the season has truly begun now
Walker, Gardner, Avant (L to R)
After yesterday's one-two gut punch of basketball news, let's talk football, shall we? The story that will likely dominate the spring is the potential move of quarterback Devin Gardner to wide receiver, at least part-time. Gardner, in case you didn't see Brian's UV yesterday, showed some pretty serious skills at receiver when camping as a high schooler. He's also 6'5", athletic, blessed with hands large enough to make the catch above, and familiar with the offense. Meanwhile, Michigan's two known quantities at receiver are Roy Roundtree, whose production plummeted last year when QB OH NOES wasn't a regular part of the playbook, and Jeremy Gallon, who looks quite promising but is also listed at 5'8".
Gardner taking some snaps at receiver is a good idea then, right? I certainly think so, but I've heard several arguments to the contrary. Allow me to present them, then do my best to crush them.
Argument 1—Gardner shouldn't play receiver because if he's hurt at wideout and Denard gets inevitably dinged (or hurt himself, God forbid) we're totally screwed.
This is the argument I've seen the most, and the mentality behind it is one I absolutely hate. Yes, I'm aware that Michigan has just three scholarship QBs on the roster. That is the reality for this year and it's not an optimal one. Denard Robinson has been known to get knocked around on occasion, sometimes requiring a backup cameo. He's a running quarterback. Injuries happen.
But it takes a large leap from "Michigan is thin at QB" to "Gardner can't play wideout because injury doomsday scenario." First of all, if Denard gets hurt, that's a doomsday scenario in and of itself. If Gardner is hurt at the same time, well, the football gods hate Michigan. Does the slim chance of this worst-case scenario happening mean Michigan shouldn't play one of their best athletes at a position in dire need of help when he otherwise wouldn't see the field? No.
Simply put, college coaches cannot operate under the assumption that the worst will happen. That's the same line of thinking that made coaches doubt the viability of the forward pass (remember, only three things can happen when you throw, and two of them are bad) and causes the Zooks of the coaching world to punt on 4th-and-3 from the opponent's 38. Brady Hoke has proven that he's got some serious cajones, and that's generally regarded as a fantastic trait in a head coach. This is not how he operates.
Also, redshirt freshman Russell Bellomy may very well be an equally viable backup option as Gardner, or at least at the point where the dropoff between the two backups isn't large enough to justify keeping Gardner on the bench when he could be contributing at wideout. Which brings me to the next argument...
Argument 2—Gardner shouldn't play receiver because it'll take away from his practice reps at quarterback and he won't develop.
This one holds more water than the first argument, but I still don't agree with it. Gardner is already splitting backup reps at QB with Bellomy, and unless you think Gardner needs a ton of "mental reps," I don't think it hurts to have him spending his non-throwing practice time running routes and catching passes.
It's not like Gardner is switching sides of the ball. In fact, playing receiver can help with his quarterback play; running routes can hone timing, understanding of schemes, and keep him sharp and ready to see the field.
This year's NFL draft will provide a great example of a player who went through a very similar mid-career situation. Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill was a three-star dual-threat QB in the 2007 class, redshirting in his first season. As a redshirt freshman, he battled for the starting QB job but ultimately fell behind two other players. At 6'4", 220 pounds, Tannehill was moved to receiver in fall camp by head coach Mike Sherman. All he did was catch 55 passes for 844 yards and five TDs.
The next year, Tannehill again competed to start at quarterback, but lost out to Jerrod Johnson. As the primary backup, A&M could've handed him a headset, but instead they threw him back out there at receiver. Tannehill had 46 receptions for 609 yards and four TDs while also appearing in three games at QB in mop-up duty. As a junior, Tannehill started the season as a receiver but earned the starting nod as a quarterback partway through the year, completing 65% of his passes and throwing 13 TDs to just six interceptions. After a strong senior season as the full-time starter at QB, Tannehill is expected to go in the top 12 in this year's NFL draft. If playing receiver stunted his development as a quarterback, it wasn't enough to merit keeping the team's best receiver off the field.
