this may be of some local interest
[Ed-S: We asked SBW to cover one of the best teams in Michigan sports history. Previously: Postseason primer]
All photos from Bryan Fuller
The Ann Arbor regional featured one of the more noteworthy upsets of the opening weekend of the NCAA softball tournament. Fortunately for Michigan, it didn’t happen to us. The Maize & Blue marched through the regional with relative ease, not quite hitting on all cylinders, but never seriously threatened either. Before looking ahead to the upcoming super-regional showdown with the Missouri Tigers, let’s take a quick look back at how Michigan became one of 16 teams in the nation lucky enough to go to practice this week.
The Wolverines started the weekend off against a Valparaiso team still trying to figure out just how they found their way into the tournament in the first place. With a record well below .500, the Horizon League tournament champions were one of the strangest sights in regional play in years. Michigan didn’t wait long to get on the board, with senior super-star Sierra Romero lining what’s known in Ann Arbor as a “Rom-Bomb” over the wall in the first inning. In addition to giving Michigan an early lead, the solo shot gave Romero her 300th career RBI. The Wolverines added a couple more in the 2nd, but were not able to fully solve Valpo’s pitching until the 5th inning, when all Hell broke loose. 5 singles earned Michigan 3 runs and brought about a pitching change. The change didn’t help, as the relief pitcher walked the next three batters on only 14 pitches to drive in the game-ending runs. Megan Betsa was majestic in the circle, ceding just one hit and one walk while piling up 9 Ks in the 8-0 run-rule walkover.
On Saturday, Michigan was expecting a tougher challenge, and they got one from an unexpected source. Instead of the presumptive challenger Notre Dame, the Maize & Blue had to square off against Miami (NTM), who had upset the Irish with a controversial 3-2 win on Friday. Betsa was again phenomenal, but the story of the early part of the game was Redhawks hurler Amber Logemann, who didn’t allow a hit until the 4th inning. In the 4th, though, Michigan showed a tendency familiar to anyone who watched the 2015 NCAA tournament. A good pitcher can get through Michigan’s order once, maybe twice. After that, though, the offense starts to lock in on tendencies & weaknesses, and the runs can come in bunches. 2 runs in the 4th led to 4 more in the 6th, and Michigan finally had the breathing room they wanted. Hutch took advantage of the extra cushion, resting ace Megan Betsa for the rest of the game. After a wobbly start put runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs, Driesenga retired the next 6 batters she faced on 6 consecutive ground-outs, securing a 6-0 win.
To no one’s surprise, the Irish shook off their Friday funk and emerged from the losers’ bracket to face Michigan in the regional final on Sunday. The Irish have seen their season end in Ann Arbor again and again in recent years, and would need to take 2 in a row from #2 Michigan to avoid the same fate in 2016. Sierra Romero sent a message early on that the “luck of the Irish” wasn’t going to apply in Ann Arbor, getting her money’s worth on her 300th career hit, launching a first-inning long ball for the 2nd time on the weekend (the blast was also good for her 299th career run scored, extending her own NCAA record). Another Sierra home run, this one from Sierra Lawrence, put Michigan up 2-0, but an unexpected blast from Irish lead-off hitter Karley Wester trimmed the lead back down to 1. Again it took a few innings for Michigan’s bats to acquire target-lock, but when the Irish gifted Romero 1st base on an error to start the 5th, the Wolverines were determined to take advantage. A bunt single & a walk loaded the bases, and singles from Aidan Falk and Lindsay Montemarano stretched the lead to 6-1. The Irish would get one back in the 6th, but never seriously threatened to catch up to the heavy favorites.
On the weekend, Michigan outscored their opponents a combined 20-2. On a historical note, Sierra Romero joined the extremely exclusive 300/300 club (hits & RBIs), and moved to just one run away from creating an entirely new 300/300/300 club (hits, RBIs, & runs-scored). For a team of Michigan’s caliber, the victories were expected, and celebrations were moderate compared to scenes around the country. The Wolverines will not be satisfied with anything less than a trip to Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series, and they know that just one team stands between them and that goal.
