this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
This is the part where we flesh out our opinions on specific teams. As part of the two-preseason-poll thing we have this: a roundtable in which people, bloggers and commenters alike, are invited to take a look at the preseason poll and answer the following questions:
Who is overrated?
Who is underrated?
This roundtable has a quick turnaround, so I'll be gathering responses for a roundup post Monday in which I'll attempt to summarize the general feeling and highlight the best reasons given. Get crackin'!
Oh, programming notes. Oh yes. So. Um. A few things:
- On the morning of the Appalachian State game you can catch me on WJR at 7:35 AM. Should be about ten minutes. More likely you'll be asleep, but...
- if you think that's a ridiculous time to get up I will also be on WAAM 1600 for their pregame show. Starts at 10 AM, tentatively scheduled for a half-hour. Also...
- This fall I will be on Channel 4's "Sports Final Edition" on a weekly basis. SFE runs at 11:30 Sunday nights (-ish, depending on Sunday Night Football's length). The first probably very nervous and horrible one will be this Sunday. It's only three minutes so chances of communicating useful information you don't know are probably pretty slim, but during the season there will be clips of plays and a sort of UFR-y breakdown of them, which will hopefully be cool. So, yeah. There's that. I am accepting donations of cigarettes and blindfolds.
Marques Slocum! Right. Facebook indicates that Marques Slocum is dinged in some fashion:
Marques 'Grand Marques' Slocumis f***in' mad right now cuz im f***in' hurt but its cool cuz ima be back real soon, ima grind through dis bitch! EARLY!
(BTW: Jesus, Marques, do you have to have every single available Facebook widget on your profile?) There was a post on the Rivals free board from "Master Raptor" -- who has been accurate in the past -- indicating that Slocum had a dislocated shoulder, but that was disputed. I submit that Slocum knows if he is hurt or not, so he is.
Yeah, whoops. MVictors has a nice review of HTTV 2007 with a salient criticism:
- No where did the guide break down Michigan's special team units. How is Zoltan going to win the Heisman if he doesn't get some mention this publications such as this?
This is true and it is my bad; it was like a week before publishing that I realized I had totally ignored special teams. But he likes the rest of the book! So does my Grandma! Buy it!
Note: if you see last week's poll it's a cache thing, I think. Refresh should cure it.
Hurray, that's the poll hurray. If you're interested, you can see all the individual ballots here.
Hey, kids! What's going on? We've all got this poll here. USC is your #1 by an overwhelming margin, as you might expect. The fruitcakes who think USC is not the greatest team in the history of all time (links all go to ballots):
- Falcon Nation voted for LSU.
- Dawg Sports voted for Michigan. (Awww.)
- Cock & Fire and Dump Dorrell went with Texas.
- Bruins Nation and The Bemusement Park went with West Virginia.
- 50-Yard Lion and Frank McGrath voted for Florida.
- The Enlightened Spartan picked Wisconsin.
So there you go.
There are some significant differences between the Blogpoll and the AP:
- Michigan is #3 and Texas #4 with WVU #5 in the Blogpoll; WVU, perhaps bolstered by schedule-rankers (a practice verboten here), is #3 in the AP.
- The only mid-major in the Blogpoll is #22 Hawaii, which is #23 in the AP. TCU and Boise State are #22 and #24, respectively, in the AP.
- Bloggers believe in the OBC: South Carolina is #23 and not present in the AP.
- Bloggers do not believe in Rutgers, ranking them #21. RU is #16 in the AP.
- Despite the first place vote, Wisconsin comes in at #9 instead of #7 in the AP.
- Oklahoma is #6 instead of #8.
Wack Ballot Watchdog:
This chiding is saved for in-season thing. Now everyone's got an opinion that's as defensible as any other (not at all) because no one's played anyone.
Note: the CSS below is messed up. Sorry. Will fix ASAP.
Now on to the extracurriculars. First up are the teams which spur the most and least disagreement between voters as measured by standard deviation. Note that the standard deviation charts halt at #25 when looking for the lowest, otherwise teams that everyone agreed were terrible (say, Eastern Michigan) would all be at the top.
USC is the least divisive team, obviously. Michigan follows, then Texas and Oklahoma. More interesting are the most disagreed-upon teams in the poll: Arkansas, Georgia, Florida State, and South Carolina. Arkansas has all the Nutt trauma, Georgia has a true sophomore QB and no offensive line, Florida State an entirely new offensive brain trust, and South Carolina has a bunch of returning starters plus the OBC.
Ballot math: First up are "Mr. Bold" and "Mr. Numb Existence." The former goes to the voter with the ballot most divergent from the poll at large. The number you see is the average difference between a person's opinion of a team and the poll's opinion.
