Niko Porikos grew up in an NTDP billet home. Cool story.
Josh Langford will someday win a national title by sliding the ball between an opponent's legs
Basketball recruiting stuff. Michigan's packing in a number of visits before their upcoming Italy trip. D-III transfer Duncan Robinson is of course expected on campus this week. Joining him will be 2016 AL SG Josh Langford, who arrives Friday.
Langford is kind of a big deal, a 6'6" athlete who's in the top 20 of the 247 composite. He should get his offer while on campus, and while Michigan hasn't fared particularly well while recruiting against the Dukes and Kansases of the world—both have offered—Langford has been paying attention to what's going on in Ann Arbor($):
"It's an honor to be recruited by Michigan because I've watched Michigan on TV a lot and it was very shocking for me to be able to talk to Coach Beilein on the phone because he is one of the greatest coaches all time and one of the best skill developers in college basketball right now," Langford said. "To have them tell me that they want me to be their next wolf just makes me want to work even harder."
The last "wolf" was Nik Stauskas; like Stauskas, Langford is a 6'6" guy who can function as a quasi-point guard.
2015 MI C Seth Dugan is also scheduled to be on campus in the near future. Dugan is a late-rising seven-footer who's caught the eye of a number of Big Ten teams and just fielded a bunch of quality mid-major offers (Xavier, Davidson, Rhode Island).
Pelini level. I am now thinking of an Adidas commercial in which Kanye raps about getting on Pelini level with all the great awkward photo headshot gentlemen being really awkward. I am now sad the World Cup is over. I am now over that.
Meanwhile they just hosted 2016 OH C Jon Teske, who has become a serious priority for that class. He seemed to name Michigan his leader in a group of two:
"Michigan is recruiting me the hardest, probably, and that's why they're on top," he said. "The top two right now are Michigan and Ohio State, and I think it will come down to those two.
FWIW, OSU has center prospects in their 2014 and 2015 classes, neither of whom seems like an early-entry candidate at the moment.
In less immediate news, 2015 SC SG PJ Dozier announced a top five that includes Michigan and will be taking an official visit. Probably, anyway. Michigan may shut down 2015 recruiting after picking up a shooting guard at any time. The other schools on Dozier's list: Louisville, North Carolina, Georgetown, and South Carolina.
Dozier hasn't been on campus yet and thus doesn't have an offer. He's #31 on the composite, and his dad denies reports($) that North Carolina is a "dream school" and likely destination. This makes me believe that is in fact the case, but Michigan's got their shot. Probably, anyway.
Finally, Rivals projects they will move 2016 NJ SG Tyus Battle to five star status.
Miss you, Brimley
Anonymous, you are so boring. You hear "anonymous quotes" and you get your interest all piqued but Joe Tiller ain't around no more, so the results are as tepid as if they came from a press conference. Athlon has the dirt-type substance:
“What are they going to do new offensively? They just hired Doug Nussmeier. Where they’ve struggled, they haven’t been what they thought they’d be on the offensive line. They lost both their tackles now.”
How about anonymously describing Michigan's CFBStats page?
“I think they were very meager running the football. They struggled protecting the quarterback. The statistical things you evaluate – offensive line, rushing yards, yards per carry, they were pretty poor in those areas.”
There is an interesting bit about Michigan's current defense…
“Defensively, I don’t think they were near what they want to be. They have a great defensive coordinator, he’s a very good coach, but as the defense is designed to stop the run it’s become more of a passing league in some ways. Great, you held them to 100 yards rushing but they threw for 350 and you got beat.”
…or at least it would have been interesting if that even vaguely resembled reality. The Big Ten was a passing league in no way whatsoever. Michigan was the top team in YPA by some distance last year and finished in a tie for 23rd nationally. The top teams in passes per game are Indiana, Illinois, and Purdue. Those teams were bad. (Indiana was fun! But not, like, a contender.)
Devin Gardner’s back, so it will be interesting to see, are they building an off for Gardner for one more year or building for the future for Shane Morris or whomever they recruited?
…oh for pants' sake. What about the rest of the teams?
“They [MSU] aren’t going to miss Max Bullough as much as everybody thought. The kid who replaced him in the Rose Bowl was pretty good.”
That kid was a senior who signed a CFL contract. They let these people vote! You probably think that's a shot at the Coaches Poll; it's not. It's a shot at democracy.
Most of the rest of the comments are "this unit was good" and "they have this player" and "they no longer have this player." Whoever did this interview is no Mike Spath.
Hooray for reception. For whatever reason, cell reception took a severe turn for the worse last year. It was middling but generally acceptable for a couple years before that; last year it was impossible to get anything in or out until they installed the wifi, which was pretty iffy but at least vaguely functional.
I know it is possible for things to actually work, since my trip to Penn State featured horrific football but lovely crystal-clear LTE despite the fact that Beaver Stadium on gameday is significantly bigger than the rest of the town.
So Michigan's going to try to fix it:
U-M announced Friday that "upgraded cellular coverage at Michigan Stadium for Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility" is coming to Michigan Stadium. The new system will be tested Saturday during the International Champions Cup soccer match between Manchester United and Real Madrid in Ann Arbor.
