"He makes it really easy on you as a coach because he has tremendous football instincts," Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh said. "Things come really naturally to him. He doesn't have to see things too many times. He has a good sense for how things should look and feel, and he's a tough, physical guy."
Once upon a time there was a pig.
We already have an Ace.
Dr. Hamlet was a very intelligent pig. One day he and his friend StephenRKass went to the Midwest Coach's Tour and met Brady Hoke, and heard Dave Brandon explain the annexation of Maryland and Rutgers as a population-grab, which any Europa Universalis player can appreciate. Dr. Hamlet and his friend cornered Laura Hoke, and Laura Hoke read all about Dr. Hamlet, and they became quite fond of each other. That adventure was front-paged and the whole town came out to enjoy it, because he enjoys all UM Alumni Club events (upcoming: John U Bacon in Columbus a week from today).
Then Dr. Hamlet heard a yell from the diaries section. "Dr. Hamlet!" it said. "Come see how Michigan has fared against everybody in head-to-head recruiting!" It was Dr. Hamlet's friend Coastal Elite! Dr. Hamlet loved the study and found it quite Informative, and gave it Diarist of the Week!
Seeing how much their friend Dr. Hamlet liked to read recruiting studies, his friends all got together and decided to throw him a recruiting study party!
- "I'll update my non-conference opponent recruiting watch!" said EGD.
- "I'll write a sequel to my expansion recruiting diary that covers Nebraska's shifting recruiting territory since joining the Big Ten!" said maizeonblueaction.
- "I'll tackle SEC recruiting the same way I did Big Ten recruiting with Rivals database, and print a bunch of charts that show each school vs. the conference average, and then post a lolcat!" said LSAClassof2000, and Dr. Hamlet said thank you for the pies:
- And even THE_KNOWLEDGE said "I will review the future for you!
But by that point even Dr. Hamlet had become distracted by the surprise release of a new installment in the great CRex Saga, though this one mostly made him a really sad pig because he's had bad experiences with stories about barnyard communism in the past.
Etc. The Blockhams got a pig too.
Best of the Board
ALAN BRANCH DID IT
Several weeks ago I asked in this space if the Photoshoppers could produce a full Alan Branch rampage. We were passing the phone around and refreshing the entire ride down to Kentucky over Memorial Day as they provided. We salute his victims: Anthony Morelli, Kikko Haydar, Patrick Roy, Maximus, Pablo Escobar, a Pamplona bull, Joe Frazier, Titanic, Kyle Larson's car, Mufasa, Claude Lemieux, Pisa's tower, the Death Star, and Morelli again on the rolling hills wallpaper.
Chunkums went in a different direction:
ALL THE PAHOKEEIANS
Brandin Hawthorne jumped on Vincent Smith's account to do his own hello to the board. We learn things like the difference between old coaches and new:
Hoke staff's just more on the coaching and teaching the players and with Coach Rod's staff it was hard to relate at times--and this tradition we speak of I'm curious to know what it is—yeah there were so new things that we did differently with the new staff but for the most part it was pretty much the same in that aspect
Hoke and Mattison do more teaching, draw from the well of Michigan: a pattern emerges. Also who on the team does the best Hoke impersonation and how fast Pahokee's rabbits are.
So fast that one of my high school teammates go by the name Jackrabbit in the NFL and i would have to say we've all caught rabbits except Richard.
Tsk tsk Mr. Ash.
JUST DIARY MAN!
Space Coyote is a great writer and is one of the best at talking Michigan X's and O's. But now to read his stuff I have to find a board entry that goes to his blog that goes to Maize n Brew, then come back to the board for the discussion. Here's the play as he draws it up:
ETC. Father-son Wolverines and other family connections discussed. Pick your favorite M quarterback (Denard, but I'd take Henson for this offense). Recruits in the 2012-'14 classes in the top 5 at their position on at least one site. Urban makes a funny face. Ed Hightower react has gifs of course. A discussion on Cass Tech and if there's a shift in the readiness of players coming out of Wilcher's program. Let's throw chickens at Notre Dame. Upchurch shot the moon.