Argument 3—The dumbest argument ever.
Sorry to put you on blast, Eric Lloyd, but I can't let this just slide on by:
@AceAnbender Why would you try this without trying Denard at WR first? That's for sure his NFL future and Gardner is better QB.
— Eric Lloyd (@EricLloyd) March 21, 2012
Just no. If I seriously have to argue this point, and I hope I don't for 99.9% of you out there, I'll keep it short. Denard Robinson is about to be a senior in his second year under the current system, coming off an All-Big Ten season that followed up one of the most productive years by a quarterback in the history of college football. Whether or not he's going to be a quarterback at the next level, it's by far the most optimal position to play him at in college.
Devin Gardner has attempted 17 career passes—10 against Bowling Green in a 2010 curb-stomping—and has spent his entire career as a backup quarterback. If he's better at this point in his career than Denard, he hasn't made that apparent to anyone who would have the best idea about whether or not that was the case. End of argument that hopefully never needed to be made.
Michigan can explore the opportunity of sticking a 6'5" playmaker on the field at a position of huge need, or they can keep Devin Gardner on the bench for fear that the worst thing ever will happen. Unless you're the type to keep a fully-stocked bunker in case of the nuclear holocaust, the choice here is rather apparent.
Yesterday's rapture of three players and near-rapture of Trey Burke takes Michigan from set on players for years to scramble mode. Even if Burke returns—
—Michigan has two open scholarships for now or 2013 and a third that could go to a grad-year transfer. Options? There are some.
Amedeo Della Valle
The 6'5" combo guard from Italy out of Findlay Prep in Nevada. Michigan made his top five despite not officially offering and Beilein's checking him out in person today. He's not ranked highly but has offers from Arizona, Ohio State, and Gonzaga, three of the other teams in his top five. (Texas A&M is the other team. They are not good at basketball.) He's not highly ranked but if he's actually got offers from those three teams and UCLA, UConn, and USC he's a best-case scenario as far as talent Michigan can add to the roster.
Is he a point guard? He thinks so.
Della Valle is a natural point guard, but with Dominic Artis and Nigel Williams-Goss entrenched in the Findlay backcourt, he’s been playing out of position a bit. Moreover, with Bennett injured, Della Valle has been defending bigger players.
It’s given him the chance to demonstrate his versatility.
“I can play the one and the two,” Della Valle said. “I can defend combo guards.”
Della Valle is taking his time with a decision, and said he will likely choose a school until April. There are no favorites, and no other visits planned just yet.
“I want to play right away,” he said. “I also want a great coach. And style of play is important.”
I get the vibe Michigan is in strong position with Della Valle but am simultaneously suspicious of my instinct. There was a random guy on the Rivals board saying he had some inside info and Michigan would get him if they pushed hard. So that's totally solid.
Albrecht is the kid with the ball.
That's not a protest sign directed at a Swiss alderman, it's a person. Sam Webb mentioned a point guard from Indiana spending a prep year in the same league Stauskas and McGary are in; though he didn't mention a name Albrecht fits the profile and is undoubtedly the player in question.
Albrecht is from Crown Point, Indiana—the heart of Michigan recruiting—and a former member of the SYF AAU squad that has provided Michigan with Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary. He took a post-grad year in an effort to get a major scholarship. He's still looking for one. He put up 23 points in the prep school AAA championship game after defeating Mitch McGary's heavily favored Brewster squad (link is to full game) and was named the tourney MVP. He's got a couple kids going to D-I schools on his team (Vermont, Harvard, Dartmouth) but still seems to be his team's go-to guy. As of October Albrecht was getting interest from Vermont and MAC schools; he's not rated and is variously listed anywhere from 5'11" to 6'2", with the shorter end of that scale being more realistic.
He is not large but does seem to have the wild double-clutch reverse layup game that you have to have if you're going to be a guy that size playing college basketball. We'd be totally boned if we had to start him next year and he's not likely to beat out Derrick Walton but he might be a solid rotation guy.
BONUS: his team is nicknamed the "Hoggers."
