"What (Michigan coaches) told me is that they're focusing on point guards right now, but if anything opens up, they'll definitely come back on and recruit me as hard as they were," said Towns
We didn't see Mundy coming either
"People tell you who they are, but we ignore it because we want them to be who we want them to be."
Ace: Which Michigan alum—aside from Tom Brady—most surprised you with his NFL/NBA/NHL success, and which most surprised you by not panning out?
David Nasternak: Jamal Crawford. This is probably a controversial choice for several reasons. A). He only played about half a year at M. 2). His M career ended rather notoriously. C). He's kinda the forgotten man, associated with M, that just keeps churning out respectable NBA years.
|The thing I remember most about Jamal Crawford is the way the NCAA handled him was the moment that separated me from the NCAA party line on extra benefits, as it was so obvious the NCAA was way more the bad guys than the players they went after.|
Never known for his defense, Crawford has found his niche coming off the bench and providing instant offense, over the last half-decade or so. He's a career 35% 3PT shooter, hits 86% of his FTs, and has never averaged less than 13.9 ppg since 02-03, his third year in the NBA. Crawford has been a little hard to keep track of because of the six different uniforms that he's worn. He reinvented himself with his stellar bench play in 09-10 with Atlanta, winning the 6th Man of the Year. He also won it again in 13-14 and was highly considered two other times (10-11 and 12-13). Crawford also passed Reggie Miller for most career 4 point plays...he is sitting at 44, currently. Until 2010, he had the record for longest tenured player to never make the playoffs. Once breaking into the postseason, Crawford showed he belonged, averaging 15.0 ppg off the bench in 42 games.
I don't think that Jamal Crawford is/was one of the best players in the NBA at any time during his career. He was never an elite shooter. But he could always find a way to score the ball. After embracing his 6th man role, Crawford became a very credible asset. His numbers have continued to remain steady with the Clippers in his 16th (!!!) year in the NBA (only one significantly shortened to 11 games). Jamal Crawford has been M's longest presence in the NBA since Juwan Howard (who somehow managed to play 19 years??? Although, the last 7 years of Howard's career didn't touch any of Crawford's stats, including Games Played). Watching him play, I still think Crawford has a couple solid years left...even at the young age of 35. Love him or hate him, Dude just keeps contributing.
Ace: Mundy isn't a star by any means, but he's started 28 games over the last three seasons, including all 16 last year for Chicago. Anyone who remembers Mundy's much-maligned stint as a starting safety—before he played his fifth year at West Virginia—is probably surprised by this. While the Bears defense was bad last year, Mundy managed to be something of a bright spot with over 100 tackles and four interceptions. Just by remaining in the league this long, he's surpassed most expectations; not many undrafted players get starts at age 30.
[After the jump: what's a safety, and Don Draper]
an alternate cover was considered and regretfully rejected [update: now visible!]
I could make this post 1200
pairs, but I figure people who want to see something like that already do. For those who like slightly more variety in their HARBAUGH? HARBAUGH! life, what follows is not quite that.
Hail To The Victors is back, y'all, and we've got a very interesting cover gent. But first:
We're partnering with Vincent Smith's #Eating Project this year. A dollar from every order goes to that effort to start community gardens in needy communities, and ordering this year's shirt…
…bumps that to five for obvious reasons. These reasons.
(As always, you can get the photobomb shirt or a selection of our most popular mgoshirts if you'd prefer.)
You can also donate directly to them on their website.
As per usual, 128 pages jam packed with Michigan content. This year:
FULL SCHEDULE PREVIEW. Ace and the occasional helper preview the opponent. If this year's Ace is as salty as last year's, we recommend that you do not read the magazine around elk.
DEVIN GARDNER IN REPOSE. 4000 words on the life and times of Michigan's most star-crossed quarterback from me.
THE NEW STAFF. Adam Schnepp on Harbaugh's collection of coaches: NFL guys, coordinators as position coaches, old hands and new. Each guy profiled as football dudes.
