I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
Guest post by Craig Ross.
I talked to Coach Darrell Funk for a bit before his three sessions (all on the inside zone game) and asked him about his impressions re: the defense last spring. He said, “I could feel it in the spring that the defense would be good. Coach Mattison was doing little things that drove us crazy.” The coach indicated that he thought his offense would be decent, so he knew that Mattison had a chance to show a lot more than the defense had in 2010. Indeed, Coach Funk stated he had been pretty certain of his assessment.
Funk is a very engaging guy. Like a few other coaches I have talked to (Mark Smith on the current staff, Rod Smith, Scot Loeffler and Mike DeBord on prior staffs) he considers it a priority that the listener understands what he is getting at. And, it doesn’t seem to matter whether the listener is a coach, a wanna-be coach, or just some schmo off the street (me, for example). He is a teacher, first, and it shows. At the close of his last session (he was three hours in) I bugged him (well, Brian goaded me; his fault) about the offside’s guard first step into the A gap (some call this a “bucket” step, a term Funk doesn’t prefer—he likes to say the OL is “giving ground to gain leverage”), and he was pleased that I asked him, demonstrating the technique to make sure I understood the point.
He started his first session saying that he could talk “for two full days” on the inside zone, if anyone was willing to listen. When Brian joined me for session 3, (he had spent sessions 1 and 2 with Coach Mattison) he (kinda) groused about not having the background to learn the “minutia” of these blocking techniques. But after building upon the first two sessions, I could have easily have listened to a few more. Not that I can swear that I was getting more than the various tips of isolated icebergs. And, probably I have some of it twisted around. But, my notes from the first session were close to pristine, before my energy waned.
Here are Coach Funk’s basic principles from the first session [the philosophy of the Inside Zone] with the caveat that I am just an ordinary fan. [Though Funk said, “If you just get a tidbit out of this I will be happy.”] Jargon is always tough for the non-coach but I think I have most of this “right.”
When zoning, Funk and Borges are seeking “hard double teams” at the line of scrimmage. Even though it is zone, they still want physical, hard downhill combo blocks.
The hard double team at the LOS is more important than getting one of the double team blockers to the second level, though, clearly, that’s the idea. But, between late on the second level and not getting hard double team blocks at the LOS, Funk chooses “be late.”
He doesn’t want the offensive line blocking “rules” to vary. He prefers that there not be a lot of exceptions to blocking assignments; it is best if the OL have a few rules, and not a lot of exceptions. Practice time is limited, you can only learn so much. [I have heard coaches say this over and over. Get good at what you do.]
Funk wants the offensive line and the RB to work for “squareness” with their shoulders. He thinks the shoulder angles of the OL and RB should match, as much as is possible. He stressed this a couple of times so I assume this is a key point for him.
He says if your RBs are running with square shoulders and “downhill” the back has a greater opportunity to take advantage of cut backs. He prefers that the RB press the gap and stay square, implying less bounce to the outside and, when there, the opportunity to find a lane (a cut back) when the defense has over-pursued. [I found this very interesting, not something I had heard before, especially the “match” between RBs and OL.]
When they are running zone with “number 16,” they often have a read to the backside (but not always). The key for Coach Hoke “and I have heard him say this a hundred times” is that he wants the back to “press the A gap until he can’t.” Hoke stresses simplicity.
Targeting. Who is going to combo what DL and to what backer? The Coach says the guards never say/call anything but the Center (Tackles? They may communicate with guards on the 30 or Bear fronts) is responsible for making “exception” calls. In the UM offense the exceptions are (primarily) a “30 front” (odd front with a NT right over the center) or a Bear defense. Otherwise, they have primary rules to determine who is doubling and who the target LB is. My assumption is that an OL blocks a lineman if he is covered. If not covered he doubles to the next linemen to his play side. Depending upon the movement of the DL, one blocker releases and looks to the second level, the targeted LB.
OL Splits. The basics are that center to guard is about 2 feet. Guard to tackle, about three feet. But he isn’t dogmatic about this or with stance, so long as the lineman isn’t tipping run or pass.
