I thought that myself when I read that article that talked about a Data Scientist(tm)
Yes, I have a prepared Hello post for somebody. No, it is not IL TE Ian Bunting. Michigan was thought to be trailing in his recruitment, but a visit this weekend flipped the kid unexpectedly and now he's all committed and such($). Here is a picture.
The 6'7" Bunting is a four star to 247 and ESPN (where he's 113th), a three star to Scout and Rivals. He plays exclusively wide receiver in high school but everyone is recruiting him as a Funchess-style flex TE. A more informative update is coming.
|3*, #17 TE||3*, #14 TE||4*, #5 TE, #114 overall||4*, #11 TE|
A wide split in opinion probably due to the fact that Bunting is a 6'6", 215 pound kid that requires some projection if he's going to be an effective college player. That uncertainty leads to three-star rankings, especially when Bunting missed a big chunk of his sophomore and junior years with injuries. I couldn't find details on his sophomore year; his junior issue was a sprained ankle. He only played four games.
That didn't matter to college coaches, who were hurdling over each other to offer the guy. Not only did Bunting have the big three in the Midwest he also got a USC offer(!), especially impressive given their restricted class size. Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, and many others jumped on board as well. ND's Scout site thought Bunting was their top target($) at TE. Mwa ha ha.
It was a little tough to find scouting out there; almost all of it came from 247 or Bunting's own mouth as he responded to the "scout yourself" question over and over again. Injuries, I guess.
What is out there emphasizes size and hands and routes. Rivals' take from a January camp:
4. IAN BUNTING, TE, HINSDALE (ILL.) CENTRAL
We have seen Bunting run at wide receiver in the past, but the 6-foot-7, 215-pound prospect has started to accept that he is headed to the tight end position in college and he performed well there on Monday. Bunting's speed creates mismatches with linebackers, and he complements that by being an outstanding route runner who possesses soft hands. His strength at the point of attack was better than expected, and he did a great job of getting off the line of scrimmage in one-on-one drills.
247 caught him a few times, mostly at Core 6 events: Wiltfong caught him at a Cincinnati event:
4. Ian Bunting: It’s a talented a year at tight end in the state of Illinois and the 6-foot-6, 210-pound Hinsdale Central standout may end up being the best one. He was dominant during 7-on-7 play, running away from the smaller defensive backs. Bunting has really good ball skills and catches everything thrown his way.
That #4 is no shame when Jamarco Jones, Clifton Garrett, and Malik McDowell are at the same event. An earlier camp:
10. Ian Bunting, TE, Hinsdale (Il.) Central
The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Bunting continued to show that he is a sure handed flex tight end prospect. He ran precise routes in the short passing game, and caught the ball with soft hands and arms extended against attached coverage on numerous occasions. Bunting … was the top performer of the tight end prospects.
Hinsdale (Ill.) Central receiver/tight end Ian Bunting stands in at 6-foot-7, 190 pounds with a frame to really fill out. Despite his size, he does a great job of sinking his hips and getting in and out of his breaks. In agility drills, he was better than a lot of the smaller receivers. .
While the Core 6 White team struggle to find a rhythm on offense, Hinsdale (Ill.) Central four-star tight end Ian Bunting was one of the more impressive players there, as he can beat you in many ways in the passing game. Short passes and over the top, Bunting has fantastic hands and ball skills while running very well.
Bunting is a big high school receiver who will make a move to tight end in college and could be a highly-productive receiving target in that role. His strength at this stage is very much as a receiver and he displays very good hands with the ability to consistently extend and snatch the ball away from his body. Possesses good body control and can adjust and grab tough, off-target passes, and demonstrates the ability to pluck effortlessly on the run. He will attack the ball in the air, high-point it and shows he is willing to take a hit to make the catch. Can track the ball vertically well and make the over-the-shoulder grab.
Hands, hands, hands. Coaches' eyes must bug out at this fact:
How would you describe yourself as a player?
"I'm definitely a mismatch [threat]. I can take on a cornerback and I'd be a foot taller than him, but also, a lot of kids that are my size aren't quick but I've got really good feet actually for my size and great hands too. I've been playing a bunch of different sports all my life, so it's really helped me become a better athlete all around and keep my agility at a high level even though I'm a lot bigger and taller than a lot of the other receivers that'll be out there. I also have great leaping ability and big hands and feet. I wear XXXL gloves -- although I might have to go XXXXL next year cause they're getting kind of small (laughter) -- and have size 17 feet."
He told an OU site that he plays corner on defense. Yup.
So… this is good. A 6'7" guy with skillet-sized hands, body control, and not-quite WR athleticism who is already a good route-runner is going to be awesome once he's a linebacker-flattening weight. Can I make a sleeper of the year prediction on a guy who's 10 months away from signing and is four stars on two sites? No? Well, fine. Guy seems badly underrated, is what I'm saying.
