Aaand scene. Rivals is the last major scouting service to revise its rankings after Evan Smotrycz's impressive AAU showings. The result:
Evan Smotrycz A highly skilled forward with some bounce.
Smotrycz is about a dozen spots away from the last four-star, FWIW. He's gone from flier to the highest ranked post Beilein has ever recruited ever. Woo!
Revised opinion. I've cited Smart Football's concerns about a lack of sophistication in Rich Rodriguez's passing game a couple times because Smart Football is a blog by a football coach intimately familiar with the spread offense. When SF talks, I listen. So this is reassuring to hear:
I spent a substantial amount of time this offseason researching Michigan's offense (the results of which are to published, but not necessarily on the web -- though I hope to eventually get it out here or elsewhere that can be linked to). I will admit that I went into it thinking that there was some looming structural/strategic problem with Rodriguez's offense -- that's just my bent. Players win games obviously but I like blaming coaches more, and in any event all coaches have to work with what they have. But I quickly decided that, yes, there were things for Rodriguez to work on, but the biggest thing for Michigan was just to find a quarterback, any quarterback really. And, though he is but a wee true freshman, and a rather wispy one at that, Tate Forcier does appear positioned to at least be better for Michigan and Rodriguez than anyone they had last year.
This isn't a total retraction, as the criticism was one built on Rodriguez's tenure at West Virginia. There Pat White obviated the need for whiz-bang passing systems; this did not so much happen last year and the results were plain to see.
SF's larger point, as I understand it, is that the spread has gone from exotic to standard: Rodriguez has lost the advantage of surprise and will have to evolve further if he's going to match the offensive output of West Virginia at its zenith. It has to evolve, anyway, as Tate Forcier is a nimble, deadly accurate passer and not possessed of ACME brand rocket skates a la White.
By the way: that research is going into Hail To The Victors 2009, about which I'm terribly excited.
About this we all agree. Ask anyone not directly affiliated with the coaches poll about said organization's effort to move the poll ever-deeper into secrecy and they will say "that's a retarded idea," or words to that effect. Ask the directly affiliated, though, and they'll spin your face off:
"The perception is that there's a huge bias, and we've never really found that," Teaff said.
Thankfully, someone bothered to look at the numbers and blew this up. The Blue-Gray Sky sayeth:
On average, each coach rates every team in his own conference about one position higher than the rest of the voters. … On average, a coach placed his own team 1.7 spots higher than the rest of the voters. … coaches ranked a team .7 positions higher if they actually played the team during the regular season. …
It comes as no surprise that the Coaches Poll is fraught with bias. However, since this is the first year we actually get to see the results, it's still somewhat shocking to see such blatant gamesmanship laid bare. The supposed advantage of the BCS polls, and the Coaches poll in particular, is that you have a body of "football experts" who are ranking the teams; their vast experience and acumen is supposed to lend the poll unquestioned authenticity.
There may be some debate about whether the numbers cited represent a "huge" bias. Take it from a guy who's run a squabbly, transparent college football poll for going on four years: that's a significant finding. (It's also one that would probably be replicated if you tried it on the BlogPoll; the argument here is not that the poll should be part of the BCS but that the coaches certainly shouldn't, especially if they're going to be secretive about it.)
Offensive linin'. The Wall Street Journal drills further down on their offensive line thing mentioned earlier, providing charts for every BCS conference. The Big Ten promises to put the lie to their theory about the importance of this, though: while Iowa finishes #1, the next four teams are Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan, and Northwestern. Yikes.
Why can't they all be club sports? Michigan's lacrosse team is into the national semifinals after obliterating the Sonoma State Seawolves, and the Ultimate Frisbee team had a season-ending run that, if replicated in a major sport, would be legend passed down from generation to generation. The situation:
- Enter double-elimination regional tournament as the top seed
- Blow first game against Illinois (possibly after having an eighteen-point lead?)
- End Notre Dame's season in next game
- End Ohio State's season in next game
- Qualify for nationals, which are in Columbus
Ultimate Frisbee Diarist "uofmmarcum" has details for anyone interested in catching the national tourney:
If you feel like following the team at Nationals the tournament is Friday, May 22nd-Monday, May 25. You can follow it online at http://college2009.upa.org/
Also. A reminder that it's gorgeous today and the softball regional gets underway. Michigan faces off against Miami of Ohio (not that Miami of Ohio) at 7.
