the season has truly begun now
Indianapolis (Ind.) Lawrence Central linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. told me on Thursday that there was no way he was going to commit while visiting Michigan this weekend. He said he wanted to stick to his decision date which was set for August. He also said that this weekend’s visit was just a small opportunity for his family to get a feel for what Michigan has to offer. Sunday morning he had one more thing to say and verbally pledged to the Wolverines.
Just getting onto campus I had that gut feeling. I just felt it when I looked at the Block M on the stadium. I knew I could not say no to this place.
Kirkland Jr. said that the visit was all he’d hoped for in regards to his parents and that the family atmosphere was exactly what he was looking for.
This visit was all about spending time with the staff and their families. I wanted to do that for my parents and myself to see how we all worked together. First we sat down with Coach Hoke and his wife and just talked for a while. Then we went to lunch with Coach Mattison and his wife and Coach Mallory and his son. When we got back Coach Mattison showed me exactly how they would like to use me in the defense. All of that was just great for me and my family. It was just a great fit for us.
The family fit was obviously there, but what about the schematic fit? Kirkland Jr. is prototypically built for the MIKE linebacker position but Coach Mattison told him that he has some other plans for him early on in his career.
I will eventually be groomed into being the MIKE backer of the defense but he said early in my career I will have the opportunity to earn a spot playing WILL and in specific blitzing positions.
Once Darrin decided in his mind that he could see himself playing for Coach Mattison and living in Ann Arbor, he actually had to say the words. Commitments happen in a lot of different ways, but Kirkland Jr.’s is surely one of a kind.
(Laughs) I called Coach Hoke but he was in church so him and his wife ran out of church and I told him that I’m committing. His wife actually screamed out loud in church about it. (Laughs) It was pretty crazy!
Kirkland Jr. is now a Michigan recruit and they have had a recent history of becoming recruiters themselves. Darrin knows that he now has a job to do well before he ever arrives on campus.
My job is to help recruit the best class in 2015. That’s my mission. I’m trying to bring guys in to help win a National Championship. Coach Mattison really wants Keisean Lucier-South and Darian Roseboro to be in front of me. I talked to Keisean a little bit today but I’ll be checking in with a lot more guys soon. I’d really like Miles Boykin and Brian Cole on board too, personally. You always need weapons on offense!
With a recruiting mentality in place, Kirkland Jr. must also focus on performance and preparation.
I’ll be hitting hitting up the Sound Mind Sound Body camp in Detroit this summer, as well as the NFTC camp in Columbus. Most of all I’ll be getting ready for my senior season. We are trying to go out on top.
As for the Columbus mention, some people have voiced concerns about whether interest from the Buckeyes would cause Kirkland Jr. to develop wandering eyes. He had a clear message for those worried about him.
I’m 100% committed to the University of Michigan. I’m a Michigan man and I am true to my word. That is the type of person I am. GO BLUE!
According to multiple sources, including himself, Indianapolis (IN) Lawrence Central ILB Darrin Kirkland Jr. committed to Michigan while on an unofficial visit today. The Wolverines got in on Kirkland at just the right time; after Michigan offered in early April, he picked up subsequent offers from Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Oregon, and appeared on the verge of many more.
Kirkland originally planned to make a May 30th decision, but called that off after fielding the Texas offer. Once again, though, the coaches made a huge impact during a campus visit:
The importance of getting a prospect on campus. Darrin Kirkland Jr. said he didn't go up to Ann Arbor with plans to commit today.
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) May 18, 2014
So did Michigan, period, per 247's Steve Wiltfong:
"As soon as I saw the Block M on campus, I knew I was committing on this trip," Kirkland said. "I felt great about Michigan. My parents really like Michigan and I'm excited to be a part of the Michigan program."
Kirkland becomes the seventh member of the 2015 class and the first at linebacker.
