At press time, Harbaugh had sent Michigan’s athletic department an envelope containing a heavily annotated seating chart, a list of the 63,000 seat views he had found unsatisfactory, and a glowing 70-page report on section 25, row 12, seat 9, which he claimed is “exactly what the great sport of football is all about.”
It's been just over a month since Mitch McGary announced his "decision" to go pro. The scare quotes are present because there was no decision to make if McGary were to act at all in his own self-interest.
This sucked. This sucked because Mitch McGary is a joy to watch on the basketball court, a 6'10" mace attached to a giant pendulum, swinging violently back and forth while pausing only to wreck shit. This sucked because he's equally fun off the court, with his unicycle and Bieber-crooning and invaluable coaching advice and generally making Michigan's bench seem like the best party on campus, even if McGary was the only one partying:
What sucked most of all, though, was the feeling that McGary had only scratched the surface of his potential, and factors almost entirely out of his control* limited our exposure to just 12 career starts. Mitch McGary's Michigan career lasted all of 966 minutes played. That's just over 16 hours. That's not nearly enough.
So while I had no trouble writing effusively about Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III after their departures, I've spent the last month struggling to put McGary's career into words. I try to analyze and am left instead with a whole lot of feelings. How does one discuss an athlete hyped to Webberian proportions before he ever enrolled who, apart from one brilliant six-game stretch, never produced as expected yet was beloved all the same?
Probably by ignoring all of that, sitting back, and watching him work, because again: when Mitch McGary was on the court, the only proper response was to drop everything and watch Mitch McGary. He didn't give you a choice in the matter. He grabbed your attention like so many entry passes:
McGary was a defensive force with impeccable timing. His steal rate as a freshman easily surpassed that of Trey Burke, Master of the Halfcourt Pickpocket. He protected the rim. He seemingly rebounded everything. Michigan's defense suffered mightily last season without McGary's interior presence and game-changing ability to erase opponent possessions.
He also boasted remarkable skill for a big man. Defensive boards turned into fast breaks in the time you could say "Unseld." Sometimes he'd eschew that route and just do everything himself. Occasionally he'd finish his coast-to-coast forays with a Rondo-esque fake behind-the-back pass. Speaking of point guard skills, he could thread multiple defenders without looking. Perhaps my favorite McGary play came in the Kansas game, when he hit a baseline turnaround right in Jeff Withey's face like it was routine, not a work-in-progress shot he'd rarely—if ever—utilized to that point.
He did these things while accepting a backup role until it was time to unleash him for the 2013 NCAA Tournament, playing in an offense that relied on him more as a garbageman than a creator, and being the team's #1 scholarship cheerleader and hype man.
Look at the GIF at the top of the post, one more time. It's a 25-point blowout of Northwestern, and there's McGary, showing more effort in one play than some guys do in four years. Sure, he lost the ball out of bounds, but it's not like you can be mad about it; even if it didn't end well, that play brought life to a dull affair, and we were all better for having seen it.
That's how I'll choose to remember Mitch McGary. The flashes of brilliance. The occasional mistakes born from genuine enthusiasm that bordered on excessive. Most of all, the feeling, after everything, that I enjoyed my life just that much more thanks to a big kid from Indiana who seemed to enjoy everything.
*Yes, there's the weed thing. Read that David Roth piece, then think about the punishment for McGary's transgression versus one of another Michigan center—the football one, Graham Glasgow, suspended for part of spring practice and one should-be-a-cupcake non-conference game for drunk driving. I find one of these things far worse than the other, and it's the one that puts other people's lives in actual danger.
I WAS NOT KIDDING ABOUT MORPH YOU GUYS
5/27/2014 – USA 2, Azerbaijan 0
This was a CONCACAF game. The frustrating 90 minutes of set pieces and 11 Azeris behind the ball was very familiar. The US plays a dozen of these every cycle in Panama or Honduras or El Salvador. There were even adverse conditions, as the wind at Candlestick was fierce enough to blow free kicks away from their designated spot. The thing ended like various CONCACAF games, with the US making a set piece breakthrough and then finishing the game out.
