The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
HUZZAH! The Kickstarter has been Kickstarted. HTTV shall be printed, just as Steve Gutenberg anticipated when he invented the four-color glossy printing press in 1988. Not only that, but with Draftstreet picking up the tab for express shipping, you will receive it mere seconds after it is mailed. But what will you actually GET for your money?* I thought it might be interesting for people who contributed to get a sneak peek at what is in this year’s HTTV, as well as to hopefully convince those of you on the fence to secure your copy while you still can.
*Disclaimer: I have not seen the magazine yet, so these are just my assumptions of what will be in there. But it all seems pretty likely.
Full Team Preview
Brian provides an in-depth look at every position group. Some tidbits:
- The defensive line section spends a couple of pages analyzing the various positions along the DL, including how Michigan will adapt to Ondre Pipkins’ injury, how the snap distribution is likely to shake out at the 3-tech DT spot, and whether we can expect Frank Clark to take another step forward.
- The parts about the linebackers and secondary are a combined 37 pages long, and largely consist of hand-drawn battle scenes of Jake Ryan and Jabrill Peppers attacking ninjas and robot dinosaurs with fighter jets and tanks. Complete with “neeeeeeeerrrrrrrVRROOOOOOOMMM” sound effects.
The part about the offensive line is a quarter of a page long, and consists mostly of a drawing of a seven-legged spider.
- The quarterback section is exactly one word long. I can’t tell you what it is, but it rhymes with “Kevin.”
- The running back section is just a list of every calorie Derrick Green has consumed since the end of last season.
- The wide receiver section is a full-page explanation of why Devin Funchess is a wide receiver, not a tight end.
- The tight end section is a full-page explanation of why Devin Funchess is a wide receiver, not a tight end.
Ace basically watched every available snap of every opponent Michigan will face this year other than Notre Dame and Ohio State. He broke the tape down, player by player, until he had a handle on the personnel and how they were used in the various offensive and defensive schemes. He then looked at the teams in the broader context of their previous seasons and used everything to put together a comprehensive and cohesive picture of what we can expect in 2014.
Meanwhile, I Googled “what is Notre Dame football” and “Ohio State intelligence joke” and pretty much copied and pasted the first few results. Between the two of us, this is what we found:
- Appalachian State is bad and we shouldn’t be playing them.
- Miami (NTM) is bad and we shouldn’t be playing them.
- Rutgers is bad and we shouldn’t be playing them.
- Maryland might actually be good and we shouldn’t be playing them.
- Michigan State will be good and we shouldn’t be playing them where we are playing them.
- Minnesota is probably bad but BROWN JUG.
- The Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team is the intercollegiate football team of the University of Notre Dame. The team is currently coached by Brian Kelly and play home games at the campus’s Notre Dame Stadium, with a capacity of 80,795.
- Ohio State ain’t come to play school.
Twisted Blue Steel
The creative essay portion of HTTV. People wax poetic on things of interest. This year's things of interest:
- A farewell to Jeremy Gallon. If you were wondering how many ways in 2,000 words you can call someone short without using the word “short,” the answer is 61.
- A farewell to Denard. Yeah, I know. He left two years ago. SHUT UP AND READ ABOUT DENARD.
- A farewell to Trey Burke. See above.
- An inspiring piece about the scrappy underdog tale of Hunter Lochmann. From his childhood days with a Darren Rovell poster on his wall and nothing but hand-me-down marketing plans, he learned the game from his sandlot strategy meetings, and managed to fight his way to the top. I challenge you to not cry at the description of the slow clap that follows his first successful SEO initiative.
The X’s and O’s. Space Coyote does a lot of it, so I don’t fully understand it. But it looks impressive, and I’ll take his word for it.
- An explanation of the change to the 4-3 Over from the 4-3 Under, and something about Doug Nussmeier. Blah blah.
- A detailed explanation of how running plays are designed to, under ideal circumstances, move the ball closer to the end zone.
- A bunch of pretty pictures with lines and stuff.
There are also a few other tidbits and other assorted whatnot buried in the book. I don’t want to give them all away, because half of the fun is finding them for yourself, but here are a few:
- The first letters of every line will give you a really nice recipe for chicken tetrazzini. The secret is nutmeg.
- The lower right-hand corner acts as a flipbook of the Dileo power-slide.
- The paper is made from real recycled pieces of Devin Gardner’s ribs. This wasn’t actually intentional; Michigan State just sacked him into a paper mill when this particular batch of paper was being made.
- Everyone who purchases HTTV will have a chance to play three snaps at right guard this season.
