Hockey pet peeve: "when a teammate tips a puck in on you, which is exactly how my first collegiate goal against happened. Thanks, Copper."
It could happen?
Red Berenson has two years left on his contract and says this will be his last one. Speculation about his replacement has been rife. Veritably so. Folks around the program have been chattering about Red Wings coach Mike Babcock taking over for a few years now, primarily Michael Spath at the Wolverine but also from guys at the Daily:
— Mark J. Burns (@markjburns88) April 29, 2014
Despite the chatter, the idea a sought-after NHL coach would take the pay and prestige cut to pilot a college program has always been a "pull the other one, it has bells on" kind of thing. I have believed that people around the Michigan hockey program believe the thing about Babcock without really believing it myself.
That opinion is undergoing a bit of a shift.
Yesterday, a press conference sent the Michigan hockey blogosphere into a tizzy, and today fuller articles hit the News and MLive. While the comment about being Red's assistant is clarified as a joke by MLive. The fuller picture contained therein is one of a guy who seems to have a plan that involves having a job that's not necessarily with the Red Wings.
“I do want him back. I think we work good together.”
Coach, after mentally crossing out the word "good" and replacing it with "well":
Babcock, who turned 51 on Tuesday, said it was “no priority whatsoever” to get a new deal, adding “I doubt it” when asked if he’d talk extension.
That has to be unprecedented: a coach openly stating he doesn't care about a new contract. Charlie Weis is still getting paid, you guys.
Unfortunately, in context the quote about "definitely" staying in Detroit is just about next year, because he's got a daughter who's a senior in high school.
“My daughter’s going into her Grade 12 year. I’m either going to be the coach of the Red Wings or I’ll be Red’s assistant coach for a year,” Babcock said. “For sure I’m staying in Detroit. I haven’t thought about going anywhere else.”
So don't read too much into that.
Still, in marked contrast to a GM who says he'll discuss an extension with the club Babcock is talking about a year-to-year deal after this season. That is the kind of thing you do when you have something else in mind. It may be a temporary thing or he may be looking for a change of scenery to another NHL club. It is a concrete step towards Babcock at Yost, and as such gives the chatter out of Ann Arbor a credence it lacked yesterday.
I assume it goes without saying that locking down a guy who voluntarily left the Red Wings after a decade would be the coup to end all coups.
I think it's really happening. Mike Babcock-to-Michigan rumors have just been turned up to 11:
Mike Babcock says not worried about negotiating for extension, will either remain coach of Red Wings or be assistant at U of M/ Berenson
— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) April 29, 2014
That is quite a statement: "eh, if I don't continue to coach one of the most storied franchises in the NHL I'll just go be Red's assistant." If Michigan sticks to the plan that would be a one-year apprenticeship before the job came open.
Oh really. Paging Captain Renault: Mitch McGary's drug test won't impact his draft stock.
"No, not really, because you know what, probably 70 percent of the league does that (smokes marijuana)," the scout told MLive, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
But what about the spirit of sport, NBA? What about the spirit of sport?
"Appropriate." Matt Hayes walks up to the unionization issue on a tee and takes a Casey-like swing:
So if we’re going to do this; if we’re going to call athletes employees (or whatever you want to call them) and expand benefits and increase their ability to market and make money off themselves, the consequences for violating rules must be swift and appropriate.
Gone are the days where Troy Smith can take $500 from a booster, sit out a bowl game, get reinstated and two years later finish his career by winning the Heisman Trophy.
If you take $500 from a booster now, you lose eligibility. Permanently.
Hayes, prone on the ground, cartoon birds circling his head. The tee, untouched.
The average Troy Smith is still going to get the money, but will not be punished. Ramping up penalties for infractions that 99% of offenders will not get caught for is like throwing people in jail for speeding.
I mean, who cares? Who cares that Troy Smith now has 500 dollars? Level playing field, you say?
Gone are the days of second, third and fourth chances as it relates to— take your pick— arrests (and convictions), academic failure, failed drug tests (performance enhancing or recreational), or any behavior that harms a university’s reputation.
