national champs baby
Bust happening one. There was one piece of a news-type thing that transpired at last night's football bust. It was Dave Brandon saying this:
LIVONIA - When emcee Frank Beckmann made an off-hand quip about the Michigan football team headed west for its upcoming bowl game, athletic director Dave Brandon corrected him.
“I think we’re going in a different direction,” Brandon said Thursday at the podium during the team's annual football banquet at the Laurel Manor.
That direction would be south to Florida, whereupon Michigan would play an SEC team of some variety. An eagle-eyed reader with a strange method of surfing Michigan's ticket website stumbled across two "hidden" items and sent them along. They are tickets for the Insight and Gator bowls. If Michigan isn't going west and isn't preparing to sell Outback tickets, this means Michigan would play Florida in the Gator. The Gator Bowl has just publicly declared it doesn't give two dangs about anything but "heads in beds, fannies in seats and big TV ratings," so that sounds like they're going for Dread Ferrari sex appeal over the Americanzi*.
This avoids the ten-win-opponent gauntlet on either side and sets up a fascinating matchup between Florida's offense and Michigan's defense, except it probably won't be that fascinating because as soon as they step on the field against Michigan, Florida will look like MC 900 Foot Tebow is at the helm again. If form holds they'll still lose because Michigan puts up 40.
*(Note to self: try very hard not to misspell this by transposing the final A and N.)
Bust happening two. The other thing the newspapers are reporting today is an "emotional" or "emotional" Rich Rodriguez making a case for his job, which probably shouldn't affect anyone's decision but will make everyone feel worse if the plug gets pulled:
“My name is Rich Rodriguez,” he said. “I’m honored to be the football coach at Michigan. I hope you realize I want to be a Michigan man.”
Guh. That Michigan's head coach would have to say something like that in year three is a depressing summary of the state of things.
Apparently something by someone named Josh Groban was referenced, horrifying the Michigan twittersphere and thrilling those of rivals. I don't know who that is, and where I'd normally set about fixing my old-manness in this department it sounds like ignorance is bliss here. I will take the opportunity to remind you that Special K is the center of all evil in this universe and his power is only growing. INCREDIBLY DORKY AND OVERWROUGHT ANALOGY HO: Michigan Stadium feels like one of the Elven havens after the destruction of the one ring, its ancient power slowly leaching from it, permitting intruders like men and Saliva to breach its hallowed ground.
In other verklemptness. Denard accepting his MVP:
Lon Hordowel/Ann Arbor.com
Bust bit of information that is not really a happening but is interesting. Michigan's share of the pie for their game in Jerryworld is a whopping 4.7 million dollars. The News says this is "roughly" what Michigan gets for a home game, so Michigan gets to play a real opponent in one-off without sacrificing any dollars. Insert usual complaint about how the Big Ten's excessive revenue sharing encourages big games played thousands of miles from campus over home-and-home series that are more convenient and authentic than preseason bowl games in generic corporate stadia. I would much rather go to a game in Tuscaloosa than Dallas.
Football of the other variety. This weekend Michigan will attempt to do one better than its best-ever finish in soccer by beating #2 seed Maryland and advancing to the College Cup in Santa Barbara, whereupon their games will actually be on television. Getting past the Terps will be a tall order. They're 19-2-1, have won 15 straight, and are seeded higher than the Akron team that crushed Michigan 7-1 a month and a half ago.
There's no TV but I am pretty sure this will be a web stream of the game, which is Sunday at 1.
As a side note, I think it would help soccer's attendance considerably if they started having more consistent scheduling. Football's something you should probably avoid, but why not play on Sunday at a consistent time as often as possible? Michigan's home games were on Saturday(3), Wednesday(6), and Friday(2), with just one on Sunday. I get that you're going to have a lot of Wednesday night games because of scheduling issues but it seems like they should make an effort to get a consistent date and time going for weekend games.
It's all about the pants. ESPN Rise has a slightly hyperbolic profile of Carlton Brundidge, who "combines drive of a beast, dad's instilled military discipline." Biographical tidbit: Brundige's older sister was a Michigan swimmer named Clinique, which is a brand name for makeup and reminds me of Idiocracy.
But the real reason I'm bringing this to your attention is awesome pants:
We need warmups like that so hard.
Etc.: The Big Chill rink is extant and "perfect" according to Berenson. AA.com has a video interview. Tom Brady in ugg boots. Justice Hayes is staying local even if Rodriguez leaves because Fred Jackson is a permanent fixture. Mets Maize on Rodriguez the person.