Bunting's offers side with the more impressive rankings. Aside from Michigan he also had offers from Notre Dame (that very early), Ohio State, USC, Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Missouri, Oregon, and others.
Hinsdale Central hasn't sent Michigan any prospects in the Rivals era. They did send Jack Allen to Michigan State a couple years ago; Allen's brother Brian just committed to the Spartans. Awkward.
Bunting only had four games last year, in which he caught 16 passes for 412 yards($). Over 100 yards per game and 26 per catch? Okay, we'll take that.
FAKE 40 TIME
Bunting lists his 40 at 4.63 on Hudl, which I award two FAKES out of five for a 6'6" kid.
His abbreviated junior year:
There's also an interview with Chantel Jennings:
Bunting also has a Hudl profile with separate blocking and receiving highlights.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Bunting should have an opportunity to redshirt with Devin Funchess, AJ Williams, and Jake Butt all on the roster for at least two more years once he arrives. He'll use that year to pack on weight, probably cool his heels for another year as Funchess and Williams play their senior campaigns, and then emerge into Funchess 2.0—maybe 3.0. Michigan is going to have no shortage of huge targets at TE in the near future.
A further prediction: if Bunting hits the camp circuit and stays healthy as a senior he'll jump everywhere save ESPN, who already projects him as a near top-100 player. He's got the profile of a guy who blows up what with the injuries and college coach trident fight over him.
The injury thing is probably just bad luck. Anyone can acquire the dread high ankle sprain, and that sort of thing doesn't develop into a chronic thing often, if at all. I get why a couple of the sites are cautious with his ranking as a result, but it's more that they don't have as much data on him than fear he won't be able to stay in one piece.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
With two tight ends in each of the last two classes and a smaller group this year, Michigan is probably done at TE for 2014. Maybe they would still take a Helm or a Mark Andrews, but only late, at which point those guys are likely off the board.
A side note not just in this class but on Michigan's recruiting in general: this is another guy who Michigan has come from behind on very quickly. 247's prediction crystal ball was 100% ND until today, when Steve Wiltfong got wind of the change and got a flip in just before the news dropped. For a certain sort of kid, the Michigan visit just about ends their recruitment. Bunting's take($) from Allen Trieu's article:
"When I went there and visited and got to spend a lot of time with the coaches, players on the team and got to spend the night with them. It felt like home. It felt like the right place for me. My parents came with me and they both loved it and the coaches were so nice and welcoming and it really had a good sense of family there which is one of my favorite parts about game of football is brotherhood and the bond with the teammates and could definitely sense that it was there. Not just with the kids, but coaches too. I got to meet all the coaches' families and it was just the right place for me."
That's how you snatch a kid who compares himself to Tyler Eifert($) out from ND's nose.
Snatching a kid like Bunting from Notre Dame and Ohio State was a nonexistent occurrence under Rodriguez and frankly pretty rare under Carr, too—remember Charlie Weis's inexplicable winning streak over Michigan? That's done. Ohio State's winning their share of battles, but four of Michigan's six commits so far this year are head to head wins over both ND and OSU—everyone save Mone and Speight. (With Michigan hot on the trail of McDowell, Hand, and Lawrence Marshall I'm assuming Brady Pallante's grayshirt doesn't get upgraded.)
The student section is going general admission next year, which basically confirms a long-standing nonpolicy in which your ticket was checked at the section entrance, but the actual section was a free-for-all. Students hate it!
Here's the poll on the
@michigandaily facebook page: 589 "hate" GA policy. 104 "love" it. 44 "dislike but understand." 30 are indifferent
I love people who vote "I don't care" on polls.
Anyway, the given reason:
“This change in policy from reserved seating was put in place as the student section is the driving force behind our home field advantage and we need students to get there early and often to create a loud and full student section for kickoff.”
I guess that whole "you can get a t-shirt for going to every game on time" thing didn't work out despite being a Best In Class Loyalty Program. These are people involved in the decision to expand the Big Ten to 14 teams. We should not be surprised this was apparently unforseeable.
Michigan's also upped the price of student tickets by about eight bucks a pop. Sucks for the actual students. Might convince some of the DGAF crowd to pass, thus opening up seats for actual fans, but the kind of people who drop 200 bucks on season tickets and don't show up on time or sometimes at all are probably not going to be dissuaded by another 50 bucks on top of their tuition and whatnot.
I really wish I could find this email from a mewling brat of a student from the last time it was Complain About The Students time on mgoblog, because it was dripping with entitlement so vast it would have established a new frontier in Michigan Man jokes. It's lost in the deep recesses of my inbox, unfortunately.
In any case: I don't care about you, guy who shows up late. At all. If you're hungover or don't have time to get drunk or are too tired to show up on time, terrible subsection of students who think this blog is an inexplicable acronym, I don't care. I can't conceive of a world in which I, or anybody else, would find the slightest bit of sympathy for you. It's six or seven Saturdays a year—five or six now that they're going to have a night game annually. If you can swing that because of… actually, if you can't swing that for any reason whatsoever, I don't care. That is your problem.
