Media days takes. Harbaugh showed at a place and said things. In response the media writes somewhat overheated things in response, because Harbaugh. The Sporting News refers to Michigan's "magical, millennial, marketable machine" in an alliteration explosion that engulfed their office:
“Harbaugh to my knowledge has taken no classes in marketing, never mentions the word,” Bacon said. “Yet who has marketed Michigan better then he has in the last year and a half? Not everyone likes it, but as far as getting and the name and the flag up the flag pole … Harbaugh has spread the "M" all over America — and to American Samoa — for crying out loud.”
According to Michigan associate athletic director Kurt Svoboda, the university increased its season ticket sales in 2015 to 89,875, the highest total since 2012. Of those, 72,076 were non-student tickets, the highest total since 2009. Student ticket sales increased from 11,597 in 2014 to 17,899 in 2015. …
"You can say he's 52 going on 25 in some ways,” Bacon said. “He's got more energy than almost anybody. He's in a rap video. As a rapper he's an excellent football coach, but you know the kids love it."
Looks like Bacon just put himself on the list of Uptight White People for the 57th time.
Harbaugh's ability to be the center of attention at all times arises naturally from the fact that he's got no filter and genuinely doesn't care what people say about him. So he'll climb a tree or dab for a recruit or schedule a month-long whirlwind of satellite camps, mostly because he wants to do these things, to win at various things of little to no importance. The marketing aspect is a side effect. It's not quite an accident, but it's not the primary thing.
The primary thing:
To that point, Harbaugh said almost every practice is mapped out for the upcoming season, mapped out on his computer. Fall camp will include a lot more four-hour practices, another concept Butt said might be foreign in an age where less contact is encouraged. Butt even told former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy about those practices this summer.
McElroy’s response? “You lost me at the four-hour practices.”
Harbaugh goes harder and his guys are willing to do the same given his example. Along the way articles are written.
Also this. Harbaugh's just way more interesting than coaches primarily focused on escaping media appearances without saying anything that means anything. Literally. Brian Hamilton:
Around 1:30 p.m. on Monday, James Joseph Harbaugh took the stage and an otherwise lobotomized first day of Big Ten media day festivities got interesting. All he had to do was wear the baseball cap, really: Michigan’s coach later explained his accessorizing was the product of going five weeks without a haircut and his affinity for the skinny ‘M’ logo.
He signed a fan's bicep with a Sharpie, then told the fan to come back for another try Tuesday because he didn't like the way his skin signature looked.
Of his appearance in a recent rap video, Harbaugh insisted that only "uptight white people" didn't like it. He even claimed to have written one of the song's lyrics ("Roughest team in the B-I-G!). At another point, Harbaugh used the word "meritocracy," briefly wondered if he had just invented it, then looked disappointed when he learned it already existed.
He is one of few college football coaches clearly operating his own twitter feed, because he's got something to say on it. Something like "I am Uncle Rico and The Georgia Coach is barking up the wrong tree."
Knock on wood. Harbaugh says Michigan is healthy headed into fall camp:
"There's nothing to report," Harbaugh said of player injuries. "We're pretty darn healthy. We came out of spring ball pretty darn healthy. We didn't get any of the long-term kind, six month injuries. There's always things that people are dealing with and working with. Our goal is to get the healthiest, most in-shape and strongest team we can on August 8th and then we'll take our shot."
Rumors about Chesson's availability have persisted through the offseason; he should be fine:
Asked specifically about All-Big Ten receiver Jehu Chesson, Harbaugh didn't give a definitive answer but did say he thinks he'll be good to go.
"Yes, I believe he will," Harbaugh said.
The only other player who had a long-term injury at the end of spring practice was Moe Ways, who has reportedly been running routes with the QBs for weeks now. Per Webb, Ryan Glasgow put up some impressive bench press numbers himself recently. Since his injury was to his pectoral that is plenty of evidence he's all the way back.
