Not bad for year one. Michigan finishes tenth in Matt Hinton's final rankings.
But for an all-time fluke you can swap M and MSU. Jim Harbaugh can coach a bit.
Embrace expectations in year two. Michigan will not start next year outside the polls. It may start it inside the top five, if post-season top X lists are any indicator:
- Stewart Mandel ranks Michigan 4th.
- PFF predicts Michigan will make the playoff, also ranking M 4th.
- Mark Schablach ranks Michigan… yep, 4th.
With a pile of starters returning and Jim freakin' Harbaugh as Michigan's coach, this is not a huge surprise. Michigan demolished Florida in the bowl game and that kind of thing tends to get you a big perception bump headed into next season. Half the time that's a mirage; Michigan will hope that theirs is legit.
The number one gentleman who needs to come through for Michigan to deliver. That would be one John O'Korn, likely starting quarterback. For months I've mentioned a steady drumbeat of chatter from inside the program that O'Korn was the best QB on the roster. Here's another manifestation of that from Ron Bellamy:
He said from his discussions with the Michigan coaches and the people in the program, John O'Korn "just lit up" the first team defense as the scout team QB everyday in practice. He said he was doing it against Lewis, Peppers, etc and the Michigan defensive coaches told him that O'Korn was going to be a flat out stud.
I'll try to stay calm and reasonable about these reports for the next eight months. And fail.
Let's go wherever, whenever. Harbaugh wants to have a week of spring practice in Florida. Specifically, at IMG, which has started a football program that attracts top recruits from around the country. A solid idea that will infuriate many: welcome to the offseason.
(Harbaugh wants to do it over spring break, naturally, to assuage any academics concerns you might have.)
I might watch it on mute just to see. Harbaugh is going to the state of the union thanks to a couple of congresspersons:
"For me he's the best of what the country should be and is," Dingell told MLive Monday night, pointing to his track record of hard work and teamwork.
Dingell, a Democrat, represents the 12th Congressional District, which includes the University of Michigan. She and U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, a Republican from West Michigan, together agreed to bring Harbaugh and his wife Sarah as guests to the State of the Union on Tuesday.
Each congressperson can invite one guest, so Amash invited Harbaugh and Dingell invited Sarah Harbaugh. Dingell said Amash's office approached hers about hosting the Harbaughs, and she'd have invited him in the first place if she knew he was interested.
Well done… people… in congress?
Seriously, do I have to watch the State of the Union now? I mean, any of these things could happen:
- President shouts out Michigan's football coach
- Harbaugh is invited to give speech
- Harbaugh is not invited to give speech, gives speech anyway
- Harbaugh wears cleats
- Harbaugh nails Joe Biden on a post route
- Harbaugh signs Declaration of Independence, is told that is unnecessary these days, says he has improved document all the same
- camera cuts to Harbaugh gobbling stadium foodstuffs not apparently on sale anywhere in the building
Gentry location. Zach Gentry could be a tight end. He could also be a quarterback. He did a little of the former in the bowl practices but he is not a tight end. Yet.
Gentry was one player who Harbaugh experimented with during bowl practices last month, moving the 6-foot-7, 230-pound true freshman from quarterback to tight end.
An athletic quarterback in high school, Gentry was asked by Harbaugh to give it a shot after the regular season ended. Gentry says he didn't hesitate.
"It was their (idea), but I've been flexible with it," Gentry said last week in Orlando. "Coach Harbaugh and (Jay Harbaugh) wanted to use my athleticism and see what happens. I've been doing it in practice, I think I've done a nice job with it.
"But I'm not sure, exactly, what's going on with my future (and what position I'll play)."
I imagine he'll compete in spring as a quarterback, because Michigan's got an open job. If he ends up clearly behind at least two other guys, tight end becomes a real long-term option. (As does a transfer, unfortunately.) If he's in the running, or even in the top three, you have let him stay at QB. The athleticism that makes him a good tight end prospect is something Harbaugh wants from his QBs—and last night Deshaun Watson made Alabama's defense look silly thanks in large part to his legs.
Rats, what is your opinion of this ship? Penn State lost DC John Shoop to Tennessee. Related: John Shoop ain't got no shame.
Less than two weeks after Bob Shoop told reporters he hoped Penn State would have him "forever and ever and ever," the Nittany Lions' defensive coordinator is leaving the program for the same position at Tennessee.
PSU nearly lost him last year to LSU, whereupon Shoop was given a three-year, near-seven-figure deal. This year Tennessee offers 1.15 million and he's gone. All this further confirms that we should just pay the f-ing players before people in college football start literally drowning in money.
Anyway, the bleeding was and is not over: a few days later Penn State loses OL coach Herb Hand to the same position at Auburn. Today linebacker Troy Reeder announced he's transferring to Delaware after starting 11 games as a redshirt freshman. (Geno Lewis also grad-transferred to Oklahoma but that looks like a garden-variety playing time transfer.)