- If you read HTTV while listening to Guns N' Roses' "Appetite for Destruction," it syncs up in a really cool way. If you read at the right speed. And change some of the lyrics.
One Other Reason
There is one other reason to buy this magazine: you will want this magazine. You might not think so right now, because this has been a long and generally crappy few months. You don't think you'll be excited about this football season. I know, because I felt the same way. And then I started watching video of last year's Michigan/Notre Dame game and Michigan/Ohio State game to write my stuff, and I remembered how much I love college football.
You'll get there, too. It might be in early August, or it might not be until the team runs out of the tunnel, but you will get there. You'll get that familiar feeling of anticipation and dread that has accompanied those September saturdays your entire adult life. Regardless of the team turmoil or the weak schedule, it will at some point strike you that Michigan is playing football, and you will once again fall under the autumn spell. There's no shame in it. It happens to the best of us.
The only question is whether you will be prepared.
Let's feel good! Here's a danged good college football hype video that features Michigan a surprising amount:
YEAH LET'S GET HYPED FOR THE OPENER AGAINST [record SCRATCHHHHHHHH]
Well, that didn't last long. A casino has set an over/under for Michigan football wins next year…
At the moment, 5Dimes has Michigan's over/under for wins in 2014 set at 7 1/2. Presently, the money line is set at -170 on the over of 7 1/2 wins, which means most bettors are going with at least eight wins for the Wolverines in 2014.
…ugh. Not hitting that number would mean losing all three rivalry games and two more from the pu-pu platter that is the rest of the schedule.
Let's feel good again! Jabrill Peppers ran a 100 meter dash in 10.52 seconds, a veritably Denardian high-school-meet destruction.
He wiped out fellow touted corner recruit Minkah Fitzpatrick by a half-second.
Well, that didn't last long. Peppers is still slower than a robot velociraptor. Ugh.
Now you're just rubbing it in. ESPN gentlemen are trying to make college football better, and two of them say Michigan has to stop sucking. Thanks. We agree. And then there's this:
From the day that Bo Schembechler died in 2006, on the eve of No. 2 Michigan's 42-39 loss at its archrival, No. 1 Ohio State, the Wolverines have a record of 50-41 (.549). That's an average of 7-6, pretty much the definition of mediocrity.
Thank you for coming, now go away. Florida's president was trying to say something about how he doesn't like the graduate transfer rule and ended up saying something about his latest incoming graduate transfer:
"If they really wanted to transfer somewhere else, they should sit out a year,” Machen said Friday at the SEC spring meetings. “Why didn't Horford stay at Michigan another year? Because he had a free pass." …
“Go to grad school at Michigan," Machen said. "They have some pretty good grad schools. … It’s really just a way for a school to fill a void at the very last minute, or a player going to get more playing time without having to sit out.”
Is that bad? I mean, it's bad for Michigan. But the guy's already got a degree, which is the tenuous reason transfers are discouraged by forcing kids to a sit out a year.
I do think it's unfortunate that guys are now transferring upwards with frequency; that would really grind your gears as a low-level coach who developed this player for four years only to see him depart. Now you've got a bizarre incentive to not have your players graduate before their eligibility expires.
At least there's a trend. Florida's done playing FCS games, albeit for the same reason Michigan is. More interestingly, Nick Saban is hoping to cut out the lesser schools entirely:
Nick Saban wants Power 5 conferences to play only games against other P5 schools. “Better for fans & for players"
— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) May 27, 2014
It's better for Saban, too, as there will be fewer pretenders with shiny records to compete against for playoff spots. The difficulty there is that everyone needs their seven home games even if two of them are necessarily bad.
HELLO. South Carolina president Harris Pastides:
“I think we're holding the fort,” Pastides said. “If we allow this reform to fail, the obvious next step would be to give up amateurism.”
I'm pretty sure that was intended to be the rhetorical nuclear weapon that makes everyone gasp whilst Mark Emmert is fanned by the people near him, moaning "lawdy." But someone said it.
Incoming? USC transfer and former five-star Ty Isaac is on campus… uh, now. Isaac is seeking a hardship waiver to play immediately, which would make him a slightly awkward fit for Michigan for two reasons: 1) you need a waiver for your waiver if the school you pick is more than 100 miles from home and 2) that would put him in the same class as De'Veon Smith and Derrick Green.
So, if Isaac does get his waiver it's more likely he ends up at Northwestern or Illinois or Notre Dame, which was supposed to be restricted to him but may not be because of a paperwork error on USC's part. While Illinois and ND are technically outside of the 100-mile radius they're outside by a few miles and would probably get meta-waivers. Michigan would be a harder sell.
