this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Nobody ever reads this stuff anyway, just like nobody mentions Minnesota as a major Final Four contender. They'll learn. They'll all learn…donchya know.
How it works:
- Wednesdays I put up a winnable prize that consists of a desirable good.
- You guess the final scores of this weekend's designated game (football or hoops, depending on the season), and put it in the comments. First person to post a particular score has it.
- If you got it right, we contact you. If not, go to (5)
- The desirable good arrives at the address you give us.
- Non-winners can acquire the same desirable good by trading currency for it.
About Last Time:
Two people picked Ohio State to win. Of those two TroyNienberg picked the lower final score and won it. I know what you're thinking: can we get Adam Finley to become a regular commenter too and thus complete the c. 2002 kicking trifecta? We are working on that.
This Week's Game:
Michigan @ The Pogo Stick People tomorrow night. Bounce bounce bounce bounce.
And the Prize:
It's not time to grow up yet.
Fine print: One entry per user. First user to choose a set of scores wins, determined by the timestamp of your entry (for my ease I prefer if you don't post it as a reply to another person's score--if you do it won't help or hurt you). Deadline for entries is 24 hours before the start of the game. MGoEmployees and Moderators exempt from winning. We did not invent the algorithm. The algorithm consistently finds Jesus. The algorithm killed Goldy. The algorithm is banned in China. The algorithm is from Jersey. The algorithm constantly finds that the best conference alignment would be to put Michigan/MSU and Ohio State with the Illinois/Indiana schools, go to 9 conference games, and make PSU-OSU and the Brown Jug regular nonconference games .. This is not the algorithm. This is close.
For the first time this season, Michigan's offense looked stagnant for prolonged stretches against Ohio State, largely due to the Buckeyes shutting down the pick and roll game. Going back over the film, it was clear much of this had to do with the on-ball defense of Aaron Craft, who hounded Trey Burke into a 4-for-13 shooting performance.
Interestingly, Craft was able to get away with going under the screen for most of the game despite Burke hitting a three-pointer when he did so in the game's opening minutes. With Burke not shooting over the top, Craft was able to take away his ability to get to the basket, and with that the easy buckets that Burke usually creates for himself and his teammates.
While Craft played a stellar defensive game, however, it wasn't his play alone that mitigated Michigan's go-to offensive play; the Wolverines simply didn't execute well on offense. Here's one such example—Michigan has just reset after an offensive rebound, and Mitch McGary comes out to set a screen for Burke:
Note that there's plenty of space in the middle of the Buckeye defense above. In the next frame, you'll see Craft has gone over McGary's screen and is now stuck behind Burke, so OSU center Evan Ravenel steps up to cut off the drive while McGary starts his roll to the basket:
At this juncture, Michigan should be able to create a good look. Burke is past Craft and therefore occupying Ravenel. McGary is heading to the basket, which should force Deshaun Thomas (defending in the paint) to abandon guarding Tim Hardaway Jr. entirely—which, of course, leaves one Buckeye to guard both Hardaway and Nik Stauskas. If Sam Thompson—at the top of the screen—comes down to help, Glenn Robinson III should be open in the corner for a... wait, Glenn, where are you going?
Unfortunately for Michigan, Robinson cut to the basket at precisely the wrong time—he heads right into the space that McGary is cutting towards. When coaches talk about the importance of spacing, this is what they're talking about. The spacing issues Robinson's cut creates are really apparent in the next frame:
Even though Burke still has a step on Craft, OSU has every Michigan option covered. Ravenel is both taking away the drive and any passing lane to McGary, while Thompson is doing the same on Robinson. Thomas is able to step out on Hardaway. Stauskas is occupied in the corner. Now Burke is forced to try to make something out of nothing:
That something turns out to be a contested layup over Ravenel that doesn't even catch iron. Note that a small blanket could cover both Robinson and McGary.
While Craft recovered nicely, this is a play that should've resulted in a Michigan basket, but it was thwarted by inexperience; a simple mistimed cut from Robinson is enough to throw off the entire play.