Landmarks. Doesn’t like angles. He wants each OL to work from “his backside eye to the play side number.” He feels this gets back to principle #1, hard doubles at the LOS. And then work to square, finishing North. “Stay low, don’t stand up.” [As he shows tape in subsequent sessions, he critiques OL play primarily looking to footwork, working to square.] So, let’s say the backside guard has a DL over him. The landmark is still BSE/PSN. He wants the OL to work a line of his backside eye to the DL’s play side shoulder, thus protecting the backside A gap. In the subsequent sessions, when reviewing tape, I would say these are the keys for Funk.
Footwork. “First step, get out of your footprint.” [And gain ground.] The second step is the most important, has got to “get into the ground.” Funk makes the second step as the most important coaching point. [He provides examples.]
Get out of your footprint, “get into the ground with your second step,” work backside eye to play side number, work to square, finish north. This is the homily.
Oh yeah, “don’t stand up.” Funk says he has one, young promising OG who “will get there” as soon as he stops standing up.
Two small things that cropped up in his presentation that I found interesting. First, Funk’s theme that there just isn’t enough time to teach/practice, so getting good at a couple of things is better than doing a lot of stuff not very well. I have heard this from coaches a lot.
Second, and this wasn’t that explicit but it was clearly there, was that Al Borges isn’t a huge fan of zone schemes. He would prefer to be in a man or gap system. I think Funk can go either way, and might even lean to zone constructs, but Borges isn’t convinced. Whether or not this is a tea leaf for the future I don’t know. Coach Funk seemed to indicate that it would take him a couple of years to get his zone scheme in sync (a bit different that RR’s scheme). So, we get the zone into gear next year and then we transition when Denard graduates? Or not? Next time I get the opportunity, I will ask.
In sessions two and three there was a lot of video demonstration and refinement of the basics outlined in session 1—ergo Brian’s comment. In the second session there was a lot of talk about defenders “spiking,” specifically “spiking down.” That’s when a defender attacks a gap from (say) outside of the right guard, looping back into the A gap. Funk talked about the techniques for protecting the A gaps, which were, in fact, variations of the BSE/PSN theme, but with an OL always taking a “bucket” step to the protect the gap to his play side, even if a short jab step and if the OL was “covered.”
Programming note: Brian is out for the day and I've got a pretty busy non-blogging day myself. We've got a lot of content ready to go, and I'll be checking in throughout the day, but Friday Recruitin' will either come late this afternoon or will morph into Saturday Recruitin', depending on my schedule.
Everett (MA) OL John Montelus recently earned a place at #214 overall in the Rivals250, making him one of the top prospect for 2013 on the East Coast. Standing at 6'5", 295 pounds, Montelus already has a college-ready body and holds early offers from Michigan, Boston College, UConn, Florida, N.C. State, Rutgers, Syracuse, Virginia, and West Virginia. I caught up with John recently to talk about his recruitment and his interest in the Wolverines:
ACE: Which schools have you been in contact with the most right now?
JOHN: Right now I'm contacting pretty much all the schools that have offered.
ACE: I know you got the Michigan offer relatively recently. Who have you been talking to from Michigan?
JOHN: I've been talking to Coach Funk and Coach Mallory. Both these guys are really good and I can't wait to go down there to make my unofficial visit soon.
ACE: Do you know when you want to visit the school or is that still up in the air right now?
JOHN: It's still up in the air right now, but I'm definitely going to make a visit soon.
ACE: What do you know about Michigan as a program?
JOHN: They have really good academics and they produce a lot of good offensive linemen.
ACE: Looking back at your junior year, how do you think you performed on the field?
JOHN: I played well. I did better than my sophomore year. I got way bigger; my sophomore year I was 245 and my junior year I was 295.
ACE: What would you say are the biggest strengths of your game, and what are you looking to improve to get to that next level?
