Happy Trails, 2015
Roquan Smith signed his financial aid agreement—but not an LOI!—with Georgia today, ending his recruitment after that whole ordeal with UCLA and their now-departed defensive coordinator, who reportedly still tried to recruit Smith in an unofficial capacity after doing this:
Last Wednesday, Smith committed to UCLA over UGA in front of ESPN cameras. But he decided against turning in his NLI after reports surfaced later that day that Bruins defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich had accepted a job with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.
Smith said Ulbrich had told him on the eve of signing day that he had “declined” the job offer from the Falcons, per UGASports. On Thursday, Ulbrich (now with the Falcons) declined comment to the AJC about Smith’s claim.
While Smith didn't end up at Michigan, it's great to see him spurn both UCLA and the LOI process. With Mike Weber sticking out his commitment to Ohio State, we can now close the books on the 2015 class.
Race For QB Spot?
Michigan offered two 2016 quarterback prospects this week, four-stars Brandon Peters and Dwayne Haskins. While Haskins looks like he'll be a difficult pull—a day after the offer, he named a handful of schools sticking out to him that didn't include Michigan($)—Peters looks like a serious candidate to commit. He told The Wolverine's Brandon Brown that the offer vaulted Michigan to the top of his list ($):
"I'm totally pumped," Peters said. "It would be an awesome experience to play under a coach like Jim Harbaugh. It's awesome. I definitely would put Michigan at the top now, to be honest with you."
Per 247's Steve Wiltfong, Peters quickly locked in an unofficial visit for April 4th, Michigan's Spring Game.
With Michigan likely only taking one quarterback this cycle, the Peters news has left many asking where that would leave KJ Costello, the top QB target on the board for Michigan. In what may not be coincidence, Costello is looking to get on campus very soon, per Steve Lorenz:
"I am looking to visit in the next two weeks or so," Costello said. "It'd be my dad and I. I have been talking to the coaching staff all the time."
It looks like, one way or the other, Michigan should have a lot more clarity about their quarterback situation for 2016 in the near future.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
Michigan (16-8, 8-2 B10)
Minnesota (14-9-3, 5-2-3 B10)
Mariucci Ice Arena
9 PM ET Friday
8 PM ET Saturday
|TIX||pricey: 50 bucks on Stubhub|
Year-in, year-out the Minnesota roster is littered with NHL draft picks. 2014-15 is no exception, as it's quicker to run down the guys who have played in more than half of Minnesota's games who haven't had their name called. A whopping 15 Gophers have been drafted, including eight(!!!) defensemen.
But of late Minnesota fails to turn this surfeit into a hockey team worthy of it surprisingly often. They're coming off three excellent years; the four before that saw one tournament bid, that from a 19-17-9 outfit that got run by BC 5-2 in the first round.
This year the Gophers are just okay at 14-9-3. They've gone 1-3 against Duluth* and lost to RPI #1 Minnesota State; they did beat BC authoritatively. Despite the sweep at Michigan's hands in January, they've been making their hay against the rest of the league. They're undefeated against the rest the Big Ten (in pairwise terms at least) at 5-0-3. You'd think that and a bag of donuts would get you no pairwise traction and some donuts, but 3-0-1 against Wisconsin and Ohio State was sufficient to lift the Gophers from 20th to 14th in the Pairwise.
Minnesota is the exact opposite of Michigan State, philosophically. They are a free-wheeling, attacking hockey team that activates their defensemen more than any team in college hockey. If anyone's going to have a D leading their team in scoring, it's the Gophers, and junior Mike Reilly does in fact do so with a 4-24-28 line. He's one of two D with a PPG nationally.
But he's not Jordan Leopold. That Reilly leads with that line speaks to a lack of out-and-out stars in the forward corps. They've got a few guys hovering around a PPG, but those guys lean heavily on Minnesota's killer power play. The three leading Gopher scorers have 17 PPGs and 14 even strength goals. Minnesota is not a big, physical outfit that generates a lot of opportunities in the zone. Rushes and power plays are where they thrive.
