Sitebulletins. We are two weeks away from the Spring Game and the it's hard offseason after. We'll be ramping up the usual stuff—profiles of the incoming freshmen, ranting about offsides in hockey, recaps of our insane predictions—and yes, now is the time when a Sugar Bowl UFR gets done. All timely like.
There are a couple of complicating factors, most prominent: knee surgery. I'm having it. Unfortunately they've moved the date from April 17th—blissfully amidst nothing at all—to April 10th. That's four days before the Spring Game. Glarble. I'll do my best to give you the usual breakdown, but I'm not sure how with-it I'll be. I'm supposed to be able to walk in two weeks, so hopefully I'll be coherent after four days.
The other project, one that I wanted to get started on earlier, is whacking the server in the right spot so it's a bunch faster. This should be doable, but it is going to take some time. Between that and the surgery don't be surprised if my posting frequency drops a bit. I'll get at least one thing up a day; the rest of the time is going to be spent on laying a groundwork for keeping things upright when next season rolls around. Death to the 503.
goodnight, sweet prince
Read this. I linked it in the game recap post but really, if you haven't read Zach Helfand's article on the Cornell game you should:
GREEN BAY, Wisc. — The crease is empty now.
The custodians in the Resch Center stands are picking up trash, and with plastic gloves they shove Skittles wrappers and used napkins and programs that show a picture of a 5-foot-6 goaltender that used to play for the Michigan hockey team into a large plastic trash bag.
It is a quarter till midnight.
Below them, on the ice, the crease is empty.
Forty-nine minutes ago, at 10:56 p.m., it wasn’t. Forty-nine minutes ago, there was a goaltender named Shawn Hunwick lying on his right side across that crease, and a puck was there, just past the crown of his helmet.
It's one thing to execute a long-form article over weeks and another to bash something really good out on deadline. Helfand has chops. Googling reveals a planned graduation date of 2014. I feel old.
Stephen Nesbitt also has a good column on Hunwick's exit, one in which Hunwick says a blog called him a "waste of space." Doesn't sound like me, but I do like Fawlty Towers… hmmm… phew. No hits except some false positives in which commenters call each other wastes of space.
As long as we're moping about the Cornell game and early exits, the HSR writes on Michigan's last three tourney losses, all of which were 3-2 in OT after a disallowed goal. Ay yi yi. Holdin' The Rope is also attempting to hold its head together with its hands. Center Ice previews the incoming recruits.
We must prevent anyone from attending this event. The NCAA is bound and determined to prevent any hockey regional from selling out, even the best conceivable scenario of Minnesota-North Dakota at the X:
-That said, the NCAA did their best to neutralize any home ice advantage at the XCel Center by making sure no one would attend. Tickets for each session cost $57, and there was no re-entry between the two games on Saturday, meaning fans were pretty much stuck inside the XCel all day if they wanted to see both games. The end result of the blatant price-gouging was an announced crowd of 10,974 for a regional final between Minnesota and North Dakota. That doesn't look terrible, but as Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald pointed out, last week's WCHA Final Five quarterfinal held at the same building between Denver and Michigan Tech, and played on a Thursday afternoon drew an announced crowd of 11,489. The NCAA ran an event less successfully than the WCHA. This year's regional final was also outdrawn by the 2007 regional final between the same two teams, but held in Denver.
The prices for regionals are so ridiculous they can't even sell out a Minnesota game in Minnesota.
I just don't even know, man. There's a Michigan fan on the USCHO board who rails on this broken playoff system, spawning huge multi-page threads that make me want to find the people who think it's impossible to move back to home regionals and throttle them.
College hockey needs to grow the sport at home, where it's in competition with the CHL, and not in Tampa or St. Louis. Move to two weekends of best two out of three series on home ice and follow it up with a Frozen Four. You bring the game to the people who support it, not hundreds of miles away, and cease the embarrassment of having three thousand people in arenas that seat three times that many. The current system is essentially a giant middle finger to the people who fill arenas during the regular season.
Even when they can get it right, they don't: Michigan is hosting in Grand Rapids next year when there is a Toledo regional available. That's an extra four hours roundtrip so Bowling Green, a school with almost no chance of making the tournament, can host. And WCHA fanbases all get shut out.
