I'M IN FRANCE. Harbaugh in the city of lights.
Bonjour! Go Blue! pic.twitter.com/EoBL4i5Svh
— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) July 11, 2015
This has no doubt angered many SEC coaches and Frenchmen. The number of people who have pretended not to speak English as Harbaugh increases his volume level to jet-takeoff levels must be truly prodigious. I would watch a reality show of this. "Football Coach Vacations." This is a million dollar idea.
Random. Denard Robinson retweeted this.
— HotNewHipHop (@HotNewHipHop) July 13, 2015
That Wiz Khalifa is a card.
Skate with Jack Johnson. August 1st at the Cube, for charity. MGoBlog not responsible if Jack Johnson turns you into a pylon or a bird or is just so pretty on skates that you forget how to drive. Jeff Moss will be there, too! You can find out if he is a real person or just a floating sack of anger!
TJ Weist, 1992. Via Dr. Sap:
Northwestern, 1981. Via Wolverine Historian:
Also 2002 Minnesota.
…Al? Syracuse used one cadence last year.
Since he was officially named the Syracuse Orange offensive coordinator for 2015, Tim Lester's been a bit of a sharer. We're fine with that since it's nice to actually get updates from the football staff, especially with the honesty and candor he seems to deliver it all.
Sometimes it's a point of debate.
Sometimes it's just a description of the Orange offense, compared to last year.
And others, it's a something that will send you into fits of rage, directly aimed at George McDonald, first and foremost:
If Syracuse tried other cadences, the linemen "wouldn't have been able to stay onside," because reasons. This makes me feel slightly better about Tyus Battle.
…Rich? Let's check in on Kansas.
The Jayhawks would finish 1-11 in 2012, and with the roster ailing, Weis desired a quick-fix strategy for what he once famously called a “pile of crap.” In early 2013, Weis signed 16 junior-college recruits in a 25-man class. If a majority of the players hit, Weis figured, perhaps Kansas could claw to respectability in a year or two.
The move was a massive failure. By last fall, just eight of those players remained in the program. The volume of junior-college players — many of whom were borderline qualifiers and academic risks — weighed down the program. Six of those junior-college recruits — including highly touted players Marquel Combs, Kevin Short and Chris Martin — never played a down. After senior safety Isaiah Johnson transferred to South Carolina in the spring, and defensive lineman Andrew Bolton left the team this month, not one of those 16 junior-college players remains on the roster.
So here we are, two years later, and just five players remain from Kansas’ 2013 recruiting class.
This fall, Kansas has 60 scholarship players. It's a self-imposed punishment twice as bad as anything that happened to USC or Penn State. Charlie Weis is the king of "people in charge of things are just in charge of them for no reason."
More on cable bubbles. The WSJ has an article on ESPN doing something they haven't even had to think about in a long time: belt-tightening. Cord cutting is on in earnest and it's no surprise that the most expensive channel is amongst the most affected:
Only the Weather Channel—which is now completely superfluous thanks to the internet—is suffering more. The WSJ attributes Keith Olbermann's departure to simple finances. It is not hard to trace a line from ESPN's current trend and the long-term contracts they have signed with sports leagues and find a point at which it is impossible for them to make money.
ESPN has lost enough subscribers that they have the contractual right to yank their channels from Dish's $20 Sling service. Meanwhile, they are limited in their ability to move to a Netflix/HBO model since if they introduce a stand-alone service cable providers can sell ESPN a la carte—a disaster for a channel that gets six bucks from my grandmother.
Fred Jackson was right! Sort of! Via Austin Roberts, another running back makes good after he departs Michigan:
Another “real bright spot” was running back Thomas Rawls, a 5-foot-l9, 215-pound undrafted rookie free agent out of Central Michigan.
“I love his style of running,” Carroll said. “He’s really a head-knocker. He really goes after guys and when you guys get to see him put the pads on you’ll see how physical of a runner he is. He had play after play in college of just smacking people and running and breaking tackles and all that. He showed very good feet, he caught the ball well, he’s going to be a very-willing blocker.”
All of those came against Purdue or at CMU. Remember when Michigan's running game was so good it got their running backs drafted too early? Those were different times right there. By the end Jackson was stealing money. And various beverages. Holding him over on coaching staff after coaching staff was a major sign of the complacency that overtook the program over the past decade.
Gary Danielson was not right and has never been right. Gary Danielson is pretty good at looking at one specific play and telling you what happened on it. Once you get any more abstract, he turns into a parody of sports commentary. The latest example is Danielson fretting that the SEC is going to lose its way because it might try to score some points.