As Michigan romped through non-conference play, it was easy to forgot that they're still a very young team. Some freshman mistakes are more obvious than others, like when Caris LeVert threw a pass to no one after leaving his feet, giving Ohio State an easy fast break layup. Plays like the one above—after a reset, when a player needs to know on the fly where the offense calls for him to be on the floor—are more subtle, but also show off mistakes born from inexperience.
Those plays should be fewer and farther between as the season goes along; at the same time, this team is going to rely all year on five freshmen. Trey Burke is a great example of a player making a big leap after getting familiar with John Beilein's system—that leap, of course, came between his freshman and sophomore seasons. It's doubtful Michigan is going to eliminate these types of errors by March.
That's not to say Michigan can't make the Final Four by sheer force of talent combined with Beilein's coaching; if they do, though, they'll have to overcome their youth.
According to multiple outlets, Trotwood (OH) Madison cornerback Reon Dawson, a high school teammate of Mike McCray, has committed to Michigan. Dawson, previously an Illinois commit, is the 26th commitment of the 2013 class, joining Ross Douglas, Jourdan Lewis, and Channing Stribling among cornerbacks. Informative update coming tomorrow.
UPDATE, of the informative variety:
|3*, #64 CB||3*, NR CB||3*, 77, #41 S||3*, 84, #82 CB|
Coming from a powerhouse program in Trotwood-Madison—in addition to McCray, the Rams produced Ohio State commit Cam Burrows and Illinois commit Jarrod Clements this year—means Dawson is well-scouted. The four services all have him squarely in the three-star range, with only ESPN evaluating him as a safety. All but ESPN (6'1", 175) list him at 6'2", 175 pounds—Dawson continues the trend of Michigan targeting bigger corners.
The general consensus on Dawson is that he's a talented prospect with a great frame, but also very much a project. Scout's Dave Berk gave a quick breakdown of his game last summer ($):
The first thing that jumps out about Dawson is his length. At 6-foot-2, Dawson needs to add weight if he expects to compete in the Big Ten. Nevertheless, he’s got above average feet along with the ability to flip his hips, turn and run with receivers out of his back pedal. He is raw, but his upside is extremely high to develop into a solid player at the college level.
Rivals's Josh Helmholdt saw similar potential last summer as Dawson improved at the more technical aspects of the position ($):
Dawson has come a long way since his junior season, even since last spring when we saw him at the VTO Cincinnati camp. Dawson has always had great speed, and at 6-foot-2, 175 pounds he has great length for the cornerback position, but now he is starting to show the instincts and fluidity to play the spot.
While Dawson's physical tools are widely praised, his technique and play recognition repeatedly appear as areas in need of improvement. Here's 247's Clint Brewster($)...
Improvements: Dawson is a raw/untapped prospect that has the athleticism to be a big time college football cornerback. Dawson might need a year in the weight room to add muscle, which will help him make plays in the run game. As Dawson gets more comfortable with the cornerback position, he will be able to react quicker to plays and recognize routes faster, which is an area of improvement.
...and Scout's Ryan Easterling ($):
Technique will be the main focus for Dawson. His athleticism can only take him so far, and he’ll need to refine the technical side of his game to become a more complete corner. With that, he’ll need to make more crisp breaks on the ball when jumping routes and adjusting to his receiver’s routes.
Dawson only started playing organized football a few years ago, which helps explain why he's still developing in these areas. ESPN's evaluation echoes those same concerns about technique and instincts, suggesting safety may be a better position for him at the collegiate level ($) [emphasis mine]:
What stands out about Dawson is his quick feet, smooth hips and very good top end speed. When you consider his height, you have an appreciation for how well he moves. Shows fluid, smooth footwork carrying vertical routes out of his pedal and zone turn. ... He is a strong and reliable open field tackler who breaks down well in space for a tall corner. ... High-points the football and flashes good leaping and ball skills. While he effectively presses receivers off the line with his long arms, he does lose a little in transition when opening to turn and run. Recovery speed is good, not great and he does better playing the ball in front of him with some cushion. Dawson could develop into a man-to-man cover corner at the next level, but his skills and speed are more suited as a zone defender. Still has some room for good physical development while keeping his excellent range making safety a strong possibility.