Recruiting is for gentlemen only. James Franklin's comments about negative recruiting from a while back are predictably a hot topic at Big Ten media days, but they're apparently based on an unrepresentative quote:
"All I said was that every kid that we're recruiting is also being recruited by Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Notre Dame and that they don't have the same challenges that we have now," Franklin said. "Then, in a separate quote, I mentioned that right now we're (dealing) with negative recruiting. It was two separate quotes, though, over a 35-minute interview.
"I never said that any of those schools are the ones doing the negative recruiting against us. They're not. There is one other particular school, but I didn't name who that was."
"…although it is blindingly obvious to you and everyone who reads this quote that it is Pitt."
Negative recruiting hubbub is always pretty ridiculous since things as innocuous as pointing out your relatively friendly depth chart will be twisted into "School X is in ISIS" by the time someone mutters about it on the internet. This seems a bit more ridiculous than most.
The Bill C preview. Bill Connelly's big Michigan preview hit SBNation yesterday. Happily, Bill saw through Michigan's roster subterfuge and knows that they get back most of their offense.
S&P+ projects Michigan to win 9.6 games:
If that sounds pessimistic MSU was at 7.8 a few days ago. Combinatorial math is harsh when you add these things up: Michigan has just three games they're not 75%+ to win and yet they're tiny favorites to end up with double digit wins. 9.6 is pretty good in this context.
There are a couple issues of the sort that are inevitable if you have to write 128 of these over the course of the offseason. Connelly strangely tabs the departure of Mario Ojemudia as the beginning of the defense's late slide and worries over the least worrisome bit of the entire team:
Things fell apart for the line right around the time of Mario Ojemudia's injury. There was still play-making potential on the edge, but it seemed to be a tough blow for Michigan's tenuous depth. Ryan Glasgow going down was the knockout punch.
Depth might not be any better this year. When you were only comfortable with seven guys, and two are gone, improvement isn't guaranteed. But when you've got reinforcements like all-world freshman Rashan Gary, it's hard to worry too much.
Ojemudia went down early in the Maryland game, a shutout. The next week they shut out Northwestern, and then they gave up some points. Against MSU and Minnesota they were mostly secondary issues; Rutgers scored just 16 in Glasgow's last game. Ojemudia was playing well but Royce Jenkins-Stone wasn't a huge dropoff. Glasgow was for a ton of reasons.
Anyway. Bryan Mone hype understandably eludes Connelly's take here, as does the somewhat more questionable emergence of Winovich and Marshall.
Peppers scouted. By NFL.com:
He is fluid in his turn, and he has excellent recovery speed down the field. He is instinctive and aware in underneath coverage. He jumped a bubble screen for a near interception in the Minnesota game. He is outstanding as a run defender. He fights through blocks and is a very reliable tackler in space. He shows timing and burst as a blitzer.
Yep. Concerns include an awkwardness in off coverage and a certain grabbiness that he's gotten away with for the most part. It was clear at the beginning of the year that he had a lot of things to work on in coverage; the good news is that he improved a great deal over the course of the year and should continue to do so.
PFF talks Ohio State. Their offense is an enigma now with just a few starters returning and JT Barrett's downfield ability in question:
The passing game is much more of a question mark, as Barrett has not had nearly the same success through the air as he has on the ground. He earned an average passing grade last season after performing marginally better than that in 2014, and he struggled the most on intermediate throws: On passes thrown 10 to 19 yards downfield, Barrett was just 12 of 25 for 211 yards, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, earning a negative grade in that area of the field.
On the other hand he was their #2 running QB last year behind Houston's Greg Ward. MSU shut down the OSU run game and they foundered, as they did for much of the season. (Remember the NIU game?) Michigan did not do anything of the sort and got ripped. Don Brown versus and Urban Meyer offense is going to be the most intriguing tactical matchup of the season.
Etc.: Tough talk about the ACC Network's ability to get carriage. Ann Arbor is the most educated city in the country by a mile. Ian Boyd on Minnesota's three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust offense. The Black Heart Gold Pants crew is on the move. Barton Simmons catches on to Harbaugh's crazy QB coaching record.