If Isaac doesn't end up getting a waiver then Michigan has an excellent shot—they finished second for Isaac. And they didn't bring in a tailback last year.
Ohio State is apparently trying to get involved, but they'd be in a similar situation with the waiver.
Etc.: Sherman built this system, now Sherman's going to burn it down. NCAA #2 is getting out of dodge. Congrats to Bruce Madej, who won a major award. Guess who's mad about harmless spicetweets from Alex Malzone.
6/1/2014 – USA 2, Turkey 1
Got damn. The best soccer goals come with a kind of low OHAAAAWWWWWW from the crowd. That particular noise comes when half the crowd is cheering normally while the other half goes "OHHHHHH" because they've just seen something about as difficult as the moon landing in person. Bradley to Fabian Johnson was a moon landing of a goal.
Clint Dempsey's was not, but they all count.
Paging World Cup horrors past. That ref had better not approach a USA game that counts. Whether he was ignoring a zillion clear fouls on Altidore or elbowing a Turk in the face when he should have been 90 feet closer to the Turkish net in case Dempsey had earned a penalty, this game was an exercise in frustration similar to Slovenia 2010 or Ghana 2006.
Jozy is fine. I generally like Taylor Twellman but his incessant harping on Jozy Altidore not putting a ball in the net (despite putting a ball in the net that was disallowed by a shaky and definitely irrelevant foul) drove me nuts in this game.
Twellman waxed to his worst on second-half "opportunity" he didn't hear whistled down but everyone watching ESPN did, and it seemed like Altidore and the Turks also mostly did. Altidore put a shot off the keeper and Twellman went into his usual refrain about confidence and mystical fairies and all that stuff that people who haven't thought about how brains work always do. Sometimes things happen, random things. Especially when you're Jozy Altidore and you've seen about six quality scoring opportunities since your goal drought started.
It got worse. A few minutes later, Twellman praised Altidore for blasting a shot off a charging keeper that would have been a simple tap-in for Bradley if Altidore had laid it off. Altidore did well to create the chance, but if there was a problem with Altidore's game in this one it was not his lack of ruthlessness but that pressing for goal that caused him to make a wrong decision.
Not that he was the only US player with that issue. After the Davis handball play saw Graham Zusi run on to a ball at the back post, this was a shot:
A tap-in for Jozy if Zusi gets it right. Does that make him a better player in this game?
This was not a problem for the Dutch in the first five minutes against future US foe Ghana. Faced with a similar opportunity, Arjen Robben laid it off for Robin Van Persie, who passed it into the back of the open net. Robben proceeded to blow an absolute sitter and a couple other grade-A chances, but because he's not part of a culture that yells at LeBron James for kicking it to a wide-open Donyell Marshall for a game-winning three* that he happens to miss, no one's going "blah blah blah confidence strikers blah."
Take the shot when it's the move; pass when it's the move. Heroball is garbage. San Antonio Spurs, you know?
*[Dated reference but the perfect one.]
RIGHT: JOZY IS FINE. I know I said he wasn't a hold up guy and never will be but he's really trying. He does lack that flick-on and isn't technical enough to be great in that role, but he's the only one with anything resembling that skillset. It's clear now that the US is going to need it from time to time, and he's trying.
As much as they would like to be a possession side there are going to be times where the US does have to blerg it upfield. Jozy's going to be the guy who turns that into anything. Unless you think Johannsson can do that there's no substitute.
Chandler is not fine. For some reason the USMNT internet has been desperately trying to replace DaMarcus Beasley since he became the USA's starting left back by default. I acknowledge he is not world-class but for Christ's sake he's gone three years without anything near as bad as two different things Tim Chandler pulled in the Turkey match. There was the pathetic turnover that led to the Turkey goal and the alarming 50-yard ball that led to a quality Guzan save on which Chandler and Davis were both vastly out of position. The same thing led to a corner in the first half.
Meanwhile, Chandler is right footed, so it is awkward pairing him with an in-cutting left midfielder like Bedoya. Chandler should be at the back of the bus now. Beasley and Johnson are your starting outside backs and if one of them is unavailable I'd rather see Brooks (with Cameron sliding outside) or Yedlin than Chandler.