Mr. Bold is Ramblin' Racket. This is due in no small part to RR ranking GT #10, which also won him the CK Award. Other ballot weirdness, with the caveat that this is a preseason poll and RR is entitled to whatever opinions he desires so long as he can defend them: #5 Cal, #6 Arkansas, #7 Oklahoma State(!!! -- a misclick? must be an OU misclick), #17 Ohio State, #18 Oklahoma (!!! -- not a misclick!), #19 UL, #20 UW. Lucy: 'splain, please.
Mr. Numb Existence is USC blog Conquest Chronicles. As per usual there's not that much to comment on in this category. Congratulations to CC for being most in-tune with the blogger hive mind.
Next we have the Coulter/Krugman Award and the Straight Bangin' Award, which are again different sides of the same coin. The CKA and SBA go to the blogs with the highest and lowest bias rating, respectively. Bias rating is calculated by subtracting the blogger's vote for his own team from the poll-wide average. A high number indicates you are shameless homer. A low number indicates that you suffer from an abusive relationship with your football team.
The CK Award for preseason ballot #1 goes to Ramblin' Racket for ranking Georgia Tech #10. I have a long memory for this: Ramblin' Racket won this last year for ranking the Jackets #8. What part of "Chan Gailey Equilibrium" does RR not understand?
Also, for a blog that wants Karl Dorrell run out of town on a rail for being the worst coach in the history of the universe, Bruins Nation sure is enthusiastic about UCLA's chances this year. What's the deal? If he's really that awful a coach how can that ranking be justified?
Straight Bangin' Award continues a rich tradition of being the near-exclusive province of Michigan bloggers -- a bunch of Eeyores, we are -- by going to the M Zone. Michigan is #11 on their ballot. Also note the more philosophically consistent position of Dump Dorrell, if you would.
Swing is the total change in each ballot from last week to this week (obviously voters who didn't submit a ballot last week are not included). A high number means you are easily distracted by shiny things. A low number means that you're damn sure you're right no matter what reality says.
Swing doesn't exist in the year's first poll.
Blogger's totally f-ed up and won't let me bring up the old poll template. When it ceases being so I'll post the first Blogpoll of 2007.
Carr says things here; the captains say things here. Full audio here. There wasn't a lot from the captains that can be used as tea leaves for the position battles ongoing, but Jake Long did drop a couple names on the offensive line:
â€¢ On sophomore offensive lineman Stephen Schilling ... "He's had a great camp so far. He got a lot stronger in the off-season, and he's got quick feet. I think he's really impressed the coaches. He's been pushing guys around and his footwork has gotten better. He's only been here two weeks and he's been able to pick things up right away. He's a smart guy. He's powerful. I'm really impressed with how smart he is. He's picking everything up real well and improving the offense."
On the younger players on the offensive line ... "They've really stepped up. You can really tell that Stephen (Schilling) worked hard in the off-season. You can tell he got a lot stronger; his footwork and technique has gotten a lot better. He has a great work ethic, and you can tell he really wants the job. David (Molk), for being here just over two weeks, he's really picked up the offense. He's a smart guy, and he's so strong and powerful. He's really been impressive in his blocking and picking up everything he needs to."
Molk's push has been made possible by injury to Alex Mitchell and Jeremy Cuilla, who was one of many guys missing a week here or there. He moved over from center. Impression: wary. I liked Molk as a recruit, but he's pretty undersized and is a true freshman. Seeing him on the field against anyone other than Appalachian State would be uncomfortable. Schilling, OTOH, has a death grip on right tackle and looks on his way to a Jake Long-level career.
Carr had a lot more to parse. More on Schilling:
At right tackle, Steve Schilling has had an excellent fall. He's an extremely talented guy, with great size and athletic ability. He's a guy that is smart and that loves to play. He will be a great player here someday.
"Mark Ortmann has done a very good job and has competed well. Perry Dorrestein ... it's just too close to call at this point."
I call BS on the "too close to call" given the nonstop Schillingfest going on -- Carr was responding to a general question about all of the position battles going on and went right to him. He's the man.
We have a kickoff guy: Bryan Wright. We do not have an actual kicker. Frowns. Alarm. Etc. I do like that Wright has a big leg and has locked down the kickoff job. With kicks from the 30, an excellent kickoff guy is worth his weight in gold. And it can't be Brabbs/Neinberg/Finley bad, right? Right?
"The fullback competition is very intense. Mark Moundros has had a very good fall. Vince Helmuth is competing well. I think that will go right down to the wire, as far as the fullback position."
Probably not a huge deal either way.
Middle linebacker is down to two:
At the Mike linebacker position, John Thompson and Obi Ezeh -- those two guys are really in a spirited competition. I think it's safe to say both of them are going to play a very important role.
This answer is more notable for the absence of JUCO transfer Austin Panter than anything else. A redshirt is now a serious possibility. Carr said the competition would extend into the fall.
On the weakside, Jonas Mouton is one of a parade of ankle sprains/twists; Chris Graham has "really improved as a pass defender." Graham retains the starting job going into the fall.
