ARE YOU STILL RUNNING AROUND IN A CIRCLE? GODDAMMIT YOU BETTER BE
How was your Easter? Mine was lovely apart from the multiple quizzes about Trey Burke's future I had to answer with a vague negativity precisely calibrated to imply a 73.2% chance of departure. Not because of the quizzes necessarily. It was more the repeated consideration of next year's basketball season without Mr. Burke.
As this was happening the Trey Burke zeitgeist—he's got his own now—shifted away from the razor wire and urban warfare towards the bunnies and butterflies. First Keith Langlois tweeted this:
FWIW. NBA personnel guy in Miami for #Pistons game says he believes Trey Burke is headed back to Michigan. Would go in 30s, he said.
And then a young lady who goes to Burke's church tweeted this after noting that the Burke family was at their service:
report from church. The Burke family is telling members of our congregation that Trey's staying another year. We'll see!
Apply grains of salt as you will. My internet spidey sense says legit (30k tweets is a hell of a sockpuppet) and better than hearing about it from an NBA guy in Miami, but still not certain. It has the whiff of a real thing that will be the turning point in internet PANIC about losing Burke a year early.
I am fully aware that blind hope is capable of autopiloting me to this belief; find your own Bayesian estimate. Mine… it moved.
ALSO: Please note the excellent form of mgouser Jivas's post on this stuff:
Trey Burke Twitter rumors [Good]
This is a headline we should all strive for. Concise, informative, and non-stomach-churning.
Now Please Please Please Let Me Introduce You To Your Backup This Time
As seemed ordained from the moment Sam Webb caused Spike Albrecht's name to pop up on the Michigan internets, the Crown Point Guard [HIKM!] committed to Michigan on his official visit. UMHoops has a commitment post and this site covered Albrecht a couple weeks ago.
Albrecht committed to Michigan over… uh… Appalachian State* and interest that may or may not have resulted in a scholarship offer from various Ivies, Vermont, etc. You get the idea. As Beilein recruits go this is more Colton Christian than, well, Trey Burke, but if you're busy making lists of the late Beilein pickups that didn't go so well don't forget to include Stu Douglass and Zack Novak and feel VERY BAD ABOUT YOURSELF.
If Burke comes back Albrecht doesn't ever have to be a big-time player to be a good idea. He just has to be a heady guy who hands out assists, shoots decently, and doesn't turn the ball over in 15 minutes a game. He'll give the point guard spot some desperately-needed stability even if he never ends up starting.
He's a 5'11" kid from Indiana who took a post-grad year in the same league Mitch McGary and a bunch of other high-level recruits idled in this year. He led his team to the title and garnered MVP honors while doing so. This quote Dylan gathered seems like the quickest path to an understanding of his game:
He’s an old-school style pass first point guard. He’s very cerebral with a high basketball I.Q. His best physical attribute is his endurance – he can play all day – but he isn’t especially explosive. He’s a threat with the three-point line but not a great shooter. He takes care of the ball, makes very good decisions, and knows how to run a team.
You can check out one of his games from the NESPAC playoffs on Youtube and get the same impression. Albrecht will get into the interior of the defense a lot and fling passes to open guys either on the perimeter or inside. Every once in a while he'll take the shot himself. He's clever, which allows him to overcome some of his physical limitations, and he seems to have a plan whenever he gets into the lane. Heady, smart, etc.
If Burke does go they will have to devolve a lot of usage from the point guard spot and find a way to cope with what looks like some pretty bad defense, but they'd survive. The coach quotes are encouraging about his ability to step in immediately. Por ejemplo:
"We played a very similar offense to what Michigan runs, and this kid is designed for this offense," Carroll said. "He was years ahead of other players when it came to understanding where this offense could go, and that's what you hope your point guard is.
"And I think he'll be the same for Michigan. I think (Beilein) will have a blast coaching this kid." … "He was our tournament MVP, and one thing (Michigan can) expect was what we saw, is that he makes the right decisions.
"He is absolutely clutch."
So he'll come in a lot closer to his ceiling than most kids after a postgrad year and his AP-level understanding of stuff. Also, his coach points out that the league he plays in is overflowing with D-I guys. His transition won't be as harsh.
Hopefully he won't have to step right in, though. Keep running in that circle.
*[WOOOO SUCKIT WOOOOOOO 1-1 BABY LET'S CANCEL THE RUBBER MATCH]
BABY PLEASE DON'T GO
Burkedate. You've probably seen this from Beilein:
My coaching staff and I have met with Trey and his parents several times over the past two weeks. Collectively, we have gathered and shared with each of them some necessary information that we feel will help Trey make the most informed decision for his future.
The Burke family has been very receptive to our assistance and appreciates that we have encouraged Trey to take his time and look at all of his options between now and the April 10 deadline.
With only one full week of classes remaining, Trey and his teammates, like all students at Michigan, are working diligently to complete their assignments and prepare for final exams.
Hopefully we can exhale about that Guptill tweet. A reader noted that "move sci" is one of those massive 101-level lectures that doesn't take attendance and probably has as multiple choice exam—ah, Anthro 101 fulfilling my R&E requirement. Burke's probably not missing anything other than quality time with the Daily crossword.
As for where the needle's pointing on a departure, it hasn't moved since yesterday when the forecast called for despair with a small pocket of hope starting at about 3 PM. I don't have anything new, and given the situation anything other than an official declaration one way or the other is going to be worth little.