A press release from the U-M athletic department states that "a major upgrade to the distributed antenna system (DAS)" has been made at Michigan Stadium," but adds, "It has been very difficult to build adequate capacity into the stadium due to its significant size as well as the open bowl which has limited locations for antennas."
I know that when the NHL came into town to scout for the Winter Classic they were flabbergasted at the lack of reception. Hopefully this gets Michigan up to par.
Problem: what will Brandon blame soft student ticket sales on once they fix it?
But they just gave you free food. Mmm boilerplate.
Michigan reports to fall camp with level of hunger that wasn't there a year ago, players say
I'm in a show-me state. Not Missouri. Just, like, personally.
I'm impressed you didn't shrivel into a ball and die. Brennen Beyer was 14 when The Horror happened, and he witnessed it in person like many of us:
"The field goal at the end … just shaking my head, knowing we lost that game. It was a bad feeling," said Beyer, who watched with dismay as Jason Gingell's 37-yard field goal was blocked as time expired.
I bet he's planning to do whatever he can not to relive that experience.
Might be a bit light for the GLI this year. All five Michigan-affiliated players at the WJC camp made the final cut from 42 to 27. While that's not quite the final team right there, the final roster usually doesn't deviate much. The cuts are usually the young guys they think will be key components of the next couple years. One of those guys is commit Kyle Connor, so that's a good sign for his future.
The rest: Compher, Motte, Larkin, and Downing. Compher is a holy lock after making the team last year only to break a bone in his foot, and I expect the other guys to go as well. This year's roster is deep, at least.
Also in hockey, TheScout.ca did rank Michigan commit Michael Pastujov their top available player for the upcoming OHL draft. Here's why:
1. Michael Pastjov - Poised and creative playmaker with soft hands. Strong and balanced, wide track skater. Adept at creating.
— Sean Lafortune (@SeanLafortune) August 5, 2014
With his brother already committed to the NTDP and a spot waiting for him when he reaches the right age, he should fall in the draft. Hopefully it's a long way and to some place like Barrie.
Wait, what? The last place I expected to hear anything about poor student ticket sales:
With less than a month until the season opener, Nebraska still has 1,000 of its 8,500 student football season tickets for sale.
However, athletic department spokeswoman Chris Anderson said Friday the school still expects to sell out all 8,500 student tickets. All remaining tickets are for the south end zone.
That's nuts. Nebraska is the second-smallest school in the league, but they've still got 25k students and nothing else to do in Lincoln. And their head coach may bite the head off one of their players while stroking a cat, Bond villain style. Entertainment, you have.
Etc.: Reviewing Bo's final year. The company that puts on the soccer friendlies is called "Relevent Sports," which just goes to show you that even people who intentionally name their thing something that looks like a typo every time you see it can have success. What a country.
By the end of this article you should be able to make an educated guess
as to what Braden is saying to A.J. Williams [Fuller]
You may have heard Michigan has a new offensive identity, by which of course we mean Michigan now has an offensive identity. We think. We're told. Evidence for this is Michigan hired a new OC who runs inside zone, and he has even Brady Hoke talking about it being our base thing. This thing is totally happening. I mean if they hadn't sworn up and down for three years that Power was going to be their thi...
Let's just not go into that and focus on inside zone and how to watch inside zone, and how to be correctly disappointed with the correct person when inside zone isn't run very well. Since this is a new thing, and the offensive line are all relatively new things themselves, and the recent history of Michigan football has given you no reason to believe otherwise, and there are some really good defensive linemen Michigan has to go against this year, let's concede right now that Michigan isn't going to be running inside zone very well this season, especially early. Let's pretend like the coaches are going to stick it out anyway and let it play out.
IZ Resources: As well as the above-linked articles, I drew from Chris Brown at Smart Football, and this article that quotes Chris Brown on a Philly Eagles website. And Space Coyote wrote an entire article on IZ and some plays that stem from it in this year's HTTV; I'm sure he'll pipe in as soon as I mess something up here.
|Every blocker is responsible for whatever defender appears in the "zone" he's responsible for blocking.|
A Temperate Zone
What's inside zone? Maybe it's best to start with what it's not: man. In MANBALL, most linemen have an assigned guy to block; a lead blocker (sometimes a puller) is the only dude who has to make a tough, mid-play decision, and the running back just has to follow that guy.
Inside zone is a base running play where all the blockers are reacting to the defense, not just a lead guy, and the running back has to choose from among various holes that could open up. It takes a different set of skills, mastery of a different set of blocks, and most of all: reps reps and more reps so that everybody can make split-second decisions and those decisions will be correct.
That's not to say all decisions are made after the snap. In fact most blocking assignments are determined by how the defense is lined up. In many cases it won't be all that discernible from man-blocking.
yellow is uncovered. click bigginates.
