this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
2016 four-star Trotwood (OH) Madison quarterback Messiah deWeaver received some much-anticipated news this afternoon:
— Messiah deWeaver (@Siah_10) June 18, 2014
From there, the decision-making process took approximately three hours:
— Messiah deWeaver (@Siah_10) June 18, 2014
DeWeaver* becomes Michigan's second 2016 commit, joining four-star OT Erik Swenson, and the clear-cut leading candidate for class NOTY honors.
[*Corrected—this will come in handy for the next several years.]
Let's Just Get This Out Of The Way
|NR QB||NR QB||NR QB||
4*, 90, #9 P-QB,
4*, #13 P-QB,
While deWeaver didn't make the initial Scout 300—they've only handed out stars to 25 quarterbacks in the class—he landed solidly in the four-star range on 247 (Rivals and ESPN have yet to release 2016 rankings). ESPN hasn't even done their initial evaluation. Based on the camp reports you'll see below, the guess here is deWeaver will move into consensus four-star range—though probably not to the very top of the QB position rankings—once he's fully evaluated.
The four sites are in almost exact agreement regarding his measurements, with all listing him at 6'3" and between 198 and 202 pounds. Per Scout, he may still be growing, too ($):
"As a player, he is extremely gifted with size," [Trotwood-Madison coach Maurice[ Douglass added. "He continues to grow everyday and keeps getting taller and bigger. His dad is 6-foot-5 and Messiah is already 6-foot-3 and 198 pounds. He's got the physical tools. He's a great kid who wants to learn and get better."
As it is, he already has the frame to be a college quarterback.
Although ESPN didn't get the memo, there's no shortage of scouting reports on deWeaver, as he first appeared on the recruiting radar as an eighth-grade phenom camping at Michigan among several other top schools. He came back to U-M's camp after his freshman season, in which he took the reins midway through the year and helped Trotwood-Madison to the state title game, and caught the eye of Al Borges ($).
That spring/summer saw deWeaver make a serious impact on the camp scene. He earned top underclassman honors from Woody Wommack at the Rivals camp in Cincinnati ($):
There's no doubt that DeWeaver was one of the best quarterbacks in attendance, showing tremendous consistency for a rising sophomore. He moves well for a player his size and could grow into a terrific prospect.
Then, competing against a group that included top 2014 prospects, he turned heads at Ohio State's Friday Night Lights camp, garnering the #14 spot among all performers from Rivals' Josh Helmholdt ($):
This entire offseason, DeWeaver has stood toe-to-toe with quarterbacks two and three years older than himself and proven to be every bit as good, and in many cases better. He is a good-sized quarterback at 6-foot-2, 184 pounds, but what we have continually been impressed with is how the football jumps off his hand. And the rising sophomore never is out there trying to overthrow the football, so his accuracy is also impressive because of the way he spins the ball.
ESPN's Brad Bournival was even more impressed, slotting deWeaver inside his top ten players at the camp ($):
8. 2016 QB Messiah DeWeaver (Trotwood, Ohio/Trotwood-Madison)
ESPN rank: N/A
What impressed: Every time DeWeaver camps he seems to get better. The pocket passer can throw the out route, zip in a heater on a slant or throw the fade. His arm strength was incredible again under the lights, as he hit one receiver after another.
“I think I competed well against the upperclassmen,” DeWeaver said. “Whenever I go out on the field I feel like I’m the best quarterback on the field. I try to prove that every time I go out there.”
He apparently doesn't lack confidence, either.
The starter from day one this time around, deWeaver had an excellent sophomore season, leading the Rams to their third straight state title game before falling to St. Vincent St. Mary's for the second year in row. Once again, he hit up a bunch of camps, and again, he stood out as one of the best in his class. Helmholdt ranked him fourth among underclassmen at the Columbus Nike camp ($):
DeWeaver was clearly among the best quarterbacks in a top-heavy group on Saturday. The 6-foot-3, 198-pound sophomore has good size for the position already and gets a lot behind his passes. His key over the next couple years will be to shorten his delivery, which not only will get the ball out of his hands more quickly but also improve his accuracy.