4*, #5 MLB,
4*, #6 ILB,
4*, 81, #7 ILB,
|4*, 90, #7 ILB||
4*, #5 ILB,
Kirkland is universally considered one of the top seven inside linebackers in his class, with the only variance being how highly each service considers that position group as a whole—the #5 ILB spot on Rivals puts him at #153 overall, while only the top four ILBs crack the Top247. Put it all together and Kirkland falls just within the top 200 prospects nationally.
The services are in general agreement about his size, with all but Rivals (6'1", 233 lbs.) listing him at 6'2" and 220-228 pounds, a very solid frame for a rising senior linebacker.
What stands out most when reading Kirkland's scouting reports are the repeated mentions of his excellent instincts. Here's the free report from Scout, which lists discipline, instincts, and tackling technique as strengths with shedding ability as an area for improvement:
Very smart, instinctive player who always seems to be in good position and around the football. Takes good angles to the ball, rarely takes false steps and shows good closing ability. Has gotten stronger and thicker over the last year and needs to continue to do that. - Allen Trieu
Rivals analyst Josh Helmholdt noticed the same when he watched Kirkland and Lawrence Central take on eventual state runner-up Carmel last September, ranking him as the top underclassman prospect from a weekend featuring two big-time matchups ($):
4. DARRIN KIRKLAND JR., LB, INDIANAPOLIS (IND.) LAWRENCE CENTRAL (2015)
It was a fast start for the Rivals250 to Watch presented by Under Armour prospect, as he tallied five tackles and a forced fumble in the first quarter. Kirkland was fairly quiet after that, however, although Lawrence Central's defense stayed stout throughout the game. Kirkland transferred to Lawrence Central from Park Tudor over the summer to play in the same linebacker corps as Lee, and they make a formidable duo. Kirkland will play a MIKE and a WILL role in Lawrence Central's defense, and he does both equally well. He has sideline-to-sideline speed and gets great depth in his pass drops. What stood out most in this game, however, was Kirkland's football IQ. His play recognition is well ahead of the others on that defense, and he sniffed out several counters and screen passes.
ESPN's profile features two evaluations—one from his junior season, and a longer evaluation done more recently—that had to be done by two different people. They agree that he's a forceful run-stopper who's better in confined space than the open field. Then we get incongruous statements like this from the first eval...
Closing burst is just average. Did not see explosive power at the point of attack or strong hands and take-on skills.
...and this from the more recent one:
Powers through blockers and scrapes well with square shoulder pads getting over and under blocks; closes off-tackle with deceptive burst for his size.
Explosive on his final steps of contact. Runs through ball carriers with good force.
They did agree that Kirkland's hand usage could be better. Then there's perhaps the biggest point of contention regarding his game—his ability in coverage. Here's ESPN again:
Can turn and get adequate depth in his zone drops while displaying a nose for the ball and the strength to collision and reroute shorter crossing routes. He does show some wasted motion breaking forward. We do not see the hip fluidity that projects well as a man-to-man linebacker at the college level. Shows limitations in space. Flashes good timing, closing burst and effort as a blitzer and appears to have more upside in this facet than in coverage on 3rd down.
While this doesn't totally answer the questions about Kirkland's man-to-man ability—especially in pads vs. no pads—247's J.C. Shurburtt repeated the praise for his ball skills after the 2013 Columbus NFTC:
Top247 prospect Darrin Kirkland Jr. (Indianapolis, Ind./Park Tudor) surprised with his outstanding coverage ability- batting down ball after ball.
This spring, at the Rivals camp in Columbus, Kirkland took home position MVP honors and the top ranking among defenders at the camp by once again showing off his coverage ability ($):
Kirkland proved to be the best linebacker in a loaded group. The Rivals250 member has excellent footwork and was putting on a clinic during the position drills portion for the camp. When it came time for one-on-ones, Kirkland stepped up to every challenger. He showed that he has the speed to run with any running back or tight end and was able to make some plays on the ball while it was in the air. Kirkland broke up a number of passes en route to winning the linebacker MVP award.
It sounds like Kirkland may have some limitations athletically, namely concerning his hip flexibility and straight-line speed, but he appears to make up for a lot of that with his technique and instincts.