Etc.: John Bacon's last lecture in glorious streaming video.
Kelvin's out, and Kevin, already hanging by a thread after literally drinking himself into a stupor last offseason, has racked up another strike:
Kevin Grady, the former East Grand Rapids football standout and a University of Michigan player, is in jail for seven days after violating his probation on a 2008 drunken driving conviction. …
Court officials said he failed to properly report to probation agents in Ann Arbor, failed to complete a victim impact panel and alcohol highway safety education class, failed to complete 24 hours of community service and tested positive for opiates, a type of pain killer.
…so, yeah, he basically didn't do anything the court asked him to do. Rodriguez might decide to give him the boot. That wouldn't open up a scholarship, since Grady is a senior. Nor would it make much difference for Michigan's prospects next year.
My main question: can you get Fulmer Cup points for inaction?
Previously: S Vlad Emilien, S Thomas Gordon, CB Justin Turner, CB Adrian Witty, LB Isaiah Bell, LB Mike Jones, LB Brandin Hawthorne, DT Will Campbell, DE Anthony LaLota, DE Craig Roh, OL Michael Schofield, OL Taylor Lewan, OL Quinton Washington, and WR Cameron Gordon.
|Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - 6'1" 180
|Scout||4*, #17 WR, #169 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #14 WR, #104 overall|
|ESPN||82, #8 WR, #69 overall|
|Others||#60 to TAKKLE, #53 on the Athlon consensus list, #40 to TSN.|
|Other Suitors||Georgia, Penn State, Tennessee, Illinois|
|TomVH interviews Stokes.|
|Notes||Tennessee decommit; Army AA; brother is 2010 QB|
When Je'Ron Stokes committed to Michigan I was in an airport about to board a plane for Egypt by way of Germany, and as soon as he did I logged off and forgot all about him. Ever since when something reminds me of that commitment, it's like a weird bonus: oh, yeah, that universally-praised wide receiver in the class I never remember. He's like a ghost recruit.
So it's ironic that Stokes is one of the best-scouted and most-well-known players in the class. He first burst onto the scene as a sophomore, when he started hitting camps and killing them:
Stokes, 6-foot-1 and 171-pounds, was named the MVP, with a 28-inch vertical, 8’8” broad, 4.49 shuttle, 4.62 40, 21 reps at 150-pounds, and a number of circus catches during 1-on-1’s.
From appearances he went to virtually every camp within reasonable driving distance of Philadelphia, establishing his athletic bonafides time and again. It's gotten to the point where people in Pennsylvania name-check Stokes when they're trying to hype up their own kids:
Harrigan said of Jackson: "…for my money, not even that kid from Northeast [Tennessee-commit Je'Ron Stokes] has anything on Malik when it comes to athleticism."
This familiarity led to an avalanche of early offers. By the time he committed to Tennessee he had a boatload of major ones:
Stokes had offers from all over the map, including UCLA, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, N.C. State, Oklahoma and Rutgers.
Penn State and Notre Dame were also on that list; later Georgia would try to get involved. Oddly, Rich Rodriguez's offer gun would skip Stokes until a few days after his commitment. This would become relevant when Phil Fulmer went out the door, Lane Kiffin entered, and Tajh Boyd got cut loose. Understandably leery of Tennessee's quarterback situation, Stokes re-opened his recruiting, focused on Penn State, Michigan, Illinois, and picked Michigan on signing day. Divers alarums.
Ghost recruit can play. ESPN was extremely enthused, saying he's a "really good football player, no matter how you slice it" and ranking him well within their top 100. Details:
He's a high-motor player who is aggressive in everything he does. Always seems to be going full speed. Has very good height and a wiry build that can take on additional bulk and get stronger. Has exceptional foot quickness and appears faster than he is. He's sudden, shifty and explosive. May not be a true burner, but his long speed is very good. Can line up outside or in the slot, where he shows very good zone awareness. Knows how to find open holes, settle in soft spots and work the intermediate zones. Has the quickness and acceleration to separate from man-to-man coverage. He's very explosive out of the break. Shows soft hands and plucks with ease on the run. He's a very good leaper who can elevate to high-point the ball and make difficult catches in traffic. Has the ability to threaten defenses vertically because he reaches his top speed so quickly. Works the middle of the field a lot as a slot receiver and shows some toughness.