Then it was on to the Elite 11 regional, also in Columbus, where he was the first 2016 QB mentioned by BuckeyeGrove's Marc Givler ($):
DeWeaver continues to put himself firmly in the discussion for Ohio's top signal caller in the 2016 class. I thought he threw it better at the Nike Camp on Sunday than he did on Monday at Elite 11 which is understandable as that is a lot of football's to throw in a 30-hour window. Still, he spins it well and the velocity was still there on Monday even after a pretty heavy workload on Sunday. His throwing motion has steadily improved over the last 18 months, though I'd still like to see it become a little more compact. Just looking at Monday's performance, I thought he had a better time with the touch throws down the field.
After camping at Texas and Cincinnati, picking up an offer from the Bearcats after his camp performance, he also appeared at last weekend's Sound Mind Sound Body camp, earning praise from the 247 staff:
Trotwood (Ohio) Madison Top247 2016 quarterback Messiah deWeaver spun the ball well, has a powerful arm and has good mechanics. He still needs to speed everything up, his feet, his throwing motion but he was one of the top performers. Can really drive the football and had a couple nice touch throws in the back of the end zone. Early offers include Cincinnati, Kentucky and Louisville.
Helmholdt placed him behind only Malik Henry, the top 2016 dual-threat QB in the country, among day one performers at SMSB ($):
After camps at Cincinnati and Texas in the last week you would think DeWeaver's arm might be feeling some fatigue, but the rising junior was as sharp as we have seen him during Thursday's action. He went through position drills efficiently but really shined in the one-on-one session where he was varying his trajectory to put passes in windows that didn't appear to be there until the receiver caught the ball.
Finally, of course, came Michigan's camp, which ultimately earned him the offer. Sam Webb broke down his showing in front of his future coaches ($):
Sam’s Take: This kid has come a really long way in the last year. Gone are the days where he didn’t consistently throw spirals… where it looked like he would struggle making the “arm” throws… where his footwork was all out of whack. His mechanics have tightened up significantly and the result is a kid that spun the ball extremely well during Michigan’s camps (and also at the Sound Mind Sound Body Camp last week). He also showed really nice touch on deep ball over the middle. He won’t fire out-routes from the far hash with as much velocity as Alex Malzone, but those plays no longer need to be eliminated from DeWeaver’s playbook. In my opinion he has gone from being an unlikely offer to a kid that just picked one up from the Maize & Blue Wednesday afternoon.
247's Steve Lorenz also took in Tuesday's camp session and noted deWeaver's aptitude for putting the right touch on the ball ($):
2016 Top247 quarterback Messiah DeWeaver continues to build off the momentum he built during a strong showing at the Sound Mind Sound Body camp last week in Detroit. DeWeaver doesn't have a ton of zip on his throw, but he usually has enough. He throws an excellent deep touch ball and can throw it to any side of the field. He's also built himself up nicely in the weight room while being able to maintain his scrambling ability, which is apt.
Finally, let's kick it back to his high school coach for the traditional The Pattern™ quote ($):
"I think Messiah can be a top level prospect, without a doubt," said Douglass. "It's not just because of the talent he has. It's also because of how smart and dedicated he is in the classroom. Messiah has a 4.2 grade point average now. That kind of effort and maturity can translate to the football field."
I think he'll pass admissions.
DeWeaver also held offers from Cincinnati, Kentucky, Louisville, Toledo, and Western Kentucky at the time of his commitment. Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Stanford, and Tennessee were among the larger programs that showed interest but hadn't come through with an offer yet.
You're likely familar with Trotwood-Madison, one of the powerhouse Division III programs in Ohio. In the Rivals era, they've produced four Michigan players: WR Roy Roundtree, TE Brandon Moore, DB Reon Dawson, and LB Mike McCray. Sophomore Ohio State corner Cam Burrows, one of the top-ranked recruits in the state in 2013, is also a former Ram.
The Greater Ohio Western Conference may keep the most detailed high school stats in the country, so click here to get a full game-by-game rundown of deWeaver's numbers. The short version:
Freshman year: 59/124 (47.6%), 831 yards (6.7 YPA), 13 TD, 4 INT
Sophomore year: 137/231 (59.3%), 2265 yards (9.5 YPA), 21 TD, 9 INT
The improvement is apparent.