[Hit THE JUMP for a Super-regional preview]
Michigan can't afford to lose their best back you say? [Upchurch]
Following a good laugh over one of those offseason #content lists where they name random skill position players at recognizable schools, we thought maybe a real answer might be good for, you know, an offseason #content list. So:
So who IS Michigan's most irreplaceable starter?*
David: In most years, I think there would be a few clear-cut, shining star answers. And while Michigan’s ceiling would not be as high without some of its premiere talent, I’m not sure those particular players are the most irreplaceable. Let’s try a Top 3, this time…
1. Mason Cole. He’s played LT for 2 years and has done a very solid job despite not being ideally-sized for that position. Now, it appears he will be starting at center, which just tells you how much smart of a player he is. Michigan basically has four proven OL starters, one highly-rated probably starter, and a couple of depth guys that no one really knows how they’ll turn out. Losing Cole would mean that everyone more-or-less has to be a hit in their respective positions. That COULD happen…but will it? Ehhhhh…I don’t know. Losing anyone else on the OL and Cole can move if it would allow M to put its best five on the field.
2. John O’Korn. Ok, this miiiiiiight be a reach, but I’m going off of some potential and I get to be the guy on the staff that goes rogue sometimes. I do think that JOK has the highest ceiling on the team in a position that does not quite have the depth…yet. I think we still need one more season of injury-luck in this department before the options absolutely explode. There is still some uncertainty with him, obviously, but he’s shown the physical [in]tangibles to have some backing for what he can do…in addition to belief in QB development under Harbaugh. Plus, like mobility, etc. Perhaps Speight would be adequate –or even successful- enough, but I’m personally not sold, yet.
3. Jabrill Peppers. I’ve been arguing with a buddy about this spot for a while, now. What it came down to for me is that Peppers is the backup everything on this team. I actually believe if he had to play guard or weak-side end for a couple plays, he would hold his own. Seriously though, in addition to Peppers playing his 5 positions on the field where you know he’ll line up and be awesome, he could potentially take over a starting role at 3-4 of them and there would be very little drop off from the nominal starter. On most teams, Peppers would be the cornerstone of any defense. And while he is certainly important, this defense is SO deep that he do almost whatever is needed and not be depended on to do one certain responsibility…in addition to being to handle most single-position responsibilities. Get it?
[After the JUMP: offseason #content, plus Rashan Gary's hudl highlights are embedded again]
An irregular series in which I fix all of a sport's problems.
10. Get rid of the penalty for flipping the puck out when you're in the defensive zone. This is exactly icing and should be treated like icing. The only competition for worst rule in sports is what happens when a football player fumbles and the ball goes out of the endzone.
9. Non-shootout wins are three points. The NHL is the only league in any sport in the world in which some games are worth more than others. This is so very dumb. College hockey uses a model where you get three for actually winning a hockey game, two for winning a shootout, and one for losing it. It is not an offense to God and math.
8. Widen the blue line. The blue line is a lovely demilitarized zone that is both offensive zone and defensive zone, so you can touch it and not be offsides. The puck can touch it and not exit the zone. Both of these things are good. No offsides whistle in the history of hockey has improved the experience of a neutral fan. Widening the blue line reduces these whistles.
7. In fact let's get rid of offsides whistles (almost) entirely. Instead of stopping the game, you can just continue playing hockey. An offsides team can't score. Game continues. Once team ceases being offsides you can go score.
6. And add passive offsides. If you can't tell already, I hate offsides in hockey. It boggles that if one guy is offsides then everybody is. If you're on a rush and one guy is a hair over the line, he and only he is offsides. Let him tag up; let everyone else continue playing. If an offsides player does anything other than try to get onside, I guess you can blow the whistle, you game-stopping ninny. But if offsides guy is headed for the blue line, let him get there.
