this may be of some local interest
[Scheduling note: Brian is out today and tomorrow, I (Seth) am finishing up HTTV. There will be a softball and baseball post later this afternoon]
The Bill C preview. Bill Connelly's annual preview series now goes 128 programs deep; he hit Michigan on Friday. The long term:
Harbaugh is a weird dude who says baffling, Les Milesian things -- that they both played for Bo Schembechler probably isn't a coincidence -- and might be getting weirder with age. And no one is guaranteed success when taking on a new job. If previous history correlated with future success, the last two Michigan hires would have worked out.
But Harbaugh is as close to a sure thing as you can hire. In just 11 years, he has raised the standard at every stop. He hires hungry assistants, builds an ultra-competitive environment, and then wins. He has coaching in his bloodstream, and he's been successful just about everywhere.
The short term is far more uncertain. But you probably know this. You also know the thing that leaps off the page on this chart, but my god to see it quantified:
Adjusted pace. Good lord.
There is some good news. The numbers reflect the massive improvement in line play that I kept promising everyone existed no matter how implausible it seemed given the play of the offense overall:
The line started with just 34 career starts but improved to 50th in Adj. Line Yards and 72nd in Adj. Sack Rate. Considering the level of recruiting, this isn't great, but you can only improve so much in one year.
Both of those were deep into triple digits a year ago, and Michigan returns everyone except Jack Miller to that line instead of losing two NFL draft picks at tackle. I will always wonder how much of the crater was on Darrell Funk and how much was on Rodriguez's recruiting and Al Borges's mad scientist meddling.
Connelly notes that the schedule sets up to be highly swingy. They've only got two teams that project to be very good—OSU and MSU—and relatively few cupcakes. All but one of the good-to-middling teams comes to Ann Arbor, as well. With some luck Michigan could win an encouraging number of games… but there's not much slack in there.
A recommendation. I've had these tabs open in my browser for a while now because I don't want to just toss them off in a UV, but I don't seem to be getting around to the meaty post about them they deserve. So: if you want excellent annotated posts about football, head to James Light Football. He covers all kinds of things from college and pro levels, and he frequently strikes upon Michigan itself. He was at the coaches clinic and has a series of posts detailing things Jedd Fisch, John Baxter…
Why do we play so many starters on special teams? What is a starter? Only the 5 offensive lineman and quarterback are starters. The rest is personnel driven. We don’t have starters, we have football players. You don’t play a position on this team, you play a role. What down is so insignificant that you can afford to have less than your best players?
…and DJ Durkin. Durkin's priorities say a lot about the state of what worries a modern defensive coordinator:
First thing Durkin and his staff do when playing a team is identify these three things. Tempo, Run/Pass Conflicts (RPO’s), Who’s their QB?
(RPOs have mostly been known as "packaged plays" around here.) Michigan under Hoke threatened in none of these categories.
Another point guard option. Michigan is focused on in-state PG Cassius Winston for their (currently) final slot in the 2016 class. They are not laser-focused, however, as Winston has given little indication what direction he might be leaning. They're keeping an eye on other options, though. One of them is Bruce Brown, a composite top 50 player who is listed as a shooting guard by most services. Michigan doesn't see it like that:
On Michigan: “Michigan they want me to run the one. And me and Tyus Battle in the backcourt, that sounds good. He’s solid.”
Indiana is also recruiting him as a point guard; St. John's, North Carolina, and Texas are other names in his recruitment. Brown is currently at a prep school in Vermont but I think he grew up in Boston.
Where are they now: not currently on fire. Quinton Washington seems to have a cool job except for the parts where he catches on fire due to proximity to other fires.
That is "Will Power," who is apparently a real person and not a character in a freshman's screenplay.
Hello again: Moritz Wagner. It feels like we've welcomed Mortiz Wagner to the program a half-dozen times, but here's another one since Michigan signed him and officially announced him. There was a bit of an uncomfortable delay in there that conjured images of Robin Benzing—who did not qualify—but now that's all behind us and we can focus on what we've won:
"Moe is a long and versatile player," Michigan coach John Beilein said in the release. "He has a great understanding of the game with a tremendous upside. As a product of Germany, he has always played against men five to even 10 years older than him, which has only helped his growth as a player.
