"What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered." — Ralph Waldo Emerson
John Beilein tends his garden. Yet another year of turnover means another year of intense cultivation.
He once had a Shooter, which bloomed into a stunning Not Just A Shooter™. His Tantalizing Athlete blossomed into an Emphatic Finisher. The Quiet Generic Big Man, through years of care, sprouted into an Imposing Leader of Men and Taker of No Shit. Only the Magnus Catulus failed to effloresce into something entirely different; even the greatest gardener can't control the weather.
Michigan enters the 2014-15 season in a familiar position, loaded with talent but forced to reload. Gone to the NBA are Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, and Mitch McGary; Jordan Morgan's brought his salty style of basketball to Italy; Jon Horford's on-court meditation sessions will now take place in Gainesville.
The Wolverines roster isn't barren, of course. The string bean that was Caris LeVert is now a guru-approved NBA lottery prospect, and he's much less stringy, too. Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin promise growth in their second years on campus. Spike Albrecht's steady hand will once again be available off the bench. A bevy of young big men of all shapes and sizes hope to fill the void left by the trio of departing centers.
I cannot and will not forget that the Bench Mob—led by the exuberant Andrew Dakich—returns in force, which brings me to the other Emerson quote I considered placing atop this post.
Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.
John Beilein may run a sophisticated offense that takes time and great discipline to master, but the aura around his program has always been one of a loose, joyful group. It's infectious. It's changed the feeling of going to the Crisler Center as much as the exquisite renovations. Hell, it's carrying fans through football season, even as uncertainty again looms over the basketball team.
I don't know if Ricky Doyle, Mark Donnal, Max Bielfeldt, and DJ Wilson are a suitable set of big men to make another title run in what of late has been the nation's best basketball conference. I don't know if the loss of Stauskas will leave Michigan one shot-creator short of having another elite offense. I don't know if Kam Chatman can step into GRIII's spot and replace his production. I don't know if Derrick Walton will take a Burkeian sophomore leap. I don't know if Zak Irvin is really more than Just A Shooter. I don't know if last year's regression on defense can be reversed with such a young rotation.
I'm comfortable with not knowing, however, because this isn't the first time. There's plenty I do know, as well. I know that Michigan posted the best adjusted offensive efficiency in the history of KenPom last season, when they had to replace Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.
I know that the last time the Wolverines weren't considered a preseason top-three Big Ten team, they went 13-5 to grab a share of the conference crown. This season, with Wisconsin the heavy favorites over a jumble of teams with serious question marks, it appears Michigan will be in the same position.
I know that John Beilein is coaching this team, and that means I have no need to worry.
I know, above all, that basketball season will be fun. This isn't the highest bar to set, but as we've learned all too well from football, it's far from the lowest.
There are 27 days until Michigan opens the season with an exhibition against Wayne State. In that span, I'll be writing a lot of preview content, and much of it will focus on the questions this team must answer to live up to the standard that Beilein has created in Ann Arbor.
There's no question about this, however: it's time to start getting excited, because Beilein's green thumb will once again dig up those virtues most other coaches would never discover.
So this happened.
We need a Holtz/Norfleet mashup.
Penn State fans: aim before firing. See, this is a fanbase that's overreacting:
— Toyota Jackson (@PancakeCatapult) October 12, 2014
Year one, sanctions finally biting deeply, coach made Vanderbilt competitive. Let's stone him!
We are fulfilling our responsibilities as an internet website under provision 6 of the Norfleet Atomic Dog Act of 2560. Via Melissa Storch:
We misattributed the source of the Norfleet GIF in One Frame At A Time; this is the original.
INJURIES. Michigan has an implausible number of them. Remember when we thought Hoke was lucky? Funny thing about that. Water finds its level. Gardner was in a boot after the PSU game, but that seems like a precaution more than anything since the guy was on the field. He's got a well-timed bye to rest up before… another bye? Let's go with that.
Speaking of injuries, we have confirmation that Gardner was playing on a broken toe last year:
"Devin's leadership has been outstanding," Hoke said Saturday night. "He played a year ago with a broken toe for half the game (against Ohio State). You know he's got a toughness to him.