A little more Merrill info. Red, at least, expects him back:
As for Merrill, a second-round pick of New Jersey, Berenson said: "Merrill will get some interest, but right now his heart is at Michigan. I don't see him doing anything."
While Red's been wrong before, that's a think in the right direction on my Bayesian Merrill departure meter. The Daily also throws this in an article on Wohlberg's departure for the AHL and other matters:
Sophomore defenseman Jon Merrill is the only Wolverine who hasn't appeared to make a decision regarding his status for next season.
Not sure if that's an assumption or the prospect of losing Brown/Guptill is not on the table. That would be nice, getting everyone back. It's happened. It's rare, but it's happened. Once, I think.
Anonymous surveying. Rothstein took some anonymous survey questions($) when he was giving exit interviews to the 19 seniors and returns with word that Jerald Robinson is the pick for breakout player. One comment on him:
"He obviously hasn't played that much, but he has everything you need to be a great receiver. All he needs is the opportunity, and once he gets that, I know he'll do well. I think he'll definitely have a breakout year this year, because Junior (Hemingway is) leaving and (Darryl) Stonum isn't on the team, so we need him to step up, and I think he will."
Ryan, Toussaint, and Denard(!) are 2-3-4. There is much else of interest behind that paywall, but… yeah, paywall. I can probably tell you that Rothstein asked whether players liked Rodriguez and got generally positive but mixed responses. The responses to the same question about Hoke: "Yes – 19."
These grapes are truly sour. I either missed this or just forgot about posting on this article. Whichever it is, here it is. Possibly again. It's an Andy Staples piece from January on decommitments of top 100 recruits that has a couple of fascinating figures:
Of the 500 players ranked in the Rivals100 for the classes of 2007 through 2011, 73 (14.6 percent) decommitted at some point during their recruitment. Of those, 62 (12.4 percent) ultimately signed with a school other than the one to which they originally committed. …
Of the players who decommitted, 34.2 percent either failed to qualify, transferred or were dismissed. … Of the players who made one commitment and stuck to it, only 18.7 percent either failed to qualify, transferred or were dismissed.
The washout rate for guys who picked more than one school is almost double that of players who stuck with their one true love. So we didn't want Pharaoh Brown anyway. (Yes. Yes, I did want Pharaoh Brown. Fiddlesticks.)
About 15% of players end up switching. That seems higher in the South, FWIW, as some of those switches are involuntary. I'd guess Michigan loses fewer from this class, and going forward in the Hoke era.
Irvin hype clarity. I haven't been entirely sure what to think about Zak Irvin since the recruiting sites have such divergent opinions on him. Scout has him a generic three-star; Rivals thinks he's a top 50-type player. Via UMHoops, here's an indication that local observers lean towards the latter. The Indy Star is commenting on the snub of Bryson Scott, a Purdue commit who was only named to Indiana's second tier junior All-Star team:
Six players are named to the core team and it’s pretty clear in my mind that’s he’s one of the six best players in the junior class. I’d rate him or Hamilton Southeastern’s Zak Irvin as the top in-state prospect currently in the 2013 class. Plus, Scott has led his team to the regional each of the last two years and he averaged more than 25 points a game as a sophomore.
Irvin is on the "core" team that will scrimmage the seniors twice in preparation for their annual game against Kentucky.
Etc.: Keith Olbermann eulogizes Bert Sugar, Michigan grad and story fountain. MSU lists 6'7" Tyler Hoover as a starter at DT. Many happy Masseys to him. This would be much more fun if MSU's OL was the shambles it should have been last year. Michigan is back on Monte Morris. Rittenberg goes to Sweet 16, comes back advocating for home sites in CFB playoff.
Today's recruiting roundup recaps Shane Morris's Elite11 regional camp appearance, talks Ty Isaac (what else is new?), and goes over past and future visits.