Go Ferris. Ferris State beat Union yesterday to advance to the NCAA hockey championship game against a rampant BC. For state pride and underdog status and to put the Ferris program on solid footing in the coming hockey New World Order, a Bulldog championship would be sweet. The game is tomorrow at 7 on ESPN2.
In danger. Josh Furman's absence from practice has been attributed to "administrative" issues that aren't academic, and this gives off a whiff of doghouse:
When asked how safety Josh Furman has been doing during camp, Mattison reversed course and said Michigan head coach Brady Hoke would have to answer that.
Dollars to donuts Furman's got a strike or two to his name. Being held out of spring practice is not a good sign. Meanwhile, Marvin Robinson will plead to a lesser charge in his having-a-"concussion"-that-held-him-out-of-eight-games case. He's practicing, so extrapolate Furman's situation from that.
RELEASE THE MCALBRECHTKEN. It's back to the drawing board for the internet nickname but it looks like the brief, passionate courtship between Michigan and Spike Albrecht will come to a satisfactory conclusion. The NWI Times reports that he's "expected to sign" today—should be "commit" since the signing period doesn't start for a few days. Coach quote:
"Spike always played at a high level for us," Swan said, "but to see what he did at the highest level of prep school ball this past year, that was remarkable.
"I know the Michigan staff is very excited about Spike and I know I am really happy for him. He's worked really hard for this opportunity."
Finally we have our revenge on Appalachian State. Can we cancel that game now?
Albrecht's presumed commitment gives Michigan a point guard in the event of a Burke departure; they've still got one or two open slots for 2012 depending on how that goes and a third scholarship they could spend on a grad-year transfer. Speaking of…
Another name for the transfer mill. Boston College's Matt Humphrey has decided to spend his last year of eligibility elsewhere. He's more of a wing or shooting guard and did not stand out amongst the wreckage that was BC's most recent season, but he was their second-leading scorer. BC Interruption on his game:
Humphrey was an enigma during his times with the Eagles. At times he was the offensive and defensive rock for BC, providing veteran leadership to a very young and inexperienced team. On the other hand he was impatient (shooting 35% from the field), and averaged two turnovers a game. He also showed an impatient fiery streak, sometimes making big turnovers in crucial moments.
As literally the only non-freshman who played more than a third of BC's minutes, it's hard to judge how he'd contribute to a better team. BC was 9-22 last year. His efficiency numbers are poor—he was 40% from 2, 31% from three—but shot selection had a lot to do with that. Presumably the shots would be better here.
With a BC degree in hand the academics shouldn't be a problem.
Why do you keep hitting yourself? Ramzy posts up an 84-year-old OSU program written by Brady Hoke:
You there with the helmet: go forth and show that beaver subphylum what Ohio is all about. Well done.
Insert usual amusement at OSU fans getting terribly peeved about That School Up North not calling them by their official name. Not Ramzy in particular, just, you know, them.
Seven teams, pi semifinals, one and a half finals: The Delany Plan. I don't have to mention that Jim Delany's ludicrous three-semifinal plan for a "plus one" is ludicrous, right? This is how that would have looked the past five years:
Semifinals: No. 1 LSU-No. 5 Oregon (replacing Stanford), No. 2 Alabama-No. 3 Oklahoma State
Rose Bowl: No. 4 Stanford-No. 10 Wisconsin
Semifinals: No. 1 Auburn-No. 6 Ohio State (replacing Wisconsin), No. 3 TCU-No. 4 Stanford
Rose Bowl: No. 2 Oregon-No. 5 Wisconsin
Semifinals: No. 2 LSU-No. 5 Georgia (replacing Ohio State), No. 3 Virginia Tech-No. 4 Oklahoma
Rose Bowl: No. 1 Ohio State-No. 7 USC
The Rose Bowl has survived years in which it's lost one of its tenants to the national title game just fine. Over the last five years it would have had to replace three of its eight berths with… 11-1 Michigan (2007), 11-1 Stanford (2010), and 10-2 Oregon(2011). The Rose Bowl will survive a move to a four-team playoff just fine.
Tom Fornelli has the plan I endorse anyway.
Think of the children. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott surveys his players for their desires in re: playoff:
While the players expressed a range of opinions, the "common thread" was their desire for some form of playoff. "If you're a competitor, you want a chance to play for it on the field, versus being voted for. That was made loud and clear," said Scott.
This has long been the case but now it matters because people have to backtrack on their lame justifications of the previous system.
Kind of, yes. Joe Nocera's been hammering the NCAA for months now but never has he taken on a more harpoon-worthy whale than that condescending ad you learned to hate over the course of the NCAA tournament. Not the Spandeau Ballet one. The other one:
If you’ve been watching the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball championship — a k a March Madness — you’ve undoubtedly seen the commercial. It’s an N.C.A.A. ad that shows college athletes pumping iron, running sprints and playing games. The voice-over, though, talks not about athletic achievement but academic accomplishment. “African-American males who are student-athletes are 10 percent more likely to graduate,” says the narrator. As the ad concludes, a female athlete looks into the camera and says, “Still think we’re just a bunch of dumb jocks?”
Well… it appears you can't do math:
But Richard Southall, who directs the College Sport Research Institute at the University of North Carolina — along with two colleagues, E. Woodrow Eckard of the University of Colorado-Denver and Mark Nagel at the University of South Carolina — have done rigorous studies that show the opposite. In comparing college basketball players with their true peer group — full-time college students — their data show that the athletes are 20 percent less likely to graduate than nonathletes. They also parsed the data by race: of the teams in this year’s March Madness, for instance, the black athletes are 33 percent less likely to graduate than nonathletes.