Let me just direct you to the quote above about Mitch McGary. Or, you know, society. The society in which those first time arrests and convictions generally result in probation or diversion so that people can have a second chance. If people were held to the standards Matt Hayes is advocating for newly professional-ish college athletes, unemployment would run around 50% and include Matt Hayes.
Let's goooooo. The News profiles now-critical Mark Donnal, collecting the various encouraging quotes about him that have been dropping in the past couple months:
“He’s definitely displayed a couple of specific skill sets,” Alexander said. “Mark is a tremendous passer, both in traffic and on the perimeter. His shooting range makes him a capable and reliable pick-and-pop jump shooter on the perimeter.
“He has a great face-up game in the post. The thing he discovered through added strength is the ability to rebound the ball in traffic.”
With sufficient three-point range to drag posts out to the perimeter, Michigan's post guys are liable to find shotblockers absent when they get by their guys. It'll be interesting to see what happens Walton and LeVert's shooting percentage at the rim when Donnal is out there providing Beilein his first shooting five since his arrival in Ann Arbor. I'm more concerned about his defense and rebounding—by the end there, Jordan Morgan was in beast mode.
Bacari is at least making the right noises about where he's headed:
“The thing that really excites me as his position coach is that nasty edge that he brings to the table, as well.”
He also has an interesting quote about how at Michigan "you are who you can guard," and the offense takes care of itself. Donnal will start at the five—out of necessity now—and has some ability to move out to the four as he "continues to improve his conditioning and lateral quickness." Given the composition of Michigan's roster the next couple years it doesn't seem like he'll be spending much, if any, time at the 4.
How much thing X irritates coaches, officially. Michigan's defensive grading system seems a little out of whack to me:
Like… forcing a fumble—hit the ballcarrier with enough force to make him drop the ball—is way harder than recovering one—get lucky, fall down. And what counts as a "missed tackle"? Missed tackles come in all shapes and sizes: you can let someone outside of you for a huge gain, which is super super bad, or you can not quite get a guy down but delay him enough that the cavalry rallies to stop him a yard after you would have. I'm guessing that latter probably counts as a tackle and the former gets a CRITICAL ERROR added to it.
Even so, it seems like "missed assignment" is the worst of all possible things. Missed assignments are touchdowns waiting to happen. When I do the UFRs some guy doing something that doesn't make any sense gets a serious downgrade and most of the coach types who have commented seem to agree with that assessment.
But being a coach is always a compromise between what you actually think in your head and what you think is the best way to get 85 guys doing a complicated thing well. See: the entire concept of "coachspeak." Or "Devin Gardner might start."
Just don't advertise it during games. Michigan Stadium is now open for prom:
Michigan Stadium is getting ready for prom season as part of a push to use the home of Wolverines football for more events during the offseason.
About 230 students from Durand High School, about 45 miles northwest of Ann Arbor, will take the field May 10 — the first time the Big House has hosted a prom, The Ann Arbor News reported (http://bit.ly/1mQvHXn ). And Dexter High School's prom is there May 17.
Hooray incremental revenue, as long as incremental revenue is not flogged at my ears during the games. See also: weddings, facebook, twitter, nonrevenue sports.
Everywhere, all the time. Ramzy on Ohio State's version of creating the future is worth your time:
Ohio State does not belong to you. You just happen to work there at this moment - you're stewards for a rich inheritance you're passing along to someone else that no one will ever cash. That's what Ohio State is. You did not build this brand. You can only damage or improve it.
And you should find as many ways as possible to give it away for free. Businesses do this all the time because it gives them a great return and it's terrific exposure for future buyers. Future buyers. This is where we talk about the children who don't have wealthy parents or opportunities to embark on a wallet-crushing fall Saturday in Ohio Stadium.
Also in this genre is a post from Get The Picture, a Georgia blog:
It’s not like money is a problem in Athens. It’s just that there seems to be little thought to spending it in a way that makes the fan base content. I think back to the shameful way North Campus was treated before Michael Adams had his hissy fit and essentially shut down the tailgate experience; much of that could have been resolved with better security, more restroom facilities and a reasonable amount of attention paid to trash removal. None of that is exactly back-breaking from a financial standpoint for a school with Georgia’s resources. It’s just that no one in a position to improve things could be bothered with it. And that’s a story you could repeat in many other ways.