Shane's Bad Day > Your Bad Day
Shane Morris attended the Dallas Elite11 regional camp last weekend, getting tips from guys like Trent Dilfer and Tony Romo while hoping to lock up one of the coveted invitations to the Elite11 finals. Review of Morris were mixed but mostly positive, and this clearly wasn't good enough for Michigan's quarterback commit, who told ESPN he needs to work on "everything" (also, any idea why Morris is randomly wearing stunner shades for the second throw in this clip?):
While Morris was disappointed to not earn the finals invitation (more quotes in a free ESPN article here), he'll get another crack in Columbus on May 4th, and he still flashed the ability that has made him a potential five-star. Rivals.com's Brian Perroni listed Morris at #5 among his top performers, noting arm strength as his biggest positive ($):
The Michigan pledge made his presence known early by coming in decked out in Wolverine gear. There was a lot of anticipation as people wanted to see the nation's No. 16 overall prospect in person after he traveled a long way to compete. A lefty, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Morris had the best velocity on his ball of any quarterback in attendance and made some very good deep throws as well. His accuracy was a bit off at times but nothing too concerning.
Scout's Greg Powers had a similar take, saying Morris had some great throws and not-so-great throws but "definitely [had] his wow moments," in turning in a "very solid showing" ($). Morris was disappointed, yes, but he also has very high standards for himself. That's by no means a bad thing.
Morris didn't provide the only recruiting action of the weekend, as Michigan hosted several prospects for unofficial visits. The top 2013 target on campus was Washington (DC) Gonzaga CB Devin Butler, who's in the midst of a long string of Midwest visits but took the time to tell 247 that Michigan "seemed like a great place to be as a football player, as a student and a young man" ($). Several Cass Tech targets spanning three classes also made the trip. '13 DT Kenton Gibbs caught up with Will Campbell and also said that Michigan's coaches want to see him at their summer camp before extending an offer ($). '14 LB William White was impressed by what he saw from the linebackers in spring drills ($), while '14 RB/DB Johnny Miggins and '15 QB Jayru Campbell also enjoyed the visit ($). '14 WR Damon Webb was also on campus along with several other Cass Tech players.
Isaac Watch, Future Visits, Etc.
Ty Isaac has returned from his trip to USC, the school that poses perhaps the biggest threat to Michigan in his recruitment, so it's time to read far too much into some post-trip quotes. They are... meh ($):
"There were really no set expectations, it was just a good visit," Isaac said. "It was nothing that I wasn't expecting. I got to see things and talk to coaches."
"I got to see things," is my new favorite non-answer from a recruit. It certainly doesn't sound like Isaac, who was accompanied by his father, was blown away by the trip. He says he's now going to "chill for awhile" before making any kind of decision about his future, and he's not tipping his hand, though he said his top schools "know who they are."
Phoenix (AZ) Brophy Prep WR Devon Allen is one of the top receivers on the board for Michigan, and his recent athletic exploits reveal a major reason why that is the case: Allen just broke a 32-year-old Arizona state record in the 110-meter hurdles, running a 13.62 to edge out the old mark by .07 seconds. He was also just three-hundreths of a second from breaking the 300-meter hurdles state record, as well. Allen starts his spring break next week, and he plans on taking a trip to the Midwest, where Michigan is one of several schools in the running for a visit ($).
One player taking a visit this weekend is Solon (OH) CB Darian Hicks, who already holds 11 offers but is hoping to add Michigan to the list when he comes to campus on Friday ($). Brookfield (WI) Central DE Chikwe Obasih will swing by Ann Arbor between April 12th and 14th—he'll also visit MSU and Illinois during those days, and hasn't set the order yet ($).
Two players have stated their intention to take one of their official visits to Ann Arbor. Petaluma (CA) Casa Grande ATH Elijah Qualls—at 6'5", 265 lbs., likely a DT/SDE recruit for Michigan—is one, having built a strong relationship with coach Dan Ferrigno ($). The other is Dadeville (AL) DT Rod Crayton, whose coach says Michigan "might be recruiting Rod the hardest out of anyone" ($). Crayton plans to take a second unofficial visit for a game this fall, then use an official visit after his season.
Happy trails to two offensive linemen, Colin McGovern and Hunter Bivin, who both committed to Notre Dame over the weekend. Both held Michigan offers but were told, like all uncommitted OL, that the Wolverines are full along the O-line.
Quickly: Taco Charlton's Pickerington Central squad defeated Chris Wormley and Toledo Whitmer, 45-40, in the Ohio Division I basketball state title game. Chantel Jennings gives a progress report on the 2013 class, including quotes from current commits on what the coaches like about them ($).
Already strong desire to see Amedeo Della Valle wearing Michigan electric banana yellow: incremented. Also, here's 6'7" Bo Zeigler.
