“The player development is the main thing I like (about Michigan),” Williams said. “You can see that they develop their players. They get them in the gym and they work them hard. And their hard work pays off.”
Whether or not Jim Harbaugh made this pick to get Carlos Hyde as far away from Michigan as possible, it's much appreciated.
The NFL Draft is over. The NBA Draft makes us all sad and alone. While the NBA and NHL playoffs have both been amazing, the time when regular season baseball is the only sporting entertainment available is nearly upon us. (Thank you, World Cup year, at least.)
This seems as good a time as ever to check in with our mortal enemies in Columbus. Over the weekend, I did a Q&A over at Eleven Warriors about the current state of Michigan football, the mindset of the fanbase—if you watch Mad Men, you'll guess the Pete Campbell reference without having to look—and the early outlook for this season. It's admittedly not the most pleasant read for Wolverine faithful.
Anyway, 11W's Michael Citro was kind enough to answer a few questions himself, and you may even be somewhat heartened by what he has to say about this year's Ohio State team—a contender, to be sure, but one that has a few holes to fill and issues such as "can we teach the secondary how to tackle with their arms?"
Thanks to Michael for his time and very forthright answers, and to John Cooper forever and always.
You asked about the mindset of Michigan fans now versus 10-12 years ago, and I'd like to turn that around with a bit of a twist. How do Ohio State fans currently perceive the rivalry, and do they truly believe it'll remain this lopsided over the long haul, or is the memory of John Cooper—and, say, last year's game—enough haunting context to keep y'all aware of the fickle nature of college football?
I think we fall into two camps here. There are those of us who suffered in the rivalry under Cooper who are content to count the wins one at a time on a micro scale—and keep score from Jim Tressel’s first year and forward on a macro scale. We enlightened citizens thank our various deities annually because we know that ka is a wheel and the cycle can change without warning (ask Lloyd Carr).
But, there is also a more arrogant and entitled (not to mention, generally younger) segment of Buckeye Nation that believes Ohio State is the one who knocks. They think Michigan is in the midst of becoming Nebraska-esque—a good team with a rich tradition and history that has lost some of its national relevance and is doomed to mire in decent-to-good seasons without ever truly being great again. This kind of hubris is foreign to a guy like me, who sweats out games against Indiana and Purdue until they’re well out of reach. Seriously, did Tresselball not teach us how not to take things for granted?
Do you believe it takes away from the rivalry when the two programs are in such different places for a prolonged period of time? I know it's easy to say as a Michigan fan—it sure feels more fun for everyone involved when both teams are not only competitive against each other, but playing for something more than just The Game itself.
I believe the rivalry is more intense when both schools are at the top and there is something of note on the line. I mean, come on, the 2006 version of The Game was insane, was it not? That said, I don’t think the rivalry is diminished all that much when there is disparity over the long haul, although many fans do.
I mean, we don’t have a two-front rivalry the way Michigan does with us and MSU. We have U-M and that’s basically it—although Penn State fans are constantly trying to drum up a rivalry where none exists and Wisconsin-under-Bert was soaring to heights of hatred never previously seen. Gary Andersen seems too nice to hate like that. So Michigan is the arch-rival and then there’s everyone else.
Okay, on to the actual team. Who are the main candidates to replace Carlos Hyde, and can any of them match what he was able to provide last year? How do you feel about the offense in general?
Many OSU fans are under the misguided notion that plugging in any of the talented Buckeye backs will magically produce the same results that Hyde manufactured. I am not among those fans. Hyde was a special blend of power and speed that we probably haven’t seen since Eddie George—and he was running behind one of the best two or three offensive lines in school history. You don’t just plug-and-play when you lose four steamrollers and a ball-carrying rhinoceros.
Sophomore Ezekiel Elliott is the favorite to replace Hyde. He’s also a special talent but he doesn't have Hyde’s power and it’s unclear so far if he’ll have Hyde’s vision. Elliott is faster than Hyde, probably quicker to hit the hole, and more likely to break long runs as a result. But will the holes be there behind four new starting offensive linemen and Taylor Decker moving from right to left tackle? Unknown.
Bri’onte Dunn, Warren Ball and Rod Smith will likely all see plenty of time in 2014 unless Elliott just comes in and kills. I expect more of a committee approach but we’ll know more once fall camp gets underway.
As for the offense overall, I think Tom Herman will move toward more of a 60/40 run-pass distribution (it’s been about 65/35 the last two years). Rushing yards may be harder to come by under the revamped O-line and more passing may result. Plus, I would expect Braxton Miller to hang in the pocket more as a senior and try to make more plays with his arm. I feel pretty decent about the offense considering Ed Warinner has worked wonders with the offensive line the last two years and Herman has been generally great at everything except remembering he had Hyde in the backfield during the second half of the two biggest games of last year.
As for the defense, the line is absolutely terrifying, but I'd like to get your thoughts on the back seven. How does new co-DC Chris Ash plan to address the issues in the secondary, and who's going to replace the production of Ryan Shazier?
Sure, Ace. Go ahead and ask about Ohio State’s back seven [guzzles bleach, tucks into the fetal position and cries].
Honestly, it’s going to be fun to see the transformation Ash has in mind, should it actually happen. Ash plans to be more aggressive with coverage (but what new defensive coach doesn't?) and he has an actual defensive philosophy—something that seemed to be missing under Everett Withers. Ohio State will be younger but more athletic at safety and the secondary should communicate better. Ash will have the corners and safeties meet together, which is something that inexplicably wasn't happening the last two years. Oh, and the Buckeyes will likely play less nickel and dime and more base in 2014.