For the students who read this blog this is a good thing. You can swing into the stadium at the appropriate time and plop down on the 20 yard line 30 rows up like I used to and get an excellent view of proceedings. Since I'm always in the stadium 45-60 minutes early I'll keep you guys abreast of the seating situation on the twitters so you can time your entrance to snag the seats for people who actually want to watch football. Since people will cram the first few rows overfull, anyone in the stadium sweet spot will probably be comfortable. And a drunk girl with JEALOUS on her ass can't show up in the second quarter to kick you out.
Problems: Still Extant
This isn't going to do much for the grey ring of apathy at the top of the section, which has always been a combination of the aforementioned crowding near the field and people who either don't show up at all or show up late, don't care that they're far away, and leave early. These people must be found and scolded personally.
I still don't understand why Michigan isn't using the ticket scans to give priority to people who show up on time. A subsection of primo seats for early-arrivers would do more to help out the future superfan types; I wouldn't mind telling perpetual late-arrivers they can get tickets at the full sticker price or not at all.
The reward gradation from awesome fan to terrible fan should be a lot steeper. Right now it is Free T-Shirt versus No T-Shirt. Do you know how many old free t-shirts I still have from my student days? Dozens. (AMD ROCKS!, says one.) I cannot think of a less valuable item than a t-shirt to a college student. The good half of the student section is the best subsection of Michigan fans, and right now they're getting too much of the crap for the other half without much in the way of tangible benefit.
What does bug me about the student ticket prices is that they're a terrible idea from a marketing perspective. Hook 'em young and you've got a customer for life. Continually piling annoyances on the new generation of fans bodes unwell for the future. Throw 'em a bone, starting with a kickass stadium wifi setup*.
*[YES IT'S FOR THEM AND NOT ME. I actually get out stuff just fine most of the time. I should see if my cell phone company wants me to advertise this fact for them.]
UPDATE: Kyle Meinke tweets that Michigan averaged an astounding 5400 no-shows per game last year, or 25% of student tickets sold. Anyone who missed more than one game should be told to pay full price, at the very least.
I've been watching the debate over who is going to start for Michigan next year with McGary and Robinson moving down to the 4 and 3 respectively. My thought is that doesn't UM need Stauskas or LeVert to start at the 2 because they need the extra ballhandler to assist the point guard?
I don't know much about Irvin's ball skills, but last year Michigan had Stauskas and Hardaway to assist Burke with bringing the ball up the court from time to time, so at a minimum they need at least one other above-average ball handler to assist Walton/Albrecht in their starting 5. Thoughts on this?
Like everyone else, I did a virtual spit take when McGary and Robinson declared they'd be moving a slot down in the offense. That goes against everything John Beilein's spent his career developing, and "right after a loss in the national title game" seems like a weird time to decide a conventional two-post lineup is where it's at.
First, one of Stauskas and LeVert is going to be on the court almost all the time in any scenario. When they're both on the bench, Michigan's proably in a dual-point lineup. Irvin does have some off the dribble game, but he dribbles looking for the pullup even in high school and will struggle to create shots by himself in year one. Minutes for Horford and Morgan at the five come from the guys who would play the three not named GRIII (ie, LeVert and Robinson), not the SG position.
Let's take a look at hypothetical worlds, one in which Michigan continues much like they have been, another in which McGary is mostly at the 4 and Robinson the three.
PG: Walton (25) / Albrecht (15)
SG: Stauskas (30) / LeVert (10)
SF: Irvin (30) / LeVert (10)
PF: GRIII (30) / Morgan (10)
C: McGary (30) / Morgan&Horford (10)
PG: Walton (25) / Albrecht (15)
SG: Stauskas (30) / LeVert(10)
SF: GRIII: (20) / Irvin (20)
PF: McGary (30) / GRIII (10)
C: Morgan (25) / Horford (15)
You're taking minutes from LeVert and Irvin and handing them to Morgan and Horford. Is that plausible? We are talking about a redshirt senior and a redshirt junior at center versus a freshman and sophomore who was on a redshirt track last year, so… it isn't totally implausible.
To make it work, though, McGary has to be ready for a lot of weight offensively as a high-post forward who can be a triple threat from the free throw line. Otherwise the spacing Beilein's spent his career building breaks down and things get grunty. Also, Robinson has to be a more willing and effective shooter. Michigan isn't going to be able to go with two bigs if the starting three has a usage rate of 13%.
Do I think this is particularly likely? Uh… no. I do think we'll see periods where McGary acts as a high-post fulcrum, and Michigan will try to develop a two-post offensive plan for times when Robinson isn't feeling it, is in foul trouble, or has a bad matchup like this year's Michigan State games. Michigan will try to acquire some flexibility they lacked this year when Robinson's backup was Still Glenn Robinson.