JOHN: My biggest strength is definitely pass-blocking. I can run-block, but next year we're going to run more. I need to work, basically, on run-blocking.
ACE: You mentioned wanting to visit Michigan. Are there any other schools you want to visit at this point?
JOHN: I'm going down to Florida on my April vacation.
ACE: Do you have an idea of when you want to narrow down your choices?
JOHN: At the end of the summer I'll probably have my top five favorite schools.
ACE: When it comes time to pick a school, what are going to be the main factors that you're looking at?
JOHN: Good academics and a winning team, that's all I want.
ACE: In terms of position, I know you play offensive tackle in high school. Is that where you think you fit best at the college level?
JOHN: I could play offensive tackle in college, but if coaches think I can play guard I'll play guard. It doesn't matter what position.
ACE: Going away from the football field, what's something about you that you think people should know about you?
JOHN: What do I do after football? Mostly I lift in the weight room.
ACE: Always working hard, it sounds like.
Everywhere else has reposted already so I might as well throw this up top. 'Pre-gaming with' Pat Stansik posted this ode to a valentine of untied laces, performed by a band called Mind's Eyes. The lyrics you will recognize, since you made them.
Sorry to be a bit of a wet towel on this but if you've played guitar for longer than 9 months a I-V-ii-vi progression in G is something you only do if you're an Oasis knockoff for ironic effect, or as a secret track filled with dick jokes at the end of your album. Then again I thought Donkey Punch was overrated, that Tally Hall just plain sucked, and if anyone of that generation was going to "make it" it oughtta be Six Clips, so what do I know?
I know Six Clips rocked.
What I don't know is how to play lacrosse, except in that it seems to be like hockey. But hey the Canadian sports haven't missed with me yet so let's learn this. Let's see, where would we find…oh hey look it's Brooks with the beginner's guide to the rules of lacrosse. [Read read read]. Sweet, I'm now familiar enough with the regs to criticize the refs and ready for some L-A-X. Let's see, where would we find a game…oh hey look it's MaizeAndBlueWahoo with the details for M's first televised lacrosse game (plus a long recap of the first game as varsity, a 13-9 loss to Detroit-Mercy in Pontiac). Surely it's some weekday when I can't...oh hey look it's right after the Spring Game in the Big House, and versus Ohio State. And there's to be a cup between the three Big Ten teams (PSU is the other). Now this is how you launch a new varsity sport!
In a Race to Pasadena, I'll Take the
Beamer BimmerHT. Your diarist of the week Eye of the Tiger has made 2012 Big Ten Football programs comparable to 2012 model automobiles #OnlyInMichigan. Each team gets a 2011 grade, a 2012 recruiting grade, and a predicted average wins for the next three years that doesn't seem to take into account some of the vast differences in schedule strengths. It also highlights the bitter unfairness of Ohio State's players only getting free Nissans this year when they're valued at Ferrari FFs. Michigan Team 133 is a controversial 2012 BMW M5. Controversial because people in the comments are enraged that he said the metaphorically Rich-Rod model was a naturally aspirated V10 but the V10 is really traditional so he must be saying Lloyd and Mo and Bo ran spread offenses, and Hoke isn't a safe V8 and...wow guys we really just found a way to drag performance engines into an RR argument. Seriously: #OnlyInMichigan!
Picture-Paging Brilliance. On TV the Treais goal when he put back his own rebound looked downright Datsyukian, but I was afraid it might seem less so when screen capped. Silly thing to fear:
All hail CenterIce for picture paging every goal against MSU last weekend.
Sugar Bowl Every Snap. Sugar Bowl Every Snap. He also surveys readers to ask who wants Brian to stop what he's doing and sacrifice two days of his life to thoroughly picking apart a game from six weeks ago that is only marginally related to this year's team. To this you respond "hell yes!" because Brian Cook is our personal UFR monkey.
Best of the Board
WHAT IS THE AIRSPEED VELOCITY OF A BE-DREADED SPREAD QUARTERBACK CARRYING AN OBLONG COCONUT?