The read OL have to make is whether they're "covered" or not. Covered means there's a DL lined up across from you. If there isn't, you are "uncovered" and most likely you'll get to go hunting linebackers. But first you look next to you and see if there's a defender shaded to the playside of your buddy; he may need help with that lineman before you release downfield. If that defender is a beast your buddy may need all the help he can get. You deal with the first level defenders before you worry about stopping linebackers.
Almost always, more than one defender will arrive in a blocker's zone. So zone blocking means lots of shared blocking. Ultimately the blocking ends up being 2-on-2 instead of 1-on-1. For example in captioned illustration above-right, the center and right guard are together responsible for blocking the nose tackle and the middle linebacker.
Offensive linemen in high school seldom get the right footwork down. Zone-blocking footwork isn't the same as pile-driving some dude, for one; and two it's not something many high school coaches know how to teach; and three if you're a 6'6"/300 future Big Ten OL and your job is to block a 6'0"/180 future Big Ten economics major, your greatest motivation to pay attention to your feet is probably the preservation of your prom date's.
In this moment it matters greatly. You need to get off the snap, get playside of your defender, get downfield, and get your feet set beneath you, your hands inside, and your pads beneath his so you can ride him out of the play, stonewall him, or shove him downfield; you let him dictate his fate.
On inside zone, an uncovered guy's first step is always to the play-side, not directly toward the guy you're going to block (the OL taking this step is a good indicator it's a zone-blocked rather than man-blocked play). This is because the DL don't always come straight upfield; you don't want them running by you.
Your job is to block the guy trying to cross you. If someone lined up inside you and ran further inside you, he's not yours. Your head stays downfield until you lock on a target, and any object that attempts to cross your field of vision must be stopped.
That Rabbit's Dynamite
Interesting example of a 1) a cutback and 2) the U starting on the strongside of the formation then executing his backside block almost like a lead blocker
Mastering the combo blocks and footwork to respond to all the things defenses throw at you takes a bazillion reps. The upside: inside zone, like option offenses, is a multi-attack threat that can go where the defense doesn't. A called IZ play could end up going outside, or inside, or cut to the backside depending on how your opponent defends it. A well-run IZ offense doesn't let defensive fronts play aggressively; if they want to stop you they'll have to activate the safeties in the run game, opening up the pass. It's not wimpy; it's smashmouth football that—as you'll see—relies mostly on crushing blocks to break things big.
[After the jump I'll show some sample executions versus various defensive alignments so you can get a sense of how it attacks and what factors lead to its success.]
Why Oakland? Three defenses have multiple Michigan guys: Oakland (Woodson & Woodley),
Arizona (Foote & Demens) and NYFG (Stevie B and T.Gordon).
I want you to get yourself in a certain frame of mind. July is over. Barbecuing has lost its novelty and is back to being a way to fix dinner. The sun rises and sets at reasonable hours. Quarterbacks take snaps from centers and hand off to running backs, or fake that and throw to receivers and those people get tackled. But sometimes they don't get tackled. I want you to think about that guy, the guy with the football secured by three pressure points, yards melting behind him, and how long it will be until these points are applied to your score.
My name is Seth Fisher and I play fantasy football. You probably know this already from the obsessive attention I gave to draftageddon, which I'll state again the purpose is not fantasy football but to serve as this site's Around the Big Ten preview, i.e. a place where a blocking TE like Martell Webb would be a great asset.
THIS POST however IS TOTALLY about fantasy football. Not my team; your team. And not in a "let's learn why Martell Webb was good" kind of way; in fact you can't even draft Webb. This post is to let you know our fantasy partner's 2014 NFL fantasy league just went online. Get ye to Draft Kings; it is time to choose.
- $100,000 prize pool.
- $2 entry fee. Entry is free with your first deposit.
- $10,000 1st Place prize.
- Top 11,500 are paid.
- Starts on Sunday, September, 7th at 1:00 EST.
- Salary Cap Style Drafting. $50,000 to select 9 spots. 8 players and 1 defense.
- Roster Format: 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 Flex, 1 Defense.
- First time depositors at DraftKings receive a 100% bonus up to $600
Sidebar: Michigan guys!
Huh, not a one of them is saying 'Put in Henson!' anymore.
I just got really depressed when I couldn't make a team out of former Michigan players. Used to be you could build a kick-ass Madden out of Wolverines. I mean, I'd struggle with RBs but there was usually some recently drafted A-Train or Perry to pair with Wheatley and Biakabutuka. And I'd have to fudge things at safety, like making Cato or Marlin or Woodson one. Suddenly options are limited everywhere except, weirdly, that.
QB: Touchdown Tom forever. Henne for depth. Weird not to see Collins on an NFL roster; anyone else feel like that guy would be someone's 3rd QB forever?
RB: Only Toussaint now that Denard's on a WR depth chart.
WR/TE: Denard woo! Manningham, Hemingway, Gallon and Avant make for a diverse and solid receiving corps, although with no superstars. Breaston was on the Saints' practice squad last year; I don't know where he'll land this season if anywhere but aside from being the prototype of The Pattern™ his ability to impersonate Razor Ramon warrants a look from any team.
