This is maaaaybe premature there, ESPN. Maryland #1 FWIW.
It's Friday, my close childhood friend is making an unexpected one-day-only appearance in town, and my desire to write a whole lot is waning by the minute. We've fretted ever since Mitch McGary's departure about Michigan's status as a Big Ten title contender. Here's a quick reminder of what John Beilein can do even when handed a less-than-stacked deck. Apologies for the rather cumbersome chart:
2011-12 Starting Lineups & Top Bench Players
|Michigan||Michigan St.||Ohio St.||Wisconsin||Indiana|
|PG||Trey Burke (Fr.) (6’1, 175)||Keith Appling (So.) (6’1, 180)||Aaron Craft (So.) (6’2, 190)||Jordan Taylor (Sr.) (6’1, 195)||Jordan Hulls (Jr.) (6’0, 175)|
|SG||Stu Douglass (Sr.) (6’3, 190)||Brandon Wood (Sr.) (6’2, 190)||Lenzelle Smith Jr. (So.) (6’4, 205)||Josh Gasser (So.) (6’3, 190)||Verdell Jones (Sr.) (6’5, 185)|
|SF||Tim Hardaway Jr. (So.) (6’5, 185)||Austin Thornton (Sr.) (6’5, 210)||William Buford (Sr.) (6’6, 220)||Ryan Evans (Jr.) (6’6, 210)||Victor Oladipo (So.) (6’4, 210)|
|PF||Zack Novak (Sr.) (6’4, 210)||Draymond Green (Sr.) (6’7, 250)||Deshaun Thomas (So.) (6’7, 225)||Mike Bruesewitz (Jr.) (6’6, 222)||Christian Watford (Jr.) (6’9, 230)|
|C||Jordan Morgan (So.) (6’8, 240)||Derrick Nix (Jr.) (6’9, 278)||Jared Sullinger (So.) (6’9, 280)||Jared Berggren (Jr.) (6’10, 235)||Cody Zeller (Fr.) (6’11, 220)|
|6th||Evan Smotrycz (So.) (6’9, 235)||Adreian Payne (So.) (6’10, 230)||Evan Ravenel (Jr.) (6’8, 260)||Ben Brust (So.) (6’1, 190)||Will Sheehey (So.) (6’6, 195)|
|7th||Matt Vogrich (Jr.) (6’4, 190)||Branden Dawson (Fr.) (6’6, 216)||Sam Thompson (Fr.) (6’7, 190)||Rob Wilson (Sr.) (6’4, 200)||Derek Elston (Jr.) (6’9, 235)|
A reminder: Michigan shared the Big Ten title that year with MSU, OSU, and Wisconsin, while that Indiana squad finished a game back.
Keep in mind that Trey Burke hadn't quite become TREY M.F. BURKE, Tim Hardaway went through a sophomore slump in which he shot 28% on 187 three-point attempts, and Jon Horford suffered a foot injury that forced a redshirt, so Michigan's only viable backup big was Evan Smotrycz, who never appeared very interested in post defense and transferred following the season.
Here are the KenPom Player of the Year standings from that season:
The four other Big Ten contenders are all represented. Of the four Big Ten players to make the list, only Jordan Taylor wasn't a college big.
Somehow, Michigan put together the nation's #19 offense despite (1) having only two rotation players shooting above 40% from three, and (2) attempting a higher percentage of three-pointers than all but seven teams in the country. The defense finished a respectable 61st in efficiency in spite of a relatively inexperienced lineup, a complete lack of shot-blockers or pickpockets—Evan Smotrycz, of all people, finished first on the team in both block and steal rate—and that whole 6'4" power forward thing.
At the time, Smotrycz was the team's highest-rated recruit on the roster—yes, including Burke and Hardaway. Backup guard Carlton Brundidge, a Southfield product in the same class as Burke, was the second-highest regarded prospect on the team. He transferred to Detroit after barely seeing any time as a freshman.
Sure, Michigan was fortunate to share the conference title that year, and they bowed out of the NCAA Tournament before any of the other Big Ten contenders. But look at that Wolverine roster, then look at this upcoming season's—talent-wise, at least by recruiting standards, there's no comparison, and even knowing how much Burke overachieved I'd take the 2013-14 roster over the 2011-12 roster in a heartbeat. How that team went 13-5 in that conference—one dominated by exceptionally talented big men, and featuring plenty of talented point guards to match up with U-M's best player—still perplexes to this day.
