Just because that one guy missed them. And because there are a thousand tiny newsbits this week.
Goodbye , Mr. Crankypants. Jim Leavitt is the third coach this season to get the axe for being mean. When was the last time even one coach fired for being a firebreathing monster to his charges? Was it John Makovic? Surely it hasn't been that long. (Gary Moeller doesn't count since his transgression didn't have anything to do with doing something mean and crazy to a student.) Inquiring minds would like to know.
Anyway, while Leavitt's lasting bitterness towards Rich Rodriguez induces a Nelson reaction the cause of that bitterness might come back to bite Michigan. Leavitt tends to react to cheatin' much like Angela Bassett, so I'm pretty sure the animosity stems from Rodriguez's tendency to pirate assistants from USF. Rodriguez yo-ho-ho-ed guys from USF three times (OC Calvin Magee, QB coach Rod Smith, and OL coach Greg Frey) in just a few years.
Now one of those guys might move into the captain's chair in Tampa:
Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney, former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville -- who has strong ties in the state from his tenure on Miami's coaching staff -- and Michigan offensive coordinator Calvin Magee are expected to be candidates to replace Leavitt, a source told ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel.
Tuberville and McCarney are both semi-retreads who were well-respected coaches terminated prematurely—McCarney led Iowa State to its only sustained success in forever—and probably have the inside track. But Tuberville might end up at Texas Tech and Magee does have more connections in Tampa than those guys. He's virtually guaranteed to get an interview since there's a lot of pressure on schools these days to informally adopt a collegiate Rooney Rule. He'll be a serious candidate.
Losing Michigan's offensive coordinator going into a critical season would be bad. Obviously.
Well hang on just a minute. That Chuck Heater rumor I dismissed earlier now seems considerably more plausible:
For the second time this week, the Dolphins have lost a key linebackers coach to the college game.
Thursday it was inside linebackers coach George Edwards who, according to a source, has resigned his position. Edwards, who the source stressed was not fired, will become defensive coordinator at the University of Florida.
This means that Heater is not going to be the defensive coordinator at Florida and suggests he might either be on the outs with the new guy—thus prompting the trial balloon rumor from Huntington—or amenable to a move back to his alma mater. FWIW, Heater and new AD David Brandon overlapped on a few teams in the 70s.
If they can add Heater it would be a coup. He's been coaching in college since two years after his Michigan career ended and has been a recruiting coordinator since 1998 (he lost that title for a promotion to assistant DC at Florida two years ago). He's almost always coached the secondary in his tenure, so it's a little bit of an awkward fit that would require Greg Robinson to handle all the linebackers, but Heater's positives seem to far outweigh that small negative. He has vast experience, excellent recruiting ties, and would be coming home. It remains to be seen whether there was any credibility in that newspaper report; here's hoping.
We has him. So I'm bringing this article from the News up with a warning to remember the wholesale politics ban around these parts. I think this guy is pretty conservative and thus inclined to like David Brandon a hell of a lot but still, sign me up for some despondency at his removal from state politics:
The precise reasons that University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman so ardently wooed Brandon -- deep management experience, sound personnel judgment, crisp communication skills and an impressive leadership mien leavened with a knack for building teams -- are precisely why Brandon will be sorely missed from the public arena that matters most in Michigan.
This 57-year-old guy who played for the legendary Bo Schembechler is leaving the field too early, long before he's done delivering his best play and long before the final gun sounds.
May Brandon's reign be long and profitable. John Bacon also has a classic Bo story involving Brandon.
It is happening.
Thank you. Darren Everson is, AFAIK, the first person to acknowledge that the Big Ten might not be a nuclear wasteland full of things that are bad at football:
In fact, the Big Ten does just fine year after year—in the early New Year's Day bowls that no one remembers. (It's the big games that have been the embarrassments.) Over the past dozen seasons, the Big Ten is now 13-11 against the SEC in the Outback and Capital One bowls. That is a winning record over a significant time span against upper-level SEC teams in SEC country. …
Another myth that needs to die: the belief that Big Ten teams are boring and stuck in the Stone Ages strategically. Northwestern put on arguably the most entertaining bowl performance since Boise State's classic Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma following the 2006 season.
It's a delightful novelty when someone actual forms an opinion based on data coming into his senses.