Everyone knew this; Michigan insisted on pretending otherwise.
Well played, headline guy? He didn't say the thing that is implied here:
Brady Hoke asked about being at Michigan in 2015, says he's not focused on that
"I'm focused on Heartstone, mostly."
Kelley prepares the players for chaos. Pulaski lives in created chaos - their job is to inoculate their players to its effects and let the other team drown in it. That's what the conventional analysis of Kelley's approach doesn't understand - the Pulaski defense fully EXPECTS that they're going on the field with the opponent inside their territory several times in a game. It's how they play. Your panic is their comfort zone. It's just another day at the office. …
Their guys are mentally tougher than yours because they always play in the fringes of chaos - they're experts in weirdness. You're playing weird just one week. They're veterans of weird outcomes and know that leads with time on the clock either way mean nothing. Just keep playing.
We probably shouldn't hire the guy who never punts. But Kelley is an interesting guy who questions the basic assumptions of football in the same way Beilein did coming up what with his 1-3-1 zone and ALL OF THE SHOOTERS lineups. The burgeoning conventional wisdom that you should strive to shoot threes and layups and nothing else was the moneyball that got Beilein to the top of the ladder and there are guys out there who are doing the same in football now. We just don't know which thing is the thing.
Michigan should be looking for the most interesting plausible mind.
So here's Dan Mullen doing things. Mississippi State has a 6'5" linebacker headed for the early rounds of the NFL draft. How did that happen? Via the Caris LeVert method:
But then, to hear his coach tell it, McKinney’s emergence from obscurity had nothing to with odds, gambling, or catching lightning in a bottle. To Mullen, it’s all in a day’s work. “I don’t look at where they are today. My mind is, ‘Where are they going to be three years from now?’” Mullen told me. “Here’s a 6-foot-3, 210-pound high school quarterback who hasn’t played a lot of linebacker. But you talk to him and you realize he has toughness. And he can run. And you get him in the weight room, and he grows an inch and a half — which you can’t control — and he becomes a 250-pound athletic linebacker who can play at the next level.” …
“I’ll tell a kid sometimes, if he’s not rated very highly [by the recruiting services], ‘Hey, we have you rated higher than that,’” Mullen said. “If he’s got two stars beside his name, that’s even better. Because in my evaluation, he’s not that player.”
Mississippi State has systematically found guys who exceed expectations in the same way John Beilein has, and he's deployed them to maximum effectiveness. There hasn't been anything fluky about Mississippi State's rise, and that's why anyone with a job opening will be blowing up his agent's phone for the next couple months.
The NFL does not exist. That's the approach Michigan should be taking here. When Penn State grabbed Bill O'Brien, Brian Bennett wrote up a piece on guys who had made the NFL-to-college leap. I'm going to cut out everything and just list the names in the article:
- Bill O'Brien
- Charlie Weis
- Ron Turner
- Bill Callahan
- Tim Brewster
- Kirk Ferentz
- Al Groh
- Pat Hill
- Pete Carroll
- Mike Sherman
- Dave Wannstedt
So you've got Carroll, who is in the 99th percentile of hey dude energy, Kirk Ferentz, a guy who went back to the NFL after two years, and fail fail fail fail fail. Oh and Pat Hill, who had a good run at Fresno.
The best coaches in college football are all college guys. The NFL does not exist.
Mullen speculation will be constant. Spencer Hall thinks that there might be a bit of a rift between Mullen and Florida AD Not Dave Brandon:
WE THINK DAN WOULD BE FINE BUT DOESN'T REALLY GET ALONG WITH FOLEY REPORTEDLY DOT COM. It's a nice idea to want Dan Mullen as Florida's head coach, but there are a few problems with this. Like for instance--
--fine, fine, just get the damn checkbook and paperwork. Get it now. YOU GO RUN AND GET THAT DAMN CHECKBOOK RIGHT NOW, FOLEY.
So there's that.