Josh Perry is the favorite to slide into Shazier’s role. Perry came into his own a bit last year but there is still concern. Shazier was a laser-guided Cloverfield monster. Darron Lee looks like he’ll join Perry and Curtis Grant as a starting linebacker, but Raekwon McMillan had a good spring and may force his way into the lineup. Lee is a former safety and has better cover skills, which is why Ohio State may play more base defense.
If you had to pick a breakout player or two on each side of the ball that Michigan fans may not be very familiar with, who would they be?
On the offensive side, Curtis Samuel should do the kinds of things Dontre Wilson did last year, now that Wilson is sliding into Philly Brown’s old spot. Samuel makes fast guys look slow. If it’s not Samuel that opens eyes, it may (finally) be Michael Thomas, a promising wide receiver that has been Ohio State’s best spring performer for three years.
Defensively, McMillan is one guy who will be noticeable if he gets on the field. But perhaps an even bigger threat to break out defensively is yet another young D-line prospect—Tyquan Lewis. He flashed all spring and literally everyone has been raving about him. He was destroying guys during the Spring Game. That’s not always an accurate barometer, but with Larry Johnson Sr. calling the shots on the defensive line these days, the rotation is going to expand to keep guys fresher. And yes, I just told you Joey Bosa will be fresh in the fourth quarter.
I know Wolverines and Buckeyes are strange bedfellows, but if I suggested we band together in a conspiracy to frame James Franklin for major NCAA violations, you're totally in, right?
I’m actually not that worried about James Franklin—yet. Sure, he seems to be killing it on the recruiting trail right now, but if anyone knows that there’s no such thing as a May National Recruiting Championship, it’s probably U-M fans. His record against the top teams in the SEC wasn’t great and until he shows me differently in the B1G, I’m not completely sold. Mind you, I didn’t say I wasn’t nervous. In fact, with recruiting like his, those major violations you refer to may take care of themselves (just kidding, Penn State fans….probably).
Related to the last question: how do you feel about the job Urban Meyer has done on the recruiting trail? How's the 2015 class shaping up?
Overall, Meyer has been about as advertised in recruiting. Of course, he made his biggest splash early by flipping a bunch of guys when he first arrived in Columbus. It’s strange to think some of those guys haven’t panned out (Se’Von Pittman transferred, Kyle Dodson is buried on the depth chart, etc.), but that’s recruiting. The start of the 2015 recruiting season has been very slow from an OSU perspective and it’s hard to say why that is. We certainly didn’t appreciate losing a prized QB like Brandon Wimbush to Penn State, which already has Hackenberg. Some people are nervous, but I get a sense that most Ohio State fans are willing to wait and trust Urban.
Not actually a question, but a pair of fill-in-the-blanks. If _________ happens, Ohio State wins the Big Ten. If ________ happens, Ohio State has a disappointing, title-free season. Go.
In the first sentence it has to be two things—if the defense comes together and the O-line gels, Ohio State wins the B1G. If those things don’t happen, Ohio State has a disappointing, title-free season.
Since you asked me, I'm required by law to ask you: what's your far-too-early prediction for The Game?
Whatever Brady Hoke is—and I still don’t think we quite know—he is not Rich Rodriguez. You can once again throw out the records when The Game is on the line.
My way-too-early prediction is that Michigan annoyingly hangs around until the final minutes again. But I think the home crowd and Braxton Miller make the difference in a one-score game. Remember, I am a product of the Cooper era and never ever feel secure about anything when it comes to Ohio State. I have been accused in the past by Michigan fans of being disingenuous when I downplay the Buckeye advantage, but last year I called a closer-than-expected game and look what happened—I spent the entire fourth quarter in cardiac arrest.
I’ve already ordered my defibrillator from Amazon for this November.
On my signal, unleash dollars. It is time for the annual EDSBS charity drive. This is your opportunity to annoy other college football fanbases by giving more money than they do, thus preserving the cycle of college football life:
- Michigan doesn't do too well in football
- LOL Michigan
- Michigan wins EDSBS charity drive
- Who does Michigan think they are
This year Spencer promises a full road trip to the winner, and since LSU-Florida is the same day as Michigan's only decent home game that means we can get him to see The Horror II. Sounds like a deal, man. I'll give him my ticket, even.
Suggested donations this year include $114 (TFLs allowed), $43.42 (fairyland score of OSU game), $13.73 (Jeremy Gallon receiving yards), and $–48 (rushing yards against MSU). Because self-trolling or Gallon appreciation is the appropriate response to last year.
As always, all donations go to the Refugee Resettlement Services of Atlanta, which does very important work for refugees. Give here.
Play the right way, just not quite as right as Michigan. SMU and Michigan have agreed to a two-year home-and-home officially, with the home game coming immediately and the return next year. SMU barely missed the NCAA tournament last year thanks in large part to a miserable nonconference schedule but did go 12-6 in the AAC. After their snub they ran to the NIT final, where they lost to Minnesota.
They lose a middling shooting guard and a decent four from their lineup; they add a Very Big Deal in TX PG Emmanuel Mudiay, the guy who decided to play for Larry Brown instead of Kentucky, which may have been a deciding factor for Devin Booker. Now Michigan has its chance for revenge(!). They're probably a tourney team, and since they're playing in a newly Louisville-deprived AAC they're likely to have a shiny record. It's a smart move for RPI purposes and hey-look-a-home-game purposes.
Khalil Mack didn't play in the MAC because he thought it had a cool name
Sometimes unexpected things happen. These days it seems like everyone recognizes that the recruiting rankings dog-and-pony show is borne out as useful by the NFL draft. This is not necessarily the best thing in the world. There are a lot of differences between college and the NFL and when the main metric is what the NFL thinks, rankings can start answering a different question than "which college football teams are most likely to be successful in the near future?"