Instead, we’re offered enhanced wi-fi, ever more intrusive piped in music and goofy sideshows like yesterday’s mascot abomination as a solution. But I don’t weigh the prospect of live attendance on the basis of my short-term attention span. The home experience is about greater comfort and convenience. I don’t wait to go to the kitchen for a drink, my bathroom smells nice and I can always find a place to park. This is the lesson I’m afraid McGarity and his AD peers are missing. I want what I got yesterday – a feeling that the money I’m shelling out is somehow being spent to benefit my experience in a way that gives me what I have at home, while making me feel glad I came.
I also recommend the comments, this one in particular:
UGA AA for so long thought that buying a ticket was the only way to gt a good view. Then 27 inch crt color television gave ay to 60′ HD home theaters and the Butts-Mehre suits haven’t yet figured out how to compete without creating something to sell.
Georgia fans are basically the Michigan fans of the SEC and they're experiencing the same things, albeit with less of a swoon with their football program. The comparison they're making here is to the Masters, which is a fantastic example of an organization successfully creating a culture of otherness that makes it in fact special. While that comes with costs—see women and minority membership—they're holding onto their fanbase because they make it feel good to be a fan. I can't say I remember the last thing Michigan did that was a step in that direction.
That reminds me of a thing I think I failed to relate when it happened: before the Nebraska game this year I was walking to my family's tailgate. As I neared the stadium the jumbotron was showing me the previous week's game… against Michigan State. Devin Gardner got annihilated and intercepted and I was like "feels bad, man."
It was the previous week's Not Michigan Replay, it turned out, and I just thought to myself "is there literally no one in the athletic department with the common sense to not show Michigan fans highlights of a game in which they rushed for –48 yards?" People are just in charge of things for no reason.
The ultimate Pandora's Box question. Oh, man. As scaremongering anti-union/reform questions go, this is the best/worst:
Could boosters treat recruiting like the Wild West?
oh no what would that look like
Etc.: Why the O'Bannon case is a duel to the death. At least everyone hates the way the McGary thing went down. More evidence that Michigan's upper reaches are inappropriately secretive. Jordan Morgan report card. Talking with Ricky Doyle. The Big Ten basketball powerhouse.
Gardner's implied question is the same we're all asking [Fuller]
The 2014 football season hinges on whether the offensive line can go from one of the worst in the country to just mediocre. We've mentioned the downsides: it has to replace two NFL tackles. The upside is an offensive coordinator who plans to simplify the things they'll have to do, a ton of talent, and rather good excuses for why the bulk of guys weren't so good (youth compounded by panicky/insane coaching decisions). The competence of coaches replaced, arriving, or remaining can't be determined until they play, so guesses at their 2014 performance have to be extrapolated from what we know of the current players and the typical progression of men like them.
When Michigan was still putting together those 2012 and 2013 classes I looked over the history of our offensive linemen going back to the mid-'90s, because my memory before that is weak.
|Year in program|
|Not on team||1||6||13||17||29|
|% Solid +||1%||11%||21%||29%||37%|
The results were the growth chart below. I've reproduced it with updated data from 2013:
Really it's more specific than the above. If you're the backup to Steve Hutchinson in 2000 you could be pretty solid or terrible, but if you were an interior lineman on the 2013 team and hale and still couldn't crack the depth chart, you were obviously not good at that point. One thing working in our favor is Michigan has historically brought in offensive line classes rated about as highly as the recent crops. If you tried this with MSU over the same period there would be stretches of 2-stars (and, um, personal issues) to throw off the numbers.