If Dawson proves he can turn and run with college wide receivers while also adding the weight he'll need to hold up in the run game, he should be able to stick at corner. If not, he could develop into a rangy safety, though his size won't be as much of an asset there as it would be at corner.
The evaluations paint a pretty clear picture of Dawson—he's got the athletic tools needed to be a good cover corner, but needs work to get there. If he puts it all together, at his size, he could be a big-impact player; the question is if he can progress quickly enough to work his way above more polished players on the two-deep.
Dawson held offers from Arizona, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Pitt, Purdue, Vanderbilt, Virginia, West Virginia, and a handful of MAC schools. He camped at Alabama and Ohio State but did not receive an offer from either school.
Dawson tallied 22 tackles, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery in his senior season, per the Greater Western Ohio Conference. As a junior, he had 18 tackles, a fumble recovery, and three interceptions.
FAKE 40 TIME
Rivals lists a 40 time of 4.4 seconds, while 247 has him at a 4.39—given the praise for his athleticism, that gets three FAKEs out of five.
Extensive senior film and cutups from both his junior and senior seasons can be found on Dawson's Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
As the least-heralded among Michigan's four cornerback commits, not to mention the concerns about technique, Dawson is almost assured a redshirt year to gain weight and learn the finer points of playing corner—or, as it may be, to figure out if he's a corner or a safety. Should Dawson stick at corner, his bigger frame suggests he'll play on the boundary. The path to playing time won't be an easy one, not with three other corners in the class, but Dawson's size and ability to play safety or corner give him a good shot to find a home somewhere on the two-deep.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
In all likelihood, Michigan will only take two more players in the class. One of those spots is reserved for VA RB Derrick Green, who's got Michigan as his leader and will choose a school on January 26th. Three other players hold offers and appear to have serious interest: CA OL Cameron Hunt, CO OL Dan Skipper, and TX TE Durham Smythe. Any one of those players could take the final spot, or—if the coaches decide they're set at O-line and Smythe goes elsewhere—we could see some late offers go out.
This week Michigan pulled in a commitment from another offensive lineman. That makes six for the 2013 class, with the possibility of a seventh, on top of four in 2012, on top of…well that's the point isn't it?
It's easy to point fingers […in the general direction of Tucson] for the dilapidation of M's o-line depth. Rodriguez did knowingly and willfully get too picky with his 2009 and 2010 recruiting, perhaps figuring the massive 2008 haul would tide him over until he was winning championships and could offer playing time and non-ridiculous uniforms to Oregon targets. The result was two great tackles in '09, just a center in 2010, and then much striking out in what was supposed to be the year of many Hobbis and Yruretagoyenas, the wanton whiffing exacerbated five times over by [the bad timing of…] The Process.™
A man cannot be faulted for the circumstances of his creation, and certainly Brady Hoke and co. have since done a bang-up job of finding large and talented young gentlemen willing to stand between us and the ill-begotten creatures that plague Big Ten defenses. That's not to say they'll be any good at it…yet. Like a basement full of wedding gifts without a house to fit them all, our future of wealth and comfort is all but promised but we wonder how long must we wait?
Answer: some time yet, sorry. I hate to bury the lede, so here's a great big spoiler. We're gonna have a little history lesson, and then you're going to find this:
Year in Program:
|Not on team||1||6||13||16||28|
|% Solid +||1.4%||9.5%||21.5%||33.8%||37.3%|
What the hell this is: It's me tracking the development of Michigan offensive linemen over the last 20 years based on how many years each has been in the program. It is subjective on the top and a bit accusatory in the middle and perhaps only a little bit useful on the bottom where I show things like just 1 in 5 of all the great centers and guards and tackles in two decades of Michigan recruiting end up ever becoming All Big Ten-level players. It seems to say that there's a lot that can go wrong between the gathering of the linemen and the deployment of the linemen.
It also says it takes time: in 20 years of OL recruiting just seven guys (Lewan, Molk, Long, Backus, Hutchinson, Jansen and Boren) were even ready to be okay starters by their second years in the program. If one guy from the 2012 class starts this year and is proficient, that's beating the odds; the chances of the 2012-'13 classes forming a proficient unit by 2014 are the chances of finding five NFL linemen in ten recruits.