THE HYBRID SPACE PLAYER. Seth on Jabrill Peppers, his role, and how it can make Michigan's defense elite against all comers.
MANBALL. What we can expect from the Harbaughffense, by yours truly.
SPREAD PUNTING! The Mathlete on what kind of impact it has had on college football and what Michigan can expect now that John Baxter is in town. I may or may not have thrown a fit until this article was approved by Seth.
YOST VERSUS STAGG. John Kryk on one of the titanic battles of early college football. An excerpt from his terrific book.
1925: THE YEAR OF MUD. Remember the goofy bit from that year's Northwestern game I posted yesterday?
— Rodger Sherman (@rodger_sherman) April 28, 2015
There's way more where that came from.
Craig Ross is on it.
JERRY HANLON ON HARBAUGH. Michigan's legendary offensive line coach on dealing with Harbaugh back in the day, from The Guarantee on down.
1985: HARBAUGH? HARBAUGH. The 10-1-1 1985 squad featuring Harbaugh 30 years on. Michigan whooped just about everyone they played, beat Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl, and finished #2 in the country.
ROUNDTABLE. Breakout players, Harbaugh exclamation, quarterback predictions, more Harbaugh exclamations.
Every copy of the magazine comes with a DRM-free electronic copy as well.
THE ISSUE LAST YEAR
Magazines shipped unacceptably late last year. This was because of a bad decision on our part to change a system we had just gotten working correctly in an effort to get distribution. The publisher we signed with was vastly incompetent. They let the finished magazine sit in a secretary's inbox for a month before printing it.
We will not be using them, or anyone. We'll instead be using the printer we had settled on previously. They've done a great job for us and helped us a great deal in the chaos last year.
(Note that signed copies do come later, as we can't ship those direct from the printer.)
HOW CAN I MAKE THIS HAPPEN
Next time you see this you'll know what's going on
In previous layman's discussions on how fancy newfangled anti-spread defenses function I've talked about how Quarters works, and how MSU used aggressive alignments with it to dominate the run game at the cost of greater risk of getting beat over the top. Each time I alluded to the fact that Saban's defense is similar in concept except where Quarters is a Cover 2/Cover 4 hybrid, Saban's is a Cover 3/Cover 1 hybrid.
We will see it this year. Every defense uses some Cover 3 and Cover 1 as a changeup, but Saban's base system, now all over the SEC, has spread into various Michigan opponents. Penn State kept it around while transitioning to Bob Shoop's version of Quarters. Maryland had it last year; not sure if their 4-3 transition includes a coverage shift. I think BYU (which is going back to 3-3-5 with Bronco Mendenhall overseeing it personally) is expected to as well. Michigan State has played with it, since it's similar to what they do normally. Anyway I thought it'd be fun to get into it now, so we'll have it to reference later.
- Rufio of Cleveland Browns SBNation blog Dawgs by Nature.
- Matthew Brophy's incomparable series on Alabama's D: part i, part ii, part iii, and his "Rip/Liz" video.
- Eleven Warriors' Kyle Jones's film study
- Ricky Muncie of Crimson Tide SBNation blog Roll Bama Roll
- Chris Brown, of course. Of course.
- Pre-emptive thanks to actual football coaches who post in the comments and point out where I got something wrong or over-simplified.
I'm Not a Coach Disclaimer
I'm not a football coach. I'm a guy on the internet who read a lot about football.
Basics of One-High Defenses
Cover 3 is probably the most basic defense in existence. It is the defense you learn on Day 1 as a high school freshman, if not before. At that level it is a "go to this spot and then find work" scheme, past that there are techniques coaches teach to cover the gaps. Here are the two basic versions that Saban uses against standard 2x2 formations:
If you picked up on the fact that "Liz" and "Rip" begin with the same letters as "left" and "right" (or you know your port and starboard colors) you have my permission to eat a cookie.