"As he continues in his development, Moe's skill and athleticism will allow him to eventually play multiple positions for us. He just turned 18 years old, so we are excited about his potential. Moe's engaging personality and passion for the game will make him a very valuable asset to our team now and in the years to come."
Interesting: Michigan listed him at a full 6'10" and they tend to be pretty accurate with roster numbers. Even Trey Burke, who everyone assumed was being handed an inch or two, measured out at just about what Michigan listed him at when he entered the draft. (Spike is likely an exception to this roster fidelity.)
Unless Wagner is a super prospect, he has an uphill path to playing time this year if Zak Irvin can handle the defense and rebounding aspects of the 4. John Beilein loves shooting and he's got a couple of prime wing options in Duncan Robinson and Aubrey Dawkins; if one of the forward-sized fours is going to wrest significant playing time away from those guys he's going to have to be really good.
Claiming poverty. Andy Staples on the "schools don't make a profit" argument put forth when people want to defend the NCAA's version of amateurism:
Athletic directors will claim their programs don’t make money, but that’s also a lie at most Power Five schools. They would make money if they weren’t giving their coaches huge raises and putting gold-plated waterfalls in their locker rooms. Do not confuse an inability to manage money with a lack of money, and don’t believe people who just got $10 million more when they say they can’t pay for the programs they were already funding with $10 million less.
At this point I think everyone understands this except the people charging hundreds of dollars an hour to not understand. October is the inconveniently-timed next potential NCAA-in-court bombshell, as the Jeffery Kessler case—that's the one that explicitly wants to blow the whole system up—will have its class certification hearing.
That lawsuit could put sufficient pressure on the NCAA to make certifying and negotiating with a union look like the best course of action.
Etc.: John Gasaway on deceased former NCAA head Walter Byers, and how he is often misunderstood.
State hockey loses Josh Jacobs to the OHL. That's a different league from guys signing OHL contracts. How long before MSU gets serious and replaces Tom Anastos with a hockey coach?
LSU had Hoover, Michigan had Betsa. Each lineup had stars and superstars, and each scored three after four innings. When LSU got to three Michigan sat Betsa and brought in Ace #2 Haylie Wagner. When Michigan got to three in the bottom half of the inning, LSU... left in Hoover.
Michigan struck for three runs in the bottom of the sixth, the winning two off a single by Sierra Lawrence, and Wagner shut the door.
And you can't have one without the other...
It's now a best of three against the best team in softball for the national championship.
Oh and the last run? Sierra Lawrence stole home!
— ASA and USA Softball (@ASAUSASoftball) May 31, 2015
In case you couldn't tell I'm pretty excited about this softball season you guys. When I get excited I make t-shirts.
Quick refresher on The Pizza Rules:
Single: Roll out the dough.
Double: Sprinkle the cheese.
Triple: Rain pepperonis
Home run: Surrounded by a circle of cheese-sprinkling chefs she "CHOMP" eats the pizza.
(Also comes in cheese-colored)
NOTE: Michigan baseball plays their NCAA Tournament opener against Bradley starting RIGHT NOW. You can watch it on ESPN3.
Harbaugh is a draw, but recruits will need to see results. [Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog]
As Michigan heads into a big visit weekend before what should be an eventful month of June, when the coaches make their satellite camp tour, it's a good time for a recruiting mailbag. No need for a preamble; let's get straight to the questions.
— MysterA (@NateAdema) May 29, 2015
This will depend on the prospect to a certain extent. For recruits focused more on relationships with coaches, facilities, academic support, and the like, on-campus visits should be the primary way Michigan pushes for a commitment. For recruits intent on competing for conference and national titles, Michigan is going to have to show some progress this season before they haul in guys hell-bent on collecting rings.
That's oversimplifying matters, of course; recruits rarely commit to a school without a great on-campus visit experience, and winning is going to help no matter what. After the way last year's recruiting deteriorated along with the team's performance, however, it's safe to say on-field results will be more important this year for recruiting than a normal year. (Whatever that is.) Jim Harbaugh's reputation may precede him, but the program has been down for long enough that a lot of top prospects—especially from outside the region—are going to want to see the Wolverines take a step forward before making a four- or five-year commitment.
[Hit THE JUMP for a comparison of Harbaugh's offer approach to Hoke's, the position group in need of a solid '16 haul, and a guess or two at M's next commitment.]