Cornerback, 2007's Position of Dread:
Johnny Sears has had an outstanding fall. He's a guy who when we recruited him ... he really played a significant role a year ago on special teams. He made some great plays on the kickoff. He's a guy that plays without any fear. He's a very tough, hard-nosed player, and I think he's really matured at the corner. He's had a very good fall.
That's the second shout-out from the coaches after English raved about him on WTKA. I and anyone who saw him last year remain skeptical, but Sears is a guy whose potential might take a bit longer to reach given his lack of high school experience. Brandon Harrison also got the "excellent fall"; "Vance was very pleased" with Morgan Trent. I dunno how well this meshes with both Donovan Warren and Troy Woolfolk seeing the field as freshmen.
Free safety is not necessarily Stevie Brown's job:
Stevie Brown is really a physical player. He's still a young player, has a lot of things to learn. Charles Stewart has made the move in there. I like both those guys; I think they are both going to play. I think they are both guys that are going to make a real contribution in a lot of areas on this team. That position right now is probably up for grabs, so we'll see what happens there.
A classic glass half-empty or -full situation. Is Brown not worthy of the hype? Is Stewart proving himself a useful safety? Dunno.
Johnny Sears has done an excellent job returning punts. We practiced yesterday morning in the stadium in a torrential rain. It was a very valuable practice from the standpoint of learning how you have to play different when the ball is wet. That's particularly true in the return game, as a receiver, as a quarterback and center ... I think we learned some things yesterday. ... Greg Mathews is really a reliable guy in terms of handling the football, and that's what a return guy has to prove.
I like this answer. No offense to Mathews, but when his name is plugged as a potential punt returner images of Diallo Johnson dance in my head. Sears has speed to burn and it appears he's the leader at the moment. Also called out as potential guys here: James Rogers and Donovan Warren. I would still expect a Rogers redshirt.
Kick returners mentioned: Brandon Minor(!) and freshman tailback Avery Horn. Carr mentioned some tailback depth concerns with using Minor, which was my initial thought too.
Right tackle is Schilling's; the line is set assuming a reasonable return for Mitchell. Panter is not the starting middle linebacker; Sears, Harrison, and Trent are all getting unreasonable amounts of praise that could be highly dubious. Stewart and Brown are locked in a battle for the free safety position; someone will return kicks and punts.
Few changes, though I did add Tennessee at #17, bumping a bunch of teams down. Poll now features no count-'em no non-BCS teams after dispatching #25 Hawaii. I feel a little bad about this but not particularly.
My selection of Iowa was questioned. A response: It's always bad when you lose a longterm starter at quarterback but Drew Tate didn't exactly play his ass off last year. His departure will be slightly less of a problem. Jake Christensen is the obvious replacement and a highly touted recruit. He'll probably be a dropoff but he's been groomed for a couple years. At RB, I like Albert Young and Damian Sims, especially if Sims can remain healthy, and the WR corps returns intact. Maybe. Pending Dominque Douglas's status after stealing lots of hats.
On defense, Iowa returns everyone on a pretty good defensive line. Brian Mattison is an underrated player; Ken Iwebema is getting some hype as a potential high NFL draft pick, and the tackles are getting to the point where they're actually experienced and large enough to damage people. King and Kroul were just sophomores a year ago, and King showed a lot of promise when he wasn't injured -- infrequently. Two starters return at linebacker and they have some nice recruits there in Jeremiha Hunter and AJ Edds. I will not say anything positive about the secondary. I hate it. It is loatheable.
Also, two things: Iowa was highly, highly negative in TO margin a year ago (111th) and will probably repair that -- Tate was responsible for much of it -- and there was a window in which Ty Willingham was killing ND recruiting and Illinois was still laboring under the pre-Zook ineptness (instead of the very particular Zook ineptness, which has awesome recruiting). This created an opportunity for Iowa to raid a bumper crop of Illinois recruits, who are now juniors entering the starting lineup. I think Iowa has major potential to be the surprise of the season, and not just because they miss OSU and Michigan. But I rated them #2 last year and they are Dead To Me so take it with a grain of salt.
I still hate Penn State #8. I do. I would be more comfortable with them at 12 or 15 or something but I can't find anyone below them I really believe in. I am still skeptical about UL as an actual power team, Oregon was a mess last year and its QB played baseball (and no one else is nearly as enthused as I am anyway), Florida loses nine defensive starters and its quarterback and still has no running game. I dunno. Maybe I should shove them higher just based on recruiting rankings and Meyer's ability to mitigate whatever issues his team has brilliantly. But... man. That's a lot of losses. I also hate to a slightly lesser extent OSU #9 and Wisconsin #11 (down one, I slid UL up), but both teams should have defenses that are at least solid and pounding running attacks that are the potatoes to the meat on the other side of the ball.
I'm still looking for feedback; this ballot is due tomorrow at 10AM but there is a second preseason ballot in a week.