Joe Paterno used variations of this (Rip is very close to his base defense*) since the Chatelperronian, and like Neanderthal toolkits it only looks crude until you see it in the hands of a master.**
Some things to know that we'll use later:
- The receiver numbering system is the same as in Quarters: start from the sideline and work your way in until you're at the center. It's where they are at the snap, not before, in case motion messed with that.
- The path you take to your zone matters a great deal. Note how guys running toward their zones are actually going through weak points in the coverage. This is for "routing" purposes: if you're there a receiver can't be.
The latter is true for all zone defenses, but it's a stress point for Cover 3 because the holes in the zone are places the offense can attack either quickly (7-9 yards downfield in the seam) or easily (deep downfield once the free safety has committed). Cover 3 coaches teach defenders to be in the way so receivers have to re-route to covered places.
The tradeoff is natural coverage strength to the middle of the field, to the detriment of the flats—if you've ever watched an NFL defense that seems to constantly be tackling fullbacks squirting out of the backfield, that's why.
The problem with Cover 3 is the same problem with Cover 2: those frikkity vertical routes:
The problem remains with pretty much any set of routes that stem from a vertical release.
The old-fashioned answer to this is play more man defense, and certainly Cover 1 (example diagram) is a complementary coverage to any Cover 3 team. In Cov1, aka "Man Free" defense, corners stay on the receivers, the erstwhile "curl/flat" guys stay on the #2's, and the middle linebacker over the RB takes the RB.
But if you're playing man-to-man defense, you'd better have men who can win their battles 97%+ of the time against theirs. If you need to activate that free safety to double up a dangerman, now you're giving up "front"—how many defenders are participating in your run fits, and once it's not an 8-man front anymore you're weak against the run. Offenses will also use rub routes, or exploit matchups, e.g. have a quick slot receiver sprint across the formation until he loses the linebacker trying to keep up.
These were problems for Saban to a much greater degree when he was dealing with the kind of talent the Cleveland Browns drafted during his DC days. By the time he got to MSU he already had his Rip and Liz and his Cov1 amalgamated into a hybrid scheme he called "pattern matching."
[After the jump]
* The Paterno-era "Hero", and "Sam" in the linked diagram were early examples of hybrid space players, and the zone-blitzing 8-man front it spawned was the basis of Rocky Long's 3-3-5 defense.
** …who discovered children were being sexually abused in his locker room and didn't tell the police because football reasons.
The NFL Draft begins on Thursday, and while Michigan doesn't have a long list of potential draftees, at least a couple former Wolverines will hear their names called this weekend. The first of them will almost assuredly be Devin Funchess, who's projected as a second- or third-round pick with a small chance of sneaking into the end of the first round. What should an NFL team expect to get from Funchess? Here's a look at one of the draft's most intriguing boom-or-bust prospects.
By The Numbers
Position: Wide Receiver (or Tight End, if you're not into the whole blocking thing)
Height/Weight: 6'4", 232
40 Time: 4.70 (combine), 4.47 (pro day)
Junior stats: 100 targets, 62 receptions (62% catch rate), 733 yards (7.3 YPT/11.8 YPC), 4 TDs
Sophomore stats: 92 targets, 49 receptions (53% catch rate), 748 yards (8.1 YPT/15.3 YPC), 6 TDs
The most striking aspect of Funchess is his physical talent. He pairs solid, though not elite, wideout speed with a tight end's frame. He's too fast and fluid in his movements to be defended by most linebackers and safeties, while his size can prove overwhelming for smaller cornerbacks—at least, it did when Michigan actually decided to take advantage of his mismatches.
Despite his size, Funchess isn't ponderous in his movements. He reaches top speed in a hurry, and when he's at his best he can be a sharp route-runner who gains separation with quick, fluid breaks and some nice deception:
Funchess' size helps him on his routes; he's tough to jam at the line, and he uses his hands well to disengage from defenders on his breaks.