Meanwhile, there's little question about what he can do as a run-stuffer. From 247's Clint Brewster's film evaluation ($):
Kirkland Jr. doesn’t miss tackles and plays with his head up. Stays square and drives through the ball-carrier when he tackles. Good form and gets underneath his opponent.
Striking Ability 8
Shows nice explosive power when he makes contact and stays the attacker. Closes on the ball-carrier quickly.
Brewster concludes that while Kirkland is "not the most talented all around linebacker," he "does everything right and constantly diagnoses action correctly," then chooses for his player comparison... David Harris. Yes, please. I'll have another.
If everything above screams MIDDLE LINEBACKER to you, you're not alone. A squat, powerful run-stuffer with great instincts but perhaps not the most fluid athleticism is a MIKE until proven otherwise, and given his blitzing ability he should be able to fit there whether U-M sticks with the 4-3 over or goes back to an under front.
As mentioned above, Michigan got in on Kirkland just as he started to blow up on the recruiting trail. His other offers included Georgia Tech, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, Mississippi, NC State, Nebraska, North Carolina, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Oregon, Penn State, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia Tech, and Wisconsin.
According to TomVH, that list was likely to grow when Kirkland made his pledge:
Darrin Kirkland Jr had started to get some big offers and interest, it's a big deal for Michigan to get him now.
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) May 18, 2014
While U-M may have to sweat out Kirkland fielding prestigious offers until Signing Day, the fact that he committed despite recent offers from the likes of Oklahoma, Oregon, and Texas—the last of which he called a "game changer" when it came through in late April—is a very good sign.
Lawrence Central plays in Indiana's largest division, and they've been a relatively successful program in recent years, winning the state championship in 2012. Kirkland transferred to LC for the 2013 season, and after losing several key pieces they fell to a 3-7 record last season.
Kirkland is the first four-star produced by the school in the Rivals era. The most prominent prospect to come out of the school in recent years is current Indiana quarterback Tre Roberson.
Kirkland recorded 110 tackles and eight sacks en route to All-State honors in 2013, per 247.
FAKE 40 TIME
Kirkland supposedly ran a 4.58 at Louisville's camp last summer, though it's unclear whether that's hand-timed or electronic. That'd be quite fast for a linebacker his size, though he does display impressive burst; I'll give it three FAKEs out of five.
Junior highlights and single-game cut-ups are available on Kirkland's Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
With Michigan's glut of linebacker prospects from recent classes, Kirkland will almost certainly be afforded a redshirt year in 2015, when the open spots vacated by Jake Ryan and Desmond Morgan will be competed for by Ben Gedeon, Joe Bolden, Michael Ferns, and Ben Gedeon, in all likelihood.
With Kirkland slotting in to the MIKE spot, he's either going to have to beat out an older player or wait his turn for a couple years before grabbing a starting spot. Program depth is a beautiful thing. He certainly has the size and instincts necessary to play early if necessary, though, so don't rule out the possibilty that he grabs some early PT.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan now has seven commits in the 2015 class and, according to our count, five scholarships remaining—that number will assuredly grow by NSD. With Kirkland in the fold, they're set at inside linebacker. Positions of need moving forward include running back, receiver, tight end, offensive tackle, weakside DE, and outside linebacker; Michigan may also look to add another defensive back if Shaun Crawford eventually decommits, though the need there isn't huge either way.
Now that we've reached the relatively busy summer, it's time to once again temporarily break out basketball recruiting into its own post.
2015 Saginaw combo guard Eric Davis has acquired a Michigan offer after an unofficial to Ann Arbor. Davis, a 6'3" gentleman ranked in the top 50 most places, has offers from big chunks of the Big Ten, Florida, and UCLA. He's currently projected to head to State, though he's played things close to the vest. He told Rivals "I don't have favorites," just like Jalen Coleman tends to do. Unlike Coleman, he does have an idea when he'd like to get things over with: September.