*[Minnesota managed four nonconference games against the same team by playing them in the season-opening Ice Breaker tournament plus a new Minnesota version of the GLI in addition to a regularly-scheduled home and home.]
THE GENTLEMEN OF NOTE
Kind of everyone. As mentioned, talent out the ears.
F Kyle Rau. Senior Panthers draftee led Gophers with 40 points last year and is top scoring forward this year. He's a little quick bugger effective in tight spaces.
F Hudson Fasching. Hasn't translated massive hype to production just yet but is Minnesota's top even strength scorer with eight goals. Combines elite size with skating and hands.
F Sam Warning. Warning doesn't get PP time but scores anyway. Excellent PK guy, fast as hell, probably the Gophers' best two way forward. Undrafted(!).
Adam Wilcox is struggling much like Michigan's platoon is. After starting his career with .920 and .930 save percentages, he's bottomed out as junior. He is currently 60th of 78 qualifying goalies with a .901. Whether that's on Wilcox or his team's defense is difficult to determine—sample sizes need to be super large for you to say anything about save percentages confidently. Those samples are hard to get in a short college season.
FWIW, Nagelvoort's recent run here has him up at .914 for the season. That's not great, but it is approaching middling.
THE SPECIAL TEAMS
Michigan needs to stay out of the box. I know, everyone always says that. I mean it, yo: the Gopher power play is currently connecting at 29% rate! That is by far tops nationally. Michigan is #3; both teams are killing at a crappy 80% rate.
Two awesome power plays going up against two bad PK units means that penalties take on an even larger share of importance.
THE LAST TIME
Michigan announced their intention to make a run at the tournament with a stirring comeback after Andrew Copp took a major penalty and Minnesota scored twice on it to take the lead. Zach Hyman powered past a Gopher defender, flipping the puck to Justin Selman; Selman shoved it in the net. A whistling Cutler Martin snap shot in overtime finished the comeback.
The next night was the 7-5 barn burner featuring zero defense from anyone. So… yeah, should be entertaining at the very least.
Massive. Both these teams are barely on the right side of the NCAA bubble. A sweep by either would solidify a bid and leave the loser in a precarious position. A split helps Michigan more than Minnesota thanks to the way college hockey calculates RPI*; that would be equivalent to going… uh… 1.2-0.8 this weekend.
The road weighting plus the bonus from beating a top 20 team, which Minnesota will remain, would keep Michigan where they are. It might even move them up a little if the teams in front of them have a bad weekend.
These two teams are also competing for the Big Ten title. Michigan is in first with 24 points; Penn State trails by two; Minnesota is six back. A Gopher sweep would put them right in the thick of things. Michigan doing the same would just about eliminate Minnesota and make it a two-horse race.
*[Dumbly. The way they have it set up means that two teams playing four games, two at home and two on the road, can split and have those games weighted as 4.8 games (if the road team wins all) or 3.6 games (home teams win all). Same results, different outcomes. Not good eats.]
A split seems reasonable.
So this week a group of a certain kind of idiot students tried to get the student body to fund a Frankenstein-ian effort to
replace compete with the best fight song ever composed. Once the entirety of the soul-possessing Michigan fanbase wanted to slap them in the face, they withdrew this petition to make way for an amended version that makes it clear they'll keep The Victors alongside their proposed abomination.
Today they're still fighting—one made a radio appearance to complain that his talking points were getting all scrambled in the mad rush to explain to him just what a bad idea this is. In the show he clarified a number of things, like that they've gone to "many" student groups to get more spoons into the kitchen, and addressed important things like the song's branding and a documentary film about how it was made, but haven't actually, you know, written any song. He also emphasized that they don't want to get rid of the The Victors (just have it compete with their self-aggrandizing golem), and expressed hope that it would get picked up around the country, like how Jay-Z's Empire State of Mind became a sort of anthem for the Yankees.
Ace and Brian already addressed how the thing and the guy proposing the thing are ridiculous (and Brian had to explain his tongue was in his cheek afterwards). Since the offseason generates user content at a slower pace, in lieu of Dear Diary* this morning I wanted to talk about what's so irreplaceable about The Victors, and provide a little deeper discussion on the topic than the prima facie "ungh that's horrible."