Also not fine: Brad Davis. If you're going to play a diamond your outside midfielders need to be defensive presences. They end up narrow, usually, and need to track back because the second central midfielder ends up way up the pitch as a third dedicated attacker. In this game the US had to pull Bradley back in the second half because neither outside midfielder had any interest, really, in tracking back. Zusi was at least positioned in a place where he could do something most of the time; Davis was not. Turkey spent the day destroying the USA's left flank.
The first truly dangerous Turkey chance came off a corner kick that got reset; Chandler was asked to defend two guys.
left side of your screenshot—two Turks, one USA guy
I know it looks like Jermaine Jones was available to deal with this but he is not; he ends up having to apply emergency pressure on a Turkish player who ends up cutting it back to the shooter. Davis is at the top of the 18; he heads a ball forward, sees it turned over, and walks the rest of the play instead of tracking back to the position he's vacated. His guy puts one off the post. (Fabian Johnson is out of position as well, but overall his flank was way less threatened.)
Another Turkish scoring chance came because Davis vacated the entire left side of the field.
While the diamond midfielders do tend to pack in tight, Davis was generally a lot narrower than Zusi, leading to attack after attack down the left flank on which Chandler was asked to shut down acres of space; a primary reason that the US was conceding huge chunks of space was Davis's failure to exist without the ball. He had neither the pace nor the interest to show up.
Zusi is at the bottom; look how wide he is compared to Davis despite the ball being to Davis's wing.
You'd think the guy obviously on the roster because Landon is not would show on defense. I found myself missing Herculez Gomez in this game.
In the second half, Bradley was withdrawn when the US was without the ball and the chances stopped coming so fast and furious, and maybe that's how it has to be. Someone's going to have to cover a pile of space in the World Cup. Brad Davis clearly isn't. Bradley is going to have to be that guy, with Dempsey dropping to provide a link from defense to attack.
So don't judge Jones too badly. The post I just linked prefers Beckerman to Jones but I don't think they make a particularly convincing case. Jones was given too much to do in the first half since neither US winger made any defensive impact; Beckerman came on at the same time the US started dropping Bradley to provide more cover. Notably, the turnover they approvingly note Beckerman caused came as Bradley pressured a guy in a similar position to the guy with acres of space above.
It would have been just as bad in the first half with Beckerman, because Chandler cannot replicate himself.
I don't want to toot the ol' horn too much, but the second half setup is something I suggested would be the USA's best look:
I would prefer something like the 4-4-2 diamond they tried out in a recent friendly, with Bradley dropping back when faced with opponent possession and Dempsey moving under Altidore to provide an outlet and link to Altidore up top.
This game showed both that the US does need Bradley's defensive abilities and cannot spare him from attack. It's going to be a long, tiring WC for Bradley, but that's how it has to be.
The Shin Guardian does have an instance where the midfield's general cluelessness is an issue, and Jones is one of the problems:
This gets played square away from all four midfielders; Jones ends up going upfield at the guy, and Turkey is on a break off what initially looked like an innocuous play. Bad decisions all around here; TSG is right that Jones's instincts to attack rather than hold were dangerous to the US at times here.
Green: nope. He won't play at the World Cup.
Brooks: maybe. But Brooks overcame some nervous moments early to put in an impressive performance that demonstrated he has a pretty rare combination of agility and aerial ability. He has been playing well for his club of late, in contrast with Green, and at the position he's being asked to play here, in contrast with Chandler. With Gonzalez in something of a funk he might be your third option at center back.
- Davis and Zusi cannot play together. They're very similar players; the US needs more defense from the wing. IMO, Davis just disqualified himself from the first two games of the group stage. He is a disaster waiting to happen against Ayew or Nani, and his service is only marginally better than Zusi's.
- Viva Beasley. He's a little malformed but he's ours, and if he gets run over that's life. At least he'll be in the right spot, not making an utter hash of things.
- The diamond cannot be on defense unless Bedoya works like a donkey. While the idea—get Bradley upfield—is the right idea, leaving him upfield is only tenable if you're able to apply smart, high pressure consistently. The US doesn't have the wingers or forwards to do this, so against teams who aren't bunkered in Bradley will have to shuttle back or it's going to be a lot of what we saw against Turkey. Bedoya's presumed start against Nigeria will be the most interesting thing about that game.
- I'm agnostic on Jones or Beckerman. Seems obvious that it will be Jones, but that seems like a 50/50 battle as to whether that's the right decision.
- Leaving Donovan off this roster looks pretty bad right now. Whatever his flaws, Donovan has been a committed defender throughout his USA career and provides something other than "Graham Zusi but left-footed."