So what was the point of that? I don't know. A game like that makes all the sense in the world before the start of the final round of World Cup qualifying. Now it is a wasted opportunity.
For what it's worth, there's no shame in struggling to assemble a goal against Azerbaijan. Group winner Russia scratched out 1-0 and 1-1 games in qualifying against them. They are a tough nut to crack.
Except on set pieces. It is literally impossible for a striker to be more wide open on a corner than Johannsson was on the second.
This reminds me of one of two goals I scored in my brief adult rec soccer career (which ended when my ACL went bye). That's how bad that was.
A few minutes into the game they set Wondolowski loose on a free kick and I marveled that things like that keep happening to Wondo. While I do think his movement is brilliant and he doesn't get enough credit for it… uh… maybe not the best opponent to make his case.
And the other goal. Just one of those things that happen when the ball falls in the right place a couple times.
The most important thing from the night.
Klinsmann: Dempsey groin issue "not serious at all." Expects him to be ready for Turkey.
— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) May 28, 2014
Not having your most creative attacking player also contributes to the inability to unlock the Azeris. As long as he's fine, it's fine. Fine.
That last bit was a joke. But "fine" is apparently our watchword today.
“Everyone did fine. They did what they were supposed to do,” Klinsmann said. “Overall it was fine.”
It was. It was fine, as long as you say "fine" in a tiny bit of a snit.
The Jones experiment. Jones was deployed as a solitary defensive midfielder for the first time in his USA career and I didn't even hate him at all. There was one mildly dangerous surging run in the first half that is probably a bad idea against higher levels of competition; other than that I think he fulfilled his role well.
Jones was very smart about when to apply pressure to get the ball back and when to commit fouls to prevent Azeri breaks off of turnovers. He even got one of his long shots in when a rebound popped out of the box. His passing wasn't really off, as the swirling winds made it impossible to judge anything longer than about 15 feet. It seemed off relative to the rest of the team because DMCs tend to make long passes to either wing. In this game that meant "make an obvious turnover." Aside from that, thumbs up.
Level of competition is an issue; so far so good. He is a lot more proactive than Beckerman, which is good until it's really not good.
The Fabian Johnson experiment. Johnson felt like the best player on the field for large chunks of the game, surging up the right side like we've seen him do on the left for some of the USA's best sequences of play. I know he's been playing there for his Bundesliga club and in the World Cup training camp; I did not expect him to seem so natural there and play so well.
He didn't get tested defensively, but defense is defense no matter what flank you're on. He provided a threat going forward that the US has not had from that spot the last four years.
The substitution pattern revealed Klinsmann's thinking when Chandler came in to replace Beasley at halftime: Johnson is all but locked in at right back and Klinsmann's working with Chandler on the left to see what he should do if his first choice guys aren't available.
Too many turnovers. The Klinsmann era has been one long attempt to turn the USA into more of a possession side against anyone. I particularly remember a friendly before the last World Cup against Holland in which the Dutch had the ball 80% of the time because the USA could not play their way out of the high pressure being applied. Time and again they resorted to the soccer equivalent of icing wherein a panicky center back would wallop the ball upfield in the vague hope the lone striker could do something with it.
There is a ceiling on that sort of play. (That ceiling is the 2009 Confederations Cup.) Klinsmann has been so desperate to break that mold that he's played almost nothing but midfielders at outside back; in this game three of the four defenders played midfield for significant chunks of their careers. The US now tries to deal with high pressure by playing through it and keeping the ball. It raises their ceiling.
In this game it led to a number of alarming turnovers that gave the Land of Fire their brief moments of offensive threat. Wind (more in the fact and lack of familiarity with the formation had something to do with it… but I wonder if part of the reason was that the US back line couldn't find options because Jones wasn't providing them as well as Bradley or Beckerman does.
Can't take anyone on, but never could. There were few instances where a US player facing an Azeri defender created something dangerous by going by him. Johnson did relieve some pressure by popping up the wing; Altidore had one run into the box from the left wing; Brad Davis (of all people!) got to the end line and got in a dangerous cross. That was about that for mano-a-mano chance creation.