But it's still football and close enough. So when someone objects to the recruiting service folks pointing out that there's a pretty steep slope from five stars to two stars, they should have a good reason. Husker Mike's attempt from Corn Nation:
….what's a bigger surprise is that only four of the NFL's top 32 picks were considered in the top 30 coming out of high school. What's more, three of the NFL's top 32 picks were players that the services didn't feel could contribute at the BCS level. In other words, the number of complete misses (two star recruits that went in the first round) were about the same as the rankings they actually got right (five star, first round recruits).
The question is not whether recruiting services are perfect but whether they are making something approximating the best guess that can be offered when these kids sign. The three guys the services didn't feel could contribute at the BCS level were Khalil Mack, Jimmie Ward, and Darqueze Dennard. Mack went to Buffalo, Ward Northern Illinois, and Dennard MSU. They had literally one BCS offer between them, and Dennard's was a chance thing:
He entered the final game of his senior year of high school with zero scholarship offers and dim collegiate prospects. … More than a month before Dennard's regular-season finale at Twiggs County High, Middle Tennessee State pulled his only college scholarship offer. … State assistant coach Dave Warner had no idea who Dennard was before kickoff, but he kept seeing Twiggs County's uniform number 3 making plays all over the field.
There were 200-ish opportunities for BCS coaches to offer any of these guys. One of those came to fruition. Nobody should look askance on recruiting services for not picking these guys out. Literally no one except MSU assistant Dave Warner did.
And that goes to my point. Talent is hard for the professionals to evaluate. The professionals in the NFL have a tough time with evaluating, as Matt McGuire's 2010 study of the NFL draft showed. It's tough for college head coaches, who's careers depend on it. So it shouldn't be a surprise that the part-time amateurs who analyze it for the services don't get it right either. No matter how hard they protest and proclaim their own importance.
That is not a point that anyone disputes, and picking out random anecdotes…
I mean, when a school whose recruiting rankings from 2009 through 2012 were ranked 77th, 48th, 29th, and 42nd lands three first round draft picks in the 2014 NFL Draft, you realize that coaching and development is as important, if not more important, than the raw talent.
…when the greater picture is clear is almost as pointless as complaining about posts like this.
Well, just pay attention. The ACC is set to join the SEC as conferences that play just eight conference games despite having a ludicrous number of teams. They're also leaning towards the mandatory actual nonconference game to prevent the most shameless bowl-scraping schedules.
This has implications for playoff selection, as does the fact the Big 12 does not have a championship game. And it's fine, as long as the football committee just replicates Matt Hinton's process for voting*, I don't care how many conference games other conferences play. That process is feeling out who teams have actually beaten versus who they've lost to; football is never going to be something that cleans itself up into neat buckets but the upside of having a committee is the ability to look beyond simple win-loss treadmilling. We'll see if they take advantage or not.
*[ED: SMQB seems to be down, unfortunately.]
Measuring on the LeVert scale. Michigan signed Aubrey Dawkins and duly sent out its press release about it. Usually these things are just boilerplate but this one has an interesting note on Dawkins's size:
"We feel very fortunate to have Aubrey join our basketball program," Beilein said in a statement. "He is very athletic, long, a full 6-6, and has a tremendous upside. We love his passion and diligence for skill development and know he possesses great understanding of the game of basketball. We anticipate his versatility as a player will prove valuable on our team."
Dawkins is coming in with two 6'8" guys who can play the 4, so that probably doesn't open up a new position for him but it is nice to continue getting those 6'6" guys who can shoot over zones and maybe play them.
Do want. 2016 NV PG Derryck Thornton has a naaaaasty crossover:
Are you an angel of the apocalypse girl because every time I see you you're surrounded by people clutching their extremities and weeping.
Etc.: Devin Funchess projected as a first rounder on highly reliable mock drafts that are highly reliable.
Alex Malzone quarterbacking Brother Rice to their third straight state title (Photo: MLive)
A long and meandering search for Michigan's quarterback of the class of 2015 ended back at home. Birmingham (MI) Brother Rice rising senior Alex Malzone committed on the spot after receiving his coveted Wolverine offer while unofficially visiting campus today. Malzone becomes the sixth commit in the '15 class and just the second on the offensive side of the ball, joining OL Jon Runyan Jr.
4*, #15 QB,
|3*, #16 QB||3*, NR QB||
3*, #13 PRO-QB,
As you can see, Malzone's rankings are all over the place. Scout gives him four stars and ranks him inside their top 300, Rivals has him two quarterbacks away from four-star status, ESPN has their not-unusual disconnect between glowing evaluation and not even bothering to rank the kid, and 247 has him well below the four-star cut. I'm guessing some of these rankings will change now that he's committed; ESPN and 247 have him behind prospects generating very little in the way of major college interest.
The scouting services list Malzone as somewhere between 6'1" and 6'3", and other than a bizarre Rivals outlier of 166(!) pounds—stick-figure skinny—they all peg him in the 200-pound range. The general consensus is 6'2", 200, which looks about right based on photos and film. Maybe Rivals accidentally flipped the first '6'.
Malzone first made his mark as a sophomore, when he began taking snaps away from Brother Rice's returning senior starter as soon as he took command of the playbook:
"I was the quarterback on JV last year and then got moved up for the playoffs," Malzone told Scout.com. "This year, [starting QB] Cheyne [Lacanaria] was always there to help me. Halfway through the regular season is when I started to get the offense down. Whenever I had a question, he was there. He wouldn't push me to the side. He would help with the defenses and which receivers he looks for, and it helped me a lot."