What to do with the extra options.
I'm curious what you think Michigan should do with their suddenly available basketball scholarships. I realize it is impossible to predict specific names since you don't know who is really out there or how they look outside their highlight films. But from a position stand-point, what do you think?
I ask because I've had a debate with Dylan at UMHoops the past few days about it. He's of the opinion that a combo guard like Della Valle would be the best choice because we don't need a true PG with Burke and Walton. My opinion is that the end of the bench is designed for people who fit a very specific role and are comfortable being a developmental prospect so I think we need a true PG who can back up Burke and Walton and be available in case of emergency.
I think Travis Trice (MSU) and Stilman White (UNC) are perfect examples of the type of player you want to provide depth. They were both undersized, low-ranked recruits coming into a full roster with many more heralded players but both played critical back-up roles for their teams when needed. To me, that is the first priority with these available scholarships and the second priority is either a combo guard with a lot of upside or a pure shooter to groom into the Vogrich role.
Michigan could take both a PG and a combo now and a third guy besides if he's a grad-year transfer. I think the ideal situation is a grad-year PG, Della Valle, and a full-court press on Bo Zeigler and Monte Morris as Michigan tries to add to its 2013 class.
If there isn't a suitable grad-year guy out there, then it comes down to what you think of your available point guard options. Michigan does need a second point guard at some point. Do you think Della Valle and/or Stauskas can give you backup minutes if Burke stays? Do you think Spike Albrecht or other random unsigned guy can play? How do you feel about your shot at doubling up with Walton and Morris in 2013? What is your contingency plan if Burke goes pro?
I can't answer any of those questions, but I don't think you want to take a guy just to take a guy. Christian was an example of that. He was going to Tulane and had little interest outside of that before Michigan swooped in. He ended up sitting on the bench before departing, and the limited utility he provided in his sparse minutes probably could have been handled by Corey Person without much problem.
Albrecht is a walking question mark right now. There's a big difference between Travis Trice—who had offers from Minnesota, Northwestern, Dayton, and Butler—and Albrecht, who doesn't even have profile at the major sites and has Vermont fans on the fence about taking him. Meanwhile, White had a BYU offer. I can't find a confirmed Albrecht offer from anyone—his profile is a lot closer to Christian than either of your four-year examples.
Unless you think Albrecht is the sort of guy who can give you ten minutes now and could start as a senior, I wouldn't take him. If he's as good as Dave Sobolewski, the guy Sam Webb compared him to, I would. But even a low profile guy like Sobocop got three stars from Rivals and shows a number of quality mid-major offers like Harvard, Northern Iowa, and Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
In contrast, we know Della Valle has high-level suitors. If Michigan gets him they'll beat out Texas A&M, Arizona, Gonzaga, and others for him (AFAIK he does not have an official OSU offer). That's a guy you'd take any time.
This is my point guard decision matrix:
- If you can get a grad-year guy, take him.
- Otherwise, if you think Albrecht or other guy is as good as Sobolewski, take him.
- Otherwise, if Trey Burke stays just deal with 5-10 minutes a game with Stauskas or hopefully Della Valle at the point.
- If Trey Burke leaves, panic. Then reach for someone, anyone.
FWIW, A Trey Zeigler transfer—which doesn't seem to be on the table—doesn't fit well with Michigan's needs. They need another guard next year, when Zeigler won't be eligible, and he's probably more of a shooting guard. If you can get Della Valle he's preferable since he's available now.
Mmmm, roster fantasy.
I don't think it's possible...but we just think about the possibility of Burke and Hardaway staying for not one, but TWO years!?! How good could that team be assuming all the incoming freshmen stay?
[ED: This email came in before the attrition and the Burke news.]
Sure it's possible, but I'm not sure we want that to happen. If Hardaway has another year like his most recent one and Burke doesn't improve significantly they'll again be in that range of second-round-to-undrafted prospects and the calculus will dictate a return. I'd rather have Hardaway turn into a lottery pick both for roster reasons and, hey, NBA lottery pick driving team forward.
A hypothetical 2013-14 squad featuring everyone from the current roster and the next two incoming classes would be one-seed good even without Smotrycz. It would probably mean the upcoming season was a disappointment, though. I'd rather have a breakout year and deal with the consequences.