FAKE 40 TIME
Despite all the camps, I can't find a fake 40 time for deWeaver. He's very much a pro-style QB, with negative rushing yards in each of his first two high school seasons (though that includes sacks); he's got the athleticism to make a play or two breaking the pocket, but he's not looking to run.
Yes, the mechanics are a bit wonky, and he doesn't exactly possess a cannon, but I'm quite impressed with his accuracy and ability to change speeds to fit the ball into the right window.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
With two full seasons left in his high school career, the evidence is flimsy indeed, though it's not too difficult to project this: a freshman year redshirt, a probable apprenticeship behind Wilton Speight and/or Alex Malzone, and then deWeaver enters the conversation for starting quarterback. To remind you how far into the future we're looking here, Shane Morris will be a senior when deWeaver gets to campus.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan has two commits for 2016, and given how this coaching staff operates it's safe to assume they're done at quarterback. I can assure you they will add more prospects at other positions. Otherwise, class projection at this juncture is probably pointless.
Yes, exactly. The usual round of soccer meta-backlash posts is underway—I had a contribution to the genre—after the usual round of soccer backlash posts. Will Leitch's is the best because it communicates the thing:
I don't know whether you like soccer, or whether you don't, whether you've been tracking USMNT for two decades or you just popped by the bar after work and oh hey look at the TV that's the country I'm from. I just know that when John Brooks -- who is 21 years old, who was born nine days after Bill Clinton was inaugurated in 1993 -- scored that header for the United States to take a stunning 2-1 lead against Ghana on Monday, it is worryingly possible that I accidentally made it to second base with every person in the bar. No matter where I was looking, no matter what direction I was pointing … whatever was in front of me was my best friend. It was a collective gaggle of fists and elbows and screams.
I had fun! Lots of fun. That's why I like the soccering. I like it and find it fun. I guess it's cool if that makes you want to throw a shoe at my head, but you're missing out, man.
Game takes: Beasley edition. It is an infallible rule of soccer that no matter how unfathomable a post-game opinion is, someone will hold it with the ferocity of a thousand suns. I haven't quite found someone with a thunderous defense of Bradley's uncharacteristically poor play, but I'm sure he's out there, asserting that despite all available evidence he should just be a defensive mid.
The major point of contention seems to be about Beasley's performance. Some are like "let's try Chandler":
D DaMarcus Beasley (3) – To put it bluntly, Beasley was roasted on the left. Ghana identified him as a weakness and attacked him over and over again as a result. It’s worth wondering if an uncomfortable Timmy Chandler might even be better, especially since it will get no easier facing Nani against Portugal.
That guy gave Howard a 9 for fielding a large number of the harmless balls flung in by Atsu, which seems… unbalanced.
SI's Liviu Bird has a take that's kinder to Beasley that seems about right:
Ghana concentrated its attacks on the right side, trying to exploit Christian Atsu’s youth and athleticism against DaMarcus Beasley.
The Black Stars got into dangerous areas multiple times, but their service left a lot to be desired. Multiple crosses were overhit, blocked or poorly placed.
The strategy played to Ghana’s athletic strengths, but it also put the U.S. defenders in a situation they find most comfortable, as Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler and Tim Howard play in leagues where defending crosses is a necessity.
To me the key thing in Beasley's favor here is that Atsu plays his club football as a winger… a left winger. Dude is left footed, and the large number of crosses Beasley gave up were ineffectual because
- Most of them were from the winger's weak foot.
- They were shot in at a bracketed Asamoah Gyan and a bunch of 5'8" bros.
Putting Atsu on the right was a tactical move that wanted to get through-balls and other items in the box with an inverted winger. The US responded by packing the middle and leaving Beasley on an island… again, Spain redux. Matt Doyle:
But considering he was going 1-v-2, he did well because – and I'm going all caps here because I don't trust the weight of mere words – NOBODY GOT BEHIND HIM. The US can deal with crosses all day, but you don't want Geoff Cameron, Besler – most likelyJohn Brooks now – or especially Omar Gonzalez having to come out and meet attackers wide.
They hit 30 crosses from open play – seven more than anyone else this tournament! That's [recently fired ManU manager] David Moyes territory.