5. Gradually introduce Olympic ice. Olympic ice is a lot of fun, but currently impractical for buildings not set up with a 100-foot-wide sheet already. The NHL should force new buildings to be Olympic-sized, leading to a transitional period where some rinks are small and some are wide and there are all kinds of home/away effects, kind of like baseball. Also there will be an increasing number of big rinks on which standing a guy up at the blue line is super difficult and skill is more important. College hockey already has a number of Olympic sheets, and the transition is both jarring and fun.
4. Just embiggen the goals already. Goalies won. Whether it's equipment size or improved technique, the fundamental truth about hockey over the last 20 years is that goalies win and we give up and to restore the proper tension of a hockey game we're going to admit they win and tweak the size of the goal.
Most protests about this are luddite or ludicrous. One common protest is that expanding the goal invalidates records going forward. It does not, at least any more than the various equipment advances have done so. Ken Dryden versus any modern NHL goalie is QED here:
Dryden's pads are not only smaller but infested with mice and 10-20 pounds heavier. Also he doesn't know about the butterfly. Goalies win, expand the net by the width of the posts, all CLANG events now are goals, add 2-3 per game, it's a good time.
This is important. The current state of hockey is too close to baseball, which is dumbly random, because the goalies can cover up big differences in team quality.
3. A team doesn't clear the offensive zone until the puck gets over the red line. Michigan actually experimented with this in an exhibition a few years back. It was deeply weird but it rewarded teams who could actually get ahold of the puck in the defensive zone and increased the number of shifts where one team was scrambling around defensively and it felt like the team with the puck absolutely had to score.
2. Force teams to change goalies on the fly once a period. This would be awesome.
1. Teams have the option of putting a guy on the ice without skates. Offsides does not apply to him. Goals he scores count double. The thing that hockey has lacked for far too long is a broomball player. What does the world's best broomball player look like? I don't know. You don't know. We've waited far too long to find out.
Left to right: WMU’s Zach Terrell, Ohio’s Frank Solich, Kent State’s Terence Waugh
College football’s still a ways away, but now that we’re getting close to Memorial Day – when the national preview magazines start appearing at bookstores – we might as well take a look at the CFB landscape. While the sport’s third estate won’t receive as much ink as the superpowers and the playoff race, the mid-major conferences around the country are part of what makes college football so great. Now that the sport is divided into the Power 5 and Group of 5, there’s a decided hierarchy for the have-nots, but at least one of them is guaranteed a game against one of the big boys in a New Year’s Six Bowl. For the true college football fan, at least a cursory knowledge of the Group of 5 conferences is a must. Because of their regional proximity to the Big Ten, I’ll start with the MAC.
[article after the JUMP]
Vilain Shuts It Down
A few significant developments emerged from what was a strong recruiting weekend for Michigan. First and foremost is the optimism surrounding Michigan's chances with top-100 VA WDE Luiji Vilain following his weekend visit. Michigan has pursued Vilain, a Canadian import, since he was a freshman and Brady Hoke was still in charge, and they were one of the first Power 5 schools to get in on what's become a legitmately national recruitment. Sam Webb has a lengthy, free post on Vilain's reaction to his visit last weekend, and the Wolverines are in great shape:
“I came in with high expectations, but I was still pretty blown away,” said Vilain. “It was really good. Everything was different. The vibe as soon as I get there, I felt that it was different. There’s change. I guess that’s the Harbaugh effect.”
Webb issued one of his famous "gut feelings" about an unnamed recruit who will make his choice public in mid-June, and all signs point to Vilain, who told Sam that after last weekend he won't need to take any more visits before making his decision. After speaking with his parents and his trainer, he'll decide between Michigan, Virginia Tech, and USC. It would be a surprise if he didn't end up a Wolverine before the end of the June.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
|Wayne, NJ – 6'2", 286|
|Scout||3*, NR overall
|Rivals||3*, NR overall
NR SDE, #24 NJ
|ESPN||3*, NR overall
#48 DT, #15 NJ
|24/7||3*, #1261 overall
#76 DT, #36 NJ
|Other Suitors||PSU, Pitt, BC, Iowa, WVU|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Twitter. HS teammate of Kareem Walker.|
Michael Dwumfour is probably destined to be known as Rashan Gary’s sidekick for the duration of his career at Michigan. The two guys grew up together, played together their first couple years in high school, and remain good friends. Around the time of the UA game Sam Webb started dropping hints about a player down in Florida who Michigan might flip; said gentleman would supposedly lock Gary’s commitment down if the flip happened.