This has always been the USA's lot, especially without Dempsey, and Landon Donovan doesn't fix that. While I share the dull-eyed frustration of various pundits today it doesn't mean much other than this is what happens when the USA plays a deep that is bunkering down hard. In a trash tornado, even.
In all. Okay. Kind of useless. Good to see Fabian Johnson play so well. Left mid now biggest question mark. Bring on the Turks.
USA vs Azerbaijan
Send Off Series Friendly
San Francisco, CA
|WHEN||10 PM Eastern|
|LINE||I don't know man|
FINALLY, THE TIME HAS COME TO GET REVENGE ON—uh…
well my one Armenian friend is totally pumped?
THE THEM: LAND OF FIRE
The "door to hell" is actually in Turkmenistan, but call yourself Land Of Fire and this is what you get
When not getting way more mileage out of their Atletico Madrid shirt sponsorship than they expected, Azerbaijan specializes in being on fire. This generates tourism? I am unclear on the way marketing works.
The Azeris finished fourth in their World Cup group with a 1-3-6 record (note: using standard American win-loss-tie notation here) and a –4 goal differential. They weren't good, finishing only ahead of Northern Ireland and Luxemborg, but they weren't terrible either, scoring a 1-1 tie and 1-0 road loss against group winner Russia. Their only multi-goal defeats came against USA group stage foe Portugal, which won 2-0 and 3-0.
This represents a high water mark for the country in their short history as an independent entity. Their current FIFA ranking of 85th is an all time high; ESPN's less dumb SPI metric has them 97th, one spot below Canada. Other nearby CONCACAF teams include Trinidad and Tobago and El Salvador.
As to the players themselves, I have no idea. The goalies and entire defensive corps plays in the Azeri league; the forwards who play abroad generally do so on the lower levels of the Turkish and German ladder. Judging solely by club stats, midfielder Ruslan Abishov, who plays for midtable Russian Premiere League outfit Rubin Kazan, is the best player available. He's a CB/DM hybrid like Cameron.
If you would like to know more about the Azeris I guarantee you that The Shin Guardian's preview is the only informative commentary on them on the entire internet.
So why is the US playing a game against a team far below the caliber of opposition they'll face at the World Cup? Their head coach, Berti Vogts. Klinsmann knows him and is about to steal him for two months:
Berti Vogts is literally working both sides.
As soon as he's done coaching Azerbaijan against the Americans in an international friendly Tuesday night, Vogts will start his temporary job as a special adviser to U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
Vogts of course played Portugal twice in European qualifiers; he is also a former Germany coach. After this friendly Vogts is going to flit around the world taking in the USA's opponents in their WC friendlies, and thus deliver the US a Decided Schematic Advantage™.
Projecting a lineup, which is mostly a guess but there is this tweet:
If training is an indication #USMNT starting XI : Howard; Johnson, Cameron, Besler, Beasley; Bradley, Jones, Zusi, Dempsey, Bedoya; Altidore
— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) May 27, 2014
Zusi plus Bedoya is bizarre; Bedoya did play well for Nantes in the French top division this year, but mostly as the right winger he's always been (at least when he's scored).
And this shot of the locker room featuring something that looks like a 4-4-2 diamond on one chalkboard; the other one is not distinguishable but is probably the 4-2-3-1 Klinsmann has used most frequently.
DEFENSE: Beasley, Besler, Cameron, Johnson.
I've seen many people knocking Beasley off the team sheet, but I just don't see how it happens. Johnson's been playing right back for "all of the scrimmages," and if he's not there the Donovan-shaped hole at left mid veritably looms. Johnson is very capable with both feet, FWIW, which is one of the reasons he's so attractive on the left—gentlemen who have the option of crossing or cutting in are rare. But the hole at right back is just too big to not look at him there.
Besler's no surprise; Cameron has played very well for the US when deployed at CB and has more ball skills than any other defender in the pool. With Gonzalez shaky of late it won't take much of an excuse to yoink him for a guy who facilitates keeping the ball.
