Michigan's most recognizable player spent most of 2014 in sweats. [Fuller]
Who's going to be the star?
The last time Michigan entered a season with this little in way of proven standout players, Rich Rodriguez was in his first year as head coach. This season should—will—be better, but that uncertainty lingers. We don't know who's going to start at quarterback or running back. Any attempt to fill in the starting receiver spots should be done in pencil. There's no behemoth tackle destined for NFL riches, or a Steve Hutchinson promising pain with every pull, or even a David Molk delighting line play enthusiasts with his nimble reach blocks.
The defense, down a barbarian, would be similarly faceless if not for the presence of Jabrill Peppers, whose status is still based far more on his seemingly limitless potential than anything he did in three games last season before falling to injury. Only one returning defender so much as earned all-conference honorable mention in 2014: Blake Countess, who by all accounts had a down year.
This is, admittedly, cause for concern, though the 2008 comparison doesn't hold up when accounting for depth, talent, and the like. Brady Hoke's strong recruiting has left Jim Harbaugh with plenty of potential stars to coach. Saturday's Spring Game should provide the first hints as to who will step into featured roles this year, and which numbers will grace the replica uniforms at the M Den. (The newest addition is the #4 jersey, and with all due respect to De'Veon Smith, we all know why that's the case.)
Some candidates are more obvious than others. Jourdan Lewis looked the part of a lockdown corner for much of last season, and a greater emphasis on press man coverage should play into his strengths. Taco Charlton is only getting bigger and stronger after making some eye-opening plays as a sophomore. While he won't be confused for David Harris, Desmond Morgan is a steadying presence in the middle. Practice reports have Peppers living up to his sky-high expectations.
Heck, there's even a chance Michigan finally sees one of their blue-chip offensive line recruits translate recruiting plaudits into collegiate success. And if that happens, at least one of those running backs should break out, right?
It's unusual for Michigan to be in this position. Even the Rodriguez-Hoke changeover had Denard Robinson as a comforting constant. Unlike the last couple transitions, however, there's talented depth on both sides of the ball. There may not be proven stars littering the two-deep, but the ones on the coaching staff provide a lot of hope that'll change soon. Let's hope that optimism is only bolstered this weekend.
Random Canadian Bo appearance. Fire as per usual:
More Jaylen Brown. Brown sat down with Evan Daniels to talk about his recruitment. On Michigan:
Michigan is definitely going to be in the front runner of things. Talking to Coach Beilein, he’s like an offensive genius the way he gets these guys that aren’t really ranked high to be lottery picks in the draft is amazing. It’s definitely something that drew my attention. Also Michigan is a great education school. They have one of the top public universities in America with Cal-Berkeley, UCLA and North Carolina.
He also said that "I took a lot of visits and nobody's basketball programs was as good as Kentucky," so temper that enthusiasm. Rivals is continually throwing cold water on any speculation Michigan might get him, but it sounds like Sam Webb is talking to a lot of people close to the situation while Rivals cites national analyst Eric Bossi.
FWIW, nobody is saying Michigan is a lock or even necessarily a leader: the difference here is between Scout guys thinking Michigan has a legitimate shot and Rivals saying not so much.
UPDATE: Brown told ESPN that he would be going to an Adidas school, flat-out. That would knock out Kentucky, leaving Michigan up against Kansas and UCLA.
Legends update. MVictors talks to Ben McCready, the godson of Bennie Oosterbaan:
Nothing is official, but U-M is indeed evaluating the Legends program and considering changes.
The evaluation is being driven, in part, by feedback from the players.
McCready’s understanding is that they do intend to maintain the Legends distinction, but are considering honoring those players in a different way.
All options are on the table including a presence in the stadium to recognize the Legends.
I'm mildly distressed by the "feedback from the players" bit since in the past that's been used as a won't someone think of the children cover for Adidas pandering and the like. Suspect that they don't actually dislike it enough to make a difference. But some sort of in-stadium note that hey, Desmond Howard played here would be nice—with the boxes there is a ton of blank space to act as canvas.
An excellent example of the hockey tournament's absurdity. Providence was literally the last team in the field—if Michigan had won the Big Ten tourney they would have bounced the Friars. They happen to host this year, so #4 seed Providence got to welcome #1 seed Miami.