Davis is only the third guy Michigan has offered in the 2015 class; Jalens Brunson and Coleman are the others. Does this say something about Michigan's confidence level with them? Probably. If either was super enthused they would not be waiting around. They'd be trying to pre-empt Eron Harris.
Speaking of Harris, it's status quo($) with him: looking to visit Michigan and State and then make a decision. It is possible that the two schools are going to get some combination of everybody they're competing over: Brunson, Coleman, Harris, and Davis are all mutual targets who play SG/PG who are projected to one school or the other by the Crystal Ball or down to those two and Purdue. Whoever drops first would push the others towards the rival.
Leaf Acquisition: Possible
Along with a gaggle of high-profile 2016 point guards Michigan is also receiving favorable attention from 2016 CA PF TJ Leaf, currently a five star. Leaf's family is originally from Indiana, mitigating distance issues, and for a face-up 3/4 like Leaf, Michigan's style of play is highly attractive. His dad gave Sam Webb some encouraging quotes($) in a lengthy article:
“What we like about Michigan is that the two, three, four positions seem to be somewhat interchangeable from the way that I see it,” Leaf’s father and coach Brad said. “That’s the type of versatility that T.J. has and that’s what Michigan likes… guys that can play multiple positions. This is why we really really think Michigan is a great fit for him at this point at this time in his career.”
Before you get too excited, Leaf has given highly positive quotes about Indiana as well, and any number of West Coast schools are pursuing him. Sounds like Michigan has as legit a shot as anyone.
Leaf was on campus for the most recent ND game and is thus in position to receive a June 15th offer.
I am probably going to hate you, no offense it's just sports
2015 WI SG Brevin Pritzl took a Michigan visit, left without an offer, visited Wisconsin, got his offer, and then said he would shut it down after visiting Marquette. He has a tentative plan to make a commitment by July. This has caused a flood of Wisconsin predictions on the 247 Crystal Ball, a group which we joined.
If Pritzl's going to be off the board in a couple months it's likely Michigan will either have acquired Eron Harris or still be waiting on Jalen Coleman. So, yeah, file Pritzl under "guy making banked threes at the buzzer against M for Wisconsin."
I'm not going to bother learning how to spell this
A brief rumble of excitement shot through the e-fanbase a couple days back when Michigan was mentioned in the same breath as Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, a Ukrainian phenom who is apparently looking to hit up college basketball before the NBA.
Despite being 16, he is apparently a 2014 recruit, which complicates things for Michigan since they are currently pursuing Harris. Both Rivals and Sam Webb shot down the idea that uh… the Ukrainian guy was at all likely to even visit, with Webb saying flatly that it wasn't happening and Chris Balas mentioning that European teams are going to try to keep him across the Atlantic for the next couple years. Also, a few other teams—UVA and Kansas are most heavily mentioned for him—were ahead of M even if he decided to play in the USA.
Mykhailiuk is setting up some trips before making a decision; in the event that he does end up in Ann Arbor that would be the time to start planning your hybrid Ukrainian/Michigan flag. He has UVA and Kansas the next couple weeks. Michigan might take a poke if he's still on the market and Harris goes elsewhere.
Speaking of June 15th
That is of course the magic offer date for the 2016 class. One man's opinion on who gets issued scholarships on that date:
NV PG Derryck Thornton Jr—Undoubtedly Michigan's top priority.
CA PF TJ Leaf—see above. They don't have a higher post prority.
OH SF Seth Towns—has the grades and the visits, M seems to like him a lot. Not a slam dunk like Leaf/Thornton according to the rankings.
NJ SF Tyus Battle—as long as he comes in for camp and transcripts shake out would be goofy not to.
MI PG Cassius Winston—would file higher except for that UMHoops interview where he says he's on track for an offer by the end of the summer. Giving Thornton a shot to jump first? Or maybe a transcript thing he's fixing with summer school?
IN PG Eron Gordon—visited last fall, projected by world to go to IU, but a top 50 guy who may warrant an offer. But if they don't offer Winston it's hard to see them offering any PG until they get a sense that Thornton will wait.