#1 thing you want from these three friendlies: Tim Chandler looking great.
Substitutes are likely to include Chandler and Brooks as Klinsmann tries to get a handle on two guys who reputedly played very well over the last couple months of the Bundesliga season but have not played much for the US in the past six months—and not well. For reasons the next section will make clear, you really want Chandler to impress over these three games.
MIDFIELD: Jones, Bradley, Zusi, Donovan-shaped-hole-at-left-mid.
Bradley and Zusi are obvious.
Assuming 4-4-2 diamond is the preferred formation, the question is: what happens when Jermaine Jones is tasked with being a single midfield destroyer? He certainly has more range and bite than Beckerman, but his penchant for silly, card-drawing tackles will only be exacerbated when he is put under more pressure to shut things down himself.
Discipline may be an issue; I say "may" because Jones has never been explicitly cast in a holding role for the US. It's hard to imagine he'd just abandon it. Guy may be a bit of a loose cannon but he is a professional and the DM in a diamond is a know-your-role kind of player. This is the kind of game to give it a shot.
And then left mid, which Galarcep implies is Bedoya's spot. The Shin Guardian agrees. I guess I have to as well, because your other options are a cardboard cutout of Landon Donovan Klinsy is trolling everyone with, Brad Davis, the starting right back, the starting left back, Julian Green, Mix Diskerud, or I guess maybe Johannson. (I know I posited Johannson as a left mid but that was in a different formation where he is pretty striker-y.)
Subs should include Beckerman and then one of a parade of guys they throw out at the Landon-Donovan-shaped-hole to see what happens: Green, Diskerud, Davis.
FORWARD: Altidore, Dempsey
Questionable form brothers, unite! Dempsey's recent form is anything but… in MLS. I mean you guys:
He's been less impactful for the Nats after a torrid two-year run that saw him named captain and end up in this picture.
Altidore is much the same except he was in the EPL this year, and when Altidore is in the EPL he suffers through a miserable season where he barely gets a chance, is asked to be the hold-up guy he looks like but isn't and never will be, and gets disinterested, whereupon his place at the club is threatened. If he was still pounding them in for the Nats you could blame Sunderland and be done with it, but his impact streak stopped a while back as well.
Putting two guys at the top takes some of the pressure of Altidore to hold and gets Dempsey at the front, where he can do the evil things he does. For both, it's "please please please look good, please."
Substitutes should include Aron Johansson, who replaced Altidore at AZ down to the pile of goals, and Chris Wondolowski. Wondo's role is pretty obvious at this World Cup: come on at 70' and find the pockets of space tiring defenders will leave him. Johansson could be the previously-mentioned Winger In Name Only in a single-striker formation or he could push Altidore to the bench at some point.
WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING FOR, OTHER THAN EVERYTHING
Is the diamond the new thing? I assumed as much above; the 4-2-3-1 is available and will be deployed based on matchups. With the US looking to win the opener they will likely go with the aggressive diamond, but it'll depend on whether it performs. I'm expecting they switch between the two, either on the fly or based on substitutions. Bradley's versatility allows them to change on the go.
Will Klinsmann see the same thing eveyone else sees in re: Bradley? I'm far from the only US soccer commentator pleading for Bradley to be released upfield, but it's been seemingly obvious that is the best version of the USA for a long time without Klinsmann seeing it. We are all assuming this is the goal, but we all thought Donovan was going to the World Cup.
Left mid: who? I guess Bedoya is getting the first shot. Color me unimpressed. Bedoya's USA career has been minimally impactful. He's like Kljestan for the outside.
Right back: who? Fabian Johnson is a fine choice, but he's pretty obviously the best choice at left mid, so if someone can free him up to play there I'm in favor. Timmy Chandler, come on down.
How does the chemistry between Besler and Cameron look? Individually, Besler and Cameron have been the best central defenders of this cycle. They have not played together much, though, and communication issues are a possibility. If they look good together Klinsmann will be doing a secret jig, as that hypothetical pairing is about 1000x better able to keep possession than the 2010 cycle's hoofers. (No offense to said hoofers, but yeah man.)