Martell Webb is the only TE on an NFL roster now.
OL: Long, Lewan, Molk, Goodwin, Schilling, Schofield, Omameh, Will Campbell. You can build a decent line out of that (Long and Lewan at tackle, Schilling/Molk/Goodwin inside?). Baas may yet get picked up, but it's depressing to make this list without Hutchinson.
DL: Martin, Branch, Woodley, B.Graham, Roh, Jamison.
LB: Harris, Mouton, Demens, Foote, C.Gordon
S: Woodson is classified as a "FS" for Oakland, so you've got him plus Kovacs, Stevie Brown, and Ryan Mundy if you're allowed to classify him a Michigan guy.
CB: Only Leon Hall now.
ST: Feely, and wherever Zoltan lands.
Are you really still reading this? Go draft.
Previously: Last year's profiles, CB Brandon Watson, CB Jabrill Peppers, LB Jared Wangler, LB Chase Winovich, LB Noah Furbush, LB Michael Ferns, DL Brady Pallante, DL Bryan Mone, DL Lawrence Marshall, OL Mason Cole, OL Juwann Bushell-Beatty.
|Beverly Hills, MI – 6'4", 195|
|Scout||3*, NR overall
|Rivals||3*, NR overall
#61 WR. #6 MI
|ESPN||4*, NR overall
#59 WR, #5 MI
|24/7||3*, NR overall
#91 WR, #10 MI
|Other Suitors||Iowa, Kansas, Pitt, Rutgers|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from me(!).|
|Notes||Detroit Country Day (Kenny Demens).|
Also junior highlights.
If you listened to our recruiting podcast way back in February, you know that I'm super enthused about this class's wide receiving corps. Freddy Canteen's quick emergence into a guy to be excited about has already put the class ahead of the curve, and he is only #2 on my list of wide receivers I expect to exceed expectations.
Er. Other's expectations. I'm not trying to pull the he's-underrated-says-recruiting-ranker thing.
Anyway. #1 is Mo Ways, who only got three stars on most sites despite being 6'4", fast enough to take the top off a defense, and extremely productive. With future Iowa QB Tyler Wiegers throwing to him, Ways had 51 catches for almost 1,000 yards as a junior and upped his numbers to 55 and 1300 as a senior, with 25 touchdowns in there.
Let's get the bad bit out of the way first.
The primary issue with with Ways as a prospect is his hands. As a junior he had a tendency to make facepalm-worthy drops. This one was from his opener:
3. Maurice Ways, WR, Detroit Country Day (2014): Ways would have been in strong consideration for the top overall spot on this list except for a key drop on 4th and 15 with his team down a point. The pattern was a post and Ways had separated from the defensive back. His quarterback put it on his number, but he simply dropped it and U-D Jesuit went on for the win.
This was a pattern. Only the guys who were around consistently knew about it and they had to be diplomatic about it because they were around consistently. They gently suggested that Ways should catch the damn ball. Most of these assertions were on message boards, because message boards are ephemeral and that's the reasonable way to approach things.
But like this is some Real Talk from Tim Sullivan here:
"He's basically a high school version of Braylon Edwards, where he drops easy passes but then makes the astounding play. He's just inexperienced. But it'll come, and when it does, he'll be really, really good."
You can see an echo of that in this later Sullivan eval:
There has been a major question about Ways' hands in the past. There should not be anymore.
Inherent in that is the good news. Ways's senior season saw him leave the drops behind; that's why you can say "major questions" without getting exiled to the land of people who don't get interviews. Ways started making the easy plays while continuing his tendency to make crazy stabs on impossible balls. Sullivan again:
…he was catching balls high over the middle - including several behind him - without any bobbles or "fighting the ball." The accuracy of his quarterback Tyler Wiegers was only OK on this night, but Ways made him look excellent. Whether it's mastering the over-the-shoulder deep ball, a screen pass in traffic, or even a sideline route, Ways made every catch asked of him.
I'm generally skeptical of hands evaluations; once you get a reputation you're always considered iffy in that department because the frequency of drops is so low. See Steve Breaston, who got a rep as a guy who drops passes because he did drop a bunch over his shoulder but was otherwise excellent in his career. (Braylon absolutely deserved his rep, sadly.)
That skepticism tends towards favoring the player, but it's balanced out by the tendency of recruiting analysts to do the same. So let's go to the evaluations that are just looking at the guy as a senior. 247:
Ways has excellent hands. He catches the ball away from his body and really plucks it out of the air.
Very, very good. Has strong, big hands. Excels in a crowd or on the jump ball. Can elevate and shows body control and sideline awareness. Shows toughness in a crowd. Makes difficult grabs look easy. Consistently catches the ball in stride and away from his frame. Hands are soft and extremely reliable.
That's great. I love that pattern: guy gets a lot better, ratings hang on to some preconceived notions, people who pay close attention or who just look at him as a senior are like "wow." The reason this series exists is because I think assembling all the data on a guy with an eye towards the flaws in the rankings is a useful exercise; a guy like Ways is right in the heart of that.