In honor of our annual right there -----> which I expect will get Kickstarted a third year in a row today, I thought I'd share a little sneak peak from it. Brian asked me to create these for the linebackers page:
Click to big. Right-click to open in a separate window so you can reference it as you go.
That's a side by side comparison of Michigan's prohibitive starters this year before and after the "shift" to a 4-3 over and accompanying position changes were announced. Seeing it you can start to appreciate how all of those announcements make sense.
For the lay, 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. The result is very much like a 3-4 (picture the WDE in the photo above as yellow) and plays like it. In this alignment the strong side is the left because there's a TE there. 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.
Let's run through the positions to appreciate what's changed and what will be expected of them.
Weakside Defensive End (Frank Clark/Mario Ojemudia)
Ojemudia lined up as a 7-tech in the under [Fuller]
In the Under: The WDE is the leading pass rusher. He lines up so far outside of the backside offensive tackle that he'll wind up getting a 1-on-1 battle with that guy all day. The tradeoff was being further from the point of a attack in the run game. The WDE is further from the run game but in position to drop into coverage, a thing he was tasked to do quite often as the DE-like linebacker opposite him charged into the backfield. Much of the good done by the over shift is it creates double teams elsewhere to preserve the WDE's ability to attack upfield.
In the Over: The weakside end is still outside the offensive tackle, but shaded in a "5 technique," i.e. over the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle.
If you remember your 5-techs from 4-3 under school, you'll get the difference, though unlike your Ryan Van Bergens the weakside end usually doesn't have a tight end lined up to his side (ace even, H-backs and the like do happen) so he needn't be a double-team-eating anchor. The new WDE's biggest change is he's not dropping into coverage all the time. He has to control that OT in the run game, and often he has to cover the B gap. The linebackerity of the position has been removed; this man is a defensive lineman, and not necessarily a flashy one—Michigan State's been plugging their workhorse DE Marcus Rush in this spot for four years while various SDEs make the highlight reels.
The fit: Clark showed signs of being a pretty good player by the latter half of last season and now up near 260 he is large enough to not get kicked by OTs. As a pass rusher he's only like fifth or sixth in the conference, partly because the interior DL couldn't push the pocket very often, and partly because he wasn't great at closing when he beat his guy. Ojemudia and true freshman Lawrence Marshall aren't large men in your memory, but both claim to be up to 250 now. They're all better full-time defensive ends than 3-4 OLBs.
[Jump for the rest of the DL—LBs coming up in Part II]
Michigan hosted four-star Illinois jumbo receiver Miles Boykin and his family for an unofficial visit over the weekend, and after receiving the full campus tour with a special "here's how we'll use you like Devin Funchess" film session, at least one of the Boykins was ready to sign up, per GBW's Kyle Bogenschutz ($):
“My dad and my brother are the biggest Michigan fans I know,” Boykin said. “So they loved it.”
Boykin adding, “When we got back home my brother looked at me and he said, ‘Miles, you’re a better man than I am.’ And I asked what are you talking about? And he was like, ‘I would’ve committed already bro.’
Miles told 247's Steve Wiltfong that he thought the trip "went awesome," and he "loved it" when Jeff Hecklinski showed him how he'd be utilized in the offense($), so while Boykin claimed no leaders it's tough not to feel like Michigan is in a very good position for him—especially since he already visited for the Spring Game and already plans on taking another summer unofficial to Ann Arbor before an August decision. Notre Dame is a serious contender and they're up next on his visit list, so this is far from over, but I like where Michigan stands.
The Wolverines also continue to look good for a few of their top targets, as well. Sam Webb's latest Detroit News article details a slight shift in recruiting strategy by the coaches—focusing on recruiting their position of specialty, as opposed to a set region, earlier than in years past—and how that's affected Michigan's chances with CT TE Chris Clark and NJ OT Grant Newsome.
Both have developed a close relationship with their potential future position coaches—Dan Ferrigno for Clark, Darrell Funk for Newsome—and will be on campus for critical unofficials this month, each accompanied by their mothers this time around. Michigan is Clark's stated leader, while Newsome is down to U-M and Penn State. Read Webb's whole article, which includes details on Alex Malzone's recruiting efforts, and you'll come away feeling good about Michigan's chances to land both.
Newsome won't be the only four-star tackle on campus this summer. According to Webb and Josh Newkirk, TN OT Drew Richmond has been impressed enough with Funk's continued recruiting efforts—even after Richmond left U-M out of his top 11 in March—that he's going to visit in July ($):
“I feel like he knows what he’s talking about and he cares about what he’s doing,” Richmond said about Funk.