Your Moment of Zen:
Things I have tried: jangling keys while listening to metal
Not A Good Look
At this point, anyone reading this post is pretty familiar with Da'Shawn Hand, the nation's top overall prospect. Michigan and Virginia Tech are presumed to lead the other three schools in his top five—Alabama, Florida, and South Carolina—while LSU and USC are on the outside looking in. Even further on the outside is Ohio State, where Hand reportedly had a poor visit experience the first time around, and despite a decent trip there last weekend—he swung by while in town for the Columbus NFTC—the Buckeyes won't be a factor in his recruitment going forward.
If you believe Eleven Warriors [ed-S: ...''s recruiting guy Jeremy Birmingham, not Ramzy] , this is because the Ohio State coaches suddenly decided they weren't very interested in the top player in the country—for reasons, you see—and here begins the fisking:
For some reason, my contention that Ohio State would not be aggressively attempting to get back into the Hand sweepstakes set off an internet wildfire with people.
This contention is reasonable; it's become clear that Ohio State is a longshot at best to get Hand, and the coaching staff could better spend their time targeting prospects with more interest in the Buckeyes. This would be a good place to stop, but...
As I have said a few times, it's a simple matter of personality. Ohio State wants people who are going to go 1000 miles per hour, every day, on and off the field. They want people who fight for each other, for their university and for their own improvement. They want people who are challenging themselves to improve every day and do so without the need to proclaim their own greatness for people to see, read, or hear. They want competitors and they want fighters.
...then there's this load of crap, as if the above doesn't fit what every football coach in America is trying to find in a recruit. Which leads us to the really stupid thing:
As far as Da'Shawn Hand? I've never said he was not a competitor, just that things with Ohio State and Hand did not see eye-to-eye from the start of his visit in November because he was not being treated any differently than any of the other recruits on hand, 90-minutes before kick-off of the biggest game of the year. The Buckeyes could not give Hand the attention they would have liked to, and the day was a bit too hectic for him to get "comfortable" at Ohio State.
This is a remarkably shitty thing to write about a high school kid without anything approaching first-hand evidence. The "I've never said..." hedging is just that, hedging, because discussing OSU's supposed lack of interest in reconnecting with Hand after everything in the previous paragraph is either a case of really unfortunate juxtaposition or the type of insinuation that unfairly impugns the character of a 17-year-old — one who, by all other accounts, is a kid of extremely high character.
The timing—when it's become blindingly obvious that Hand doesn't want to go to Ohio State—makes this come off as some seriously sour grapes. I'm sorry, Buckeye faithful, that Hand's reaction to being asked about Ohio State in the above video was this:
But, no, I'm not actually sorry. A high-profile player isn't interested in your school and may very well end up at a rival school. These things happen. Responding to this by suggesting that a player doesn't work hard enough, or is afraid to compete against the best, or isn't motivated enough to improve ... even if the implication is merely by context, that's a bad look. Nearly as bad as the one Hand gave when asked about Ohio State.
I think Eleven Warriors does a fantastic job, and that includes their recruiting coverage, but seeing this—and the wild speculation that it inevitably led to in such a forum—was disappointing. Perhaps, next time, just say that the kid isn't interested and move on.
[Hit THE JUMP for camp highlights of Ian Bunting, the latest on the Malik McDowell transfer rumors, and more.]
So I went to the Midwest Coach's Tour, aka "Sports-O-Rama," tonight in Chicago, hosted by the Chicago Michigan Alumni Association. We had a wonderful time, hearing from Brandon, Hoke, Beilein, Kim Barnes Arico (Women's basketball,) and Hockey Asst Coach Brian Wiseman.
It was a great night, and a lot of fun. It was clear they had rehearsed and done this before, as this is the end of a 10 day tour, starting on the West Coast. (Brandon asked Hoke, for instance, "Did you really say that Notre Dame was chicken?" To which, Hoke answered, "I did.") They all had a good time, were happy to be there, and took a number of questions from the crowd. The only hard question had to do with Michigan's APR, which was low last year, and lower this year. We're abysmal compared to ND & Northwestern. (football is 7th in the Big 10 in ranking.) Brandon didn't quite say "answer to the hand," but close. His basic answer was, come back to me again in four years and ask the same question. The rolling average makes it very difficult to overcome students who do poorly four years back.