They won that game in a looney-tunes 7-5 contest in which Miami played with an extra attacker for almost half the third period after falling behind 6-2, then beat Denver the next night and are now in the Frozen Four. This happens almost every year. RIT took out another overall #1 seed in the opener. That's the hockey equivalent of a 16 over 1 upset, something that has never ever happened in basketball but has been achieved by a single small school in upstate New York twice.
Single elimination basketball can be random; it is much less so than hockey. Good basketball teams win almost all their games. Good hockey teams win two thirds. Look at the pro level to see the spread between good teams and bad. Hockey is closer to baseball, where 100 wins—a measly 62%—is considered the benchmark for an excellent team, than basketball, where three NBA teams cleared 70% last year with Indiana a game back of that number.
So Miami has a season worth of a one seed and their reward is to fly cross country to play Providence in Providence in a one-off game in a building that was half empty* even by the inflated official count. I defy you to come up with a system more nonsensical than that. Can't be done.
Okay, okay, can't be done outside of cricket.
*[Two-day attendance of 14,234 in a building holding 12,400.]
Um? Hockey recruiting coverage is scanty and Auston Matthews is a big deal so let's hold on to this for a brief moment:
Matthews, who is expected to be selected No. 1 in the 2016 NHL draft, will center Heinen and Moore if he chooses DU over Michigan, among others, and the major-junior route.
Later that article reiterates that Matthews's top college choices are those two schools, and reading between the lines it appears that intelligence comes directly from the Denver program. Everett, a WHL team based in a midsize Washington city, has his CHL rights.
I remember. Harbaugh on his CSG presidency aspirations:
— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) March 30, 2015
Yes, that is a hashtag for "enthusiasm unknown to mankind" that I will be enthusiastically, if ironically adopting.
But the best part of all this is that a Rivals commenter reminded me of the existence of Hideki. Hideki, a contemporary of mine at the university, won the then-MSA presidency in a landslide because he had a silly sign he carried with him everywhere:
These were the halcyon days in which the the student government's main function was dealing with BAMN so the rest of us didn't have to. We could safely dispatch an amiable man without a platform or a solid grasp of English as our representative, and we were rewarded with petty imbroglios like "that one time the vice president said the president had difficulty communicating and was called super racist":
Wong called for an apology from Secreto for "allowing the election to become a vehicle to foster racism on campus."
Many representatives and constituents said race was not the reason they were unhappy with Tsutsumi"s term.
"My problems are not with his language," said LSA senior Rodolfo Palma-Lulion. "It"s with his ideology."
"I don"t support the attacks on Hideki, but I don"t see them as racist," Kinesiology Rep. T.J. Wharry said. "I can"t understand what my grandparents say but they"re just as white as I am."
Tsutsumi said he felt all attacks on him were politically motivated and that he is "above the fray of party politics."
Drop that mike, Hideki. You clearly had all the vocabulary required to be a politician.
These days the CSG is serious business. It has to fix the athletic department's student ticketing policies, and cannot be solely deployed as a hilarious parody of national politics.
You'll never believe me. It turns out that Nick Saban doesn't care about one solitary thing in this world other than how to win many football games. It's almost like he's a robot programmed to act like a human being… poorly.
Michigan Football: The Clone Wars
Michigan hosted a large group of visitors last weekend, and reactions are beginning to come in, including those from a couple of the top defensive linemen in the country.
The nation's #1 overall prospect, NJ DT Rashan Gary, told Rivals' Adam Friedman that one of the highlights was seeing his former high school coach ($):
"It was exciting seeing coach Partridge again," Gary said. "I gave him a hug as soon as I saw him.
"The visit was a lot like Ohio State," he said. "As soon as I walked into the building the coaches were giving me high-fives, giving me hugs. It was good to see all that love. The campus is set up basically like my hometown is with how the houses are. Everything is together on campus and I like the way it looks. I got to see Michigan's academics. They showed me their great plan for the student athletes."
Gary was also excited to see Michigan offer his 2017 teammate, DE Corey Bolds, on the trip. He told Friedman that both Michigan and Ohio State—considered by many the two programs to beat in his recruitment—will make it into his next top group, which should be determined when he's done with a lengthy list of visits. Among other tidbits, Sam Webb posted on The Victors Board that he believes Michigan made a better impression on Gary than Ohio State ($).