KY PG Quentin Goodin—confirmed he will camp, so always a possibility.
ON PG Jamal Murray—visited for Indiana game in March, top 50 guy.
OH SF Matthew Moyer—straight A student who is enthusiastic about M. Michigan may prefer Towns.
It's Friday, my close childhood friend is making an unexpected one-day-only appearance in town, and my desire to write a whole lot is waning by the minute. We've fretted ever since Mitch McGary's departure about Michigan's status as a Big Ten title contender. Here's a quick reminder of what John Beilein can do even when handed a less-than-stacked deck. Apologies for the rather cumbersome chart:
2011-12 Starting Lineups & Top Bench Players
|Michigan||Michigan St.||Ohio St.||Wisconsin||Indiana|
|PG||Trey Burke (Fr.) (6’1, 175)||Keith Appling (So.) (6’1, 180)||Aaron Craft (So.) (6’2, 190)||Jordan Taylor (Sr.) (6’1, 195)||Jordan Hulls (Jr.) (6’0, 175)|
|SG||Stu Douglass (Sr.) (6’3, 190)||Brandon Wood (Sr.) (6’2, 190)||Lenzelle Smith Jr. (So.) (6’4, 205)||Josh Gasser (So.) (6’3, 190)||Verdell Jones (Sr.) (6’5, 185)|
|SF||Tim Hardaway Jr. (So.) (6’5, 185)||Austin Thornton (Sr.) (6’5, 210)||William Buford (Sr.) (6’6, 220)||Ryan Evans (Jr.) (6’6, 210)||Victor Oladipo (So.) (6’4, 210)|
|PF||Zack Novak (Sr.) (6’4, 210)||Draymond Green (Sr.) (6’7, 250)||Deshaun Thomas (So.) (6’7, 225)||Mike Bruesewitz (Jr.) (6’6, 222)||Christian Watford (Jr.) (6’9, 230)|
|C||Jordan Morgan (So.) (6’8, 240)||Derrick Nix (Jr.) (6’9, 278)||Jared Sullinger (So.) (6’9, 280)||Jared Berggren (Jr.) (6’10, 235)||Cody Zeller (Fr.) (6’11, 220)|
|6th||Evan Smotrycz (So.) (6’9, 235)||Adreian Payne (So.) (6’10, 230)||Evan Ravenel (Jr.) (6’8, 260)||Ben Brust (So.) (6’1, 190)||Will Sheehey (So.) (6’6, 195)|
|7th||Matt Vogrich (Jr.) (6’4, 190)||Branden Dawson (Fr.) (6’6, 216)||Sam Thompson (Fr.) (6’7, 190)||Rob Wilson (Sr.) (6’4, 200)||Derek Elston (Jr.) (6’9, 235)|
A reminder: Michigan shared the Big Ten title that year with MSU, OSU, and Wisconsin, while that Indiana squad finished a game back.
Keep in mind that Trey Burke hadn't quite become TREY M.F. BURKE, Tim Hardaway went through a sophomore slump in which he shot 28% on 187 three-point attempts, and Jon Horford suffered a foot injury that forced a redshirt, so Michigan's only viable backup big was Evan Smotrycz, who never appeared very interested in post defense and transferred following the season.
Here are the KenPom Player of the Year standings from that season:
The four other Big Ten contenders are all represented. Of the four Big Ten players to make the list, only Jordan Taylor wasn't a college big.
Somehow, Michigan put together the nation's #19 offense despite (1) having only two rotation players shooting above 40% from three, and (2) attempting a higher percentage of three-pointers than all but seven teams in the country. The defense finished a respectable 61st in efficiency in spite of a relatively inexperienced lineup, a complete lack of shot-blockers or pickpockets—Evan Smotrycz, of all people, finished first on the team in both block and steal rate—and that whole 6'4" power forward thing.