[Ed-M: Well, f.
In case you went to bed last night thinking that Michigan will be playing in a bowl game, a competent CEO-type athletic director is in charge of the program, and a 5-star-ish recruit perfect for our offensive system will be enrolling in January, you seem to have been 2/3rds correct.
Regarding Dee Hart, I talked to someone close to him and it looks like the rumors may have legs. Not sure specifics yet.
The news inspired a 500-response thread and at least one user getting caved. As an attempt to restore sanity, and because I trust Tom, I am bumping Tom's diary on the subject (and on other RB options Michigan is in good shape with) to the front page.
At the moment, this seems to be rumor, but believeable. It becomes fact when Dee Hart says it is; until then we have a source close to Dee who says it's fact. For those of you who remember getting burned by Will Campbell only for a "just joking" thing after, this doesn't feel like that.
If you stick a gun to my head and say "okay Misopogon, you tell me why Hart decommitted right this second or I'll blow your brains all over your precious internet," I would say that Dee wants to get his college football career underway at the beginning of January, and Michigan wants to make a decision on who will be his head coach after that. This opinion is entirely conjecture, conflicts with a previous statement made by Hart, and should be taken as no more than that. Expect something more informative and concrete from Brian or Tim later today. Here's Tom: [/Misopogon]
TomVH: Dee Hart Alternatives
Hopefully everyone's calmed down from the Demetrius Hart news. For those of you that follow me on Twitter, I did talk to someone close to him and it looks like he will be decommitting. He's shut down contact, so I wasn't able to get a hold of him or his family. They don't like to disappoint people, so I'm not sure how much contact they'll have. The Michigan coaches will be making a visit out to try to do damage control with Dee. We'll see what ultimately happens with it, things can change.
Moving on from that, Justice Hayes is committed, Michigan is hoping Thomas Rawls makes grades, and there's two more options out there. Tre Mason (5'10", 190 lbs, 4 Star) and Devondrick Nealy (5'10", 175 lbs, 3 Star). Michigan is in great position with Nealy, and we most likely lead.
Mason is one to watch, and I talked to him tonight. He was interested and intrigued with the news of Demetrius Hart. I asked him about Michigan, and he had this to say.
I like Michigan, but Coach Dews has been talking to me about defense lately, and I do not want to play defense. I like Auburn a lot too, but if Michigan wanted me back as a running back then they'd have a good shot at me. I'm looking at depth charts and everything, so we'll see.
You have to think that Michigan had been talking defense with Tre because they had Demetrius Hart and Justice Hayes committed. They didn't have room for a third running back of the same kind. If Demetrius does in fact decommit then I would assume Michigan would tell Tre that they want him on offense again. Just something to keep an eye on if everything goes down as it seems like it will.
It is mailbag time, and this necessarily involves talking about the various job securities of the various coaches on the staff. Apologies in advance for this.
I've followed the program pretty closely for the last few decades through friends, family, and former players. Wondering if your general opinion of Brady Hoke's competence as a head coach continues to reflect your 2007 assessment?
That 2007 assessment was a "Profile in Cronyism" at the dark point of the coaching search when reasonable options were thin on the ground and names like Hoke and Jim Grobe were getting thrown around, and it laid out the case that no reasonable Big Ten program, let alone Michigan, could possibly consider Hoke for a head coaching gig. At the time he was 22-36 at Ball State and had just finished his first winning season, that a 7-6 campaign. "Evidence suggests Hoke is outclassed in the MAC," I said at the time.
So of course Hoke immediately ripped off the best season in Ball State history, finishing the regular season before inexplicably losing to Buffalo in the MAC championship game. San Diego State hired him away, whereupon former Michigan offensive coordinator Stan Parrish took over. Parrish wasted no time impressing his indelible stamp on the program by losing 45-13. Hoke took over a 2-10 program; in his second year they're 8-4. Since the four losses have come against Missouri, BYU, TCU, and Utah and the biggest deficit was five points against TCU(though that game wasn't nearly as close as all that), his resume is now a plausible Big Ten resume…
…at Minnesota, where he's a rumored candidate. I know the emailer wasn't suggesting that Hoke would be considered for the Michigan job, but it's worth mentioning that Michigan's coaching search got so desperate in 2007 that a guy who put up a 12-2 season and has turned around San Diego State but still doesn't have a reasonable resume was getting kicked around.