Top-100 IL DE Josh King saw a significant difference in the quality of Michigan's practice under the new regime, per 247's Steve Wiltfong ($):
“Oh man it was pretty cool,” King started in. He had been to Ann Arbor in the past and was really high on the Wolverines prior to last fall.
“Michigan was different with Coach (Jim) Harbaugh stepping in. He completely turned it around. I remember last year we went there and they were struggling to this year they were flying around. They looked better. They look like a much different team.”
King added "you're not going to find a coach like [Harbaugh] anywhere else." It sounds like Michigan is working their way back into the thick of his recruitment.
Four-star PA TE Cary Angeline mentioned to Wiltfong that OH NO CARY THAT WAS OUR LITTLE SECRET ($):
“Coach Harbaugh, his past of breeding tight ends, he’s one of the best at doing that and he said he’s trying to build an army of big fast tight ends and it’s intriguing how he uses his tight end.”
PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE LARGE MACHINE BEHIND THIS CURTAIN. IT'S OUR COFFEE MAKER. WE'RE VERY PROTECTIVE OF OUR COFFEE PRACTICES, AND IN NO WAY CLONING AN ARMY OF COBY FLEENERS.
ANYWAY, Michigan made a strong impression on top-100 NJ WR Ahmir Mitchell, per 247's Steve Lorenz ($):
"They moved way up my list," Mitchell said. "I don't really know specifically right now how much, but I loved this visit. I like it a lot there."
Mitchell, who also visited Ohio State this weekend, also had the Buckeyes in his top group along with Rutgers (leader), Notre Dame, Ole Miss and Virginia Tech.
I'm quickly becoming familar with the Rutgers Effect, in which they offer talented in-state prospects early in the cycle, stake claim to an early lead, and then watch helplessly as other programs shoot past them. The Sun rises in the East, and sets as far away from Piscataway as possible.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
it could happen, maybe
Basketball decision timetables.
What is the timetable on a Moritz Wagner decision? And how does that affect other decisions, like Bielfeldt's?
Michigan should know what their 2015-16 roster is going to look like within the next few weeks. The late signing period kicks off April 15th; the NBA draft entry deadline is April 26th. Wagner and Jaylen Brown are both supposed to decide within the month, as you might expect.
Wagner is down to Michigan and staying with his professional team and could decide whenever since LeVert's status is not likely to impact him much. Brown is being recruited by a number of schools with NBA draft decisions on the docket and wants to see how the dust settles before pulling the trigger; he may wait until the 26th. And yes, Michigan appears to be seriously in the mix for him according to both Brian Snow and Sam Webb of Scout. Michigan is reputed to be in the top two but no one knows who the second team is. Normally that is a big, flashing YOU ARE LEADING indicator. In this case the situation is so fluid and close to the vest I wouldn't go that far, but I'm saying there's a chance.
Meanwhile, instate post Mike Edwards continues to Blow Up, adding offers from Pitt, Marquette, Kansas State, and SMU along with interest from Iowa, Wisconsin, and even Duke(?!). Edwards told Rivals that Michigan leads for his services($) despite not having an offer yet. If he turns into a high-major prospect and there's room I think Michigan might prefer him to a fifth year from Bielfeldt.
Michigan just got an impromptu unofficial visit from fifth-year Cornell transfer Shonn Miller, who has to leave the Ivy League if he wants to continue playing basketball. Miller, a 6'7" wing with a monster DREB rate, carried a third of Cornell's offense with reasonable efficiency a year ago. He would probably be a 4 at Michigan. Seton Hall transfer Jaren Sina has also expressed interest. Given the roster composition he would need LeVert to leave to find a spot.
One man's vague priority list, assuming that Michigan has three spots for LeVert, Bielfeldt, and any potential recruits:
And of course look out for any inexplicably unrecruited sons of famous basketball coaches who can jump out of the gym. All of this will be figured out by the 26th.
SPOILERS (sort of)
Don't know if you saw this or if I'm like the 15th person to point this out, but there was an evil Doctor a few nights ago on Archer named "Zoltan Kovacs." Obviously not a coincidence. Attached is a screen cap.
(yes that is my real name)
If that is your real name, Lloyd Cargo. Obviously not a coincidence.