At the time, Smotrycz was the team's highest-rated recruit on the roster—yes, including Burke and Hardaway. Backup guard Carlton Brundidge, a Southfield product in the same class as Burke, was the second-highest regarded prospect on the team. He transferred to Detroit after barely seeing any time as a freshman.
Sure, Michigan was fortunate to share the conference title that year, and they bowed out of the NCAA Tournament before any of the other Big Ten contenders. But look at that Wolverine roster, then look at this upcoming season's—talent-wise, at least by recruiting standards, there's no comparison, and even knowing how much Burke overachieved I'd take the 2013-14 roster over the 2011-12 roster in a heartbeat. How that team went 13-5 in that conference—one dominated by exceptionally talented big men, and featuring plenty of talented point guards to match up with U-M's best player—still perplexes to this day.
This is a long way of saying that you probably shouldn't count out John Beilein, because he's a wizard masqerading as a basketball coach/sub enthusiast.
Darrin Kirkland Jr. has been a frequent visitor to Ann Arbor and this weekend he’ll stop by again as he announced on Twitter.
Just talked with Coach Mallory, I'll be at Michigan this weekend for a visit! 〽️Ⓜ️ #GoBlue
— Darrin Kirkland Jr. (@_KIRKjunior) May 15, 2014
Michigan is solidly in Kirkland’s top ten and an overnight stay in Ann Arbor this weekend could put the Wolverines near or at the top of that list. Darrin’s mom and dad will accompany him on the trip but will stay in Toledo with family while he bunks up with Mike McCray on campus. His plans for the visit sound promising and Michigan is in good shape with him regardless of the specifics.
“I just want to spend some quality time on campus with the players and have my family get a good personal feel for Michigan,” he said. “Michigan has done well recruiting me. My relationship with Coach Mattison is one of my best.”
Kirkland Jr. will spend just Saturday night in Ann Arbor and while all things are trending in a positive direction he told me that a commitment will not happen. He will stick to his timeline of an August decision date but another positive experience on campus definitely helps Michigan’s cause as these types of visits work wonders with recruits.
I'll miss you, terror books. Not really.
Aaand it falls off. I've been doing annual APR posts the past few years because Michigan was in a dodgy spot after the Carr/Rodriguez transfer year saddled Michigan with a horrendous 897. That plus an also-dismal 918 in Carr's last year put Michigan within shouting distance of penalties, which they avoided by putting up a series of nice numbers. Since Hoke's arrival Michigan has largely avoided academic risks, so it was just matter of time before that 897 fell off and Michigan shot up. It just did.
Drumroll… Michigan's football APR is now 975. The constituent scores:
- 2010: 942
- 2011: 984
- 2012: 981
- 2013: 985
Their 975 places them fourth in the Big Ten, behind Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Nebraska; if they continue on their current mid-980s rate they'd pass Nebraska but still remain third if everyone else is static.
So hooray. The main upshot of this is that OSU assistants can't send out APR lists in novelty fonts claiming "the stats don't lie" or make charts that aren't even sorted correctly because their players managed to get through Pokémon 401. (But not Sort Function In Excel 330.) OSU's APR is now worse than Michigan's.
Oh, and the NCAA will not do bad things. Meanwhile, at Southern University…
Oooooof. RT @JonSolomonCBS: All Southern University teams also have APR postseason bans due to unusable data. Ouch.
— Bill Connelly (@SBN_BillC) May 14, 2014
…several people just got fired with prejudice.
Reload and fire at will. EDSBS Bowl reaches day four with Michigan still staggeringly far out ahead of the pack with 5.4k to Auburn's 1.3k. Give us the significance of your donation in the comments.
When in need of vague hand-waving that means nothing, call in the right man. Dave Brandon and Mark Hollis will testify for the NCAA in the Ed O'Bannon case. Hollis will claim that his deposition would better on an aircraft carrier on the moon; Brandon will tell the opposition lawyer that he "knows a little something about branding" 18 times. After each, the lawyer will calmly explain the question had nothing to do with branding.