A more precise way to show where our OL are at this point is to find closer comparisons to historic players at this point in their careers. I couldn't figure out a good way to show "tracks" before, but I think I've learned enough about table html now to make a crude flow chart. Sample sizes are way too small to say "Kalis will be X good by Y season," but if you can read it to say "At that age, Steve Schilling and Patrick Omameh were both about where Kalis is now." Usefulness is better at capping expectations: you can always say so-and-so was a backup at this point, but Miller's not going to be Molk.
|Not on team (x)||TransferRS||Backup||Solid||Star||Jonathan Goodwin|
|Solid||Star||Star||Jansen, Hutchinson, Backus, Long, Lewan|
|Star||Star||David Brandt, David Baas|
|Solid||Star||Tony Pape, Adam Kraus, Schofield|
|Liability||Solid||Frazier, Petruziello, Bihl, Ortmann|
|Liability||David Moosman, Perry Dorrestein|
|Backup||Ben Mast, Courtney Morgan|
|Backup||Solid||Kurt Anderson, Leo Henige|
|Backup||N. Parker, Denay, Kolodziej, McAvoy|
|Unrenewed||Partchenko, Potts, Christopfel, Gaston, DeBenedictis, Ciulla, Gallimore, Khoury|
|Injuries||Zirbel, Mossa, Sharrow, Brooks, Schifano, C. Bryant, Tannous, A.Brown, Simelis, Berishaj, C.Pace|
|Transfers||Ries, Moltane, Zuttah, Wermers, O'Neill, Posada|
[Discussion after the jump]
With Signing Day and spring practice in the rearview mirror, Michigan's roster should remain basically intact until fall and possibly beyond. With the media cottoning on to the enormous hole in the roster created by the last Rodriguez and hybrid Rodriguez/Hoke/Process classes, it's time to update Attrition Watch.
A last look at Rodriguez's first full class. Starter-level contributors are italicized; (sometimes projected) NFL draft picks bolded.
Jeremy Gallon, Justin Turner, Taylor Lewan
Played Out Eligibility: Will Campbell, Craig Roh, Denard Robinson, Vincent Smith, Brandin Hawthorne, Jeremy Gallon, Taylor Lewan, Quinton Washington, Michael Schofield, Cam Gordon, Fitz Toussaint, Thomas Gordon, Brendan Gibbons
Didn't Take Fifth Year(1): Mike Jones.
Transferred for PT (3): Vlad Emilien, Je'Ron Stokes, Isaiah Bell
Academics/Not Being Nice (3): Justin Turner, Tate Forcier, Adrian Witty
Injury (1): Teric Jones
Left Football: N/A
This class lost a little bit of its luster every time Toussaint tried to pick up a blitz, but this is still a class you can do excellent things with as long as you surround it with other talent. It features two bookend NFL tackles, the season receiving yardage record-holder, Denard Robinson(!), and six to eight other important contributors. Your 11-2 blip is built around these guys.
DOOOOOOOOOOM! Your Freep class.
Dorsey, Gardner, Vinopal
Enrolled (3): Devin Gardner, Jake Ryan, Will Hagerup
Did Not Take Fifth Year(2): Richard Ash, Jordan Paskorz
Played Out Eligibility(4): Jeremy Jackson, Drew Dileo, Jibreel Black, Courtney Avery.
Transferred for PT (6): Ricardo Miller, Cullen Christian, Marvin Robinson, Carvin Johnson, Jerald Robinson, Ray Vinopal
Academics/Not Being Nice (5): Demar Dorsey, Antonio Kinard, Austin White, Davion Rogers, Conelius Jones
Injury (3): Terry Talbott, Terrance Talbott, Christian Pace
Left Football (3): Ken Wilkins, DJ Williamson, Stephen Hopkins
Nothing miserably bad has happened to this already miserably bad class since August. Will Hagerup has hung on to a roster spot; Ash departed after getting his degree, as did Paskorz. That leaves three of 27 players on the roster, including the starting QB and most dynamic player the defense has.
That is of course horrendous, and about 80% of the blame should be heaped upon Rich Rodriguez. Rodriguez struck out on tight ends and OL left and right during this period, compounding that issue with some horrible talent evaluation—of the guys who left early, only Ray Vinopal has made any kind of impact at a BCS school.
Baumgardner's article comes with a depressing Big Ten retention rate chart showing Michigan at the bottom at 26%; three teams are tied at 40% for next worst: Minnesota (coaching change), Penn State (holistic program implosion), and Indiana (coaching change, is Indiana). No one else has lost more than half their class; Northwestern leads the way at 82% with MSU second.
