It's the last game of the year and time for the ultimate "Harbaugh Vitamin". Most stores have their leftover holiday prime rib roasts on sale and we should take advantage. Let's go out in style and make something our guests will talk about until kickoff next season. Who doesn't like a smokey prime rib served with a little horseradish?
Bone-In Prime Rib Roast (1 bone for 2 people)
Kosher Salt and pepper
Stubbs Moppin' Sauce
[After THE JUMP: salt and pepper]
Mark Donnal is taking over this game. He's set a new career-high in points: https://t.co/ksZh94arXe
— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) December 30, 2015
WHAT IS MARK DONNAL?
— Chris Gaerig (@cgaerig) December 30, 2015
There are few words to describe Mark Donnal right now.
— Brendan F. Quinn (@BFQuinn) December 30, 2015
"You need to take that, Donnal" ~ a thing I said in real life.
— Bryan Mac (@Bry_Mac) December 30, 2015
...so. If you missed this game, you may have a hard time believing this recap, so I want to preface this by saying I triple-checked for typos and splashed cold water on my face: Mark Donnal led Michigan to a road conference win by scoring 26 points on 11/15 FG with nine rebounds (six offense), three blocks, and two steals.
While Illinois is not a good team up front, Donnal looked like a player transformed. He ran the high screen beautifully, finished strong at the hoop, stepped out to drill a triple, pulled down rebounds with authority, protected the rim, and did it all with more confidence than he's ever shown in a Michigan uniform. Perhaps it's an anomaly. Perhaps it's a turning point. For today, if nothing else, it was a whole lot of fun to watch.
In a more expected development, Caris LeVert also had one of his more impressive games, beating Illini defenders off the dribble all afternoon on his way to 22 points (9/16 FG) and ten assists, several of them to Donnal at the rim.
No other Wolverine made more than three shots from the field; Derrick Walton scored nine, Duncan Robinson and Zak Irvin had eight apiece. Michigan pulled away in the second half by riding the LeVert/Donnal two-man game until Illinois showed they could stop it; the Illini never did. After a hot start to the game from beyond the arc the Illini couldn't keep pace, and Zak Irvin did yeoman's work on the defensive end guarding Malcolm Hill, who needed 13 shot equivalents to score 11 points, seven below his season average.
In a most unpredictable fashion, Michigan opened Big Ten play with a road win. Penn State comes to town on Saturday, giving Donnal a golden opportunity to show today wasn't a fluke. If it was, the reality check may come next Thursday, when the team travels to Purdue to face Isaac Haas and AJ Hammons.
Until the time comes, though, I'll work on finding words to describe... that.
Happy anniversary. Today is one year out from Harbaugh.
A year ago today, Jim Harbaugh was officially introduced as Michigan's head football coach. pic.twitter.com/G8vhtCZ1lw
— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) December 30, 2015
Max Harbaugh. To commemorate the event, Harbaugh had a radio appearance on Stoney and Bill. He completed that radio appearance and then CALLED BACK IN to advocate having Wrestlemania at Michigan Stadium, where he could referee a match between Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan:
“Why not the Big House?” he said. “Why not? 140,000 – I bet we could get in there for Wrestlemania. They’re trying to break the attendance record at Jerry Jones’ stadium in Dallas. (There’s) a great Canadian presence in wrestling. Why not Michigan and the Big House?”
When a producer on the show suggested that Harbaugh participate as a referee in a Flair vs Hulk Hogan matchup, Harbaugh didn’t hesitate.
“I’m in,” he said.
The chances of that match are not great since Flair and Hogan are a combined billion years old and Hogan was dropped by WWE after tapes of him being racist-uncle-level racist were released as part of a lawsuit he's embroiled in. With Gawker, because of course.
But other than that, yeah, sure. Unfortunately it's too late for Michigan Stadium to get it this year, since last year it was in the 49ers' stadium and that symmetry would have been perfect. Screw you, Jed York! (Actually, thank you, Jed York. Thank you so much for all that you have done for Michigan athletics.)
Either way, AJ Williams is in.
— Aj Williams (@ajthejuicy84) December 30, 2015
And now let us reflect on the previous gentleman. The Washington Post has an article on ballooning costs for athletic department administrators. If that sounds like an article in which Dave Brandon features, you would be correct:
Last December, at a conference on the business of college sports, a panel discussion involving Michigan athletics executive Hunter Lochmann turned to the topic of paying players. Lochmann, according to media reports, expressed skepticism about whether players deserved any of the millions sponsors paid to have their logos seen during Michigan games.