- WHO is your favorite new MGoBoard poster (hint: it's the Bama guy)?
- WHICH old-tyme blogger do you miss the most?
- WHAT made you come to MGoBlog in the first place?
That last is the most interesting, from the guy who found the blogspot site left open on a fishbowl computer to the old guy who finally asked his kid "how do you know so much about the recruits?"
Starting pitcher Sara Driesenga was freshman of the week. Line? Line!
Line!!!! Sara, who by reports was born crying "Hail to the Victors," is also batting .500 so far (2 for 4). This is slightly worse than her high school career, when she had an ERA of 0.40, and a .504 career batting average. Let's pick it up Sara; this is MICHIGAN fergodsakes. Softball also picked up a touted southpaw recruit this week.
GET TO THE PART WITH KATE UPTON!
Etc. Discussing blooms from Brian's post on the Mattison clinic on whether this using the SAM on the wide side always is perhaps a bit unsound—from recollection teams that tried that last year were Illinois and Nebraska and it very didn't work. College Game Day is free FYI; in return for this information the OP let us know Denard liked his valentine song from up top. Sigh: Kate Upton. The countdown begins.
Great goalies past. An emailer brings up a name before my time:
As an alum who graduated in 1979, I would nominate Robbie Moore as a great UM goalie. If you think Hunwick is tiny, just check out the vitals and (lack of) padding on Moore. Robbie was one of the first entertainers at Michigan, earning cheers from the student section when he would hop atop the goal during timeouts and just sit there, swinging his legs back and forth.
His pro career appears to just be incredibly unlucky. I'm guessing he might have had a significant NHL stay if his rookie experience in the playoffs for the Flyers had gone just a bit better. The Flyers had to replace Parent, and Robbie just got on the wrong side of Pete Peeters and Pelle Lindbergh.
Yost wasn't tricked out in those days and UM was a solid program (made the frozen four in 76, I believe) but not a consistently great one. But Moore was a blast.
I think Hunwick should do the sit-on-the-goal thing. Probably tougher these days when the thing can come out from underneath you.
Besides stating the obvious, could you please explain the difference between four-year scholarships and one-year renewable scholarships? I have never heard of a coach just flat out cutting a guy for performance (publicly anyway). Even Saban gives his kids "medical" hardships instead of sending them on their merry way. Also, what happens in disciplinary cases? Do coaches still have the power to kick an athlete off the team for violating rules? And what would happen in cases like Tony Posada's last year (coming in out of shape)? Thanks in advance.
While you haven't heard about players getting flat-out cut for performance, they do in ways subtle and not. Certain transfers in search of playing time are undertaken with the understanding that not only playing time but a scholarship will be scarce in future years if the kid chooses to stick it out. St. Saban Memorial Hospital can only be pushed so far before it becomes ludicrous…
…and at some point after it becomes ludicrous the NCAA notices. Every year Saban has to shuffle some kids out the door. We never know who they are because they have no leverage and they don't want to rock the boat in case South Alabama is turned off. If those players suddenly have leverage we'll find out who they are (or more likely Saban will just continue to offer one year deals; at least then people going into their Alabama experience are explicitly warned).
As to what the functional differences are between one- and four-year scholarships, that is an implementation issue I haven't seen details about. Clearly there has to be some ability for coaches to cut players who fail out or sucker-punch a hockey player somewhere other than Michigan State. What those are have not been made clear. Given this post on the Bylaw Blog, I don't think that's a problem with publicity. It seems like no one is certain of the enforcement mechanism:
Key to the Big Ten’s oversigning limit is evaluating why scholarships are ending and judging whether schools should be able to replace that student-athlete with a new recruit. The stability and homogeneousness of the Big Ten’s membership has made this workable. Whether it remains workable in a larger conference with more fluid and diverse membership is questionable. And the idea of the NCAA running such an office sounds like a trap for the Association.
Without this evaluation, the oversigning limit is meaningless because a coach can simply clear out enough scholarships for whatever size class he wants by nonrenewing more current players before signing day.