Afterwards, the coaches went to different locations, to take questions, sign autographs, take pictures, etc. The lines were ridiculously long for Hoke and Beilein, understandably so. I waited a bit to talk to Brandon. The first thing I'll say is that he was very personable, approachable, and not defensive at all. You can see how he is great for the position of AD. Here are a couple things he said.
- Adding Maryland and Rutgers is not just about TV dollars today. They both certainly open us to the New York, Baltimore, DC markets. But more than that, the problem is projected population growth. According to Brandon, the midwest is flat to declining in the number of people. Projecting out 10 years, the SEC & ACC are seeing significant population growth in their footprint, while the traditional Big 10 footprint is stagnant and stable. Adding the two new teams helps mitigate against this population trend.
- In the future, 12 noon starts will be extremely rare for Michigan (except maybe for Ohio.) TV drives everything, and they want as many night games as possible, and late afternoon games as possible. Teams in the bottom half of the conference will be relegated to 12 or 12:30pm starts. Michigan will almost always have an afternoon or evening start time.
- Brandon is working hard to schedule better non-conference games. A number of teams are ducking Michigan, even when offered very significant money (I think Toledo would be one of these.) We already have a home and home with Arkansas, and with Virginia Tech. Expect an announcement on a home and home with a major West Coast team in the next couple weeks. (USC? UCLA? Stanford? Oregon? I'm guessing Stanford.) ND is at least 10 years, maybe 15, before being regularly rescheduled.
- The door is open for Chris Webber. He is the only one of the Fab 5 not to reach out to Michigan. (Obv., there were limitations until recently on his contact with Michigan.) But Brandon is willing to talk with Chris, if that's what Chris wants to do.
The highlight of my evening, by far, was an unexpected discussion. Three of us were getting ready to head out. As we were walking, I looked over at Laura, and said to the two guys I was with, "I want to say hi to Laura Hoke." She was incredibly personable, sweet, talkative, and approachable. Obviously, you don't ask Laura bubble screen questions. (sorry, Heiko.) But she was just a fount of information. We went all over the place, and I'll try to remember some of what she said.
- The coaches and wives are extremely close. Hoke and Mattison were together at Western Michigan for 5 years, overlapped several years under Carr at Michigan, and are back together again. Hoke and Borges got along very well at San Diego. They all just get along, and enjoy each other's company. I can really see how the wives getting along fosters the family atmosphere recruits have talked about. Every school says they're a family: Michigan really is.
- The wives sometimes join their husbands in recruiting. (And they have to be reminded by coaches to talk to recruits and recruit's moms, not to each other.)
- Laura told a story about talking to Pepper's coaches and parents, just making small talk. They assumed she was part of the staff in some capacity, asked who she was, and she said, "oh, I'm one of the d line coach's wives." At which point, one of them figured it out.
- I asked whether it was Hoke or his grandchild that brought Mattison to Michigan. She said, "Both (citing the friendship.) She also said, "Mattison really didn't enjoy the NFL the same way he enjoys the college game."
- I asked how long Borges and Mattison would be there. She said, "Forever. They're not going anywhere." Seriously, as long as their health holds out, I think Borges and Mattison will stay at Michigan. I think their wives don't want to go anywhere else, especially Mattison's wife.
- I asked if Brady ever encouraged one of his staff to take a promotion to coach elsewhere. She said, "Well, the ONLY coach to ever leave Brady's staff was Montgomery." That's an incredible statistic, and speaks of real loyalty.
- I mentioned that Da'Shawn Hand has talked about how "real" the Michigan coaches are, not putting on a show, just regular folks who enjoy life and care for each other and the players. That he liked the "family" atmosphere. Laura told me another story. She mentioned that a recruit had come to Michigan, and had also visited another school down south, who really "put on the red carpet." The recruit's mom was very impressed by the red carpet treatment, and Hoke's attitude was, "that's not us. We're not doing that for anyone. We are who we are." The recruit eventually went to the school down south. I thought to myself later, that recruit must have been Treadwell. I could see that if Mississippi really pulled out all the stops, treated recruits like royalty, that would impress some of them.