Change? Michigan has, in fact, changed its fight song several times in its history. Most notably, they replaced The Victors with Varsity for a time, because once Michigan had rage-quit the Western Conference, "Champions of the West" no longer made any sense.
An early favorite, and still the opening of any glee club concert, was Laudes Atque Carmina (Praises and Songs), written by Charles M. Gayley, class of 1878, and arranged by Albert Stanley. Here's the line I love:
Oohhh decus omnium
O salve Universitas Michiganesium
What a perfect description of the Michigan zeitgeist: "Glory and Victory—oh, and be virtuous in everything while you're at it please kthx."
|Apparently we have to explain why this is worth keeping around.|
This is probably a more applicable sentiment today than hailing long-dead heroes for conquering Maroons and Fighting Methodists.** But it's also in Latin, and dated, and pedantic, and most importantly nobody knows the words unless they've done glee.
The anthems of Michigan's songbook† range in tenor from bawdy drinking songs to, well, pretentious drinking songs. The majority of them come from before World War II, and for a very good reason: that's when people used to sing a lot.
In the time before recording/playback devices, the way a hit song spread was by printing the sheet music. The way they got music into a bar was to get everyone in the bar to sing it. Michigan students would bring their songbooks to dinner, or dorm meetings, and certainly the game. As many students knew the verses to The Victors as could name the quarterback. The most typical extra-curricular activity was to cross Division‡ to their favorite pubs, fill a mug, and join the chorus.#
For thousands of years, getting drunk and singing together was one of the best parts of a human existence. Psychologists even found that most peoples' brains are wired to fire off the same happy feelings you get from love or a massive success when belting out a song surrounded by friendly people doing the same (no matter how it comes out). Biologically, we sing our fight song for the same reason we gather with 113,000-odd people to watch college football: The Natural High.
These things are not manufacturable; they are eruptions from abnormally articulate ids that by astronomical odds came out both cogent and catchy. The chance of finding one is the same likelihood that whatever just escaped from this guy…
…just happened to be organized into a comprehensible language that both rhymes and fits a Souza meter. Mankind's best effort to R&D this phenomenon resulted in heroin.
This stuff has to come from a random and deep subconscious because the brain cannot devise its own distraction.‖ Football came out of some students with a field and a ball who wanted to get their rrraaaarrrgh out. The Victors came out of Louis Elbel in the following state:
My spirits were so uplifted that I was clear off the earth, and that is when “The Victors” was inspired. To my thinking, Michigan Spirit needed a fitting paean, a clarion call — something simple but grand and heroic, something to let out on. Very shortly the strain of “Hail to the Victors” came to mind, and gradually the entire march. I am interested in the psychology of composing, but never have been able to answer satisfactorily just how a “tune” originates in my head. It is easy enough to make tunes, but sweeping, inspiring strains are not made — they flash unawares. And so it was with “The Victors.”
The Victors, like college football, is a weird configuration that happened to bring out a mass, biological, positive feel. Finding a thing like that is like capturing a moon: if it's a little un-genuine it'll crash, and if it's a little unpopular it'll shoot off into space, and if it's not awesome nobody will notice it.
Hail and Unite, then, is the equivalent of Disney suggesting we add a 1,000-mile radius Mickey Mouse (or maybe a Jar Jar Binks—we don't know—but we are talking to lots of interest groups and might have it designed by Bill Watterson and Matt Groening, and our marketing program uses lots of power words) to Earth's orbit, then saying it's okay because you still plan to leave good ol' Luna in the sky for the sake of the traditionalists.§ Even suggesting this shows a staggering misunderstanding of where moons come from, the physics involved, or why people like the one we have. You should not be involved in anything having to do with moons.