Because Sam is crafty like that he didn’t mention that the player in question wasn’t at the UA game but rather some other, obscure All-Star outing. This set off a wild goose chase that I certainly did not participate in. I was certainly not the cause of baseless threads about flipping Ole Miss five star Greg Little popping up months after the mystery man was revealed to be Dwumfour.
Anyway: despite a Penn State commitment and PSU’s outstanding success with lightly-recruited DTs over the past few years, Dwumfour may have to put up with a “Marsha Marsha Marsha” situation over the next few years. There are worse things.
Dwumfour doesn’t have a big time recruiting profile. Nobody offered him a fourth star or really anything close to it, and unlike a few guys already covered the ESPN scouting report more or less matches the ratings. They sum him up by saying that he “can contribute” to a Power 5 team “by at least offering quality depth to a rotation,” which is very much a meh three-star kind of destiny. The rest of the report is littered with caveats:
Possesses good bulk with thick base, but could have trouble adding any additional good mass without reworking body comp. … good playing strength and first-step quickness. … Demonstrates ability to come off ball with quick first step and good pad level and when he can win with quickness and leverage can hold ground. Flashes upper body strength to shed from blockers, but needs to continue to improve hand usage. … Can do a good job of attacking half-man and while he needs to refine usage can be very active with his hands. Displays adequate bull rush ability.
ESPN ranked Dwumfour higher than any other service by some distance. So of course there are more positive reports at the other sites, because sometimes the low end of the rankings is shruggie central.
Other reports focus on his proverbial get off. (No, guy in the comments who brings this up every time the term comes up, we aren’t doing “phrasing” anymore.) His 4.4 shuttle is impressive at Dwumfour’s size. The highlight film above features a lot of plays on which he shocks an OL and drives him back much like, yep, Maurice Hurst. His ability to bring the heat in just a step or two is a consistent theme of the more positive evaluations, including one from Don Brown himself:
Michael is very explosive, can separate on the double team and has good lateral movement.
Back when Brown was trying to get Dwumfour to BC they also focused on that first step:
"The day before I went up there they said they sat down and watched my film as a staff. My position coach specifically said he likes how I'm quick and explosive off the ball," he said.
Clint Brewster’s take is the most detailed on Dwumfour’s assets and future role:
I like how sudden he is off the ball for a player that’s around 300 pounds. He’s got the ability to shoot the gap between the center and the guard and penetrate the pocket. Dwumfour has the quickness to play the outside shade of the center or the inside shade of the guard and not just a nose-tackle. He’s got a really strong and well-built lower half that you like on an interior defensive tackle. He’s able to bull-rush offensive linemen or use the swim move to go around them.
Brewster actually named Dwumfour as a potential "instant impact" player when it came time to offer up Signing Day superlatives. That seems unlikely given the state of the defensive line and other reports about Dwumfour's to-date inconsistent motor, but it is an indicator that Brewster thinks he's an undervalued player.
So. Dwumfour isn't a zero-tech nose tackle who will occupy the sun and moon. He is the kind of gentleman who will shoot through a gap and blow up a run play in the backfield… or possibly a guy who will eat a double team and moonwalk backward when he doesn’t shoot that gap. Concerns about Dwumfour’s lack of gravitational pull pop up regularly. Scout has the ever-popular “size” as an an area for improvement:
… quick with his hands. He has explosion, but has a tendency to stand up quickly before accelerating forward. Once he explodes forward at the snap, he will become even more effective. Dwumfour has good strength and he plays with a low center of gravity, and he keeps his pad level low. He changes direction well and can make plays in space. At 6-foot-1, some schools make be hesitant to offer.