- Brady doesn't ever do negative recruiting. He just shares about Michigan and their resources, and Michigan sells itself.
- I asked Laura what was the hardest part of recruiting. She said, "It starts so early, and it never stops." Laura said, "if a five star recruit [her words] comes to campus, what are the coaches going to do? They're going to go to the office, show the recruit around, spend time with him." With unofficial visits happening all the time, you NEVER are off as a coach or a wife. She said they'd get a couple weeks of vacation in July, but that's it.
- Laura (like Brady) is very open. Brady shared again about his bad choices his first two years at Ball State. This really shapes how he cares for the "105 sons" who are on the MIchigan team. On this area, Laura had very high praise for the academic support team, and how proactive they are in helping Freshmen before they get on campus, and the minute they're on campus.
- I asked Laura about Football Saturdays. She said that they were a lot of fun. They have as many as 50 family members sleeping over Friday and Saturday night in their home.
- Laura really enjoyed the Senior Leadership training in California last week. The Seals did their thing, Laura was able to visit friends in San Diego, the team got to see the Rose Bowl (and picture being there,) and the Seniors did their football clinic for kids in Pasadena. Brady had nothing to do with it: the seniors needed to organize drills, and make the whole thing happen.
I hope you all get the opportunity to go to one of these things sometime. What a great couple Brady and Laura are. Just seeing her and Brady, I can see why the summer Barbecue would be so successful. And what a treat to hear her perspective on football at Michigan. She so clearly is having fun and enjoying this.
I will stand by the essence of what I said, although this is all from memory, and so it is not word for word. There was way more that happened, but this already is far too long, and gives you a taste of the evening.
Dr. Hamlet III is eating a carrot out of Kyle Kalis’ belly button. Your argument is invalid.
Returned to Sender
We all remember the last couple of years when Devin Gardner and Logan Tuley-Tillman burned their letter from Ohio State. A good guffaw was had in Ann Arbor, and "scUM-has-a-discipline-problem" faux outrage in Columbus. On Tuesday, Notre Dame commit Elijah Hood tried to show Alabama that compared to his school of choice, anyone else was number two... by flushing his recruiting letters from Alabama down the toilet. He has since deleted the Vine video, but the internet never forgets.
His original tweet included the hashtag #RollToilet. The correct hashtag would probably have been #ToiletPaperRollTide, but we'll give him credit for the effort.
As a lifelong user of toilets, though, I question the wisdom of this move. Either those things won't actually flush, and he'll have to fish them out by hand, and if they DO manage to flush them, that heavy card stock will clog that thing in a damn hurry.
This also represents a troubling escalation in the "get rid of other teams' recruiting materials" war. A few other recent examples:
- A hipster Cal commit created a performance art piece in which he sucked helium and performed a dramatic reading of a letter from Lane Kiffin while a bootlegged copy of Maid in Manhattan played in the background. No one really 'got it,' but from what people could tell this was bad for Lane Kiffin, so LULZ NICE JOB KID WAY TO GO.
- A recruit lit a letter from Texas A&M on fire, not knowing that the letter actually contained four GA's that Kevin Sumlin sent as a barbershop quartet. All were lost.
- A recruit hacked into Joker Phillips' instagram account and drew genitalia on all of his crazy-ass recruiting pictures. Joker took one look, shrugged, and asked himself, "why didn't I think of that?"
- The younger brother of a successful college player, stuck living in the shadow of said older brother and upset about his own lack of respect, attempted to dramatically throw a letter into the ocean. This proved to be a slightly more difficult gesture than he had anticipated.
Returning a letter from whence you came
[After the jump, Jim Tressel may need a little more Quiet Time]
|Canton, MA – 6'2", 295|
4*, #139 overall
3*, #32 DT, #2 MA
3*, 77 rating
4*, #190 overall
OSU, Nebraska, MSU, UVA, UNC, Vandy, Rutgers
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Son of longtime NFLer Maurice Hurst. Twitter.|
Techno remix senior highlights:
Also here's a lot of stuff from the Semper Fi game:
Junior highlights come highly recommended since they include a lot of Hurst being a terrifying/hilarious running back. Stay for the first TD run at 30 seconds.