Frank Clark 50 pounds ago, Chris Barnett, Tony Posada
This was the hybrid RR/Hoke class in which Hoke found himself with three weeks to pile ten guys in. Late Hoke pickups are denoted with H.
Enrolled (11): Justice Hayes(H), Brennen Beyer, Raymon Taylor(H), Blake Countess, Delonte Hollowell, Frank Clark(H), Desmond Morgan, Russell Bellomy(H), Keith Heitzman (H), Jack Miller, Matt Wile(H)
*[Bryant actually committed after Hoke was hired but had been favoring Michigan so long that Rodriguez deserves the credit there.]
Transferred for PT (2): Tamani Carter(H), Thomas Rawls(H).
Academics/Not Being Nice (2): Chris Barnett(H), Kellen Jones
Injury (2): Antonio Poole(H), Chris Bryant.
Left Football (3): Chris Rock (basically: is walk-on at OSU now), Greg Brown, Tony Posada.
Rawls and Bryant are added to the dead list here; the Bryant departure leaves the OL count from the 2010 and 2011 classes at a whopping one, Jack Miller. Rawls was a signing-day reach who represented Peak Fred Jackson as Michigan scrambled after the process; Bryant was a three/four star borderline OL who needed to take a lot of weight off, much like Posada. Posada showed up for a cup of coffee; Bryant couldn't remain healthy enough to stay on the field, though he did start a few games in the middle of last year.
While this class is better than its predecessor it represents the bulk of the seniors on the roster. That's a problem when you've only got 11 of them and one is an offensive lineman. An attrition rate of 45% that could still go up is middling at best, something Michigan could not afford after the 2010 crater.
Redshirt sophomores and juniors.
Funchess, Henry, Kalis
Enrolled: Dennis Norfleet, Sione Houma, Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson, Devin Funchess, AJ Williams, Kyle Kalis, Blake Bars, Erik Magnuson, Ben Braden, Ondre Pipkins, Willie Henry, Matt Godin, Mario Ojemudia, Tom Strobel, Chris Wormley, Joe Bolden, Royce Jenkins-Stone, James Ross, Terry Richardson, Jarrod Wilson, Allen Gant, Jeremy Clark.
Injury(1): Kaleb Ringer.
Michigan still has all but one guy from Hoke's first class on the roster. The departure, Kaleb Ringer, had microfracture surgery and transferred to a lower level to play.
At this point there have to be a couple guys teetering on the edge of a transfer because they can't get on the two-deep—that kind of attrition is the sign of a healthy program, not a diseased one. It's worth noting that was Michigan super, super paranoid about bringing in anyone who looked like an academic risk in this class. That seemed like a reaction to the previous two recruiting efforts; now it appears to be just their standard.
Enrolled: 27 of 27.
Nobody from Hoke's second class has exited after one year.
Enrolled: 7 of 16 with the rest pending. There haven't been any whispers of academic issues except with kids Michigan ends up not getting, so it's likely the class arrives intact.
Michigan's picked up a commitment from NH SF/SG Aubrey Dawkins, a 6'4" sleeper sort just discussed in this afternoon's recruiting post. The son of Stanford coach and former Duke star Johnny Dawkins, he picked Michigan over Dayton and will come in this fall.
Informative update coming.
Dawkins has the kind of rankings you expect from a guy with a placeholder photo many places. 247 has him a three star and the #67 SG, Rivals an unranked three star. ESPN and Scout still have him a two-star member of the class of 2013.
Dawkins took a prep year, so much of his scouting is old. ESPN hasn't updated his profile since last February. What they saw then($):
…ideal frame for the scoring guard position with excellent length. He does a terrific job of facing up his opponent and blowing by him to get to the basket. … can knock down the 3-point shot and his release looks relatively smooth… must get better handling pressure while dribbling. His handle can get sloppy when defenders get into him-especially when he goes left. His jump shot is solid, but as he gets stronger it needs to get more consistent for the scoring guard position.
That is just about it for scouting reports before his prep year. The major sites didn't collect any this year, either, but fortunately the NE prep school scene has spawned a number of regional sites that track the various D-I players hanging around.