Random High Profile Uncommitted Dude
There are some uncommitted fellows with four stars at various recruiting services but with none of them listing Michigan it's doubtful they can get seriously involved. It is distantly possible they could hop on a guy like Darrick Wood, who is #104 at Rivals, plays at a New England prep school, and only shows an offer from St. John's… a school he already decommitted from. That is a name I picked off a list and nothing else.
With coach-firing season comes potential defections. Illinois has jettisoned Bruce Weber and will not reload with Shaka Smart. Could Michigan pirate one of their recruits? They do have a three-star PG named Michael Orris out of Crete-Monee (also the high school of LaQuon Treadwell). As of a couple weeks ago this was his status($):
"Absolutely," Orris said, when asked if he still planned to suit up for the Orange and Blue next season. "It changes a lot because (Weber) was the man that recruited me, someone I developed an amazing relationship with, but I've signed a letter of intent to Illinois. As of now, that's where I'm going."
It's a longshot, but not completely off the table. Illinois also has an unranked 6-foot shooting guard with one other offer from North Dakota State committed as a preferred walk-on. He's not likely to draw interest.
Nebraska also dumped its coach recently, and unlike Illinois they've got a number of commits. Unfortunately, none are geographically proximate and most are JUCOs. They do have a 5'8" three-star PG out of Kansas City and a 6'4" shooting guard out of Kansas. No one has gotten an "I'm still committed" quote.
This is also the category in which grad-year transfers might be explored. I have no idea if there's a Brandon Wood out there for Michigan this year, but if there is Michigan should take him without blinking. FWIW, UConn's Alex Oriakhi has announced he will transfer and will be immediately eligible as long as UConn's APR-related suspension is upheld. Unfortunately he's a 6'9" center who Michigan doesn't really need.
If Burke returns Michigan doesn't really need anything except maybe a backup point. They could bank a scholarship or two and try to add to their 2013 class with a Bo Ziegler or other guys. It's about 90% likely that Michigan does not fill both slots, I'd say.
Since he'll have to sit out a year, Trey Ziegler counts as air, BTW. Not that it seems like there's anything going on there.
Let's Feel Better About Things
Man, is Mark Donnal going to be a tough matchup in Beilein's offense.
Love the skill level, and he seems like he's got decent athleticism. Also, Derrick Walton is gooooood.
Trey Burke may have said he'd be back next year in the immediate aftermath of Michigan's ouster from the NCAA tourney, but those things are always subject to change once the emotion of a tough loss wears off.
It has, and now Burke's dad is saying stuff like this:
"We figured we had to at least see what's going on," Benji said. "That's where we're at. We're wanting to see where we're at and go from there.
"Trey just got to Ann Arbor. We just got here, and now we're talking about him leaving. It's just tough, it's a tough decision but hopefully we'll be back in Crisler this year. ... As of now, we're coming back. But anything can change. We're open."
That AnnArbor.com article is headlined "Burke to look into NBA draft stock, still leaning towards staying." The analogous article at the Free Press is of course titled "Trey Burke strongly considering leaving Michigan for NBA draft," because obviously. Pick your probability from amongst options.
Burke's dad says he's had reports that Trey could go anywhere from 18-24th overall. That is greatly divergent from draft boards maintained by Chad Ford (where he ranks 72nd) and Draft Express (not in the top 100, last pick of the first round in their 2013 mock) and could be agents trying to get a kid to sign; that's why they have advisory boards.
I don't think Burke's in a situation like Darius Morris, who left with full knowledge he probably wouldn't be a first-rounder, but at this point any Michigan fan who's assuming is doing the understandable thing.
If Burke does end up declaring Michigan is of course totally boned. At this point the #2 PG is either a walk-on or a 6'6" shooting guard who isn't even on campus yet. They'd probably get a transfer or late commit or something given the obvious opportunity but Trey Burkes don't grow on trees. With the NCAA moving up the withdrawal date over and over again at least we won't have to wait long to know: Burke is in or out by April 10th.