There are a lot of good reasons this may be. By the time a lot of players get to college they've been set up to struggle. But the relationship between money, prestige, and cut corners is clear.
Etc.: ESPN revamps its 2012 basketball rankings a final time. GRIII is #18, McGary #27, Stauskas #76. The overall class has dipped to #11. The OHL Draft is this weekend. Keep an eye on where commits Kyle Connor and Dylan Larkin go—the lower the better. More Albrecht scouting from people hitting up the full-game youtube videos of his team playing. An early look at the Alabama offense.
Left: Davon Jefferson left USC after one season, was not drafted, and now plays in Israel. He would have been better off with draft and follow.
Right: Corey Joseph left Texas after one season, was drafted at the end of the first round by San Antonio, and is now in the D-League. San Antonio would have been better off with draft and follow.
Yes: this is not a coincidence. But if my desire to see the NBA adopt a different draft model than one-and-done is naked self-interest, at least I'm not alone in my disdain. Mark Cuban is the latest person to sound off on the NBA's increasingly unpopular one-and-done rule. The normally shy and reserved Cuban:
Stern said Tuesday that he'd like to add a year to the rule. Cuban wants to take it a step further, requiring players to wait three years after their high school class graduates to become draft-eligible.
"I just think there's every good reason to do it, which is obviously why we didn't do it," Cuban said sarcastically, adding that Kentucky fans were the only people who like the one-and-done concept.
I think Kentucky fans would be okay with three years of Anthony Davis as well. Anthony Davis? Not so much.
While two or three years would make more sense than the current system, it's the difference between the current BCS system and a revised one that has three semi-finals. There's no reason for Anthony Davis to play college basketball anymore. There probably wasn't ever a reason. Football gets away with its model because the nature of the game makes age restrictions plausible. Basketball doesn't have that, so restrictions against high school kids entering the draft are unjustifiable.
That tenuous legal footing is a major issue. The other main problem with the draft today is uncertainty. Players get told they'll go somewhere by people with a vested interest in having the kid enter the draft, and these predictions often turn out to be wildly wrong. Meanwhile NBA teams are forced into making decisions about players when they say they're ready instead of when the NBA does. The current system is a high-stakes pull on a slot machine. It should go away.
Draft And Follow
Here's a model that eliminates the Lenny Cookes of the world, allows the Lebrons to pass go immediately, and guarantees every player exiting school will do so with enough money to go bankrupt spectacularly when their career is not as lucrative as they planned:
All players are automatically draft eligible coming out of high school. Euros might still have to apply, but I don't think anyone has a huge problem with the way Europeans get drafted. Players who are passed over out of high school remain eligible for drafts after their freshmen and sophomore years.
This would not impact anyone's eligibility. Hockey follows this model. The NCAA does not take your eligibility unless you opt in to a draft.
NBA teams retain rights until the summer after the player's eligibility expires. This has created some issues with NHL teams not wanting to chance a player hitting free agency after his senior year but that shouldn't be a problem in this model because…
An NBA team signing a draft pick commits to carrying the player on the roster until the year after his NCAA eligibility would have expired. Signing a kid out of high school means you are giving him a guaranteed five-year contract. After his freshman year, four years, etc. Signing a graduated senior does not require offering a guarantee.
Americans who go to the D-League or Europe are bound by the same rules.
The draft expands to five rounds. Since everyone's getting drafted out of high school miss rates will be higher and the extra rounds are warranted. Also, NBA fans will then have more players to follow in college.
The NCAA tweaks its rules to allow drafted players to participate in the NBA's summer league at the league's expense. This helps everyone make good decisions.
OPTIONAL: NBA teams can sign their picks to a pre-contract that gives them a significant amount of money without compromising their eligibility. This bit is a pipe dream, but it would go a long way towards cleaning up the seamier aspects of the NCAA model.
This Benefits Everyone
The NBA gets more time to make decisions on who to offer contracts to. They get the same publicity benefits for their players, if not more since a cottage industry that tracks draft picks will crop up. Trades will be less focused on cap numbers since each team will have a bunch of chips to send back and forth that do not exist now.
College players leaving school are doing so for guaranteed money and not the D-League. College teams keep players around longer and can plan for the future better by keeping in contact with the teams that have drafted their players.
The NCAA gets more eyeballs on college basketball from interested NBA fans and people who like the increased level of play. And no one has to tell LeBron James he can't get paid to play basketball out of high school.
Have you been able to address some of the problems in the secondary that you mentioned at the last press conference?
“Yeah. And again, anything that we saw based on last year we wanted to address. That, underneath coverage where we wanted to see the quarterback throw it more rather than locking in to people, not giving up big plays -- we address it every practice. And I tell you this, just yesterday your job is to address it before it happens. When the secondary isn’t playing deep third like they should, and if they’re not right over the football or if I saw like yesterday a guy’s trying a little too anxious getting up too close to that pile, every time I’ll put an arrow on it and say that’s a recipe for a big play. Now you understand that didn’t now but that could happen during the season and we can’t allow that. That's, to me, what coaching is: preventing something from happening before it happens. We’ve really tried to address that, and in every practice we will continue to address that.”
It seems that Terrence Talbott has been really impressive. What have you seen from him?