This is the current situation. In the future, John Infante suggests multi-year scholarships would reduce the need for such an office. This would be the way things play out:
To clear roster space, a coach would have to find a permissible reason to cancel a scholarship during the period of award and complete the appeal process all prior to signing day. Adding in an exception if a coach grants permission to contact every Division I institution (an “unconditional release”) or pairing this oversigning limit with a transfer rule that granted a great deal of freedom to a student-athlete whose scholarship was cancelled would complicate matters, but would also discourage more roster turnover.
That transfer bit is a great idea—when a school voluntarily terminates a player's scholarship he should be able to transfer anywhere he wants and play immediately—but the definition of "permissible reason" is left unaddressed. Presumably academic washouts are amongst those. What level of legal trouble would be? MIPs? Traffic tickets? Minor possession beefs leading to probation?
As far as Posada goes, he left of his own volition and Michigan would likely be able to get his scholarship back. If he decided to stay and take advantage of his four-year scholarship he would have to participate in team activities, something he may not want to or be capable of doing. At that point the mutually beneficial solution would be to find a medical reason he should not participate. Like "I am very heavy."
Is that a satisfactory answer? No, not really. The NCAA has a lot of issues to hammer out. Again, virtually all of this would be solved by replacing the roster maximum with a yearly cap on new scholarship players.
Personal relationship with bowls.
With Michigan getting back to a BCS bowl this past season, I found
myself wondering about your personal stance on attending bowl games.
Considering your (justified) disdain for rich old dudes in yellow
blazers, I guess I always assumed that you avoided giving your
hard-earned cash to such operations. I certainly could have
overlooked it, but I don't recall you discussing your attendance at
the Sugar Bowl or any other bowl game since mgoblog's inception.
Then, in a recent UV column, you stated: "I'm probably not going to Dallas this year because I can get a generic NFL stadium experience at many bowl games."
I assume this was a tongue-in-cheek comment, but I figured the long
and boring football offseason is a good time to discuss this stuff:
(1) Which bowl games (Michigan or non-Michigan) have you attended?
The only bowl I have been to is the 2007 Rose Bowl. (The one against USC that was 3-3 at halftime and then ended 32-18.)
(2) Under what circumstances, if any, would you attend a Michigan
"bowl" game? National Championship game only (maybe only at the Rose
Bowl)? National Semi-Final right next door at Ford Field in Detroit
(assuming the system evolves/devolves that way)? Insight Bowl in
Tempe vs. Oklahoma (assuming you're already stuck in the desert on an
ill-fated family vacation, and tickets are $10)?
I'll be interested to hear you discuss some scenarios and your
rationale. I assume you attended, or at least really wanted to
attend, the 1998 Rose Bowl - but if you tell us you've attended every
bowl game since the mid-'90s there might be a collective "head
asplode" moment. Thanks for your work on the blog.
I strongly considered going to the Sugar Bowl but the timing did not work out well. The people I usually do these things with had work issues, my wife couldn't go because she is currently an adjunct at Michigan and classes started the day after. I had the option of flying down for one full day and thought that was not a good expenditure of money and time, especially because I'm expected to put out a ton of content in the vicinity of a football game. Without those annoying restrictions I probably would have taken the opportunity to hit up New Orleans.
The Rose Bowl moves the needle. I haven't gone to many in the past because I was an idiot ('98), a child (pre-'98) or being frugal (2004, 2005) just after exiting college. In the future I'll probably go to most Rose Bowls.
I can't imagine wanting to go to any other bowl. The problem is the locations. I have created a diagram to demonstrate.
(Los Angeles is debatable but the Rose Bowl is the Rose Bowl.) I'm not the kind of person who finds happiness wandering around somewhere screaming "OH MY GOD IT'S WARM." I would go to a bowl game in Denver or Santa Fe because I could pack in some skiing around it—the Frozen Four in Denver was fantastic—but there aren't any Big Ten bowls in ski destinations. Northern California is the closest place that actually has a game. Unfortunately, the Big Ten's relentless insistence on making the cities the least appealing ones possible means the bonus parts of your trip are going to Epcot Center or… uh… whatever they do in Tampa. Orson says that's do meth and strip. Tampa, Jacksonville, Orlando, and Scottsdale are the Applebees of American cities. I can't think of any reason on earth to go to Houston or Dallas. It's bad when you lose San Antonio and your bowl destinations get worse.