I am trying to keep things reasonable around these parts, but I watched Maurice Hurst's highlight reel and now I'm impressed. You know those defensive line drills where you start out in a stance and then burst upwards into a fake opponent's chest? Maurice Hurst is going to be awesome at that. Also now I'm just going to grab that run and put it right here because it is delightful:
His coach on that:
"For a kid who's that big, to make that kind of athletic move, and to run as quickly as he did, was OK," Stevenson said.
It was actually that run that put Hurst on a lot of maps, including Michigan's.
“We tell all the college coaches he’s a defensive lineman and that’s what they’re recruiting him as, then all these defensive coordinators, this guy from Michigan, Billy McGovern from BC, they come in and sit down and they go, ‘Oh ya, that 75-yard touchdown was unbelievable.’
“Billy McGovern says he ran it back and asked all the guys in the room, ‘Do we have anyone who can do that?’ They go, ‘No.’ Well OK, we’re offering him.’’
Michigan fired out an offer to him as well and that was about that. Hurst is a high-academic kid who had an OSU offer but was looking for something else…
"Academics are my big priority. Football ends, so I want a degree that will last a lifetime, one that is more than a piece of paper. UVa and Michigan are tremendous schools and offer prestigious degrees."
…and cut his list to Michigan and Virginia—a pattern emerges—before a visit to Ann Arbor sealed the deal last June.
Michigan has won themselves a quick first step attached to a body. That body is not enormous like Ondre Pipkins's or a single pulsating muscle like Mike Martin's. Hurst does not pass the look test… until you snap the ball.
When Hurst was a freshman, the first thing Stevenson noticed wasn’t his size, his competitiveness, or his skills. It was his first step.
“I think probably the first indication to me was my defensive coordinator Al Fornaro said, ‘You’ve got to see this guy come off the ball.’ I looked and went yay. … I would compare his first step to a kid who played for us the late ’90s, Scott Bradley. Scott had a tremendous first step and that was the thing that sold all the coaches on Scotty, that first step. The difference between the two is that Scotty was 215 pounds, Mo is 295 pounds. If you’re 295 and can do what a 215-pounder does, you’re a good football player.’’
This is the first time in the history of this series it has caught a hard-nosed gravel-eating sonsabitch high school football coach describing something as "yay."
Hurst wasn't much of a camp guy, only appearing at one area event when he was a rising junior, but he left a similar impression.
… has a nice frame that can still add weight but what really stands out about him is his quickness off the ball and his light feet. Hurst beat most of his opponents with his first step and he was able to win the leverage game most of the time as well. At times he can be too upright and present too much of a target. His footwork is excellent and he has natural balance, and he is very good at responding quickly to the initial punch of offensive linemen. He also showed a good motor.
Every evaluation continues in a similar vein. Rivals praises his "great burst first step" in their Areas of Improvement(!) for him by mentioning he needs to use it more consistently. They're just going off his highlight film but they also like his technique:
Hurst uses his hands extremely well for a young player. On each play he is seen using his hands to control his opponent, quickly dismissing a block, or maintaining leverage as he pursues the ball carrier. Good balance is critical for interior line play and Hurst shows that with impressive body control.
In other news of a similar variety:
- Coach: "He's a great athlete…. His first step off the line of scrimmage is very strong, and he's very powerful."
- An opposing coach: "We tried to run away from him but sometimes that's worse because he's so quick."
- Scout's take: "Hurst is athletic, explosive, moves his feet well, has a few nice techniques he uses to get into the backfield and runs well for a defensive lineman."
On the downside, ESPN's evaluation is heavy on words like "capable," "flashes," "adequate," and "consistently." Unlike some ESPN profiles, the drapes do match the carpet here. It sounds like a three-star eval.