Are we secretly hoping for a mild but disqualifying injury amongst the attacking players? Maybe.
SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Happy Trails, Shaun Crawford
It felt like only a matter of time, and so it was...
No longer a commit to Michigan Football.
— Big Poppa (@1ShaunCrawford) May 24, 2014
Shaun Crawford is no longer a member of the 2015 class after following through with his expressed desire to visit Notre Dame and scheduling an Ohio State visit for this weekend. Michigan is recruiting other cornerbacks—the timing of the recent offer to TN four-star Cameron Ordway was no coincidence—and while they'll pursue Crawford, his recruitment isn't heading in the right direction:
Recent decommit Shaun Crawford tells me that #Michigan definitely still has a chance with him. I'm personally not very optimistic.
— Brandon Brown (@CoachBrown3) May 24, 2014
247's Notre Dame insider believes a commitment to the Irish could be imminent, which would not surprise. Wherever he ends up, best of luck to the young man—if your sentiments are markedly different, consider refraining from commenting on this post. Fair warning.
Other Than That...
Yes, today's roundup started on a sour note, but the rest of the recent developments in the 2015 class are actually quite positive.
Things are looking especially good with four-star CT TE Chris Clark, who named Michigan his leader after his last visit and plans to see Ann Arbor again—along with Tennessee, Arizona State, and possibly North Carolina and Ohio State—before announcing his decision at The Opening on July 10th. The return trip is a good sign on its own, and the recruiting efforts of Alex Malzone appear to be paying off as well, per 247's Rusty Mansell ($):
There are few top prospects that Clark says he would like to play on the next level with.
“Oh man, that is a tough one, there is a couple of them, I like Matt Burrell a lot,” he said.”If we are talking quarterbacks, I definitely wouldn’t mind catching passes from Brady White (ASU commit), or Alex Malzone, who just committed to Michigan.”
Mansell, writing that post for 247's Georgia outlet, commented that he thinks Michigan is the ultimate destination. 11W's Jeremy Birmingham has the same gut feeling, as well. That would be especially tough for OSU given their other top TE target, Hale Hentges, committed to Alabama over the weekend. (Hentges also held a Michigan offer, but it's clear the Wolverines have dialed in their efforts on Clark.)
Meanwhile, Michigan made a slew of top lists for some quality 2015 targets. Four-star OH OLB Justin Hilliard named the Wolverines to his final five along with Notre Dame, Iowa, Ohio State, and Alabama, per Rivals' Josh Helmholdt ($):
"Michigan is definitely a school I have a lot of comfort with," Hilliard said. "Coach [Greg] Mattison, the linebackers coach, is very cool, very experienced and coached some of the greatest linebackers in the League. He is very involved in my recruiting right now.
Hilliard expects to make a decision before his senior season.
Michigan landed in the top three for OH DE Dre'Mont Jones, though they still have work to do to reach the top of his list, per 247's Tom Loy ($):
“Ohio State is No. 1 right now, then Michigan, then Notre Dame,” Jones mentioned. “Ohio State has the edge because I always have a great time when I’m up there. I like how they run their practices and I like how the coaches treat the players and it’s a great school.”
It's tough to see Jones ending up anywhere but Columbus, but Michigan at least has a shot—Jones plans to see Ann Arbor as one of several summer visits.
Cass Tech RB Mike Weber cleared up any misconception that U-M isn't among his top schools, telling Scout's Josh Newkirk they're in his top five with MSU, OSU, Wisconsin, and Tennessee, while also discussing Doug Nussmeier's offense in a very positive light ($):
“He coached a lot of great backs that are in the league right now or are going to the league,” Weber said. “So when he tells me things, I believe – because there is proof. He’s going to be good.”
Weber was slated to visit over the weekend, rooming with his old CT teammate David Dawson. After he seemed to cool on the Wolverines over the course of last season, it seems like the Nussmeier hire has really helped Michigan get back into serious contention.