It's in the past.
So with the partnership between the B1G and PAC12 coming up in a few years to do some cross conference games some of the teams are getting a slight jump (i.e. Northwestern playing Stanford and Cal, as well as the recent announcement of Michigan State and Oregon). While I would love to see a home and home with USC, isn’t the most intriguing matchup with Arizona? It might be a lose-lose situation for us where if we win we were expected to win and if we lose then Rich Rod will have his moment of glory.
Who would you like to see?
Intriguing, yes. Annoying, God yes. I would like Michigan to stay away from any rehash of the Rodriguez era. This desire is on par with Michigan making a Rose Bowl: let us never speak of that again. Playing Arizona is like scheduling a rematch with Appalachian…
Oh, right. That.
If they zipper future matchups like they do for the Big Ten/ACC challenge (though I assume they'll do home-and-homes in this Pac-10 alliance), Michigan might not have a choice. It's hard to see the near future of both conferences panning out in such a way as to dictate the Arizona-Michigan matchup unless TV wants to get cute. I'd expect USC, Oregon, Stanford, etc. Arizona's been down forever for a reason.
On the philosophical shortcomings of the program expressed via the lens of running back recruiting.
The recent commit of Deveon Smith, which possibly excludes Ty Isaac, brought to the forefront an interesting inner debate I've had for a while. You have said that the Ohio State game is a microcosm of UM's season. I similarly have thought that Mike Hart was a microcosm of UM football in not only the late Carr years, but also the Bo years. (Disclaimer: do not read further if you think of the Bo years as the pinnacle of a college football program).
Anyway, Hart was so very good but just not quite fast enough to take it to the house after he hit the second level; often getting caught from behind. Similarly, the late Carr years, as well as Bo's years, resulted in very good teams which just couldn't reach an NC (or a very good bowl record). Obviously the leading all-time rusher in UM history is not to blame for UM's failure to win NC's, but rather a microcosm; just doesn't have that last little burst to become elite.
I see the same in Smith vs Isaac: one a more sure-fire prospect, but lacks the elite higher ceiling that great break-away speed gives (Smith), or a bigger risk in waiting for that elite size/speed combo (Isaac). I'm honestly not sure where I stand in the inner debate of whether I would rather risk a higher level ceiling (in prospects and program), or go a safer route, but with a lower ceiling that results in conference championships but not the elite national championships. I was curious to know your thoughts on the subject.
The tension here was on display in Hoke's first press conference when Drew Sharp managed to break away from the gentle grape-peeling-and-feeding session to ask a typically nasty question about Hoke's focus on winning the Big Ten, and how it wasn't a focus on winning national championships, and doesn't that make you some sort of jerk, Brady, and don't even think I'm projecting my failures on to you and everyone I write about I HAVE A VERY IMPORTANT JOB AT A NEWSPAPER.
Hoke looked at Sharp like his cool leather jacket was made out of baby skin—which, unbeknownst to him, it was—and mumbled something about how that opportunity would be there if they won the league. Sharp tried to press the point, but Hoke had already moved on to recruiting the 2015 class.
The idea that Michigan plays it safe was something I've felt as I watched good teams play in fear of what could go wrong instead of pressing their advantages and fall apart against teams they have no business doing so against. That was pretty much the only thing I thought when Hoke was hired: oh God this again, even further removed from the time period in which it was a good idea.
Hoke then set about annihilating that expectation, on and off the field. He hired Greg Mattison and brought along an honest-to-God offensive coordinator, he went for it—a lot—and told the media not to expect him to change after it didn't work out that one time against Illinois. And of course the recruiting. Brady Hoke's answer to Smith vs Isaac is "why not both?" I gingerly suggest that will also be his approach to Big Ten title vs National title. Hoke likes to win games, and tries to win all of them, and is recruiting at a level that will allow him to do so.
Wilson is needed at safety because Josh Furman's hair may be too spectacular for him to see the field.
Some Spring FB questions that so far I have not seen much about:
1) With the additions of Wilson and Clark as Free Safeties (and Dymonte in 2013) it would seem that moving Tamari Carter back to his HS position of CB would be logical given his size and our depth chart. I know there is talk of trying Wilson at CB but I don't buy it.