LeVert, profiled. DX scouting report:
If I was a college coach I'd have the "weaknesses" music on cue to blast whenever one of my stars lived up to one.
Furman, ascendant. Remember Josh Furman bolting for Oklahoma State in the offseason? Not really, because he seemed like a meh player? Well:
How’s this for help: Furman, with a fifth sack Saturday, through six games has more sacks than any Cowboy’s produced in a season since 2011. He forced a fumble to go with his pick against Kansas, adding just another solid performance to his building resume that would put him on a short list of contenders for OSU Most Valuable Player at the midway point.
“Yeah, I’d hate to think where we’d be without him,” Spencer said.
He is a "star" linebacker akin to the S/LB hybrids OSU rolls out on the regular; think a senior version of Stevie Brown.
Insert Balotelli WHY ALWAYS ME shirt here. Jon Chait (no polo) on football's concussion/health panic:
he same organization cited by Time found that, over a 30-year period, football is not a uniquely deadly sport for high-school athletes. It is not even the deadliest sport. High-school football has a fatality rate of 0.83 per 100,000 participants. This is actually lower than the rates of boys’ basketball (0.92), lacrosse (1.00), boys’ gymnastics (1.00), and water polo (1.3). There were three heartbreaking deaths of high-school football players last week, each of which attracted wide media coverage the way that tragic low-frequency events often do. But the unusual cluster of unfortunate deaths does not indicate a broader trend any more than the crash of an airliner signals an increasing danger associated with air travel.
Chait also follows up with a response to a guy who is a crusader against barbarism.
It might be more maize? Usual disclaimers about photo coloring apply but MVictors caught a reshoot of Devin Funchess on the program cover that strongly implies that Michigan has moved away from the highlighter yellow this year:
Since cover shots for the game programs of the players were shot before the season, they had to re-shoot Funchess in the #1 jersey:
1. Notice Funchess has the 2014 helmet with the block M nosebumper.
2. Notice the striking difference in maize tone in the wings that was cited earlier this season between the 2014 and 2013 helmets.
And while we’re on the topic of game programs…again—I wish they’d get creative here—do somethingbeyond just players standing there posing!
Those are likely to be in controlled conditions so I think it's for real. Small mercies.
The mood from an outsider's view. Excellent Michigan blog with bizarre color scheme Eleven Warriors had a correspondent take in the threatening-cow-rubbing affair on Saturday. The pulse:
Michigan is not broken, nor is it going anywhere at any point in the near future. Though the current caretakers aren't living up to the high standards heaped upon them, the likelihood of the program as a whole sliding toward eternal mediocrity is unlikely. With hundreds of thousands of living alumni, the tradition of "Michigan" is bigger than any one person.
I'm considering a piece about the "lack of local fan support," per Gameday, and the finger-wagging about how Michigan fans need to get behind the program. We're behind it; we're just thinking about more than the next few game.
Rick Pitino says Louisville is at a disadvantage recruiting because they're an Adidas school. SBN CEO Jim Bankoff talking media stuff is worth a read. Nerds are being adopted by hockey. Defense every snap.
Michigan's run by a guy who only sees the next spreadsheet.
PSU Visit Recap: KLS Enjoys His Official
Keisean Lucier-South on his official visit [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
Thanks to their 2-4 start to the season, Michigan saw their visitor list dwindle significantly by the time their biggest recruiting weekend of the season came around, but a win in front of 113 thousand at night in the Big House still left an impression on those who came.
The biggest name to hit campus, of course, was five-star CA WDE Keisean Lucier-South, who schmoozed with Jabrill Peppers, watched the game with a trio of Michigan commits (Tyree Kinnel, Alex Malzone, and Darrin Kirkland), and seemed to thoroughly enjoy his official visit. Time will tell if Michigan is truly a threat to land KLS, but the initial returns are good, at least.
