1 hour, 9 minutes.
GAME STUFF WE GUESS?
Amongst scattered references to actual football we chat about stakes and Hoke standing up for himself, or not.
Ace and I run down our top seven somewhat realistic candidates, with controversial Les Miles omission (or inclusion, depending on your point of view) after a rather lockstep top three.
TALKING BIG TEN WITH JAMIEMAC
We burn through the events in the league quickly and then get Jamie's top seven.
"Across 110th Street"
"Dracula's Wedding," Andre 3000
"Boxcar," Shovels & Rope
THE USUAL LINKS
Jordan Morgan graduated, triumphant. So, too, did Jon Horford, who chose to play his final year of eligibility at Florida. Mitch McGary, a victim of the NCAA's enthusiastic, aggressive stupidity, will suit up this winter for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
As a result, out of the 1490 minutes Michigan centers played in 2013-14, the Wolverines return just 89, in the form of 6'7" tweener Max Bielfeldt, a senior with all of 38 career points to his name. While Bielfeldt may play a bigger part in the rotation, he isn't expected to take on major minutes; those should go to two freshmen with distinctly different playing styles.
why did I start the tape here? oh, no reason.
Year: Redshirt Freshman
Measurables: 6'9", 240
247 Composite Ranking (2013): 4*, #18 PF, #86 OVR
Highest Ranking: 4*, #23 PF, #89 OVR (ESPN)
Lowest Ranking: 3*, #37 PF, #147 OVR (247)
Highlight Tapes: Senior Highlights, Three Minutes Of Dunks, Single-Game Reel From 36-Point Game, Summer 2012 Highlights, UMHoops Italy Rewind (stats & video)
Mark Donnal is the closest thing to Kevin Pittsnogle that John Beilein's had during his tenure at Michigan.
It's true, and you're going to hear it about half a billion times this season, so get used to it. Pittsnogle was Beilein's West Virginia version of Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky, a productive post player with a killer three-point stroke. If you haven't yet, hit play on the embedded YouTube video above.
Donnal redshirted last season while bulking up from 215 pounds to his current 240, a luxury Michigan could afford with Morgan/Horford/McGary manning the center position. By midseason, word was leaking out around the program that Donnal was really impressing in practice, and by the end he was reportedly hanging with his older, accomplished teammates:
If it wasn’t for the redshirt, Morgan and Horford might have had to worry about their job security.
“He’s becoming a force,” Morgan said. “He’s hard to guard down there in the post, and he’s definitely come a long way.
“Over the past couple months, he’s just become really good. Really dominates, shoots the ball well.”
The tentativeness that plagued Donnal through the season’s first couple months seemed to disappear.
“Now that I have my confidence back, I know that I can play with these guys,” Donnal said.
This summer, Donnal started all four games of the Italy tour, averaging 10.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game—numbers that Michigan would be over the moon about if he came close to replicating them during the season, wildly unlikely given the center's place on the offensive pecking order. While he was very efficient inside the arc, he went 0/3 on three-pointers during the trip, instead getting most of his buckets in transition or off pick-and-rolls.
Michigan doesn't exactly need huge production out of their center, of course, and the threat of Donnal's outside shot should open up space for everyone else if he's able to handle the more physical demands of the position. He can also diversify Michigan's high screen game; the Wolverines haven't had a center who's as much a pick-and-pop threat as a pick-and-roll threat, and that adds an entirely new dimension to guarding the screener. One thing to keep an eye on as the season progresses: while Donnal looks very comfortable on film finishing with his right hand, he rarely seems to use his left—and often goes out of his way to use his right. If/when opponents pick up on that he's going to have a more difficult time scoring around the basket.
A good rebounder in high school, Donnal should at least be passable in that regard, albeit a likely downgrade from the trio of very productive rebounders on last year's roster. The focus then turns to defense. While true freshman Ricky Doyle is a bigger guy who projects to be the better rim protector, Donnal showed off some nice shot-blocking himself in his high school film, and his year of practice experience should give him a leg up on Doyle when it comes to positioning and directing the defense from the all-important center spot.
If Donnal isn't a defensive liability, his diverse offensive game provides tantalizing possibilities on the other end of the floor—a Beilein-coached Michigan squad with five quality shooters on the floor... I'm not sure I can finish this sentence without getting faint.
I'm getting ahead of myself, though. Before DEATH FROM ABOVE is unleashed in its all-consuming form, Donnal must prove he brings enough rebounding and defense to the court to keep Michigan average in those areas, or he might lose playing time to...
[Hit THE JUMP to resolve this EPIC CLIFFHANGER.]
The Wall Street Journal's Stephen Ross batphone rang again today:
On Monday, Ross said that he still thinks Brandon can do the job. But he also has promised school president Mark Schlissel that he won’t interfere or oppose a decision to fire Brandon.