ESPN does provide some notes of caution about route-running, but yow! The Pittsburgh Sports Report echoes:
An electrifying game breaker with excellent speed, Stokes could use more size on his current 6’1” and 180 pound frame. He has great hands, knows how to get open, makes a lot of acrobatic catches and is terrific after the catch.
"Great hands" was a descriptor I came across with regularity during this googlestalk. Another example, this from a major combine where Stokes took home the offensive MVP:
Stokes, from Philadelphia (Pa.) Northeast, was dominant in the one-on-one drills, showing off his excellent route-running, quickness in and out of his cuts and great hands en route to his award. It didn't matter what route he ran, he was smooth, got separation and caught any ball within reach.
Aaand how about one more from Athlon:
When the ball is in the air he has what scouts like to call ownership of the ball. It is his and his alone. He uses solid leaping abiliy, good hands and tremendous body control to make tough catches in traffic.
Though Stokes is slightly less well-regarded on the other major sites, he started off around the same level on Scout, where he was a five-star at one point, and Rivals, where he was in the top 50, before a steady drop over the course of his senior season. Why? I couldn't find any explanations, except a mention in that Athlon article about Stokes playing mostly defense towards the end of the year.
I did get an email from a reader who had corresponded with a local preps guy not fond of the shift key who was not a fan, claiming his average per catch—around 10—to be lowest among city leaders and citing a lack of willingness to go over the middle. The guy's opinion seemed heavily biased by dislike of the family, though, and I don't put much stock into the scouting prowess of one bitter guy with no track record versus, you know, everyone else.
Where will he play? Maybe the slot. Maybe on the outside. In this AMP video prompted by Stokes' early commit to Tennessee, Rivals' Mike Farrell projects him as a slot receiver and has high praise for his abilities:
Stokes is a guy capable of turning the short gain into a big play. His lateral quickness and good feet give him great change-of-direction. He also possesses excellent speed. When he makes the first defender miss and gets a seam, he can take it the distance.
And now, here's Pat Summerall not being even slightly hyperbolic:
HE'S TAKING OVER THE CITY. HE RUNS A 4.3. SEND IN MOTHRA.
Why Mario Manningham? Stokes ended up a bit lower on Scout and Rivals but ESPN and a wide array of ancillary ratings ranked Stokes around where Manningham was. Stokes is about the same size and is praised for his ability to make catches in traffic, plus his athleticism. What about that slot stuff? Well, remember that Citrus Bowl when Michigan came out in the spread and Manningham jetted all over the field taking handoffs and darting from place to place? Yeah. Manningham could have been a slot in this offense, too.
Guru Reliability: High. Stokes participated in every camp he possibly could and made an All-Star game appearance. If there's anyone in the class the recruiting services are intimately familiar with it's him.
General Excitement Level: High. Stokes has the offers, the ratings, and the praise. Also, the scratchy voice seems like rich material for RBUAS, should Johnny emerge from hibernation.
Projection: Where he starts will depend more on Jeremy Gallon's SAT score—about which I know nothing, to forestall the inevitable questions—than anything Stokes does. If Gallon makes it, Stokes will probably slide outside and fight for a spot on the second unit behind Mathews and Hemingway or Stonum. If he doesn't, he'll probably shoot it out with the slots. Either way, a redshirt is a 50-50 proposition:
"They never promised him that he would start or anything," Ronald Stokes said. "But they said that if he came in and did the things that he's capable of doing, there would be a good shot that he would not be redshirted the first year.
PA LB/DE Ken Wilkins is a new offer of Michigan's radar from Washington Trinity, the same school that sent Andrew Sweat to Ohio State and Mike Yancich to Penn State. Wilkins' coach says he's more physically gifted than either, or just about anyone else:
"The sky is the limit for him. He's one of the most phenomenal, naturally gifted athletes I've ever been around. He was born with gifts that a lot of people couldn't imagine having."
