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.
Here's where yesterday's maize poll stood around noon:
I initially had labels for the first few hundred voters, which stole maybe 100 votes from Iowa—I think most people didn't realize our official corn shade was darker than theirs. Anyway 80% of the readers who voted wanted Michigan to wear something appreciably darker than what they currently do, and over half preferred the orange-iest options. There's still a large and vocal minority—about 20%—who like the brighter yellows.
One of them, stephenrjking, wrote a diary to demonstrate the lighter shades have been part of Michigan's uniforms a very long time:
Also that stills are notoriously bad—the saturation is way high on the left and way low on the right. Stephen isn't crazy; he too noted the modern hue is too damn loud. Here's the Woodson interception in the '98 Rose Bowl that he submitted as a preferred shade, with a color swatch I grabbed from it:
That is exactly the same color as the "faded from the 1970s" swatch people voted on, with an average hue of 53. Hue (similar to Tint on your old television set) is a circular axis through a 360-degree rainbow spectrum, with 360 and 0 being red, 60 is yellow, 120 is green, 180 cyan, 240 indigo, 300 violet, etc. That "53" matches the official Iowa color, but the saturation is toned down about 30%. By contrast, the Adidas color online is 60 (straight up yellow), and almost everything I got from the last four years of MGoBlog photos was usually around 65, sometimes as high as 70, i.e. 5 or 10 steps toward green. Michigan's official maize, on the other hand is 48; if you get to 45 you're half-way to orange (aka "gold").
So if is traditional, it's much closer to (official) than (what they're using now) on the orange scale. Here's what it would look like with the "maize" parts on Woodson and Peterson changed to the various shades we've been arguing over (matched to Woodson's knee—click from big):
From left: current Adidas yellow, Iowa's yellow, and Michigan's official maize.
Perhaps a good compromise then is to take it back to the low 50s and tone it down so the primary blue can stand out more. That won't placate the "I actually like the bright yellow" crowd, but I'd rather have 20% of the fanbase bitching about it than 80%.
Further reading on apparel. See Maize.Blue Wagner's interesting trip through historical department store catalogues (this was how we did Amazon before the internet, people who don't know what a tint dial is). Here's the 1980 Sears jersey:
And here is a sweatshirt of a bear wearing a sweatshirt:
Picking a Quarterback
Right, the actual football. I highly recommend MilkSteak's quarterback comparison diary, where he showed various previous Michigan QBs at the same age vs this year's starting candidates. I'll give you the upshot but only if you promise you'll hit the link and give the author a plus for his work. Done? Okay:
Beyond the Gardner comparisons, Rudock appears to be a less turnover prone version of 1998 RS Junior Tom Brady, which is nice. Rudock had 22 more attempts than Brady and 5 less INTs with a TD/Int ratio of +11 to Brady's +4. The Y/Att and Adjusted Y/Att are very similar, and the QB Ratings are damn near identical.
I would take "1999 Tom Brady with fewer interceptions." Shane Morris's scant data isn't that different than a slew of other passing era guys we didn't see until they started. His freshman data jives with sophomore Todd Collins, however last year's performance, mostly against Minnesota, looks like freshman Denard Robinson minus the legs. Upshot: 2001 John Navarre, presumably with Darboh doing his best Marquise Walker impression.
Etc. Low Key Recidivist mentioned the Jeff Zuttah story (Michigan wanted to medical him so he transferred to Stanford, and medicaled) as it relates to Pipkins. Erik in Dayton tackled the ethics of it. Also by EiD: recruiting rankings of starters on Harbaugh's last Stanford team. Was a the Deflategate report dur or derp?
Board stuff: The big news is Sara Driesenga got her medshirt!
Pitcher Sara Driesenga, who suffered a rib injury in the early season and only played in a handful of games, has been granted a medical redshirt and will come back for a 5th year!
This gives Michigan a 4-pitcher staff. They'll have every class represented with 5th year Driesenga, B1G Pitcher of the Year Megan Betsa who'll be a Junior, Tera Blanco who was recruited as a star pitcher as a Sophomore and incoming freshman Leah Crockett.
The team that nearly won the national championship receives an almost a one-for-one replacement for Haylie Wagner, and everyone else returns except catcher Lauren Sweet. National Championship or bust!
Board questions answered.
I'm gonna skip most of the board because it was a lot of "Omigod Nike!" But I will answer a few questions:
Whats' the best burger in Michigan? The best greasy spoon is a little dive (just a counter and four high tables) attached to the Seville Motel on Woodward in Royal Oak called Monty's Grill (my dad claimed that way back in the day it used to be Biff's and stood where Comerica Park does now). Best pub burger is Sidetracks in Ypsilanti. Please trust me that I have investigated this thoroughly—at least in the lower peninsula—and there is no question.
How would you allocate your hate? If all of my hate could damage Ohio State even a little bit I feel I have to try, so 100% to Ohio State, and Michigan State will have to make do with a sizeable portion of my contempt instead. I guess that answers this too.
What's your favorite Michigan Replay? A: The one after 1997 Ohio State when Lloyd cannot stop smiling despite trying to do so the entire episode.
Your Moment of Zen
Here you go ladies: a glistening and shirtless Jake Butt, and I promise you'll be watching his hands anyway:
— Support Michigan (@SupportUofM) July 9, 2015
|Delray Beach, FL – 6'5" 220|
|Scout||4*, #291 overall
|Rivals||3*, NR overall
#37 WDE, #100 FL
|ESPN||3*, NR overall
#36 DE, #75 FL
|24/7||4*, #289 overall
#16 SDE, #38 FL
|Other Suitors||FSU, Miami, VT, MissSt, SoCar|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Older teammate of 2016 CB commit Antwaine Richardson. Practices his World Cup arm folding on the reg.|
Half-season senior highlights:
Shelton Johnson was without question the most impressive acquisition in the three-week scramble before this year's Signing Day. Zach Gentry is more highly touted and more important for the roster, but Texas was loudly proclaiming a move towards spread 'n' shred QBs at the same time they courted a five-star A&M commit. Gentry compared that to getting coached by Jim Harbaugh, quarterback whisperer and made a logical decision to go somewhere else pretty far from home.