Ways's inexperience helps us understand his trajectory. Ways arrived at Country Day a basketball player and only took up football because you're required to play two sports there. He didn't break through until he was a junior:
"This was actually my third year playing football and my first year playing varsity," Ways said.
He's been steadily improving since. The summer before his senior year he hit a bunch of the camps in an effort to up his game. The resulting articles were a bunch of "this guy is a lot better than he was when I saw him before":
- "really improved since his junior season and has made big strides in the areas he needed to"
- "noticeably improved in his overall grasp of the position"
- "much more sure-handed at the Chicago RCS than when we saw him in the fall"
- "I barely recognized him this summer at the Sound Mind Sound Body camp after seeing him in his junior season."
Michigan coaches are pleased, as Ways himself relates:
"Coach Hoke talked about how impressed they are with me and my development on the field and off the field physically. When talking with Coach Hecklinski, he alluded to the fact that my film this season really showed him that I improved on the things I got to work with him on at the camp this off-season and that it's really encouraging to know that I'm putting in the necessary work off the field in my free time."
+2 points for using "alluded"
-1 point for being unnecessarily fancy when Heck probably just said it instead of vaguely gestured in its direction
Ways may or may not be able to rip downfield a la Braylon. There is much conflict on this point. Well, part of it. Everyone thinks he's got the frame and basketball rebounding skills to sky over defensive backs productively. Kyle Bogenschutz reported from Ways's standout performance at Michigan's camp:
…he ran a straight-line deep streak down the sideline. The ball was very underthrown - and looked as though it would be intercepted. But Ways adjusted to the ball, twisting his body as he leapt toward the ball. He snagged it over the cornerback's head, falling to the five-yard line for a 35-yard gain.
Ways is a big, strong, outside receiver that can stretch the field and go up and get the deep ball. Athletic-looking frame with prototypical length and thickness. … Locates the ball in the air well and adjusts his body to position for the catch while shielding off the defender. Displays strong hands to secure high-velocity throws off his frame.
He is one of those guys who isn't particularly covered even when he's covered. "Huge target"; "wide catching radius"; that ESPN stuff I bolded above about playing in a crowd. On this there is no disagreement.
There is disagreement about how threatening Ways will be downfield. ESPN's evaluation says he's going to be more of an underneath guy…
Speed is above average, but he looks to be quicker than top end fast. …More of a possession type that will catch everything and has red zone upside. His size gives him big play ability when the ball is in the air in contested match-ups. May never be a guy that wins consistent foot races, but he is a smooth athlete who can extend plays.
…as does 247's eval immediately after his commit:
Ways isn’t the fastest kid on the field and some are concerned about his overall speed. He doesn’t have great moves to get past defenders after the catch but shows he can break tackles with good strength.
On the other side of the ledger is another section in that same ESPN scouting report:
Is a cut above this level of competition in this area. Is a smooth glider that can eat cushion quickly given his size. Can cut and shows burst into and out of the break. Will sink hips, but must be careful of pad level. Fluid stride makes speed tough to gauge for DBs.
Tim Sullivan was impressed after an in-person evaluation against Notre Dame prep:
Ways' initial burst off the line also looked improved. He has always had good speed, but it has taken him a few steps to build up a head of steam and really get moving. …was beating defensive backs in press or off-coverage with his speed, something he'd had trouble with in the past. Of course, that hasn't stopped him from being speedy after that burst, either. He was routinely burning the opposing defensive back downfield.
Some of this is probably an artifact of when you saw him. 247's evaluation notes that Ways "really improved his straight-line speed" since his junior year and pegs him as a 4.6 guy in a laser-timed 40—equivalent to 4.4 by the standards of FAKE that are generally applied to HS 40s.
As we've learned with Devin Funchess, when you're huge and leapy you don't have to have elite burst and quickness to be open enough downfield. Manningham works; Edwards works; Funchess works.
As a bonus, Ways is an excellent blocker on the edge. WR evaluations rarely mention anything about what happens when the kid doesn't have the ball, but Ways was impressive enough to get repeated mentions from the evaluators. Sullivan:
He was not just a capable blocker, but went the extra mile to take pride in his blocking in the run game. He has developed physically and should be a devastating player on the edge at the college level.
Brewster says he's got "great work effort" and is a "relentless" blocker. Add that to your list of reasons Ways isn't getting the hype he probably should.
Etc.: Really wanted to be at M:
"I think playing in front of 115,000 people on Saturdays," Ways said. "But not just that, the tradition. What it wins to wear the winged helmet and put that jersey on. Just being a Michigan Man. I'm looking forward to it all."
Okay one more description of a circus catch:
…had a few highlight plays throughout the day, reeling in a one handed grab in the morning session, corralling the football with one of his big mitts and bringing it into his body as he hit the turf, and catching a go route over both a corner and safety in the 7-on-7 skeleton.
Touch The Banner was a fan. Is a fan, I imagine.
Why Braylon Edwards? Yes, that is a big name to put on Ways. But he's an instate kid with a modest recruiting profile who has the size, speed, and leaping ability to be a top flight downfield threat. Ways also has the hands questions, though he seems to have put them to bed. Edwards ran a probably-FAKE 4.48 HS 40, FWIW.