“Those are fleeting, four-year relationships,” he said of the careers of Michigan athletes. “At Michigan, it’s the block ‘M’ that has the affinity and power globally, not [former Michigan quarterback] Denard Robinson.”
The response was interesting coming from Lochmann, a former longtime National Basketball Association marketing executive who himself had just a four-year relationship with college sports at that point. In 2014, Lochmann made $225,000 performing a job — chief marketing officer at Michigan athletics — that didn’t exist before 2010, when then-Michigan athletic director Brandon created the position, luring Lochmann from the New York Knicks.
Lochmann was not the only new face in Michigan athletics. Between 2004 and 2014, records show, the department added 77 new full-time positions, contributing to an administrative payroll surge from $14.7 million to $27.7 million.
That 89% increase considerably outpaces the national average of 69%—this is national trend that Brandon managed to beat out. The returns on those additional staff were nil, as by the end of Brandon's tenure the Big House was three-quarters full and the athletic department had suffered a never-ending series of PR gaffes culminating in the concussion fiasco. The article revisits Lochdogg a bit later:
Michigan’s front office has gotten a bit smaller since last year, however. A few weeks after Lochmann’s controversial comments about Michigan athletes — which sparked backlash from university alums, including some NFL players — the university announced that Lochmann had resigned to “pursue other opportunities.”
In the year since, Michigan athletics has not needed to fill the vacant chief marketing officer job.
Except insofar as Harbaugh fills that role.
Anyway. The article ably details the flood of money going somewhere. That is an increasing army of administrators and higher salaries for extant ones, because, and I quote this quote "We’re no different than any other corporation that wants its business to be successful.”
I can think of one way it is different.
Bobby Bowden and IU athletic director Fred Glass come off well, FWIW.
Florida things. Suspensions and early NFL draft announcements may indicate a Gators program that is not fully checked in at the moment. Four players have already announced they're out the door for the draft after the game. DE Alex McCalister was dismissed from the team a couple weeks ago. Three players, including a starting OT, have been suspended. That starting OT projects to be replaced by a true freshman, which would bring the number of first-year players starting along Florida's lines to four.
That's all good news for a Michigan team that ended the year with a bit of a thud.
Brian Cole mystery, resolved. If you follow the premium sites you've noticed a hard split on the first year of Brian Cole at Michigan. Cole disappeared from the field after a few games thanks to an injury and never returned. Rivals repeatedly asserted that he was deep in the doghouse and unlikely to ever emerge; Scout said he'd moved to safety and was doing well after an early Internal Matter. RJS helps clarify:
"B-Cole's at safety, he's been coming down and bringing a lot of havoc," senior linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone said Monday. "He's been good." …
"Everybody's getting some time to play, we've been doing a lot of scrimmaging with younger guys," Jenkins-Stone said. "Coach Harbaugh's putting people where he feels like they'll be best for the team.
"Coach Harbaugh feels like (Cole) can make that happen, and I'm pretty sure he'll be able to fill a void next year at safety."
0% chance Cole plays in the bowl game since he's got a medical redshirt coming, but good to hear that Michigan's top athlete from the 2015 class is not in the same boat Derrick Green is.
The boat Derrick Green is in. A fast one, going anywhere but Ann Arbor. Ty Isaac will stick around; multiple reports had him taking most of the first team reps before the OSU game.
A less dangerous Indiana. #CHAOSTEAM may be a bit less chaos-y next year thanks to departures. RB Jordan Howard and DT Darius Latham have declared for the draft. IU loses most of their OL and Nate Sudfeld. I find it hard to believe that Zander Diamont is going to replace Sudfeld's production. Kevin Wilson is pretty great at offense but all they have to do is take a half-step back and the chaos turns into something like the LSU-Texas Tech bowl game where it's close for a while and then whoops it's 42-20.
Etc.: Chris Wormley reiterates that he will return next year. At this point I think the only person we're waiting on is Willie Henry. IU guard James Blackmon has a knee injury of undisclosed severity. This is a good vine. Holy crap, Baylor. Three pointers are suddenly easy. Harbaugh Christmas.