Etc.: Three Penn State blogs consolidate into one borg blog. DocSat with sympathy for Colt McCoy. I would also like to extend sympathy to everyone who watched that eye-bleeding game in which both coaches seemed determine to out-caveman each other after the McCoy injury.
Michigan 64 Penn State 55, Michigan 8-6 (2-1 Big Ten)
So, uh, What Happened?
I have no idea. I can't afford cable, so I was taking in the game at a local drinking establishment. It was turned off for maybe 5 minutes so we could watch the AWESOME PREGAME for the BCS National Championship game. By the time I convinced the waitress to get the Michigan game turned back on, the margin had gone from 16 points to a more manageable 7. The Wolverines continued to make buckets, and Penn State threw the ball away time and again, resulting in a Michigan victory that actually could have been by a slightly wider margin. I think the difference between halves can be best illustrated by a...
|Stat||Half 1||Half 2|
|Michigan Free Throw%||0.00||83.33|
|Talor Battle Points||9||0|
|Michigan Bench Points||0||0|
So it was a difference of night and day, especially considering that most of the Wolverines' improvement came with less than 12 minutes remaining on the clock. John Beilein's rousing halftime speech (saying absolutely nothing) must have made a huge difference. [Editor's note: this tactic sometimes works in Football Manager.]
Ken Pomeroy was so inspired by this game, that he wrote a blog post about whether it's even possible for a team to win a game without making a 3-pointer (he concludes probably not), since Michigan didn't do so until 11:59 remained in the game. However, it should be noted that it's not like Michigan wasn't trying to make threes, it just so happened that they missed their first 14(!) attempts.
Zack Novak broke the seal with just under 12 minutes to go, Laval Lucas-Perry gave an inspired performance (as he only seems to do on the road), and Michigan drilled 7 of their final 10 attempts to steal the road win. Aside from the inconsistency between halves, there were other causes for concern, of course. As noted above, bench players scored exactly 0 points, though Darius Morris contributed in other ways. There is still a lot of work for this team to do if they want to reach the top half of the conference, despite the 2-game winning streak (the first winning streak of any kind since November).
So What Now?
Michigan fought through one of their worst single halves of the year, and managed to win a game on the road. It remains to be seen whether making it past such adversity will make the team stronger, or scare the crap out of them as they realize how fragile their season truly is. With upcoming home games against Northwestern (Sunday at 2:30 in Crisler) and Northwestern looking more winnable, this season has a chance to make the postseason after all. NIT or Bust, Baby!
Ron Tanner(video) is a junior safety prospect from Columbus, Ohio (I know). Tanner is participating in the US Army All American Junior Combine this week. The combine for juniors starts tomorrow, and Ron will be running a 40, shuttle, vertical jump, and doing some one on one drills. I caught up with him after the check in, and here's what he had to say.
TOM: You’re at the Army combine, did you just check in today?
RON: Yes sir, we checked in tonight, and our performance is tomorrow. We checked in today, and had to fill out a sheet with our top ranked schools on it. I ranked Michigan number one right now, then Northwestern, WVU, Pitt, Ohio State, Miami, and I didn’t put them on there, but Alabama is up there, too.
TOM: So, Michigan is number one for you right now?
RON: Yes, sir.
TOM: What about Michigan makes them number one?
RON: I feel like I could get good playing time up there, and Rich Rodriguez is an excellent coach. He’s rebuilding the program, and I see that. Being at West Virginia, it took him a couple years there to build it up, too. Now he’s recruiting the way he wants to, and they’ll be back at the top. Also, academically, they are at the top.
TOM: A recruit from Columbus always makes Michigan fans nervous. Is Ohio State going to be in the picture soon?
RON: I was a fan of Ohio State growing up as a kid, but I can’t look at my recruitment as a fan. I have to put all that aside, and choose what’s best for me. I really want to look at all the schools, and see where I feel the best, no matter where it is.
TOM: Who’s recruiting you the hardest right now, and how do you see your recruitment playing out?
RON: Northwestern is probably coming at me the hardest right now, but Michigan and West Virginia are showing a lot of interest, a long with Ohio State. I’m going to try to take some visits early on. If I feel comfortable with a decision, I’ll end it, but it could drag out a bit. I’m just going to play it by ear.
|WHAT||Michigan v. Penn State|
|WHERE||University Park, PA|
January 7th, 2010
|THE LINE||Michigan +1.5*|
*Line provided by online sports betting site Sportsbetting.com.