A former basketball standout, Funchess can get up—he boasts a 38.5-inch vertical—and high-point the ball. While he's not the most natural pass-catcher (more on that later), he's able to make very difficult catches look relatively easy because of his athleticism.
Funchess is dangerous after the catch, capitalizing on his speed/power combination to run through opposing defensive backs—or occasionally leap right over them. While he's more of a straight-line runner than a dynamic open-field juke threat, he covers ground in a hurry and utilizes a solid stiff-arm in the open field.
Funchess too often allows the football to get too close to his body, which leads to some awkward catches and, with frustrating frequency, flat-out drops:
His route-running needs more consistency. The sharp, fluid breaks mentioned above weren't always apparent last season, though much of that may be due to the toe injury that lingered for most of the season.
Then there's the reason Funchess moved to wide receiver in the first place: his blocking, or lack thereof. He simply couldn't hold up as an in-line tight end, and his blocking didn't improve much when he moved outside. When putting together this post, I asked Brian for a canonical example of Funchess blowing a block:
Brian: there isn't one because there are so many
Brian: there are three in the ND UFR
That's referencing the 2013 Notre Dame game, when Funchess still played tight end; his blocking performance in that game may have expedited his move to receiver. Unfortunately, that move didn't mask Funchess' issues with both technique and effort as a blocker:
While most of Funchess' efforts weren't that egregiously bad, he's got a long way to go as a blocker.
If you asked me after his sophomore season, I'd say without hesitation that Funchess is on his way to being a very productive NFL receiver. When healthy, he's a matchup nightmare, and NFL offenses are finding more ways to incorporate oversized, TE-like receivers. Then last season cast a lot of uncertainty over Funchess for reasons both within (drops, blocking) and outside (playcalling, QB play, injuries) of his control.
I still think Funchess can be an impact player worthy of an early-round selection. He can be a red zone threat right off the bat, and if he limits his drops he can be an every-down player. I like the CBSSports comparison of Funchess to Carolina's Kelvin Benjamin, who has a similar build (6'5", 240) and profile—Benjamin was the Panthers' go-to receiver as a rookie of out FSU, and while he was very productive (73 catches, 1,008 yards, 9 TDs), he had issues with drops (52% catch rate) and route-running. I'm not sure Funchess is as ready to be an instant-impact player; replicating Benjamin's rookie season is likely a best-case scenario.
I think Funchess is at the mercy of which team selects him more than a lot of receivers. If he's drafted by a franchise that tries to turn him back into a tight end, he's likely to be a bust. If his new team lets him go to work on the outside, he's got the chance to develop into a productive downfield threat, especially if he's paired with a receiver who works well underneath.
Jaylenbits? Maybe not quite but it is by far the most interesting thing going on right now. The latest:
- Scout's Brian Snow has been saying this is a top two of UK and M for weeks and reiterated that, with Cal running third. Feels like the Bears would be a surprise but not an all-caps SHOCK.
- Sam Webb did not offer a gut feeling on WTKA this morning but did reiterate that Michigan was very much in this recruitment; he's got an article coming up in the News on why that is. As a guy who's badgered him about this recruitment for months I can say that Sam is getting more hopeful as we move along here. He is not playing coy, though: nobody knows.
- Kentucky offered 2015 6'6" wing Shaun Kirk yesterday just hours after he committed to NC State. Kentucky needs a lot of guys, yes; they already have a commitment from a 6'6" wing out of Chicago and are about to get a JUCO shooting guard, Mychal Mulder. A 247 Kentucky staff member suggested this was "more indicative" of where things are with Jaylen Brown than Cheick Diallo, the 6'9" power forward who is the other major prize Kentucky is after.
- Even if Kentucky sweeps Kirk/Mulder/Diallo they will still have a spot for Brown, FWIW. Adding Jamal Murray, the Canadian combo guard who is considering reclassifying from 2016, and all those guys would fill them up but even then a guy like Marcus Lee could get Creaned.