My ideal bowl locations are in order: Denver, San Francisco, New York, Santa Fe, [NARRATOR CONTINUES FOR HOURS], a Vietnam WAR POW prison, a Honduran prison, Guantanamo Bay, Orlando. Since available destinations will forever be non-overlapping Venn diagram circles, it's the Rose or nothing unless Michigan makes a title game or gets sucked into the Sugar Bowl again.
Am I wrong about this? Is Orlando a fun place to go? Please advise.
Retro lingo revival.
I was reading this article about a "cyclorama" of the Battle of Gettysburg, and something caught my attention. Basically, a "cyclorama" was a giant painting (this one was four hundred feet long) displayed on the interior of a rotunda. The Gettysburg one was considered a masterpiece of the form and was hugely popular. Naturally, that success inspired copycats:
These pirated works were known as "buckeyes," a pejorative commonly applied to things of inferior quality and, in the art world, used for painters and their works aimed at the commercial market.
Surely this excellent 19th century definition could use a 21st century revival. For example, say you got a new phone that wasn't as good as your old phone. Instead of saying "It's a real piece of crap", you'd say "It's a real buckeye". Or instead of saying "my cheap sandals broke", you'd say "my buckeye sandals broke". Bing is a buckeye, as is ESPN the Magazine, examples abound. It'll take some getting used to, but I think we can bring this back.
As I was saying, the Big Ten's bowl destinations are all buckeyed up.
In preparation for Michigan's College Gameday-featured extravaganza against Ohio State on Saturday, I asked Sarah Hardy of Eleven Warriors a handful of questions about the Buckeye hoops squad. For a Buckeye, she provided some very insightful answers, which you can find below. I did a similar Q&A over at 11W; you can check that out here. Thank you to Sarah—who you can follow on Twitter @sarbucks—for taking the time to provide the OSU perspective on the game.
Other than free throw percentage (9th in the Big Ten), the Buckeyes don't appear to have a weakness. OSU's record supports this. Am I missing something?
Jon Diebler. Or, I should say, Ohio State is missing Jon Diebler. With him, this team could easily be undefeated. Instead, there’s no reliable outside shooter, and without that threat, it allows the defense to focus most of their efforts on Sullinger and, to a lesser extent, Buford. By forcing the opponent to account for him at all times, Diebler’s mere presence opened up the floor for his teammates.
Now, Ohio State’s most accurate three-point “specialists” are Sullinger (11/23) and Lenzelle Smith Jr. (19/47), neither of whom attempts enough treys to make a significant impact. That really levels the playing field against a team with less talent but one that can score from behind the arc with regularity.
I'd ask about the Michigan State loss, but the Spartans are about as different a team as possible from the Wolverines. Illinois and Indiana did manage to beat Ohio State. What did they do to make that happen?
The Illinois game was one of those situations that OSU falls victim to at least once a season: an opposing player (Brandon Paul in this case) turns into an evil sorcerer for the night, and no matter how closely he is guarded, his black magic will not allow him to miss.
Still, it was a close match throughout and it ultimately came down to Ohio State’s Achilles’ Heel: three-pointers. They hit just 5/15 from downtown while the Illini were 11/18 (the Dark Lord alone was 8/10). At the end of the game, Paul came through with key shots and no one for the Buckeyes stepped up to do the same.
Against Indiana, they again couldn’t close it out, but the circumstances leading up to those final minutes were different than in the loss to Illinois. Visiting Assembly Hall, where refs must have PTSD from the days of Bobby Knight, Ohio State was getting called for ticky tack fouls that ended up dictating the game. Sullinger and Craft were both in foul trouble early, and in the second half, everyone was too scared to play defense, so they gave up an unusual amount of easy baskets.