Wilkins is strongly considering Michigan. Tom Van Haaren got the latest, but first some highlights:
TOM: I don't think a lot of people know about you yet, so tell me about yourself.
KEN: I’m really aggressive, and I’m pretty speedy. I can pretty much do anything on the field. I play a lot of positions. I play linebacker, defensive end, tight end, and quarterback sometimes. I’m just real versatile.
TOM: You live in Pennsylvania, so is the Midwest where you want to play college ball at?
KEN: Distance doesn’t matter to me. I just want to find the best fit for me. I’m going to check out all the schools, and see where I think I fit in the best.
TOM: You're 6'4" and 235 pounds, as a junior. Like you said you play LB, DE, and TE. What are you the best at? What position, and inside that position.
KEN: I’m best at defensive end. I have a real quick first step, and I have a nose for the ball. I can play that hybrid role, the linebacker and defensive end role pretty well too. Schools say I could play both, but I think the hybrid role is best for me.
TOM: You're pretty fast for your size, is that something you've been focusing on, your speed?
KEN: I do parametric, and our school has a speed training coach. We work with him two times a week. I’m gaining weight pretty quick, so I want to keep my speed too. We just started doing that this year, but I can already tell the difference, it’s definitely helping. I can’t wait for next year when it really kicks in.
TOM: You've got offers from almost every school in the east and Midwest. How are you going to narrow this down?
KEN: I just want to see the area, the environment, and the school. What the whole school is about and the overall program. The biggest thing for me is the relationships with the coaches and players, and how I feel around them.
TOM: When do you plan on making your decision by?
KEN: Probably mid June or July. I just want to get it over with before my season starts, so I don’t have to focus on it anymore. I have enough offers that I can make my decision, and be done with it. Once I commit, that will be it.
TOM: Do you already have a good idea of a top 3?
KEN: I don’t really have a top list, but Michigan and Pitt are near top. Michigan was always my favorite team growing up. Coach Gibson has been coming in lately, and I’ve been getting to know him. I also have a good relationship with the Pitt coaches.
TOM: Where does Michigan factor into all this, are they near the top, or at the top?
KEN: If I had to name a leader I would say it is Michigan. Once I go up there, if I like it I’ll pull the trigger and commit. I’m talking to my uncle about it, and I think I’ll be up there in about two weeks. I think I fit what they’re trying to do right now, and the coaches that I do know are all great. Everything about Michigan is great, and I could definitely see myself there.
TOM: What do the coaches talk to you about? What is it that you like about them?
KEN: They’re really laid back. They’re like a good friend, and not a recruiter. I really like that they aren’t pressuring me about the school. Coach Gibson told me that all these schools are good, even if it’s not Michigan, they’re all 5 star hotels, it’s just which one you want to stay at. So it was nice to talk to someone who didn’t try to tell me what to do. He’s like a good friend.
TOM: I saw a play on your highlight film, where it actually looked like you ate someone. Are you one of those guys that just throws his body around, and loves to hit?
KEN: Yeah, I love to hit. I just always played defense, and I find the ball easy. It’s just fun to go out there and hit somebody.
TOM: Have you been in contact with any other recruits? What do they say?
KEN: I built a relationship with some guys from my area, Chad Hayden is one. Most of the guys around me, I’m trying to see if they’ll come with me and play with me.
The evening started with an autograph session during which each coach was scattered around with throngs of people surrounding. The first humorous event of the evening was watching Bill Martin wander around with... fewer people, and at one point introducing himself to a confused little boy for someone to talk to. Rodriguez obviously had the longest line, but listening in on some of the conversations, the coaches were refreshingly honest and down-to-earth in their dealings with the fans.
If you're in the Chicago area you can catch the show your ownself at the Standard Club tomorrow. Details can be found on the Alumni Association website.
Suin' and hopin' and prayin'. More on this Sam Keller lawsuit, which has ignited the college football commentariat in a way that would be surprising if it wasn't May. Darren Rovell says these guys have a case:
I've seen many lawsuits brought about by student athletes in my day and this is probably the best case I have ever seen constructed. I think Keller was smart to go after the video game business instead of the jersey business because I think he can make a better case with the former even though Nike and adidas call up football programs so that they can only produce jerseys with the numbers the stars are wearing each year.