So we know Dawkins had a bust-out performance in February of this year in the NPSI tourney, which is apparently a thing where all the fancy pants schools draw sabres and joust. Three different outfits took note. NERR:
The six-foot-six post-graduate had all parts of his game clicking. He was hot from behind the arc and athletic in transition, but equally important was the level of energy he was able to provide his team on both ends of the floor. He finished with 28 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 steals.
…breakout performer over the weekend in Providence. Sporting a quality physique and playmaking abilities at the tin, the one question mark surrounding the North Carolina native has always been in his shot making from behind the arc. The son of Stanford head coach, Johnny Dawkins, the younger Dawkins erased all questions surrounding his long range attempt and in his final outing in Rhode Island, hit on four 3’s and at one time, had scored 28 of his squad’s 52 points. …definite mid-major plus recruit, at the very least.
And Cox Sports:
Aubrey Dawkins was perhaps most outstanding. The lanky big man can play all three perimeter positions, and has improved his outside shooting to the degree where burying the three pointer is expected when left open.
Adam Finklestein mentioned Dawkins first in the video accompanying that quote, speaking thusly:
He showed his length and athleticism that everybody knew about. Everybody knew he was a great defender. He handles and passes the ball well enough to play all three perimeter postions. But what was critical to his performance was how well he shot the ball from the three point line. That was the big question mark in his game, and he was virtually automatic with his feet set from downtown.
An athletic guard around 6'5" who can shoot and slash but isn't going to cross a dude over and get to the rim—sounds like your archetype there is Tim Hardaway, Jr. Dawkins has had plenty of time to get on radars and did not until very late, so don't expect freshman fireworks.
That said, he is legit bouncy.
While he's not GRIII, he's got the midair pause going on a few of those alley-oops. Also, he finishes with both hands in some seemingly awkward ways.
A guy with good size and athleticism flying under the radar implies a lack one outstanding skill that puts him in recruitable Bin A or B or C. If you ask him about himself he claims to be a jack of all trades:
“I think my game is an all around game. I don’t think I do anything especially good. I do a lot of things well. Taking it to the basket, shooting from outside, high IQ, value the ball, athletic. I think that about sums it up. Make the best play, not settle for outside shots, take contested shots, do anything I can to win really.
He told Dayton's Rivals site the same thing nearly word for word($).
Scouting video put together by UMHoops shows a guy who can attack off closeouts but the one time he's asked to straight-up beat a guy in an iso situation (late shot clock) it looks awkward and ends up in a turnover. On the other hand, his shooting looks at least serviceable in this small sample size; have to figure Beilein can make him decent or better.
FWIW, Dawkins is self reporting he is 6'6", 185. He's reported anywhere from 6'4" to 6'6"; if he has added an inch or two that would be nice.
In high school, Dawkins averaged 19 and 7 for a team that sometimes did things like score 25 points in an entire game (17 of those were from Dawkins).
At New Hampton, Dawkins averaged about 13 points a game, which led the team. Prep stats can be funky, as those teams are often loaded with multiple D-I prospects. Mitch McGary had trouble even starting for his despite being Mitch McGary.
Michigan's main competition for Dawkins was Dayton, the A-10 squad that just reached the Elite Eight. He had a number of other low-major offers. Rhode Island, another A-10 school, also apparently offered. Nevada was interested.
If you're wondering why Dawkins didn't play for his father, he was direct about that before his senior year at Palo Alto:
“It’s a hard school to get into; I don’t care how good you are, you’ve got to have the grades to get in. I’m not going to go there.”
All right then.
In addition to the clips above, here are some highlights from Dawkins's prep year:
You can watch a replay of one of Dawkins's NPSI games for one dollar here.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
With Michigan's two wing slots thoroughly occupied this fall, Dawkins will compete with MAAR for minutes behind Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin, and then again with MAAR and any 2015/2016 recruits when LeVert and/or Irvin heads to the draft… at least at the SG spot. Michigan may go with Kam Chatman or Cole Huff at the 3, should Huff commit.
As a coach's kid with a nice frame, Dawkins has the potential to be a nice 3-and-D wing for Michigan with an upside similar to THJ's, minus an inch or two of height and vertical.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan has one spot left and looks set to spend that on Nevada transfer Cole Huff. If things break down with Huff they would likely bank it for next year unless they really want a 4 or 5 to come in right now. If they're willing to take a transfer who has to sit it appears that need is not severe.