Junior Hemingway is another comparable as a guy who absolutely excels in a crowd but didn't get consistent separation on deep routes. His hands were better; his speed was worse; he is three or four inches shorter than Ways.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. I think their rankings did not keep pace with Ways's improvement. Everyone was like "this is a different player" and no one made the adjustments. Ton of scouting, though—this post was 5k words before I cut a lot of stuff out—and he was at camp and healthy.
Variance: Moderate. Speed and hands questions may limit him to being a solid contributor; if he hits the high end of the upside he's a star.
Ceiling: High. Junior Hemingway plus four inches! Braylon Edwards with hands! Both of them put together so that he's got four hands to catch the ball with!
General Excitement Level: Due to Hoke's level of recruiting success it's been difficult to find anyone even qualified to be "Sleeper Of The Year" based on our previous criteria of no four-star rankings, so this year we're allowing guys with one four-star in. So, surprise! Mo Ways is our Sleeper Of The Year.
I love the guy's frame, I think his year-to-year improvement bodes very well, and watching him on film it seems like he does have the athleticism to give defensive backs a hard choice. He should be at least a solid #2 over the course of his career and I wouldn't put his ceiling there. This is an entirely different kind of three-star than the ones they brought in in the previous class.
Projection: Normally I'd think the guy plays, but Michigan does have a lot of depth on the outside this year: Funchess, Darboh, Chesson, Canteen, Dukes, and maybe Jones unless he's a slot. That's a lot of guys, and Ways may top out as the kind of receiver who the NFL likes but not enough to induce an early entry. 50/50 on a redshirt; getting one is no slight.
Happy Trails, Definitely
ack (also, PROTIP: do NOT do a GIS for "happy trails")
After Michigan nabbed a top-100 receiver, Brian Cole, away from Michigan State the week before, the Spartans returned the favor on Friday when they landed 2016 four-star Cameron Chambers. Point, MSU. Several negative points, meanwhile, to these guys.
Unfortunately, the bad news doesn't end there. The Damien Harris saga appears to be over for Michigan, as the former Wolverine commit announced on Twitter that he'd narrowed his list to five finalists: Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Ohio State, and Texas A&M. Michigan's made a big push for Cass Tech four-star RB Mike Weber in the last couple months, and their efforts to land him should only intensify with this news.
Happy Trails, Probably
Two major U-M targets will announce their commitments to Schools Other Than Michigan soon, though both will remain on the board thanks to their future visit plans.
The first is four-star FL WR Auden Tate, who'll choose between Clemson, Michigan, USF, Maryland, Florida State, Florida, and Georgia tomorrow; the decision is expected to go FSU's way, and since Tate hasn't been to Ann Arbor it won't be U-M. Despite the impending decision, however, Tate told 247's Josh Newberg that he has two official visits planned ($):
“I’m taking one to FSU and I’m taking one to Michigan. I don’t know if I’ll take the other three.”
While Tate will commit elsewhere tomorrow, Michigan isn't totally out of it, even if their ultimate chances of landing him probably aren't great.
The second is four-star MD OG Patrick Allen, who informed Wolverine247 yesterday that he'll officially visit Michigan for the Minnesota game on September 27th. Just hours ago, he told 247's Ryan Bartow that he'll make a decision "in a week or two," which bodes unwell since Allen, like Tate, hasn't yet made it to campus; he has, however, taken trips to the other two schools in his top three, Georgia and Oklahoma. Again, Michigan should get the chance to change his mind, as Allen said he'll still take his official visits.
New 2015 Offer
Michigan offered 2015 four-star CA OG Zach Robertson on Saturday, per 247's Clint Brewster. While Robertson holds a laundry list of offers from powerhouse programs, he plans to check out Ann Arbor on an official visit:
Robertson told Wolverine247 shortly after the Michigan offer went out, "It's a great school for sure. An official visit will be set up."
Pulling Robertson out of California will be difficult—UCLA has been a consistent presence among his top schools, and he also holds a USC offer—but getting him on campus would be a good start.
U-M Makes Top Five For HOLY HAIR
Michigan offered 2016 four-star MD WR Steven Smothers in May, and while he hasn't been able to visit yet, he still has Michigan is his top five, per GBW's Josh Newkirk ($):
“I would say my top-five schools are West Virginia, Alabama, Michigan, Florida and Ohio State,” said the four-star wide out.
“The Michigan offer is big,” Smothers said. “That’s a big time school. It’s a long time traditional powerhouse. That’s really big. Them and Ohio State, they are really a big deal to me, a powerhouse that’s been on top a long time. So I’m just ecstatic about the [Michigan] offer.” Smothers, who was offered by U-M back in May, says would like to possibly take a visit when Michigan plays host to Penn State on Oct. 11.
Importantly, Michigan is very much in the mix for one of the top receivers in the 2016 class. More importantly, this is Steven Smothers' hair (photo via above link):
Must-get recruit, obviously.