Michigan came into the season with a lofty ranking and proceeded to drop a winnable games left and right. Part of the blame for that may have been going from the hunter to the hunted. The team got complacent. "Understanding success is more difficult than understanding why we played so poorly against Indiana," said John Beilein. Now that the Wolverines are coming off an emotional high against Ohio State, it's important to remain hungry. Beilein: "The overconfidence carried over a little bit, so we had to set that straight in practice."
Two other important factors for Michigan will be more tangible: continuing to get production from members of the team other than Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims, and expanding the amount of time for bench players. "Darius [Morris], Matt [Vogrich] gave us a lift off the bench, Zack Gibson, hopefully those guys will just keep giving us more," said Beilein.
For his part, Morris is comfortable coming off the bench. "I'm able to see before I go right into it what they're running on offense," he said, "and how certain players aren't guarding screens properly, and I make that adjustment when I go in the game."
The Nittany Lions are 8-6 on the year and have lost both of their conference game (at Minnesota and home against Wisconsin). Outside the conference, they've played one heck of a weak schedule, and losing to historic programs like UNC-Wilmington and Tulane. They've also got respectable losses to Temple and Virginia Tech, though the Tech loss came at home. The only top-100 squad that they've beaten is Virginia. Michigan must win to have even a vague chance of a tournament bid.
Any discussion of Penn State's roster starts and ends with Talor Battle, with a few words about some other guys sprinkled in the middle. "They've surrounded him with more shooters again, just like they have in the past," said Beilein. It's clear that Battle is the lifeblood of this team. Zack Novak: "He's really talented and we definitely have to contain him."
Battle is top-20 in percentage of available minutes played, uses more possessions than anyone else on the roster, and has the team's second-best assist rate. Other important Nittany Lions include big men David Jackson, Jeff Brooks and Andrew Jones, who are 1-2-3 in effective field goal percentage on the team. They're the leaders in playing time outside of Battle. 6-10 Jones is the leading rebounder on both ends of the floor.
Penn State doesn't have a single senior on their roster, so Michigan may have an experience advantage for once. "That's the thing we're searching for now, that poise," said Beilein. PSU lost Stanley Pringle and Jamelle Cornley off last year's roster. They're feeling both departures.
If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Penn State: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Penn State Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. PSU Def eFG%||194||133||P|
|Mich Def eFG% v. PSU eFG%||198||135||P|
|Mich TO% v. PSU Def TO%
|Mich Def TO% v. PSU TO%||51||39||P|
|Mich OReb% v. PSU DReb%
|Mich DReb% v. PSU OReb%||270||192||P|
|Mich FTR v. PSU Opp FTR
|Mich Opp FTR v. PSU FTR
|Mich AdjO v. PSU AdjD||77||114||M|
|Mich AdjD v. PSU AdjO||98||94||-|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.
The statistical matchup is interesting here, with huge advantages in a couple categories for both teams. Penn State has a consistent advantage overall. Michigan should be able to hold onto the ball, Penn State should be able to rebound most of Michigan's misses, and the Nittany Lions won't likely send Michigan to the line a lot.
If Michigan wants to win this game, they'll have to continue the defensive renaissance that started with Kansas, took a game off against Indiana, and returned with a vengeance against Ohio State courtesy of surprising Diebler-stopper Stu Douglass. Michigan held the Buckeyes below 45% eFG, after allowing previous opponents to shoot above 50% (and letting Jon Diebler start the game 4/6 on 3-pointers). The Wolverines, despite forcing a lot of opponent turnovers, actually won't have the advantage coming into this game. All of the teams Penn State has lost to have been heavy on man defense, so that may not play into Michigan's advantage.
This game could play out a lot like the Indiana game. If both Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims show up to play, the Wolverine will have a chance to win. They need will require a 40-minute effort to come away with a win. When Penn State goes on a run, Michigan needs to answer. "We just need to keep our poise and become more solid," said Novak, "rather than coming down and thinking 'they're making a run, we need to make the spectacular play." Alas, this looks like another close loss for Michigan on the road.
Beilein gave an endorsement of Brandon's credentials as an athletics guy and not just a businessman as well, saying, "I think he took care of that in the interview process, if there was a concern."
Outside the Lines put together an excellent piece on John Calipari brooming five players from Kentucky's roster as soon as he arrived. (It's technically six but one guy was a potential fifth-year, not an underclassman; ESPN's stretching a bit to make their case.) They mention that other people playing this game are Nick Saban, Billy Donovan, and… John Beilein!?!