I had these tweets up from Sam Webb that hinted at some attrition from the basketball team but that's all irrelevant now:
University of Michigan men's basketball head coach John Beilein announced today (Wednesday, March 21) that sophomore forward Evan Smotrycz (Reading, Mass./New Hampton Prep [N.H.]),sophomore forward Colton Christian (Bellevue, Wash./Hargrave Military Academy) and freshman guard Carlton Brundidge (Southfield, Mich./Southfield HS) each decided to leave the Wolverine basketball program and transfer to another school.
Smotrycz is the headliner here. He started the first half of the year before Michigan went to Stu Douglass in the starting lineup; playing out of position the rest of the year at the five he still saw 20 minutes a game and was Michigan's best three-point shooter over the course of the season. He was projected to start at the four next year. His loss is both inexplicable and harmful. Unless Smotrycz was flat out told that McGary and Robinson were going to eat his minutes I don't understand that departure.
Brundidge only saw a few minutes spotting Trey Burke; Christian was also an end of the bench type.
Michigan's scholarship crunch just got blown away: Michigan could bring in two additional guys in the 2012 class and still have room for their three guys in 2013 without any further attrition. They only have one active target, 6'5" Findlay Prep PG/SG Amedeo Della Valle. He's got a top five Michigan is a part of along with Texas A&M, Ohio State, Arizona, and Gonzaga. They could also get in on the Trey Ziegler transfer sweepstakes now.
Hi. You may be aware that for the past four years I've edited a Michigan preview magazine called Hail To The Victors (usually, anyway). It's 120-some pages of photos, previews, analysis, and history that we've been proud of.
Unfortunately, if we're going to make it to year five we're going to need some help. Our publisher went under sometime around January. We have access virtually all of the things we need to continue—the writers, photos, publishing expertise—and plan on taking HTTV independent this summer. The main problem: the up-front costs are daunting.
- anything on it must be a defined creative project
- you either make it and get all the money or don't and get none of it.
The latter is in place to prevent people from getting half of the money they need to execute a project and finding themselves with a bunch of expectations and not enough capital to meet them.
We have launched a Hail To The Victors kickstarter that can be found here. We are aiming for 20k, which is about 2/3rds of our projected costs and is the level we feel comfortable will not result in massive losses. We have 30 days to raise this money. It is here. Go here.
Alter ego asks questions below.
Is this a donation?
It's more of a preorder. The lowest level gets you a magazine shipped to you for 15 bucks, which is a little less than we project the thing will cost shipped in June. We are not looking for charity here except insofar as me signing something is not worth the extra 15 bucks we've placed on that.
But I just hit up Beveled Guilt on Tuesday!
If you have donated any amount of money since June 1st of last year and would like to turn that into magazines, email me:
- The email address/paypal username of the donation
- Your address
- How many magazines you would like to turn that into (max one per 15 dollars donated)
While this won't help us breach our 20k minimum, assuming we do hit it we will turn your donation from pure charity into purchase.
What do the higher levels get me?
Details are on the Kickstarter site. There are three main attractions past the pure preorder: various levels of autographing, a sponsor page in the finished product, and an exclusive Brian photobomb t-shirt. We are still working on a final product but this is the idea:
You have no idea the personal sacrifice this t-shirt represents. There's a sentence above in which I refer to myself in the third person, fergodsakes. (Also if you hate it you can just get another mgoshirt.)
Also for 10,000 dollars I will show up at a child's birthday party in a Terrelle Pryor jersey. That costs five figures easy. Please no one get this.
Okay, so I signed up for whatever level of support I wanted to. What now?
Since the thing doesn't fund unless it funds fully, this would be a situation in which it would behoove you to gently notify your friends that they can help make this thing exist.
UPDATE: what happens if the project does not fund?
Nobody is charged until the 30 days elapses; if by that point the kickstarter has not made it no one gets charged.