Hey MGoBlog team,
Thought it might be fun to list what would reasonably need to happen on order for Michigan to have a B1G division championship season. I've got: dramatically improved interior OL play, inferior outside OL replacements that still perform above expectations, better QB decision making (fewer interceptions), adequate WR replacements for graduating seniors, improved DL play, and status quo the rest of the way. Follow up question is, what are the odds of these things happening and can we see any historic examples of these sorts of improvements in just one year? Or are we just screwed and should hibernate until basketball season?
Uh. Let me blow the dust off my optimism beanie, place it upon my pate, and spin the propellor.
I feel… marginally better. All right, let's tackle this. If Michigan's going to win the division they have to at least split their dual road games against MSU and OSU and then hope misfortune befalls the one they lose to a couple times. Oh, and beat Penn State and Northwestern and not, like, blow it against Rutgers and Minnesota.
How do they do that? Probably the same way they beat Notre Dame and nearly beat Ohio State last year: Devin Gardner playing like the baby of Denard and Tom Brady. The run game is just not going to be good enough to rely upon. Things that need to happen:
Magnuson and Braden are at least okay. Or Cole or whoever ends up playing tackle.
The interior line is not a complete shamocracy, and someone can pick up a blitz. Reducing bad decisions from the quarterback is at least 50% on reducing the number of opportunities to make bad decisions under pressure.
Gardner increments. 8.6 YPA, 450 yards against OSU, 60% completions… Gardner does not have to go particularly far to be B10 championship quality even if he has a heavy burden.
The defensive line can hold up against mean ol' OLs. The DL wasn't an enormous problem until Ondre Pipkins went down and Ohio State's terrible matchup came to town. With Henry back and still on an improvement kick and the losses eminently sustainable (Washington inexplicably did not play as much as he did as a junior and Black was way, way out of position by year's end) plus Michigan's initial DL rush starting to bear fruit, improvement here is likely.
Pass rush has to exist, in a serious fashion. I'd be more comfortable about this if Ryan was still your edge threat and Clark was bookending him. As it is, increments from Beyer and Clark plus added aggression also seem to bode well here.
A competent safety has to be found opposite Wilson. Your guess as good as mine.
Probabilities: dodgy, very dodgy, likely, likely, 50/50. If you told me the OL would be like a C+ I'd actually be pretty positive about this season… but man, that's a long way to go from an F-, down Lewan and Schofield.
Wait you think this was on purpose?
Dave Brandon isn't a terrible negotiator, he seems to get what he wants, so presumably he wanted this home schedule. Is the point so that we alternate between having all of our difficult games away one year, then having them all at home the next? That way every other year we presumably have a great run that gets us to the B1G championship? The easy early games are obvious schedule padding...
Dave [ed: not Brandon]
I am taken aback by the idea Dave Brandon is a sly fox who always gets his way. It's true the first thing he had to tackle—stretchgate—was seemingly done with aplomb, but in retrospect since the USC case the NCAA hasn't done anything to anybody of note that didn't involve 1) multiple lies from the head coach about NCAA violations or 2) horrible horrible felonies. You or I could have piloted Michigan to a slap on the wrist once the various improprieties turned out to be 15 minutes of extra stretching and grad assistants looking in on summer practices.
- Michigan hired Brady Hoke, possibly because negotiations with Jim Harbaugh went poorly. That "all that glitters is not gold" line from the press conference lingers as bitterness over those negotiations breaking down.
- Michigan gave Brady Hoke a top ten contract when he was not in demand anywhere else and said he'd walk to Michigan.
- Michigan and Ohio State got stuck in opposite divisions with a crossover game, thus guaranteeing that Michigan would have the hardest schedule in their division over time had they lasted.
- Michigan played Alabama for less than they would get for a home game. The head-staving by Alabama made no financial sense, as Michigan traded a huge TV event and a game with ticket prices that were 50-100% higher than home game tickets for an outlay parsimonious enough that bringing the band was a big problem.