Most of the other 2015 recruits in attendance were the aforementioned commits, and while Kinnel and Malzone seem quite solid with their M pledges—Kinnel called Saturday "one of [his] best visits," per 247's Steve Lorenz—that's not the case with Darrin Kirkland, who spent the weekend prior in South Bend. After Saturday's unofficial visit, Kirkland told Rivals' Josh Helmholdt where he currently stands ($):
"My options are going to continue to be open, but I do love Michigan and am still committed to Michigan," he said. "It is a great place to be, a great atmosphere and a lot of great opportunities for myself as well as for my family. But, I still remain… I would say a good word is 'neutral,' for right now."
Besides Notre Dame, Kirkland has also been hearing from Texas, Oklahoma, Oregon and USC recently. Each of those schools had offered him prior to his senior season except USC.
Kirkland told TomVH today that he still plans to take all five of his official visits, and will determine with his family today where he'll take them. He's still in the class for now, of course, but if Saturday didn't solidify his commitment, it's hard to see that remaining the case.
Commits Visiting Elsewhere: An Ongoing Series That Probably Won't End Anytime Soon
In totally unsurprising news, TE commit Chris Clark announced on Twitter that he'll take an official visit to North Carolina, the school he initially committed to before eventually flipping to Michigan. If your head is spinning, I understand. Clark's another guy who seems very likely to end up elsewhere.
According to Mike Farrell, CB commit Garrett Taylor will take officials to Ohio State and Penn State in November. His commitment also seems highly unlikely to stick at this juncture.
2016 QB Messiah deWeaver, at least, isn't setting anything up, though it's hard not to take notice of the last bit of this quote he gave to 247's Steve Wiltfong($)...
“For me when I picked the school, it was more than playing football. It was academics and football second. The football part, they were going through a tough time, but they’re going to start winning. They’re young, and you have to take the losing with a grain of salt. I saw something bigger than that because they’re so young. I think the winning is ahead of them. They're not a bad team, they’re just very, very young. I wasn’t getting too worried about them losing because I know better times are ahead of them.
“I think they’re about to start winning here. I’m still watching closely to make sure Coach (Brady) Hoke is going to be there, which I think he is.”
...and get a little concerned about whether or not he'll stick if/when Michigan goes through with a change. At this point, though, hanging onto 2016 recruits is well down the list of priorities for this program.
No, This Also Doesn't Contain Good News
Ex-commit Darian Roseboro committed to NC State over the weekend. Happy trails, sir.
Finally, four-star UT OLB Osa Masina has seemed like a longshot for a while, and now his planned official visit to Ann Arbor may not even materialize, per Scout's Doug Kimmel ($):
"Michigan is another school that I've been high on. Obviously, I've heard some of the rumors about coaching changes and see there recent struggles, but I still really like that program. It's got great history and academics that are hard to beat. I am looking to set up a trip to Michigan. There is also a chance I take an official visit to Utah, but it's likely that I take an unofficial there. I am still leaning towards leaving the state, but the Utes definitely have my attention."
He's saying positive stuff about the program; at the same time, he still hasn't actually scheduled the visit, and if he takes an official to Utah that'd likely leave M out of it. UCLA is considered the favorite in his recruitment.
We won, hurray! Stadium stuff, fan stuff, that kind of thing. The thing about family is you can't choose 'em, but I'm pretty sure yelling at the fans is going to help. Defense shut down. Hooray Gardner!
That went quite well. Wither DTs, don't get on Countess, on Hackenberg turning into Gardner 2013.
WTF WAS THAT
Timeouts, offsides, obvious incompletions momentarily ruled touchdowns: chaos!
TALKING BIG TEN WITH JAMIEMAC
Our podcast's Devin Gardner returns; we talk Northwestern moving forward, a new favorite in OSU/MSU, and again talk about how it was nice to win.
"Across 110th Street"
"Occam's Razor," Ocha De La Rocha
"MX Missiles," Andrew Bird
"Steven's Last Night In Town," Ben Folds Five
"Atomic Dog," George Clinton
THE USUAL LINKS
Bow wow wow yippee yo yippee yay
Bow wow yippee yo yippee yay
video via the mgoboard
Bow wow wow yipp—GOTDAMN
Dennis Norfleet is a national treasure. Devin Funchess is terrifyingly good at football. Much, much more from this game—including multiple Devin Gardner Aneurysms of Leadership and the referee's priceless reaction to Brady Hoke's inexplicable end-of-half timeout—follow after the jump.