Could there ever be another song added to the pantheon? Yes, absolutely! It's a very big bowl; there is room for more than The Victors, and Varsity, and the alma mater, and Let's Go Blue, and the cowbell, and Hawaiian War Chant, and Temptation, and the shortened version of Temptation we sing to rub in the fact they have to give us the ball back now. Most of the glee club's lineup is pre-1940 for the reason above, but every half century or so one of the many new arrangements is canonized.¶ There could be a young savant sitting in the Music School right now who, in the course of a jubilant, all-maize bus ride from Columbus to Ann Arbor late next fall, will gurgitate a timeless thing that'll trick all future generations of Michigan fanbrains into releasing their jealously guarded serotonin.
There's a reason only a handful of schools have found their "Hail!", their "Ramblin' Wreck", their "Rocky Top" or their "Echoes." If you need Eminem (or the version of him you can get for $1,000) to make it cool, you're doing it this way:
the internet never forgets.
And if you're ever talking about how to market a work of art before it's even created, you are doing it exactly wrong.
* Dear Diary in Latin is "Carus Commentarius" and I am highly tempted to change the name of the column to that.
** Chicago and Northwestern
† One claims Ann Arbor should rank with Socratic Greece and Newton's Oxford. There's another called "Michigan Men" that begins with the line "Rum pum pum pum! Rum pum pum pum! Yiddy yiddy iddy yiddy Um pum, Um, pum, Um pum um." Another you might have heard is I Want to Go Back to Michigan.
‡ Division Street is named such because it was literally the division between the city and campus, which was dry.
# Little Brown Jug was one of the most popular bar songs of the early 20th century, if you ever wondered how an oversized, half-blue/half-maroon cask that used to be white got termed as such. If some local bar wants to start a 1910s-style drink-and-sing night I am so there.
‖ You can't hypnotize yourself, for example.
§ And the Michigan Alumni Association on it.
¶ The last was Michigan Remember, a poem from 1963 and set to music in 1993.
Those moving pictures are the thousands of words you very much don't want to read about Michigan giving up a 21-2 run to close out yet another overtime loss. Worst of all, perhaps, is I couldn't lead off this post with Aubrey Dawkins taking Nnanna Ewgu for a ride on the BOFA Express.
This is apparently what happens when your only trusted inbounder is 5'10". I don't much like it.
Michigan (13-11, 6-6 B1G) vs.
Illinois (16-8, 6-5)
State Farm Center,
|WHEN||9 pm ET, Thursday|
|LINE||Illinois -5 (KenPom)|
PBP: Rich Hollenberg
Analyst: Dan Dakich
Right: The last time out, Illinois learned they should probably guard Aubrey Dawkins. [Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog]
While Derrick Walton won't be in uniform tonight, there's hope he'll get back out there before the season is out:
"We fully expect to have him back," Beilein said. "We just don't know (when). When he can run pain-free, he's going to get back out there. Now obviously there's some rehab involved to just get his cardio back up. He can't do that yet. But when he can, two or three days later we'll put him in a game."
Beilein added that "he's been getting better every day, but certainly not ready yet." Unless he makes a very quick turnaround, it seems like the earliest he'd be available would be for the Feb. 22 game against Ohio State.
THE LAST TIME
Michigan took on Illinois at Crisler in the Big Ten opener, a game that feels like it took place decades ago. A torrent of threes from Aubrey Dawkins and a surprise changeup to the 2-3 zone led to a comeback, overtime victory on the day Jim Harbaugh was introduced as head coach.