We are drafting Big Ten teams because "Top 100 players in the Big Ten" #content wouldn't make us hate each other nearly as much.
Previously on Draftageddon:
Rounds 1-2: A Heisman candidate QB and the reigning Thorpe winner go after two members of Michigan's secondary. (M players: Peppers, Lewis, Butt)
Rounds 3-4: An underwhelming first swing through receivers, and lots of linemen. (Chesson, Cole, Wormley, Glasgow)
Rounds 5-6: A Michigan second-teamer goes before Purdue J.J. Watt. (Charlton, Hurst)
Rounds 7-8: Hodor. (Taco, Hurst)
Rounds 9-11: We go on a mini Iowa binge, and Brian takes a true freshman (YTTF).
How things stand:
We ran three rounds last time so now Brian gets to kick off.
BRIAN: Round 12, Pick 1: RB LJ Scott, MSU
Dude's gonna be a handful for awhile.
O: RB LJ Scott(MSU), TE Jake Butt(M), WR Jordan Westerkamp (NEB), OL Cole Croston(IA)
D: DE Tyquan Lewis(OSU), DE Rashan Gary(M), DT Chris Wormley(M), DT Malik McDowell(MSU). LB Raekwon McMillan (OSU), LB Anthony Walker (NW), CB Gareon Conley(OSU), CB Will Likely (MD).
Everyone else already has a tailback but I know these crafty bastards and can't wait any longer before one of them spite-picks Scott as a wildcard. Everything you need to know about Scott in two clips. Clip one:
(start it at 2:28)
Scott is half dump truck, half ballerina, and he's going to blow up in year two. Scott averaged almost 5 YPC last year as a true freshman behind MSU's M.A.S.H. unit of an offensive line, leading MSU in rushing yards with nearly 700. I'm a little leery that Gerald Holmes and Madre London will continue to siphon carries away from him, but since neither of those guys holds a candle to Scott he should easily surpass 200 carries—I mean, it's not like MSU is going to be throwing much this year.
Scott's drawing Le'Veon Bell comparisons and... yeah. I can see that. Dude is 240. PFF doesn't have much on him but did note that after three weeks he was averaging a very Bell-like 3.5 yards after contact. He's going to make the person who took Justin Jackson again feel bad, just like every time someone takes Justin Jackson.
[After THE JUMP: Spartan family dynasties. And let the Nate Gerry argument begin.]
I'm not in Chicago, but thanks to newfangled technology like interweb videos and this here word processin' program I'm still able to bring you a full transcript of Harbaugh's time at the podium. Football! It's almost here!
"Thank you very much. Great to see everybody here. Glad you all made it. Good to see people again I haven't seen in a while. It's been an enjoyable day. Having fun. Brought three wonderful players and youngsters with us today. I'd like to talk about each of them. I know them better now. Going into the second year, feel like more time with our players, [I] know our players well. We have a lot of top players as you mentioned there, but these three…
"Jake Butt, a outstanding six-foot-six-and-a-half tight end, one of the most gung-ho players I've ever been around. Can sit through a two-and-a-half hour, three-hour meeting and be interactive, be on the edge of his seat, walk out of that meeting with a bounce in his step, and put his football gear on, kind of the hair on the back of his neck is standing up, excited about getting out on to the field. And he practices, whether he's going out to hit a sled or rattle somebody's fillings, he's just as excited about doing that as he is running a post route or a corner route and catching a ball. Does all those things equally well as a route runner, as a blocker, as a teammate, and as a guy with some pizzazz. He's gung-ho. Enjoys the struggle of football. Really enjoy him as one of our top players.
"Also, Jourdan Lewis, who has been a every practice, every drill competitor who wants to get better every single day. He doesn't take time off, he doesn't diminish his effort at any time. He's an ascending player, an improving player. And then when he started to get the recognition of being a really good player--All-American, All-Big Ten, interceptions and acclaim--when he started getting the acclaim, he didn't change a bit. He went through the entire spring practice wanting to get better, wanting to improve every single day. And a high character individual. Has never been--has never said a disrespectful word to a professor, to a coach, to a teammate. He's just a pleasure to be around. He's...not one bit of incident or problem when it comes to Jourdan Lewis, and he's a likable guy. He's respected by everybody on the team, but he also has the personality of being very competitive but being very likable with his teammates because he doesn't act like the big man on campus. He doesn't act like the All-American. Just a very, very good person in all respects. Can't say enough good things about him.