“He’s like a lot of our guys out there. We’re trying to rotate through and find out who’s going to step up each day. As you know, our program is about nobody ever really having a position locked. Raymon steps in there, shows some good things. Terrence goes in there and shows some good things. It doesn’t matter but what we’re looking for is a guy that’s going to come out there every day and do it the way we want it every day. We’re getting the ability now to have guys where if somebody for some reason doesn’t have a great day, there’s a guy that can go in and [we can say], ‘Okay it’s your turn, let’s see what you can do.’ That’s at every position. That’s the way we will always do things here.”
Have you been able to see that from Terrence every day?
“I’ve seen him wanting to improve every day. I’ve seen him working on improving every day. I think at the very end of spring we’ll evaluate and say who had the most good days and where does he fit, now? … All of this is a process until we get to that opening game.”
What specifically has he done, though?
“He’s been physical. He’s a guy that’s done a really good job of taking out blocks. He’s done an adequate job of coverage. When we have blitzed him, he’s come hard. All the things a corner’s got to do. You’re just evaluating each day which one does the best at what you’re asking them to do.”
How has Blake Countess looked?
“Blake Countess has had a good spring so far. You know, the thing with a corner is you can have a whole bunch of really good plays and practices and just slip up once and everybody on that field sees it. You’re really looking for the guy that never slips up. That’s the deal. That’s what happens at that position. Blake has come out and has been very hungry. He wants to get better, and that’s something you always worry about when you have a guy that had a pretty good freshman year. What’s he going to be like next year? Again, that won’t happen here. We won’t let that happen here, but we haven’t had to guard against that with him. He’s come out every day and has worked hard.”
Depth was a major concern before. How good is it to see younger guys step up and give you some depth in the secondary?
“That’s good. I think that’s -- and our whole defense, they know the whole system now. If a young man is not physically strong enough, if he’s not big enough, he still knows his system now, and he’s been allowed to play better than when he’s learning it from scratch like everybody was last year. And that’s one thing I’ve noticed about the guys on defense. They appear to be playing faster. When you put something in or when you run a defense and something breaks down, you can just tell them what it was and they go, ‘Oh I got it, I see it now.’ That’s the beauty of being here a second year with the same system.”
How has the defensive line come together so far?
“I would say I’ve been very very pleased with Craig Roh playing the end position. Here’s a guy who’s been a rush to the open side for three years and has done a very good job. Now he’s inside the tight end. He’s played very physical. The key is the technique there, because you’re not bigger than everybody you’re playing against, so you'd better have great technique. Craig has come out every day. Jibreel Black has worked very hard. Shows why we made the move. I think like Ash, like Heitzman, you can go right down the line. They’ve all had moments. They’re the group now where you have to say those moments have to become every play. The coaches are working very hard on getting that done.”
What kind of moments has Jibreel Black had?
“The thing he shows, like we thought, is you’re going to have a faster player in there. So now when a guy beats a block, he has the ability to run some things down. Now on the other end of that, he’s not as big, so you'd better play with better technique. That’s what he’s had to work on the most.”
How does the technique change going from end to tackle?
“Well you have people on both sides of you. The position that he played was the same position that Craig played. You’re almost always out in open space and you only have one guy inside that you really have to deal with. Now you have a guy on both sides of you and you can get blocks from both ways. It’s a little bit more physical in there, but it’s also a place where you can become a faster athlete in there than if you were out there in space.”
How quickly is he learning to beat double teams and things like that?
“Craig has done a very very good job of working on his technique. Craig always does. Craig has unbelievable pride in himself. He’s a very intelligent football player. He wants to be very good, so he knows I have to do it this way, and I’ve been pleased with Craig.”
What about Jibreel?
“The same thing. It’s the exact same position, you’re just in a little farther. One’s getting double teamed from a tight end and a tackle. Another guy’s getting double teamed from a tackle and a guard. So it’s the same position, both of which you better play with great technique [otherwise] you’re going to get knocked off the football, so they’ve worked very hard on that.”
Does it change the way you coach having guys who have been in your system for a year now? Can you do some different things now?
“No. In fact, it’s kind of changed back to the old fashioned way for me personnally. I feel very strongly that we need to get the rush position and the SAM position playing better than it ever did. I’ve enjoyed this spring because I’ve had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with Jake and Cam and the SAM position and Brennen and Frank at the rush position. The one thing it’s freed you up a little more is you don’t have to spend your whole time on the blackboard putting in defense. You don’t have to take as long putting things in. Now you can spend more time on little things that will help that defense. The players are smarter in that when you say, ‘Hey you have to do it this way,’ [they say], ‘I get it now.’ You can kind of do that to help the defense.”
With the position battles between Jake and Cam and Brennen and Frank, are those players similar or do they complement each other in terms of skill set?
“They’re different in that Cam and Jake are part secondary, part defensive line. In other words they have a lot of pass responsibility that goes with it. Cam Gordon and Jake have worked very very hard at that position this spring. I really believe they’ve improved. I can tell a lot of their technique is improved. Cam probably is, if you asked him, probably says okay now I know I’m a SAM. A year ago he moved from safety down there, and we’ll see. Now he says, ‘Yeah I understand this part of it and I want to be good at this.’ I’m really excited about that because Jake never came off the field last year. He truly played almost every snap of every game. Now it allows you to say, okay, you got a very very good player that can complement him. The same thing is true with Brennen Beyer and Frank Clark. The two of them are competing every day, and every little step they take is being coached, and now you have a little better speed on the pass rush with them there and you have an extra person. I’m really excited about those guys.”