Upshot: Michigan will spend a lot of time this offseason working with those two guys at the positions they said they would work at, and then go with what works. That'll depend on
- How much LeVert improves
- How good Irvin is immediately
- How quickly Morgan can shake his funk
I think the answers to #1 and #2 are "a lot" and "quite good as long as he's not burdened with creating shots too much," so talk of playing big will remain mostly talk.
where is M's Oladipo?
I understand Michigan will be losing Burke and Hardaway BUT I feel that this might not be that big of a blow if they improve defensively. See their defensive ceiling is very high and with an entire offseason ahead maybe this team could become one of the better defensive teams in the Big Ten but the question is, how do they do so?
I view Ohio State as an example. They lost almost 43% of their scoring with the losses of Sullinger and Buford but managed to be within one poor half of being in the Final Four. A lot of their success could be attributed to their outstanding defense.
- Ali Maki
Where is Michigan's defense going to come from? Ohio State didn't just have Aaron Craft, they also had 20 minutes a game from steal fiend Shannon Scott and rebounding from everywhere. Fun fact: every non-point guard to play for OSU this year had a higher DREB% than Nnanna Egwu, and even the PGs were in double digits.
Meanwhile, Michgian's 39th-ranked defense is the second-best of his entire career. (The 2011 outfit finished 34th.) Thad Matta has done better than that every year but one since 2003. Beilein compensates by having great offenses—actually, Matta has a lot of those, too. Anyway. The point is: until we see Michigan take a leap forward into uncharted territory for Beilein it's going to be tough to predict they can scrape together a top-ten defense, which OSU has been for three years running.
I have heard that Walton and Irvin are good defenders—Irvin in particular is dedicated and long—and if LeVert can turn some of his rep into actual defense, they should be improved on the perimeter. They still won't have that impact defender you can put on the other team's top scorer or leave in the post to murder anyone who steps in the paint. Without an Oladipo or Craft or Withey or Russ Smith, it's tough for any defense to be great. Those guys are kind of like high-usage players on offense, taking the heaviest duty and allowing other guys to base their game off of what the opponent probably can't do. I don't see one of those guys on the roster next year. Maybe LeVert, maybe Irvin, but probably not.
This is not to say that I don't expect them to improve defensively. They will be less blitheringly young next year. Players improve most from year one to year two, and Michigan has an awful lot of guys making that transition. They will improve. It's a long way from 39 to 9, though.
Consider what Beilein has accomplished, coach a coach. IF we win tonight, he'll have bested Shaka Smart (Final Four, 2011), Bill Self (national champs, 2008), Billy Donovan (national champs, 2006, 2007), Jim Boeheim (national champs, 2003), and Rick Pitino (national champs, 1996). And he'll have done so with the youngest team in the tournament. Wow.
We didn't win but… yeah, wow.
It seems like Michigan went through Murderer's Row to get to the Final. Since the seedings can be pretty political, does Kenpom or some other objective measure tell us how difficult our path was compared to the Finals teams in recent history?
Yes, Kenpom in fact did pile together a toughest-path ranking, and Michigan made the top ten at #8 of 44 teams to make the Final Four in the past 11 years. This year's Wichita State team was #1. The top ten is mostly 3s and 4s plus outlying small conference schools (along with WSU, George Mason and Butler x2), which makes sense since often a 3 or 4 will have to go through a tough second-round matchup and then take out the 1- and 2-seeds in the region.
In Michigan's case the 2-seed went down only to be replaced by what was then the #1 team in Kenpom, Florida. (UF finished second.)
I hope this painting is called "Malcolm Gladwell's childlike naiveté"
I'm curious about Beilein's defensive tactics. Why doesn't M ever run a full-court press? I would have guessed that a young team that rarely fouls would be a good team to press with, but apparently not. Why is that? Then down the road, when these gents have another year of experience, do you think Beilein will feel more comfortable switching up defensive schemes in a game?
Short answer: a press is not free. Short answer #2: …and Michigan was not constructed to run one.
This was the subject of the dumb article Malcolm Gladwell wrote that marked the end of his status as a sports blogosphere fave-rave. Gladwell observed a sociopathic girls' basketball coach (emphasis on girls: 12 year olds, dude) running a full court press and mused about how everyone who doesn't run one must be using their brain wrong. Rick Pitino comes in for praise for actually having the smarts to run a press, first at Providence and then elsewhere. Louisville just won the title, and all it took was… uh… a veteran, hugely talented team specifically recruited to run it.
The press can be effective if you recruit to it. As we've seen with VCU and Louisville, you usually end up with a certain kind of team: cat-quick small guards, a big who can run the floor, an undersized power forward, a deep bench, and one guy who isn't a bricklayer from three. Michigan doesn't look much like this press team except at PF and designated corner gunner.