After attempting just 24 passes heading into the state title game against Muskegon, Malzone connected on 8 of 11 passes for 167 yards and two TDs to lead the Warriors to their second straight MHSAA Division 2 state championship.
As the unquestioned full-time starter last fall, Malzone faced Muskegon once again in the state title game, and he had an even better performance the second time around, completing 20 of 24 passes for 263 yards and three passing TDs and adding 33 yards and a score on the ground in a 38-21 victory.
It shouldn't come as a surprise, then, that Malzone's big-game prowess and mental makeup earn consistent mentions in his scouting reports. Scout's Allen Trieu:
After flashing big time talent last season, many wanted to see how Malzone would do as the full time starter. He has answered that question to date, leading his team to several big wins and several last minute wins, exhibiting poise, calmness under pressure and a strong, accurate arm.
The free report on Scout, also written by Trieu, takes it a step further:
|Has the arm to make all the throws. Mechanics can still use polishing, but he has good velocity on his passes, shows excellent timing and is very accurate. Shows the ability to make tough throws into coverage and has great touch down the field. Shows calm under pressure and lead several late game winning drives and has been in big game situations. May not have ideal dropback QB height, but is a gamer and a winner. - Allen Trieu|
A gamer and a winner. /crosses off two boxes on quarterback evaluation bingo card
Also, as is tradition, "size" for any non-prototype QB is listed as an area for improvement. /crosses off another box
The mental aspect goes beyond winning big games; ESPN's evaluation details Malzone's advanced command of a Brother Rice offense that seems like it'll translate well to Michigan's pro-style (for whatever meaning that phrase still holds) offense:
Really shows good command of the scheme. Plays in a traditional, multiple set from both under center and out of the shotgun. Is it good ball handler and sees a heavy dose of play action. Is quick to flip his hips around gets set and work through progressions. Plays with confidence and also plays within the scheme. Does not take a lot of risks with the football, but his arm strength allows for him to. Can work through progressions get shows anticipation off the first read to get the ball on time.
ESPN also praises his arm strength, "gifted rhythm and timing," and accuracy, mostly brushes off worries about any mechanical issues, discusses how he'd be a more coveted prospect if he'd been this productive in another region, and... leaves him unranked.
The main knocks on Malzone are his height—at 6'2", he's not the pocket passer prototype—and some mechanical issues derived from a youth focused more on being a baseball pitcher than a football quarterback. As mentioned, ESPN largely dismisses the mechanical concerns:
Release is quick and over the top. Does show a slight draw back where the bottom point of the ball points backwards as he pulls back to deliver. It's not alarming, but is evident. Similar to Kerry Collins, but nowhere near as pronounced.
Trieu seems relatively unconcerned, as well:
The two knocks on Malzone were his baseball style release and his lack of prototypical height at 6-foot-2. Mechanics are something he has steadily been working on. He throws well on the roll, but is not a running threat, although he shows good presence and ability to climb the pocket and keep his eyes downfield. He also stands in tough and will deliver passes in the face of pressure.
Tim Sullivan caught him at a game against a very overmatched team from Canada last October, and it seems Malzone occasionally let old, bad habits creep back into his release:
At times, Malzone reverts to a long baseball-style throwing motion, bringing the ball low, and delaying his release. However, he puts good zip on it, and continued work on his mechanics will straighten that out. His accuracy is excellent, despite the long release. It can be even better (and quicker) by tightening things up.
By the Elite 11 camp in Atlanta this March, however, Malzone seemed to have worked those problems out of his system, according to Scout national analyst Scott Kennedy:
Alex Malzone made his way to the South from Brother Rice High School in Michigan. Malzone was selected as one of the Final Five participants in the final drill as well. Malzone has a lightning quick release in large part because of a short windup that almost gives the appearance that he’s pushing the ball. He still gets good velocity on his throws and without needing to bring the ball back, he gets it out quickly.
At last month's Rivals camp in Detroit, Josh Helmholdt ranked Malzone as the #5 offensive performer, noting his outstanding arm strength and accuracy:
Malzone came into the camp as one of the most recognizable players and he really lived up to the hype. The most noticeable thing about him was his rifle arm. The ball really pops off his hand and gets to his target in a hurry. Malzone's good footwork helped him throw a very accurate ball. He was able to hit most of his receivers in stride throughout the day.
Perhaps most importantly, Malzone shined when it came time to earn his spot in the quarterback pecking order during his throwing session for Doug Nussmeier:
“My conversation with Coach Nuss went very well,” Malzone said. “He’s been all around the country seeing guys throw. I think he has one more, maybe two more on his list. He told everyone from the beginning he was going to see everyone throw. And then see what happens from there. And that’s pretty much what he told me. He said he was very impressed.
“Coach (Fred) Jackson actually came to the school at the end of the day. He just wanted to let me know he talked with Coach Nuss. And that Coach Nuss said I did great job.”
To sum it up, Malzone displays excellent arm strength and accuracy, has good footwork and pocket presence, is working through mechanical issues with apparent success, and has a track record of producing at a high level. His height, in conjuction with his lack of game-breaking mobility, seems to be holding him back from higher ratings more than anything else.
Malzone also held offers from Pitt, Wake Forest, Western Michigan, and a slew of other MAC schools. Penn State, among several other more prominent programs, showed serious interest; they were at his throwing session as well, then ended up pulling in one of the highest-ranked QBs in the entire class last week in dual-threat Brandon Wimbush.
Brother Rice is gunning for their fourth straight Division 2 state title this fall, which will be their first season in 57 years with a new head coach after the legendary Al Fracassa retired on top following last year's championship.
The Rivals database search function is currently broken as all hell, so I can't bring up a list of notable Brother Rice products (I'm sure I'll get plenty of help in the comments); the most recent big-time prospect from BR is current MSU linebacker Jon Reschke.