[AFTER THE JUMP, ONE STADIUM UNDER A GROOVE]
10/11/2014 – Michigan 18, Penn State 13 – 3-4, 1-2 Big Ten
OONTS OONTS OONTS OONTS
Songs designed for da club have one over-arching theme: tonight. Buy another drink, raise it to the sky. The OONTS OONTS commands you. Feel the beat. The beat is inside you. Tonight is going to be a good night, says the worst song ever written. The people around you accept this and so do you. Your sky-drink is empty. You are commanded to buy another. The OONTS OONTS doesn't care if you vote or do your homework or wake up tomorrow with a gremlin jackhammering at your temple. It commands you to see only what is in front of you now.
What is in front of us now is a lady named Victory. She is… well… she's a little ragged. Makeup's smeared; eyes are a little twitchy; you don't want to know the Vegas over/under on how many times she will throw up in the cab. Because she will do that, in the cab. Because there is going to be a cab.
Tonight, we go home with Victory.
Michigan put it all aside. There is no one to credit here; I found out a long time ago that pushing large groups of people in a direction is impossible. To lead is to find yourself at the head of a tidal wave hoping it won't notice your tiny course corrections. The people are the direction.
And except for a third of the student section that was momentarily absent because of malice or apathy—impossible to tell—the people showed up, were as into it as can be expected of people watching two cows rub against each other threateningly, and were happy to win.
After the game a section in the south endzone unfurled a section-wide FIRE BRANDON banner; that was about right. Michigan fans have for the most part held their fire on players, held their fire for the portions of games in which Michigan can win. When things get out of hand or are just intolerably incompetent on the staff's part, they let their feelings be known. They have in fact been as good as an enormous amorphous mass of pissed-off people can be at aiming before firing.
They're still mad, because they should be. This kind of win over this kind of team is just more of the same, and the athletic director's futile gestures towards humanity are the definition of too little, too late. But tonight is tonight and tomorrow can be dealt with later.
Devin Gardner put it all aside. A guy who'd been moved to wide receiver because the coaching staff thought more highly of Russell Bellomy. A guy whose ribs are a fine paste after last year. A guy who got benched for Shane Morris because the coaches had lost faith in him. There is a guy to credit here.
He's going to be a footnote, now, no question. All hopes and dreams of being a towering colossus have fled. He won't have Navarre's redemption story, and unless something deeply bizarre happens he won't have an OSU win. Ten years down the road mention Devin Gardner and most Michigan fans will wince involuntarily and offer sympathy.
This is especially cruel on the heels of his predecessor. Denard was a tragic hero but he got his OSU win, his BCS bowl, and anyone still trying to be disappointed with him after what happened when he left is certifiable. Ask a Michigan fan about him in ten years and it's different. A lot different.
But that's tomorrow, and tonight the guy who's had his leadership questioned since he arrived is going full Novak on his sideline to WIN THIS FUCKING GAME. He limped out on the field because that's just what he does. Probably can't even throw right unless several different areas of his body are telling him to go to the spa immediately. Rod Gilmore's screaming that he shouldn't be in the game because Rod Gilmore is incapable of telling a head from a leg—not that we are at all surprised by this revelation—and Devin Gardner is just like I put my heart in this shit.
Heart only gets you so far. It gets you to a narrow win over a Penn State team starting a broken vacuum and a Teddy Roosevelt biography at guard. We appear to have a vicious all-day hangover scheduled in two weeks. But that's for tomorrow.
Tonight, we are in a cab and squinting and feeling pretty okay, because we've got something to hang on to.
DEVIN GARDNER I PUT MY HEART IN THIS SHIT POINTS OF THE WEEK.
1: Devin Gardner.
2: Dennis Norfleet.
3: Devin Gardner again.
[After THE JUMP: don't start thinking about tomorrow. Oh no we did.]