Most important is the depth: Michigan had none. Teams that press heavily use a lot of energy. They don't run their players out there for almost 90% of available minutes (Burke), or even 85 (Hardaway, Robinson). UL's Smith and Siva were down around 75%; no other Cardinal cracked 65. No one on VCU or Arkansas cracks 70. In Michigan's case, a press would have meant a big chunk of gametime with LeVert or Albrecht out there instead of Burke, Hardaway, et al. And there's no way Robinson can go 35, 38, 40 minutes in a lot of games, so then you're cobbling together 10+ minutes of awkward lineups. Even if you can effectively deploy the press, is it worth those six minutes a game it puts Trey Burke on the bench?
Meanwhile, Michigan was already discombobulated in half-court defense for big chunks of the year. Time given over to a press is time not spent working on half-court rotations that are useful on every possession, or time not spent working on offense. You don't get a press for free, and the consequences of having a crappy one are easy buckets.
Beilein's not a press guy, so Michigan won't run one next year. That's like asking Al Borges to run a spread—if he has to, he'll do it, but it will always be awkward. Hypothetically next year would be a better opportunity since Derrick Walton won't be the player of the year and LeVert and Albrecht will be higher-quality bench options in year two. But it's not happening.
One of these is Jamar Adams, the other Jarrod Wilson (by Fuller)
Here's a little tradition from around these parts that you're not happy to bring back: who's going to be the new safety starter? Yeah, remember that conversation? Remember how it went around picking up all the we-hope-he's-at-least-an-Englemons out of Gibson'ed secondaries?
The best of all that. This last bout of hand wringing finally ended with the best safety tandem we've had in the Cover-2 era. In their two years together Kovacs and Gordon were the first capable pair since Brandent and Jamar, easily the best since Marlin and Ernest, and probably ranked higher than any since Marcus and Tommy or earlier. We can actually chart the stuff since '07, thanks to Brian's Upon Further Review charts (which total up the plusses and minuses accrued in each game into a rough net contribution stat). I've got my UFR database now updated that far (any further and the knowledge isn't really there to make it relevant or comparable). Remember this is a game-by-game exercise that wasn't meant to remain standard across the ages; that said the Chart?-Chart! chart totals for Michigan safeties in these six seasons very much fit your recollections:
|Jared Van Slyke||0||0|
Chart notes: maize is positive, blue negative so that can stand out more. Time spent at the Spur in the 3-3-5 years was counted as linebacker, likewise Brandon Harrison's 2007 at nickel, which was a starting position on the English defenses. I tried to separate Woolfolk's corner games from his safety games; for the record here's the breakdown for 2009:
…when he was obviously a better corner than a safety but as you can see from above, was needed more at the latter.
Still the totals at the bottom tell a story of a moderately positive '07 (Stevie Brown—0/-8/-8 in The Horror) did most of his damage in one game, which itself did plenty of damage to that season), three years of atrociousness, and dramatic improvement under the new staff. If you remember 2010 as worse than '09 that's because the cornerbacks were just as bad. The disparity between Kovacs 2011 and 2012 is easy enough to explain by there being far fewer opportunities for him to make those Kovacsian stops after 7 yards as Michigan faced either Alabama or teams who either didn't test or schemed against him (Air Force, Nebraska).
Also I had to chart The Horror myself because Brian didn't at the time. Thanks Brian.* Anyway the charting says Thomas Gordon (!) was the best safety at Michigan in the last six seasons. Should we be talking about all-conference stuff for ol' Prison Abs in addition to the leadership stuff? Gee, maybe. He had a spectacular spring game, which I don't think many people noticed.
As for what's opposite him Michigan has to find something out of the blues above plus another year of progression.
*Had this been done under modern UFR standards it would have doubled any record for RPS debacles. Just to know I tried doing that, handing out the remainder of expected points for any play that weren't on the players as Brian does in UFR-ing and came out with this staggering figure of +23/-46/-23. RPS is never that much of a variable, except in this game it was the alignment of linebackers, stunts (!), not stacking the box, and not responding to the QB draw even though they only ever ran one play out of that alignment.
[After the jump: Candidates]
HOW IS CAN DO I MAKE NAMES SWEDISHES
After months and months of leaks to the effect that the Big Ten would use the opportunity presented by their (nonsensical) expansion to ditch the current divisions and go with a straight East-West breakdown, the Big Ten… actually, wait.
"Just take a ruler and a map [and split the 14 teams]," a source said.
A source? Didn't we just do this last month? ESPN?
ESPN.com reported last month that the divisions debate was down to whether Purdue or Indiana would go to the West. Purdue's campus is located west of Indiana's.
Yes. We did. Every Big Ten blog has a post on this today. The news: Purdue and Indiana have been situated. This came out in the middle of a surreal terrorist manhunt, and we still care. News is weird, but let's get swept away in the tide of history.
cowboys ride for free… wait, seriously, Kansas?