…capable of being disruptive. … You would like to see more consistency but displays a good first-step that can allow him to quickly get penetration. He is at his best when he can fire out and primarily be a penetrator that disrupts schemes. Flashes the ability to be tough when taking on blockers as he can quickly fire out low and gain leverage and with solid strength hold his ground. While he does possess a quick first-step he can at times almost as quickly pop up and play tall and needs to work to consistently keep his pads down. … Hurst is capable of quickly getting off the ball and being disruptive and if he can continue to maintain that while adding size and rounding out his game he can develop into a good and productive college defensive tackle.
Despite some impressive offers, Hurst's visibility was pretty low for much of his recruitment. The competition level in Massachusetts is… uh… not high, and after that one camp before his junior year Hurst ditched the camp scene.
Hurst's relative obscurity was somewhat lifted by his appearance at the Semper Fi game. While Semper Fi is clearly #3 in the All Star pecking order it's still a major step up in competition for everybody there, let alone a guy tossing around MA kids. Hurst did well, acquiring a sack on one of his first snaps in the game itself and impressing everyone in practice. 247 Pitt analyst Bob Lichtenfels is just answering Pitt questions here and drops in a Hurst mention:
Michigan pledge Maurice Hurst Jr. was a beast.
Hurst was beasting despite having strep throat.
“He struggled between plays,” said northeast recruiting analyst Brian Dohn. “It looked like he could barely move. Once the ball snapped, he was a complete animal. His explosion is terrific. His aggressiveness and ability to get underneath lineman is tremendous. And what impressed me the most about him, was beside his physical ability, was the toughness he showed in practicing for two days when he was just sick as a dog.”
247's Barton Simmons:
Hurst is the type of player that you don’t really notice when he’s standing in the huddle but as soon as the ball is snapped, he shows up quickly. His play on Wednesday was characterized by high effort, an intensity to get to the football, and quickness to get into the backfield. The Michigan commit has been one of the better practice players this week.
247 and Scout moved them into their top lists as a solid four star; Rivals barely covered Semper Fi, apparently sending one guy to cover 100 or so players. Hurst didn't get a mention in the one article about who might be good on his team.
Michigan projects Hurst will add a ton of weight, telling his coach they think he'll end up pushing 330 pounds. That would make him a nose all the way. That'll also take a bit of time. While he's bulking up he may find some time as a three-tech. He's got the burst to be effective there and is already larger than Jibreel Black; while I expect a redshirt since Michigan seems to have a solid two deep (or more) at both spots Hurst can play, playing time could come as early as next year if he has the versatility to play two spots.
Etc.: Hurst's senior year stats were eye-popping as you might expect from a kid headed to Michigan playing against Massachusetts folk: 23 TFLs and 11 sacks. At press time, Hurst's most recent tweet is "Need food" and his location is "A BACKFIELD NEAR YOU." Instagram is something. TTB interview. Tap dancing!
Tell us something that most people do not know about you?
MH: Most people do not know that when I was younger from first grade until about fifth grade I took tap dancing and I really believe that it helped me with my foot work on the football field.
On the difficulty of his decision: "Not that difficult. After coming in, there was just that feeling, 'What if I went somewhere else?' or 'What if I committed when I thought I could go to another school?' At first I thought I was gonna commit to BC, then I thought I was gonna go to Virginia. Then Michigan came along, and I knew this was the school I wanted to go to."
"He's a great kid," Stevenson said. "He's a captain for next year. He's a good worker in the weight room, he's a good leader for his teammates as far as his work ethic, and I've never heard anything negative from his teachers. He's done some community service helping with the elderly, helping at a shelter for abused women, and at a place where they provide help to feed the poor."
Why Mike Martin? Two words: snap explosion.
Martin was a bit higher rated—consensus four star outside the top 100, IIRC—and an ever-growing slab of pulsating muscle from day one. Hurst isn't going to be quite as ripped, but he is a kid who can get off the ball in a flash, bury himself in the chest of the opponent, and then rip through the dude before he knows what's going on.
Guru Reliability: Low. Significant disparity, Massachusetts is virtually ignored, apparently did not hit a single camp, though he did show for the Semper Fi game and impress.