How special were M’s special teams last season?
M’s offense had its own issues but how awful were M’s special teams last season? How much affect did it have on M’s w/l record? To me it seemed, every game M’s special teams was grossly outplayed and might’ve been a factor in some close losses.
FEI added special teams rankings a few years ago that give you a reasonable baseline from which to start. The high variance nature of certain special teams events means you have to sanity check it, though. Let's do that. Michigan was 67th overall in a metric that doesn't respond too much to schedule strength, so they were bad but non-disastrous. By unit:
- FIELD GOALS: 52nd, slightly above average. FEI takes distance into account when valuing FGs FWIW.
- PUNT RETURNS: shockingly good at 19th for one reason: Ben Gedeon's 32-yard blocked punt return touchdown against Appalachian State. Non-Gedeon returns averaged 4.3 yards an attempt on just 13 tries. That's a good demonstration of how swingy these stats are. Minus one event against a tomato can this would be one of the worst units in the country; meanwhile one less dumb block against Maryland and it would look like one of the best.
- KICK RETURNS. Speaking of worst units in the country, Michigan finished 118th. Highly random touchdowns have an even bigger relative impact now that touchbacks are a goal of the rules. Only 16 teams were "above average" in this stat.
- PUNTING. Michigan was 97th. This is a stunning departure from their raw gross yardage, which was 28th, and yet another ringing condemnation of 1) Michigan's archaic NFL-style punting and 2) their ability to put eleven guys on the field.
- KICK COVERAGE. 30th! /waves tiny flag
Other than okay field goal kicking and a blocked punt against a Sun Belt team, Michigan was awful awful awful in all phases except kick coverage last year.
I took them to dinner and bought them a Ufer CD.
listening to past podcasts yesterday, i came across post rutgers podcast featuring hobo-quest. i assume washtenaw county is hobo free.
For those, who aren't bored enough to listen to podcasts from October, a large portion of that podcast was given over to how many hobos we would strangle for certain coaches. It turns out, Tripp, that hobo sacrifices do not have a direct impact on the outcomes of coaching searches, thus sparing me a grisly few weeks and the life in prison that would inevitably follow. I think it all worked out for the best.
“Well, everybody alright? I’m good. Who wants to start?”
You have a couple of players who are new to the position in Brandon Watson and Ross Douglas, though Ross Douglas has played it before. How are they adjusting to that change?
“They’re doing well. It’s a whole different deal for everybody. It’s a different defense, so everybody’s making a lot of adjustments but those two guys are coming along just like the rest of them.”
We’ve heard it said that you’ve played a lot more press coverage than they’re used to. How have they adjusted and how much work is that?
“It’s a lot of work. It’s a new total concept for the defense, for these guys who haven’t played- for Jourdan [Lewis] two or three years, for Blake [Countess] four years- so it is a new concept. It’s a whole new technique they’re learning so it’s taking time but they’re working their butts off. They’re working extremely hard at it and in time we’re going to get it done.”
Press was something they tried last year and did a little bit of it and struggled with it. Are you guys totally committed to it?
“Well, that’s coach Durkin’s defense, yes. So yes, we are totally, 100 % committed. We’ve just got to find the guys who catch on the fastest and handle the technique the best.”
Most cornerbacks are really excited about the chance to do that. Has that been the case here?
“Absolutely for us, and in recruiting they’re very excited to hear we’re aggressive on the outside and they want to see and hear what they’d have to do, so I think it will help us in that respect as far as getting some other corners in here.”
Can you talk about Lewis and Countess in particular and their ability to do that?
“Yeah, Blake’s an extremely hard worker. He’s very focused. Jourdan’s a natural at it. He’s probably our most natural corner for what we’re asking him to do. He does it pretty good but he’s still got some things to get better at because of the fact that it’s something they haven’t done all the time as far as last season goes. But those two are definitely, as far as technique-sound and even athletically and mentally, more experienced in that way.”
[After THE JUMP: Skills needed to play press, a transfer from Stanford confirmed-ish, and depth chart discussion]
Hello: AFC Ann Arbor. We are getting a minor league soccer team that I am inordinately excited about, and tickets have just gone on sale. I already hate Oakland United FC for having both "United" and "FC" in their name. I bet their crest doesn't even have a tree. Or stripes. I do not know how these tossers deign to call themselves any sort of organization. Down with United Sporting Real FC Oakland Dinamo.