Did Cam struggle with his transition from safety to SAM last year?
“Not outwardly. And that’s just me guessing that. I would, too. If I was a safety and some old, bald-headed guy came in here and said we’re going to take you from safety and we’re going to put you up on a big tight end, I have to go, ‘Okay …’ Any time it didn’t work well, I’d look over at that coach. This year he’s doing it very very physically and if it doesn’t work he knows why it doesn’t work and he’s got to get better at it.”
So he’s embracing the position now?
“Yes. Yes. I think he feels very comfortable at it. And he’s learning every day how to be a pass rusher. So now you end up getting a guy that’s a little faster that might put some more speed on the field that way.”
Was it a struggle for him not to be able to play last year?
“Well a lot of why he didn’t play last year though was [because] he was hurt. A lot of last year I think, he had a bad back and he was out for about five or six weeks I think.”
How is it now?
“Oh he’s been great. He’s worked very hard in the weight room as all of our guys have, and Aaron keeps doing a great job with him. I see it. I see it on the field where the punch that you had last year, you’d go, ‘Okay …’ But now you say, ‘Oh that’s a good punch. I see it. That guy’s really using the strength a little more.‘ That will happen more all the way through the summer, too.”
How did he hurt his back?
“I don’t know. Just football related. I don’t know how he did it, tweaked it, I don’t know.”
Was that during the summer or the fall?
“It was during the season.”
How has Josh Furman been?
“That’s something you can ask Coach Hoke.”
How do you see Joe Bolden fitting in next fall?
“He’s a guy that should be at the senior prom right now. But he’s really really really done a good job of picking up the defense. I really believe he’s going to be a very very good linebacker. Very good. You could never tell that he was going to the senior prom watching him out there on the field, but just think about that. That young man should be thinking about what tux he’s going to buy or rent. And then he’s out here practicing every day and getting coached harder than he’s ever been coached in his life. Just keeps coming back. Jarrod Wilson is the same way. Kaleb Ringer is in the same boat. You have three guys that really should be taking their advanced calc class and they’re here at the University of Michigan practicing as if they’ve been here for two years. That’s what I think is a real, real plus with them. And they’ve taken care of business in the classroom. They’re doing everything they should be doing, so you have three guys for a whole ‘nother period of time.”
How well did they transition into padded practices?
“They’re football players. I think if you asked them, probably they’d say, ‘Let’s get in pads sooner.’ The only reason there’s a transition is because he’s worried about hitting. I don’t think it’s a problem with these guys. The reason they’re here at Michigan is because they do like to hit. The biggest thing with them is being able to get them lined up. They’re like what the team was last year. They’re learning it all new. I really feel like they’ve picked things up maybe faster because everybody else around them has been able to help them with the call.”
Besides football, what did you want Will Campbell to learn from your teaching and being tough on him last season?
“What the bar was. A lot of times I have higher expectations and goals than what a young man is willing to work for. And really to play defense at Michigan, you always have to try to strive for the very very highest. Just striving for it doesn’t work. You have to now do the footwork, you now have to do the study of film, you now have to get off that block and make a play. If you didn’t make a play that you should have made, that’s not good enough. You have two ways as a coach that you can go about it. If you really really want a young man to be a great player, then you tell him about it every time and show him what he should have done to do that. And let him know that you’re going to tell him about it as long as you’re around him because you expect him to make that play. If you want to just walk away and let it go, then that guy will never get there. I think that’s where Craig found out that I happen to think he was a lot better player than what he was playing. Maybe sometimes he thought it was adequate, but adequate doesn’t cut it here, and that’s the same thing with Will and anybody on our defense, really.”
MGoQuestion: What’s your evaluation of the WILL linebacker position?
“I think our linebackers have improved. I don’t look at the WILL and the MIKE being anything different. I think they’re all linebackers in there. The WILL and the MIKE are really the same position, it’s just one’s closer to the tight end and one’s not. That was the position that I wanted to see a lot of improvement, and I think we have taken steps. Not as much as you want yet, but I think there has been -- they’ve all worked. They’ve all tried. That’s the one thing I like about this defense, and I’m not saying last year’s wasn’t that way because they obviously were, but they come out every day wanting to get better. They really have energy and they really have tried to do it. It hasn’t been perfect at all, but you feel good when you walk off the practice field and say, ‘These guys worked hard today. These guys flew around today.’ I think that’s been kind of everybody.”
Has Desmond Morgan been the standout at that position?
“He’s had good practices. He’s got a long way to go, too. There’s been as many times with Desmond that you say, ‘You’re better than that,’ [as you say], ‘That’s a great play.’ I don’t know I’ve ever been in a spring where everybody’s perfect. You can say they are and you’re not going to have a very good defense. Again, it’s get to that top. Do every play perfect. Maybe that’s unrealistic but I don’t believe that.”
How has Kenny looked at the MIKE position?
“He’s working hard. Working hard. He’s improved on some of the things he’s had to improve on. I think that’s where you look in the spring. Are you getting better? Yes he’s getting better.”
How do you feel about this defense now vs. this time last year?
“I know them better. I’ll tell you, I said this before, maybe in all my years of coaching I’ll never forget last year’s team. I mean, ever. What they did. But there’s something about this defense already where they’re all so eager and they know they have a little tougher job. They have to step up and so you want to help them get there. I’m looking forward to this group. I’m looking forward to what we can do with them.”