Funchess-sized four-star IL WR Miles Boykin put Michigan in his top ten, as announced on Twitter. Aside from Florida and Oregon, it's a very Midwest group. According to 247's Steve Wiltfong, Michigan is up near the top of that group, and Boykin is set to visit on June 6th ($).
U-M also appears in the top ten for four-star TX S Khalil Haughton, whose list shows he's very willing to consider out of state schools.
[Hit THE JUMP for details on the latest strong camp showing from Alex Malzone, who Michigan's quarterback commit is recruiting himself, and MSU fans not grasping the core concept behind rankings changes.]
As a father, I suddenly find myself looking for ways to explain the world we live in and the rules that society has created. Nursery rhymes are of course a tried and true method of passing social mores on to the next generation. Since the NCAA's rulebook and enforcement practices are particularly difficult to comprehend for a young mind, I thought I would share some of these great old rhymes, each with an important lesson to teach, which have been passed down generation to generation, so our children may too come to understand what the hell the league is doing.
This kinda started on twitter.
Little Bunny Foo Foo
After several warnings to Little Bunny Foo Foo
regarding his repeated field mice violations,
the Big Fairy vacated his head bops
and put him on probation.
Kids need to learn that if you are really flaunting the rules the NCAA always has two things they can do to you: threaten to watch you really closely for any other violations you may report on yourself, and pretend things that happened didn't happen.
Also there's no conclusive evidence, despite precautionary efforts, that the head injuries sustained by the field mice will have any long-term effects.
In related news, the doctor eventually tagged Mama with a Lack of Institutional Control after too many monkeys fell off the bed.
Mama of course could have avoided the LOIC if she had reported to the doctor that after an exhaustive investigation only a few isolated incidents of falling monkeys were discovered, and Dada had retired with honors for his role in covering it up.
From Zone Left:
All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty together again because glue is an impermissible benefit.
Humpty may, however, be entitled to a medical hardship waiver.
Jack Sprat could eat no fat,
his wife could eat no lean.
But Jack was on scholarship,
so sharing would be a secondary violation.
You see? Children learn the value of sharing, but also that it's important not to share things you get as a student-athlete. If the scholarship stipend is more than you need to live as the poorest student on campus, then the stipend can be reduced. In a similar vein:
There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
Since her son's team had a deal with the shoe's manufacturer
the NCAA investigated this.
The value to a shoe company of having great student-athletes wear their apparel while performing great athletic feats is not generated by the athletes performing the feats in the apparel. Nay, the real value here was made by people in a board room who negotiated that deal. Anybody can split two defenders and take it to the house; it takes a truly special [company to hire a] guy who can wear a suit and shake hands with another guy in a suit over their mutual affinity for the word "branding."
Big man Jack Horner
Sat in a corner
Eating a stale hotdog bun.
He thought "I'm so lucky for this year at Kentucky,
I should thank David Stern when I'm done."
Name another job besides NBA player that requires you to have 1/4th of an SEC education?
Jack be nimble
Jack be quick
Don't miss Jack's team
at New Candlestick
|That's not all Bo's lost.|
Jack's sixth-place in the Pac 12 school will be charged $500/night for San Francisco hotel rooms in anticipation of the Diamond Walnut Kraft Emerald Fight Hunger Bowl game versus Navy or something.
Little Bo P. has lost his D.
And doesn't know where to find them.
Just bring down a guy, and play 'em one-high
And Borges will try to run by them.
Football is stupid.
This little piggy went to Fayettville
This little piggy should have stayed home
This little piggy crashed his bike
And that exposed the piggy's goomah
So the piggies hired the guy with warm whee-whee.
Whatever they say, John L. Smith is good for college football.
Old King Cole was a Maryland soul
And a building was name for he.
But they needed a new, so they offed swim and crew,
And sold the rest out to cable TV.
The Big Ten believes it can better fulfill its academic mission by adding the Comcast Center to its footprint.
Oh where oh where has my center gone?
Oh where oh where can he be?