I know you briefly alluded to this on TWIS, but what are the chances that Randy Shannon could possibly come and be our defensive coordinator? There are SO many great reasons why:
- He graduates players (I believe he had one of the highest APR rates for a BCS school)
- Pipeline to the South, especially Florida, so we can get their recruits
- Much better than GERG
- Able to relate to all sorts of players with different backgrounds
- Players stayed out of trouble
The only thing is whether or not Rich Rod would be willing to forgo the 3-3-5 or if Randy Shannon can coach the 3-3-5.
Speaking of which – isn’t that the hinge question? Do we want someone who can actually coach the 3-3-5 or do we want someone to switch to the 3-4 or 4-3?
I made a joking reference to Shannon in TWIS without thinking much other than "this is a defensive coach who is not Robinson," but… yeah, seriously. Unlike Robinson, Shannon has a track record of recent college success. His current team is 16th in total D and 22nd in scoring, seventh in sacks, first in TFLs, and third in pass efficiency D. FEI has them third nationally*.
Downsides: they got bombed by Florida State and gave up 31 to Virginia Tech—both games featured rushes of over eighty yards, and Shannon's had access to the steady stream of insane athletes that just hangs out at Miami Northwestern so his defenses probably should be pretty good.
Still, Wikipedia sayeth:
During Shannon's six years as UM's defensive coordinator, his defenses ranked as follows in total defense nationally:
Dang. Once he got the top job at Miami there was some dropoff, as Shannon's Ds finished 33rd, 28th, 29th, and 16th in yardage. FEI has the Shannon defenses, 41st (2007), 65th (2008), 18th, and 3rd, which is really interesting since the conventional measure hardly differentiates between Shannon's first three years.
That's a full decade of defenses somewhere between bludgeoning and decent, mostly bludgeoning. And as anyone who's watched a Miami game in the last four years can tell you, Shannon is a great guy with a heartbreaking life story who graduated his kids and kept them out of trouble. He should help Michigan's Florida recruiting even further, as he's a guy respected across the state. If Michigan changes DCs again they could do much worse.
The 3-3-5 issue shouldn't come up. Shannon's spent his entire career playing and coaching Miami's basic 4-3 cover two; asking him to run anything else would be as nuts as hiring a guy who'd driven Syracuse into a crater and asking him to run a defense he doesn't know, and one of the preconditions to keeping Rodriguez around should be "no more transparently nuts decisions, okay?"
*(Guess who's #1: West Virginia. FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUU.)
On the inefficiency of the offense:
So I found out why we suck. Turns out it isn't our defense. The reason we cant win is because of the offense and whatever kicker we trot out there to kick FGs. Look at the comparison between yards/game rank vs. points/yd rank among the top 30 offenses (total offense by total yards, not yds/game). We rank #6 in yds/game but #26 in pts/yd. So we move a ton of yards without getting much in return. Well, i should say we don't get enough in return. You'd think or expect our yd/game rank to be in the neighborhood of our pts/yd rank....but we have the worst differential among the top 30 offenses (total yards). Who knows where we'd rank if I went to all FBS teams.
What's also interesting is who is at the top. Teams with a high negative delta (pts/yd rank minus yd/game rank) get more points than they should be expected to. This can be because of a number of factors--they don't turn the ball over, they don't miss field goals, and/or their defense forces turnovers and provides shorter fields for the offense. In any case we now know why such a boring Wisconsin offense scores so many fricking points. They are #1 in pts/yd. OSU is #5. Neither of these teams are prolific, but they are extremely efficient and they don't screw up. Oregon, Boise State, and TCU are just fricking awesome all around. Stanford is another team that makes the most of its chances. Michigan's delta goes in the other direction (yd/game is awesome...pts/game not so much). Obviously we need to move the two numbers closer together.
Oh, if we scored .0868366 pts/yd, which is what NIU got at #6 in pts/yd rank (and closer to where we should be) we would have scored about 110 more points this year. If we had Wisconsin's, we would have scored 167 more points this year...hopefully all against OSU, WISC, PSU, Iowa, and MSU.
In summary... our defense can continue to suck and there will still be hope. Our offense needs to perform on 8 cylinders all the time and we need to get a kicker...have we tried the women's soccer team?