Anyone with a keyboard to tap at is making a Big Ten West == Big 12 North comparison, and… yeah, down to the school that'll probably be making the conference's last stand against the dual hegemony in the other division. The best team out of Iowa/Illinois*/Nebraska/Wisconsin/Purdue/Northwestern will probably be pretty good. They'll be a dog in most every championship game, but this is what happens when you expand with absolutely nothing other than the rapidly-fading cable television model in mind. More like NONsense and NONsensibility and zombies, amirite?
Meanwhile, the other division is Michigan, Ohio State, and Also Ran until such time as Penn State gets off the deck from their NCAA sanctions. Michigan State's trying to puff their chest out, but it's over for them. State's recent run of quasi-relevancy (still no BCS bowls… ever) coincided with a three-year period in which
- Michigan was busy punching itself during the brief Rodriguez era
- Ohio State was off the schedule (2009 and 2010) or having their one-year tatgate implosion.
MSU has one win over a good OSU team since 1974, and four total. While they've been a little less futile against Michigan, before the Rodriguez run their record the previous 20 years was 5-15. With Michigan and Ohio State poised for decade-plus long runs of coaching stability and recruiting dominance, there aren't going to be a lot of opportunities to pick off easy wins against teams struggling to .500 records or worse. It's over.
More interesting is Rutgers. New Jersey is fertile recruiting ground. With Penn State down, eastern Pennsylvania should be easier to get into. They've been recruiting on a level commensurate with a middling Big Ten team despite being stuck in the Big East. If the financial and prestige boost from their move bumps them up a notch, they could become the most annoying ankle-biter in the division.
Penn State has to dig out, obviously, and then who knows what they're like without Joe Paterno? Early returns are good, as they managed to acquire some serious talent despite the sanctions. Christian Hackenberg and Adam Breneman signed up for a team with three more bowl ban years upcoming—that says something about PSU's enduring pull with Pennsylvania recruits.
They still have no chance to keep pace. They have to be down to 65 players this year and are currently on track to have a recruiting class of eight guys this year even with some attrition that's 10 to 12 players. Doom awaits. By the time they're good the Big Ten will probably be at 84 teams. Short term thinking, that's our motto.
Indiana and Maryland enjoy basketball.
*[Yeah, Illinois. Every ten years they have a good team and then implode.]
Should we be thinking long term?
The ACC is trumpeting a very long "grant of rights" deal that hypothetically locks the TV revenue from the 15 member teams—ND included minus football—to the conference they're currently in until 2027. This will save the conference unless something totally improbable happens. That thing: lawyers!
Unless a league member decides to go to litigation to escape this down the road, the ACC believes a Grant of Rights will protect it from conference realignment poachers.
Because lawyers never get involved in these things. While the GOR provides an extra hurdle, it's a deterrent designed to look super scary. Just how effective it'll be in the event of a departure is unknown. See: Maryland, currently involved in that litigation stuff over a $50 million exit fee the ACC voted in just before they left. Maryland will likely pay something less than that in a settlement.
People in charge of things are just in charge of them
Goodbye, Successories Conference.
leadership is more about not being clueless than eyebrows
Let us pour out some gasoline for our dead homie division names, and light them on fire. Burning is the most terrible way to die, but as the wisps arise from the charred notions that were "Legends" and "Leaders" it seems far too kind. If that debacle doesn't prove to you once and for all that our tendency to worship any bushy-eyebrowed dim bulb who manages to ascend to the talky bit of any enterprise is destructive, I don't know what to tell you.
Whenever someone cocks their eyebrow at you and condescendingly says that you don't have the vast amounts of information and knowledge they do about complicated geopolitical processes like conference realignment, just remember that those guys are the ones who made the conference a national laughingstock for years. They did this by doing something that was such a bad idea from the start that they promised they'd reconsider after literally every person who heard it laughed in their face.
Therefore their projections that media markets are still going to matter in 10 years…
At least there's that. Starting in 2016, Big Ten teams will play nine conference games each. It looks like there's an easy way around the unbalanced schedule issue: have all the teams in one division have four one year, five the other.
I'd rather play more Wisconsin/Nebraska/Iowa than any nonconference opponent you care to name save Notre Dame—RIP, ND series—so I look on this as no downside. With Michigan buying home games from the Oregon States and Cincinnatis of the world, they can have their seventh home game with a nonconference schedule that consists of one cupcake, one interesting guarantee game against a midlevel foe, and one marquee matchup. Well, most of the time. The 2016 nonconference schedule is now locked in: Hawaii, Ball State, and Colorado. Er.
Complicated solution to problem time
Time to re-iterated my desired solution for the basketball situation: everyone plays round-robin, and then the conference is split into a top seven and bottom seven, whereupon another round-robin commences. 19 total games, best overall record wins. Pros:
- Conference championship is almost entirely fair. Home-road is unbalanced in the first half, but none of this "you didn't play team X" business. The regular season championship is a really big deal right now; this would make it bigger.