The Wolverines need a most unlikely run to have a shot at the NCAA tournament; they'd most likely need to win five of their last six regular season games and take at least one in the B1G tourney to earn an at-large bid. Maize n Brew's Drew Hallett took a look the odds using KenPom:
NIT eligibility is based on the assumption Michigan would need to finish with a winning record to make it—no team with a losing record has qualified even after the NIT eliminated that as a set-in-stone requirement. Per KenPom, this is the second-toughest game remaining on the schedule, so a win tonight would swing those odds more in Michigan's favor.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations; I've switched over to conference-only stats for %Min and %Poss now. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||1||Jaylon Tate||So.||6'3, 170||64||14||Very|
|High assist and turnover rates. Almost never shoots. Gets to line a ton.|
|G||25||Kendrick Nunn||So.||6'3, 190||84||23||No|
|Very good outside shooter, less efficient inside arc, solid defender|
|G||21||Malcolm Hill||So.||6'6, 230||88||24||No|
|Having a breakout season. Close to the rare 50/40/90 (2P/3P/FT%) club.|
|F||12||Leron Black||Fr.||6'7, 220||40||21||Very|
|Very good rebounder. Not a great finisher. Foul-prone.|
|C||32||Nnanna Egwu||Sr.||6'11, 250||75||14||Not really|
|Good shot-blocker, offensive rebounder. Can score in post or step out.|
|G||3||Ahmad Starks||Sr.||5'9, 170||58||22||Not really|
|Nice assist:turnover, middling shooter, not a threat inside the arc.|
|G||24||Rayvonte Rice*||Sr.||6'4, 230||15||24||No|
|Stocky, high-usage slasher now hits threes. Solid defensive rebounder.|
|G||11||Aaron Cosby*||Jr.||6'3, 205||38||19||Kinda|
|Lost starting job to Nunn with eFG% hanging around 40.|
*Rice and Cosby have been serving an indefinite suspension and it's unclear when they'll return. Both have been practicing with the team. Recent reports say Rice is expected to play while Cosby is not.
Illinois got off to a rocky 2-4 start in Big Ten play, hampered by a road-heavy schedule and Rayvonte Rice suffering a broken hand that's sidelined him since early January. The Illini have bounced back with wins in four of their last five, including Saturday's upset in East Lansing.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
A mea culpa. A couple things on the fight song kerfuffle from yesterday. One: apparently there are people who have escaped Taken memery. (They probably "take walks" and "go outside.") No part of the threat-type substance offered yesterday was serious. I'm not going to poison anyone's search results.
I was just referencing this famous Liam Neeson thing:
As for Weiss, I hopped aboard the outrage express in the manner that the generally loathsome Gawker and Jezebel do for most of their clicks. If I'd thought about this Daily article more I would have realized that this proposal was in no way going anywhere, but I took the cheap, easy route. While the goal of preventing a Michigan version of We Are ND is a laudable one, firing up the internet outragemobile is likely to get out of control and I should know better.
Seriously, though: just stop. Nothing good can come of this quest.
Now, like, call it. One of my top eleven subjects to rant about in recent times has been offenses flinging ineligible guys downfield on pass plays with impunity. Boy does that put a bee up my bonnet. Spielman, too.
It appears the hue and cry has made it to the lawmakers of our sport:
The ineligible downfield rule was shifted from three yards to one yard past the line of scrimmage. National officiating coordinator Rogers Redding said defenses were beginning to read run more frequently because offensive linemen were 3 yards downfield and then the quarterback would pass. “It's going to be easier to officiate,” he said.
Or, like, six yards downfield blocking the people who were supposed to be covering passes. One or three doesn't help much if you're just forgetting to enforce it either way; hopefully this will come with an increased emphasis on calling illegal men downfield.
(One exception: if you're engaged with a guy and just kicking his ass enough to end up downfield that should be let go. Taylor Lewan got a penalty a couple years ago because his pass blocking was too effective.)
Approximate top eleven rant subjects in recent times. Give or take:
- Dave Brandon
- excessive basketball timeouts
- block/charge calls
- Big Ten expansion
- bubble screens
- "but the spread won't work in the Big Ten"
- piped in music
- ineligible men downfield
- Tom Izzo press conferences
- when my wife puts the cheese grater in with the food manipulation devices (tongs, spoons, spatulas, etc) instead of the food reconfiguration devices (juicers, graters, mallets, zesters, etc)
This is not 'Nam, MGoWife.
Nyet. Roquan Smith will announce his decision on Friday, whereupon he won't sign an letter of intent. He'll just sign scholarship papers. Well done, sir. (It seems like it's a foregone conclusion that it's not Michigan, unfortunately.)