TEAM YDS/G PTS/G pts/yd PPY RK YD/GM RANK Rank Delta Wisconsin 450.2 43.3 0.096 1 18 -17 Oregon 541.7 50.2 0.093 2 1 1 Boise State 525.5 46.4 0.088 3 4 -1 TCU 491.5 43.2 0.088 4 7 -3 Ohio State 448.8 39.4 0.088 5 19 -14 Northern Illinois 452 39.3 0.087 6 17 -11 Auburn 490.1 42.1 0.086 7 8 -1 East Carolina 445.5 38.2 0.086 8 22 -14 Stanford 467.3 39.8 0.085 9 14 -5 Oklahoma State 537.6 44.9 0.084 10 2 8 Southern Miss 458.2 37.6 0.082 11 15 -4 Nevada 536.9 43.3 0.081 12 3 9 Nebraska 424.3 33.8 0.080 13 27 -14 Alabama 435.6 34.4 0.079 14 25 -11 Hawaii 487.8 38.3 0.079 15 10 5 Houston 480.5 37.7 0.078 16 11 5 Tulsa 503.5 39.3 0.078 17 5 12 Oklahoma 480.1 37.5 0.078 18 12 6 San Diego State 448.5 35 0.078 19 20 -1 Arkansas 489.3 37.3 0.076 20 9 11 Kentucky 437.3 33 0.075 21 24 -3 Air Force 437.4 32.3 0.074 22 23 -1 USC 427.9 31.1 0.073 23 26 -3 Texas A&M 447.6 31.7 0.071 24 21 3 Texas Tech 452.6 31.9 0.071 25 16 9 Michigan 500.9 34.2 0.068 26 6 20 Baylor 478.5 32.6 0.068 27 13 14 Southern Methodist 422.8 27.9 0.066 28 28 0 Miami (FL) 422.6 27.1 0.064 29 30 -1 UAB 422.8 26.8 0.063 30 29 1
This is the thing about looking up at halftime and seeing around 250 yards and ten points in chart form: hoooo boy was Michigan bad at converting drives into points this year.
A chunk of this is on the kickers. I don't think Michigan made any calls a David Romer obsessive wouldn't regard as broadly correct because of their field goal situation, so all of the disadvantages going 4 of 13 provides should be encapsulated in FEI's kicking stat, in which Michigan has proudly reclaimed their crown as the worst in the nation. They're giving up an astounding 1.15 points relative to an average team every time they line up to kick. Pretending they're average closes the gap between themselves and puts them in a tie with A&M and Texas Tech; something in the 30s gets them slightly past.
Turnovers are another chunk. This one's not quite as easy to quantify. Michigan's 27 lost turnovers is 109th nationally. I'm going to take a wild stab at how much of Michigan's deficiency here is due to the huge TO rate that should be generally correct but vulnerable to a lot of niggling details, so bear with me. Michigan's drives last year excluding end-of-half situations that did not result in points:
- 43 punts
- 57 TDs
- 13 FGAs
- 27 turnovers
The national median in turnovers lost is 20. If we wave a wand and pretend this is Michigan's distribution, and leave the spread unchanged otherwise we get another 2.7 punts, 3.5 TDs, and eight tenths of a field goal. That's another two points a game, which gets Michigan up to… 22nd.
So then the rest of it is starting almost every drive at their 20 or worse thanks to a terrible defense, no punt return game, no kick return game, and everything else that goes into Michigan's average starting field position, in which Michigan ranks 92nd relative to the opponent.
If we're assigning blame, the the offense appear to be about 25% responsible thanks to those turnovers with special teams taking 50% and the defense 25%.
We have done this the last two years but it's worth noting that West Virginia was consistently positive in TO margin after Rodriguez's first year, so it's not like this is an artifact of the system. I know I keep saying this in defiance of persistently agonizing triple digit rankings. Maybe next year, when Rodriguez has an upperclassman at QB for the first time?
Do you weigh the fact that Harbaugh probably is available only this offseason in your calculation to retain RR for a fourth year? Does the presumed availability of a top-tier candidate with deep UM ties change the analysis of whether RR should be retained? It has to in my mind--I'm not sure what conclusion it leads me to--does it in your mind? Or do you challenge my assumption about only this offseason?
I'm not sure I agree with the premise. I can see Harbaugh sticking around for another year at Stanford if he knows he's got a shot at the job next year, or leaving his team a la Al Groh to coach his alma mater, or not actually getting a pro job offer for whatever reason. (Let's stipulate that there's no college job Michigan couldn't poach Harbaugh from and no college program is likely to be foolhardy enough to test that.) But it is accurate that Harbaugh is available now and might not be in the future.