After completing 27 of 35 passes for 474 yards, seven touchdowns, and no interceptions while taking snaps away from a title-winning senior QB during his sophomore season, Malzone excelled in his first year as a starter. He finished second in the Mr. Football voting in 2013, connecting on 190 of 281 attempts for 2,782 yards, 25 touchdowns, and nine interceptions, according to MaxPreps.
FAKE 40 TIME
247 lists a 40 time of 5.13, which is one of the least FAKE 40 times I've seen for a non-lineman. A token one FAKE is awarded due to the fact that I can't find the source of the time.
Single-game cut-ups, sophomore highlights, and a longer partial-season junior reel are available on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Shane Morris is the apparent successor to Devin Gardner after this year, and with freshman Wilton Speight already having a session of spring ball under his belt, Malzone should take a redshirt year barring the unexpected. If we assume Morris is a two-year starter, Malzone and Speight should compete for the starting job in 2017, when Malzone will be in his third year in the program.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan has their quarterback, at long last, and expect Malzone to be an active recruiter much like the signal-callers in the classes preceding him. Based on the current depth chart by class, which hasn't yet been updated for the commitments of Malzone and Garrett Taylor, Michigan has six spots left for the 2015 class, though that number will almost certainly grow by Signing Day.
The main positions of need moving forward are running back, receiver, tight end, offensive tackle, weakside DE, and both inside and outside linebacker; the Wolverines are in on several prospects at each of those positions.
They did call this, but no one knew why or how
You guys! I'm super pumped that I wasn't the only one spasming at the injustice of it all when someone—anyone—tried to take a charge last year. Obvious charges were blocks. Obvious blocks were blocks, except sometimes you got a hilarious charge call off an obvious block despite the new charge-hating regime. John Beilein muttered about it politely, and I was reverse Otto.
Turns out that everyone hated it, and now the NCAA is (probably) rolling the change back, because everyone hated it. Here is the realtalk reason why:
Byrd said NCAA national officiating coordinator John Adams and other officials conceded that the upward motion element made it “nearly impossible to teach (officials) how to call it and it was nearly impossible to call it with any consistency.” …
…"It just was very difficult for an official, and a defender for that matter, to know when [that happened]. The great part about when he leaves the floor, it’s really the only definitive act, the only definitive instance an official can determine. And the upward motion was subjective.”
Amen. Even if you want to reduce the viability of the charge as a defensive strategy, you have to do it in a black and white way. Personally I've never felt charges were out of control. If I was NCAA God I'd conjure forth a flood to wipe away the face of the association, and then afterwards I'd leave charges pretty much as they are with two exceptions:
- It's automatically a block if you take the contact when the player is on his way down. These kinds of calls evaporated last year due to the rule change but may come back now that they're rolling it back. If you can't close enough while the guy is still going up, it should be a block, as impeding a guy's landing is dangerous and you didn't really play defense if the ball has been gone for a beat or two by the time you make contact. Any play that a ref would award a bucket and then an offensive foul should be an and-one.
- Flops are fouls. Simulation should be penalized as it is in soccer and hockey. Note that trying to take a charge is not simulation. The event against Tennessee above is definitely Jordan Morgan trying to take a charge. It's not simulation since Stokes ran him over with his shoulder down. Morgan is in a precarious position if Stokes does not and may end up falling over if he guesses wrong, in which case he should get called.
The new guideline:
In order to take a charge, the alteration will require a defending player to be in legal guarding position before the airborne player leaves the floor to pass or shoot. Additionally, the defending player is not allowed to move in any direction before contact occurs (except vertically to block a shot).
Improvement, certainly. Even so I'd simplify way you make the determination: if you get plowed in the chest while square and moving perpendicular to (or away from) the guy with the ball it's a charge. A lot of people are still bitching about the Morgan call against Syracuse because they've seen it in super-slow motion and in that Morgan is not dead still the entire time. As long as a guy isn't leaning or moving into the defender (and he gets there when he' still on the floor), it should be a charge. Make it as easy as possible to call. If this is too charge-friendly, extend the circle to NBA dimensions and ruthlessly call floppers.
But whatever, man. I'll take it. As far as impact on Michigan goes: it's a positive for anyone who relies on positioning and smarts over being the Sultan of Swat. So thumbs up.
The rest of the basketball rules chattering went well, at least from my perspective: it sounds like they're going to try to wrest a single timeout away from coaches and are pondering this change:
Committee members also recommended an experimental rule involving timeouts, with an eye on potentially using this in the Postseason NIT. In this proposal, when a team calls a timeout within 30 seconds of the next scheduled media timeout (first dead ball under the 16-, 12-, 8-, and 4-minute marks), that timeout will become the media timeout.
Meanwhile, there wasn't much support for widening the lane or reducing the 35-second clock. Widening the lane is increasingly pointless in today's shooting-heavy game; shortening the shot clock without reining in zones and making everyone an NBA player leads to more ugly shots and little else.
RIP TO DA NIX
The one other thing that seems like maybe a big deal are a series of changes to (or at least increased emphasis on) various aspects of post play:
A defensive player pushing a leg or knee into the rear of the offensive player shall be a personal foul on the defender;
Is this not already the case?
An offensive player dislodging a defensive player from an established position by pushing or backing in shall be a personal foul on the offensive player;
This is the most extreme change, and it's hard to see it getting called. Backing a guy down is a time-honored tradition. Meanwhile, preventing that is some advanced defensive juju that remains possible—Morgan managed it very well. Suddenly removing that from the offensive guy's arsenal severely limits his ability to do much unless the post feed puts him in a spot he wants to shoot from.