WCWS Update: The SEC walked into the WCWS in full ESS-EEE-SEE mode. You saw the 6th seed Bama last night; there's an entire bracket of SEC teams (#1 Florida, #5 LSU, #4 Auburn, and #8 Tennessee) opposite us. Last year Bama lost to Florida in the national championship series, and Florida is a favorite to repeat. In a sport dominated by pitching the Gators have the best, Lauren Haeger, who just narrowly defeated Michigan's Sierra Romero for the college softball version of the Heisman.
The rest of Michigan's side of the bracket is UCLA, which owns a third of the national championships ever, not including the 1995 one that the NCAA vacated, demonstrating a dedication to the sport most D-I teams athletic departments can't afford for football.
This is the dispersal (bigger dot = more national championships) of softball titles since 1982:
Some of these things are only somewhat like the others; one is definitively not.
The last member of our bracket is fully owned Nike™ subsidiary the Oregon Nikes, who wear spacey backpacks everywhere they go so Nike™ can convince a demographic of schoolgirls who wear stupid-looking athletic gear to school to get Nike™ backpacks. The Oregon Nikes also have a great pitcher who finished third in the PoY running.
A distant third. Really the competition was between the senior pitcher with 194 K's who held a league that hits .330 to .183, and our own Sierra Romero.
Romero. Yes I am making this whole column about softball this week. ROMERO! Here's what a hitter who challenges for the PoY in a pitching sport looks like: Romero hit .472 with 21 home runs, 80 RBI, 55 walks, and set the NCAA career grand slam record. She also had 20 steals on 24 attempts. She plays shortstop with a Jeter smoothness (or second base because Abby Ramirez is such a good infielder).
The thing about Michigan is Romero isn't the only star. Kelly Christner hit .407 this year and matched Romero for home runs. Sierra Lawrence had a .484 OBP from the leadoff spot, plus 14 dingers. Kelsey Susalla matched Sierra2's power numbers while hitting .379. Lauren Sweet, the catcher, hit .324 with 12 homers. Michigan too has great pitchers—sophomore Megan Betsa and senior Haylie Wagner are Ace 1 and Ace 2, with senior Sara Driesenga (.078 ERA) still around as a luxury, and the future, freshman Tera Blanco, waiting over at 1st base.
Theory: Jim Harbaugh has spent all of his free time since he graduated pretending to be a softball coach. Michigan softball isn't a monster program from the heart of baseball country, isn't a golem assembled from overcharging for shoes made by underpaid slaves, and certainly is not from the conference that believes Pat Forde columns about its greatness should fulfill writing requirements.
The thing it's best known for across the softball world is it has a pinata-smashing softball Harbaugh if Harbaugh was more successful coaching it. Betsa said she gets her mental toughness from competitions like who can balance heavy logs on their hands while doing workouts. Last night Hutch literally fell over while trying to put the breaks on Romero at 3rd base; Romero ran through it but scampered back safely to leave the bases loaded for Sweet to turn a 1-0 game into the 5-0 game.
Present 1999 1986
Harbuagh/Hutch through the years
It had a .461 on base percentage this year, and outscored its opponents by an average of 9 to 1.5. It made making pizza into a theme, complete with complicated hand gestures and fan signage. It won a map-contradicting national championship ten years ago, and dances more often than that one. It led the country with 171 homers this year, and sprinkled every one of them with cheese.
Etc. The South didn't like Michigan camping there—and couldn't do anything about it—in the mid-1860s either. SEC rules changes troll Tom Brady and Brady Hoke, plus Notre Dame's faces and Dantonio's favorite tackling strategy. What a blue shirt is. Terry Frei on the Rob Lytle book. Michigan Stadium Movie Night opted for Disney fantasy flick (Remember the Titans) over a documentary on Scandinavian economics (Frozen).
LOOK AT THESE BOND VILLAIN-LOOKING DUDES
Ed was traipsing about the poppies and algorithms this week, but the rest of us were there. Topics!
- FIFA is old
- Craig hates soccer
- Xzibit be talkin' about the dang thing
- Unfortunately his script is bad
- I have an excellent career in voiceover work coming
- Nobody else thinks this is the case
- Big Sean is very average sized