A History of Michigan OL Recruiting, 1993-2011
I wanted to go back far enough to get a relatively large enough sample of Michigan offensive linemen and some idea of how a class of recruits matures into a line. Because this involved a lot of memory and subjectivity, I included my written impressions of all of these linemen below. That information was put into chart form to produce the above money chart.
For the years before Rivals-Scout these are general senses gleaned from Lemming, Prep Football Report, and one blogger's admittedly bad memory. They should not be trusted. From 2002 on it's an average of star rankings from Rivals, Scout, and after 2006, ESPN – positional rankings are composites of those available.
Also I'm going to ignore dudes who were defensive linemen for the majority and end of their careers because there's no way to say how good they would have turned out. They are: Will Campbell, Marques Slocum, Alan Branch, and Quinton Washington.
1993: Damon Denson (★★★★★) was Maurice Williams before it was cool, riding in on a wave of hype then wasting effectively two years (including burned redshirt) playing defensive line, having his eligibility run out just as soon as he was getting really good at donkey abuse. Unlike Williams he had a short and uneventful pro career. Zach Adami (★★★½) was a smallish three-year starter you could plug in anywhere who came in for one of those "your team won, here's some extra all-conference pins for your longtime starters" awards his senior year in '97. John Partchenko (★★★), and Joe Ries (★★½) never saw the field that I recall and neither made it to 5th years.
1994: Jon Jansen (right) (★★★★ as a TE) was also a great linebacker for Clawson. That athleticism plus his massiveness led to three years of starting, two All-B1G selections, and a long and productive NFL career. Noah Parker (★★★) was a small Floridian career backup at guard.
1995: Steve Frazier (★★★½) and Chris Ziemann (★★★★) were constant presences as injury starters on the '97 to '99 lines, both ending up okay-ish (Frazier's infamous snap over Brady's head in the '99 Illinois game notwithstanding) as 5th year seniors. Eric Moltane (★★★★) was an early medical loss, Jeff Potts (★★★) was buried on the depth chart.
[Pics of different dudes wearing 77, after THE JUMP…]
Today's recruiting roundup covers the latest on Michigan's remaining 2013 targets, a surprise move in the 2014 class, and more.
Weekend Visit Recap: One Decision Down, Three To Go
TX TE Durham Smythe is back on the market and looking at Michigan
As signing day rapidly approaches, Michigan's path to closing out the 2013 class becomes more clear. Over the weekend, the Wolverines picked up IN OL Dan Samuelson, who told Scout's Allen Trieu that his decision came down to distance ($):
"It came down mostly to distance," he explained. "I shouldn't say mostly, it was completely distance. It is only about a three hour drive, Nebraska being an 11 1/2 hour drive."
With Samuelson in the fold, Michigan now has six offensive lineman committed; does that leave room for CA OL Cameron Hunt, who was also on campus over the weekend? According to Hunt, per an interview with Scout's Greg Biggins, the answer is 'yes' ($):
“The coaches told me they still had room for me,” Hunt said. “I know six offensive linemen is a lot but I’m not afraid to compete. After taking all my trips, if I feel Michigan is the best spot for me, I’ll still go there and be ready to win a job. There is going to be competition anywhere you go so that doesn’t bother me.”
Hunt went straight from his Michigan official to one at Ohio State, and also has trips lined up to Oregon and Cal (where he's still a very soft commit) before he makes his decision.
OH CB Reon Dawson, an Illinois commit, also took a Michigan official over the weekend; he told ESPN's Jared Shanker that a decision is coming soon ($):
A final decision will come Wednesday after talking with his family and his girlfriend’s mother, with whom he has a very close relationship.
“I’ve been thinking about it ... and first off, education will be big. You can get hurt on any given play and you need something to fall back on,” Dawson said. “I’ll talk to my family, and by Wednesday it’ll be done. I need a couple of days to think about this decision.”
Dawson will choose between Michigan and Illinois; given that he'll be just a few days removed from checking out Ann Arbor when he makes his choice, there's definitely reason for optimism.