This is a long way of saying that you probably shouldn't count out John Beilein, because he's a wizard masqerading as a basketball coach/sub enthusiast.
Darrin Kirkland Jr. has been a frequent visitor to Ann Arbor and this weekend he’ll stop by again as he announced on Twitter.
Just talked with Coach Mallory, I'll be at Michigan this weekend for a visit! 〽️Ⓜ️ #GoBlue
— Darrin Kirkland Jr. (@_KIRKjunior) May 15, 2014
Michigan is solidly in Kirkland’s top ten and an overnight stay in Ann Arbor this weekend could put the Wolverines near or at the top of that list. Darrin’s mom and dad will accompany him on the trip but will stay in Toledo with family while he bunks up with Mike McCray on campus. His plans for the visit sound promising and Michigan is in good shape with him regardless of the specifics.
“I just want to spend some quality time on campus with the players and have my family get a good personal feel for Michigan,” he said. “Michigan has done well recruiting me. My relationship with Coach Mattison is one of my best.”
Kirkland Jr. will spend just Saturday night in Ann Arbor and while all things are trending in a positive direction he told me that a commitment will not happen. He will stick to his timeline of an August decision date but another positive experience on campus definitely helps Michigan’s cause as these types of visits work wonders with recruits.
I'll miss you, terror books. Not really.
Aaand it falls off. I've been doing annual APR posts the past few years because Michigan was in a dodgy spot after the Carr/Rodriguez transfer year saddled Michigan with a horrendous 897. That plus an also-dismal 918 in Carr's last year put Michigan within shouting distance of penalties, which they avoided by putting up a series of nice numbers. Since Hoke's arrival Michigan has largely avoided academic risks, so it was just matter of time before that 897 fell off and Michigan shot up. It just did.
Drumroll… Michigan's football APR is now 975. The constituent scores:
- 2010: 942
- 2011: 984
- 2012: 981
- 2013: 985
Their 975 places them fourth in the Big Ten, behind Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Nebraska; if they continue on their current mid-980s rate they'd pass Nebraska but still remain third if everyone else is static.
So hooray. The main upshot of this is that OSU assistants can't send out APR lists in novelty fonts claiming "the stats don't lie" or make charts that aren't even sorted correctly because their players managed to get through Pokémon 401. (But not Sort Function In Excel 330.) OSU's APR is now worse than Michigan's.
Oh, and the NCAA will not do bad things. Meanwhile, at Southern University…
Oooooof. RT @JonSolomonCBS: All Southern University teams also have APR postseason bans due to unusable data. Ouch.
— Bill Connelly (@SBN_BillC) May 14, 2014
…several people just got fired with prejudice.
Reload and fire at will. EDSBS Bowl reaches day four with Michigan still staggeringly far out ahead of the pack with 5.4k to Auburn's 1.3k. Give us the significance of your donation in the comments.
When in need of vague hand-waving that means nothing, call in the right man. Dave Brandon and Mark Hollis will testify for the NCAA in the Ed O'Bannon case. Hollis will claim that his deposition would better on an aircraft carrier on the moon; Brandon will tell the opposition lawyer that he "knows a little something about branding" 18 times. After each, the lawyer will calmly explain the question had nothing to do with branding.
Well then. Alabama tailback Derryck Henry took a photograph of himself in front of an expensive new car that he said was his, creating little "BAGMAN!" tornadoes across the internet. These are the natural order. This is a bit outside of it:
I'm a little dubious that title was on the table for White, a nondescript three-star recruit, but it could be one of those deals like the Clarett/Pryor thing where the dealership lets you "test drive" the car for months. In any case, yes some guy gave this dude a car or money or whatever and the NCAA will not do anything about it so our choices are to be uselessly smug or repeal all this crap that's not getting enforced anyway.
An odd fit, yes. Will Leitch makes a good point about replay in basketball: because of the nature of the game, sometimes there are things that are going to be both wrong and right at the same time. An event from late in the Clippers/Thunder game 6 blew up twitter, demonstrating the problem.
… it is clear that Barnes fouled Jackson; even more clear, perhaps, than that the ball was off Jackson last. At this point, the referees had a decision to make. Should they follow the rules of replay to the letter and award the ball to the Clippers? Or should they make the right call, which was to give the ball to the Thunder?
They gave the ball to the Thunder, which Leitch describes as "vigilante officiating." That stuff happens all the time on out of bounds situations. Fouls are committed but let go when the ball goes out of bounds and is awarded to the other team. Once you start reviewing those you upset the delicate balance there. Basketball replay is inherently goofy because of that.