I haven't heard anything about Wilson at CB; I'd be surprised if he was not a safety all the way. As far as Carter goes, I'm looking at the depth chart and it seems like Michigan has three solid veterans plus a couple of true sophomore backups they liked enough to play last year. That seems like a position of less uncertainty than safety, partially because Marvin Robinson…
2) Any word on whether Marvin Robinson will get a medical red shirt for last year and also if that minor X Box spat has been cleared up? I still see Marvin as #2 on the depth chart and heir apparent to Kovacs at SS, so an extra year of eligibility would be nice. In other Red Shirt News I know it is futile to ask why we can't get a straight answer about Devin's possible wasted Freshman year... a riddle wrapped in a conundrum.
…does not seem like he's going to be a factor this year. I've gotten a report that he has not looked in shape at early spring practices. Obviously a lot of time left before fall; still not a good sign. If he's not in line for playing time Carter is one of only two guys with a year under his belt at safety. The other is Josh Furman, who has reportedly been absent for a few practices. Even if that's benign (class conflict?) it's not a good sign for potential Furman playing time. Things could go wrong a lot more quickly there than corner.
I don't know about Gardner. I've heard the opposite about the likelihood he ends up getting the extra year—e.g., it is a formality. I don't know what to believe there.
3) Is there any buzz at all about Ken Wilkins? He seems like a great possibility at SDE but I am starting to feel "Adam Patterson Syndrome" with regard to Mr. Wilkins.
Jerry In Ibiza
There hasn't been much buzz about Wilkins and the move of not one but two WDEs inside to positions he might play is not a good sign for him when it comes to seeing the field. The last we saw Wilkins he was getting annihilated by a walk-on as an undersized three-tech in the spring game; he did not surface at all last season even when the defensive line depth was whittled down to nothing in the Sugar Bowl.
He's got a shot at the rotation this year whether it's behind Black or Roh; if he doesn't do it now chances are he won't ever. If Patterson was on the sort of roster Wilkins will be as a fourth year player, he would have been buried.
Images archived from MGoBlue.com
This is the first in a series of posts going back through the years to pull out some of the highlights from an advanced stats perspective of years prior. Glossary at bottom for further detail on specific metrics. @The_Mathlete
Big Ten: 7-1, Big Ten Champs
Bowl: Rose Bowl loss to USC
Final AP Rank: 6th
Advanced Team Stats
Talent rank: 13th in nation (Texas), 2nd in Big Ten (Ohio)
Offense: +7 EV+ (10th-Minnesota, 2nd)
Defense: +6 EV+ (17th-LSU, 4th-Iowa)
Special Teams: +1 EV+ (33rd-MSU, 5th)
Advanced Player Stats
John Navarre, 1st Team Big Ten, +2 EV+ (27th-Roethlisberger, 3rd-Abdul-Khaliq), 0.13 WPA/G (39th-Frye, 4th-Sorgi)
Ohio: 278 yards, +8 EV+ and 0.23 WPA
Minnesota: 369 yards, +5 EV+ and 0.37 WPA (legendary receiving TD not included)
Northwestern: 284 yards, +7 EV+ and 0.18 WPA
Chris Perry, all everything, +2 EV+ (9th-Barber, 3rd), 0.09 WPA/G (6th-Barber, 3rd)
Central Michigan: 17 carries for 232 yards, +8 EV+ and 0.25 WPA
Michigan St: 52 carries for 220 yards, +8 EV+ and 0.30 WPA
Houston: 18 carries for 184 yards, +7 EV+ and 0.14 WPA
Braylon Edwards, 1st team Big Ten, +4 EV (51st-Fitzgerald, 2nd-Evans), 0.07 WPA/G (97th-Hackett, 8th-Evans)
Ohio: 7 targets, 132 yards, +12 EV and 0.21 WPA
Michigan St: 7 targets, 103 yards, +11 EV and 0.23 WPA
Northwestern: 6 targets, 110 yards, +7 EV and 0.10 WPA
Michigan takes their first loss of the season in a wild one in Eugene. Three special teams touchdowns, Michigan recovering the onside kick with a chance for a dramatic comeback from an 18 point second half deficit that wasn’t to be.