“I don’t think alumni should control universities,” Ross said. “We have a great president and he is running the university and not me.”
Ross said Schlissel has “been talking to a lot of people” about Brandon and “has not come to a hasty conclusion.” If he has made a decision, Ross said, “he has not told anyone.”
IS THIS THE KISS OF DEEEEAAAATH?
Four-star cornerback Garrett Taylor became the second 2014 recruit to decommit from Michigan during this football season, following the lead of now-NC State commit Darian Roseboro. Taylor announced his decision this afternoon on his Twitter account:
I have de committed from the University of Michigan. Thank you to the Michigan coaching staff for the opportunity they gave me.
— Garrett Taylor (@gtaychillin) October 27, 2014
Taylor had previously revealed plans to officially visit Ohio State and Penn State later this season, so this comes as little surprise. The Wolverines now have nine commits remaining in the 2014 class, and further attrition is expected. With no cornerbacks left in the class, Steve Lorenz believes that Oak Park (MI) ATH John Kelly and Saline (MI) CB Tyrone Miller could see increased interest from Michigan as they try to fill that need.
In related news, four-star TE commit Chris Clark set official visits to UNC and Texas, per Lorenz; he looks like the next one to go. A full recruiting roundup will go up tomorrow; for sanity's sake, I'm writing about basketball today.
10/25/2014 – Michigan 11, Michigan State 35 – 3-5, 1-3 Big Ten
Mark Dantonio is a crazy mofo. This is his great power: he can be offended at anything, forever. Mark Dantonio free-solos Mount Outrage every year. Michigan tried their damndest to not give him anything he could latch onto this time around, repeating the same praise over and over again until even the perpetually bored media noticed that this week's pablum was even more insipid than the usual business.
Then they put a thing in a field.
Fueling Dantonio's never-ending rage at the concept of Michigan is unwise but probably irrelevant. If hate moved spaceships Dantonio would be scowling at little green men circling Alpha Centauri instead of East Lansing. Dantonio is still pissed off at something Mike Hart said seven years ago; a dumb stunt with a railroad spike is a power mushroom when you're already big and skrong.
On the other hand, apologizing after is a pretty good summation of where both programs are. Michigan got the pounding everyone expected and then said "sorry for spoiling for field sir" as they slinked back home. Scott Farkus threw a snowball in our face and we apologized to him for being in the way.
Putting a thing in a field and then woofing about it isn't poor sportsmanship. We should know what poor sportsmanship is: punchin' people. Trying to hurt people. This series has seen plenty of that of late, on both sides. No one apologized after.
Apparently the standard for self-abasement has plummeted, though. So we get another statement. The latest in a never-ending series of PR gaffes. The chance anyone brings the spike thing up after the first round of LOL Michigan articles is zero, unless Michigan brings it up again. They of course do because Michigan refuses to learn Don Canham's first maxim—don't make a one-day story into a two-day story.
Thus more public emasculation for Brady Hoke. Dave Brandon seems to be deliberately trying to make his football coach look like the nation's most clueless goober. By the Maryland game he'll be wearing a beanie and a KICK ME sign. The crowning glory will be an Ohio Stadium weeping piteously at his imminent departure; Hoke will be dressed in nothing but a barrel and suspenders. The press conference afterwards will take place over a dunk tank.
I dunno man, I know this is some feelingsball right here but I can't help but think this is a big part of the problem. Hoke's response to the bullies asking him why he keeps hitting himself is "it's all in the statement." The team responds like their head coach. The man refuses to defend himself, either from his incompetent athletic director or his rivals laughing at him. The team gets plowed by the hint of adversity. Fight is almost totally absent.
When someone gets mad at your spike stunt, the correct answer is F--- YO COUCH. That is Dantonio's answer to everything. Would you like some baklava, Mark? F--- YO COUCH.
Michigan likes to talk about being a Big Boy. Before last year's Ohio State game Brandon said Michigan is "going back to hard-nosed, big-boy football." Whenever a journalist asks Hoke about the internet hordes clamoring for his head he says "it's a big-boy business."
You know who doesn't talk about being a big boy? Big boys*. People who talk about being a Big Boy wear short pants and ask their moms for a quarter so they can buy candy. Big boys don't look at yet another plate of crap and eat it with a sigh of disgust. At some point, big boys stand up for their dignity.
I don't see anything like that. I see the same mealy-mouthed coachspeak week after week, the same covering for his inept boss. Of course Dave Brandon's watching film with him.
Maybe that makes him a "great guy," as per the last possible defense of Hoke. I don't see it. He may be a nice guy; "great" at least requires you to have as much backbone as Ralphie in A Christmas Story.
*[Except Big Boi, who is contractually obligated to say his name several times per minute as per the Rappist Identification Act Of 1985.]
[After THE JUMP: not much, honestly.]