This all seems less than ideal for James Franklin, who has escaped serious scrutiny so far as Penn State digs out from under NCAA sanctions. Hand was dealt a… nevermind. Hand was put in an enormously difficult spot by those sanctions, which forced him to start two converted defensive linemen at guard. Then he lost the one good lineman he had to the draft last year; getting out makes sense for him.
I just wonder how hot seats get if Penn State's offense struggles again next year and their defense takes a half-step back without most of that defensive line. I'm guessing pretty hot.
Meanwhile in Big Ten teams losing defensive coordinators to SEC teams. Wisconsin's Dave Aranda headed down to LSU, causing Barry Alvarez to grouse about funding.
“The reason they can go up higher (in the SEC) is they’re not supporting as many sports,” Alvarez said. “It’s a difference in philosophy. The Big Ten is known for being more broad-based in its sports offerings. We are committed to supporting a broad-based athletic program. People may dismiss that, but it’s a real thing. They can sink more of their money into football."
At Get The Picture, a commenter points out the differences between Wisconsin and Georgia aren't significant:
What they have that we don’t: 3 rowing teams, wrestling, 2 hockey teams and men’s soccer.
What we have they they don’t (w/o looking to confirm): baseball, equestrian and gymnastics.
LSU is similar. They sponsor gymnastics, beach volleyball, and baseball; Wisconsin does not. Wisconsin sponsors hockey for both genders, wrestling, men's soccer, and rowing. Men's hockey makes money. Wisconsin's added expense for extra teams is more or less rowing—which mostly exists to be a cheap Title IX makeweight. Alvarez is full of it.
At least he's not alone?
…look at where some of the many other Big Ten coordinator hires came from this offseason: Louisiana-Lafayette (Minnesota, offense), Fordham (Penn State, offense), internally (Purdue and Illinois, offense), Northern Illinois (Rutgers, defense), Arkansas State (Maryland, offense) and even a coach who was out of football for a year (Purdue, defense). Maybe those moves will work out brilliantly, but they hardly bring the sizzle that Tennessee and LSU acquired.
On the other hand, Mike Debord.
Meanwhile in literally drowning in money. Hoo boy this makes me furious:
Jim Delany wrecked the Big Ten by adding two makeweight east coast programs that make no sense, destroyed the basketball schedule, made it so Michigan plays half the league once in a decade, and gets rewarded for it because some dillweed in the league office figured out a way to exploit the dying cable monopoly for short-term gain. I mean, I guess that's how things go in a business, but then they turn around and try to justify amateurism.
Meanwhile, the bubble creaks ominously:
Old Dominion and the other 13 Conference USA schools will have to make do with about $500,000 less in television revenue next season.
League TV revenue is likely to fall by about half when new contracts with Fox Sports and the CBS Sports Network take effect on July 1, according to sources at three schools familiar with C-USA’s TV contract negotiations.
The Big Ten is up in a few years. They've got a lot more pull than CUSA, but this might not be the best time for a contract negotiation.
In other news, I now have massive respect for Dane Brugler. CBS analyst Dane Brugler tells Michael Spath that Jake Butt had a shot to be the top tight end in the draft and a second round pick if he came out and picks out—yep—DESMOND MORGAN as Michigan's top eligible player:
:…he was all over the field,” Brugler said. “He was a blitzer, a guy that could play in the middle but play in space. He has lateral range, played sideline to sideline, quick reactions, strings runs out to the perimeter.
“Morgan is a physical player, aggressive but also at the same time, smart. I think he has the best shot to go a bit higher than his teammates. As long as the medicals check out.”
Thank you, Dane Brugler. You and I can ride on the Desmond Morgan bandwagon all the way to the, er, fifth round. Saddle up.
Don Brown defensive resources I haven't had the time to look at yet but will revisit when I do. Ditto Ian Boyd on running your slot receiver down the gut of the MSU defense or Smart Football touching on the same topic.
I don't know why Ohio-based Scout guy Bill Greene is breaking all these but he is. Here you go:
Michigan DB Terry Richardson is leaving the program to pursue other options. Will be eligible immediately as a grad-transfer. #MICHIGAN
— Bill Greene (@BillBankGreene) January 12, 2016
Richardson never saw playing time after being a highly touted recruit out of Cass Tech, probably because he couldn't put on enough weight to tackle guys. Michigan has 24 commits and 18-ish spots until the next grad transfer announcement Greene will break in about 15 minutes.
Bill Greene reports that RB/WR/DB Ross Taylor-Douglas is going to transfer:
Ross Taylor-Douglas is leaving the Michigan program as a graduate transfer that will have two years of eligibility remaining. #MICHIGAN
— Bill Greene (@BillBankGreene) January 12, 2016
Taylor-Douglas bounced between various positions during his tenure at Michigan without ever finding a home; last year he got garbage time carries as a tailback. With a crowded depth chart the prospect of playing time was unlikely next year.
Taylor-Douglas's departure opens up a scholarship for next year. Michigan now has 24 recruits and approximately 17 spots if everyone on the roster right now returns. Obviously that will not happen, so prepare for a number of posts like this in the future.