Four-star 2016 OH TE Luke Farrell holds a Michigan offer and was on campus for last month's BBQ, but right now his home-state school tops his list, per Scout's Derek Young ($):
"I'd say Ohio State is out front right now," he admitted. "Overall, they're number one on my list so far. I'm not sure when I will make my decision, yet. I'll take care of it once I feel like I am ready."
While Ohio State is winning that battle, it's a more even race for four-star 2016 GA RB Elijah Holyfield, who holds both schools in very high regard after visiting Columbus for OSU's Friday Night Lights camp and Ann Arbor for the BBQ, per 247's Alex Gleitman ($):
After multiple trips to both programs, it is clear that both Ohio State and Michigan are high on Holyfield’s list. He spoke about where the two schools stand, as well as how they compare to each other with 247Sports.
“I don’t have any leaders right now, but those two are definitely in my top group,” he said. “There are others in there too, but I know when I make a top 10 or top 5, whatever, that both Ohio State and Michigan are going to be in there. I’ll definitely be back to each school this fall to see a game at both.
“The schools are definitely a little different though. Michigan is more laid back and chill. Ohio State is up-tempo and intense. They’re different, but I enjoy both coaches and both styles.
Finally, there's reason to keep an eye on Brother Rice this season beyond QB commit Alex Malzone and '15 WR Grant Perry, who's getting a close look from U-M as a potential late offer candidate. Senior DE Jack Dunaway came to the BBQ with his teammates and left holding a preferred walk-on offer, per GBW's Kyle Bogenschutz ($):
Holding offers from Davidson, Saginaw Valley State, Notre Dame College, Cornell, and Harvard, Dunaway is also receiving walk-on interest from Stanford and Notre Dame.
Michigan’s defensive coordinator is telling Dunaway to simply enjoy the process and see what happens.
“[Greg Mattison] said, for your senior year just have fun, you have us, don’t worry about us,” Dunaway said. “He said just get whatever else you can so what’s best for you but just know you have a preferred walk-on for Michigan.”
Dunaway, who's also getting some MAC interest, said his parents are willing to pay his way to Michigan if he wants to walk on there over taking a scholarship at a smaller school. With a very small number of available scholarships, adding a walk-on of Dunaway's caliber at a position of need would be a great way to add depth to the 2015 class.
— Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis) August 1, 2014
This is what is called a face turn. Pelini should start entering stadiums with his own corn-oriented theme music.
Reduced price. Michigan has cut the waiting list fee from 500 dollars to 150 for the 2015 season. That's the one with OSU and MSU games on it. I think we've officially hit the limit of what people will pay. Also, this… this is not a good thing to title your page about buying season tickets.
Watching football is not supposed to make you feel like you're going through twoadays and want to die.
Our lack of post depth and experience: slightly less exploitable. A couple of Big Ten big guys will not take on Doyle/Donnal and company, for reasons pedestrian and mysterious. The pedestrian one: VT transfer Trevor Thompson did not get a waiver at Ohio State and will redshirt. OSU does still get fifth-year Temple transfer Anthony Lee, so not a huge blow.
The mysterious and potentially more important: MSU stretch four Kenny Kaminski has been booted permanently. The crack MSU beat will no doubt have full details on the reason for his dismissal sometime after the sun turns the Earth into a smoking cinder bereft of life, so look out for that, Titan News Network.
Kaminski got only ten minutes a game last year, but he shot 50% on threes. This is Not Bad. Izzo kind of had a conniption fit about everything else about his game, because Izzo. Without any post types in the incoming class, MSU now will rely on Branden Dawson even more than they would have normally and lack the ability to insert a defense-stretching option for times when that would be good.
Now that I put it ion paper, this is less important from a Michigan perspective. Kaminski was a changeup option that a game against Michigan does not invite.
This is an interesting thing. I can't embed this at all, but here's a fascinating graph of the evolution of NFL players' height and weight over time. As you might expect, things get larger and heavier. The interesting bit is the split.
Increasing specialization has seen a class of OL/DL types that have totally separated from people who weigh 270 pounds. 280? 290? Do not apply.
Yea, and thine bagels shall be coated in whatever toppings you desire. Michigan's compliance twitter feed is slowly morphing into Leviticus, and I'm okay with that.
Football preseason practice shall begin with a five-day acclimatization period.
— Michigan Compliance (@umichcompliance) August 4, 2014
During the first two days of the acclimatization period, helmets shall be the only piece of protective equipment student-athletes may wear.
— Michigan Compliance (@umichcompliance) August 4, 2014
ON THE THIRD DAY OF THE ACCLIMATIZATION PERIOD, YEA, THE DOLOMITES DID DON PADS AND VENTURE FORTH INTO THE FIELD OF PLAY.
Happy! Sad. Mitch McGary is doing stupid dunks on Vine.
There's another one where he flips it up to a teammate with his feet. #McGaryForUSMNT
Unfortunately, I am totally not over this. File me under sad bastard mooning at the record store in a Nick Hornby novel in re: reaction to any and all McGary things. Oh yeah I'm really happy for him it sounds like he's doing great oh I'm doing fine you know just buying these records and so sad that I feel like I'm dissolving every day no no man I'm fine.