Yes, actually, they do. It comes deep into the piece and is a tiny aside but they bring up the guy freakin' heading NCAA basketball's new ethics committee for Michigan's roster turnover amongst the usual sea of sketchy guys with slick hair:
A quick glance at the six departures over two years cited:
Ekpe Udoh. Udoh just turned in a triple-double for Baylor; Beilein obviously didn't want to lose him. Udoh saw 65% of available minutes in Beilein's first year and every time he is brought up a little part of a Michigan basketball fan dies. (Sorry, Eldridge P. Murthel of Saline, but that toe is never going to feel again.)
Reed Baker. Baker was offered an explicitly one-year deal sight unseen by Tommy Amaker (who feared that Dion Harris may have ended up academically ineligible) and took it; Beilein did not renew it. Baker landed at Florida Gulf Coast, where he's playing about 30 minutes a game.
Jerrett Smith. Smith was Kelvin Grady before Kelvin Grady was Kelvin Grady, a point guard who got buried on the depth chart. I believe he didn't come close to meeting Beilein's newly-instituted physical requirements. He transferred to GVSU and played the final year of his career there.
K'Len Morris. Morris also transferred to GVSU. He''s a junior this year; last year he saw 12 games before an injury ended his season. This year he has eight minutes in one game. (Injury again?)
Kendrick Price. Price quit the team when Beilein came in and now plays for the Vermont Frost Heaves of the Premier Basketball League. He is listed as a rookie from Michigan, so I believe he finished his degree at M instead of transferring somewhere else.
Kelvin Grady. Grady ended up buried at the end of the bench behind two walk-ons and decided he wasn't a fit for Beilein's offense. He's still at Michigan, playing receiver for the football team.
Only four of the departures were unexpected or something other than a total disaster for the interior defense and only two of those saw the players actually leave school—this is about academics, after all. Even leaving aside that, Michigan spent last year with ten scholarship players and the year before that with nine. No one was removed from the team to make room for a hotshot freshman. Creating standards your players have to meet to find playing time and seeing them transfer or quit because they don't, as Smith, Morris, and Price did, is totally different than cutting players so you can sign John Wall.
I don't bring this up to be defensive; it's just that the most common defense of this stuff on the part of folk who should be defensive is to bring up normal, un-sketchy attrition and attempt to draw a comparison. John Beilein (of all people!) is nothing like John Calipari.
Other than that, though, the piece is excellent. Three former UK players are quoted on-camera saying that they were cut. Cut with weaselly plausible deniability, but cut. Predictably, the comments are a horde of UK fans talking about haterz seeing them rolling. Jemele Hill's claim that UK fans would root for Charles Manson if he won is the most accurate statement that's ever been apologized for.
Broken record time: the NCAA should do something about this. Kudos to ESPN for ratcheting up the pressure.
Is there a space ray of some variety that explains this? Mark my words: sometime in the next couple years Jim Tressel will be revealed as a Bond villain whose nefarious plot was to create and deploy some sort of negative PR black hole in Ann Arbor.
Unlike all other Bond villains, his plan has been wildly successful. It took freshly minted Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon two days to land a tiny cameo on the Colbert Report in the midst of a segment on Domino's ballsy decision to admit that their core product is terrible:
Getting hired as Michigan AD opens the floodgates. By this time next week Brandon will see a real estate deal go sour, various critical members of the athletic department leave for Arkansas, and a pack of velociraptors with digital recorders tear his tasty flesh into long, delicious strips.
Mmmm. Athletic director velociraptor horror bacon.
At least Brandon is well versed in admitting that the core product is a shambolic mess and taking steps towards actual pizza, be it in food or bowl game varieties.
Yes. This is happening.
Time to call Charles Atlas. Yesterday on the Sporting Blog I pointed out that the Big Ten's bowl performance was somewhere between good and outstanding, depending on whether you want to take peripherals like yards into account, and asked anyone else who writes about college football to notice. Whether they will is yet to be seen.
In the course of it I linked to Rutgers blog Bleed Scarlet's sarcastic reaction to the Big Ten expansion hoopla in an effort to prove just how much crap the Big Ten has been fielding since Ohio State faceplanted against Florida three years ago. When a team whose main accomplishment in the 141 years since it played in the first college football game has been not ceasing to exist is talking smack, you have an image problem that goes beyond rational discussion.