Also, the Bucks were uncharacteristically sloppy with the ball, especially Craft with a career-high six turnovers.
In the first matchup, Michigan effectively limited Jared Sullinger by playing a lot of zone, which is unusual for the Wolverines. Have other teams deployed this strategy with any effectiveness, or do you see that as a one-time occurrence? Do you think Sullinger bounces back in this game?
Against Minnesota on Tuesday night, Tubby Smith switched to the zone after the Buckeyes went on an early 20-0 run. After that, Ohio State finished the first half with 8 points on 2/10 shooting. I checked with one of our lead basketball writers at 11W, Chris Lauderback, and we agreed that the main reason they struggle against the zone is because they start jacking up 3s, often unsuccessfully.
In January when these teams met, the zone helped limit Sullinger to 13 points and 5 rebounds. He was also in foul trouble early, so I have to believe Beilein will employ it again. It’s Michigan’s best bet to counter against someone who presents the kind of matchup problems that Sully does.
However, if the Minnesota game was any indication, he will play better this time around against the Wolverines. On Tuesday, he notched 23 points and 8 rebounds and even when Andre Hollins tossed an inbounds pass off his crotch, he wasn’t as visibly frustrated as he was versus the likes of Michigan and Michigan State.
I think most Wolverine fans are aware of Sullinger, Aaron Craft, and William Buford as being the main stars for OSU. Who else should Michigan watch out for on Saturday?
Lenzelle Smith Jr. came up huge the first time these two teams met (17 points, 12 rebounds). He has that jack-of-all-trades quality that made David Lighty such an invaluable member of the Buckeyes for all his 20 seasons. Like everyone except Sullinger and Craft, Smith is not always consistent, but he will the ability to emerge when his teams needs him.
While Deshaun Thomas is still a gunner, his shot selection is better this season than last, when his sometimes poor decision-making cost him playing time. His defense leaves a lot to be desired, and he’s erratic from behind the arc, but he’s proficient around the basket, grabbing boards and putting back missed shots.
Although Matta has gone with a deeper rotation than in years past, there’s usually not a lot of production from the bench unless the game is a blowout. Lately, freshman Sam Thompson has been the first one off the bench. Similar to almost every other player on the roster, he needs to work on his jump shot, but he’s extremely athletic and can block shots, hit the glass, and throw down glorious dunks. Even other teams’ fans seem to enjoy his gravity-defying moments.
How do you expect the Buckeyes will try to neutralize Michigan's offense, which is mostly predicated on getting to the hoop with screen-and-rolls and creating open three-pointers?
Last week, Mark Titus wrote a Grantland article that discussed how Ohio State’s defensive weakness is defending ball screens. Depending on the opponent, Matta uses a variety of strategies, which sometimes leads to information overload. Then, the defenders become out of sync with one another. In that case, they’re most susceptible to allowing open 3s or easy layups.
Still, Ken Pomeroy ranks them #1 in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency. Matta will probably stick with the same strategy he used the first time against UM, when they only put up 49 points. He’s a simple Midwestern man, so for him, if It ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
I'll ask the same potentially-blasphemous question you asked me: If you could add one Wolverine to the Buckeye roster, who would it be?
I want to say Trey Burke, just so Michigan wouldn’t have him on the roster for another three years, but I don’t know where he’d play. While Aaron Craft does not have the same offensive production as Burke, I wouldn’t trade him for any other PG in the country. His inimitable defense means that Matta trusts him more than anyone else, so he doesn’t come off the floor much.
Really, what Ohio State needs is someone who is experienced and can make shots from long range. As difficult as this is to admit, and I may be ostracized from the OSU community for doing so, I guess I’d have to go with Zack Novak. He’s a senior utility man connecting on 43.3% of his three-pointers, and he’s stout on the defensive end, too.