/plays The Cure for 12 hours straight
Is there an It Gets Better for Mitch McGary withdrawal?
It's called the Big Ten for a reason. That reason is "we don't even know anymore." But we can have a reason again! Kirk Ferentz said that this could happen:
Kirk Ferentz said he could see the Big Ten going to 10 conference games. "If we're going to nine, I don't see why not," he said.
Money, probably. I am beginning to wonder about the relative value of a home and home versus two bodybag games; surely the increased interest from scheduling, say, Iowa, is now just about enough to offset the fact that you're playing a road game once TV factors in.
Rittenberg's take is cynical, but probably accurate:
How many Big Ten teams would get into the playoff with a 10-game league schedule if the higher-regarded SEC plays only eight conference contests? It's all about the playoff and it doesn't matter how you get there as long as you get there. That's how the Big Ten must approach scheduling.
I find it hard to believe that a committee is going to pick a team with an extra loss, even if it had a tougher schedule. And it's debatable whether the committee will even see it as a tougher schedule given the recent direction of the league.
If adding a tenth game induces Big Ten teams to strip out some of the very few comparison points we get before bowl season, all the committee will have to go on is reputation. That would be bad.
I am getting excited about hockey. The prospect of Copp/Compher/Larkin down the middle and the big hole on the blueline that Zach Werenski just filled combine to get me hype about what will go down at Yost this fall. Compher is tearing up the USA WJC camp going on right now:
Compher, who centered Team White’s top line between Fasching and 2015 draft prospect Kyle Connor, was arguably his side’s top player all the way through. He used his feet to take away time and space, and drew the ire of Team Blue with a hit in the corner right at the halftime horn. In the second half, the reigning B1G Freshman of the Year made a smart zone entry and executed a give-and-go with Will Butcher (COL) before finding Fasching at the doorstep for White’s second marker. …
Compher was a key cog at both ends of the rink all game long, applying pressure without the puck while showing his playmaking eyes en route to picking up two assists on the day. He worked hard behind the net for his first assist, and kicked back to the point for a secondary helper on the third White goal. The University of Michigan standout rounded out his effort with some excellent work at the left point on the power play. He nearly added a goal to his weekend resume with a shot that just missed high over the crossbar in the final minutes.
Meanwhile, Motte and Larkin combined to score a late winner against Finland.
The soccer game happened. I did not go, if you're curious. 55 bucks was about 40 too many for a friendly between a couple of teams I don't really care about. 109,000 people disagreed with that, so you got a packed Michigan Stadium and the tangible and intangible benefits of that. The broadcast must have said the words "Big House" a dozen times every 15 minutes; also the department made some money.
Hopefully that'll become something of an annual event. The cachet of having the largest stadium in the country is a natural draw for teams that can fill it. Hopefully they can figure out the turf issues.
Unfortunately the size of the playing surface is short of regulations for a real game, as was extensively discussed when Michigan Stadium was on a list of potential hosting venues for the USA's failed World Cup bid. Any real game would have to be played on a platform that sat above the actual playing field and wiped out viewing angles for big chunks of the stadium. I don't think Michigan Stadium will ever get serious consideration for a USA game because of that.
Oh man, lawyers. I mean that in a good way this time. Andy Schwarz, who was a plaintiff's witness in the O'Bannon case, has been writing big lawyerly pieces for Deadspin about the case. His latest is more of an overview of the two sides struggling to "fix" the NCAA. One, dubbed "Team Reform," thinks that the whole problem with the system is that the universities aren't funneling the profits back into the academic side. The other, dubbed "Team Market" is just like dude this is a joke now just let them get what they can.
I bring it up because Schwarz has a couple of places in the piece that sum up a ton of things I've been thinking:
I personally question the undertones of complaints that athletes may blow their payments on bling and tattoos, when we applaud college students for spending money on ephemeral activities like traveling to Florence for a semester of wine and museums, but as a member of Team Market, I am willing to entertain the possibility that deferred payments will bridge the gap between paying suppliers and pleasing consumers and result in the most popular market-produced product. …"Fear of a Black Wallet" need not rule the country forever.
Fear of a Black Wallet! The paternalistic overtones of the arguments that start and end with "but then they'll have money" summed up in five words. They might waste their money, sure. It's being wasted now on compliance.
His sarcastic survey questions are also amazing:
This may also explain some of the surveys that we see from time to time, including even the one the NCAA presented in the recent O'Bannon litigation. The question wasn't framed as "Do you prefer watching undercompensated athletes play if it means you can rationalize your love of sports as somehow more noble than you secretly know it is?" or "Does your interest in college sports increase as more value is taken from the athletes and then ostensibly used to further more noble goals?"
I'm noticing this guy writes really long sentences now that I'm quoting him. Anyway, hardcore fans are an interesting exception to the survey trend wherein people say they'll like college sports less if it's less amateur. Guilty as charged.