This seems like the kind of rule that gets called a ton early in the season, gradually evaporates in the second half, and then is quietly rolled back.
A player using the “swim stroke” arm movement to lower the arm of an opponent shall be charged with a personal foul;
Okay. If I am interpreting this correctly they're emphasizing that the off arm can't be used to bat away hands when a guy tries to get a shot off. Hard to see this getting called much even when it happens since refs are trying to track 30 other things. It's unclear, though. Do defenders do this?
Post players using hands, forearms or elbows to prevent an opponent from maintaining a legal position shall be charged with a personal foul.
This seems like a point of emphasis thing on something that's already an foul, and that cuts both ways.
Unlike the offense-friendly hand-check changes of a year ago, these seem slanted to the defense. The one change obviously in the offense's favor seems way less impactful than removing the ability to back a guy down. If my read is correct those changes are pretty good for Michigan, which posts up about twice a season. Meanwhile, Wisconsin is probably thrilled with all of this.
|Warren, MI – 6'1", 225|
|Scout||3*, NR overall
|Rivals||3*, NR overall
NR OLB, #17 MI
|ESPN||3*, NR overall
#71 OLB, #13 MI
|24/7||3*, NR overall
#34 S, #6 MI
|Other Suitors||PSU (decommit), MSU, LSU|
|YMRMFSPA||Jordan Kovacs, except a linebacker|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Warren DLS(Shane Morris). Son of John Wangler, brother of Jack.|
Midseason senior highlights:
Whiplash time in this series as we swing from the highest-rated Michigan recruit in the history of recruits being ranked to one of the few guys in the class who qualifies for sleeper of the year consideration. (Note: the criteria here has expanded to allow one four-star rating from the four services, because there are very few candidates these days if you restrict yourself to pure three-stars.) OLB Jared Wangler is of course the son of John Wangler and brother of walk-on WR Jack, so when Michigan came calling it took him about a week to dump his Penn State commitment and sign on.
Despite the low rankings, Wangler has a few different indicators in his favor. A Penn State offer is nice; Wangler also had an MSU offer and an apparently legit offer from LSU. While that latter was undoubtedly influenced by Les Miles's relationship with the elder Wangler, it seemed to be a real thing($). Wangler was also selected to the UA game, though he missed it after shoulder surgery.
If those things are odd for a guy it appears no one even considered for a fourth star, well... yeah. There is something of a disconnect between those rankings and his scouting reports, too. ESPN's main downside is a need to add bulk, and opposite that you have these diverse and sundry positives($):
Demonstrates very good range to the sideline. Takes proper angles when in long pursuit showing the ability to open the hips to turn and run. ... Reacts quickly to the run and pass demonstrating the agility and balance needed to move through traffic and play downhill to the football. ... tough customer with solid wrap tackling skills and is a finisher who doesn't allow leaky yards after contact. ... relentless desire to chase down the football ...
We see very good underneath zone coverage skills. Displays the athleticism needed to cross over for depth with eyes on the quarterback and shows good short-to-medium route awareness along with high point interception skills. The ability to make tight turns along with his playing speed suggests man coverage potential. ... athleticism should prove very effective as an outside linebacker at the BCS level of competition.
So naturally they followed that report up by ranking Wangler several spots behind a dude going to Georgia State and a 5'10" dude with crazy eyes headed to Colorado. He did edge bros headed to Chattanooga and Albany, though. So he's got that going for him.
Allen Trieu has a similar take, calling Wangler a "very good athlete" and noting his ability to cover over the slot:
... often asked to play over the slot and drop into coverage. ... He does a nice job of taking on blockers and when he arrives at the ball carrier, he's a strong tackler who can deliver a strike. He's a smart, instinctive kid who keeps himself in good position, doesn't lose contain and does a good job of diagnosing plays quickly and using his ability to run to get to the ball carrier.
Trieu listed "athleticism," "hitting ability," and "pass coverage skills" as strengths in his Scout profile with "shedding ability" as an area for improvement--was really hoping for size there--and echoing his coverage praise:
Is able to play over the slot and does a nice job in coverage, both in man to man and dropping into zones. Has good closing speed to the football and is a good striker who explodes into his tackles. Having just transitioned into playing in the box, he simply has to continue to get stronger and work on getting off blocks.
247's Clint Brewster joins the "this guy can really cover" chorus:
...smart, tough, and plays with good technique at the outside linebacker position. He excels in the open field and does an outstanding job in coverage. .... Wangler has an instinctive and quick first step and made a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage. Wangler’s talent level doesn’t really pop out at you but he is solid in just about every area of the position. ...fluid and fast enough that he's often asked to line up over the slot and handle quick coverage responsibilities.
And his dad is not an unbiased observer but what the hell let's get his two cents:
"He's around the ball, has great ball skills. He'll hit you, and always when he hit, you knew you were hit. But he can move, too. The good thing everyone likes is he's 215 pounds, and he can get up to 230 easy because of his frame. He can cover, too, because he's a converted safety. He can take the slot guys, has the versatility to come off the end and blitz, take on a fullback or a guard and make a play."
So what's the deal with the rankings? The catch here appears to be the "if you can't say something nice..." nature of the recruiting industrial complex. When Wangler hit camps he'd usually get a brief mention along the lines of "good in coverage against running backs" or "underrated athleticism" before folks moved along to other prospects that jumped off the field more. Brewster touches on Wangler's general lack of wow factor in the "improvements" section of his eval:
Wangler isn’t the most talented player out there but makes up with for it being solid in most areas of the position. He has average size with pretty good athleticism but not great overall speed.