Does that change the calculus? Yeah. Without Harbaugh sitting there with an 11-1 Stanford team he built by hand from the finest recruits known to Stanford, I don't think the conversation about Rodriguez's job security is anywhere near as intense. Who's the next hot guy? Patterson and Peterson seem married to their current schools, Chip Kelly isn't going anywhere. The two guys next on everyone's lips are Dana Holgorsen and Gus Mahlzahn, two offensive coordinators who have never been head coaches.
Sans Harbaugh, Michigan would probably take a look at the available options, glance back at Denard, and say "well, one more year probably can't hurt." With him, it's a choice between as-probable-as-it-gets long term success and an awkward fit with the Big Ten offensive player of the year, or hoping that someone can finally turn Rodriguez's defense at Michigan into something other than doom. There are worse spots to be in. There are better.
For live updates of the games I'm attending, follow me on Twitter @varsityblue. If you can help out finding articles on any of the commits, @reply me on Twitter or e-mail me, and I'll try to include your contribution.
FL RB Demetrius Hart
Now, the gory details:
Hart, a senior speedster who has orally committed to sign with Michigan, scored four times on runs from scrimmage, and also took a short pass 38 yards to the end zone and added a 68-yard punt return TD in another signature performance for an ever-humble star.
"Congratulations to my O-line, they've been working hard," Hart said of his performance. "That's the fruit of their efforts. It was a team effort, not just me."
Hart rushed for 129 yards on 18 carries and totaled 286 on runs, receptions and returns.
Hart is now the single-season scoring record-holder for Central Florida, as well as career. He will be invited to the US Army All-American Bowl on Thursday (at the start of 'A' lunch, of course). Official stats below come from the Dr. Phillips website.
|Demetrius Hart 2010|
|Cypress Creek||W 52-0||14||168||4||12.00||1||7||0||7.00||3||24||0||8.00|
|Oak Ridge||W 56-28||21||126||3||6.00||4||37||1||9.25||1||5||0||5.00|
|West Orange||W 49-6||11||121||4||11.00||4||24||0||6.00||2||69||1||34.50|
|Oak Ridge||W 45-0||18||129||4||7.17||2||71||1||35.50||2||86||1||43.00|
This week: Dr. Phillips hosts Seminole Ridge in Round 3 of the State Playoffs next Friday.
FL OL Tony Posada
This week: Plant hosts Countryside in Round 3 of the State Playoffs.
MI DE/LB Brennen Beyer
"From not winning a playoff game to coming within one game of winning it all is quite an accomplishment," said Beyer, after his team lost to Lake Orion, 21-13, in the state final at Ford Field Saturday. "I love all my teammates, but there is no question this was a disappointing loss. I really felt we could have played better."
There's even mention of getting ready for Ann Arbor:
He plans to speak with the Michigan coaching staff in the coming weeks to get a better understanding of how he can best prepare himself for the rigors of Big Ten football. "I know I will be hitting the weight room, but I will want to get a (training) plan together," Beyer said. "I just want to be able to contribute as best as I can next season."
This week: Plymouth's season is over, they finished 11-3 and State runners-up.
FL CB Dallas Crawford
“He did what Sammy does,” Crawford said about his favorite target. “That’s what we live for. We practice the two-minute drill every day. That’s what we wanted. They gave us a shot, and we completed our task.”
He had an impressive day statistically, as well:
Crawford finished with a season-high 339 yards passing and four touchdowns.
That came on 14/21 passing, though he also threw two picks (just his second and third of the season). Dallas also rushed 12 times for 65 yards. There are four quarters worth of video in the above-linked article, so check it out. Here's the fourth:
|Dallas Crawford 2010|
|Cypress Lake||W 39-0||9||10||90.00||118||11.80||1||0||6||24||4.00||2||0||0|
|Bishop Verot||W 35-3||18||23||78.26||299||13.00||4||0||9||12||1.33||1||0||0|
|Gulf Coast||W 49-7||12||16||75.00||277||17.31||3||1||11||34||3.09||1||0||0|
|North Fort Myers||W 34-0||7||13||53.85||88||6.77||2||0||5||38||7.60||0||2||1|
|Fort Myers||W 43-10||10||13||76.92||144||11.08||1||0||12||38||3.17||2||0||0|
This week: 11-0 South Fort Myers hosts Bradenton-Southeast at 7:30 on Friday in the Regional Championship game (Round 3 of the State Playoffs).
FL QB Kevin Sousa
Lake Nona's season has ended with a 1-9 record. Sousa finished with 125/226 passing for 1936 yards with 13 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Rushing, he had 120 attempts for 835 yards and 6 touchdowns. For a full game-by-game stat breakdown, check out last week's FNL post.
MI RB/Slot Justice Hayes
Hayes missed most of his senior season with a broken wrist. Grand Blanc finished 7-4 and lost in the second round of the State Playoffs to Lake Orion.
MI WR Shawn Conway
Seaholm's season is over, with a 4-5 record. Conway finished the year with about 22 catches for 375 yards, and11 kick/punt returns for 393 yards.
MI OL Jake Fisher
Traverse City West's season is over, with a 6-4 record and a loss in the first round of the State Playoffs. Fisher was 1st-Team All-District as a defensive end.
OH OL Jack Miller
St. John's finished the season 11-2 with both losses to Toledo Whitmer (in the second in Round 3 of the State Playoffs). Miller was also named 1st-Team All-District, and the District Lineman of the Year. Also 1st-Team All-State.
OH DE Chris Rock
DeSales's season ended at 5-6 with a loss in the first round of the State Playoffs.
TX LB Kellen Jones
St. Pius X's season finished with a 10-3 record and a loss in the second round of the TAPPS playoffs. Jones finished with 110 tackles, 25 for loss, and 7 sacks, to go along with 3 fumbles forced, 2 recovered, and a punt block.
OH CB/S Greg Brown
"Greg Brown had an outstanding year," Kidwell said. "He could have easily been the offensive player of the year, too. We attacked people all over the field with him."
Brown had 20 catches as a receiver for 460 yards and four scores. His yardage was 10th all-time on the Ross single-season receiving list. He added 450 yards on the ground rushing on 58 attempts, adding seven more scores.
Yay Greg Brown.
MI CB Delonte Hollowell
Cass Tech finished the season 12-1 with a loss in the State Semifinals.
Remember, all-time updates can be found on the 2011 Michigan Football Recruiting Board. If you have any recruiting tips or questions, you can e-mail them to me at email@example.com or tweet @varsityblue. For game updates on Wolverine commits, check out the Friday Night Lights series.
Assume The Position(s): Offense
MI RB Thomas Rawls was the subject of last week's Sam Webb recruiting column in The Detroit News. He was super-productive in his senior year:
Despite sitting out two games with a high ankle sprain Rawls rushed for 1,585 yards and 19 touchdowns. His year was highlighted by a 344-yard rushing effort against Saginaw Heritage in Week 4 and a 396-yard rushing effort against Bay City Central in Week 5.
Scout's Allen Trieu breaks down his game:
"He is one of the toughest runners I've seen. He's very compact -- a bowling ball kind of kid who can break tackles and has a good burst. While most people see him as just an inside battering ram, I think he proved to me over the summer and the course of this year that he has legit breakaway speed. He's also very underrated as a receiver out of the backfield."
As long as he can nail a qualifying score on his standardized tests, it's likely he'll land a Michigan offer - and soon ($, info in header). It sounds like the Wolverines are a heavy favorite to land him should that happen:
Even if new suitors do come calling, they clearly will have a steep hill to climb. "I'm going to wink my eye a couple of times about this, but let's just say I'm thinking about staying close to home (to play college football)," he said.
With Justice Hayes coming in as a slot receiver, the Wolverines still have a bit of room in the class for another true running back - the "big back" complement to slashing Dee Hart - and Rawls could be that guy.
Elsewhere in running backs, FL RB DeVondrick Nealy still favors Michigan ($, info in header). His skill set is more on the Hart/Hayes end of the spectrum, so I'd be surprised if Michigan's coaches accepted a commitment from him.
Also on offense, Michigan is looking for a tight end. NJ TE Jack Tabb has narrowed his list to 6 ($, info in header), and will take just a couple more visits before coming to a decision, hopefully by Christmas. If he doesn't commit to the Wolverines, recent offeree OH TE Darien Bryant might get increased heat.
The Wolverines are also seeking another offensive lineman, with IL OL Chris Bryant the most likely option. Bryant is on the verge of an offer from Ohio State ($, info in header), and will announce a commitment in early January. Can the Buckeyes catch up to his current favorites?
Rivals has started rolling out their Position Superlative rankings (they've done the offense, and have only done D-line thus far on the other side of the ball). Michigan commits and targets feature:
- FL RB Commit Demetrius Hart is the #3 Home Run Threat and #2 Best in Space among running backs.