Meanwhile, a law-talkin' reader who works at a class-action firm that works closely with the one Keller has retained says these guys are "pretty big time" and that if they "didn't think this suit had merit, they wouldn't be wasting their time on it." He's gone through the complaint, so let's hand the mic to him. I've bolded some parts for emphasis:
The complaint is pretty thorough and lists several causes of action which all have different remedies, but in general it asks for the following basic things as a remedy:
-Damages- This would include money to compensate for the loss of past earnings/punish EA and the NCAA for their conduct/etc. Now, assuming the court certifies the class (which is a big, big assumption) any damages would be paid out on a class wide basis. So each athlete would be due some percentage of the pot of money at the end, minus the plaintiffs' attorneys' cut. Usually, the class rep (Keller, in this case) would be due a slightly larger percentage to compensate them for time and effort. Like, Keller may be due a couple extra grand. It's not (supposed) to be a huge amount.
-Disgorgement of profits- Meaning that EA would have to give back (to the class) all the money they've made off their illegal conduct. This is generally an appropriate remedy for unjust enrichment suits like this, but I really, REALLY doubt that a court would actually do this to EA. Basically, Keller's asking for this for leverage.
-Destruction of all copies of the offending titles- See my comments on Disgorgement.
-Equitable/Injunctive relief- This is the bit you were worried about in your article. Keller's asking the court to prevent EA from making games in the future where athlete's likenesses are used. If they get this, then we're looking at randomization and the games will suck ad infinitim.
My thoughts on what is likely to happen from here on out: EA is going to fight this like hell because this is basically the survival of their brand. Keller (or, more accurately, Keller's attorneys) know this and will push strongly for an early settlement. EA may be able to make a small concession (like randomizing the state of origin or skin color or whatever) in order to give the settlement an appearance of legitimacy for the court and that might be that. In that case, everyone will get a small amount of money and EA still gets to make their products. The problem with THAT solution is that it leaves EA open for another suit a few years down the road that alleges the same basic things, but I'm sure they'd take that. This is kind of what everyone should be rooting for. The IDEAL solution (as you alluded to) is to make ongoing payments to college kids for their likenesses in the future, but I think we can both agree that the odds of the NCAA signing off on that are somewhere between nil and bupkis.
If they don't settle early, then EA may win on class certification (which is a process that takes a year or so all by itself) and then this all pretty much goes away. But if it gets past that point and Keller can certify the class, then EA is very probably fucked (legal term).
Bottom line: Unless EA can kick this stuff out on a "technicality" within the next year or so, we're very likely going to have some change to the way EA makes their college games. The only question is how big the change will be and how much EA will have to pay out in the interim.
It's always been a fiction that EA wasn't profiting off the likenesses of college athletes, especially after consoles hooked themselves up to the internet and roster downloading became commonplace. The fig leaf of not using players' names doesn't change the fact that it's Mike Hart in the #20 jersey, and that this is an illegal use of player likenesses. Listen to the law-talkin' guy.
If the NCAA has any sense they will use this opportunity to provide players in revenue sports some of the fruits of their labors. Here's an opportunity to provide some level of payment over and above the scholarship money they're already getting. The money comes from an outside source—so it won't cannibalize whatever the NCAA wants to do—and can reasonably be distributed on an equal basis to everyone. I'm betting EA would prefer that to randomizing players entirely if they lose the suit. There is a way to comply with the law that is a win-win and a way that's lose-lose. The NCAA should pick the good one, because in all probability they're going to have to choose.
Unless, that is, EA's lawyers boot up a 2003 version of the game and use John Navarre to option the universe into submission. In that case, all bets are off.
Just don't grow awesome hair, kid. Oklahoma's decisions on which marginal characters to keep and which to ditch are mystifying. Last year, wideout Josh Jarboe brought a gun to school and got expelled. Oklahoma decided they'd still take him but he was on triple-secret probation. Jarboe then showed up on the internet smiling as he rapped about, you know, things that are in rap, at which point Bob Stoops said this:
"Kick a guy off the team for what he says?" Stoops said. The whole Internet culture frustrates Stoops. "We're starting to talk about everything kids say and do," Stoops said. "Now we're in people's homes, in their private spaces."