Michigan (10-3, 0-0 B1G) at
Illinois (8-5, 0-0 B1G)
State Farm Center
|WHEN||3 pm ET, Wednesday|
|LINE||Michigan -3 (KenPom)|
PBP: Dave Lamont
Analyst: Dan Dakich
Right: HOW IS THIS RELEVANT IN 2015? STAY TUNED.
John Beilein updated us on Zak Irvin's injury situation during his media availability yesterday. The takeaway is not ideal:
John Beilein was asked Tuesday if junior guard Zak Irvin is back to 100 percent yet after offseason back surgery. He responded with some unexpected reality.
"I don't think he's going to be at 100 percent the whole year — from where he left off last year," Beilein said. "I think another summer of getting his body right again will probably get him back to 100 percent where he was."
Irvin finally broke out of his three-point shooting slump against Bryant, but if his back is going to continue bothering him, shooting consistently from the outside is going to be difficult.
AHHHHHH ILLINOIS HAS THEM
— Mark Tupper (@MarkTupper) December 29, 2015
GET DOYLE QUARANTINED STAT
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||1||Jaylon Tate||Jr.||6'3, 170||27||13||Yes|
|Barely involved: 13% usage, 8% shot. Bad shooter, turnover- and foul-prone.|
|G||5||Jalen Coleman-Lands||Fr.||6'3, 180||56||19||No|
|Has made 42.0% of his 69 3-point attempts. Nice. Rarely ventures inside arc.|
|G||25||Kendrick Nunn||Jr.||6'3, 190||53||22||No|
|Efficient scorer (52/42/80 shooting splits) leaned on heavily since return from injury.|
|G||21||Malcolm Hill||Jr.||6'6, 220||88||26||Not really|
|Versatile player on both ends; offense runs thru him. Impressive midrange game.|
|F||43||Michael Finke||R-Fr.||6'10, 220||52||19||No|
|Inside-outside threat: 66% 2-pt, 44% 3-pt. Low rebound #s, not a rim protector.|
|G||23||Aaron Jordan||Fr.||6'5, 190||34||16||No|
|Takes twice as many threes as twos, hits 36% of them.|
|C||22||Maverick Morgan||Jr.||6'10, 245||31||21||Very|
|Decent finisher, but turnover issues and underwhelming rebounding.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
It's tied in the first quarter, but these people have seen some things.
I thought I was past this. Then came the bowl matchup.
Florida's zone melange mustered only 3.3 yards per play and no points in their 27-2 loss to Florida State to end the regular season. Since UF has undergone several personnel changes, I wanted to choose a late-season game against a team with a pulse, and the other option that fit the criteria was Alabama. There was no good choice.
Anyway, Florida's offense is bad, not fun to watch, and reminiscent of a team I've attempted to drink out of existence.
Personnel. Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:
An inexperienced group got even worse in that regard when right tackle Mason Halter was ruled ineligible for the bowl game, opening up the potential for as many as three true freshmen to start on the line; in addition to year-long starter Marcus Ivey and Halter's replacement, Fred Johnson, Tyler Jordan could slide into the lineup at right guard—where he started the last two games—and bump senior Trip Thurman to center.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Spread, in that Florida took almost every snap from the gun.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Florida is about as zone-heavy as it gets. They run a ton of inside zone, often with the slot receiver going in fly sweep motion, though they rarely utilized that option. They'll mix in the occasional power but for the most part it's inside zone and some zone stretch.
