post is a mechanically perfect brick of enlightenment. But has BGS ever shown you this: