things go poorly
News bullets and other important things:
- Blake Countess is being considered for punt and kick returns.
- Nathan Brink will be out for the spring game.
- Kenny Demens has been held back recently due to a concussion.
- Jerald Robinson has had an AC (shoulder) problem that he's been working through.
“This is kind of an exciting weekend around here for multiple reasons. Obviously we get a chance to go in the Big House and play football and compete, kind of assess where we’re at to some degree. The other thing is with Victors’ weekend, I think 350 or so former players are coming back for an event Friday night and then on Saturday, obviously the game and I think there’s 100 guys signed up to play in the flag football game, [for] which we’ll make sure we have enough trainers around [Ed-S: ...because they're old(!) get it?]. And then that night, Victors Night, something James Hall started seven years ago, we’re going to honor Coach Moeller. It will be a great celebration of the guys that he coached and what he did for Michigan.”
Will there be a team meeting like there was last year?
“Yes. On Friday? Yes.”
You’ve talked about having the Spring Game against anothr team. If you had a magic wand, would you prefer an NFL model where a team could come here for a few days or would you rather just have the spring game against them?
“I think the NFL model. I think you get together for two days. You get together, you plan out practices together as a staff. You do your different situational drills that you may do … I think it would be a great idea to be honest with you. I don’t know from a budget standpoint and all those things, if you’re traveling and doing those kinds of things, who you would do it with. I like that model. ”
Would you also prefer it to be not open to the public or the media?
“Probably not. I think that would be worked out through both schools, how they felt about it.”
How has Denard progressed in terms of limiting turnovers?
“You know, I think he’s done a good job with ball security, which he’s been pretty good with that. I think in his decisiveness and throws, I think he’s made some pretty good throws. I can’t say I’ve seen him make a bad throw but maybe once or twice where you’re going, ‘What the heck was he looking at?’ as a coach, but I think he’s done a good job. I think the mastering of the offense or whatever you want to call it. I think he’s a little better.”
What have you seen in terms of leadership this spring?
“Yeah. Well I think so. I think Roundtree and Kovacs are two guys, I think Patrick Omameh … Will Campbell’s done a good job. I’d be remiss not to name a lot of those seniors, but I think they’re really understanding this is the way we want to go about our business.”
Who are some players on offensive and defensive line that have stepped up?
“I think Ricky, as a center. I think he’s really going to be a good center for us. I think his athleticism, I think there’s still some issues with making sure we’re getting the ball where we need it out of the gun and that part of it. We want to make sure we’re not making the quarterback work too hard for it. Elliott Mealer I think has had one of his better springs. I think he’s grown up a little bit and playing with more confidence. Joey Burzynski, a young man out of San Diego, he’s done a good job and he’s made an impact as a guard in there [and as] a second center or third center. I think Mike Schofield … I think Taylor has progressed, which I think there’s more progression for him still because of his abilities. Schofield’s done a nice job. ”
And on the defensive line?
“The other side of the ball, I think Will Campbell’s made some strides. Looking at Tuesday, I thought was one of his better days since he’s been here. I think Jibreel and Craig played inside. Gives us a quickness and gives our defense an ability to run. I think they’re doing well at the point of attack. I think they’ll be better in the fall because of strength gains and weight gains they’ll go through. Doesn’t have to be a lot, but some. Richard Ash has started to play with a little more confidence. Keith Heitzman is a guy we redshirted a year ago and has shown some signs. And Quinton Washington. If you look at all those guys, none of them are where we want them to be or need them to be, but I think at the same time they’re making some good progress.”
How can you tell that you’re playing physical enough?
“Well we really are more physical than we were last year at this time. When I say that, we’re more physical in the standpoint of we play a little faster, I think the effort down the field -- that second or third block, the point of attack, and I think we’re just playing with better fundamentals than last year at this time. Now by no means are we close to where we want to be.”
How is the punting situation?
“I think they’re kind of neck and neck. One day one of them is really consistent and one day he’s not. The other guy’s consistent. We’re going to do some stuff on Saturday to really put some heat on them and see how they handle that part of it. We’ve been doing that some, but I think in that environment you get a couple more speed guys on there, I think it will be interesting to see.”
Hokespeak translation: Hagerup = inconsistent big leg, Wile = consistent less big leg. We'll see what happens when there are punt cover teams running at them.
What about kicker?
“I think Gibbons has done a really good job. And Matt continues to do a good job, [but] I think it’s Gibbons for sure.”
What about the secondary?
“Well I think Blake Countess is a guy working his tail off all the time. Kovacs, I think Marvin Robinson’s improved. That’s huge. I think Thomas Gordon’s better. I think JT and Courtney and Raymon Taylor are doing a nice job, and Jarrod Wilson’s gotten a bunch of snaps. He’ll take a bunch of snaps on Saturday. I think he’s doing a nice job. And a guy I don’t want to forget -- Floyd Simmons is a guy who’s doing really well for us in the kicking game, but he’s done a nice job in the back end too. ”
Are you set with the kick returners or would you like to wait until fall to experiment?
“I think both … I think Jeremy Gallon is a really good punt returner. I think he’s got great confidence in catching the ball. His vision’s pretty good. He’ll take it burst-wise when we look at the punting game. In the kickoff game I really want to see Rawls and Hayes come along a little bit. Vince Smith’s been back there before. Jeremy's been back there some, but punt-wise [it would first be] Gallon, and the next one would be Countess. He’s very confident in what he does back there. I think Countess is a guy we’ve looked at kick returner some.”
How is the competition between Frank Clark and Brennen Beyer?
“It’s pretty good. You’re talking about two wonderful young kids who, I think, as they continue through the weight room and everything else, both of those guys are going to be good football players. They’re pretty good now, but they both have a very good future. I think it’s daily. Frank’s here one day and Beyer’s here one day. They compete and they’re really friends. It’s fun.”
Is Denard becoming more adept at using his running ability as a third option if receivers aren’t open?
“No, I think it’s probably a place where he’s got to improve that a little bit. I think he’s really conscious of going through different reads. He really wants to make sure he’s letting the play play out. He probably hasn’t taken the ball down and run maybe like he will in the fall.”
With a guy like him, how do you balance using his athleticism with making sure he goes through his progressions?
“It’s a balancing act. You’re exactly right. When you have a guy who has that capability and at the same time, I think there’s things where if he let the dig route come further in it’d maybe be a 15 yard gain, but him tucking the ball down would probably be a 15 yard gain, too.”
What will be the format on Saturday?
“We’ll probably go sixty-some plays. We always have depth problems in the spring, so we’ll go ones on ones and twos on twos and compete. We’re not at the point program-wise because of depth issues on the offensive front and defensive front to draft like you want to. So we’ll pretty much do what we’ve been doing.
Will there be a scoring system?
“Yeah there will. There’ll be a blue team and a white team. I want to move the ball all over. It’s not going to be a true drive. We’ll do some punt before it. We’ll work that part of the game in the stadium. We’ll do some PAT stuff. The kids have been over there doing some of that, but just to do it in the stadium.”
How are you health-wise right now?
“I’m good, thanks.”
What about your team?
“Pretty good. Brink has done all the individual drills. He hasn’t done any full contact with 11 bodies out there, but we knew that going in. We get some boo-boos here and there, but we’re pretty healthy.”
Has Kenny Demens been held back at all?
“He was held back for two days because of a mild concussion deal. Kenny -- and he’ll tell you -- probably could have gone, but we’re trying to be, like we should, cautious with those kinds of things.”
Was that this week or last week?
“It was Saturday and Tuesday.”
Is there anyone who will be out for sure on Saturday?
“Brink won’t go. I think that’s it. Some guys are going to be limited play-wise. We’re not going to run Fitz 30 times. Taylor’s not going to play 60 plays. That’s not going to happen.”
How beneficial was it for Joe Bolden when Kenny sat out a couple days?
“Oh it was really probably a great indoctrination for a young guy. But it’s been good. Him and Kaleb and Jarrod -- I’m real proud of how they made the transition. When you think about it, they should be going to Prom. But I mean, it’s just … that part of it is good to have them.”
Can you talk about the relationship between the spring game and Mott?
“Well I think as you know, that relationship for over 20 years has been special. The football team and the rest of the athletic teams, the athletes going up there and sharing with the kids and being around them, so it’s one that we really think is special. I think it’s a win-win for both Mott and [the football program].”
How have the receivers developed?
“Receiver-wise, I think Roy’s had a really really good spring. I think Jeremy [Gallon] has, and Jeremy Jackson’s improved. Dileo has done a nice job. Gosh dangit … I have to get through the depth chart in my head … who am I missing? Jerald. I think Jerald’s made some good strides. He’s been a little bit beat up. He’s had a bit of an AC separation, but he’s played through it and has done a nice job. I’m excited about him. I know I’m leaving somebody out. I think they all -- you can see improvement. One thing I like about the receivers and I liked about them last year: they’re not afraid to block. They’re not afraid to get up in a safety’s face or a corner’s face, and that’s pretty good.”
Is there any amount of a bounty system in college football, and is that why coaches are hesitant to talk about injuries?
“Yeah … I’ve never heard a coach ever talk about that. I think coaches talk about we have to stop this back or whatever, hold him under this many yards, but that’s part of team defense. I have never heard a coach say we want to dive at his knees. I think it probably has been said, but none that I’ve been around.”
Sophomore Thomas Rawls is making a push for more carries this fall.
This Saturday marks the Spring Game, when we all watch a glorified scrimmage and make snap judgments like "Mark Moundros is going to start at middle linebacker," and "Tate Forcier has the Heisman in his future." (Okay, I admit, I said both of those things, but luckily the evidence has been wiped from the internet.) Nevertheless, it's the only semi-competitive football we'll see until the fall, providing us our lone peek into the progress of the team and the various position battles.
Here's what I'll be hoping to see from the offense on Saturday:
Mediocrity. I know, right? This is actually more of a defensive point, but I want to put this here: in the spring, the defense should be ahead of the offense in terms of installing their schemes and playing cohesively. It's no coincidence that we saw the offense absolutely wreck the defense in the 2009 and 2010 games, then look downright ugly at times in last year's edition. I don't need to tell you how those respective seasons turned out. After just two weeks of practice, the offensive line won't have gelled like they will in the fall, the timing between quarterback and receiver is often a little off, and the playbook is still very much in the installation phase. This plea may fall on deaf ears, but don't freak out if the offense isn't marching up and down the field; in fact, feel free to be a bit encouraged.
Gardner Gardner Gardner. All eyes will be on Devin Gardner, though the odds of the coaches trotting him out at receiver for a nationally-televised scrimmage are somewhere between zero and zero. He will be playing quarterback, however, and it's time to see a big step forward from him in the passing game. Practice accounts have been positive in that regard and it sounds like he's the clear-cut #2 QB ahead of Russell Bellomy, though we'll see how big of a gap there is between those two. If Bellomy looks like a passable second-stringer, you can keep hope alive for some Denard-to-Devin connections in the fall. If not, the coaches may find it too risky to split Gardner out wide.
Bowling Ball Rawls. I was pretty high on Thomas Rawls when he came out of high school, and after a freshman year spent mostly on the bench, he's impressed practice observers with his power as a running back and is making a strong push for the backup job. Vincent Smith will inevitably see snaps on third down, but there's still room for a back to spell Fitzgerald Toussaint on occasion and provide a different look in the backfield. Though Rawls won't make many people miss, he can knock them over, and if he shows that against the first team defense we can start thinking of him as a change-of-pace/short-yardage back. Redshirt freshman Justice Hayes has also drawn praise in the spring, though he'll have to prove he's either a more effective runner than Rawls or a more explosive receiving option than Smith to carve out a role; neither is out of the question given his athleticism.
Number One Target? The general assumption is that Roy Roundtree will be the top receiver this year, but I'm not sold on that. His production dropped dramatically last season as he played more on the outside and was no longer the beneficiary of numerous QB OH NOES as a RichRod slot receiver. Jeremy Gallon flashed a lot of talent last season, and I think he'll be a very capable second option, but he's 5'8". Hope may come in the form of redshirt sophomore Jerald Robinson, who's been lauded as a potential go-to guy this spring despite never recording a collegiate catch. This may be your standard Johnny Sears-type spring hype, but let's withhold judgment until we see him on the field. If nobody looks like a solid #1 option, there's going to be a lot of pressure on Amara Darboh come fall.
My Kingdom for a Tight End. This is the scariest position group on the roster, and that's taking into account the fact that the offensive line has almost no depth. Redshirt senior Brandon Moore is the starter by default; he's had issues with drops in the past, so hope he holds onto the ball if it comes his way. Converted wideout Ricardo Miller will get time as an H-back (the "U" tight end in this offense), and he must prove he can hold up as a blocker if he wants to see much time. Behind them are redshirt senior walk-on Mike Kwiatkowski and converted DE Jordan Paskorz. If this unit isn't a total liability, I'll take it, especially with A.J. Williams and Devin Funchess providing reinforcements in the fall. If they are, Al Borges is going to have to get very creative with his schemes.
O-line Depth: Do We Have Any? The first-team offensive line should be just fine, with projected left guard starter Elliott Mealer the only unknown quantity. Mealer is a redshirt senior who's currently beating out a highly-touted (and massive) redshirt freshman in Chris Bryant, so I'm not too concerned about his ability to fit in. Ricky Barnum has reportedly adjusted well to his new role as starting center; again, I'm optimistic about the first team's ability. PANIC! will set in, however, if a starting lineman goes down, especially a tackle. The second-team line this spring features three(!) walk-ons, and while redshirt sophomore guard Joey Burzynski has impressed practice observers, color me skeptical of any 6'1", 284-pound walk-on being anything but a frightening liability in a game situation. The backup tackles are all walk-ons, at least until Kyle Kalis hits campus for the fall, so expect Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield to be encased in bubble wrap until September.
Kickers. Make your field goals, please and thank you. That is all.
Indianapolis (IN) Pike WR Dominique Booth is one of the top Midwest prospects in the class of 2014, and he's off to a quick start in his recruitment. Booth already holds scholarship offers from Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan State, and Missouri, with interest from several other schools across the region, including Michigan. Booth visited Ann Arbor at the tail end of March, and I had the chance to chat with him last night about his recruitment. Here's the full transcript:
ACE: First of all, what schools are currently contacting you the most in your recruitment?
DOMINIQUE: All of them are contacting Coach Moyers about me the same amount. There are so many schools and I think there are some my coach hasn't even told me [about]. Every day it seems like I'm hearing from a new school.
ACE: Of the schools you've heard from, who do you most want to get an offer from that hasn't offered yet?
DOMINIQUE: Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Michigan.
ACE: I know you visited Michigan recently. What was your favorite part of the visit?
DOMINIQUE: I didn't get to go around the whole campus but their indoor practice facility stood out from any other, and all the championships they have won.
ACE: Which Michigan coaches have you been in contact with, and what's your impression of the coaching staff?
DOMINIQUE: Coach Mallory is the one recruiting me and they seem very enthusiastic.
ACE: Do you have any other visits planned for the spring/summer?
DOMINIQUE: Cincinnati this Saturday and Ohio State the Saturday after that.
ACE: Any plans to see Michigan again down the road?
DOMINIQUE: Yes, they made me promise to come back so they can show me all they have to offer. They also called my coach making sure he stresses to me that I need to come back and spend more time with them.
ACE: I know it's early in the process, but what attributes are you looking for in a school?
DOMINIQUE: A good medical school, a good teacher in the wide receivers coach, and a head coach that is going to be there the whole time I am.
ACE: What would you say are your biggest strengths on the field?
DOMINIQUE: Changing speeds in my route running, just being an athlete when the ball is in the air, I catch with my hands, and I'm really good in the screen game because I'm hard to bring down as a ball carrier. Another thing I'm good at is recognizing coverages and exploiting them.
ACE: And what parts of your game are you trying to improve?
DOMINIQUE: I can work on having cleaner cuts and being more aware of my surroundings while going up on the ball and using my hands more on the top of my routes.
ACE: When you're not on the field, what do you like to do in your spare time?
DOMINIQUE: Basketball and I'm a big movie watcher. I feel like I have to see every good new movie that comes out.
Hello. When awake, I'm lucid, and I've got all these tabs driving me crazy. So here are the tabs.
We've really done it now. Not satisfied with tight shots, the official site's practice video now goes field-level:
For their next trick they'll make a video from a helmet cam pointed inward at Denard's face.
Perhaps the best thing about the internet's transformation of fan culture is our ability to connect with the past of the program. Wolverine Historian and Greg have provided a sense of the whole program from its beginnings to the present day. We're extremely fortunate to have those two—I don't think there's anything close in any other fan base.
#JUSTIFYYOUREXISTENCE. An experiment designed to see whether a newspaper would publish any press release issued by the athletic department no matter how minor succeeded today with the news that everyone considers putting a twitter hash tag on the field for the spring game "news."
They're burying the lead, which is that an alien who can only badly mimic the English language has wormed his way into the athletic department:
"This initiative will help our athletic department use technology as a competitive advantage to engage and connect to fans, build brand loyalty, grow the digital audience and monitor and listen to what is being said through the digital engagement cycle," said Jordan Maleh, U-M's director of digital marketing.
Whatever said that is not human. It is probably from Trafalmadore.
I've got a great explanation about why things like this rub me the wrong way bouncing around in my skull but when I try to express it the vitriol overwhelms whatever point I'm trying to make. In itself, putting a hash tag on the field is a non-event. As part of the pattern we've seen since Brandon's hire it's another piece of evidence that what you get when you hire a bunch of MBAs into makework positions is a bunch of makework. There's no such thing as a bad idea as long as it's something that hasn't been done before.
Events other than actual Michigan football games at the stadium increasingly serve as a glimpse into the dystopian future in store for the program once Brandon gradually wears resistance down: presenting sponsors, endless distractions, curly fries on the field. Etc.
Five star flip. Rivals made good on its repeated promises to elevate Glenn Robinson III into five star territory. He's now the #11(!) player in the country. Mitch McGary slid to 30th, which seems fair. Stauskas crept up a little bit as well; he's now #71.
Please be sandbagging. Hoke's not a fan of where both of his lines are. This is not so good:
"On either side, it's not very good right now, I can tell you that," Hoke said Tuesday afternoon on a teleconference with reporters. "I think the kids are working, I think they're coming in here with energy and all those things, but I think the expectation level, how physical we want to be as a football team, I would say we're not where we need to be."
I know Omameh is never going to be the ideal guard for Hoke but he's an established starter with a decent to good track record and the only other spot on the line that's really an issues is the other guard. I get that the DL is going to be a work in progress much of the year, but that OL should be good. If it's not… erk.
At least Hoke's long term vision for the Spring Game is considerably less sour than Carr's was:
"If we had the choice, I think we'd really like to draft and split up the teams and go at it that way, but we really don't have that luxury because of our depth at our offensive line, our defensive line, a little bit at the receiver position, and it just isn't going to work out that way," Hoke said.
"We'll formulate some ways to make this as game-like as possible."
Carr gave off the impression he'd cancel the thing if he could get away with it. Drafting and playing an actual game-game would be far more entertaining than anything Michigan's ever done. Rodriguez wanted to do the same thing but had the same problem with line depth, which of courses invites the question WHY DIDN'T YOU RECRUIT SOME LINEMEN ARGLB.
I also have no idea where those tattoos came from. The Hayes story on Urban Meyer was light on Charles Robinson-esque bombs but heavy on evidence that Meyer's more Les Miles than Brady Hoke. Meyer then helped that along by flat-out lying:
Meyer adamantly denies the reports of course.
“I’ve never heard of Circle of Trust before in my life,” he said.
Internet says I remember all things:
Certainly there will still be opportunities for other players to advance into the "Circle of Trust" as the season unfolds. We all remember — and if we don't we are often reminded by No. 15 — how David Nelson came out of nowhere in the middle of last season to become a go-to-guy in some of Florida's biggest games down the stretch.
But after Saturday, Urban Meyer and Tim Tebow will know who belongs in the Circle of Trust.
"I think so," Meyer said. "I know I trust the Pounceys. I trust Tim. Who else are we going to trust? Who is going to be the fifth or sixth lineman? Who is not going to blow a coverage because we're more multiple back there.
"So, yeah, that's what you're trying to get done."
Not that this is new. Remember this from Darryl Stonum's recruitment?
"He told me that he talked to Coach Carr and Coach Soup and that they told him that I would be a much better fit in the Florida offense than I would be in the one at Michigan," Stonum recalled.
"I thought, wow, my coaches are selling me out? I confronted them about it. I asked Coach Carr and Coach Soup about it, and they said they never talked to that guy and that there was no way they ever said anything like that and that they think I should be a Wolverine. I believed them. Right then, I knew just how Florida rolled."
Ohio State may have picked the wrong guy to lead them through probation.
Rock someone else, Amedeo. Michigan canceled Amedeo Della Valle's visit in the aftermath of Burke's return and Albrecht's commitment. Sam Webb mentioned something on the GBW message board about potentially bringing in that grad-year guy, so it's possible they'd like to get that extra bit of guard depth they lack right now without committing to a guy for four years (or, like, two years, I guess). Unless that comes off it looks like your roster right now is what Michigan will go into 2012-13 with.
Michigan technically does not have a spot open in 2013 but that makes some dodgy assumptions. Austin Hatch is likely to reclassify and Michigan is all but guaranteed to lose someone to the NBA draft after the season, possibly multiple someones.
The nice thing is that Michigan doesn't have any truly pressing needs for 2013. They've got a PG, a center, and a high-quality wing committed. They will lose Vogrich and may lose a PG, a high quality wing, and a combo 4 type (if McGary or Robinson is really good right away). They can swing for the fences at any position from the 2 to the 4 and see if anyone bites without being too down on their chances in 2013-14 if they don't connect.
Legacy. Did we know that Drake Johnson's step-dad is Tom Slade?
"It wasn't so much pressure as it was expected because my whole family's gone to Michigan. It runs in my family to go to the university. My mom is the head cheerleading coach (Pam St. John). My dad went there; my grandfather went there. My step-dad played quarterback at Michigan (Tom Slade). . . . Yeah, he's my step-dad and he passed away almost six years ago, coming up. . . . When I was really young, my mom used to be really afraid of me going to games because there was like 110,000 people walking around and she didn't want me to get lost, but then at like age 13 I'd go to maybe four or five games a year."
In that interview at Touch The Banner he claims to run consistent 4.3 40s at 206 pounds and talks about an affinity for wide receiver as well. That'll be a backup plan if Johnson gets squeezed out by Hayes/Smith/Isaac/Shallman.
Etc.: Elsewhere in calling out silly lies, Jalen Rose pwns Skip Bayless. UMHoops on Burke's return. Open letter to the GT athletic department from a designer who knows his stuff. Interesting to think about what a Michigan analogue would look like. This week in the Inevitable NCAA Split On The Horizon. Tim Hardaway Jr. didn't even put his name in for an eval. Blake Countess interview.
Tough stuff on deck for the hockey team: Michigan plays Ferris, Western, Notre Dame, and MSU four times in conference next year. Those are the top two teams in the league, a team that should bounce back big time if they can just find a goalie, and… uh… Michigan State.
What if Will Campbell is really good?
[Ed: bump for everyone sticking around for lax Saturday.]
(Saturday's lacrosse game against Ohio State will be the first Michigan game in history truly available for mass consumption, as it will be broadcast on BTN. No paid streams, no hunting around the internet for free ones, no heading to the opponent's website for lame-ass freeze-prone gametracker. Therefore it deserves special treatment, so here is a preview of what you can expect.)
Date/Time: Saturday, April 14; 2:30
Record against the Buckeyes: 0-0
Last matchup: None
Last game: UD 11, U-M 7 (4/7); OSU 10, Hobart 9 (4/7)
Records: U-M 1-10; OSU 5-6 (3-1 ECAC)
(Michigan is an ECAC conference-mate of Ohio, but merely an associate member this season, as not every ECAC team was able to make room on its schedule for Michigan. Therefore our games don't count in the conference standings.)
|Faceoff %||42.0% (54th)||58.0% (54th)||44.5% (47th)||55.5% (47th)|
|Clearing %||71.2% (60th)||76.1% (2nd)||91.0% (3rd)||81.9% (19th)|
|Scoring %||28.7% (51st)||38.9% (57th)||27.8% (54th)||26.8% (7th)|
|O-rating||11.64 (55th)||13.70 (42nd)|
|D-rating||17.94 (57th)||11.99 (8th)|
(Please see first comment for explanation of these statistics.)
Other than perhaps the season opener - and maybe not even that - this is the game that Michigan has been targeting as its biggest all season. It could be because of the opponent; sources tell me that some kind of a rivalry may exist between these two schools. The athletic department, however, has scheduled us a springtime bonanza, with this game directly following the spring football game at the Big House. The weather will be warm but potentially rainy; with any luck the latter will hold off and a five-digit crowd will stick around for this Creator's Trophy showdown.
Yes, I said trophy, though it's not actually at stake this time. The Big Ten lacrosse-playing schools - Michigan, Ohio, and Penn State - have banded together to award a three-way trophy similar to the Commander-in-Chief's trophy. PSU already beat both schools to earn the inaugural Creator's Trophy, and it will stay with the current trophy-holder in the event of a three-way 1-1 tie in any given year.
Ohio last made the NCAA tournament in 2008, and with a first-round upset of 8th-seeded Cornell, the Buckeyes (along with Notre Dame) were at the time considered representative of a Western resurgence (or perhaps just "surgence") in the sport of lacrosse. But they haven't been able to duplicate that success since, as ND has left them in the dust somewhat, and head coach Nick Myers - who was promoted to the head job following that tournament run - may be feeling his seat warm up a little bit. (However, OSU is a football-is-king school, so don't expect the heavy boosters to particularly care, as they would at a place like Syracuse or UVA.)
[Ed: more after the jump.]
Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary: Capable of dunking
Now that Trey Burke has announced his return to the Michigan basketball program, we can all emerge from our panic rooms and take a look at the roster for next year. Since the end of the season, Michigan has lost five scholarship players—Zack Novak and Stu Douglass to graduation; Evan Smotrycz, Colton Christian, and Carlton Brundidge to transfer—and pulled in a commitment from point guard Spike Albrecht. With today's news that the Wolverines are no longer pursuing combo guard Amadeo Della Valle, the roster is set barring a graduate-year transfer. Here's one man's guess at the 2012-13 depth chart:
|Point Guard||Shooting Guard||Small Forward||Power Forward||Center|
|Trey Burke||Tim Hardaway Jr.||Glenn Robinson III||Mitch McGary||Jordan Morgan|
|Spike Albrecht||Nick Stauskas||Matt Vogrich||Max Bielfeldt||Jon Horford|
|Eso Akunne||-||-||-||Blake McLimans|
Schwing. That's a lineup featuring an All-American (honorable mention) point guard, an enigmatic but uber-talented shooting guard, two five-star freshmen at the 3 and 4, and a proven Big Ten center. It's also a lineup with a fair amount of versatility. If Michigan wants to go small, they can play GRIII at power forward and slide either Nick Stauskas or Matt Vogrich to the wing, adding some extra outside shooting. Going bigger is pretty unnecessary, since the presumed starters outside of Burke all have more than adequate size for their position—no more 6'4" guys in the post.
At point guard, once again it pretty much starts and ends with Trey Burke, but the pickup of Albrecht gives the team some options. Albrecht's main strengths are basketball savvy and passing ability; should he pick up on the offense quickly enough, he can provide Burke with a few minutes of rest without sacrificing much offensive flow. Nick Stauskas is a natural shooting guard, but he's a slick passer. If he can just be adequate at handling the basketball, he could also help ease the load on Burke. While Burke will undoubtedly play well over 30 minutes a game once again, there's hope that he won't be forced to log the 40 (or more) minute efforts he did as a freshman.
The key to a successful season—and next year, success means a Big Ten title and/or a deep run in the NCAA tournament—is the production of Tim Hardaway Jr. Can he improve his shot selection and return to the efficient scoring ways of his freshman campaign, or will he continue to be maddeningly inconsistent on both sides of the ball? Who knows, though I'd like to think he won't shoot 28% from downtown again. The good news is that with a four-star gunner in Stauskas and good secondary scoring options in GRIII and McGary, Michigan won't have to lean so heavily on Hardaway to carry the non-Burke scoring load. Stauskas hopefully will be the guy who finally lives up to his high school reputation as a deadly marksman; if he does, this team gets a whole lot more dangerous and versatile.
I'm guessing Glenn Robinson III steps right in and starts at small forward after surging to five-star status over the last several months. GRIII brings a level of athleticism on the wing that Michigan hasn't seen in a long time; the Burke-to-Robinson alley-oop combination should provide some Sportscenter Top 10 moments. Robinson should also be able to create his own shot heading towards the basket, something nobody outside of Hardaway could do with any consistency last season. Backing up GRIII will likely be Matt Vogrich, who will hopefully break through as an outside shooter while continuing to provide a surprising level of rebounding and defensive hustle.
The ballyhooed Mitch McGary should start right away at power forward with Smotrycz heading elsewhere. While his stock has dropped a bit since his commitment, McGary is still an instant-impact guy, and I'm very interested to see what he can bring to Beilein's burgeoning pick-and-roll game. McGary has the bounce necessary to take a quick pass off the roll and attack the basket with ferocity, something Jordan Morgan has struggled with in the past. With teams justifiably focused on stopping Burke, McGary could be the beneficiary of a lot of easy looks around the hoop. His high motor and effort should make him a force on the boards, as well. After redshirting last season, Max Bielfeldt has a chance to earn some PT at the four, being the guy who most fits the Beilein mold of a big who can stretch the floor. If he can hold his own defensively and on the glass, Bielfeldt could be a surprisingly solid weapon off the bench.
Jordan Morgan returns and should continue to provide high-percentage shooting, solid rebounding, and quality interior defense. While his ceiling doesn't appear to be especially high, Morgan has steadily improved in his Michigan career, and we'll likely see him take another step forward as a junior. If that step forward includes even a rudimentary post game (or at least better finishing on layup opportunities), the masses would be quite pleased. Morgan could be pushed for playing time by Jon Horford, who returns from a foot injury. Horford isn't as polished as Morgan, but he's more athletic and provides a better shot-blocking presence on defense. He should get at least 15 minutes a game next year, especially if Morgan's propensity for foul trouble continues to plague him. Blake McLimans may just be the odd man out with Michigan's new-found depth up front.
So, what's the outlook? While the Big Ten is loaded next year—the news that Christian Watford and Cody Zeller both return makes Indiana a potential national contender—Michigan is set to challenge for the conference crown and could be a Final Four team if a few things fall the right way. Getting Hardaway back on track is the key, assuming Robinson and McGary live up to their lofty recruiting rankings. While Michigan doesn't have a lineup loaded with shooters like Beilein's West Virginia squads, they have more athleticism and a dynamite point guard that the Mountaineers never had. Beilein's offense became more guard-centric the past two seasons with Darius Morris and Burke running the show, and that should continue next year. Expect to see more evolution from the offense as the coaches adjust to having a much bigger team, and possibly a shift back to more zone defense to better fit the personnel.
The expectations for next year are dramatically higher than they've been in Ann Arbor since the Fab Five era, and those expectations are justified. An experienced Burke coupled with a hopefully reinvigorated Hardaway should take this team a long way. If the freshmen produce as expected, Michigan will take the next (big) leap forward under John Beilein, going from Big Ten dark horse to national contender.