AFCAA has an eight game home schedule over the summer; in year one they're playing at Pioneer. Plenty of current and former Wolverines are on the team, and it sounds like they're importing some food carts (Mark's carts?) for games. I'll be at the home opener May 1st, stop by and say hi.
Jim Harbaugh has the best twitter feed. Tips for identifying good coaching twitter feeds:
GOOD: odd capitalization and grammar, random shoutouts to Cracker Barrel and Judge Judy
BAD: hashtags, motivational sayings, motivational sayings embedded in hashtags
Harbaugh is on the good side of the equation:
Michigan Nicknames Snake-Bubba-Jumbo-Flame-Soup-EasyEd-BigEd-BigHoss-Chunky-SirCharles-Bump & the ultimate nickname that became legendary Bo
— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) March 27, 2015
Amongst many people saying "don't forget X" I declare Derek Moore the winner for reminding Harbaugh that he should not forget the legend of Tony Pape, AKA "Fat Elvis."
Spring Creaning time. A couple days after Stanford Robinson said "I'm not going anywhere" to media in the IU locker room, the university announced his transfer. Today he was followed by freshman wing Max Hoetzel.
This annual exodus has the same impetus all of Tom Crean's other annual exoduses have: someone must leave (or not show up) because Crean drastically oversigned. This year Indiana has zero seniors, a full roster, and two recruits. And they are still recruiting various players for the late period. To their credit, a lot of Indiana fans hate this.
Every coach is going to have some attrition from guys who don't work out. Few sign multiple guys in November knowing that this means someone on the current team is going to be forcibly ejected from the program as a result. And for what? For a ten seed because your incompetent self can't count or recruit a post player.
We poke at Tom Izzo around here because he's easy to poke at, but he is a legitimate coach and seemingly good dude; Crean is another level of detestable. For everybody's sake let's hope that buyout comes down enough to get rid of him soon. The Big Ten is ill-served by his presence at a basketball mecca.
I'm very disappointed in 61 of you. You guys are jerks.
should I quit blogging about Michigan and dedicate myself to UFRing episodes of "Coach"? RT for YES FAV for NO
— mgoblog (@mgoblog) March 27, 2015
Upon further review, there is not enough football in episodes of "Coach" to do this.
I guess this is official now? Or at least official-ish:
Michigan football: Legends jerseys are gone, helmet stickers are back. Imagine Bo and Canham would be pleased by both.
— John U. Bacon (@Johnubacon) March 27, 2015
I'd rather have the inverse but I'm not too bent out of shape about it. I like the clean look the decal-less helmets have and thought the legends jerseys were a good way to remind people that the Wisterts were great and Gerald Ford was an All-American. Hopefully they can do something for the retired numbers other than just put them back in mothballs.
Also semi-official? I can't remember if Wayne Lyons's transfer was already semi-official or has just become slightly more so, but the big news from Mike Zordich's press conference was Zordich accidentally letting the cat out of the bag about Lyons's imminent arrival. Except that Lyons himself said it in February and we already have a Hello post for him.
Spike was hurting. Spike Albrecht was not fully right last year:
Albrecht is wrestling with the decision whether to undergo off-season surgery on both of his ailing hips, procedures that would leave him rehabilitating for "probably four to five months, at least."
"That's a tough situation," Albrecht said. "I don't want to sit out, but I also don't want to go through another season like I went through this year, but if that's the only option and that's the best option, then I'll do it."
Apparently those surgeries have to be scheduled consecutively and involve—bleah—"shaving down an area of hip bone." A 4-5 month recovery period is likely, which would make him whole in August or September. Tough decision to weigh a lack of pain against whatever rustiness getting laid up like that would induce.
Meanwhile, Alejandro Zuniga evaluated Albrecht.
Gordon Bell, 1975. Via Dr. Sap:
Also Ufer calling a pretty spectacular Bell touchdown run against Purdue.
Etc.: Sauce Castillo. Sauce Castillo. Neeeerd baseball hits the Daily. On John Calipari. Tattoos ranked by how bad of an idea they are. Jack Miller's decision to quit football was about concussions a bit, unless it wasn't.