- Crystal Ball predictions continue to roll in for Michigan, including one from Jerry Meyer, 247's head of basketball recruiting. Michigan now has the last 13 picks, with 247 staffers at their Duke, Ohio State, Kansas, and UNC sites amongst those to pick M in the last couple days. Again, I wouldn't take this as gospel since this recruitment has been cloak and dagger. Somebody is hearing something.
- College coaches don't seem to be among that group, as several said they have "no clue" and/or "no feel" for what Brown was going to do.
- The OSU staffer told his message board that after some texts it looks like it's "headed UM's way" and that the Adidas thing was "huge". Steve Lorenz also mentioned something along those lines. I will call them Competent Germans for a week if this happens.
- Rivals, which has been pessimistic the whole time, suggests that Kansas writers in their network are "beginning to believe" they have a real shot. That's at odds with what their 24/7 guys are saying.
- There's no scheduled commitment time but people expect that that Brown will choose within the next couple weeks.
Meanwhile VA combo guard Kenny Williams is planning to take an official to Michigan. UNC and Virginia are the other schools he'll visit after using two of his officials earlier in the year; those schools and maybe VCU appear to comprise his list. Obviously if Brown does happen, Williams will no longer be an option.
Other basketball things. During the Hatch press conference, Beilein touched on a couple personnel matters. On DJ Wilson's position:
Beilein: 'If DJ (Wilson) plays in the middle, it'll probably be the only year he plays in the middle.' Not a center. But can be, apparently
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) April 27, 2015
That is no surprise with Teske and maybe Davis scheduled to enter in 2016 (Davis may prep), but it is an indicator where Michigan stands this year. They may need a third C and it sounds like Wilson will be the guy playing Bielfeldt/Smotrycz when foul trouble looms.
Spike Albrecht will undergo a second surgery. Beilein expects full recovery by the start of fall practice.
— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) April 27, 2015
That does not put talk about Spike redshirting to rest but it should at least dampen it considerably. Given the composition of the roster Michigan should want to add a point guard in 2016; a Spike redshirt prevents that. And having Albrecht available is a very good thing for a team with aspirations.
On other potential roster moves:
Beilein still expects every other player currently on the team to be back next season.
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) April 27, 2015
There was some speculation that Chatman might light out for greener pastures; happy that is not the case. He is still a guy who can develop into an excellent player. Just get that corner three down and get mean on the boards and we're in business.
1925 sounds exactly as fun as you would expect. The roaring 20s of football:
— Rodger Sherman (@rodger_sherman) April 28, 2015
Several years later mud would obscure key numbers in the New York Stock Exchange, and the rest is history.
Nyet. Mike Spath reported a week or so ago that Michigan would look to add a grad transfer wide receiver or two over the coming months, space permitting, and thoughts naturally turned to Devin Lucien, the UCLA receiver who Michigan essentially turned down (they asked him to play D) days after Hoke took the job. Lucien is no longer available:
WR Devin Lucien is transferring to ASU. Grad transfer. Eligible immediately. Nice get. 29 catches, 225 yards, 2 TDs last year at UCLA.
— Doug Haller (@DougHaller) April 28, 2015
Cut to the chase. The Final Four—two spectacular games and Duke punking MSU—put the "COLLEGE BASKETBALL IS DEATH" meme to the sword, or it least it should have. But at the same time the tournament was going on, basketball was experimenting with a 30 second shot clock in their B- and C-tier postseason tournaments. Those increased scoring without a commensurate decrease in efficiency, so you may as well do it. It appears that people are going to do it:
Men's basketball is likely heading toward reducing its shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds, NCAA rules committee chairman Rick Byrd told ESPN.com on Monday.
Byrd, the coach at Belmont, said a year ago that there was a 5 percent chance of the change happening, but he changed his tone Monday.
"Now there's a real decent chance," Byrd said. "It's pretty evident a lot more coaches are leaning that way. The opinion of coaches on the shot clock has moved significantly to reducing it from 35 to 30. And all indicators are pointing toward that."