"Amara Darboh, would say he's our top receiver right now. As we went through the season last year I thought it was Jehu Chesson, and then Amara surged during spring ball and they're in a very good-hearted competition there to be our best receiver. But again, as a gentleman, as a person, as a class act, a winner, a champion all the way, Amara Darboh. He went through our season last year and he became an American citizen. It was a great moment of pride for Amara and our team that he achieved American citizenship, and another player on our team that's a class act the entire way. Never an issue, never a problem, respectful to all that he comes in contact with. And not just respectful of people, he's respectful of their time, he's respectful of the game, just respectful in all forms and fashions. Feel very proud to have brought those three youngsters here to Chicago. Hope you're enjoying their company as well. And they're really good football players. Not just on our team, not just in the Big Ten, but also in the United States of America. Pleased to share them with you here in Chicago and I'd be glad to answer any of your questions.
It's been an entertaining offseason for yourself and Michigan football in terms of social media activity. How has this impacted the team and university during the offseason?
"I don't know that it has. I don't know how entertaining it's really been. Be glad to go through any of those specifics with you. Think it's been a very productive, healthy offseason for our football team. Was really pleased with our team, the way they went through spring practice. Thought it was extremely productive. Competition was very high for spots, for starting positions, for backup roles, for contributing roles, for specialty roles, so...and then, no real long-term injuries coming out of the season. None of the six-monthers. A few things here and there that we hope that the guys will be ready for the start of camp. Maybe one or two that may not, but our goal right now as we finish up the summer is the healthiest, most in shape, prepared team for August 8th and then we'll take our shot from there."
Something you've tried to instill in your players is to improve 1% each day with everything that they do. My question is what kind of improvements do you see from returning players and staff and new players and coaches in the fold as well?
"Thanks for that question, Trevor. Just the idea of can we get 1% better each day. Can we be better today than we were yesterday, can we be better tomorrow than we were today. The notion that improvement will lead to success, and that's the kind of improvement that really sticks. It's almost getting in shape. If you were going to get in shape, if you do it day after day, a little bit better, a little bit better each day, you may not see it in a day, you may not see it in a week, you may not even see it in a month but at some point you're going to see it and it's going to stick. That improvement is going to be there for the long run. So try to paint that picture. If it's one percent better each guy or we got one percent better as a team, then after 30 days that's 30% better. After 60 days it's 60% better. Even if it's .01% better each day then that would be something that's worthwhile, that would be something worth pursuing, aspiring to.
"Another way to say it is look at the NASCAR boys. They'll stay up all night long just to get one mile an hour faster. Can we get one mile an hour faster each day? That mentality simply put is better today than yesterday, better tomorrow than today."
[After THE JUMP: at least a tenth of this presser is Harbaugh listing all the positions Peppers could play]
This Week In Guarded Praise
A list of the three-star prospects who have the best chance to make the NFL is a little weird to post, if only because it could easily be reframed as "the three-star prospects who are maybe really four-star prospects." Anyway, Scout posted a list of five such players, and M commit AJ Dillon featured:
Big, physical running backs who can stay low between the tackles and move the pile could make a nice living in the NFL. Dillon is 6-foot-1, 239 pounds and he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds. Add in Dillion can catch the ball out of the backfield, and he has the understanding and size to be a pass blocker, and it would not be surprising to see him in the NFL for a while. Dillon is committed to Michigan. - Brian Dohn
Even after last week's rankings update, Dillon is Scout's #40 RB. There's an ESPN-level disconnect between that ranking, the above article, and Dillon's Scout evaluation:
Dillon is a rugged, tough, between-the-tackles runner who is difficult to bring down on first contact. He is thick and strong in the lower body, and tackles often bounce off of him. He has good vision and quick feet. He is able to make subtle moves and change direction in short space. He is best moving up the field and is a downhill runner. He secures the football well and he can break tackles. He does not have breakaway speed, but that does not matter. His ability to find the hole and get through it, and to run in traffic, stand out. -- Brian Dohn
I'm more confused than anything else, but also excited to see Dillon in a Michigan uniform.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
Harbaugh as Uncle Rico. He's the least Uncle Rico person of all time, except in his mind:
— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) July 24, 2016
— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) July 25, 2016
No, not really. Maybe if we…
— Noah Neidlinger (@candor_for_sale) July 25, 2016
There we go.