“The big advantage the SEC had against other conferences was they were the most physical, NFL-like conference there was,” he said. “If they try to morph too much into becoming a fantasy league, they are going to cede their position as the toughest and best conference in college football.”
"Fantasy league." Gary Danielson saying that after Urban Meyer, who was rather successful in the SEC, blew Alabama to bits with his third string QB is a top ten "Is Gary Danielson Having A Stroke?" moment.
Etc.: Hire a Beilein, you get to play a Beilein. Brandon Graham back in town for a bit. You are on the Butkus watch list. Smart Football made another book, which you should buy. BLOOM COUNTY BACK? The Graham Couch bot is either becoming self-aware or has improved its trolling algorithm. Jim Hackett is the best.
Closing The Opening: Michigan Commits
"Keep it up and I might return the hug." — Tim Drevno
The Elite11/The Opening camp bonanza finally wrapped up, and both Michigan commits to participate fared well. Despite not being able to show off arguably his greatest strength, Michael Onwenu made 247's top performer list again at the end of the week:
The Michigan commit is almost immovable at 371 pounds. On a rep-by-rep basis, very few offensive linemen have had the success Onwenu has had in the pass-rush one-on-ones. Because his state's high school athletic association doesn't allow him to wear pads, Onwenu didn't compete in the run-blocking drills but that would seem to be an even better setting for his skill set.
In one of the highlights of the camp, he faced off against Ohio State commit Jonathan Cooper in one-on-ones and won a rep with authority:
A 371-pound guard facing the top edge-rushers in the country should not be able to do that. The counselors agreed; they selected Onwenu for the all-tournament team.
After moving in and out of the offical list throughout the week, Brandon Peters ended up
finishing 10th in the Elite 11. [EDIT: Because the Elite 11 tries to be as useless as possible, apparently, they put players in alphabetical order after winner Shea Patterson, so Peters finished somewhere between 2nd and 11th.] As was the case early last week, Peters impressed onlookers even more than the counselors (maybe?), finishing seventh on 247's Barton Simmons' list:
Peters is one of the best quarterbacks in the Elite 11 from release to completion. The ball is always on target with spin and velocity. If he picks up the pace in his drops and delivery, adds some more urgency, he has a chance to be one of the best quarterbacks in this group.
The word on Peters is pretty consistent these days: strong, accurate arm; good athleticism for a "pro-style" QB; excellent potential if he corrects some technical flaws.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
Checking in on Beilein’s NBA Wolverines --
[Seattleites, I’m so sorry – y’all should definitely root against the Thunder. Maybe you’ll get the Bucks soon.]
In terms of aggregate on-court production, Mitch McGary’s Michigan career was disappointing. Mostly through no fault of Mitch’s – injuries and a highly controversial* NCAA suspension effectively ended his Wolverine career after the magical run to the national championship game as a freshman. After coming along slowly throughout the regular season (partially due to the presence of rock-steady Jordan Morgan) while showing glimpses of his absurdly singular enthusiasm, fluidity, and coordination, Mitch was a breakout star in the tournament: he averaged 14.3 points, and 10.7 rebounds (3.5 offensive, 7.2 defensive) while often looking like Michigan’s best player – even over national player of the year Trey Burke. Against VCU, he put up 21 points and 14 rebounds, only missing one shot; against Kansas, he thoroughly outplayed Jeff Withey—a senior center who’d won the Big XII DPOY award twice—to the tune of 25 and 14; he was critical in attacking Syracuse’s signature 2-3 zone and put up six assists and a points-rebounds double-double in a win. All as a freshman who’d played 8 minutes in Michigan’s regular season finale.
*read: insanely unlucky and totally bullshit
The basketball gods decided to smite him after he announced his intentions to return, and he only played eight games as a sophomore – never 30 minutes or more per game. The NCAA’s arbitrary bazooka of incompetence struck him down after landing on the “infantilizing and inefficient war on drugs crusade” tile and he pretty much wasn’t allowed to have a junior season.
So he entered the draft (he might’ve done so anyways) and the basketball gods decided to smile fondly on him again and nudged the Oklahoma City Thunder into taking him with their first round pick. Despite being snakebitten themselves over the last couple years, the Thunder—an organization known for its ability to discover and develop under-the-radar draft picks (like Serge Ibaka or Reggie Jackson)—are still a bona fide title contender and the best landing spot, by far, of any John Beilein product at Michigan.