The probation was so triple-secret that not even Stoops knew about it. The local vultures in the Oklahoma newspapers swooped in and the kid got gone.
Now enter Justin Chaisson, who has issues at least as severe as Jarboe's (warning: link has video that plays automatically; advise you skip it):
Outside the coffee shop, Chaisson grabbed the girl's arm and forced her into the back seat of his sport-utility vehicle, according to the report.
The girl told police Chaisson punched her in the ribs and drove her to the desert before pulling her out of the vehicle. She said that’s when he placed a screwdriver to her neck and threatened to kill her, according to the report.
The reprehensible Barry Tramel, the main vulture mentioned above, has an opinion on this: take him because now we're all cynical and stuff. What's the message here? Just don't show up on the internet screwing around with your friends and we're good? Avoid amazing dreadlocks?* Words are words, man, especially when they're not directed at anyone.
*(Actually, given Johnny Sears this might be a good message: kids, if you have amazing dreadlocks they will bring you naught but misery.)
Etc.: I think I'm a fan of Philadelphia's new MLS team. "Join or Die": I choose join.
Florida cornerback Rashad Knight (right, obviously) recently picked up two pieces of good news: a Michigan offer and four stars from Rivals, where he's the #18 cornerback. After the Michigan offer he declared the Wolverines his leader. MGoRecruitingGuy Tom Van Haaren caught up with him and got the latest.
TOM: When did you get your offer from Michigan?
RASHAD: It was recent, about 2 weeks ago. Right now I have a total of 12 offers though.
TOM: Was it something you expected? Were the coaches in contact with you before hand?
RASHAD: Michigan’s a big school, and I got a lot of hand written letters from them, but I didn’t expect it this soon. I did expect to get one eventually though.
TOM: What coaches have you started to build a relationship the most with?
RASHAD: From Michigan, Rod Smith. I have the nicest relationship with coach Disch from Illinois, we talk a lot.
TOM: You have all offers from up north schools; do you have ties up there?
RASHAD: No, I don’t have any ties. A lot of the north schools want more speed, and they say that I can add a lot. So, I just think it’s because they know that there’s a lot of speed in Florida. UCF recruits me really hard; I get a lot of letters from them. I talk to the coach from USF a lot too, but that’s really it for the south schools.
TOM: Are you comfortable leaving Florida?
RASHAD: Yea, I have no problem with that. My family will probably stay here, and come up for a couple home games, but there’s no problem.
TOM: I saw that you play safety, running back, wide receiver, and you return kicks too. What do you think you play the best, and what do you like playing the best?
RASHAD: I play safety, but I'm good in man to man coverage, which is why a lot of schools are recruiting me as a corner. Offense is ok with me, but I love playing defense.
TOM: What are most schools recruiting you as? How are they saying you can help them on the field?
RASHAD: They’re recruiting me as a corner. Louisville said they want me to play a little offense. They said if I get in real good shape I could play both. Most schools are just for corner though, which is what I like.
TOM: Have you taken any visits yet? Where do you plan on going?
RASHAD: I’ve been to Florida State a couple times. Towards the summer I’m going to Illinois, Vanderbilt, Louisville, and I want to make sure I go to Michigan too. I’m still planning out when though.
TOM: Who’s helping you the most?
RASHAD: My coach played at FSU, but he’s like my high school agent. He does everything for me, and takes care of everything for me. My other coach went to Florida, so they know the process and take care of everything.
TOM: You recently were quoted saying Michigan was your leader, and then retracted that and said Indiana is one of your top schools. Let’s clear this subject. Where do all the schools stand?
RASHAD: I don’t really have a top 5 for sure. I’m still open, but I would have to say that right now Michigan is at the top. I still want to take a look at everyone though. Michigan is just a good school, and I would have to say right now they are probably at the top. I just want to make sure I see everyone.
TOM: Do you have a timeline for when you want to make your decision?
RASHAD: I might take it to signing day. My coaches told me to make sure I’m comfortable, and build relationships. When I go take a look, I want to make sure I feel comfortable on campus, and the atmosphere. I also want to see if there’s a chance for me to play early, that’s important.