Piggybacking off that last answer, do you think Thad Matta made a huge error by not recruiting Trey Burke? Note: Michigan fans will believe this regardless of your answer.
Again, I’d love it if Burke were wearing Scarlet and Gray, if only to keep him away from the Wolverines, but I don’t think Matta had much of a choice in the matter. There are only so many spots on the roster, and Craft, just a sophomore, is a four-year player. Shannon Scott pledged to become a Buckeye early on, and it wasn’t until after when Burke really started making a name for himself.
At this point, it’s hard to compare Scott and Burke because Michigan has asked the latter to do much more, and to his credit, he’s responded. In the offseason, Scott needs to work on his offensive game, and then maybe we’ll see him on the court with Craft more next year.
Even though he decided to play for The Team Up North, an epithet I guess we have readopted, I harbor no ill will toward Burke. He’s a hometown kid who probably would have played for Ohio State in a heartbeat. There was just no room for him.
Is there really any way you see Ohio State losing this game? What's your prediction, and how do you expect the game to play out?
Especially on the road, Ohio State is hardly infallible. Michigan absolutely has a chance of winning, particularly if they’re hitting their 3s because most likely, Ohio State won’t be able to counter from distance.
At Minnesota, Buford and Sullinger each came up huge, and while I’m not predicting 20+ points from them, I think both will score more than they did last time against the Wolverines. As for UM, I imagine they’ll also be more effective on the offensive side. Someone, probably Hardaway or Novak, will decide to shoot lights out.
Given that Michigan has a perfect home record this season and has played Ohio State tough in recent years in Ann Arbor, I’ll call a close game. A loss is certainly possible, but I already said something complimentary about Novak and I’d have to turn in my Buckeye card if I picked the Wolverines, too: Ohio State 66, Michigan 62
Via Craig Ross, impressions from the signing day press conference.
Kyle Kalis: looks like an initial shot at RT according to Darrell Funk. No particular reason, he might end up elsewhere, but my impression is that Funk thinks this might be the best place for him to push for PT this year.
OL recruits. Funk says without hesitation that these are the best four he has ever had in a class in one year. All are possible/plausible to get to the 320 pound range. All “are big and can run, bend, move and play hard.” Funk emphasizes the “bend” element, looking for big guys who aren’t stiff. Funk says none of these guys seems destined for center, but doesn’t rule it out.
Nature of Evaluation. I asked Funk and Mark Smith about the nature of evaluation of players. Both said that the process is collaborative. That coaches tend to watch film together and/or ask others about his impressions of a player. Funk says he isn’t trump on any player. If he likes a player he has to convince others on the staff. Sometimes he is looking at an OL and notices a DL and passes this along.
While the “area” recruiter might be the first contact with a player, by the time the recruiting is over a recruit will know the position coach and “just about every, sometimes every” coach on the staff.
The Staff. While I often felt there were some outliers on the RR staff (I could be wrong, but Shafer really seemed disconnected), these coaches seem quite tight, quite collegial. They like each other and Borges, Hoke, Mattison, Funk, Hecklinski, Smith, Jackson and Mallory seem very comfortable with the media. These are the ones I have talked to. Borges was teasing Hecklinski as they left the building together, calling him a “media darling, a rock star.” I really like Funk and Smith (the ones I have talked to most). They are very smart, articulate, comfortable answering dopey questions and thoughtful questions. Hoke made some effort to recognize Mark Snyder and Rosenberg (pretty sure it was Mike) and that seems like a pretty good idea to me.
AJ Williams. He is listed as a TE and I wondered about the “talk” that he will end up at tackle. I asked Funk. He was definitive. “He’s a tight end.” Funk said “he can catch the ball, but we really need help at the point of attack at the TE spot and he’s a guy who might have some opportunity to play right away.” The message was clear (a) we need help at TE now, especially in the run game, (b) we sure as hell hope this kid can step up there soon and (c) no, we don’t have any thought of moving him away from the TE spot.
LBs. Smith says Ringer and Bolden are ILB but all four have the capacity to play inside or outside.