Friday, January 8, 2016
MSU 2, #8 Michigan 9
MSU 1 UM 0 EV 09:26 Appleton from Draeger & MacEachern
Selman comes up to the point to try and check Draeger, but he avoids Selman and skates deeper into the zone. Nieves sees this and steps up to cover.
Appleton is in the opposite faceoff circle banging his stick on the ice and Draeger obliges, passing through the empty part of the slot.
Appleton one-times the puck and it hits Cecconi's skate, changing angles and easily beating Racine. There's nothing he can do about a deflection off of a skate that close to the net; it's also worth noting that this play is otherwise well defended.
[After THE JUMP: Jake Hildebrand stars as Devin Gardner in "Oh. Oh Wow. We Are So Sorry."]
Michigan crossed the halfway mark of 2015-16 Thursday at Purdue in a game that unfortunately encapsulated much of the season thus far: a shorthanded Wolverine squad turned in a strong offensive performance (accounting for context here) that fell short of covering for their defensive shortcomings against a quality opponent.
While it hasn't been a bad year—Michigan is 12-4; they were 10-6 at this point last season with two awful losses—it hasn't been the bounce-back many expected. The Wolverines have beaten the teams they should beat, but they've yet to take down a top-50 KenPom opponent in four tries, and that'll have to change if they want to make a tourney run.
So what's gone well, what hasn't, and what will swing this season one way or the other?
WHAT'S LIL WAYNE 2005-09
All photos: Patrick Barron/MGoBlog
Caris LeVert. Aside from a woeful performance at SMU, LeVert has been one of the best and most consistent players in the country. He boasts the third-best offensive rating among players who use at least 24% of their team's possessions, per KenPom. His drives are more productive than ever before; instead of snaking his way towards the basket, LeVert is getting there more directly, finishing at the highest rate of his career (77.4% at the rim, per hoop-math), and posting the assist-to-turnover rate of a good point guard—which he functions as for this team, something equally evident in his absence as his presence.
When healthy, LeVert has looked like the potential All-American we hoped he'd become, a triple-double threat any time he steps on the court. Unfortunately, the "when healthy" caveat is now required; I'll cover that in another section.
Duncan Robinson. This is Robinson's definitely-not-altered shot chart from Shot Analytics:
One could leave it at that and conclude Robinson has exceeded expectations. In the beginning of the season, there wouldn't have been much more to say anyway; through the first four games he attempted 16 three-pointers and four two-pointers while failing to tally an assist. Robinson has at least one assist in ten of the 12 games since that point, however, and he's used the threat of his outside shot to generate opportunities for himself and others closer to the tin.
Robinson is quietly improving defensively, too, though he set the bar quite low to start the year. His lethal efficiency on offense more than makes up for that; it's hard to complain about a player who's first nationally in ORtg, eFG%, and True Shooting %.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur Rahkman. The bright spot in an otherwise dreadful game at Purdue, Rahk was the only Wolverine who could get to the hoop and finish in LeVert's absence. In the two games since LeVert's injury, Rahk is 11/15 on two-pointers, 4/8 on threes, 5/6 from the line, and he hasn't recorded a turnover. While it'd be great to see Rahk pass the, um, rock a little more—only Aubrey Dawkins has a lower assist rate among non-centers—his ability to generate buckets on his own is huge coming off the bench, and as his outside shots develops (11/29 this season) he could carve out a huge role for himself.
Three-point shooting. Michigan is shooting 43% from beyond the arc as a team. Four high-volume shooters—Robinson, LeVert, Dawkins, and Derrick Walton—are making 45% or better. It boggles the mind to consider where the team's numbers would be if Zak Irvin (15/59) had been shooting like he did as an underclassman.
[Hit THE JUMP for the bad and the we're-not-sure-yet.]
HT Liz Crowe for finding the photo
Harbaugh? A few weeks back a member of the planning committee for Ann Arbor Pioneer's annual athletic department fundraiser thingy pinged me all excited about something. With this year's event taking place the same weekend as the Harbros' "Greatest Coaching Clinic of All-Time" it was the perfect opportunity to induct two of the greatest athletes to ever wear the purple (not Ravens). I found this cool, and they said we get to announce it.
When? If you're not otherwise tied up on Friday, March 11 at 5:30 p.m…
What? …then come see Jim and John Harbaugh inducted into the Pioneer Hall of Fame. There will be a dinner, VIP pre-party, and some gift bags to serve as the fundraiser.
Fundraiser? This costs money? That's kinda the point: this is how they annually raise money for the Pioneer teams. If you would like to trade money for meeting Jim and John Harbaugh (and, like, us), then you can do that beforehand. Hold on I got a flier for this:
There. Click that and you'll get to the Facebook page. There will be information updates there as the rest of this comes together.
Is there a basketball game then? We're probably good. There's a sliiiight chance that Michigan will be in the Big Ten tournament's 6:30 game. I say "slight" with extra-i's because M would have to be either the #10, #7, or #2 seed.
But I'm a Huron alum! Then come wearing a #17 River Rats jersey.
How about gratuitous photos of Young Harbaughs? Don't mind if I do.