In a generally positive live evaluation, Rivals's Tim Sullivan noted his "impressive athleticism" one paragraph before stating that Wangler will never be the biggest or fastest linebacker on the field. His scouting is full of this kind of schizophrenia. Josh Helmholdt mentioned his "great speed to go with his coverage skills," for instance. Even his coach has a bit of hesitation to him sometimes:
"He'll come up and hit you. He's got good enough agility to make some plays in the open field."
It kind of feels like analysts say these things in the same way they say Nik Stauskas is not just a shooter, you know?
Wangler is a high school safety Michigan plans on moving down to linebacker; I bet one dollar that Michigan envisions him as one of those hybrid space players. Michigan's move to an over defense clarifies a lot of weird things we heard about his recruitment, like the thing he kept saying about how the coaches saw him as a SAM or a WILL.
Those are two entirely different positions in the under. They're still pretty different in the over, but it seems clear the meaning there was "if we become an over defense you are a SAM; if we stick with the under you are a WILL. " This is a fit that Magnus foresaw:
For him to fit at SAM, I think he would have to play in a 4-3 Over defense, where he could cover the tight end and play in the C gap. As for the WILL position, I think Wangler has the mental aptitude but not the speed; he diagnoses the plays quickly, but I think he'll be too slow to slice into the backfield or beat Big Ten running backs to the hole.
So for now he is a SAM, one who can hopefully cover a tight end and defeat his blocks. Sullivan caught him in person a couple times and believes this is the plan:
...has a linebacker's mentality at the safety position. Although he's the size of a safety at this point, he has the frame to grow into linebacker at the next level - which Michigan coaches expect him to do.
FWIW, he told Rivals in January he was up to 225, which means he could hit fall camp at 230 or even 235, which is already in the plausible range for playing time. Michigan should not need him, but that does not stop them from playing guys all that often.
Why Jordan Kovacs? Kovacs was always the world's best tiny linebacker even if he was pressed into duty deeper due to his ability to actually do the things a safety is supposed to do. Wangler appears to fill the tough tacklin', awareness havin', tight end lockin' role that Kovacs generally did.
Wangler's obviously bigger and will move closer to the line of scrimmage; he probably cannot be as utterly reliable as Michigan's best safety blanket in a decade and a half, but kid is from a football family, and is a legacy like Kovacs.
Other option here is Michigan's best and really only space linebacker in the past decade or so: Stevie Brown. Brown came with top-100 guru rankings and high praise for his athleticism that was not of the Not Just A Shooter variety, though, and struggled for most of his career to apply that athleticism in a positive way. Kovacs is closer.
Guru Reliability: High-ish. Was relatively prominent for a couple years, attended a number of camps, and there is approximate consensus. Did not get to show his wares at the UA game, though, and his offers dispute he rankings.
Variance: Moderate. Position switch doesn't really bother me since it is a move down, and it seems like he's already approaching a plausible playing weight. But it is a position move and he is a tweener.
Ceiling: Moderate-plus. He can be an effective presence in the slot and a glue guy between front seven and secondary. Probably not going to blow you away with his rippling awesomeness.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. I like adding LB/S tweeners in this era of college football who can shift between hunting slot receivers and still put a shoulder to a tailback and make him stop. Wangler's got a number of reasons to think he'll outperform his middling rankings, as well.
Projection: It doesn't seem like there's a reason to play any freshman linebacker this year what with Michigan possessing a solid, veteran two-deep that has a couple of special teams options further down the depth chart in McCray and Gant... but a couple probably will. It doesn't seem like Wangler will be one of them, what with Ferns enrolling early and Michigan pretty well stocked on slot options what with Countess and the previous guy in this series.
After a probable redshirt, James Ross will have one more year before a free-for-all for the starting SAM job develops between Wangler, Allen Gant, and possibly Chase Winovich or Mike McCray, depending on how those guys develop. Dymonte Thomas may even be a candidate there if he does not win a safety job, at least in nickel packages. Wangler has an excellent shot of at least finding a role then, as it's doubtful Winovich or McCray will be able to approximate Wangler's cover skills. Gant, another converted safety, will provide a challenge.
Even so Wangler should have a three-year run as some sort of contributor and seems to have a good chance to start as a heady effort guy who is built to eliminate tight ends and tailbacks against teams who spread the field.
Big Four, Little Ten?
Penn State had a heck of a day on Tuesday, beating out Ohio State—among many others—for four-star OT Sterling Jenkins, at one time the top tackle on Michigan's board, and four-star QB Brandon Wimbush. With 11 composite four-stars among their 15 total commits, James Franklin's program ranks behind only Alabama in the 2015 team recruiting rankings.
Given the circumstances, no school in the country is doing better on the recruiting trail than PSU right now, and they're doing so by dominating not only in-state recruiting, but the entire surrounding region—13 of their commits come from Pennsylvania or one of its bordering states. Michigan's had a fair amount of success in recent years recruiting in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia; with Franklin around, that success is going to be more difficult to replicate.
Meanwhile, Michigan State's on-field success is now translating to serious consideration from big-time prospects, and not just those from the Great Lakes State. Five-star WDE Jashon Cornell named the Spartans as his leader after visiting for the spring game, and he reiterated that stance in a free article by 247's Steve Wiltfong:
Cornell named the Spartans his leader following a visit to East Lansing for the spring game on April 26.
“I still feel the same way with them,” Cornell said. “They’ve had the best defense in the country the past three years,” Cornell said. “I’m trying to get better as a defensive player, and I feel Michigan State can help me become a better player and one of the best defensive players in the country.”
The Spartans aren’t the only contender for Cornell, who plans to make his college decision on Aug. 28, which coincides with the first day of school and his season opener.