Add another to the list? If Justice Hayes goes and rips off 1,500 yards I'm gonna be all like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Sleeper to keep an eye on: #CMU RB Thomas Rawls. Michigan transfer w/ off-field flags. But quick and physical on the field. Mid-round talent
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) February 10, 2015
I'm looking forward to a running backs coach with aspirations.
We would like less football, I guess. It's time once again for a college football person to mutter about changing clock rules For The Fans. Larry Scott's turn, as he advocate running the clock after first downs:
"You'll always get traditionalists who won't change it," Scott said. "I don't find it concerning or daunting that there are some that would oppose it. I think the job for commissioners is to take a step back and look at it holistically. The health and welfare of student-athletes is first and fans are a close second in terms of keeping games appealing. Three-and-a-half hours, to me, is too long."
There will always be traditionalists who are your core customers who know you're not seeing increased costs but still soaking fans with higher prices and ever-longer commercial breaks.
Why might games be longer?
The high-pressure, commercialized world of FBS is playing a much longer game than other NCAA divisions. While FBS games averaged 3:23 in 2014, the Football Championship Subdivision was 2:55, Division II was 2:45 and Division III was 2:41.
Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson also favors a running clock after first downs, citing declining attendance. FBS home attendance dropped 4 percent in 2014 for the sport's lowest average since 2000.
"I think our fans are expecting shorter games, and I think when you see attendance is down, we need to address it," Benson said.
Changing the ratio of game to red-hat-on-field the wrong way isn't going to help your attendance, but you don't actually care about that anyway. Just be honest about it. At this point it might be worth looking at some soccer models, which have to deal with an un-interruptible flow of gameplay. I'd rather have a logo next to the score chryon instead of ever-expanding ad time.
Early signing is dumb. Andy Staples addresses it:
I don’t mind an early signing period in theory because the vast majority of recruits know where they want to go, are happy with their decisions and shouldn’t have to wait. But cutting a month off of the process isn’t going to change much. It might be nice if the players who make up their minds really early had a chance to sign before their senior seasons begin, but that isn’t going to happen, either. Athletic directors would hate that since it would make it more difficult to fire a coach if he underperformed. The coach would have the leverage of half a signing class in the barn, and the AD might have to wrestle with double-digit players asking to be released from their National Letters of Intent. This happens all the time in basketball, but it’s different when the coach has 15 players signed instead of three.
Staples advocates a change to the LOI that says "the LOI is a bad thing to sign," so that's not… likely. To reiterate my excellent plan:
The MGo Recruitin' Plan
You can sign a pre-NLI any time.
The pre-NLI guarantees you a scholarship at the school you sign with, allows them to contact you whenever and prohibits other coaches from doing so. You can only take an official visit to the school you sign with.
You can withdraw the pre-NLI at any time.
On Signing Day everyone makes it official.
(Optional but highly desirable) NCAA does away with 85-player cap and allows everyone to sign up to 22-25 players a year, no exceptions. Transfers and JUCOs count.
Changing the cap from a roster limit to a yearly limit instantly does away with any oversigning mutterings since your motivation is to keep players instead of cut them.
(Via Get The Picture.)
Karan Higdon will help you with your homework. Unless you're a fellow athlete, I think that's a violation. Randos welcome though:
"Football comes second to academics and my future after it."
Higdon's a 4.0 student at Riverview. He wants to be an occupational therapist. He's involved in several academic leadership groups at his school, and has been invited to various academic summits, from Washington D.C. to Paris.
If Higdon couldn't run, catch, block or score a touchdown, he'd probably still be headed to college next year with a scholarship in tow.
Academics aren't just part of the deal for Higdon. They're the deal.
I guess he doesn't want an MFA, or he'd be at Iowa. If Fred Jackson was still here he could be a grad transfer and get drafted, maybe.
Etc.: Orson is so fascinated with Tom Crean that he wrote about him. Michigan was the 12th most-watched team in college football last year, which really says something since… uh… you know. NTDP camp thoughts featuring comments on a few Michigan recruits. SBNation has a "Jim Harbaugh is weird" page. Tom Leyden on Bo's passing.