Variance: Moderate. Another guy with the opposite of character issues. Coming from seriously weak high school competition, which makes for hilarious highlight reels but also uncertainty.
Ceiling: High-minus. Love, love his quickness and he has adequate size. Probably not a guy with first round upside, though.
General Excitement Level: High. I know, I know, I'm just a bubbly 14-year-old girl about this recruiting class, but what can I say? Hurst is a guy who has bloodlines, can make a reasonable case he was overlooked because of his state, stature and camp avoidance, and blew up at an All Star game that caused everyone who paid attention to shoot him up in the rankings. And if you're asking me the #1 thing I want to hear about a DT "explosive first step" is it.
Projection: Ondre Pipkins had better get on his horse because Willie Henry and Hurst are coming for him.
Hurst should be a redshirt lock with a solid three-deep in front of him. In year two the three guys mentioned will have a battle royale for the starting spot Quinton Washington vacates, with the runner-up also getting a significant amount of playing time. Pipkins is still the favorite, but I would not rule out Hurst becoming a productive backup as quickly as next year. Failing that he should emerge into a rotation nose tackle as a redshirt junior, if he is not the starter.
Hurst also has the potential to compete at three-tech with his explosion, and if things are going well at nose I expect he will be moved there and be a heavy rotation feature, whether that's behind or in front of Chris Wormley. He should be getting significant snaps by year three, if not earlier.
Trying a new feature on here, where we ask a question to the staff each week about whatever Michigan fans are obsessing about at that moment. It's kinda like a roundtable, but just one question. Please feel free to suggest future questions in the comments, and offer any other suggestions. Given the vagaries of our schedules you won't see responses from everyone every time, for example I kinda sprung this on everyone last night and anyone who keeps reasonable sleep hours probably hasn't seen the email yet.
Brian Cook: Editor, Lord Commander of the UFR, and Wielder of the Holy Stick of Snark
Ace Anbender: Recruiting Coordinator and Head of the Council on Rhymes
Seth Fisher: Associate Editor, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Handler of the Royal Pig
Heiko Yang: Press Coordinator and President of Al Borges Fan Club
Mathlete: Grand Maester of Charts and Keeper of the PAN
Blue in South Bend: Master of Twitter'ers and Vice President of Social Media Relations
And for this week's question I thought we'd go with a broad stroke:
What exactly is Hoke building here? Is there another program in modern history that it most closely resembles in expectations for annual competitiveness, ceiling, floor, and general makeup?
Brian: You ask as if we know, man. We've had two years of Brady Hoke, and still know little. He inherited a quarterback he would never have recruited, no linemen (okay, two linemen), a defense coming off a triple-digit GERG crater. We've had a Sugar Bowl winning year in which horseshoes flew out of everyone's butts and an 8-5 year that could have been a lot better if we hadn't volunteered to get rochambeaued by Alabama and Denard's elbow hadn't gone on the fritz.
You want to draw conclusions from this business? I have two:
1) Brady Hoke would win a poker tournament against the D-I coaching field with ease.
2) He could sell toilets to Ohio State fans.
This likely leads to satisfaction. But, like, am I to declare this to be something else already?
Mathlete: When Hoke came in I think the program really resembled where Nebraska was when Bo Pelini was hired. A program that was used to success and was coming off of a failed attempt to reinvent their identity. Hoke's recruiting the last 2.5 cycles have elevated the expectations beyond that level. If the on field results match the recruiting and those two continue to feed on themselves the best case scenario is a bizarro version of Pete Carroll's USC Trojans. Michigan would mirror USC with a strong program/school identity and coach that embodies it and its history. The definition of that culture will be 180 degrees different in Ann Arbor but the concept would be similar. This season will be critical in terms of timeline. I think the roster is still another year away but if the staff and team can generate a season similar to Hoke's first, the ceiling will be lifted from the program.