With Gyan limited by congestion in the middle all he could do was fire in that one brilliant header that was wide and Howard had covered anyway. Gyan's other moment of threat was a cut in from the USA's right that got him a shot from just outside the box that tested Howard. Do we want those, or do we want guys trying to get on the end of crosses? Seems obvious. FWIW, crosses per game are down from 32 to 27 compared to 2010. They're a bit passé.
Theory: Beasley getting his ankles broken early like he'd just experienced a Derryck Thornton crossover made everyone super nervous about what would happen for the rest of the game, and even though not much did that nervousness leaked into some evaluations.
How is this different from the Chandler performance against Turkey I ripped? Chandler ceded one free goal and allowed another shot from inside the six yard box; also his side of the field was exposed not only to crosses but to shots, lots of shots.
Game takes: tactics. The US got penned in and ate possession, but how much of that was poor tactics (or injury misfortune) and how much was just bad play? It seems like a big chunk of the problem was just bad play, particularly from Bradley. FourFourTwo:
Ghana dominated the ball from the first whistle, and Klinsmann's team didn't do a great job of protecting their early lead. They completed just 201 passes at a rate of 73%, and gave the ball away cheaply whenever they got sight of the opposition half. Ghana recovered possession a huge 56 times (to USA's 31): loose balls from poor play, effectively.
Opta "recoveries" are balls that get played to you without you having to go get it with a tackle. They're unforced errors, for the most part. In fact:
USA’s pass completion was 73% which is the second lowest seen in the World Cup so far (only Iran with 72% vs Nigeria have shown lower).
That obviously cannot continue if the US is going to do anything against even a depleted Portugal.
Zonal Marking points out that Johannsson's total lack of impact was expected and that a midfielder (Mix Diskerud?) may have been preferred.
In fact, when Altidore departed midway through the first half, the USA were already under heavy pressure. Klinsmann might have considered bringing on an extra midfielder at this stage, because his side simply weren’t covering the midfield ground effectively. Dempsey and Johansson were stuck upfront with little service, covering the responsibilities of one man, and it felt like the USA were playing with ten players at times.
However, Kinsmann was able to depend upon good performances at the back, while Kyle Beckerman was excellent at screening the defence – he protected the ‘red zone’ excellently, meaning Ghana always looked out wide for their route to goal. Tim Howard, meanwhile, claimed crosses well and swept off his line intelligently.
Whoops. In the column yesterday I said Zusi lost the run of Ayew on the goal; that was Johnson.
React video. As per tradition.
Not often that the best and most overwhelmed response is from the dude who actually put it in.
— Goal Posts (@TNRWorldCup) June 17, 2014
By Sunday, Portugal will be down to potted plants. Already down Almeida, Coentrao, and Pepe, Portugal is now saying their starting goalie could be out. Portugal's other options are a guy who seems on the downside who just signed for a Croatian team and Sevilla's starter, who's only got a few caps. That's not as big of a deal as their other losses, but it certainly doesn't help.
UPDATE: Ronaldo limps out of practice with an ice-packed knee. !!!
If Besler's ready, he should go. He's been working on chemistry with Cameron for a month now and played very well during his 45 against Ghana. Brooks can be our target forward.
Working it out of the back: more possible now. While the FIFA rankings think Portugal is a much better team than Ghana, the setup should be more comfortable for the US. Ghana's athleticism and youth (they're the youngest team at the tournament) allowed them to press the US high for big stretches of the game after the early goal and Altidore departure.
The results were pretty ugly. The game featured the second-fewest passes per possession since Klinsmann took over. While the results of these low-possession games haven't been too bad, life is easier when you have the ball.
Portugal isn't nearly as suited to press high. Ronaldo in particular does not work on D, and while I'm not sure about this Eder guy coming in for Almeida it doesn't seem like he did much to harry the Germans. Of course, by the time he got in Portugal was falling apart at the seams. So… yeah.
The weather also means that high pressing is probably not in the cards. The Italy-England game got really sloppy because of the heat; forwards are likely to conserve energy when not in possession.
This means that not having Jozy isn't as bad as it could be, since the US should be able to play it on the ground out of their defense.