- FL WR Sammy Watkins (who has committed to Clemson, but might consider Michigan if his teammate Dallas Crawford has any say in the matter) is the #1 Deep Threat and #2 Best After Catch (MI WR DeAnthony Arnett is #4 in that category) among wideouts.
- Since OH OL Commit Jack Miller is rated as a DE, he's not eligible for Best Run Blocker among offensive linemen, but from what I've seen him do against some of the best competition in Ohio, he might belong there.
- FL DT Tim Jernigan is the #3 Athlete, #3 Best Pass Rusher, #3 Best Run-Stuffer, #3 Quickest, and #5 Strongest among defensive tackles. LA DT Mickey Johnson, a fringe Michigan target, is #2 Strongest.
- MI DE/OL Anthony Zettel is the #4 Strongest D-End (GA DE Ray Drew is #5), and #2(!) Pass-Rusher. Zettel has also been named the Golden Helmet Winner as the Class B Area Player of the Year.
I'll recap once more if Michigan targets and/or commits are ranked in the defensive back 7.
Elsewhere in evaluations, Poole1Dan passed along a first-hand report on MI RB Commit Justice Hayes:
Hayes is not a Big Ten caliber running back, at least not from what I saw in the Milford game. But as a slot receiver, he's pretty good. He displayed excellent body control on the 21 yard TD catch and could be dangerous in a Steve Breaston way on bubble screens. He could motion into the backfield and be a poor mans Percy Harvin (something Michigan has yet to deploy with any of their slots in the RichRod era). With his agility and vision, he might be Michigan's answer at punt returner, which has been a disaster ever since Breaston graduated.
As always, take one-game scouting reports with a grain of salt, but as this seems to corroborate a lot of what we've heard about Justice so far, it's worth paying attention to.
Josh Helmholdt talks about the visit weekends coming up over the next two weeks, including a group of five this weekend:
Michigan will kick off its December official visit period with five official visitors this weekend. Commitments like Cass Tech cornerback Delonte Hollowell, Plymouth defensive end Brennen Beyer and Fremont (Ohio) Ross cornerback Greg Brown will be joined by uncommitted prospects Wayne Lyons of Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) Dillard and Blake Countess of Owings Mills (Md.) Good Counsel.
Tom's weekly update touches on Lyons's visit. Helmholdt also mentions a host of prospects for the Big Chill:
Recruits who have already scheduled their official visits to coincide with the Big Chill include Chicago Simeon offensive lineman Chris Bryant; Cleveland Glenville teammates Cardale Jones and Shane Wynn; Holland West Ottawa linebacker Desmond Morgan; Winter Springs, Fla.; linebacker Ryan Petro, and West Branch Ogemaw Heights defensive end Anthony Zettel.
Tom will keep us updated on the latest as the weeks go on (including a January visit from top KY LB Lamar Dawson), so stay tuned.
Josh Helmholdt says that OH CB Greg Brown and FL RB Dee Hart are the only currently-committed recruits planning to enroll early. Brown tells him:
"I'm just focusing on finishing my high school education next month and in those following couple weeks, I will be enrolling at Michigan to play ball for the Wolverines," Brown said. "I just can't wait to get in the Big House in front of those 110,000 fans and play some football."
As mentioned in yesterday's Friday Night Lights post, Hart will be formally invited to the US Army All-American Bowl tomorrow, so I'll have full coverage of the announcement next week.
There are several other prospects considering Michigan who are looking into early enrollment, including NC WR/LB Kris Frost and GA S Avery Walls, both participants in the Army All-American Game, who plan to announce their commitments at that time.
Tom's Weekly Update has a few pictures of TX LB Commit Kellen Jones alongside some former Michigan greats.
We've been wondering is NC QB Marquise Williams would decommit from North Carolina, but if he does, it seems like Virginia Tech, not Michigan, will be his destination. He remains an unhappy-face on the recruiting board, but I won't remove him quite yet.
GA DE Ray Drew has narrowed to a final 6, not including Michigan.
OH LB Percy Johnson, an ex-pat from Michigan, has committed to Cincinnati.
MD WR/S Deontay McManus has received a Michigan offer.
Due to hockey and my mom's lack of HD Net I've only been able to catch a couple of the basketball team's blowouts over really terrible nonconference opposition. Yesterday was my first opportunity to see them play a team with a pulse. I've been told the UTEP game was an all-around crapfest that should temper any enthusiasm from a road win against a program that returned most of a 21-10 ACC team that got a seven-seed in the NCAA tourney.