That won't be the only decision coming down this week, as in-state kicker JJ McGrath tells The Big House Report that he'll choose between Michigan, LSU, and Southern Miss on Friday. McGrath doesn't hold a scholarship offer—he'd come on as a preferred walk-on—but says that he'd have the opportunity to earn one when Brendan Gibbons graduates. The Wolverines are in a strong position to land McGrath, who also was on campus last weekend.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on Derrick Green and Durham Smythe, a surprise commitment to Ohio State's 2014 class, and more.]
1/13/2013 – Michigan 53, OSU 56 – 16-1, 3-1 Big Ten
Michigan lost its mind to start this game, finding themselves down a grim amount—24 points at the maximum—as their offense abandoned them and an excess of switching on the defensive end confused them more than their opponent. It was a brutal flashback to the time when 20 turnovers was not an uncommon thing to go over, and faith-shaking.
I thought back to the Amaker/Ellerbe days when I was allowed to go watch something else once Michigan was down 20, and other than that 34-2 start at Cameron I couldn't think of anything else that had gotten so out of hand so quickly. I considered turning it off at one especially grim bit.
Then a thing happened: Michigan stepped up on defense and started chipping away, chipping away, chipping away. By halftime it was twelve. They cut it to eight, saw the lead push out again, and cut it back to eight again, this time following up. Six. Four. One; back to three. Finally, tied. Michigan had clawed all the way back from a 21-point deficit against a ranked team on the road.
Championship stuff. Gritty grit Eckstein stuff. Sportswriter hearts swelled, encomiums at the ready. It is in these fires that the heart of a champion is forged. The will to win surpasses. They just wanted it more. The trend was clear, and the final six minutes would be distance Michigan continued to put between themselves and OSU after their disoriented start.
Michigan then lost its mind again. The next six shots were all misses, and only two were even close to good looks, both missed threes from Robinson and Hardaway. The other four shots were nuts: an incredibly tough long two from Burke and jack-it-up contested threes from Burke, Hardaway, and Stauskas. If that's what you've got at the end of the shot clock, okay I guess. Those four shots were launched with 16, 17, 25, and 26 seconds on the clock*, and the box score credits Evan Ravenel with a block on the Burke three. That shot: not a good idea.
THESE ARE THE WAGES OF NUTS
They did not attempt to run their offense, and after all that. After imploding and then crawling their way back into it. After figuring out how to do things, they did not do them.
By the time this was over they were down six points with under two minutes left; while they got a shot to steal the game late thanks to a couple of steals that led to fast-break baskets—one of which even counted—the loss is right there.
I don't get it. I get being flustered in your first road game against elite competition, and falling behind extensively. I get scraping and clawing your way back into the game gradually when you're a good team. I don't get doing that and immediately going back to flustered. Turnovers or an inability to find a shot and just jacking it up, okay. That… that is confusing, like if that Benjamin Button movie was about a guy who yo-yoed between 22 and 6.
They are young, it turns out. If you think about it hard you can realize this yourself despite what it looks like on the court. Squint and maybe rub your temples and you'll be like "ohhhhh right, they have five freshmen who play." For the first time, it looked like it.
At the beginning, and at the end, anyway. In the middle, they had a near-elite team choosing to initiate their offense with 15 seconds left because they didn't want any part of a long game with the Wolverines. Work on the bit where you're six, I think.
*[I bet that is actually a couple seconds shorter than the actual shot clock; I'm just taking the difference between the previous recorded event and the shot, and there's often a second or three that runs off the clock before the shot clock resets as the team takes it out of bounds or goes for the rebound.]
How young? The most shocking stat on a page that proclaims Michigan the second-best team in the country at defensive rebounding: Michigan is 338th of 347 teams in average experience. (FWIW: Kentucky is a lot below them, and Texas is dead last.)
It's not a mystery. In re: why it's so hard to win on the road in this league. In this game, Michigan got the short end of three not very close block/charge calls worth a total of eight points, saw an obvious goaltend on a ball that went off the backboard not get called, and saw Trey Burke grabbed from behind on a breakaway for a foul on the floor instead of the only two possibly legit calls: and-one or an intentional foul. Oh and there was that unbelievable Hardaway-no-call on a possession Michigan ended up hitting a three. Also Evan Ravenel hit an 18-footer, which cannot be legal.