“I have several schools in mind, UCLA, USC, Stanford, Michigan, Penn State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Miami and Iowa,” Cornell reeled off.
With a relatively early decision planned, Cornell could very well end up a Spartan, and such a high-profile commitment could potentially impact the decisions of other top prospects—we've seen this effect right here at Michigan. As for the in-state battles, MSU continues to be a thorn in Michigan's side, as well; the most recent development is their offer of 2016 South Lake four-star Martell Pettaway, who told Allen Trieu the Spartans are the team to beat ($):
"They will be a very tough team to beat. They are number one now. They kept it real with me since day one and showed me a lot of love. At the moment, I am not committing. I'm going to wait it out and rack up offers then look at my decision but it will be hard for anyone to be over MSU since the were the first ones who did it and they were up there always."
These aren't fun developments, of course. Please don't shoot the messenger, especially since the other headlining recruiting news this week is...
Kinnel Gets Alabama Offer
...Nick Saban going after Michigan four-star safety commit Tyree Kinnel. The Tide offered him on Tuesday, though for now, Kinnel isn't wavering in his pledge to the Wolverines, per Scout's Dave Berk ($):
“An Alabama offer means a lot,” he said. “I think it would mean a lot to any kid in the country that plays football. That is a big offer, but as of right now, I’m still 100-percent Michigan.”
There's good and bad here. It's never fun when the specter of Alabama snake-oiling is present; on the other hand, the fact that Saban is showing that much interest is nice validation that Michigan's got themselves a very good prospect in the fold. For positivity's sake, here's to focusing on the latter part.
Rumor Drama, Part Whatever
After four-star Mike Weber visited Notre Dame, Scout published an article with a quote from the Cass Tech back intimating that Michigan was on the outside looking in when it came to his top schools ($):
"Right now I like Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State and Notre Dame," Weber said. "I'm going to wait on a decision though because anything can happen and there's a lot of time left."
This caused something of a message board and social media firestorm, as these situations do. Weber took to Twitter to say he doesn't have a top four, and he talked to Brandon and further clarified the situation:
Mike Weber tells me he has no top 4 and "it's silly" that #Michigan isn't included among his favorites. He'll release a top group soon.
— Brandon Brown (@CoachBrown3) May 6, 2014
While Michigan putting out multiple recent offers to fellow 2015 running backs—most recently, three-star Georgia RB/complete sentence Mikell Lands-Davis—suggests they're not in as strong a postion as they'd hoped with Weber and Damien Harris, the Wolverines certainly aren't out of the picture for either.
New Offer/Peak Highlight Video
Michigan's latest offer to a 2015 lineman went out to WA three-star OT Calvin Throckmorton, who told GBW's Kyle Bogenschutz he's considering a trip from the West Coast to check out Ann Arbor ($):
Just six weeks away from summer vacation, Throckmorton says he plans to utilize his down time to take visits, with a trip to Ann Arbor to see Michigan on his mind as well.
“I don’t think I could really do those really until probably July or sometime then,” Throckmorton said. “But I definitely want to try to get out there to those schools.”
More importantly, somebody set offensive lineman combine highlights to the instrumental from Dr. Dre's "Nothin' But A G Thang" (baaaaaaaby), which is delightfully incongruous.
George Campbell Update
According to an article by Scout's Chad Simmons, Michigan is still hotly pursuing former commit George Campbell ($):
A number of schools are working hard to show Campbell he is high on their list. "Florida, Auburn, UCLA, Michigan, LSU, and USC are recruiting me the hardest," said Campbell.
An article on Cambell by 247's Shea Dixon features... an entirely different, shorter list ($):
“(UCLA coach Taylor Mazzone), (Florida coach Joker Phillips), (Alabama coach Lane Kiffin) and (Florida State coach Lawrence Dawsey) have all probably been recruiting me the hardest,” Campbell said. “I haven’t been talking with a lot of coaches, though. My uncle does.
"I will start taking serious visits and checking out schools, and after summer, I want to at least cut it down to a lower amount of schools and focus on those schools. It’s just a matter of time to see what I want to do.”
Florida and, interestingly, UCLA are the two constants; the Gators are considered the odds-on favorite at the moment. With Michigan failing to earn a mention for a potential official or unofficial visit in either article, expectations for a re-commitment should be very low.
2016 Traverse City West OL Thiyo Lukusa recently visited campus and told GBW's Josh Newkirk that Michigan is "still up there on my list"; also, damn you, polar vortex ($):
Due to 13 snow days this winter, Lukusa says his school year has been extended to make up for lost school time..Which mean his school schedule goes right into Michigan’s football camp season. So as of right now, he says his possible camp visit is pending.
“If I can make it down there one of these days and chill, maybe I can throw the cleats on and the helmet on and work,” he said. “I’ll have the helmet and cleats in the back of my car at all times this summer.”
Michigan checks in at #14 in the ordered top 15 released by 2015 five-star dual-threat QB Torrance Gibson, who currently has Tennessee, Auburn, LSU, and Ohio State on top, in that order. While that doesn't look so good, Gibson told 247's Ryan Bartow($) that Michigan's low placement was due to the fact they haven't offered—and he fully expects one to come once Doug Nussmeier sees him throw—and he later told Steve Lorenz an offer would jump the Wolverines up his list considerably ($):
Gibson tells me a Michigan offer would put them in his top 7 and that he would visit Ann Arbor at some point before ending his recruiting process.
Steve believes, and I agree, that even with an offer Michigan would be a longshot, but getting Gibson on campus would be a nice start towards changing that. The Buckeyes, unfortunately, may be the team to beat once they get him on campus—Gibson said the reason they landed at #4 is because he hasn't had a chance to visit them yet.