With that in mind…
Holy crap, we're… big? The turnaround in overall team size resulting from moving Zack Novak from power forward to one of the two pretty-much-indistinguishable guard spots that aren't point guard now means Michigan runs out a lineup that can seem bigger than opponents even if Tim Hardaway, Jr., is nowhere near the 6'7" the announcers bizarrely kept insisting he was.
6'3" Stu Douglass is the shortest guy to see any playing time and the PF spot is split between a couple freshman who will have approximately PF size once they are not freshmen. The point guard is huge, and everyone else is average or a little above average. Last year Kenpom had Michigan 239th in effective height, which must have been near the bottom when it comes to power conference programs; this year Michigan will improve that vastly.
Speaking of Zack Novak moving away from the four…
The inner life of Zack Novak.
With apologies to The Run of Play.
This just looks like a basketball team. By this I mean it doesn't look like a three-ball-gunning, shot-clock-draining, 1-3-1-playing collection of misfit toys with itchy trigger fingers. Morris clearly loves to go to the hoop and has a green light to do so; he's not going to put up many threes. With Morgan terrified to put up anything outside the lane, the only misfit toy types are Smotrycz and McLimans. The former plays a position that does see its fair share of three pointers launched these days; the latter is getting about ten minutes a game.
Morgan = Graham Brown. Morgan's not yet at the level where he's a rebound-vacuuming moose that sets screens so lethal you need a background check before you can run one—remember when Brown turned Wisconsin's Guy Who Looks Like Chris Rock Guy into a fruit rollup?—but he is way ahead of Brown at the same stage in their careers. Yesterday's game showed Morgan's assets:
- Excellent hands that minimize Courtney Sims-style layup-to-turnover whoopsies.
- Excellent post defense. He was active denying the post and when Clemson got it on the block their bigs almost invariably put up contested shots falling away from the basket. Morgan specialized in those bumps that don't get called fouls. It was like watching a Wisconsin center play on your team.
- An iron-clad knowledge of his role. He doesn't care if there are five seconds left on the shot clock, he is not shooting a 17-footer.
That last one may not be an asset in that situation but he's a guy who knows his strengths and weaknesses and plays to them. He doesn't seem like a redshirt freshman. Yet, anyway.
Morris = Mini-Denard. As in "this is a ridiculous amount of improvement." Morris is now getting those shots that are tough to get but not that hard to make when you get them—a runner in the lane from the first half stands out, as does Morris's Billups-like hesitation move for a short bank shot. He looked good against the early-season patsies, but this was my first opportunity to see him against real opposition and he didn't fall off much. He might have an issue against guards approximately his size, if he actually finds any.
Preseason the hype focused on Hardaway; six games in it seems likely Morris will be widely regarded as the team's best player by year's end. You can see it in the minutes: Morris averages nearly 34 a game. Novak is second at 29, Hardaway third with 26. (Foul trouble has something to do with that.)
Lingering bothersome bit. Small sample sizes and all but so far they still can't shoot threes, as they're clunking along at 29%. Hardaway has by far the most attempts and is hitting just 28%; hopefully that comes around given his reputation. If Vogrich doesn't pick it up (3 of 15 so far) he won't get even the limited playing time he's getting so far; ditto McLimans, who's started his career 0-10.
One highly encouraging sub-bit of this bit: Stu Douglass is 10-24 so far and has not been launching bad ones.
These men need ham. Smotrycz and McLimans especially—McLimans is listed at 240 the same way that Courtney Avery and Terrance Talbott are listed at 5'11". Teams with two guys who can bang in the post are going to crush the power forward spot.
Hardaway: maybe not quite yet. You can see where he's going and get excited about it, but it's probably going to take a year before he can approach the star player mantle placed on him in the offseason. He has a bit of Manny Harris disease, taking the ugly, lazy shots you can get away with in high school because you're a zillion times better than anyone else on the court. Harris never grew out of that—a major reason he was never an efficient scorer—but Hardaway should, especially since he's not going to have to take on the defacto point guard role Harris did last year. He should be getting the ball in positions to drive or pull up, not creating his own shot all the time.
Expectations: maybe up a tad? This is still an exceedingly young team that apparently threw up all over itself against UTEP and will have halves they spend throwing the ball off each other's faces, but that was an impressive performance against a team that should be legitimately good and you can maybe see an extra win or two down the road because of it. That might be enough to get them an NIT bid. That would be officially encouraging with zero seniors, zero early entry threats, and two highly-touted guards coming in next year.