* * *
They did win the game… on the road against third-ranked Michigan State
But even though Mitch was a great—elite, depending on if his health / conditioning cooperated—player at Michigan, that’s not why he ascended into Michigan hoops lore as a goofy cult hero.
An incomplete list of reasons as to why he did:
- Because he’s the type of center who decides to pull a Rajon Rondo fake en route to a pick-six layup.
- Because his bench celebration game was as strong as anyone else’s in the entire country (except for Andrew Dakich, potentially):
Because he’d dive all the way into Lake Michigan to save a ball in a blowout win at Northwestern:
- Because he’d set bone-crushing screens like this.
[More on Mitch and his new team after THE JUMP]
— Evan Daniels (@EvanDaniels) July 13, 2015
So that sucks. Michigan was hard after both Battle and similarly ranked (just outside top 10) Alabama SF Josh Langford, and Battle pulled the trigger in May when it appeared Langford was about to take that option away from him. Beilein apparently thought that decision was earnest enough that he cut off pursuit of Langford, who committed to Michigan State three days after Battle reopened his recruitment.
When you play the game of thrones… There's of course going to be a lot of Michigan fans upset at Battle, and Battle's family, and Syracuse, and the world in general.
How Michigan went from a near-guarantee of one game-changing talent to none with a richer rival isn't complicated: Beilein is operating with honesty in an environment where most everybody else is just trying to get theirs. Because of the nature of basketball—small rosters and the sure effect of pure talent—winning a guy like Battle or Langford is highly likely to substantially change your team's prospects. Once you're into the extreme edge of 17-year-old basketball ability distribution, there aren't enough humans out there to start getting picky over which ones have nice families, a firm handshake, and a head for marine engineering.
This is known. We have a "basketball recruiting is dirty like dirt in a dirt sandwich" tag for this reason. When you make a play for a guy who could make any team better, you're entering a cutthroat world where any weakness—including trust—will get exploited.
So we got Lannister'd, and it was cruel, and possibly avoidable. But before you go advocating poison (or worse, tweet at a recruit) remember that highly sought teenagers have to navigate the same sea of bullshit.
Obviously Battle was pretty serious in his interest in Michigan, since there seems to be little reason otherwise to keep the option open. Obviously Langford wasn't guaranteed to come here if Battle didn't commit, since an end to pursuit on Michigan's end was enough to push him to Izzo. Obviously if the same had happened to Izzo and Michigan was the beneficiary we'd be laughing right now.
How much do you wish this was different? The more people you meet, the more you'll realize they tend to expect everyone else to operate the way they do. Dishonest people expect dishonesty; the operating factor in "nice guys finish last" is nice guys tend to be surprised when the competition isn't so nice. Beilein has lost enough battles to Kentucky to know how the world operates outside his program, but the essence of Beilein is he's ready to trust because he's trustworthy. Sometimes this gets him burned, other times Mr. Basketball of Indiana finds it astonishingly refreshing. Take the good with the Battle.
What now? Michigan is still pursuing 2016 PG Cassius Winston, which hasn't changed, and has a scholarship offer to PG Quentin Goodin. They'll probably offer another wing now. That Beilein recognized Battle and Langford early enough to be a major player for their services speaks to a scouting ability that hasn't lost its edge. That same ability has served him well with late pickups Spike, MAAR, Dawkins, LeVert, and…
So what 3* does Beilein get drafted higher than Tyus Battle?
— guestavo (@guestavoo) July 13, 2015
I trust he'll be a good one.
Legg is drawing a swoosh, see?
Seth: What piece of Nike gear are you hoping to see return?
|The maize wars settled on a hue more like the official color, but washed out so that it keeps the yellow (not gold) look from the '97 uniforms.|
Adam: The thing I most want to see again is Nike's version of Michigan's home uniform, specifically the jersey. Their 2006 version is my all-time favorite. (I know they wore it from 2005-'07 but 2006, man.) The numbers are a tolerable, maize-ish maize and stitched onto solid material, while mesh covers the lower abdomen and extends up the back to the collar. The swoosh is small and unobtrusively placed, and the solid material prevents the shoulder pads from showing. I loved those design elements, and I hope something similar (and, in other areas, generally less stripey) returns. I know this is hair-splitting of the highest order, and I blame my crazy attachment to this jersey on nostalgia for what Michigan wore while I was in undergrad. At least it frees up the script-front hockey jersey for someone else to choose.