What do you mean by tougher job?
“Every year is a tough job here. It really is. Every year. And I’m not skirting the question. I couldn’t have told you anything about last year’s defense at this time other than, it didn’t matter who the guys are, we have to get better, we have to get better. That’s the same thing I’ll say about this defense. They come out eager every day. They enjoy hitting, and now we have to teach them how to hit and how to line up to be perfect at what we’re doing. We’ll see how good they can be.”
Is that your new Sugar Bowl ring?
“Yup. Proud of it.”
From the Z to the O to the double-R O, he's the dude in the mask from Chem-Orgo. I love the mariachi band, and that the professor turned the "Z" slashes into a carbon chain, and that people are having a heated discussion regarding the professor's added hydroxyl group between the typical amoebic Youtube commenters.
It was a light week, by which I mean the board was mostly obsessed with Burke and the diaries, well, there's only one real "diary." It's about the Director's Cup and where Michigan stands right now, c/o WolverineBlue. Etc. The Blockhams, and Not Michigan Replay video—if you haven't before, now's your chance to learn the words (there's words!) to the Michigan Replay/MGoPodcast song. Let's move on to…
Best of the Board
…YOU'VE ACTUALLY GOTTEN EXCITED ABOUT BEING MENTIONED IN 'DEAR DIARY'
Boom: Jeff Foxworthy'd! The "You might be a _______" meme finally found its way to the board. A collection of some of the more pos-banged follows. You might be an MGoBlogger if…
- …your loved ones will only let you watch Michigan sporting events in public if you promise not to correct all the stupid people this time. (funandgun, paraphrased)
- …you've both wanted to punch Magnus, and greatly appreciated the insight he's provided... at the same time (Nick Sparks)
- …you are as star struck when you see Lloyd Brady or Mitch McGary Picture Guy as if you were to see someone like Charlie Sheen etc. (Raback Obama)
- …you yell "Tacopants!" when a pass sails over a receiver's head (Nick Sparks)
- …you respond to this post so that someday you can get to 100 points and be able to start your own thread. (Michigan Moonman)
- …you scream out "MUPPETS!" in real life when minor things go your way, like finding bacon half price (maizedandconfused)
- …you know who Ohio is, and who OHIO is, and what (NTM) means (ST3)
- …you can find the F5 key in the dark in under 5 seconds (Lionsfan). Replies:
"lol, you guys measure it in seconds. That's cute." –BlockM
"You still have an F5 key? That's cute." –Michigan_Mike
- …a cute girl at a bar says "Hello" and you wonder who's going to commit at the Spring scrimmage.
- …if you have MGOBLOG set as a bookmark, click it, scan the page for updates, then decide to continue surfing the web and without even realizing it, click the MGOBLOG bookmark again instead of going to another site, and then scan the page for a second time in under 30 seconds (Chobee215)
- …you could care less that you're a pre-madonna, a moran, or a looser for all intensive purposes. (OMG Shirtless, who is going to die for putting me through that again just now).
- ...before posting, you ask yourself, is this safe for Mrs StephenRKass? (ST3)
…YOU'RE AN ALABAMA FAN WHO CAN'T RELATE TO OTHER TIDE FANS BECAUSE YOU DON'T SPEAK YOUTUBE COMMENTS
Fact: 90% of Youtube comments are written by people from Alabama. Fact: the longer RollDamnTide hangs out around here the worse you feel about all of those great Alabama jokes. RDT wins Diarist of the Week without writing a diary because his work on the board did more for how people perceive people from Alabama than anything since Lynyrd Skynyrd (I'm including Forrest Gump.) Post the first is a rundown of how Bama boards view Michigan. That they think Pipkins is going to be a factor 4 weeks after arriving on campus shows they're probably even more 5-starry eyed as a fanbase than we are.* Post the second is about academics in the SEC after Morris Claiborne apparently scored between single-celled organism and Youtube commenter. Question: does the Wonderlic ask questions about organic chemistry and/or 18th century Alta California, or, like, other stuff you would learn in regular college courses?
*I realize this is the second time I've knocked Pipkins recently. Please understand that this is not some personal vendetta but an agreement with my doctors to reduce expectations for 5-star recruits and be pleasantly surprised if they succeed, which even in cases of Charles Woodsons is hyper-rare before the Big Ten season begins.
…YOU KNOW WHERE MOST FORMER M PLAYERS ARE COACHING
James Burrill Angell started a thread to track guys formerly in winged helmets who now wear headsets. I went on to post about Kastl but someone beat me to it. I don't know who "Admin" is who posted the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association position paper on recruiting (an interesting read that provides unintentional insight into things like private recruiting services, combines, and AAU events), but his profile image is this:
…so maybe one of our guys? Among FBS schools in the state Central and MSU have signed on. Also if you think your kid might be an NCAA athlete you should know by the time they graduate middle school:
"Understand the NCAA and NAIA Academic Eligibility rules before the student athletes ninth grade year begins. The NCAA continues to add more restrictions to their eligibility process. The Class of 2013 will now need 16 core classes to qualify as a D2 athlete. The Class of 2015 will need a 2.3 GPA to qualify as a D1 athlete. Academic eligibility begins with the first semester report card in the 9th grade. All students and parents need to calculate the students NCAA CORE GPA every semester beginning with the 9th grade.
I'm drifting from the topic. Also: two spaces after a sentence means you probably learned to type before 1995, amirite?