- Michigan wore a series of clowniforms. Fan pushback was so severe on this that they have dialed it back out of necessity. Meanwhile, Michigan can't even get uniforms that are, you know, uniform from Adidas.
- Notre Dame cancelled the Michigan series. They punked Brandon along the way, blindsiding him and getting themselves the last home game in the series after getting the first when the teams resumed.
- Michigan gave Al Borges a 300k raise. I mean. Gotta retain that guy.
- Michigan replaced Notre Dame with Arkansas. Look at future MSU and OSU schedules, which feature Oregon and Alabama and Oklahoma and Texas, for comparison.
- Michigan got stuck with MSU and OSU away in the same year. Not only that, they get to travel to MSU twice in a row.
- Michigan couldn't get Mitch McGary's suspension reduced. OSU DE Noah Spence is going to miss three games for testing positive for X or something like it, this after an appeal that reduced the punishment from a whole year. Meanwhile, the NCAA reduced the penalty for McGary's transgression two weeks after he received it. Michigan still got rejected by the NCAA.
With rights fees negotiated by the league, Brandon's main accomplishment as AD has been to raise ticket prices. Any bro in a suit could have done this. Any time he's had to interact with another human in an effort to protect Michigan's best interest or bottom line he's either lost or not even tried. (Night games are not an accomplishment. Networks aren't like "Michigan at night… pshaw." Michigan had been actively resisting them for years.)
His biggest negotiation wins are things that are nice for the bottom line but don't actually have any impact long term. And they're probably attributable more to the capacity of Michigan Stadium than anything else: the Winter Classic and this upcoming Man U-Real Madrid friendly.
So. While it's possible Dave Brandon wanted this home schedule—after all, he is personally responsible for the Horror II—it's more likely he just got run over by the Big Ten, because that's how things go. Things make much more sense if you think of Dave Brandon as Lucille Ball than as Gordon Gekko.
Has Michigan been the victim of B.S. penalties by the NCAA more than any other program?
...at least for the last decade? Specifically, I am thinking about the two obvious instances, which are 'Practicegate' and the recent McGary clusterf---. Both of these seems ludicrously disproportional in the severity of punishment compared to the actual crime. To compound matters, you don't need to look very far to see far more egregious punishment (e.g. Jameis Winston, Johnny Manziel, etc) go completely unchecked.
Of course, the other nuance to this is that Michigan seems to be doing it to themselves. If they didn't so willingly 'play ball' and try to be as open and transparent as possible, would they even be in some of these messes? It seems to me the days of trying to play by the rules is long gone, and if the NCAA isn't even going to attempt to maintain an ounce of consistency, why would Michigan continue to get hammered while most others skate by?
But in all seriousness, has Michigan been the most unlucky/attacked program by the NCAA compared to the actual transgressions that have occurred?
In terms of proven allegations versus what appears to be the standard, USC would have an excellent case just on the strength of a recent NCAA punishment docket that looks like this:
1. Penn State, pre-softening
3. Penn State, post-softening
1,000,005. Jim Tressel lying to the NCAA at least four times about illegal Terrelle Pryor benefits
1,000,006. North Carolina not even really being a college for its students.
Michigan's stretch-gate crap was essentially nothing but bad PR. Given the way that went down and how the Freep creeps knew exactly what to FOIA it is extremely likely that was an inside job. By the time the NCAA got done with that they were specifically calling out the original article as sensationalized and inaccurate. The punishment was something like a 2% reduction in practice time and the loss of a grad assistant or two. I have no problem with the results of that investigation. It was a joke that turned up some technical malfeasance and was treated as such.
The McGary thing is just terrible luck and the NCAA being the dumbest organization on the planet. Plenty of other athletes have gotten nailed for Violating The Special Spirit Of Sport.
As to your point about not playing ball and just cheating your ass off because you'll get away with it… well, yeah. That is obviously the move. When the best team in the country is going into every year knowing they have to cut like ten guys before fall and it doesn't impact their recruiting, the way to the top is obvious: ruthlessness and lawlessness. By the book, USC probably got what they deserved. They feel aggrieved because almost literally everyone else is doing it and getting away with either nothing or minor penalties.
90% of the crap Michigan goes through they do to themselves. The NCAA is not the problem.