And indeed, Bleed Scarlet notes the post and responds with one of its own that ends like so:
Even if Michigan ever does improve to the point that Big Ten football isn’t a national punchline, the conference as a whole can never fairly receive enough ridicule and disrespect.
What the hell? BS's main complaint appears to be that more people watch Big Ten football even if it's Illinois-Purdue (which was on ESPN) instead of USF-Pitt (which was exiled to Somalia), as if this was a choice ESPN had instead of a long-term contract the Big Ten earned by virtue of having teams people like to watch on television. I mean:
That’s why it’s so maddening that even today, Brian celebrates that the Big Ten is on equal financial footing with the SEC – how is that warranted at all on the merits?
What merits? The Big Ten earns a lot of money because they have a ton of alumni, a culture in which football is important, and a history of success that doesn't evaporate because the conference has struggled through some tough years. Nobody votes except with their dollars and eyes. This isn't a democracy. We're not having a recount. Whine about a lack of Big East respect all you want when it comes to automatic BCS bids—not that the Big Ten has ever spit out the dreck the Big East has with its automatic qualifier—but complaining that it's not fair when it comes to money makes you sound like a fake nihilist with a nine-toed woman.
The Big Ten's recent poor run in the bowls have to do with six letters: USC, which the Big Ten has had to play just about every year since the Trojans can't be bothered against one Pac-10 opponent per season, and BCS, which has dragged more Big Ten runners-up into the big time than any other conference and set up unfavorable matchups down the chain. A few years ago 9-3 Texas played a 6-6 Iowa outfit that had gone 2-6 in conference. Texas won by 3, and somehow the Big Ten's reputation took a hit.
A name to ignore. Probably. I don't think this qualifies as actual information about the mysterious assistant coach opening for reasons that will be bolded. It's an article about Marshall's open defensive coordinator spot:
Is it Chuck Heater?
The University of Florida defensive coach seems like a longshot. Yes, he is the father-in-law of new Marshall defensive line coach Rich Cronin, but this is business.
That's why Heater reportedly is interested in Michigan's vacant defensive coordinator job. ... and vice-versa. Besides that, there still are rumbles about the possibility of Heater staying with the Gators as co-defensive coordinator.
Michigan, obviously, does not have a vacant defensive coordinator job. And since Heater is the "assistant defensive coordinator" on a staff that just lost its defensive coordinator, chances are he's in line for a promotion at a school that isn't Marshall or a poor season or two away from a coaching change. Heater has no history with Rodriguez or Greg Robinson—he's bounced around a lot but never to a spot where either happened to be—and wouldn't be getting a promotion at Michigan. At best he could be the assistant defensive coordinator. The only way this happens is if Meyer brings in a new DC who sweeps out some or all of the existing folk in favor of his own guys.
Harumph. This was covered somewhat in the recruiting post yesterday but a follow-up from me: six players, all on offense, enrolled early but safety Marvin Robinson and quarterback Devin Gardner did not. That's unfortunate because if you asked me to pick the two guys I wanted in early most, I would have picked Robinson and Gardner. I'm still hoping that Gardner can find a way to redshirt this fall—this news definitely increases the chances of that—but if Forcier gets injured, having a slightly more experienced Gardner could be the difference between Rich Rodriguez taking root and getting swept out the door.
That's still less likely to have an impact than Robinson's absence. Robinson is either a safety or an OLB (or "spinner"; from now on I'm just calling the two non-spinners MLBs and the spinner and OLB) and would obviously have been in contention for a starting job somewhere if he enrolled.
Still, it is good to have both Stephen Hopkins and Austin White in early; with the seniors out the door and presumed starter Vincent Smith laid up with an ACL tear that may last into the fall, those two, Mike Shaw, Mike Cox, and Fitzgerald Toussaint will go to war to be 1B to Smith's probable 1A.
Boo, but in a yay way. Hockey picked up a big commit for 2012 in forward Cristoval "Boo" Nieves, who the Hockey News interviewed about a month ago. He was the top player at the USA Select 15s and, FWIW, a guy on Hockey's Future relays that one of the OHL draft scouting services ranks him in the top ten. Apparently he has no interest in that route. That can change, obviously. Please allow me to go weep about Jack Campbell over here.