At least those reviews sometimes amount to something, unlike college basketball's unceasingly tedious replays for flagrant fouls that never, ever come back with a flagrant.
I would be in favor. With Notre Dame due to become a fading memory and replacements ranging from yawn to moderately interesting, I would be down with Tom Fornelli's radical solution to college football breaking itself:
ACC, Big Ten and SEC could solve all their scheduling problems in one simple step. Ditch non-conference games, stay within your conference, continue to foster the regional rivalries that made this sport so popular to begin with, and then send your champion to the playoff to take on the winners of the other conferences.
This is more of a problem for the ACC and SEC, which have a number of annual rivalries that would be set on fire by this. The Big Ten has none of those now. ND-MSU, you say? Mark Hollis just admitted that their series with the Irish is "gone," save for occasional games in the future.
So, yeah, I'd be happier with Michigan dumping MAC games and playing a near-round-robin against the conference. It will never ever happen in a million billion years, I acknowledge. But it would be better.
Numbers. Bill Connelly's got a charting project going that returns numbers. With the disclaimer that not all games were charted and therefore things might be skewed by sampling bias (12 NW games are in versus two Wisconsin games, but then again there were only 2 A&M games versus ten for Tommy Tuberville's Cincinnati), here are some overall trends:
49% [of plays] took place without a huddle, 51% came with a huddle.
Without a huddle does not necessarily mean hurrying, of course. Lots of outfits don't huddle but will use chunks of the playclock for check-with-me. I'm actually surprised the no-huddle percentage isn't higher.
56% came from a shotgun formation, 26% with the quarterback under center, and 18% from the pistol.
Would be fascinated to see how this developed over the last ten years.
On pass plays, the defense rushed four defenders at the passer 61% of the time, five 19% of the time, three 11% of the time, six or more 8% of the time, and one or two just 0.3% of the time.
Michigan was not far away from this, FWIW.
On standard downs, 26% of pass attempts were marked as a play-action attempt of some kind. On passing downs, 11% were play-action.
Every single one of the passing down play action plays was Al Borges running a waggle from a big formation on second and eleven. Holy crap. I can't believe he did that with the running game he had. This joke isn't funny anymore.
Etc.: 2015 hockey commit Kyle Connor might be a big deal: THN ranks him 9th for next year's NHL draft. Stay away from killer robots (and the OHL), Kyle.
Penn State fan loses respect for NFL because Michael Sam got drafted. How Iowa makes NFL recruits. Man no one should listen to says playoff will stay at 4 teams. Iowa, preseason darling? Soccer announces a tough schedule. The next time someone tells you that athletic departments don't make a profit, remind them that the scholarship money counted as debt is fiction.
Michigan adds Jon Jansen to their broadcast team.
Crap, This Again
Just when Michigan had finally received some good recruiting news, 247's Tom Loy dropped a big ol' WELP this morning ($):
I've confirmed with a source in [Michigan commit Shaun] Crawford's camp, who gave the green light to report this information at this time, that Shaun, accompanied by his father, brother and a close friend, will take an unofficial visit to Notre Dame on Sunday. They will arrive early in the morning, stay for most of the day, and then head home Sunday evening.
Crawford has not decommitted from Michigan and he's informed the staff that he will visit South Bend this weekend.
This isn't the first time Crawford's considered a post-commitment visit to South Bend, and this time it's more than just a rumor. He had very serious interest in the Irish early in his recruitment but didn't have an offer from them when he pledged to Michigan; when Notre Dame replaced departed DC Bob Diaco with Brian Vangorder, Crawford picked up that offer.
Notre Dame isn't the only school Crawford is planning to visit, either, as 247's Bob Kurelic confirmed he'll also check out Ohio State on May 31st ($).
Crawford maintains he's committed to Michigan, and it's important to note that he informed the coaches ahead of time about his intentions to take visits—not doing so was a major issue for this staff in the cases of Pharaoh Brown and David Dawson. The infamous "Policy" is going to get a lot of play as Crawford takes these visits, so let's clear up what this really means:
And as we've all reported/wrote a million times: Hoke's "policy" says if you visit elsewhere, they'll start recruiting your spot again
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) May 15, 2014
There's a huge difference between "recruiting your spot again" and completely breaking off a commitment. Michigan is likely to look around at other cornerbacks, though they could decide not to—it's not a huge position of need in the class and they've also got top-100 corner Garrett Taylor in the fold. If Crawford decides he still wants to be at Michigan after looking around, it's highly unlikely that door is closed; remember how Dawson's recruitment played out, and he was far less up front with the coaches about his visit intentions than Crawford.
This isn't good news, of course. Crawford is a hell of a prospect, and if he goes elsewhere it'll be difficult to replace him with a similar talent. Before hitting the panic button, however, let's see how these visits play out.
[Hit THE JUMP for what's actually an entirely positive recruiting roundup save for what you've already read, including more on Alex Malzone's commitment, three top 2015 prospects showing very serious Michigan interest, and more.]
Our preseason magazine is back for a third year as an independent publication, and back on Kickstarter. It is the same 128 pages of twisted blue steel, containing a full team preview from me, opponent previews from Ace and a selection of the internet's finest opposing team bloggers, technical football stuff to thrill and amaze your friends (read: dog) with, a healthy slice of Michigan history, and profiles of Michigan Men.
- FULL TEAM PREVIEW: No, the offensive line page isn't blank. It's full of hope!
- OPPONENT PREVIEWS: The enemy in detail. Ace brings the sass.
- PINT A MINUTE: I am very proud of my Gallon retrospective title.
- DECLINE AND FALL OF THE B1G: How this happened and how to get out, maybe.
- NUSS FUSS x2: Doug Nussmeier's background, and a separate article from Space Coyote on what he wants to do.
- HALL OF THE HIGHLY TOUTED: Mathlete evaluates the most touted recruits in Michigan history, because Peppers.
- 1964 UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: Greg Dooley takes on a little-regarded portion of Michigan history.
- THE LAST BO TEAM: John Kryk on 1989.
- ORIGINS OF THE WAVE: A unique Michigan tradition, examined by former Daily writer Michael Florek.
- ORIGINS OF THE GAME: Craig Ross on the paleolithic.
This year we're offering a DRM-free e-book to everyone who purchases a physical copy. This should get to you as soon as we're done with the thing. Share it, sure. Please don't put it on Pirate Bay.
What about basketball and hockey?
We found that there was just barely enough interest last year to push the basketball and hockey magazine to even and that was after a national title game appearance. We're going to split that magazine out separately, because we probably can't justify printing it up again unless we hit a certain level we don't think we did last year. We couldn't be sure because we had one mega-kickstarter.
Our goal is to get an e-book of the same length out, with more expensive on-demand printing options for people who really really want a physical copy.
WHAT DO I DO NOW
While the NFL Draft hasn't been much of an event for Michigan fans in recent years, this year's iteration produced three Wolverine draftees, including the highest-picked Big Ten player in Taylor Lewan. When I'm not allowing the Lions to ruin my fall Sundays, I'm spending them watching the Red Zone channel, with one eye out for my fantasy players and the other hoping to see a former Michigan player in action.
I'm sure many of you are as curious as I am to see how the newest NFL Wolverines fit in to the squads that drafted them. While it's possible all three spend this year developing behind returning veterans, each has a chance to carve out a role for himself.
Taylor Lewan, Tennessee Titans
Draft position: First round, #11 overall
New uniform number: #77, same as the old uniform number
Fit: The selection of Lewan surprised some due to the fact that offensive tackle wasn't their biggest need, but they clearly felt he was the best option on the board. The long-term plan is likely to have Lewan supplant 31-year-old stalwart Michael Roos at left tackle. That probably won't be this year, however, as the two-time All-Pro has started all but one of Tennessee's last 144 regular-season games. There are some rumors that Roos could be dealt before the season, but at the moment that appears to be speculation fueled by the Lewan pick.
That doesn't mean Lewan is destined to ride the pine, however, as he could provide fierce competition from the get-go for right tackle Michael Oher, he of Blind Side fame. While the Titans inked Oher to a 4-year, $20 million contract over the offseason, his on-field performance hasn't come close to living up to the hype since his standout rookie season—he was one of the more disappointing players on a Baltimore line that graded out as one of the NFL's worst by Football Outsiders in 2013.
In fact, despite Oher's new deal, SBNation's Titans blog projects Lewan as this fall's starter at right tackle. At the very least, he should push Oher for time this year, and with Roos in the final year of his contract, it's tough to see Lewan not starting by 2015.
Projection: Backup in 2014, starting left tackle in 2015
I can't say I expected to find a good blocking-related picture from this, of all games. [Fuller]
Michael Schofield, Denver Broncos
Draft position: Third round, #95 overall
New uniform number: #79
Fit: Denver's offensive line is in a state of flux, which could provide an opening for Schofield to crack the lineup, especially given his experience playing both guard and tackle. Last year's starter at left guard, Zane Beadles, signed with Jacksonville in free agency; one potential candidate to replace him, Chris Kuper, retired in March due to ankle problems. With two-time first-team All-Pro LT Ryan Clady returning this year after missing all but the first two games of 2013, RT Orlando Franklin is expected to shift down to LG while Clady's 2013 replacement, Chris Clark, fills in at right tackle.
That isn't set in stone, by any means. Per the Mile High Report, the Broncos picked Schofield for his versatility and potential to contribute right away at multiple positions:
The Broncos drafted OT Michael Schofield with versatility in mind. Denver's o-line is in the middle of some personnel shifting, with Orlando Franklin testing his mettle at left guard and Chris Clark possibly moving to right tackle. Schofield played both positions in college, giving the Broncos depth and experience - and another name to add to the competition.
"He's got a lot of upside," John Fox said of Schofield. "Very long, very athletic. A guy that we studied really hard in the Senior Bowl as well as his college tape and we think has tremendous upside and can come in and help us right away."
MHR's current projected depth chart has Schofield as the primary backup for both guard spots, which seems like a natural fit for him early in his career.
Projection: Backup guard, first lineman off the bench if an injury occurs
Sadly, Gallon can't bring Indiana's secondary with him to the NFL [Fuller]
Jeremy Gallon, New England Patriots
Draft position: Seventh round, #244 overall
New uniform number: #83
Fit: Given a cursory glance, Gallon to the Patriots seems like a great fit—New England had serious issues with their receivers last season and we all love the idea of a Brady-to-Gallon connection. The trouble is, with Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman on the roster, the diminutive Gallon will have to prove his worth as an outside receiver or special teams standout if he wants to make the roster. Amendola is signed through 2017 and Edelman got a four-year contract and a big pay raise this offseason; they're not going anywhere, and both play primarily out of the slot.
SBNation's Patriots blog, Pats Pulpit, sees Gallon as a low-risk, high-reward pick who could push one of New England's young outside receivers for a place on the roster:
Gallon is interesting because there's no real competition on the roster. Is he a slot receiver? Because Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman have that covered. At 5'7 1/2, he's too small to be an X with Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins. The only remaining option is the Z with Brandon LaFell and Josh Boyce- and it's likely that Gallon will be fighting with Boyce. Gallon always rises up against the top competition and I wouldn't be too surprised if was up for the task.
Boyce was a fourth-round selection out of TCU in 2013; despite some serious struggles from the non-Edelman receivers last season (Amendola was hurt for much of the year), he only managed to catch nine passes in nine games, so it's not unreasonable to hope Gallon can beat him out.
Boston.com, meanwhile, doesn't appear to expect Gallon to make the roster:
It's going to be real interesting to watch the training camp battle at wide receiver. Looks like at least one familiar name is going home. The way I see it, if you can only keep five (not including Matthew Slater, who is a specialist for all intents and purposes): Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, and Brandon LaFell are the ones to keep.
Slater is an interesting name here; he's been with the Pats for six years despite catching just two passes because of his ability on special teams. If New England keeps just six receivers, Gallon's roster spot could depend on his ability to excel in that area of the game while biding his time for an opportunity to open up at receiver.
Projection: Cut by the Patriots. I'd be willing to bet he gets a better shot with another team, as soon as this year. Gallon's a good example of a player who may have preferred going undrafted—and subsequently choosing from multiple training camp invites—to getting picked up in the final round.
Undrafted Free Agents
I won't break down the situations for each UDFA, as they're all essentially in the same boat: it's an uphill battle to make an NFL roster from that position, and—like Gallon—the path to surviving training camp cuts often runs through special teams. Here's the list as it currently stands, culled from multiple sources:
DL Jibreel Black, Pittsburgh Steelers
LS Jareth Glanda, New Orleans Saints
OLB Cameron Gordon, New England Patriots
S Thomas Gordon, New York Giants
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, Baltimore Ravens
DT Quinton Washington, Oakland Raiders
Former Michigan safety Marvin Robinson, who played his final season of eligibility at Ferris State, earned a training camp invite from the Dallas Cowboys.