BiSB: In an ideal world, we're looking at the beginnings of 1990s Nebraska. The Huskers were built from the lines outward on both sides of the ball. They featured an aggressive, thumping defense with an all-consuming front seven, and an an offense that was exciting in its face-denting smashmouth boredom. Osborne's teams never lost more than three games, taking advantage of a low-variance formula and a massive home field advantage. Their prospects on any given year ranged from a mid-teens finish in the polls to a national championship. Of course, projecting anyone to become Lawrence Phillips and the Blackshirts (note to hipster alter-ego: this would be a great band name), or expecting Derrick Green to change his name to Ahman, is asking a lot.
A more realistic range would be the Red River Rivalry from the early-to-mid 2000's. Michigan and Ohio State will play the roles of Oklahoma and Texas, who dominated the Big 12 the entire decade both on the field and on the recruiting train. Their division (the South) was by far the more difficult, yet between the two of them they won every division title that decade (no one else even grabbed a co-championship between '00 and '07). They won eight of the ten Big 12 titles between them, and from '02-'10 only twice did anyone else finish among Rivals top two Big 12 recruiting classes. Each entered most years with national ambitions, with the Red River Shootout serving as an elimination game of sorts. Neither achieved dynasty status, probably because of the less-than-stellar perception of the rest of the Big 12 and the zero-sum nature of such rivalries, but both teams won national titles, and both hovered around the top 10 more often than not.
Seth: I'm not so sure the Big Two will be able to dominate so much. Consider: two weird losses in a season can make a team full of five stars seem to drop right back to the pack. In 2014 Michigan has to travel to all three rivals (THANKS BIG TEN!) in addition to facing Utah, Penn State, and Maryland at home. Three excusable losses there at the wrong time could drop Michigan well out of the race for the division and produce all sorts of Dynasty talk for Ohio State.
Hedging, I put us closer to Mark Richt's Georgia program, except with far less frequent misdemeanors and without Richt's pious sanctimony.
Hoke's first three classes are about even with Richt's in star power:
*Meyer's two OSU classes are extrapolated into three
Actually it's closer to Carroll's USC. However Carroll and Tressel kept themselves annually competitive by improving the lifestyles of their NFL flight risks. Georgia has been a (mostly) clean program in the Old West of the SEC, usually beating the softer SEC East teams they should and sometimes getting bitten by a pesky obsessive in-state rival. He even had Urban Meyer on his southern border for a time. They also proudly display their "Old Man Football" t-shirts when somebody makes fun of Pro Style offense. Over 12 seasons Richt has gone 118-40, 67-29 in the SEC, and played in three Sugar Bowls, winning one. Now imagine Georgia if Nick Saban wasn't in the same conference…
Ace: I'm late to the party and BiSB stole my answer, so this is off to a rollicking start...
I've been thinking about the basketball and football programs and their very different approaches in working to get to the top of the Big Ten. John Beilein has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to basketball strategy, and right now the hoops world at large is conforming to his style of basketball—less reliance on big men, more spreading the floor and creating layups or threes (anyone watching the NBA playoffs in the last couple years can see this is happening at all levels). Beilein is arguably better at identifying players that fit this system—and then coaching them up—than anybody in the country, and we all saw the benefits this spring.
Brady Hoke and his coaches, meanwhile, are sticking to a decidedly old-school style of football, especially on offense—this as the rest of the country trends towards high-tempo variations on the spread-and-shred. Like their hoops counterparts, the football coaches are adept at identifying and landing talent—obviously, recruiting is going pretty well lately—and like the basketball team they have a distinct system for which they're recruiting; Beilein's offense is now a Michigan signature, and smashmouth football on both sides is what the football team is hoping to make their hallmark.
Bryan brought up 1990's Nebraska, a program that stuck to an old-school style past its supposed expiration date and succeeded wildly by bringing in top talent—good lord, look at Tommie Frazier film sometime—and running the offense with masterful precision; and, of course, combining that with the famed Blackshirt defense. I think that's the peak we're talking about here, though Alabama has beaten Michigan to the punch when it comes to assembling this kind of team — national championships are still going to be remarkably difficult to win.
The floor? I think we saw it last year, though it could happen again — a key injury to a quarterback here, a couple high-profile busts there, and this team could easily underachieve, especially if Al Borges fails to adapt enough to today's game (with his increased recruiting of tights ends of all sizes, I'm optimistic this won't be the case).