Fifteen minutes of Bo yelling at officials. Wot it says on the tin:
Can't see Hoke doing this; am now imagining Bo's reaction after the Hagerup incident against OSU. It does not go well for the kid. I love the announcers' reactions, which are mostly bemused. Musberger as Bo charges about ten yards onto the field to protest a pass interference non-call: "That's why they give him an extension cord."
Hoke with Dave. This had slipped my mind until a helpful reader reminded me of it. After Hoke took Ball State to 12-0 in his final year, he showed up on Ball State alum David Letterman's Late Show to deliver a Top Ten. It is exactly as you might expect:
Is that a red tie? Horror!
The Devin To WR thing. The internet was abuzz with rumors that Devin Gardner spent his first spring practice at wide receiver to the point where actual reporters actually asked Al Borges about it. Via Heiko, the response:
Are you experimenting with Devin Gardner at other positions?
“We’re doing what we did a year ago, pretty much. We’re giong to play the best 11 guys. Devin’s the backup quarterback right now. He’s number two, and we’re going to do what we have to do to get the best 11 on the field. Nothing’s changed in that perspective, so we pretty much have the same mentality that we had.”
Are you looking at him at wide receiver?
“Yeah … the practices are closed for a reason.”
That gruffy, annoyed non-denial was taken as confirmation of the Gospel from on high by the internet, and… yeah, I'm with you guys. Michigan is at least gingerly exploring the possibility of throwing Devin Gardner on the field as a wide receiver. Whether that's for wacky trick plays or is a serious exploration of what Gardner brings to the field there is unknown probably even to the coaches.
Me, I hope it's the latter. Gardner's nearly 6'5", has huge hands and explosive leaping ability, and this old film of him screwing around at WR at some camps…
…reminds me of that Sports Science thing they did on Justin Blackmon in which it was explained that he could catch anything within a half-mile radius of him. If you've got enough faith in Russell Bellomy to spot Robinson when he gets his inevitable dings, I'd roll with a potentially elite talent at WR.
The obvious downside is what happens in the event of a serious Robinson injury and next year, when Gardner is the presumed starter at QB. It's not a move that doesn't come with risks. Hoke seems like a guy who looks at the upside of things more than the downside. If you think getting Gardner on the field helps you win this year you have to do it. Next year is next year.
You can't escape me. Cleveland State reveals that Michigan has home dates with Oakland and the Cleveland State/BGSU winner as part of their participation in the Preseason NIT. Unlike a lot of of tournaments, the preseason NIT actually gives a berth in the final to the winners of their preliminary rounds—as it should be.
This is good. Michigan should be scheduling decent mid-majors instead of total dreck as they seek to get that RPI up in a year when they could be a national contender. Even if Oakland and CSU aren't up to their previous standards they should still be a far cry from the SWAC. CSU was 22-11 last year and made the NIT. They lost to Stanford in the first round but still finished in the Kenpom top 100. They lose three starters and a key reserve but Gary Waters has led his team to 20 wins in four of the last five seasons. They'll be at least decent.
Oakland had an off year by their recent standards and loses a third of their usage with Reggie Hamilton's graduation; they return everyone else except Laval-Lucas Perry, though. BGSU was a middling MAC team. These are much better opponents for numbers purposes.
The rest of Michigan's nonconference schedule is still unannounced but we do know they'll be getting a home game from Arkansas, a home game in the Big Ten/ACC challenge, will travel to Bradley as part of a quid pro quo for Bradley hiring Beilein's son, and will play WVU in New York. If they reach the Preseason NIT finals they're likely to meet some combination of Pitt, Virginia, and an unknown team.
Michigan's also added Arizona for a home and home starting in 2013-14, when Sean Miller's monster recruiting class (four top 50 players including Nick Stauskas teammate Kaleb Tarczewski) will just be finding its feet. Those could be big time matchups.
Etc.: Dolla dolla bill extends to the students, who will be paying $205 for six home games this year. Denard interviewed by BTN. Inside Michigan Hockey profiles the team headed into the tournament. Bowls versus the tourney in terms of money headed to teams. Michigan's first black player was George Jewett in 1890; Michigan Today profiles him.