ETC. To the people at UM Hospital: thanks for, you know, what you did to make sure I can keep having a dad for awhile, after three other hospitals on two continents couldn't/wouldn't. From "leaders" to "best," whatever superlative you use to describe yourselves it is probably 100% applicable.
Your Moment of Zen:
"I can sing, but I'm sure you don't want to hear that."
Have there been things that have surprised you since the last time you spoke to us?
“Uh, let me think about that question. No major surprises. I think things have followed suit pretty well. We’ve had a couple kids perform pretty well, maybe better than they have been. Joe Burzynski would be one. Joe’s had a nice spring. He’s done a good job. Elliott Mealer. The two of them are competing for the job, so that’s good. Those two come to mind right away. I’m sure there are others who would be subtle surprises, but those two have done a good job battling each other for that spot.”
How has Brandon Moore looked?
“Brandon Moore is playing right now better than he’s played since he’s been here. He is. He’s still got a little ways to go, but when he is technically sound, takes the right steps and comes off the ball with a little bit of an attitude, he’s a pretty good player. Brandon’s got some talent, but his consistency of play is a little erratic. In terms of understanding what we do, I don’t think there’s any issues there. He’s a smart kid. Now that he understands it, the paralysis through analysis should be gone and pretty much is. He’s as aggressive as I’ve seen him and has demonstrated a certain degree of consistency that’s shown improvement.”
What about the guys behind him?
“Ricardo Miller and Mike Kwiatkowski. Ricardo’s more kind of an H-back or what we call the U position. All of those guys still practice playing on the line of scrimmage, but Ricardo’s a pretty athletic kid. Runs better than any of our tight ends. Still has a ways to go as a blocker. And then Mike Kwiatkowski, if I had another surprise, he would probably be the next one that I mention. Mike’s always been a very good receiver. His only issue has been his ability to play on the line of scrimmage because of the bigger guys, but he’s improved that. He’s a strong kid, he has good power, but he’s done a pretty nice job. Those three are probably in the fold as much as anyone.
If you had to start today, how comfortable would you be with what you have at that position?
“Well I think we’d be fine. Yeah I think we’d be okay. We still need to improve. I’m not comfortable at any position right now game-ready wise. We will use our personnel accordingly. If we feel like that position isn’t as strong as other positions, we’ll find a way to play other positions. If that position gets up to speed and up to snuff, then we’ll let them play a little more. It’s up to them. It’s really not up to us. It’s up to them. We will totally evaluate and assess every player on the team. Playing time will be dictated by their productivity and nothing else.
Who’s stepping up at wide receiver this spring?
“The same cast of characters, you know, save Jerald Robinson, who’s really proven some toughness because he’s been a little banged up, but he’s not bad. He’s done a very nice job. I’ve been happy with Jerald. Jeremy and Roy are doing a nice job. They know what to do. That’s what’s really nice about it. Not just that position -- every position. But they know what to do. We get very few missed assignments now whereas last spring it would be a carnival of missed assignments. And it always is, it’s not their fault -- new system, that’s going to happen. But we just don’t get it anymore from those players that have played significantly. Drew Dileo, again, is consistent, smart, tough. Jeremy Jackson -- Jeremy’s been healthy, and because he’s been healthy, his game has taken another step. It’s good to have him because he gives us some range at the position that we lost in junior. I think those are the guys that have been the most prominent.”
How has the learning curve for the offensive line been like?
“They’re in the same situation, I think, as the receivers or anybody else. They’ve got a much better feel for what to do. You know what’s a significant advantage, and it’s an advantage that you gain -- and that’s playing in a bowl game. When you play in a bowl game and particularly a bowl game that’s in January, you get extra practices and that helps everybody and not least of which is the offensive linemen, particularly the kids that aren’t playing much. You don’t want to beat up the kids that are. That bowl practice was invaluable to some of those young players.”
Is that why Mealer and Burzynski have had a chance to step up this spring?
“You bet. Yes. Absolutely. Darrell had a chance to work with those kids. The issues we had during the season are preparing X amount of players -- usually around 18 guys -- the rest of the team was the scout team. Well other than individual drills, you just don’t get a lot of practical application of the offense, whereas when you get into bowl practices, you’ve got enough time now to go back and look at those kids run your offense, not running an offense off cards. Those reps running our offense for those kids are very valuable. It’s almost like having a second spring football.”
Are you feeling like the chemistry is developing well?
“Yeah, it’s starting to come. A lot of that now, you have to understand, is dictated by the center’s ability to be confident in his position. Ricky is a work in progress still, but as Ricky becomes more and more comfortable in there, it has an infectious effect on the rest of the players. They all kind of take his lead a little bit. Like I told you before, he kind of quarterbacks the offensive line. If he’s on the same page with everybody else, that chemistry tends to take.”
How has Fitz looked?
“He’s been good. Really good. Really good. We’re trying to be careful with him, because he’s kind of proven himself. Not that we’re ever -- a guy’s always going to work. We’re not going to give him an easy way out, but by the same token when we go live and such, he’s going to carry the ball so he keeps well oiled, but we’re not going to run him into the ground and get him banged up, but he’s had an outstanding spring.”
What areas specifically?
“Run the football, his blocking has improved, his receiving -- every area has improved. He’s become more complete, and that was our goal coming in. He’s still not a finished product, no, and I don’t think any of them are, but he’s a kid where as a coach, you’re always looking for a group of kids who you have complete confidence in their ability to do what you want them to do in a game. And I tell them, ‘If we don’t, we’re not going to put you in a game.’ But he’s probably reached that point.”