Lack of height is not actually a problem for interior DL. Lack of weight stemming from a lack of height is, and Dwumfour has had to add a bunch of it over the last couple years. Per Scout's Brian Dohn he was a 240-pound kid a couple years ago; he got to 280 or so without losing his quickness. That's a good sign for the last 20 or 30.
Other aspects of his game are not scouted consistently. He has good pad level, or he plays a little high. He's raw or he has excellent technique for a high school player. His hands are active and violent, or you’d “like to see him more assaulting.” He has size concerns or he “has the build to be a 300+ pound guy.” He’s a penetrating guy with a quick first step…
…easily the most impressive player at the camp from any day in my opinion. He was legitimately unblockable and Pitt offered on the spot.
“He’s not going to be an ‘every-play, go out and make a play’ guy. A successful play might be holding offensive linemen up to keep his linebackers clean. His responsibility may be to collapse the pocket so another guy can make the play. Success won’t always be making the tackle, but opening things up for another player.”
I’m not sure how much credence to lend Rivals’s Adam Friedman here since he talks about Dwumfour transitioning from DE to the interior. The Hudl film above is about 98% Dwumfour as a three-tech. Dwumfour is 6’2”, 280+. Nobody thinks he’s a candidate for any type of DE spot except apparently Rivals, which ranked him as an SDE. As a result the “Rivals analyst discusses prospect” article wastes a bunch of time engaging that positional designation, and concludes that he will have to move to DT. Which he has already moved to.
Anyway. A lot of the scouting reports seem tossed off or amateurish—Rutgers people are involved in the latter—and it's hard to get a solid read. His highlight tape is impressive, but short and tends towards filler at the end. Friedman refers to him as a "project" and I think that's accurate. When asked to scout himself a year ago, Dwumfour noted his athleticism and said he had to work on his stamina. Another year in the weight room, another year to refine his ability as a somewhat undersized interior DL, and then we'll see if the set of defensive coaches that went after him is a better indicator than the rankings.
Because the best argument in Dwumfour's favor is the set of defensive coaches who wanted him. Boston College was an early contender; Dwumfour initially decided between Pitt and Penn State. That's Don Brown, Pat Narduzzi, PSU's outstanding DL coach Sean Spencer, and Don Brown again—not bad.
Why Maurice Hurst? Hurst is almost exactly the same size as Dwumfour even deep into his college career—listed at 282 on his bio still, though I assume that will go up by fall camp—and was also regarded as a quick first step in human form. Hurst was higher regarded by the recruiting sites as a 3/4-star tweener, and his scouting reports were more consistently effusive about his ability to teleport into the backfield.
Some of Hurst’s limitations were exposed late in the year when opponents could double him without worrying about Glasgow: if successfully doubled he got blown off the ball. Dwumfour could have similar issues. If he does find himself at 300 or more after a couple years in the weight room, a couple of Michigan’s recent rangy NTs are also possible comparisons. If he scrapes the ceiling of his potential he could be in the same vein as a Glasgow or a Mike Martin. Neither are bighuge NT types; both hold up to doubles just fine and get through gaps with regularity.
Guru Reliability: Low-plus. Healthy player on a team that featured Kareem Walker and was thus well-scouted. However, in the generic three star bin and there are a lot of evaluations in the shruggie zone. Very little consensus on him in the scouting reports.
Variance: High. Could top out at around his current weight given his height, and that might not be enough to be a contributor. Could end up another penetrating interior DL like Glasgow or Hurst.
Ceiling: Moderate. Doesn’t seem to have the same first step as Hurst. If so would probably end up a rotation player only.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. Dwumfour seems a little underrated given his offer sheet, but not outrageously so.
Projection: Redshirt. Michigan loses a bunch from the DL after this year: Glasgow, Wormley, Charlton, and Godin all exit, leaving just Hurst and Mone amongst the veterans. Dwumfour is likely to move into the two-deep even as a redshirt freshman. He’ll have to wait another year for a realistic shot at a starting job, at which point that fight will be between Dwumfour and a bunch of second-year players from the 2017 class. Your guess is as good as mine since those players are yet to be determined.