WE ARE KIND OF EXCITED. Take it from a man selling a preseason magazine: Michigan fans are throwing their money at the upcoming season because they have an enthusiasm too rare over the past ten years. News that more bets are being placed on Michigan to win the national title than any other team should be interpreted in that light.
PFF evaluates that take, mostly rehashing things they've published before—Wormley, Glasgow, Hurst, and Charlton are all real good, literally everyone in the secondary graded out positively—but offering some new insights into their 2015 rankings:
They are bringing back a solid receiving corps led by WR Jehu Chesson (who earned the third-highest WR rating among returning wideouts at 127.9) and TE Jake Butt (who is the top returning tight end in receiving grade, after catching 51 of 70 targets for 653 yards and three touchdowns). They have a productive running back in De’Veon Smith, who broke 52 tackles combined last season.
There's been a lot of NFL and All Big Ten hype around Chesson, a guy who came on late but didn't exactly put up Braylon numbers; that helps confirm the late season surge. (Also Florida UFR is this week, and Chesson was insanely good in that game even if you look past the two long strikes against Hargreaves.) Butt being the top receiving WR is no surprise; Smith being "productive" kind of is.
Also, Jake Rudock surge:
Jake Rudock came on strong at the end of 2015, but for the first nine weeks of the season, he ranked 98th among 101 qualifying quarterbacks in PFF grades – and the Wolverines were still a top-10 team entering the final week of the regular season.
If Rudock had transferred fast enough to get in for spring practice that would have been something.
Still gets no respect. BTN put out a list of the top 100 players in the league that's mostly notable for their bonkers #takes on various players, like definition-of-just-a-guy Justin Jackson at #11. Jackson is Northwestern running back on a team with some sort of sea mammal trying to use his flippers to get the ball downfield, so his carry numbers are inflated. He got the ball a whopping 312 times last year, and was fine. He did nothing to defy Northwestern's fate against Michigan, Iowa, and Nebraska—25, 30, and 40 yards, respectively—and mostly ran over teams that were not good. He had a couple moments; he was fine. He got to 139 yards against Wisconsin without cracking 4 YPC. You could put him somewhere in the second half of this list if you wanted; 11 is bizarre.
But the reason this section exists is because the list completely omits Ryan Glasgow. Ryan Glasgow, the guy who got hurt just before Michigan's run defense fell off a cliff; Ryan Glasgow, the guy PFF ranked a top 20 DL in all of college football last year. No matter what he does on the field, because he is 1) a former walk-on and 2) a nose tackle someone is always willing to ignore him in favor of Bryan Mone or a completely average running back. Or #32 Montae Nicholson a guy who got pulled over and over again last year because he kept giving up big plays. Or #60 Wes Lunt. Or #100 Michael Geiger, a kicker hitting 63% the last two years. There's an obvious mandate to diversify the schools involved here but that's nonsensical.
Anyway. Get your chips hot, Glasgow.
The media days, they begin. If news comes out of them that'll be newsworthy. Best item so far is that MSU appears to be moving Kodi Kieler to center:
MSU also released a preseason depth chart: Kieler now listed as starter at center, Brian Allen at LG, Dennis Finley/Miguel Machado at RT
— Kyle Austin (@kylebaustin) July 25, 2016
I said there wasn't much news. JUCO transfer Machado was real bad last year as Kieler struggled to stay ambulatory; Finley was hurt the whole year.