With the least amount of fanfare to ever accompany a 5-star athlete to Michigan, Ty Isaac committed here a few weeks ago. Where does Ty fit in among the RBs on the roster, in a zone running offense? What's the chances he has to redshirt his year? Are we, you know, rooting for this? What effect does this have on the RBs Michigan's pursuing for the 2015 class? Can he block a safety blitz? Can anyone?
BiSB: Well, any time you have someone transfer, that's going to hurt overall depth, but they still have...
...wait, really? TO Michigan? And this is permitted?
|We are way too good of a photoshopping community to get this few transfers.|
If what John Infante and others have said is true, it seems unlikely Isaac will be eligible this season. Maybe the NCAA will try to show how SUPER DUPER FLEXIBLE AND PRO-STUDENT WE ARE YOU GUYS given the ongoing legal troubles and grant a waiver where they normally wouldn't, though this is the NCAA so who wants odds. But that works out just fine; Michigan retroactively took a five star back for the '14 class. And because neither DeVeon Smith nor Derrick Green redshirted (and neither destroyed the planet as a freshman), having now taken a running back last year is currently a good plan. Take THAT, space-time continuum.
I'm going to disagree with what Brian said shortly after Isaac committed; I think his game film looks really good. We're used to seeing recruiting tape against high schoolers, so you expect a certain amount of physical dominance and sending-home-of-competition-to-acquire-shinebox. And normally they are actual highlights, not every touch. But for a true freshman against real college competition, he showed flashes of the stuff you like to see from a freshman for whom you have high hopes: he broke tackles, found extra yardage, fell forward, and showed good speed for his size. He also caught the ball well out of the backfield, which is something Michigan hasn't had in a back over 5'8" in quite some time. If any Michigan back looked like that last year, we would have all been much pleased. Okay, okay, that's probably not the best standard to use. But you get my point.
I think he's a great fit for an inside/outsize zone running scheme, because he's definitely a one-cut-and-go back but still a downhill guy. It's hard to know whether he's better suited than Green or Smith, largely because those two spent last year in a "run toward that pile of angry dudes" rushing scheme. Bottom line is that regardless of what happens with Damien Harris or Mikey Weber or Jacques Patrick, the running back depth chart looks pretty good for '15 and '16. We can worry about '17 later.
[jump. And run. And other superhuman abilities!]
The California Of The Midwest
Between last weekend's Sound Mind Sound Body camp and the ongoing U-M technique camp, Michigan's had the opportunity to see many of their top recruits in person over the last few days. Among those prospects were two 2016 California quarterbacks, five-star dual-threat Malik Henry—who wowed at SMSB before making his way to campus on Sunday—and four-star pro-style QB KJ Costello, who also made it into town on Sunday. A beautiful spring weekend in Ann Arbor made Costello feel right at home:
Michigan is unreal... The weather feels like Cali
— kj costello (@kj_costello) June 15, 2014
NOBODY SAY A DAMN WORD.
SMSB: Malzone, Kirkland Stand Out
Michigan's two participating commits didn't disappoint in front of their future coaches at SMSB, as both Alex Malzone and Darrin Kirkland turned in outstanding performances. After not having his best showing on Thursday, Malzone came back with a standout showing on Friday that impressed GBW's Josh Newkirk ($):
Malzone came to work on day two. Maybe, just maybe, having his future coach Doug Nussmeier in attendance was an added incentive as well. The future Wolverine looked sharp in drills and listened closely whenever Nussmeier addressed him. In the one-on-one portion of the camp, Malzone excelled. He showcased his arm – like always – and made nice precise throws. He doesn’t seem to mind the added attention of being Michigan’s quarterback of the future, even when everyone is watching. An overall great performance by the four-star prospect.
247's Clint Brewster concurred, saying Malzone showed he could "make all the throws" with excellent accuracy and solid velocity. He sounded even more impressed with Kirkland, praising his coverage and blitzing ability after giving rave reviews of his play against the run ($):
Kirkland Jr. immediately stood out among the defensive players at the camp because of how well put together he is. Kirkland has an NFL linebacker type of body with a thick muscled frame. You can easily point him out among the linebackers there. Kirkland was able to overpower running backs in one-on-one coverage and he doesn’t wait to attack. He plays with good body-lean and pad level to get underneath ball carriers and gain leverage. Kirkland isn’t going to Wow you with his athleticism or quickness but he plays so hard. He closes on ball carriers and takes the right angles because it seems like he wants to make the tackle more than the next guy. His intensity and technique is really what stood out to me.