Johnson, on the other hand, is a Florida native who had been publicly favoring Florida State for six months before Michigan got involved late through DJ Durkin. One visit later and Johnson was ready to head north.
He was not the first to do so—Michigan grabbed fellow FL DE Reuben Jones earlier—but he was the best indicator of Michigan's renewed focus on the south, and Florida in particular. Rich Rodriguez mined Florida for little tough bastards; Harbaugh appears to be going for big tough bastards.
Johnson is certainly on his way to that at 6'5". Sites were split on a fourth star for him, but that did not prevent Florida State from pursuing him heavily after he was a summer camp offer. 247's Josh Newberg came back with some film from that camp:
Johnson is lanky, athletic, quick… and skinny. Every scouting report makes mention of the obvious: 220 pound guys don't do well as defensive linemen. They also report Johnson has the proverbial frame to layer on piles of muscle if he is left alone in an electrical closet with some free weights and several cows. This is not a gentleman who will top out at 250 unless that's a weight at which he is an excellent player.
While the need to add weight necessarily brings questions about whether Johnson can maintain his current quick-twitch ability, there's not much debate that he's got it right now. Scouting highlights:
- 247's Clint Brewster: "…shows true explosive burst getting off on the snap and consistently crossing the face of offensive lineman to beat them into the backfield. Underrated strength and physicality, Johnson shows the core strength to battle bigger lineman upfront and get off blocks, even against the double team. …really light on his feet with good redirection skills. Really like his toughness and motor."
- Scout's Jamie Newberg: "…ton of talent. He looks terrific on film. Johnson can put his hand in the dirt or stand up. He can also slide inside. He has versatility and athleticism. Johnson gets off the ball well and can use his hands to shed blocks. He shows speed and lateral quickness."
- Scout's Corey Bender: "…oozes with potential and moves very well in space. He has a nice frame that can hold an additional 25 pounds with ease … does a good job of using his hands to disengage off blocks, and can provide a steady pass rush standing up or with his hand in the dirt."
- ESPN: "displays good raw, wiry strength … Inconsistent, but flashes good initial quickness … Good burst and length … plays with a physical and at times violent nature. … good physical tools to develop. We don't see an early contributor … displays some good upside."
- Via Tim Sullivan, Johnson's high school coach TJ Jackson: ""…one of the elite pass-rushers I've seen in a long time …. That's kids that I've coached with or against.
definitely going to have to put on a little weight … fantastic student in the classroom and fantastic athlete."
Sullivan also had a lengthy article with an interview of the Sun-Sentinel's Ryan S Clark($) with an interesting perspective of his place in the Florida recruiting sphere:
…they could kind of see the raw talent, it was just a matter of how it would fit into a system. This year, we saw that. He played as a down lineman, and here in South Florida there's so much talk about everyone trying to find that hybrid who can play D-end and linebacker. I don't know if he can play linebacker, but he got the job done very, very well."
Johnson first showed he'd be a big prospect when he caught FSU's attention, and then followed that up with an excellent senior year. There are still a number of questions he has to answer—the recruiting rankings seem accurate when they split on placing him as a 4 star or a 3 star.
At Michigan, Johnson is likely ticketed for the "buck" spot. Whether you define that as a linebacker or a defensive end is a matter of perspective. It is very similar to the way Greg Mattison used his weakside ends: maybe two thirds of the time they would be a defensive and, and a third of the time Michigan would slant its line, use the SAM as a DE, and drop the WDE into coverage or a run fit. From what I've seen of the Florida defense, that's about what their buck LBs do.
DJ Durkin's most recent buck was 6'3", 260-pound Dante Fowler, the third pick in the most recent NFL draft. That is about the weight Johnson will aim for as he attempts to unseat redshirt freshman Lawrence Marshall and (maybe) junior Taco Charlton.
Etc.: There is apparently a famous park ranger Shelton Johnson? One does not expect to type a football player's name into Google Image Search and get back a guy who looks like a cross between a Union soldier and Steve Irwin. Wants to be an engineer—my man.
Why Shawn Crable? Crable was an ostentatiously skinny 6'6" DE/LB hybrid who spent his first couple years at Michigan at LB before transitioning to full-time DE as a senior. He is a pretty tight comparison. One caveat: Crable was a consensus top 100 prospect. Johnson is on the 3/4 star borderline.
Frank Clark is another good comparison point. Clark came in a 220-pound high school safety and hit 280 by his junior year. He kept his athleticism and ended up a second-round pick.
Guru Reliability: Moderate-plus. Healthy and little position projection, but large spread, very few camps, and the fact he's far from a finished product make him a bit of a wildcard.
Variance: Moderate-plus. Needs a lot of weight and some debate about how good of a prospect he is.
Ceiling: High. If he develops could be a first round NFL prospect. The FSU offer and serious pursuit down to signing day is an excellent sign. That is a program coming off a national championship that had a five-star DE in the boat and they went after Johnson hard.
General Excitement Level: High-minus. Long way to go; excellent prospect to develop.
Projection: Another probable redshirt. Michigan is kind of thin at defensive end but probably not thin enough give Johnson significant playing time this year. With Ojemudia graduating a number of snaps open up in year two, when Johnson should be hefty enough to play the weakside end/"buck" linebacker role.