Dytarious may return. Dytarious Johnson didn't sign a letter of intent this fall and then enrolled in prep school; per Johnson Michigan is still in pursuit and will enroll him this January. That's still dependent on a number of things, including Johnson getting his grades right and how Michigan's scholarship situation shapes up. A lot of these plans end up changing along the way.
More unit rankings. Sports On Earth declares Michigan's DL the third-best in the land and their secondary fifth-best, and if that actually strikes you as pessimistic, well, placing the OL #5 in the country more than makes up for that.
Etc.: Iowa defensive tackle Faith Ekakitie had four guns pulled on him because he was mistaken for a bank robber 100 pounds lighter than him. Peppers gets a prestigious award. Eric Upchurch talks MGoPhotography with MGoFish. Remembering 1976.
Under Harbaugh's watch, Michigan is taking more versatile prospects like QB-turned-TE Zach Gentry. [Fuller]
This question was posted in the comments of Kai-Leon Herbert's commitment post, and I've been meaning to get around to it ever since:
It seems to me that right from the start, the Harbaugh staff hasn't been primarily focused on "roster balance" but instead--at least in the short term--focused on making 100% sure that they have solid players in key position groups.
What I mean is--they seem to be adopting a "surge" strategy wherein they almost over-recruit certain spots to guarantee good performances. QB and perhaps RB came to mind last year, and now perhaps this year OL and TE.
The theory I guess being that a few of the recruits will turn into diamonds under the pressure. Meanwhile the rest will either transfer (thus opening up roster slots to "surge" the next position group) or (more preferably) if they are athletic & amenable to it, switch to a different position group to help balance out the roster that way.
Is this a known strategy that they're following? Or or is this just a wrong-headed & faulty observation on my part?
I believe the "surge" recruiting at certain positions reflects two things: first and foremost roster imbalance that Harbaugh is trying to fix, and second a change in emphasis in how this staff recruits.
There's one position where Harbaugh's recruiting stands in stark contrast to Hoke's: quarterback. Hoke took one per year and infamously skipped taking one in 2012 because he had Shane Morris in the fold for 2013—instead of promoting competition, Hoke seemingly wanted to avoid it. Michigan got only Russell Bellomy in 2011 and put a non-elite prospect (Wilton Speight, a three-star) on top of their board for 2014. This approach required the coaches to have an exceptional hit rate with their QB recruits; that obviously didn't happen.
Harbaugh, on the other hand, doubled up on QBs in his first class, adding Zach Gentry—a prospect versatile enough to shift to tight end, which he's since done—to holdover Alex Malzone. Instead of easing back after landing a top-tier QB in 2016 (Brandon Peters), Harbaugh grabbed another for 2017 (Dylan McCaffrey), and M's top targets for 2018 (Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Artur Sitkowski, Cameron Rising) are also of the high-four-star variety.
Hoke seemed to fear that his quarterbacks would leave if they felt they weren't preordained as The Guy. Harbaugh has no such fear; he recruits with future attrition in mind and, as mentioned, takes more position-versatile players than Hoke did—just look at Gentry for evidence. At certain positions, especially quarterback, I think Michigan is utilizing the strategy outlined in the question, and that general mentality drives how they recruit.
Other surges are more the coaches patching up holes in the roster. With Freddy Canteen's status in doubt, Michigan was set to have only three scholarship receivers back in 2017 (Ways, Harris, and Perry), so taking five receiver-types in the 2016 class made a lot of sense, especially since a couple can potentially play in the defensive backfield. After fixing the imbalance, the coaches are being much more selective at receiver in 2017.
Tight end recruiting, which spawned this question, is a combination of Harbaugh patching a hole—Khalid Hill, who's now a fullback, and Ian Bunting will be the only two scholarship upperclassman TE/H-backs in 2017—and putting together his preferred personnel. Harbaugh wants blocky/catchy guys of all shapes and sizes in his offense, and he had to jump-start that in the last couple classes; things should even out over the next couple classes as Harbaugh shapes the roster to his liking.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the mailbag.]