The four-star offensive tackle continued: “They have just been consistently recruiting me. I really love the fan base.”
Meanwhile, recently offered TX WR A.D. Miller is on campus today while on a Midwest swing from Illinois to Ohio State, and he told Tim Sullivan he'll narrow down his focus to "about eight schools" after these trips ($). In other positive 2015 news, four-star TN LB Josh McMillon put Michigan in his unordered top ten.
Trending Not So Well...
Ohio State's campus hosted a Nike camp over the weekend, and the recruiting updates from Columbus weren't so good on the Michigan front. Damien Harris, in particular, came away singing the praises of OSU and Urban Meyer, per Doug Lesmerises:
"It's still kind of cool the way things go with Coach Meyer," Harris told cleveland.com Sunday, while attending a Nike Football Training Camp at Ohio State. "As a kid growing up, I'd see him on TV and I was like, 'Man, he's the man.' And now I get to be real cool with him. We walk into a basketball game together, we just get to enjoy life together right now - maybe for the next four years. It' definitely been a blessing. I get to be looked at as important enough to spend time with one of the greats of all time. It's definitely an honor. I don't take it for granted. I'm real thankful for it."
Harris told Steve Wiltfong that Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio State were the programs recruiting him the hardest; in the same article, he discussed how much he "loves" various aspects of OSU, UK, Florida, and Alabama, but when asked about Michigan he mentioned trying to "continue to develop a better relationship" with Doug Nussmeier ($). Harris, if you'll recall, was close with Al Borges before U-M changed OCs; I've finally given in and flipped my Crystal Ball pick for Harris to Ohio State.
The above makes this bit of news from TomVH a little tougher to stomach:
RB Mike Weber told me he does have a top 3 within his top 5. Ohio State, MSU, Wisconsin but Michigan and Tennessee still in it.
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) June 1, 2014
So that's not good. Michigan may be left looking for other options, and they at least have a couple. Tim Sullivan reports that Michigan offered three-star MO RB Alec Murphy (highlights above) a few weeks ago, and Murphy says he's looking at visiting U-M when he attends the Sound Mind Sound Body camp this month ($). The Wolverines could make a quick move here—at the moment, Iowa is his next-best offer.
There's also three-star GA RB Mikell Lands-Davis, who was offered a month ago. Steve Lorenz wrote a couple weeks ago, after U-M dropped by for an in-school visit, that the Wolverines could very well be the #2 team for him behind Clemson ($). If they can get him on campus—and they're working on setting that up—we'll see what happens.
Michigan was one of the first schools to seriously pursue four-star MN DE Jashon Cornell, and at the very least its paying off with continued mentions among his very top schools. The trouble is that the Wolverines have never seemed to quite reach the peak of his list; Notre Dame has the Cretin-Derham pipeline, Michigan State was his stated leader at one point, and now Ohio State has made a move to the forefront, per Wiltfong ($):
Sources close to Cornell told 247Sports Ohio State is now the team to beat. Cornell himself said the Buckeyes are in his top three now. They were on the outside looking in until this visit.
“Something about Coach (Larry) Johnson and Coach (Urban) Meyer,” Cornell said. “They bumped up high.”
Who else is in the top three?
“Maybe Michigan and Penn State,” Cornell said.
The bad news, of course, is that the Buckeyes appear to be on top. The good news is Michigan is still very much in the hunt, and they'll get another chance—along with Michigan State—to jump atop his list after an unofficial when he's in the state for SMSB.
Darrin Kirkland: NFTC LB MVP
One definitively good piece of news to come from the Columbus NFTC—commit Darrin Kirkland Jr. is doing quite well at the whole football thing, per Allen Trieu:
Linebacker MVP: Darrin Kirkland – Lawrence Central (Ind.)
The Michigan commit was impressive with his lateral agility. He did well in pass coverage, not something that was necessarily considered his forte coming in. He was invited to The Opening.
There's something about Kirkland and excelling in Columbus—his excellent coverage in passing drills "surprised" scouts at both the Nike and Rivals camps held there last summer. At some point, maybe it won't surprise anymore.
Recent Offers, Visitors
After receiving a Michigan offer last Wednesday, four-star FL DE Janarius Robinson told 247's Chris Nee he plans to visit Ann Arbor on June 20th ($). While Florida State will be tough to beat, a campus visit with these coaches can't be overlooked.
Another relatively recent offer that went unreported—or at least I didn't notice—until Tim Sullivan dug it up is four-star MD OL Pat Allen, who plans to visit this summer and expect U-M to fall within an impressive top five ($):
"Michigan is going to be in my top five, Georgia's going to be in my top five," he started. "I'm going to have those two, Ohio State is definitely in my top three, Florida State most likely top five.