- No divisions. Divisions kill the importance of the regular season title.
- The last six games for the top half are a must-see all-out war. Dude, take this year's league and do this to it and imagine a stretch run where IU-OSU-M-MSU-Wisconsin-Iowa-Minnesota OR Illinois OR Maryland only play each other. That would be nuts.
- Doesn't require you to expand the conference schedule too much to get coverage. No 20, 22 game conference schedules but you don't get all that discussion about how team X doesn't play team Y.
Cons are obvious and large: potentially problematic ticket sales since you don't know who you're playing or when, a potential for teams near the bubble to get blasted off it (if you're #7 in the top half) or have little opportunity to climb out of it (for #8 stuck with the little people). I stole the RR-split-RR system from Scottish soccer, which has a compelling narrative at the bottom as teams try to avoid relegation that doesn't exist in college sports.
In any case, they could at least try it and see if the upside outweighs the downside.
Tick tock, Maurice Ways
MI WR Maurice Ways did get his offer over the weekend. He did not commit, possibly so that he could follow through on a promise to go up to Michigan State's spring game. Ways said a Michigan commitment was a "huge possibility($). Huge!
But Ways did not commit. Why:
“I’ve got a scholarship so it’s a good chance. But my parents were very excited, growing up a Michigan fan, being in the state of Michigan, playing for Michigan football it just seems like the right thing to do.
“But once again I do want to wait my options and not rush into anything and make sure it’s the right fit for me and my family as a football player and as a young man.”
Ways is setting up another Ann Arbor trip. When that occurs I will eat my hat if he doesn't commit. #justpullthetriggeralready
Visitors and such
Westphal is #21
IL CB Parrker Westphal was the headliner. Afterwards he told 247 that "Michigan was still the standard($)" and that he considered committing but decided to hold off until he goes on another couple visits in May. This was his sixth trip to Ann Arbor. If not for Ways, Westphal would be your leading candidate for next commitment. #jptta
BONUS: Westphal came in for a full-on (free) profile from 247. I lol'd:
“When my friends were out partying, I’d be at home studying, doing situps and pushups and go for a run at night,” Westphal said. “I’d try and do what Herschel Walker did. Those 3,500 situps, 1,500 pushups, that dude was a freak. I think he lied about that. That’s hard. You need time to do that.”
AZ TE Mark Andrews visited OSU, told Eleven Warriors some noncommital things about Ohio State, visited Michigan, about which I can find nothing, visited ND, and told 247 some nice things about ND($). With Michigan seemingly days away from its second commitment from a 6'4" wide receiver, Andrews's positional preference probably means this is the last we'll hear about his recruitment:
“I don’t want to be the guy that sits on the line and blocks. I want to be the guys making plays with the ball in his hands,” the No. 62 overall prospect in the line said. “But with how Notre Dame uses the tight end it fits my skill set well. I love Notre Dame’s offense and how they utilize the position.”
Michigan has filled his spot if he's averse to playing TE. Also I can't turn up anything from the Michigan sites on him. Bad sign.
IL TE Ian Bunting was a little more open about his thought process:
"I liked it a lot. They have great people and just a really cool culture there." Bunting wasn't ready to name a leader yet but he did say he was going to sit down and narrow his list in the next couple of days. He wasn't sure if his list was going to be a top 2, 3, or even 5, but he did say Michigan would be on that list regardless of the length.
The M Block's vibe is that Michigan is still behind… someone. The conventional wisdom is that would be Notre Dame. He told Allen Trieu much the same($), saying Michigan was "near the top" and he'd have a shortlist soon. 247 got some more detail($):
"I got to sit down with the coaches and we watched a lot of film," he said. "We didn't just watch film from Michigan games, but also San Diego State games as well. They wanted to show me first hand the transition they are making from where they were when Denard was their quarterback to where they eventually want to get to in using their tight ends. I've played receiver my entire career, but know I will be a tight end at the next level and am ready to work hard and show that I can play on the blocks as well."
Turning Bunting's head is a little more important because of part of this next section.
A guy Michigan does lead for
Rivals's Josh Helmholdt interviewed MO LB Kyron Watson at the St. Louis camp that occurred over the weekend, and Watson flat-out said Michigan was his leader($):
Helmholdt: Is there a team you're really excited about right now?
Watson: Yeah, it's Michigan right now. [coy smile]
Evaluations are all over the place on Watson. He's 100th on ESPN, a 3/4 star borderline guy on Rivals, and a generic three star at the other two places. TCU, Missouri, and Illinois are the main competitors.
IL TE Daniel Helm was at that same event and impressed Helmholdt:
"I think he has the ability to play at an elite level," Helmholdt said. "He is a receiving tight end and won the MVP of the Rivals Underclassman Challenge last year, so we will see what happens."
Helmholdt said that, along with his physical makeup, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound player has a personality that draws others to him.