Kirkland continues to sound like a prototype MIKE; it's gonna be fun seeing Brian try to come up with a YMRMFSPA for his recruiting profile that isn't David Harris.
[Hit THE JUMP for a couple happy trails, updates on a pair of 2015 running backs, where Michigan stands after offering Dele' Harding, a few camp offers, and more.]
6/16/2014 – USA 2, Ghana 1 – 1-0-0
HOW MANY EAGLES CAN INTIMIDATE ON THE HEAD OF A PIN
Clint Dempsey had just been kicked in the face, hard. He'd jumped to head a ball; the Ghana defender he'd made infamous 30 seconds into the game decided he'd challenge for it by kicking Dempsey really hard in the face.
It was obvious from the first shot that Dempsey's nose was broken, even more obvious in the post-game press conference. Someone asked him about it. He said he couldn't really breathe through the thing anymore.
At the time, though, Jozy Altidore had already done something bad to his hamstring and there was nothing for Dempsey to do but spit blood, shoot murder from his eyes, and carry on.
It turns out yesterday's post was unnecessary. All questions about how American USA soccer is under Klinsmann have been resolved in 90 minutes. The verdict: even when the guys still running when normal folk would be in a heap and pounding in the set piece goal are pretty much German, they are so, so American.
Anyone who's followed the US national team for a while can point to a game like that, a frustrating exercise in soaking pressure and trying to pop up on the counter. The US has a knack for bleeding profusely and winning games they have no business doing so via sheer doggedness. This game shoots to the top of that list, the blood and dogs list.
It'll take some doing to top it. They lost their main relief valve to injury 20 minutes in and were forced into a halftime substitution when Matt Besler tweaked his hamstring; by 70 minutes it seemed like half the roster was grasping a leg muscle when afforded the opportunity. When Ghana finally broke through ten minutes later, it felt like the floodgates were about to open.
Instead the US grinds out a corner by running real hard. I mean… if we are trying to move away from the cliché that national teams are avatars for their countries, trying to move away from the faintly ridiculous notion that a country that grows Michael Phelps in a lab is a plucky underdog… if we are attempting to have a straight-faced tactical conversation amongst serious people… I mean, you just can't. I can't.
I'm dying and Fabian Johnson manages to grit up a corner by being annoyingly effortful like he's the right back version of David Eckstein, and it doesn't matter that Fabian Johnson is pretty much German. I have been here before. I have seen this corner before in this game before; I know we've got some tall guys in there and even the guys who aren't tall, like Carlos Bocanegra, have a tendency to fling their head at the ball even if it's at a level where you could reasonably get kicked in the head.
I have been here before. I muster up every last bit of focus and try not to forget to stand. I have seen this on brutal Central American fields where batteries are flung out of the stands. Zusi stands over the ball. Zusi scored to tie Panama in stoppage time when doing anything but would have put Mexico out of the World Cup. They won that game a minute later, because what the hell, why not.
This is a thing they do. Frankie Hedjuk against El Salvador. Donovan against Algeria. The US played a friendly against Italy they won 1-0 because the ball refused to go in for the Italians and the US parlayed their moment into a goal. I have been here; they do this.
I am hoping against hope and remembering not to fall over; Zusi is kicking the ball, which is low enough and high enough and hard and curving into a dangerous area, and I have seen it before.
Must improve. The game got out of whack early because of the shocking goal and the Altidore injury, plus whatever the US screwed up to have big chunks of the team doing terrible things to their muscles. But they've got to do better in possession if the Ghana game is going to mean anything. Bradley in particular had a game far below his usual standard, tossing balls out of bounds.
When Bradley's off, the verve goes out of the US attack. Verve was almost beside the point here. I would have given a kidney for some extended spells of possession, but balls just kept getting plowed into the sideline. I don't know why. I do know that if they try to soak that much pressure in the next two games they're unlikely to get out of the group.