Hurry it up or grind it out? Florida is 114th in adjusted pace, which should surprise nobody who watched Michigan last year.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
Hey, these are relevant again
— Rivals Camp Series (@RivalsCamp) December 29, 2015
Rashan Gary falling on things
The UA and Army All-Star games immediately follow the New Year's Day bowl binge, and thanks to Harbaugh's roll-with-it recruiting Michigan has a lot of commits and targets involved. MGoUser "Tate"—who does not have a Forcier avatar for some reason—helpfully collects the various attendees and announcements coming over the next week:
Under Armour All American Game - Saturday Jan 2, 2016 @ noon (ESPN2)
- Kareem Walker, RB
- Ben Bredeson, OL
- Devin Bush, LB
- Rashan Gary, DL
- Jean DeLance, OL - Announcing
- Terrance Davis, OL - Announcing
- Dontavious Jackson, LB
- Jacob Mathis, TE
Semper Fidelis All American Bowl - Sunday Jan 3 @ 9 pm (FS1)
- Brad Hawkins, WR
- Ron Johnson, DE
- Khaleke Hudson, ATH
Army All American Game - Saturday Jan 9 @ 1 pm (NBC)
- Jordan Fuller, DB
- Mecole Hardman, ATH
- Isaac Nauta, TE - Announcing
- Jordan Elliott, DL
- Michael Onwenu, OL
- Brandon Peters, QB
- Donnie Corley, WR
- Dylan Crawford, WR - Announcing
- Lavert Hill, DB
- David Long, DB
That's about a third of Michigan's current class plus the bulk of the gentlemen still on the board. IIRC, last year Michigan had just Brian Cole in the two main games (Semper Fi is notably behind the others in attention and prominence). This year it's a bit different. Prepare for all the vines and twitter videos of DL/OL drills:
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) December 29, 2015
Eh, I'd take him.
Gary seems likely to maintain his status as the top recruit in the country, so the guy I'm most interested to see evaluated on an All-Star stage is NJ RB commit Kareem Walker. Walker highlight tapes have been few and far between. He is not a slam dunk like Leonard Fournette. Michigan has had terrible luck with five-star-ish tailback recruits—Justin Fargas, Kevin Grady, Derrick Green, and Ty Isaac is the list, and it is not great, Bob. Rivals took his fifth star away…
Walker recently lost his fifth star and has gone from a decisive, one-cut brute at running back to a bit of an indecisive runner who questions his instincts and dances a bit too much. Ball security is also an issue so he will need to have a fumble free week and catch the ball effectively as well.
…and I can see why even if the more likely explanation is "we were wrong" instead of "Walker got a lot worse." This will be a week that can confirm or dis-confirm Walker's move down on some sites and relatively low ranking on others. 247 has him as a guy to watch:
RB, Kareem Walker (247Sports No. 118/247Sports Composite No. 39) – We've taken some heat in the past for having Walker ranked low, particularly from the Ohio State fan base when he was committed there. While we still like Walker, we still don't see him as a rare back but more of an effective college starter. A strong Under Armour week could change our mind.
I'd take "effective college starter" given Michigan's luck with five-star types previously.
So about those decisions
Michigan's two remaining OL targets will be announcing within minutes of each other. MD OL Terrance Davis has seen a Maryland surge on his Crystal Ball with most of the heavy hitters flipping their prediction from M to the Terps. These flips do not appear to be guesses, as Steve Wiltfong reports that Davis has already told the coaches at the various schools.
Wiltfong also reports that as Davis continued to hold out, Michigan began to view him as a luxury. If anyone on that staff has followed Michigan recruiting prior to the last couple years they probably got that Laquon Treadwell vibe—you lead too long for a guy without a commit and you're just a placeholder until he figures out where he actually wants to go.
There will be some blah blah about Durkin but like whatever man. Sometimes recruits want to stay home.
Delance and Keanu Reeves saved the future with music
Speaking of recruits who may or may not want to stay home, TX OL Jean Delance has been the staff's main priority for a fifth OL for months now because they view him as a tackle, and they want a tackle. Intel on Delance is all over the board. First, he brings good tidings:
Michigan: "Coach (Jim) Harbaugh. They treat me like family. They already have that No. 1 class. They have that set up. It's what they are going to need. There are still three or four four-star guys on the board that they are going to get that I know of. So I mean I just trust it's going to be a No. 1 class and they are going to be back on top next year (and be a) playoff team."
That article contains quotes from Delance on LSU and Texas that seem less enthralled, which continues a theme that caused us to ballz Delance to Michigan last week.
But that's an educated guess on a guy who could end up at any of his three finalists without it being a shock. The 247 Texas guy still maintains that mom wants him at home, and another quote from that article in which Delance says he's going to "duke it out" with his family seems to confirm that… while also confirming that Delance isn't eager to sign up for RichRod Year 3: Texas Edition. Wiltfong and the LSU 247 just batted a bunch of contradictory and alarming information around that I was going to summarize but since Lorenz just ballz'd Delance to Michigan let's ignore all that and concentrate on the good vibes.
To sum up: we think Michigan is the pick there but a late swerve is definitely possible.