"First of all, he is a super-nice kid who is shy in the way that even he is impressed that we think he is a four-star player," Helmholdt said. "He is respectful and humble.
"As far as being a prospect, I think he has a lot of upside. Right now he has coat-hangar shoulders, and I could see him easily getting up to 240 or 250 pounds."
Also he is refreshingly honest about his F5-pounding abilities in re: his ranking:
"(I look) more than I should," Helm joked. "That is all I'm going to say."
Helm said he knew he was the No. 201 player in the country, as well as the No. 6 tight end. He added that he wasn't checking the rankings as a motivational tool but a measuring stick.
In an interview similar to the Watson one($) he mentioned that Florida had not actually offered him yet despite their presence in his top four. If that decision does come soon they would not be a factor, leaving just Tennessee and Ole Miss as competition.
Unfortunately, Rivals's Dallas Jackson came away from that camp thinking Tennessee was his leader:
If I had to make one prediction about YOUR FACE it is that is is WRONG sorry sorry be professional… be professional.
We'll see if that's just a one-off thing or not. If you're looking at Helm's unease at waiting and possibly passing up a spot as a good thing for Michigan, Tennessee already has a TE this year and took two last year; Ole Miss took three last year. Options are limited at all of his top schools.
Wouldn't it be nice
ESPN has a feature breaking down the recruitments of their top ten players. Michigan is involved with four: CA CB Adoree' Jackson, VA DE Da'Shawn Hand, VA DT Andrew Brown, and NJ CB Jabrill Peppers. It won't surprise you to find out that ESPN says Michigan leads for Peppers, but they buck the conventional wisdom($) with one Mr. Hand:
Who's in the driver's seat: Michigan
Other candidates: Alabama, Florida and South Carolina
Dark horse: Virginia Tech
Most recent visit: Hand recently took a visit to South Carolina.
What they said: On Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison: "He's always energetic. That dude is insane. I don't know how old he is, but at heart that dude is 21," he said. "We get there and he is listening to Rihanna and Drake, he was dancing and singing. The players said he's really like that, too. That dude is wild."
TomVH says Mattison is Michigan's "secret weapon." If Michigan does manage to snatch Hand away from VT there will be Bud Foster Forever Alone ragecomics.
Virginia is leading for Brown, and Jackson—an Illinois transplant who's only been in California for one year—is completely wide open. HOWEVA, Michigan was mentioned as a team "rising" for Brown at 247 and he told Scout that he plans an M/OSU trip($) "in the near future," presumably after he makes a southern swing through Alabama, Florida, FSU, and Not That USC.
Also in Hand positive vibes, Steve Lorenz says Hand's dad is on board($) with M and that they're even with VT.
Everything's coming up Milhouse
NJ DE/TE Garrett Dickerson has a top five($), and it's an interesting one: Michigan, Alabama, Ohio State, Stanford, and Northwestern. His brother already plays for the Wildcats, if you're playing the One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other game. On Michigan:
“I visited there last year and had a great time, and really enjoyed that atmosphere and the coaches are great. The facilities are great as well.”
Dickerson hasn't been back since that November visit. He also saw OSU around then. He just went to Stanford and Northwestern, and hasn't been to Tuscaloosa at all yet. The nerd schools have to be the favorites, then, until Dickerson finds his way to others in his top five. He had to shoot down some rumors that he committed to Stanford, FWIW.
Scott impresses, says recruiting is a foreign thing
FL WR Artavis Scott may not like talking to reporters about what he's thinking
One of the most impressive athletes out on the field at IMG Academy was Tarpon Springs (Fla.) East Lake wide receiver Artavis Scott. The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder caught upwards of five touchdowns passes on Saturday, showing his ability to run nearly every type route.
"I don't know. I really don't worry about all that stuff right now. I really don't have any standings on any team," said Scott.
His mom likes Florida "but, I don't know, it's whatever I want."
Semi-weekly Damien Harris tweet
2015 KY RB Damien Harris's latest foray into indicating to everyone he would like to go to Michigan:
Me and my bro
@GeorgeCampbell0 need to take a trip to Ann Arbor together soon! #136
Campbell, the massively-touted 2015 teammate of commit Mason Cole and target Artavis Scott, retweeted it. Let's all have a tizzy.
Just got off the phone with Coach Borges. Had a productive conversation! Go Blue!
The suspense is not killing me here. #jptta
Etc.: Michigan offers FL LB Darrion Owens($). Reminder: Tim Sullivan of Rivals confirms that offer to TX RB Vic Enwere I was a little suspicious of was a reporter getting M and MSU mixed up.
2015 stuff: Add the name "Tim Settle" to your radar; the VA DT has local offers and is claiming interest from all three Big Ten heavyweights. MI OL Kyonta Stallworth has offers from… uh, UCLA and Florida($)? Wow? M offers($) IL LB Terry Beckner Jr. M makes top ten($) for CO RB Christian McCaffrey (yes that McCaffrey).