Michigan takes control early with a 14 point first quarter lead, only to see Iowa reverse course to go up 30-20 midway through the fourth. Braylon Edwards goes for a 41 yard touchdown and the Wolverine D forces a three and out. But Michigan’s final drive stalls on Iowa’s half of the field.
Michigan’s third game with big swings finally goes their way. Michigan trailed 28-7 at the end of the third quarter with their only touchdown coming on the famed Breaston to Navarre connection. Four fourth quarter touchdowns would tie the game and Garrett Rivas hit from 33 yards out with less than a minute to go to give Michigan it’s final margin.
Tressel’s only loss to Michigan in ten tries saw Michigan in control until the fourth quarter. A John Navarre interception gave the Buckeyes the ball back down seven with 13 minutes to play, but a three and out, a scare on a fumbled punt return and an 87 yard touchdown drive would push the lead back to 14 and Ohio wouldn’t threaten again.
In terms of contribution to success, the 2003 Michigan team was highly balanced. Chris Perry would be the player that took home the hardware, those of you have followed my articles are familiar with the lack of love EV+ and WPA have for running backs. Perry certainly had an outstanding season but benefited from a lot of carries and the famed position as lead back at Michigan. In all, Perry and the ground game, a solid Navarre and a pretty good defense would give Michigan its last outright Big Ten title and only victory over a Jim Tressell-led Buckeye team.
For being BIG TEN FOOTBALL, the season featured several wild comeback games. Michigan pulled out a win over Minnesota but dropped games to a solid Iowa team and an unranked Oregon team. The Rose Bowl saw Michigan take on the first USC juggernaut that went on to win the AP crown despite missing out on the BSC title game.
2003 was a tough vote for the Heisman. Jason White, Larry Fitzgerald, Eli Manning and Chris Perry were the finalists. My four finalists would have been Ben Roethlisberger, Larry Fitzgerald, Philip Rivers and Matt Leinart (sorry Chris).
Ben Roethlisberger +11 EV+ and Larry Fitzgerald +9 have the best claims to the most valuable season. Fitzgerald’s EV+ was the best wideout rating in the 9 years of data I have accumulated.
If you don’t like mid-majors or wideouts, Philip Rivers was the best BCS QB or RB at +8 for NC State. If you think the winner needs to be a “winner” and have a team in title contention, then Leinart’s your man. At +7 he is well ahead of the other title contenders, eventual winner Jason White from OU (+4) and Matt Mauck from LSU (+0).
My vote: Larry Fitzgerald, a once in a decade receiving season and no dominant BCS QBs makes this my clear choice
My Post-Season Top 25
The top five compared pretty closely between the two. The notable exceptions were the two teams from Ohio. Roethlisberger’s Red Hawks check at #3 in my final rankings where that other team from Ohio was highly overrated based on a number of close wins. Michigan gets a slight bump up to #5.
EV+: Opponent adjusted expected value. How many points a player/team/unit was worth relative to average performance against the same opponent. Excludes all garbage time plays and fumbles (considered random).
WPA: Win Percent Added. How much each player/unit contributed to winning games. Each team starts a game with a 50% chance. For the first three quarters in a competitive game this will track directly alongside EV. In games with larger margins almost all plays have zero value. Plays in the fourth quarter/OT of tight games will have a higher leverage based on the situation. This is largely were WPA deviates from EV+. WPA for offensive players will be higher if the teams defense is bad and vice versa. If your defense is giving you good field position and stopping the opponent, there is less opportunity for the offense to “win” the game. If your defense is terrible your WPA numbers will be higher because there is constant pressure for the offense to succeed. Includes all plays.
Ranks: The ()’d numbers after ratings are the national rank first followed by the conference rank. If there is a team/name after the rank, that is the leader of the category.
Talent Rank: Total team talent estimate based on recruiting rankings of all players on that year’s roster based on all available major scouting services. Only counts plays currently on the roster and weights players with more years on the team higher than new recruits.
Bennett, Di Giuseppe
Thanks to Yost Built retweeting various Daily guys covering Michigan hockey, we can now breathe a little easier about this impending Michigan hockey summer. Mac Bennett ("for sure") and Phil Di Giuseppe have announced they will return next year.
I'm still a little leery about PDG since he hasn't been drafted yet. Sometimes NHL teams (cough cough the Kings) like to sign their kids right away. If he gets drafted by the wrong organization there's a chance that changes his calculus. A remote one, but we've been burned too many times not to consider the possibility.