Byrd also said there was a 90% chance college basketball would adopt the NBA charge circle. It does sound like other changes are on the horizon:
Byrd said coaches have told him the game is too physical and too rough. He said that will come up quite a bit in the meeting.
Byrd also said there will be discussion about altering the timeout rule to create better flow. He said he would like to mimic the rule in women's basketball where if a coach calls a timeout within 30 seconds of a media timeout, then that becomes the TV timeout.
He said too often coaches will call a timeout, knowing they are getting a media timeout 15 seconds later, and that creates an even longer downtime for the fans in the stands and the TV audience.
"You can have the last few minutes take 20 minutes," Byrd said. "It doesn't bother coaches, but it does for those watching at home and in the arena. We need to try to get the games within two-hour windows."
All of that sounds excellent. From a selfish perspective I think the shot clock reduction hurts Michigan since they use their time on offense so well, but if it's part of a package that includes improving offensive flow by reducing the Spartanizing of the game I'll take it in a hot second.
Now just implement my coaches-must-cut-off-a-digit-to-call-timeout plan and we are cooking with gas.
The unbundling. ESPN has sued Verizon for attempting an end-around of their contract. ESPN thinks it says Verizon can't offer "basic" packages without its family of channels; Verizon is like nah.
Verizon Fios has just shy of six million cable subscribers -- making it the fourth largest cable company and sixth largest cable or satellite company in the country. Verizon recently announced a new cheaper alternative to a basic cable package. That offering allows consumers to subscribe to a basic cable package for $59.99. Unlike Dish Network's recent Sling TV offering which includes ESPN in its basic tier, the new Verizon Fios package doesn't include ESPN in its basic tier pricing. Instead ESPN -- along with ESPN2, FS1 and NBC Sports Network -- are included in a sports tier package which consumers can purchase for the additional price of $9.99 a month. That is, it's possible to subscribe to Verizon's new cable package without receiving ESPN.
That's actually a great deal for that sports package since ESPN and ESPN 2 alone cost Verizon seven dollars. I am not a law-talking guy but I can't see how this is going to fly in the courts; it is an indicator of where we're going. Right now sports is being subsidized by people who don't care about it at all. In an a-la-carte world that no longer happens.
Then what? Then ESPN takes a bath, with sports leagues next on the chopping block. ESPN costs 6 bucks a month for a channel 20% of people are interested in; it will not cost thirty bucks a month in an a-la-carte world because a lot of people will forgo it. There's only so much you can do by strong-arming customers in an environment where ten bucks a month gets you a virtually infinite pile of content. The people who don't care will opt out.
This is why adding questionable fanbases to the Big Ten in the pursuit of short-term cable dollars was so incredibly foolish even beyond the deleterious effects of adding a bunch of games nobody in the world cares about. Every time I see someone hail Jim Delany as some kind of visionary I want to laugh/cry.
it could happen?
We normally don't do minute-by-minute updates on specific recruits, but when it's crunch time for a guy who might be the #1 player in the country that's an exception worth making. So: UCLA sources are reporting that Brown has dropped the Bruins and Scout's Evan Daniels says that his list of eight is now five:
Jaylen Brown is down to five schools -- California, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan & North Carolina -- a source confirms to Scout.
— Evan Daniels (@EvanDaniels) April 27, 2015
The other teams cut are the two Georgia schools that seemed like courtesy listings for the locals.
In the wake of that news and Austin Hatch going on medical scholarship, Michigan has scored a bunch of Crystal Ball predictions. I wouldn't put too much stock into that, as Brown's recruitment has been extraordinarily tight-lipped, but it's better than the alternative. A staffer on 247's Kansas site thinks Kansas is all but out as well and that the three schools with a real shot are Cal, Michigan, and Kentucky.
I've been scouring the relevant message boards and Kentucky guys have not been particularly optimistic despite their recruiting proficiency… but again, nobody seems to have a feel for how this recruitment will go. After all, many thought UCLA was the leader.