The goal. The bad one. It was mostly just one of those things that occasionally happen when you're watching the opponent have the ball most of the game; a good pass into the box and an excellent one-time backheel right into the path of a teammate, followed by an equal finish.
I've seen some people criticize Howard for getting beat at the near post. I'm not going to put any of that out Howard. Given the angle—Ayew was close to dead center—and the distance there was little he could do. Ayew's finish was brilliant as well. He hit it with the outside of his left foot, causing the ball to curl away from Howard from an unexpected starting spot.
Zusi should have tracked Ayew. That's the main problem. He's a sub; he should be tracking that run flat-out.
He did make up for it. Zusi's corner that led to the goal was perfect, driven, high enough to get over the guys he needs to get over, low enough for Brooks to get on top of it.
What in the flying hell. Pre-match I was thankful that a Swedish guy was the ref instead of someone from nowheresville who'd never taken on a match of that significance; not so much at halftime. Clint Dempsey's nose was broken by a flying boot applied to his face as he was three feet off the ground, an obvious straight red card for dangerous play. Boye, the same defender Dempsey turned into goo in the first minute, didn't even see yellow.
That in and of itself is unacceptable; then Jermaine Jones is hammered from behind mere minutes later and the guy who did it got an accidental boot to the head. That resulted in the same kind of aggressive physical action that saw Pepe sent off just a few hours before. Again, not even yellow.
Both the tackle and the reaction afterward are easily card-worthy. Ghana should have been down to nine men by halftime.
But hey, at least the US got totally boned by the refereeing in a game they won for a change.
Jones: the man. Tireless and active, Jones was the USA's best player on the night. He wasn't particularly helpful going forward, because he's generally not, but he was everywhere. Besler's first half was also excellent; hopefully he can return.
Obvious Ghana plan is obvious. Ghana spent most of the game isolating Christian Atsu on Beasley. For their troubles they got a bunch of crosses that didn't result in much.
There was that one terrifying Gyan header that Howard had to save despite the fact it was going wide, and then some shots that would have had to been as brilliant as the Gyan chance. Key passes were more balanced, with the Ghana breakthrough coming from the USA's right flank, at Zusi's expense:
please ignore the ones coming from the corners
Beasley coped, and only just. Here are defensive events from the outside backs and outside mids:
Tackles are green; Beasley(#7) had none; he had a pile of clearances and "recoveries," which are events when you get the ball after it's popped loose or someone sends it directly to you. He played off, didn't let Atsu by him, and let the crosses in. It was reminiscent of the Spain Confederations Cup game.
What now? Altidore's World Cup is almost certainly over, leaving the US in a difficult situation. With Eddie Johnson and Terrence Boyd left off the roster, there is nothing approximating a like-for-like substitute. Johannsson's the closest thing and the Ghana game was a good indication he's not much of a target guy at a World Cup level.
The USA's options:
- Use Johannsson like Charlie Davies. IE, have him run onto long balls to the side of the field, hopefully outdistancing the centerback he's matched up against. With Pepe out and Germany relying on the enormous but a bit ponderous Per Mertesacker, this is a viable option.
- Use Dempsey as a target guy. In this situation Dempsey leads the line with Johannsson or Wondolowski playing off of him. I am not enthused about this possibility.
- False nine time. The "false nine" you hear so much about is a striker who isn't really much of a striker. He often comes back into the midfield and then plays balls at gentlemen running past him. Dempsey is a potential fit in that role; he can maintain the ball if it's played into his feet; then Johannsson and Bedoya can be runners past him. That's yet another tactical departure, though.
I'm guessing they go with the first option, but I'm afraid we're about to find out that Jozy does a bunch of things you don't appreciate until he's not out there doing them. Keeping possession better than they did against Ghana is even more critical.
Portugal situation. They've been whittled down by injuries, which momentarily made US fans giddy until Altidore and Besler went out. Pepe is out after taking a red card; left back Fabio Coentrao and striker Hugo Almeida left with injuries that will hold them out of the remainder of the group stage.
Almeida's replacement will (probably) be Eder, a strapping gentleman who plays in the Portuguese league. He is in the Jozy Altidore vein: a physical guy with flashes of brilliance who is maybe a little lacking on the technical side. Almeida wasn't exactly lighting the world on fire, and Eder has made some impact when he's gotten in recently. That dropoff won't be severe.