"With Georgia, it's really the area. I've been there a couple times. It's a really good school, and I think Georgia's a solid program. I don't know much about Michigan yet. They do have a good program, and honestly anybody would be a fool not to go to Michigan. At Ohio State, I'm comfortable when I've been there. The region's really good, the coaching staff is great, the people there are comfortable to be around, I like the city of Columbus, it's really cool.
While OSU is in very good position, that could change once Allen sees U-M for the first time.
In the 2016 class, offers continue to go out to top national quarterback prospects. California five-star, #1 dual-threat QB Malik Henry pulled in an offer last week. Henry's already got serious national interest, and as always, it's best to take a wait-and-see approach with any top California prospect.
Michigan also offered the nation's top pro-style quarterback in WA five-star Jacob Eason, per 247's Clint Brewster. His offer list is even more impressive than Henry's, so he'll also be a tough pull from the West Coast.
The third QB to pull in a recent offer is four-star CA pro-style prospect KJ Costello, who told Scout's Greg Biggins he's visiting Ann Arbor on June 15th to kick off a trip that'll have him see several of the nation's top programs ($). Same deal here—we'll see how he feels after the visit.
GBW reports offers out to a pair of 2016 receivers. Four-star MD slot (5'9", 152) Steven Smothers was very excited to hear the news ($):
“[Mattison] called my coach,” Smothers said on his Michigan offer. “I had the offer for a week or two [before he told me]. But my coach just told me today. I’m really at a loss for words. A big school like that offering is shocking.
“I was pumped, I mean, what more can I say? It’s Michigan!”
U-M is now in his top six along with Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Tennessee, and West Virginia. While FL WR Binjimen Victor is unranked on the recruiting services thus far, he's also received some impressive offers, and he immediately brought up Denard Robinson upon hearing that U-M offered; unfortunately, the Wolverines still have work to do to crack his top group ($):
Victor, who stands at 6-foot-4, 170-pounds, says he is planning on making his final decision sometime during his senior season. While he wouldn’t name a leader, he did say there were a few schools sticking out early on in his recruitment.
“I’m not trying to (commit) or anything but the schools I really like right now are Miami, Ohio State, and Clemson,” said Victor.
Finally, 2016 OH LB Brendan Ferns—younger brother of U-M LB Michael Ferns—visited campus last weekend, and while he doesn't yet have an offer he told GBW having his brother on campus "will help" should one come along ($). After he pulled in a recent offer from Michigan State, it wouldn't surprise if U-M followed suit before too long.
|WHAT||USA vs Tukey
Send Off Series Friendly
New York, NY
|WHEN||2:30 PM Eastern, Sunday|
|LINE||I don't know man|
Man, my Armenian friend is just all about these friendlies.
THE THEM: LAND RATHER NEAR LAND OF FIRE THAT ALSO HAS FREQUENT TIFFS WITH ARMENIA
Turkish soccer fans are nuts, in the best way
Things step up in class for the US after a CONCACAF redux warmup against Azerbaijan. While The Turks aren't in the World Cup they have been in the recent past; they were +7 in goal differential in group D but finished fourth.
Both FIFA and ESPN's BPI metric have them 38th in the world, still some distance behind the US. CONCACAF comparables include Honduras (36th) and Panama (46th), though that former looks a little shaky after Honduras opened its own Send Off Series with a 2-0 loss to Turkey. That may have been a little deceiving, though, as Honduras had plenty of chances on which they just did not convert:
Hull City defender Maynor Figueroa, former Sporting KC standout Roger Espinoza and current New England Revolution striker Jerry Bengtson all had chances during the game's opening stanza but failed to convert.
Turkey played with hesitancy and managed only a handful of opportunities throughout the opening 45, seemingly content to fall back and weather the storm.
Honduras faded in the final 45, probably for the same reasons the US game against the Azeris slowed to a crawl in the second half: teams headed to Brazil are pounding themselves to get in shape for what promises to be a sultry world cup.
Turkey was pretty leaky in the back in World Cup qualifying, conceding in every game against the four real contenders (Estonia and Andorra are just around to get kicked) save one against Romania.
The vast majority of the Turkish team plays in their domestic league, with a few guys scattered around in Germany. Atletico Madrid's Arda Turan is the star… but he's nursing and injury and out, robbing the US of an opportunity to see how they matchup against a world-class threat. Galatasary striker Burak Yilmaz would be the guy they build around now… if he hadn't gone home a couple days ago.