How much better is he at blocking?
“His biggest issue, and I’ve said it before, was his vision a year ago, but that’s gone away. I see no signs of that being around anymore. It’s just running the ball and seeing the holes and knowing where your help's coming from, but that’s really it. He had to improve his protection -- no issues with toughness, just understanding how to position yourself so you can get good leverage to throw the block. He’s done that. We’re throwing him more balls than we have. He’s a prideful kid, and football’s important to him, so those types of kids tend to get better, especially if they have a lot of skill.”
What have you seen from Thomas Rawls this spring?
“Thomas is a different kind of back. He’s more of a power back. He brings a load now, because he’s a thick, strong, solid player with good speed. He’s going to generally fall forward when he hits you, and there’s going to be some impact when he hits you. Whoever’s trying to tackle him, particuarly in the open field, is going to feel him. But he’s got some of the same issues that Fitz had last spring, but they’re starting to go away I’ve noticed, too. He’s starting to see the line of scrimmage better and make better cuts and not run into bodies. Thomas, when he came in coming out of high school, and a lot of the guys do this -- the power backs just tend to want to run straight ahead and run over guys because they can’t tackle them, and the scat backs tend to want to juke everybody and never get up the field. Well the perfect back is somewhere in between. They understand when to use their power and understand when to use their stop and go ability, and Thomas is now gotten to a point where he’s not simply trying to run over everybody every time he gets the ball.”
Do you think it helped that he watched Fitz’s development last season?
“I don’t think it hurt him any. I think those are good mental reps, I call them, where you can steal repetition from a guy who may not have done it right, and then not have to bull it yourself. Have the coach critique it. There’s nothing like doing. I’m a big believer in body learning. Body learning means physically going through the trial and error part of it so that you can fix the mistake yourself. Mental reps are great. You have to take them, but the body learning is even more important. I talk in coaching about two things really that are important for players: one is body learning, and that’s reptition and such, and functional intelligence. Functional intelligence simply is the ability to transfer what you learn in the film room or on the chalkboard or in the locker rooms and practically apply it to the game. The progression, of course, is practice first. But it’s really irrelevant what your IQ is when you take a test when in fact when it comes time to execute the responsibility you’re not able to do it. Those two things, being able to body learn it and being intelligent enough to execute it when it’s time to execute it.”
How do you like Rawls’ functional intelligence?
“Good, because he understands better. He is still going through a few growing pains with our protection, but it’s not because he doesn’t know it. He just needs to body learn it a bit more.”
What’s your philosophy on the spring game? What do you hope to get out of it?
“Same thing as everything else -- evaluation, system, that’s usually what spring’s all about. See if we can find another playmaker. See if somebody jumps to the forefront when everybody’s watching. That’s when it’s really the most critical is when the lights go on. Sometimes guys in practice are better than they are when it really counts. Freddie J has a name for it -- State Street players or Main Street players. We’re going to find out who the Main Street players are. Or at least, we hope to.”
With Devin, how much have you experimented with his role?
“A little bit here and there. A little bit. Part of spring is experimentation, but it’s not really the emphasis. What we want to do as coaches is install our offense, refine our offense. Because we’re constantly evolving and trying to professionally enrich ourselves, we take little bits and pieces that we’ve learned in the offseason and try to apply them in spring football and test them a little bit, but that’s a small percentage of what we’re doing. That’s basically testing schemes. We’re much more interested in seeing to it that these kids are developed within our system and we can evaluate their skill level so when it comes time to play we can decide who deserves to.”
Do you feel like you’ve found a role for Devin?
“Yeah, I think so. I think right now it’s quarterback. I think he’s going to be the No. 2 quarterback and we’ll see how things go. Our approach to Devin hasn’t changed much. We’re going to find a way to get him on the field because he’s got skills that go over and above your average quarterback.
Is he far and above Bellomy as the No. 2 QB?
“No. No. No one is far and above anybody right now that I can think of. Russ Bellomy’s made a -- he has people’s attention. Russ is another kid that's really athletic, can throw the ball. Good functional intelligence. He’s a kid that needed more body learning, more reps, but he’s had a pretty good spring, too. He probably doesn’t get mentioned as much as he should, but he’s a good player.”
Have you had the opportunity to identify any spots where you might have to play freshmen?
“Yeah, well first of all, the guys coming in, we have no idea who’s going to help us. Neither does anybody in the entire country regardles of what you told them in recruiting. No one does, because sometimes guys come in and simply -- they’re just not as good or they’re not ready. Either one of the two. I have no idea what going to happen with that. We recruit every kid assuming they’re going to play for us, and we’ll just go from there. But this isn’t about that. This is about trying to get a team ready in 15 days and find out do they know your system and who has got the best chance to play at that point. Now when we get into the first weekend in fall, we start all over again. You install your system, evaluate what you have, and see who’s got the best chance to play at that point. You have a new batch of players.”
Could you see yourself doing some tailback by committee this fall?
“No. I see no reason for that. Not at this point. Fitz is clearly our tailback. If he isn’t, I’m not very smart. We’re going to spell him occasionally. He’s not going to be in there every play, but our last five or six games, you saw what our appraoch wanted to be, and that’s pretty much how it’s going to stay until it isn’t productive.”
MGoQuestion: Speaking of experimentation, it looked like there may have been a couple bubble screens in the highlight videos from spring practice. Are you --
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. Next question.”