Is the return of a past jersey design realistic? Eh, maybe. Nike seems to be in love with what they've termed the flywire collar, which means there's a good chance the swoosh will be moved to the front shoulder and the collar will look like lacquered phoenix wings. (A fun game: read sentences from Nike's press release to friends and ask whether they're about luxury cars or clothes.) Then again, there's a precedent for opting out of certain "innovations;" the Packers and Raiders are a couple of the teams that decided not to use the new collar when the NFL switched to Nike. Realistically the design will change and I'll be fine with it as long as someone on the design team at Nike reads what Seth wrote.
[After the jump: don't get cute, aerodynamic fezzes]
Mike Hart sidled through the narrow wooden door frame of Room 1310. As I sat at the front desk trying not to make any sudden, embarrassing movements, he made a beeline for Mary Stewart's office, like so many others who passed through Event Services at the Michigan Union.
Moments later, I sheepishly tried to hide my glee and the lingering sting from Hart's handshake as Mary introduced us and told him about my blog, playing me up like a big-shot writer instead of some underclassman with a blogspot page read by dozens. Hart left for practice after a quick chat. When he did, Mary put forth a standing offer: if I needed anything from Mike, just ask her.
It was the summer of 2007. I was heading into my sophomore year at Michigan and my second working as a receptionist in the Events Services office. Hart had just made the cover of Sports Illustrated. To me, we lived in two different planes of existence, even if we occupied the same campus. To Mary, we were equals, two more people she'd help in whatever way she could.
My brother's birthday and that of one of my closest friends fall on the same day in November. They're both big Michigan fans and huge fans of Hart, so as the date approached I purchased a couple souvenir footballs from the store in the Union basement; I wrote my brother's and friend's names on a piece of scrap paper and put the package in Mary's office; she promised she'd have Hart inscribe a message to each the next time he dropped by.
At my next shift, Mary called me into her office. She had the footballs with Hart's signature, but she also had a question for me. Mike had received two jumbo-sized posterboard copies of his SI cover, she said, and he didn't know what to do with the second—would I, perhaps, want it? I didn't know what to say. I'm pretty sure I managed to garble through a "yes, please" and several "thank you"s before floating back to my desk. The next week, she handed me the poster, personalized to me from Mike. I smuggled it back to my apartment like a priceless piece of stolen artwork.
To this day, that cover is framed in my home office.
Today, Mary retires after 42 years working at Michigan, and mine was but one of hundreds, if not thousands of lives she affected in her relentlessly positive, caring, supportive way during her time here; if you don't believe me, just read the many testimonials in Rod Beard's profile of Mary at the Detroit News. (Read that regardless, please.) In my three years at the Union, Mary was my unofficial counselor, a role she served for so many students over the years, including a long list of athletes.
When I needed someone to talk to about anything, I headed straight for the extra chair in her office, if it weren't already occupied by one of her many visitors. When my brother, whom she'd never met, needed some extra money one summer, she hooked him up with a job at the Art Fair. My mother heard so much about her that she insisted on coming in to work with me one day to meet her; she still asks about Mary, and vice versa. She took me to a football luncheon so I could meet Rich Rodriguez and have him sign my hat. Even after I was fired from that job for calling in sick too many times, I still dropped by Room 1310, and every time I did I felt like I needed to come back more often.
During my first year or so at the Union, I watched in wonder as football players past and present walked by my desk and sat down at hers. The hat with Rodriguez's signature stayed in her office, collecting a hodgepodge of signatures: Jamar Adams, Ryan Mundy, Zia Combs, Chris Perry.
Before too long, though, my wonder focused less on the players than Mary herself. For a while, I wondered how she managed to do her job of coordinating events in the Union—a day didn't go by without at least a couple visitors—until I realized that many of the connections she made came from going above and beyond the call of duty to help out student groups, especially those for black students. If you passed through Mary's office, she became a part of your life, and there was no better testament to that than her office walls, so filled with pictures and letters from those she'd touched that one felt only the love that bound them all together prevented the walls from collapse.
Simply by coming into contact with Mary, I'm a kinder, more thoughtful person, and I know I'm not alone in feeling that way. What she brought to the University, the way she connected with people with no more common ground than the school they attended, is why I feel such a powerful bond with Michigan and the athletic department in a way I'll never feel about the Lions, Red Wings, Pistons, or Tigers.
When someone asks me about The Michigan Difference, I say Mary Stewart is The Michigan Difference. While Michigan will miss Mary dearly, her legacy will live on; in honor of her four decades of incredible work, two alums have created the Mary Stewart Scholarship Fund. I can't think of a better tribute.
Thank you so much for being you, Mary, and congratulations on your retirement. I promise I'll be in touch soon.