Well then. Alabama tailback Derryck Henry took a photograph of himself in front of an expensive new car that he said was his, creating little "BAGMAN!" tornadoes across the internet. These are the natural order. This is a bit outside of it:
I'm a little dubious that title was on the table for White, a nondescript three-star recruit, but it could be one of those deals like the Clarett/Pryor thing where the dealership lets you "test drive" the car for months. In any case, yes some guy gave this dude a car or money or whatever and the NCAA will not do anything about it so our choices are to be uselessly smug or repeal all this crap that's not getting enforced anyway.
An odd fit, yes. Will Leitch makes a good point about replay in basketball: because of the nature of the game, sometimes there are things that are going to be both wrong and right at the same time. An event from late in the Clippers/Thunder game 6 blew up twitter, demonstrating the problem.
… it is clear that Barnes fouled Jackson; even more clear, perhaps, than that the ball was off Jackson last. At this point, the referees had a decision to make. Should they follow the rules of replay to the letter and award the ball to the Clippers? Or should they make the right call, which was to give the ball to the Thunder?
They gave the ball to the Thunder, which Leitch describes as "vigilante officiating." That stuff happens all the time on out of bounds situations. Fouls are committed but let go when the ball goes out of bounds and is awarded to the other team. Once you start reviewing those you upset the delicate balance there. Basketball replay is inherently goofy because of that.
At least those reviews sometimes amount to something, unlike college basketball's unceasingly tedious replays for flagrant fouls that never, ever come back with a flagrant.
I would be in favor. With Notre Dame due to become a fading memory and replacements ranging from yawn to moderately interesting, I would be down with Tom Fornelli's radical solution to college football breaking itself:
ACC, Big Ten and SEC could solve all their scheduling problems in one simple step. Ditch non-conference games, stay within your conference, continue to foster the regional rivalries that made this sport so popular to begin with, and then send your champion to the playoff to take on the winners of the other conferences.
This is more of a problem for the ACC and SEC, which have a number of annual rivalries that would be set on fire by this. The Big Ten has none of those now. ND-MSU, you say? Mark Hollis just admitted that their series with the Irish is "gone," save for occasional games in the future.
So, yeah, I'd be happier with Michigan dumping MAC games and playing a near-round-robin against the conference. It will never ever happen in a million billion years, I acknowledge. But it would be better.
Numbers. Bill Connelly's got a charting project going that returns numbers. With the disclaimer that not all games were charted and therefore things might be skewed by sampling bias (12 NW games are in versus two Wisconsin games, but then again there were only 2 A&M games versus ten for Tommy Tuberville's Cincinnati), here are some overall trends:
49% [of plays] took place without a huddle, 51% came with a huddle.
Without a huddle does not necessarily mean hurrying, of course. Lots of outfits don't huddle but will use chunks of the playclock for check-with-me. I'm actually surprised the no-huddle percentage isn't higher.
56% came from a shotgun formation, 26% with the quarterback under center, and 18% from the pistol.
Would be fascinated to see how this developed over the last ten years.
On pass plays, the defense rushed four defenders at the passer 61% of the time, five 19% of the time, three 11% of the time, six or more 8% of the time, and one or two just 0.3% of the time.
Michigan was not far away from this, FWIW.
On standard downs, 26% of pass attempts were marked as a play-action attempt of some kind. On passing downs, 11% were play-action.
Every single one of the passing down play action plays was Al Borges running a waggle from a big formation on second and eleven. Holy crap. I can't believe he did that with the running game he had. This joke isn't funny anymore.
Etc.: 2015 hockey commit Kyle Connor might be a big deal: THN ranks him 9th for next year's NHL draft. Stay away from killer robots (and the OHL), Kyle.
Penn State fan loses respect for NFL because Michael Sam got drafted. How Iowa makes NFL recruits. Man no one should listen to says playoff will stay at 4 teams. Iowa, preseason darling? Soccer announces a tough schedule. The next time someone tells you that athletic departments don't make a profit, remind them that the scholarship money counted as debt is fiction.
Michigan adds Jon Jansen to their broadcast team.