The news is much more certain with CA WR Dylan Crawford. Reports from Oregon folks that the Ducks had run out of room for him have continued, with all the relevant parties flipping their ballz back to Michigan. There's been zero noise about schools other than Oregon and Michigan for months now, and it looks like Crawford's hat dance will be purely for show.
Finally, GA TE Isaac Nauta is the longest shot, with zero optimism coming from anywhere and Georgia people feelin' real nice.
I learned to spell this so let's make it count
TX DE Levi Onwuzurike cancelled plans to visit Arizona State and is down to Michigan, Baylor, and Washington. He remains mysterious:
He has seen all three other schools; Michigan, Washington, and Baylor, and had also indicated he might be making an announcement on January 20th, but this could come literally any day.
"All three schools have good academics", Onwuzurike said, "Distance is[n't] any factor -- and my parents have said it's up to me."
Onwuzurike has given nobody any indication as to where he's leaning at any point in the process. Lorenz says that Baylor is trailing, so Michigan appears to be top two.
Also in DEs
Alabama offered AZ DE Connor Murphy on Christmas Eve, because of course Alabama offers people on Christmas Eve. His January visit list is big time:
Murphy has already visited Oregon and has three official visits set up in January. He says, "I am going to USC on January 15th, then to Michigan the next weekend and then Alabama the weekend after that."
Murphy has a Harbaugh connection since his brother went to Stanford, and does not appear to be leaning anywhere in particular. Michigan probably does not have room for him of Onwuzurike drops; Murphy's schedule will allow Michigan to know if he's a major priority without an offputting "hey… maybe you want to wait."
Another commit who's not hearing much from the staff
MD CB commit Sir Patrick Scott told Rivals that he hasn't been in constant, or even intermittent, contact with Michigan's staff:
“Unfortunately I haven’t heard from the staff about the new coach,” Scott said. “I know nothing about him so I guess I’ll have to do my own research on his résumé to see how good everyone says he is.”
Uh. Scott says he isn't visiting anywhere and isn't planning on a decommit. Nonetheless the lack of an official visit and the lack of contact mean we should keep an eye on Scott's status as Signing Day approaches. There are a number of academic hoops you have to jump through to get approved for an official. A prospect who doesn't take any officials may not check all those boxes. Scott has not taken any officials.
Meanwhile, NJ DE Ron Johnson on Don Brown:
Johnson got the chance to briefly chat with him for the first time recently and is eager to begin playing under him.
”Yes, I did,” said Johnson. “He messaged me on Twitter right before the holiday introducing himself and talking to me about the future. He just said he couldn’t wait till I get there, so we can get to work. I believer he is a great hire.”
It would not surprise if Scott ended up decommitting.
Jones on Signing Day
FL LB Jonathan Jones tells the ND Rivals site that he will announce on Signing Day. He may commit privately before then. That silent commit will be meaningful since he's waiting for Signing Day to do a thing at his school but might want to reserve a spot before ND or M fills up.
Vibes with NJ DE Rashan Gary remain steady. Rivals is a little salty at "other media outlets" for playing up schools like Ole Miss and Ohio State:
Despite his camp not coming out and saying it and team reporters at other media outlets writing stories slanted toward their audiences, Michigan is far and away the leader for Gary. At points earlier in his recruitment Clemson, Georgia, Auburn, LSU and Ole Miss challenged Michigan for the top spot on Gary's list but his relationships with the recruiting class, staff and players in Ann Arbor will be too much for any team to overcome.
If Ole Miss is running #2 Michigan is in a very good spot—Gary's mom had a run-in with a rentacop on that visit, which ended early. Meanwhile, there was a brief surge in Ohio State noise after OSU hired Greg Schiano as their DC. That didn't seem to last:
No. 1 Rashan Gary said Michigan, Ole Miss, Auburn, Clemson, LSU, USC, Georgia the top schools still in consideration. Florida FSU outside
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) December 29, 2015
He has one visit left and is considering Clemson, LSU, Georgia, Florida, or FSU for it.
Scout ranks MD OL Devery Hamilton the #9 OT in the country. Delance is fifth. Happy trails to CA S Lamar Jackson, who named a top four without Michigan. M led for a minute after his official visit but apparently they dropped him shortly after. TX LB Dontavious Jackson tells Mike Farrell that his top three is ITT Tech, Everest, and University of Phoenix. Crushing blow to Davenport's recruiting there.