Your detailed and educated Turkey bits can be found at The Yanks Are Coming and The Shing Guardian but take it lightly. This is a young, experimental Turkey team that could do just about anything. They are supposed to be the Portugal stand-in, as they've traditionally run out the same 4-3-3 Portugal uses.
left: 4-4-2 diamond; right the 4-2-3-1
The same debate about the 4-4-2 versus the 4-2-3-1 persists. The diamond looked sluggish against the packed-in Azeris; teams that actually try to attack may also force the US into a more conservative formation with an extra defensive midfielder. Personnel-wise these things are near interchangeable as long as Jones is keeping station in front of the central defenders, so we may see both.
DEFENSE: Chandler, Besler, Cameron, Johnson.
Cameron and Besler are seemingly the USA's top options at center back. They have not played together much—the Azerbaijan game was just their second start together—so Klinsmann will probably spend his precious competitive time before the World Cup on strengthening that partnership.
Johnson should reprise at right back as Klinsmann tries to get him comfortable with the right side of the US formation. In one game he's gone from "maybe the right back?" to obviously the right back.
And it's 50/50 whether Chandler or Beasley gets the start here. I'm guessing Klinsmann takes an extended look at Chandler, possibly flipping him to the right in the second half to give Johnson a breather. Can Chandler put in a strong 90 against a dangerous opponent? This is an opportunity to find out.
I would guess Klinsmann takes a look at Brooks in this one, and Yedlin will probably get a late run out.
MIDFIELD: Beckerman, Bradley, Bedoya, Davis.
nothing says Utah more than Beckerman
Guessing here; Beckerman and Bradley paired well in the Mexico friendly and he is a natural holding midfielder who has a ton of familiarity with the diamond. Bradley is MB 90.
Davis had a couple of bright moments in his substitute appearance and here's a guess he'll get a look at the starting left mid. His service is wildly overrated in the context of the US team because Zusi has been dropping balls on his teammates' heads for years now, but it becomes vastly more important if Zusi is dropped for some reason.
In that event, the need for crossing from the right goes down and the US can look at Bedoya on his more natural right side. And as to why you might drop Zusi: with Cristiano Ronaldo looming, Bedoya's workrate and tracking back look attractive as a right mid. If he can help shut down the Turkish left flank in this game he may displace Zusi for at least one game.
Diskerud and Green should also get looks. Green may offer that je ne sais quoi the US lacks, and while it's hard to envision Diskerud displacing either Dempsey or Bradley for one solitary World Cup second, that left flank is open for someone to do something with.
FORWARD: Altidore, Dempsey
Dempsey is reputedly hale and ready to go, so the US will probably try to try the thing they were set to try before Dempsey's groin acted up.
Altidore had a couple of instances of quality hold up play against the Azeris, but that was still clearly an awkward thing for him. When paired with Wondolowski, though, that is his role. With Dempsey the two forwards can interchange, and Dempsey is technical enough that once the ball gets to his feet he can hold it up and lay it off for a charging Bradley effectively.
He changes the entire dynamic of that front triangle, and that's why I'm not getting too bent out of shape about the lack of chances from the run of play against Azerbaijan.
Wondo and Johannsson are likely to come on. Johannsson might get a run out on the wing.
WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING FOR, OTHER THAN EVERYTHING
Diamond versus 4-2-3-1. I think we'll see both, with Klinsmann trying to see what he's got with the diamond when he's got his most dynamic attacking player available and an opponent that might venture one or two guys onto the US side of the field. If it's not working, a mid-game shift is in the cards, whether it's with a substitute or not.
How does that defensive midfield hold up against an offensive threat? If it is still Jones in a diamond, is he disciplined enough? If it's Beckerman, is he quick enough?
Seriously, what is the US going to do on the left wing? Bedoya probably had his best game in a US shirt against the Azeris, but even so his contributions did not help the team as much as Brad Davis's single deep cross did. If the US does go back to their 4-2-3-1 it would be nice to get a look at Johannsson in the Eddie Johnson role on the left wing. Portugal's right flank is supposed to be weak defensively.
How does Dempsey work with Jozy up top? The two have rarely been paired as out-and-out forwards together. Jozy scored a bunch of goals in Holland by running about the pitch instead of being a single hold-up guy trying to lay balls off or turn on defenders. Their partnership is of a different character than the Jozy-Wondo pairing and has to be one in which the guy with the ball has a good idea of what the guy without it is going to do.
SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES