After a couple players tweeted the news, 247's Steve Lorenz confirmed that freshman linebacker Michael Ferns will transfer to West Virginia. Ferns, a 2014 four-star recruit from St. Clairsville, Ohio—very close to the West Virginia border—redshirted last season after enrolling early.
While Michigan loses a once-promising recruit, this is a transfer that shouldn't have a huge short- or long-term impact. Desmond Morgan, Joe Bolden, Ben Gedeon, and Mike McCray projected to fill the two-deep at inside linebacker in 2015, while Ferns's 2014 classmates Noah Furbush, Chase Winovich, and Jared Wangler provide options for the future. Michigan also returns James Ross, Royce Jenkins-Stone, and Allen Gant; as position groups go, linebacker is one of the deepest on the roster.
Ferns is the first member of the 16-man class of 2014 to depart the program.
never not funny
IT'S HAPPENING? IS IT HAPPENING? TELL ME IT'S HAPPENING. You go out of pocket for a few hours and you come back and the internet's falling apart. Near as I can tell there were a couple of posts around 8:30 last night on Scout and Rivals, both of the positive variety. Allen Trieu mentioned($) something might happen tomorrow(!). Which is today(!!!). (Side note: GBW has a rumors board that they can report more freely on without guaranteeing total accuracy, so don't get down on 'em if they're off some.)
A few hours later, Jeff Moss and Gregg Henson joined in with highly positive updates. I know, I know, I'm considerably more cautious than those two guys. And in this case there are NFL parties yet to be heard from, things that could change, etc. But they've had things before, so that should affect whatever your Bayesian estimate is to some degree.
The night ended with Steve Lorenz adding his stuff to the GOOD NEWS pile($), with "important Michigan-related figures" incrementing their optimism. He's "cautiously optimistic" now. Oh, and Trieu again($).
The upshot from everyone is a rising tide of optimism.
TODAY?!?! No. Trent Baalke's de rigueur "we evaluate after the season" statement happened late afternoon yesterday. Most targets are still in two weeks. It's highly unlikely we hear anything today. I'm betting we have to endure the full 12 days in limbo here unless it all falls apart.
SOURCES OF SAID TIDE. Moss says that Brandstatter is feeding some of this information to people. Brandstatter says he isn't. I have heard that Jack Harbaugh is a major source for both Rivals and the pile of former players who are increasingly giddy. Jack would know a lot about Jim's intentions, but I am a little worried that Jack wants this to happen so badly that he may be overstating the case.
Then you've got players Harbaugh talks to, guys he might be reaching out to as staff members… there is a lot of chatter.
A RISING TIDE… EXCEPT THIS ONE GUY. Some cold water: got a lengthy note from a source who is second-hand but has had good info during coaching searches past that is basically a re-iteration of the NFL reporter position that Michigan's chances are slim at best. I believe the guy, and believe the NFL reporters to some extent—there is clearly a story out there in which Michigan is the wallflower hoping to get noticed by the prom queen. There was a credible-seeming Cassandra on Rivals offering up a similar story about how this isn't happening and was never happening.
Some of this is from people who swear Harbaugh wants to remain in the NFL. Some of this comes from within the Michigan base. It would look pretty bad for Brandon if Hackett did lock Harbaugh down, and it was mentioned to me that he is hoping it doesn't happen. He could be a negativity vector there. That would be the best case scenario for this undercurrent of NOPE amongst the cresting wave of euphoria for the same reasons Jack Harbaugh might be overly enthusiastic.
It is hard for me to reconcile the piles of internal optimism with the idea Harbaugh is just stringing Michigan along. There would be a way to approach this without giving everyone the impression it's happening dot gif. On the other hand, this is a credible person. There are people close to Harbaugh who think it's not happening dot gif.
Many someones are about to be very wrong.
ON THE TRAIL. As a counterpoint to that, heard that a Michigan assistant has been pinging kids in his area asking them to hold off on commitments until Harbaugh is in place two weeks from now. A couple of the staffers are hoping to stick… well, most of them probably are, but a couple in particular have higher hopes than others. They're pitching the big kahuna.
EXIT LES. Les Miles had a weird intro to his press conference yesterday, talking to reporters off the record about his interest in the Michigan job: he has none. Cameras off, direct quotes prohibited, gist communicated: weird.
Why he wouldn't just issue the standard press-conference denial is unknown. The explanation that comes to mind is that he was wary of getting a little emotional now that he knows for-sure-for-sure he'll never coach Michigan. Or he could just be weird. That is always on the table with Les.
If you're so inclined, you could read this as evidence that IT'S HAPPENING, as word trickles out to connected Michigan people and Les's slim hopes have just gone to zero. The other option is that all the people swearing up and down that Miles would come back if given the opportunity are wrong. The agreement there within the Michigan insider community is iron-clad, though.
ON ASSISTANTS? Are we talking about assistants already? Seems way ahead of ourselves, but okay. Ty Wheatley has been rumored to be on his way back ever since it looked like Hoke wasn't going to make it. It's obvious why—Michigan Man.
He has also made his interest in returning known, as long as it's some sort of upgrade on his current role as the Bills' RB coach. While Michigan probably wouldn't want to throw him in the deep end as a coordinator right away, something like OSU's recent setup with Tom Herman and Ed Warriner as co-OCs would work.
Sam Webb recently downplayed speculation by saying their hasn't been any contact; even so that seems like it might happen once a hypothetical staff hypothetically starts being assembled.
Durkin also had a minor role in Office Space
Trieu also dropped($) Florida DC DJ Durkin's name. Durkin was the DE/ST coach at Stanford for Harbaugh's first three years there, then moved on to Florida, where he was an LB coach for a bit before taking over as DC for the last two years. The obvious catch is that he was working under Will Muschamp, who is now making more than a lot of head coaches as Auburn's DC.
Durkin is in demand, being courted by UNC and A&M; as a Youngstown guy who went to BGSU he has a ton of those Ohio recruiting connects. There was some chatter that he'd be retained by McElwain but Thayer Evans reports that UF is going to hire Mississippi State DC Geoff Collins—yes, the you're a baller guy—instead*. Interestingly, Durkin was a GA under Urban Meyer for the two years Meyer was there, then moved on to Notre Dame in the same capacity—no doubt on Meyer's recommendation.
*[Exhibit A as to why Mullen would jump at the chance to move to a school with more resources.]
PLAN B. Heard for a second time that Tom Herman was under serious consideration as a backup plan. With Les out for whatever reason, the non-Harbaugh options get slim fast if Michigan cannot poach a Power 5 college HC in a good spot—always hard to do and harder these days when everyone has buckets of cash.
I'm just sayin', Dan Mullen hasn't signed that extension… because now it's real easy to see Michigan burning through candidates until it's looking at wild-ass swings at up-and-comers like Scott Frost (high on CSU's list) or the Schiano-Addazio-tier Life Is A Grim March To The Grave candidates. Mullen told the local media via text he hasn't heard from Michigan, period, and in this case I believe him. If Collins does jump to Florida he's got to be steamed, though.
I wonder if someone at Michigan will reach out to Herman and tell him not to sign anything just yet—Herman already announced he wouldn't be joining Houston until OSU is out of the playoff. He is looking increasingly like Michigan's best will-obviously-come option. Short term sketch? Yes. Worth it if we don't hire Steve Addazio? Yes.
SERIOUSLY. Bo Pelini. Pitt. Make it happen.
Boston College 1 UM 0 EV 05:44 Doherty from Gilmour and Tuch
Teddy Doherty carries into BC’s offensive zone, and as he does this he starts to look to his right. Downing is back to defend and reads the tilt of Doherty’s head; he’s thinking pass and wants to take that away.
The thing is Doherty’s looking at no one. There’s not a BC teammate there for him to pass to, so he’s either going to shoot, turn it back and walk up the boards, or take it behind the net. You can see in the screencap that he’s going to shoot it. He’s loading up his shot, and Nagelvoort has a clear read on it.
Sometimes you lose a one-on-one battle. Sometimes a forward loses it along the boards. Sometimes a defenseman loses it in the neutral zone. Sometimes a goaltender loses it against a shooter. They all can be dangerous, but has as immediate an aftermath as a goaltender losing to a shooter. Nagelvoort butterflies and Doherty puts his shot in the perfect spot; it hits the top corner over the nearside shoulder.
It looks like this is Nagelvoort’s fault. In a way, it is. At the same time, he’s the last line of defense in what should be just that: a line. Downing is concerned with a backdoor cutter and plays the pass, which is textbook. The issue is that there isn’t a guy cutting that way. If he steps up to take Doherty he may not be able to put a body on him in time, but he takes away space from Doherty that he really shouldn’t have. Maybe this causes Doherty to choose one of the aforementioned options (skating it back up the boards or behind the net). My point is that a goal given up is not often solely one person’s fault, and there’s more than meets the eye here.
Boston College 2 UM 0 EV 07:42 McCoshen from Spiro and Gaudreau
Downing manages to pin Spiro along the boards, which is good. He manages to get a pass off into the slot, which is decidedly less good. Nothing terribl3 is necessarily going to come from this, but when you pin a guy along the boards the hope is that you tie the puck up along with it.
Passes in hockey are fast. You’re smart. You already knew that. It’s not completely unusual for a TV camera to snap forwards or backwards to keep up with the play, and that’s what happens here. One thing I’ve learned, though, is that you are in a world of trouble when the camera doesn’t have time to focus before the shot is off. That’s what happens here. Oy.
That screen cap looks worse than it is (maybe). There’s a strategy that teams use where the defense collapses around the goaltender, with the idea being that you’ll be able to pick up netfront opposition and clear the puck if there are rebounds. The downside to that strategy is this: a guy gets an undisturbed shot attempt that the goaltender can’t get a good read on, whether it’s because he’s being screened (see below) or whether he just can’t adjust quickly.
[After THE JUMP: I screencapped something that looks like hyperspace so that might be worth your time]
I’ve been watching The Wire – I’m through Season 3, Episode 6. Won’t be writing about this D’Angelo though. (source)
Your weekly B1G Hoops column
Table of Contents:
D’Angelo Russell player similarities
James Blackmon player similarities
Melo Trimble player similarities
The Big Ten is weaker than usual
Ugly losses: not just for football!
Michigan missing NCAA Tournament: DEFCON 3
We aren’t the only ones to lose to good teams
Trending up, trending down
Other player comparisons, by request
Early frontrunner for most B1G game of the year
1. D’Angelo Russell player similarities
Over the summer, I devised a system by which current players and their statistical profiles can be cross-referenced against a database of former Big Ten players (from 2008-2014) to find the most similar players. The “Similarity Score” system uses the difference between the z-scores of each statistical category (weighted equally), adds up the absolute value of those differences, and the players with the smallest Similarity Score number are the most analogous players – statistically speaking.
A few caveats: it is early in the season and the quality of opposition hasn’t been great, so some of these names might be a little too complimentary for the players listed; this isn’t a comparison of playing style or even listed position – the numbers are blind to all of that; these guys aren’t necessarily “as good as” the players listed below them – they’re just the closest out of the sample of Big Ten players over the last seven years. Every statistical system has drawbacks and this is no different, but it does provide an interesting jumping-off point for discussion and it definitely has some merit.
Click on image to enlarge. Top comps, in order: Trey Burke (2013), Gary Harris (2014), Jake Kelly (2009), Bo Spencer (2012), E’Twaun Moore (2011), Andre Hollins (2013), John Shurna (2012), Demetri McCamey (2011)
D’ANGELO RUSSELL IS NOT TREY BURKE. I’M NOT SAYING THAT. PLEASE DON’T ACCUSE ME OF SAYING THAT.
…but, against a terrible schedule, D’Angelo Russell has been absolutely superb. Maybe not Trey Burke superb, but pretty damn close if not. Even against Louisville – by far the best team that Ohio State’s faced thus far – he put up 17 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals (with 4 turnovers on rather inefficient shooting). There have been many impressive parts of his game – the steal rate bodes well for a potential NBA future, but nothing stands out to me more than his assist rate of 32.2 (5.4 assists per game).
Incredibly, he’s more efficient and has a higher usage than the names listed above (except for Trey Burke, with whom he’s on par). Again, he has only played one Kenpom Top-100 team, but that’s very impressive regardless.
Right now, everything suggests that Russell is a one-and-done talent. He stuffs the stat-sheet from the two-guard position with points, rebounds, assists, and steals; his tempo-free numbers are bound to regress against better competition, but Russell’s done everything that could be asked of him thus far. He hits threes – 20 of 46 for a nice 43.5% – and, at six-foot-five, he has size for the two-guard position in the league. Ohio State’s had plenty of NBA players under Thad Matta and, at least so far, it looks like Russell will be another one.
Also, another D’Angelo released a new album that’s pretty solid. [Ed-Ace: "Pretty solid" is a disturbing understatement, young buck.] [Ed-Alex: This is just the first step in truly refining my musical tastes.]
2. James Blackmon player similarities
Click on image to enlarge. Top comps, in order: Nik Stauskas (2014), Deshaun Thomas (2013), Jon Shurna (2011), Drew Crawford (2012), Tim Hardaway (2011), John Shurna (2010), Matt Gatens (2012), Deshaun Thomas (2012)
Another five-star, another standout freshman. Blackmon isn’t quite as well-rounded as Russell and probably isn’t as sure of a pro, but he’s been terrific for Indiana thus far this season. According to Pomeroy, the Hoosiers have the ninth-best offense (and 174th-best defense) nationally and the backcourt of Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon could stack up against nearly any other in college basketball – size (and, by extension, defense) is really the only major issue.
Like Russell, Blackmon’s blend of efficiency and usage is unsustainable, but absolutely excellent thus far. His shooting splits are fantastic: 53% on twos, 46% on threes, and 88% from the free throw line. Per data from Shot Analytics, he’s only taken 17 midrange shots – out of 130 total (13%) – which speaks to his shot selection and ability to get to the rim, where he finishes well.
Nik Stauskas isn’t a perfect comparison for Blackmon, but there’s a lot in common: both are very efficient shooters who have fairly similar shooting splits. Stauskas was a much better distributor and got to the free throw line more (while Blackmon’s a better rebounder). Deshaun Thomas is another intriguing statistical profile: Thomas is much taller than Blackmon and played as a stretch-four, but they’re the same type of remorseless gunner that has a high shot attempts to assists ratio. Blackmon shoots at a higher percentage however.
I know I have to mention it: arghhh Michigan could have used Blackmon this season.
[AFTER THE JUMP: more numbers (obviously); STOP LOSING EVERYBODY; stuff on Michigan]
Well, crap, I guess I should probably do one of these.
Goodbye: Chris Clark
— Chris Clark (@Clark8Chris) December 2, 2014
Mere moments after the announcement of Brady Hoke's dismissal, four-star 2015 TE commit Chris Clark decommitted in a move that came as little surprise. In talking to The Wolverine's Brandon Brown, he gave the impression Michigan is pretty unlikely to regain his commitment ($):
"I'm still interested in Michigan but it kind of just depends on the impression the new coach makes on me," he said. "I'll be honest, it's probably going to be pretty tough but we will see. I just really have to see who the new coach is going to be and what coaches are going to be on his staff.
North Carolina, the school Clark originally committed to, is among four other programs vying for his services, along with Texas, UCLA, and USC. Providing a small ray of hope, Clark said he'd like to take one of his official visits to Ann Arbor, and his recruitment should extend until Signing Day or close to it.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup, including updates on Kinnel, Cole, the 2016 commits, and Wheatley.]
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