With his back sewn up
And his tie once on
Oh where oh where can he be?
Some violations are absolutely inexcusable. Being that one guy who tested positive for pot during the latter half of March cannot be tolerated, even though 23% of NCAA athletes just told you they use it. With such numbers, and society's rapidly relaxing views on pot, there's never going to be another chance to really screw some kid over this, so you'd better find the nicest possible kid at the most model possible program, and absolutely duke him. Then they'll really know you're serious about enforcing the rule you were about to change.
Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How do your revenues yield?
With Title IX and creative fin-
-ancing for football's new practice field.
In a move that totally makes how much the athletic department spends on women equal to how much it spends on men's teams, the women's basketball team recently unveiled a $140 million renovation to their arena, which the fellas will also have access to so long as they ask nicely.
PREVIOUSLY ON DRAFTAGEDDON: Many defensive linemen went off the board early, and then there was a big run on tailbacks inexplicably kicked off by Venric Mark. Trash was talked about Shilique Calhoun, because that's how we do this business. Trash was not talked about MSU in general because obviously.
ROUND 5 - PICK 1: Trae Waynes, CB, MSU
O: QB Braxton Miller (OSU), RB Melvin Gordon (UW), WR Stefon Diggs (MD)
D: DT Carl Davis(IA), CB Trae Waynes (MSU)
BRIAN: To kick off the fifth, I'll grab the last member available from last year's lights-out MSU secondary: Trae Waynes. I trashed Calhoun, and I think justly, so let me explain how MSU is so good on defense: their secondary is impeccable. The safeties are super aggressive, often forced into man coverage as BISB mentioned. This means that the corners are on an island constantly. Waynes was opposite future first-rounder Darqueze Dennard and more than coped, with three INTs and very few derp moments. You have to be good to be in island man coverage all damn day and be part of the #2 secondary in the country when it came to YPA.
The NFL is also itching to get their hands on Waynes. Fox's Peter Schrager likes him better than Dennard and projects him 11th. Pete Prisco says he might be better and has him 26th. And why not? He's 6'1" and his fake 40 is so so fake at 4.3. Even if Ace was betting on a tailback dropping to him, NW LB versus MSU DB should be no contest.
ROUND 5 - PICK 2: Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
O: RB Ameer Abdullah(NEB), WR Devin Funchess (M), LT Brandon Scherff (Iowa)
D: DE Shilique Calhoun (MSU), LB Chi Chi Ariguzo (NW)
ST: KR/PR Ameer Adbullah
ACE: Dammit, Brian. Waynes was the other guy I was considering with my last pick—my decision came down to the respective depth at linebacker and cornerback—but you have a point here about Waynes' pure talent level. I might've over-thought that one.
Thankfully, Seth Millen either really under- or over-thought the Mark selection, so I still get to mock somebody and get one of the best backs in the country. Abdullah led the conference in rushing yards and averaged over six yards per carry last season even though his quarterback was either Taylor Martinez playing through turf toe so bad he failed an NFL physical eight months later, Tommy Armstrong Jr., Ron Kellogg III, or—for one glorious five-yard completion—something called a Ryker Fyfe.
In addition to being a superlative runner, Abdullah's a solid receiver out of the backfield; he cracked 100 yards of offense in all 13 games, and hit the century mark on the ground alone in all but two of them. If you've got a little time to kill, here are 14 minutes of Abdullah highlights from 2013 set to a quality selection of hip hop instrumentals—you won't be bored:
Mark's 2013 highlights, meanwhile, come in JPG form:
Oh, I almost forgot: Abdullah's also a really dangerous return man, averaging 26.1 yards with a TD on 47 career kickoff returns and 10.2 yards with another TD on 31 punt returns. Nebraska didn't utilize him as a returner last year because of his workload at running back, but there are no such limitations in hypothetical MGoB1G fantasyland.
RB/KR/PR Ameer Adbullah it is. Hello, Heisman candidate in the fifth round.
[AFTER THE JUMP: HAAAAAAAAAIIIRRRRRR, Seth drafts more Northwestern skill players for some reason.]