Meanwhile, Jon Merrill has not decided:
Jon Merrill said he'll decide soon whether or not he will return for his junior year at Michigan. Merrill, a New Jersey Devils prospect, said there's a lot of people he needs to talk with before deciding, namely Berenson.
My initial instinct that his decision to stick through the suspension and uneven play towards the end of last year makes staying the slight favorite. It seems best for everyone for Merrill to have a final, stable season with great success before heading to the AHL or NHL. FWIW, a couple of the Daily guys have the opposite hunch.
Michigan has a couple other guys who could sign with NHL teams (Trouba, Guptill, and Brown); at least they've avoided the worst-case scenario. We've gotten past the immediate window where players leave to catch the tail end of the AHL season (see: Krug, Torey). I'd put the over/under on early entries at one. That's tolerable.
BONUS: Also AJ Treais is changing his number to 23 next year, seemingly because he likes Michael Jordan.
Griffith, Dinardo, and families take in a Michigan spring practice.
The usual crew of Big Ten analysts took in one of Michigan's spring practices and coughed up the usual tweets of debatable utility. As one of the few glimpses we get into spring activities, they're reproduced below. I've edited them for readability and compressed them a bit.
1st impressions of Michigan. from yesterday's spring practice. Physically impressive group! Doing some reshuffling on the D-line will make them more athletic upfront—DE Brennen Beyer.
So WR Jerald Robinson made some nice catches. Will be a good addition to WRs Gallon & Roundtree. RBs look solid, no surprise here. Toussaint looks like he's ready to carry the load. Keep an eye on J.Hayes
Replacing Molk leadership on & off the field well be tough, Barnum & Jack Miller will give them solid options.
Secondary is a solid group, return 7 of last year's top 8. S Jarrod Wilson is going to have a chance to contribute. The linebacker group is impressive. The young pups Bolden and Ringer showed me some things vs run game.
The Beyer thing spurred this exchange from a Michigan grad who is a "Spartan diehard
jeffrdillon: Don't let UM spin fool you, position change for Beyer means he sucked at TE or current DEs suck. not to "get more athletic."
griffith: appreciate your opinion
@jeffrdillon but I'm going to go with my own tow eyes.
Beyer was a strongside linebacker last year, not a tight end, and isn't making much of a position move at all.
Saturday was a great practice in regard organization, efficiency & amount of work done—really impressive. Always different watching a staff run practice the second spring practice—looks like Brady's been there forever.
Michigan will be one of the most talented teams in B10 but you will see them get more physical in O/D line through recruiting. Back seven on defense can really run and as front catches up in future with experience/talent the D could become one of the best in the country.
One thing that was so impressive: it was practice #5. Half drills and half scrum but still got a lot done which is hard to do. [ed: no idea.]
Justice Hayes looks like he has great speed, may be in mix somewhere. Joe Bolden is an impressive young guy. Of course there is always the work of Jordan Kovacs that goes mostly unnoticed but remains one of their best players on D.
Michigan has always asked a lot from their seniors. This year Gallon/Roundtree are two great examples—need great year from them. [ed: this reads like a polite way to diss Michigan's wide receiving corps.]
Blake Countess is a returning true sophomore starter. This is the year you usually find out if he will develop into a great one. Young center Jack Miller really helps with depth at that position. Looking for a new starter.
Big picture: M will be one of most talented, well-coached teams in the Big Ten and challenge for a trip to Indy on way to Rose along with MSU and Nebraska.
Dinardo's taste in television is not as advanced as Griffith's:
What a day - we get to watch Purdue (Sprinng Tour stop 5) practice and come home and watch Smash. Wow
He's also got a half-dozen tweets about Mad Men, to be fair.
UPDATE: Dinardo was a little more elaborate talking to Angelique Chengelis:
"Even good teams can screw up a practice, but theirs really was well done, well-organized," he said. "I really did think it was a great practice. It was efficient. I think they got a lot done in their fifth practice.
"There's not a bad coach on this staff. I think Brady is really good. He knows his strengths and doesn't try to coach everybody. He'll coach the defensive line, he'll coach the defense, but he's comfortable with his role and he's very good at his role."