Yeah, Michigan didn't get called for many fouls themselves, because they never do. They're currently #1 in defensive free throw rate.
I'm just like… okay. That sucks, and is predictable. At least it's relevant!
Corollary. Kenpom keeps bringing this up: the narrow winner of a home game is very likely to lose the return match due to things like the above.
When the home team was the winner of the first game, they were a collective 309-326 in the rematch. That’s right, a home winner is more likely to lose a rematch than win it. It gets better, though. A home team winning the first game by single-digits went a collective 96-195, winning 33.0% of the time. Considering that overall, road teams win conference games about 38% of the time, close home winners are really not proving their superiority at all.
Wait, there’s more. Home teams that won by one or two points were 16-52 in the rematches, winning just 23.5% of the time.
This game was a point off his prediction, FWIW, which means I should not ever poke Kenpom.
STOP THE ELBOW REVIEWS. Stop it. The elbow reviews. Stop it. If there is a truly flagrant elbow delivered to a player, have the league suspend the guy after the game. Since that almost literally never happens there will not be a major impact, so we can cease halting games for five minutes of staring at a man staring at a monitor for no reason whatsoever. It's like instant replay in football that never changes anything.
Also just take the good threes okay. A thing that drives me nuts: guys passing up good looks at three so they can take a dribble and shoot a long two, which Burke and Levert both did during Michigan's extended time in the wilderness early. Just take the open shot you have an equal chance of hitting that is worth 50% more, please.
Well… Craft. In the preview I said this had to be at least a draw, and it wasn't. Burke was 2/8 from 2, 2/5 from three before and hit five free throws. 15 points on 13 shots is not particularly efficient, and then 4 assists to 4 turnovers is a fail. You may want to mentally deduct the last three as well since it was a meaningless, banked heave with a second left. Craft wasn't that efficient himself—9 points, 9 shots—but his role is to turn Burke into not the best player on the floor, and he did that. There is a reason he's one of the few non-Michigan players to have a tag on this blog.
That's the thing that Michigan lacks, by the way, an elite defender. Ohio State seems to have too many of them and nobody who can actually hit a shot, which is why they had to squeeze this win out despite Michigan putting up 38% from the floor—but it would be nice if Michigan had a guy they could go to to harass the opponent into a bad day.
The main non-Craft problem: terrible screens? In this game the screens didn't seem to actually slow anyone down. That's not always the screener's problem since he doesn't control how close to him the ballhandler goes. It didn't seem like the answer here was very close at all, and frequently what resulted was an instant trap on the ballhandler.
Stauskas: shut off. Three shots, all threes, all misses. Two of those were very bad shots clearly arising from a frustration at not being involved, the second one of the Fatal Four discussed above. I wonder if would have been more effective if he had gotten the obvious-obvious-obvious block call on that first drive. After that he didn't really try to do anything once he got his hands on the ball. In situations like this where the guy is in Stauskas's shorts, where are the back cuts? Vogrich was usually good for one of those a game despite being not six-six. I'm puzzled why Stauskas isn't getting at least a couple backdoor opportunities a game.
Rebounding: sufficient on defense, meh on offense. At this point I think you should put aside any remaining skepticism about Michigan's defensive rebounding. They're due for some regression, but OSU could only grab six offensive rebounds—21%. If it wasn't pretty good they would have had one of those nights by now, either against Pitt or KState or this outfit. Michigan just improved its season average against Ohio State. It is legit.
Meanwhile, once you add in a few "team" offensive rebounds, Michigan actually outperformed OSU in this one, but barely. 23% is nothing to write home about. But, hey, I'll take winning rebounding matchups against OSU.
McGary check-in. I really wanted him on the floor more than Morgan in this one. In 18 minutes he put up 3/3 shooting, got two offensive rebounds, and blocked two shots, both rather impressively.
Depth. Er. Hardaway: 40 minutes. Robinson: 38. Burke: 37. Stauskas got some sucked away because of the abovementioned items, so Albrecht and Levert both got around 10 minutes… hopefully one or the other develops into someone who can take some of the heat off those guys. Albrecht in particular was impressive.