On the other hand, Coentrao's replacement is a major step down. Coentrao is a fixture at Real Madrid and has excellent chemistry with Ronaldo; he was replaced by Andre Almeida (not that Andre Almeida). The other Almeida plays for Benfica, mostly in the midfield, and only moonlights at outside back. He's only got six caps.
Pepe's replacement is likely to be 33-year-old Ricardo Costa of Valencia. Costa drew into the lineup during Portugal's pre-WC friendlies when Pepe was held out as a precaution. Costa played about half of his club's games as Valencia finished 8th in La Liga. He's no pushover, but neither is he first choice at Real Madrid.
Group situation. The US is in good shape as long as they don't lose to Portugal. Win and they are obviously all but in. A draw is still looking pretty good. If the US and Portugal tie, then the situation based on the result of Ghana-Germany:
- Germany win. Ghana is eliminated; US advances if they either get a point from Germany (who knows they are through) or they lose and Portugal does not make up the goal difference against Ghana. That would require making up five goals.
- Tie. US and Germany enter final game knowing a draw gets both through, and Germany knows they are top of group. Desultory 0-0 draw beckons.
- Ghana win. The US would be at the top of the group but this is the most dangerous situation. Ghana would enter the final game with an opportunity to advance with a win over Portugal, and Germany would have to go all out to beat the US. A US loss then puts them in danger.
So root for the Germans against Ghana.
What if the US loses? Not all is lost but then things are much tougher. A win against Germany would put them through; a tie then puts your fate in the hands of the Ghana-Portugal game.
Click to big. Right-click to open in a separate window so you can reference it as you go.
A few weeks ago I promised to finish this piece on the differences for Michigan's personnel in the 4-3 over. Sorry.
Refresher: What's a 4-3 Over? What you're looking at are alignments of the front seven. The "under" shifts the defensive line away from the strength of the defense and the linebackers swing the opposite way to compensate. Michigan would often align this to the hash rather than the offense, shifting the DL toward the sideline.
The "over" shifts the line the opposite way, but not to such an extreme. The linebackers wind up centered over the ball, and the DL spread across the formation. There is nothing 3-4 about it except the nose tackle.
Last time I talked about how going from a base under to a base over will demand the WDE and 3-tech play a little bigger, the SDE can play more like a rush end, and the nose's job stays pretty much the same except he's now the backside DT. Now on to the second level.
Strongside Linebacker (SAM): James Ross/Royce Jenkins-Stone
The 4-3 under is tough to run against—often they wind up blocking the backside DE in hopes of getting something from a cutback, since it's hard for the LT to get to anybody else. That meant the WLB could be a free hitter
On inside zone that strongside (right) tackle is trying to get a free release. The 3-tech could get aggressive and slow him up but the danger of playing aggressively on the DL against a zone running team is you open up the backside. The faster the OT gets out to the second level the more room there's going to be for the running back to dodge around the DT. A SAM who can read IZ quickly will be all up in that OT's face, able to affect both frontside gaps without opening up the backside cut. Every half-second of delay on the SAM's part is another yard for the offense.
But the SAM can't get crazy-aggressive attacking the OT or the C gap because that tight end is an eligible receiver, and there's another receiver on that side of the formation who could be slanting or dragging. Since the guess is Michigan wants Jake Ryan to be aggressive in the middle, Ross will end up in a lot of zone drops or in man-to-man on the tight end.
The fit: The WLB in the 4-3 under that James Ross played last year isn't hugely different, but it wound up playing differently because Ross was constantly having to take on blockers thanks to Michigan's Jibreel-Black-is-a-NT stunt-a-thon. His quick-twitch reads will be an asset, and his speed and coverage ability will be also. Michigan State's defense had Denicos Allen blitz a ton from this position, and got away with it because the handsy press coverage took care of the slant/drag passes that punish it, and because they had Max Bullough to read and react at MLB. Ross will get to blitz more than he did as the backside linebacker, but I'm guessing Michigan would rather he be the read-react-hit-spill dude so Jake Ryan can go viking.
[jump for the other two spots]